CAIRO: The state will announce the winner of a bid to develop the Northwest Gulf of Suez Economic Zone in the next few days, according to local papers quoting the Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieldin and other officials speaking on Sunday.
The announcement, coming at a forum for the China-Africa Development Fund, implied that Chinese companies will be highly involved, adding to the signs of the Asian nation s quickly-expanding economic clout in Egypt and other African states.
China is still a relatively small trading partner for Egypt, standing roughly on par with France, but its influence here has grown quickly and visibly in recent years. Of the 679 Chinese companies in Egypt, 78 percent were established in the last four years, according to Mohieldin s speech this week.
In particular, Chinese money has been important in the Northwest Gulf of Suez Zone, Egypt s first economic zone, and its surrounding areas.
The zone comprises 90 square kilometers near the Port of Sokhna, about 100 kilometers east of Cairo.
The Main Development Company, which is responsible for managing and promoting the zone, receives some funds from the Chinese government, though it is ultimately controlled by the Egypt s General Authority for Investment and Free Zones.
Tiida Egypt, which is 30-percent owned by the China-Africa Development Fund, invested $80 million in Northwest Suez late last year.
Four new plants opened this week on the territory owned by Tiida Egypt, which will manufacture clothes, safety equipment, elevators, office furniture and energy-efficient lighting.
China s rising clout has sparked a lot of chatter among Western businessmen and economists, especially since the global economy began to slow. This week, the International Herald Tribune published an article titled China likely to be stronger after crisis, which argued that the Asian nation will probably be able to expand its international reach throughout the world downturn.
China, the world s third-largest economy behind the United States and Japan, had already become more assertive; now it is exploiting its unusual position as a country with piles of cash and a strong banking system, at a time when many countries have neither, to acquire natural resources and make new friends, the article read.
Egypt s cental bank projects trade with China this fiscal year will total $1.159 billion – much of it imports – which would mark a rise of $397.1 million from $761.9 million last year.
In perhaps the most visible sign of China s growing presence here, door-to-door Chinese garment salesmen have become an increasingly common sight in Egypt.
In December 2006 a popular blogger, Rantings of a Sandmonkey, recalled the following joke, told to a friend who complained about a dearth of jobs in Egypt: Well, you think it s bad now? Just wait till the Chinese start immigrating in Egypt in the thousands and start a China-town. Then you will have yourself a competition!
His friend s response, the blogger wrote, was as follows: The Chinese? They are already here… They pass by my house at least three times a week.