How Egypt became an essential destination for Chinese investment

China’s policy of strengthening relations with countries in the Global South has accelerated in recent years, and this can be seen in its development of wide-ranging ties with Egypt. Under the umbrella of a comprehensive strategic partnership, China has invested heavily in Egypt, especially in the agriculture, technology, steel, construction, textile and tourism industries.

On May 13, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi inaugurated the first phase of a large-scale project west of Cairo, built with the help of China’s Famsun Group and aimed at achieving food security and exporting agricultural products. Egypt is expected to achieve significant savings on the project, which includes the establishment of an industrial zone for food manufacturing, by paying for its costs in Egyptian pounds rather than US dollars.

Through presidential diplomacy and meetings between Chinese and Egyptian officials, ties between Egypt and China are developing in the economic, political, cultural and security fields. According to a statement last month by China’s ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang, “The development of bilateral relations has entered the fast lane and is now at its best.”

Earlier this week, Huawei Technologies launched its Arabic large language model (LLM) at the Huawei Cloud Summit in Cairo. According to Huawei, the Arabic LLM’s automatic speech recognition capability has an accuracy rate of 96 per cent and the capacity to cover more than 20 countries in which Arabic is spoken.

Likewise, as part of efforts to promote mutual cultural understanding, the Shanghai Museum has announced a forthcoming exhibition titled: “On Top of the Pyramid: The Civilisation of Ancient Egypt”, possibly the largest showcase of ancient Egyptian civilisation in Asia.



China is building a new Egyptian capital in the desert under its Belt and Road Initiative

China is building a new Egyptian capital in the desert under its Belt and Road Initiative

Sitting at the northeastern tip of Africa, Egypt holds a strategic location that links Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. That is why it was the first country on Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour of African countries in January. Wang met Sisi and other top Egyptian officials in Cairo to elevate bilateral relations and accelerate momentum for greater political and economic cooperation between the two countries.

China sees Egypt as an essential investment destination. Chinese investors are being attracted to invest in the free industrial zones that are being constructed in the country such as the New Alamein City and the Suez Canal Economic Zone. China is one of Egypt’s largest trading partners, with China’s exports to Egypt growing at an annual rate of more than 14 per cent in the past 25 years while Egypt’s exports to China have grown by an average of almost 18 per cent per year in that time.

With interest rates among Western lenders still high, China’s domestic capital market looks more attractive to Egypt and other African states seeking low-cost borrowing and funding. Particularly after Egypt’s accession to the Brics grouping, which officially took effect in January, Chinese investments in Egypt are starting to surge.

For instance, Chinese home appliance giant Haier Group inaugurated its first industrial estate in Egypt on May 2. In April, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation opened a structural steel fabrication plant in the China-Egypt Teda Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone.

A mobile phone displays the website of the Egyptian Suez Canal Economic Zone. The zone has secured investment deals with Chinese companies worth more than US$8 billion. Photo: Shutterstock

Also in April, China’s Wuan Xinfeng signed an agreement aimed at building a US$297 million facility for producing hot-rolled iron coils and car engine blocks, creating roughly 1,200 jobs. In the same month, Chinese firms signed 14 deals for a number of projects in Egypt during the China-Egypt Zhejiang Economic Forum, with the goal of boosting cooperation with leading Chinese companies.

In cooperation with Chinese companies, Egypt has inaugurated its first electrified light rail transit system, which links greater Cairo to the New Administrative Capital. There are also efforts in progress to establish an integrated textile manufacturing city in Egypt with Chinese investment worth an estimated US$300 million. In addition, China funded the construction of a huge cement plant in Beni Suef in 2018 and Africa’s largest vaccine storage centre in 2022.

There has been noticeable Chinese-Egyptian collaboration in the areas of media and satellite technology. Each year, China hosts and trains African journalists and media experts and promotes visits between Chinese and African media personnel. For example, last year Egyptian journalists and media staff travelled to Beijing for meetings with their Chinese counterparts at the Global Times and state television outlet CGTN.



Why is Egypt’s Suez Canal so important?

Why is Egypt’s Suez Canal so important?

In March, China strengthened its alliance with the Egyptian Space Agency with the signing of a protocol governing its operation of Egypt’s remote sensing satellite MisrSat-2 – China’s first satellite to be assembled and tested in Africa – with the goal of gathering data for the country’s land and water resource development. Funded by Beijing, MisrSat-2 was launched from northwest China jointly with the Egyptian Space Agency.

Constructing a global community with a shared vision for the future is central to China’s approach to diplomacy and modernisation, something which Egyptians can similarly value and adopt in their pursuit of economic development. After all, Egypt was the first Arab and African state to establish diplomatic relations with China after its modern founding in 1956. That same year, China provided US$4.7 million in aid to Egypt during the Suez crisis.

Given their great historical and cultural heritage, China and Egypt have developed a robust relationship which benefits both countries and Africa as a whole.

Mohamed El-Bendary, an independent researcher based in Egypt, taught journalism in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of The Egyptian Press and Coverage of Local and International Events, among others



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