In an interview with Global Platform, Osama Bishai, CEO of Orascom Construction, discusses the factors that are contributing to Egypt’s construction boom, namely the expanding demands of the country’s young population, the major infrastructure developments taking place in Africa and further abroad, and tourism projects, such as the Grand Egyptian Museum. In addition to driving activity, government plans are also helping to expand the capabilities of local contractors as they take a front seat in challenging developments.
We grow approximately 3m people every two years or maybe more than that. It's a big number. So the need for infrastructure, the need for new cities, new housing, new power generation is constant and should be a daily effort that the government and the private sector should do in order to be able to sustain the growth of population and provide a better quality of life. There is so much to do in Egypt. While we are a big country I always refer to Egypt as a young country. You have to appreciate that 35% of the Egyptians are 15 years and younger, so imagine the numbers and the growth that could happen, so there's so much to be done in this country.
There was a priority for power generation between the end of 2014 until just recently. It was to fill a gap that was generated by the lack of a developing power generation in the past. Obviously that has created a major drive because, number one, it has created jobs. Although temporary, it has generated opportunities for middle and small enterprises on the supply chain. Subcontractors hired people so it has a great impact on the economy. Obviously in addition to the fact that power became available for any industrial investment, any growth, any expansion. There has been a major growth in road construction, which is a great infrastructure network that would allow commerce between the different parts of the country and would allow also investors to distribute their product. Transportation also is a big issue because we have the cities with millions of people where infrastructure and public transport is a must, whether it's a metro, it's a tram, it's a people mover, and Cairo has probably the largest project for a metro in the Middle East that has been ongoing for the last 20 years and has another plan at least for another 10 years to go. It needs major investments and major funding.
I always believe that Egypt should be the service provider in the construction business for the East and probably Africa. We are the most populous country other than Nigeria, and we have the people and the skill set to do that, whether it's in the Middle East, or in Europe, or in the [United] States. You need to create the skill set at home first and then go outside. And really, this is what's happened today. Again, the skill set that was created even within our last period gives us more boost to take more and more sophisticated projects in the region. And obviously this is where we have a strength as construction industry in Egypt; there is so much to be done in other countries in the Middle East. The reconstruction is required and also Africa is so much lagging in infrastructure development and needs that. Obviously with some proper funding there's so much opportunities for contractors in Africa.
Tourism should be a game changer for this country. If we look at a place like Turkey, they [had] 24 million tourists last year and they have generated $30bn there, and we should really start having the target at that level, and not stay at the modest targets we currently have. We are currently building the new Grand Egyptian Museum. The new museum will definitely bring Egypt to the spotlight in the world. It is really the spotlight for human beings, for humanity, for civilisation, and that will generate a completely different interest, and completely different flow of tourists, and curious tourists who would like to come and see this magnificent building that's just overlooking the pyramids. This is an opportunity to be monetised for this country. The government did something that was very important for local contractors. They requested that local contractors take the front seat in some of the challenging projects they have done and it has developed some of the contractors in a major way in a very short period of time. The sector will continue to grow at least for the next three to four years. The infrastructure development that is happening in this country right now is unprecedented for the region and for Africa.