"The Touchka project is the safety valve for Egypt." Thus, the French magazine "Jeune Afrique" described the project which they consider a real plan for economic development and allow the Egyptians out of the narrow valley . A project to house seven million people who populate the banks of the "Second Nile of Egypt.

imagesAccording to the magazine, a French expert said he knew that the project would be provided with a real political will. "President Hosni Mubarak himself is committed to the project", he said.

"Jeune Afrique" provides that the proposed investment will enable Touchka significant revenues for Egypte and for the investors.

The government will set up facilities to attract investors. They may for example receive a tax exemption for 20 years and a low price to acquire land.

The financial community and investors attach, increasingly, a strong interest in this project. The UAE are considering buying land in the region of Touchka. "the "Kingdom Agricultural Development Company" (Kadco), owned by the Saudi Prince Walid Ibn Talal, has cast his sights on 180 thousand hectares of land, of which 42 miles will be used for agriculture, the remainder for industrial processing projects, while a group of 20 engineers and employees are conducting a series of tests in Touchka for the company in preparation to implement the project.

Also, a group of Kuwaiti investors has bought 100 thousand hectares, 40% of this land will be used for agriculture. In same time, many egyptian businessmen, like Ahmed Bahgat, Waguih Abaza and Saoudi Abdel Menem are interested in the project which will increase the area lived by the people from 5% to 25% of the total area of Egypt.

According to estimates done by the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, the total investment of the project over the next 20 years, will amount to 90 billion dollars. 25% of it will be financed by Egypt (a sum equivalent to one year of Gross National Product), the rest by the private sector.

images2In this context, Henry Jungblut, Regional Director of the French engineering "SOGELERG-Sogreah", which provides technical assistance to the Egyptian Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources, said that "in 1997, nobody believed in this project, neither the international experts, nor banks and international community". But he, personally, was confident in achieving the dream of Egypt. "Two and a half years later, the rate of work achieved is impressive", he adds.

According to "Jeune Afrique", about 40 km of the 50km of the main canal, called "Sheikh Zayed" in tribute to the contribution of the emirati Head of State, have already been dug. At the same time, the first tenders are being considered for the construction of the four secondary branches spread over 168 km into the depression that covers 80 thousand km2.

In a study conducted on behalf of "Kadco", the American engineering firm "Arthur Anderson," states that "Touchka is an extremely fertile region because it is a dry old arm of the Nile, there is no pollution. The water comes directly from Lake Nasser, pure and full of silt that does not pass the Aswan Dam".

The objective of the Touchka project is to cultivate quality products with high added value. Most will be exported to Europe or to the Arabian Gulf.

But is the gamble of Egypt on Touchka project will focus on the agricultural sector? "Jeune Afrique" says that if President Mubarak has chosen to engage, by 2002, 3 billion dollars of public funds, virtually without international support, to build the canal and the pumping station, it means that he expects to see the private sector then take over.

images3In this context, Mostapha Kadi, boss of High Advisory Committee of the project, said that the heavy investments involved in the first phase of the project will be mainly for agricultural production. "But, ultimately, in 2017, it is estimated that this sector will account for only 8% of the 90 billion dollars", he says.

In Touchka project, there are also processing plants of fruits and vegetables, low-industries and tourism, which needs transportation and infrastructure to facilitate the establishment of a developed urban area.

Unlike the Noubarriya project, established during the 80's in the west of Alexandria and which could not attract people because of the lack of services, the Egyptian government has learned the lesson from past mistakes and seeks to build a full community in Touchka. Remains to know if this dream will come true ...