By Reem Abdellatif
CAIRO: Egypt accepted a $393 million loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to begin developing the first phase of Cairo’s fourth metro line, officials said Monday.
This first tranche, worth about 32.717 billion Japanese Yen, is part of the initial loan package, worth an estimated $1.2 billion overall, according to Ashraf Mabrouk, Chief Program Officer for JICA in Egypt.
“Further loans will be discussed after we start implementing upcoming phases of the project,” Mabrouk told Daily News Egypt.
Signed by Fayza Aboul Naga, minister of international planning and cooperation, and Norihiro Okuda, Japan’s ambassador in Cairo, the fourth metro line will connect central Cairo to Giza.
“The project will be developed over several phases and we are expecting to begin working on the site within the next year,” Mabrouk added.
The new line, estimated to cost about $8 billion will run from the outskirts of the suburb of Sixth of October City through the site of the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) near the Pyramids of Giza, to El-Malek El-Saleh, a district near central Cairo.
The first phase of the project will run for 18 kilometers. Overall, the new line will comprise 17 stations.
The goal of the underground system will be to connect Cairo city and the main tourist attractions, the Giza Pyramids and the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is still under construction and is also partly funded by Japan.
The GEM is expected to be open to the public by August 2015.
Aside from the project’s contracts, which were signed by representatives of Japan and Egypt, Mabrouk said that Sadako Ogata, president of JICA, and Egypt’s minister of transportation separately signed the loan agreement.
The line will be developed through collaboration between Egyptian and Japanese contractors and engineers.
“This is one of the conditions set by the officials signing the agreement, that the project includes cooperation between both countries, not just financial partnership,” said Mabrouk.
Just last month, Egypt opened its third metro line, connecting five stations between Attaba, south of downtown Cairo, and Abbaseya, two of the busiest areas in the capital.
The line is worth about LE 4.2 billion, about $700 million, according to Al-Ahram, the state newspaper.
According to Alaa Ezz, secretary general of Egypt’s Federation of Industries, the fourth line is part of a series of stimulus packages meant to get the Egyptian economy moving.
“There are a number of major infrastructures underway such as the metro line, power plants and water stations, which are supported by several development banks and donors,” said Ezz.
“It is the only way to get out of this economic crisis we are seeing, a big set of loans used for similar projects will help boost our foreign reserves,” he added.
By developing these infrastructure projects, the ministry hopes to directly and indirectly stimulate the economy and support the local currency.
“A big part of the foreign currency used will go towards buying local products and content for these projects, that is how you maintain your foreign reserves indirectly because it is cheaper to provide local products than to ship from abroad,” said Ezz.