Investment into Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) is more valuable than cash deposits to the central bank, says Ahmed Darwish, chairman of the General Authority of the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

Darwish tells MEED that Egypt’s economy requires diversification that can only be achieved by the development of industrial and logistics projects in the newly created economic zone.

“Of course we have a foreign currency reserves issue, which the central bank is working on solving. But for me and the zone, we believe if we can attract the right type of investments into the zone, this will be more valuable for the wider economy at the moment,” says Darwish.

Darwish says the zone, which will be operated independent from government as a standalone freezone, has received widespread interest from Italian, French, Spanish and UK firms.

Darwish also said that a recent contract has been signed with Chinese investors to develop six square kilometres of land in the Sokhna area of the zone with glass manufacturer China Glass showing interest.

Earlier this month, General Motors Egypt halted operations amid a foreign currency issue with analysts raising questions over Egypt’s ability to attract the level of investment needed amid a shortage of dollars in the country.

“We are aware of the currency problem, but companies that are coming to invest are looking three to five years ahead and want to get in early,” says Darwish.

So far Egypt has received interest from French firm Bollore. In December MEED reported that the firm was looking to develop a number of transportation and logistics projects in the East Port Said area. Further to this, according to a statement released by the chairman of the Egyptian Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Ismail Gaber, the Russians have also expressed interest in the proposed indusrial area, which is set to make up a large portion of the proposed Suez Canal masterplan.

The government recently approved a draft decree establishing the General Authority of the Economic Zone of the Suez Canal (GAESC), which is being headed by Darwish, changing the area into an economic authority, allowing the SCZone to act as a single window able to deal with investors directly.