lion, but President Sissi has since asked project leaders to finish it in just one year.
How such a quick timeline will be met is just
one of the questions looming over the project.
Another is financing. President Sissi is gaining
populist buy-in for the project by issuing certificates backed by the finance ministry that allow
individual Egyptians and expatriates to invest in
the initiative. He has said the canal-expansion
project will be funded solely by Egyptians.
“The banks could easily finance this through loans.
The Sissi government wants to mobilize popular support and middle-class savings,” Dr. Adly notes.
Still, it’s unclear whether the government, which
has been enacting austerity measures, will be able
to supplement the money raised by citizens, Dr.
Adly says. Equally uncertain is how the timeline for
raising funds will affect the project’s completion.
Past national megaprojects have failed
largely because the government did not do
its due diligence, Dr. Adly says, warning that
President Sissi risks the same outcome if this
project isn’t properly managed. “The way
decisions are made and the way plans are
set, the state is too insulated from the reality
on the ground,” he says.
An analysis of the project published by the
Middle East Institute cautions that project
managers must anticipate problems. Each
implementation phase will introduce new
challenges, requiring flexible management by
project leaders, the study notes.
Foreign investors in a dozen nations have
shown interest in investing in projects related to the
canal expansion. In addition to the 72 kilometers ( 45
miles) of waterway being added to the canal, plans
are underway to build an industrial zone alongside
the canal for companies and tourists.
A Sense of Purpose
President Sissi’s planned projects extend well
beyond the canal. The president is also reviving a
plan to build a technology valley in nearby Ismailia,
which would serve as an industry hub.
While Egypt has benefited from technology outsourcing in the past, that business greatly eroded
when companies pulled out amid the recession.
Yet President Sissi and private investors are banking on its return. In August, Egypt signed an agreement with the International Data Corporation to
help Egyptian companies find opportunities in
other African markets.
President Sissi’s plans also include green projects.
In 2014, the government announced it would invest
US$1 billion in the development of large-scale solar
energy projects. They’re part of an effort to overcome the country’s energy crisis and spur job growth
by increasing the use of renewable energy from 1
percent currently to 20 percent by 2020. Wind projects are slated to account for 12 percent of Egypt’s
planned energy portfolio.
Private investors, too, largely from Gulf states,
are helping rebuild Egypt’s economy. Arabtech,
based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has
launched a US$40 billion program to build 1 million homes across the nation.
“Though daily hardships are as they are,” Dr. Adly
says of the post-conflict nation, “the government is
trying to give the people a sense of purpose.”
Solar panels in Egypt
President Sissi has
billion in projects
ranging from new tourist
destinations and airports
to development of
are as they
to give the