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Egypt’s Pan-African road marks millennial milestone for development

Thursday 21/February/2019 - 05:58 PM
Sada El Balad
Al Monitor
In what may be viewed as Africa’s millennial megaproject in trade and investment، Egypt and a number of other African countries are working on a highway linking the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and Cape Town، South Africa، on the Atlantic. Egyptian Transport Minister Hisham Arafat told a parliamentary committee that Egypt has completed its part of the Alexandria-Cape Town Road extending to Egypt's border with Sudan. The roadway is now open to travelers.

The Pan-African road، at an expected 6،400 miles، will link Egypt، Sudan، South Sudan، Ethiopia، Kenya، Tanzania، Zambia، Zimbabwe، Botswana and South Africa. Egypt، which initiated the ambitious project، launched it in June 2015. Each country is financially، technically and logistically responsible for its part of the roadway.

It is hoped that the project will help pave the way for sustainable development on the continent. With this in mind، Egyptian and South African economists have urged African countries to devise a comprehensive transportation policy to balance the economic benefits of the road against its environmental costs.

“This is one of the most important megaprojects، one that will reshape the trade and investment chart in Africa،” Abdel Mottaleb Abdel Hamid، professor of economics at the Cairo-based Sadat Academy for Management Sciences، told Al-Monitor. “It also falls in line with Egypt’s inclination toward Africa to restore its influential role on the continent as it assumes the presidency of the African Union.”

Abdel Hamid added، “It will open the way for boosting inter-African trade، as the cost of transportation will be lower compared to maritime and air freight. In the medium and long terms، higher trade volumes among African countries will strengthen joint investments.”

At the end of 2018، public and private Egyptian investments in Africa stood at $10.2 billion according to data from the Egyptian cabinet's Information and Decision Support Center. Figures from the state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) put Egyptian exports to African countries at $6.2 billion between January and November 2018 and Egypt's imports from them at $1.98 billion.

Abdel Hamid said additionally about the Alexandria-Cape Town Road، “Along with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement، the road will open the way for the free movement of capital، trade، direct investment and labor across the continent. It will enhance an all-inclusive one-Africa market in the long run.” Abdel Hamid has hopes that it will open the door for qualified Egyptian labor to move across Africa.

Negotiations for the free trade agreement kicked off in 2015. The agreement is expected to create an entity unifying COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa)، SADC (South African Development Community)، and the EAC (East African Community). Connectivity among African countries will inevitably boost trade among them and create jobs for youths، Lebogang Chaka، a strategic adviser and CEO at Johannesburg-based Afro Visionary Legacy، told Al-Monitor.

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