Egypt plans to establish free economic zone in South Sinai's Nuweiba

Al Ahram

Egypt is set to establish a free economic zone in South Sinai’s Nuweiba, bringing the number of free zones in the country to 11. In an official statement, Egypt’s investment and international cooperation minister Sahar Nasr said the government decided to establish the free zone as part of a comprehensive development plan for Sinai that involves pumping domestic and Arab investments.

In a separate statement, South Sinai governor Khaled Fouda revealed that the free zone covers 26 feddans at a total cost of $400 million, and that the project will be established in around two years and will provide 14,000 job opportunities. Fouda highlighted that Nuweiba city has been suffering from a lack of tourism, despite other South Sinai cities like Sharm El-Sheikh and Dahab seeing increases in tourism of up to 40 percent.

Fouda added that the free zone will include light industries, navigation services, shopping services, preservation of food and pharmaceutical products, and fish production, which the governor said will help attract tourism and achieve an investment return of $1 billion. The establishment of the free zone in Nuweiba was preceded by the setting up of another zone in Upper Egypt’s Minya, increasing the number of free zones in Egypt to 11.

Before the free zone in Minya was established, free zone construction had been suspended in the country since 2005, according to Nasr’s statement. Nasr said the government is keen on pumping investments in parts of the country in need of economic growth, including Sinai and Upper Egypt, in order to provide them with job opportunities and comprehensive development.

Funders investing in the zone would benefit from a 50 percent tax exemption from the investment cost of a project for three years, which are subject to renewable by the Egyptian cabinet. Nationwide free zones contribute 24 percent of overall Egyptian exports, with the number of direct and indirect job opportunities amounting to one million, according to Nasr.

The establishment of the zone came upon orders by Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to speed up economic development in the governorate. Nasr added that investments and development help eliminate terrorism. Egypt has also been keen throughout the past months on encouraging investments and establishing development projects in north Sinai, where the government continues to fight terrorism.

Earlier in March, Nasr signed five agreements worth EGP 5 billion (86.1 million Kuwaiti dinars) with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to fund development in Sinai. The first agreement, worth 60 million Kuwaiti dinars, will fund a project to build a tunnel in Sharm El-Sheikh to develop the city’s infrastructure and road network.

Another agreement allocates 17.5 million Kuwaiti dinars to build a highway linking Sinai to other areas in Egypt.