On September 5, 2020, reports emerged that the Egyptian government had selected a Chinese-Egyptian consortium to build a $9 billion high-speed railway that will traverse the country, connecting Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez and Al Alamein on the Mediterranean Sea.
The consortium is comprised of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), China Railway Construction Corporation, and Egyptian companies Samcrete and the Arab Organization for Industrialization. The railway, touted to become the longest rail line in the Middle East, has been referred to as the “Second Suez Canal” by, among others, the CEO of Samcrete, one of the Egyptian firms involved in the project. The rail line is expected to reduce to three hours the time it takes to deliver passengers and goods from coast-to-coast. Concurrently, an agreement has reportedly also been reached for Chinese partners to build factories and manufacture trains cars in Egypt, with the intention of facilitating technology transfer to Egypt.
The project builds on a pattern of Chinese involvement in critical infrastructure projects in Egypt. The China Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China have both been active in financing the development of the New Administrative Capital as well as the construction of a monorail between the old capital and the new, being developed by CCECC. The China Development Bank has also helped finance other Egyptian infrastructure projects by providing loans directly to Egyptian financial institutions.
Moreover, the high-speed rail project represents the latest in a string of Chinese rail projects in the country. It is one of four Egyptian rail projects currently in progress, and the Sudanese Minister of Transportation has reportedly previewed a fifth that would connect Egypt to Sudan, which he has suggested may be funded by China.