The UAE expects "tens of billions of dollars" worth of projects under a new industrial partnership with Egypt and Jordan. This comes amid a push for greater inter-Arab economic co-operation in the face of global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war.
Work on projects in the five critical sectors of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, minerals and textiles will start immediately following feasibility studies, Omar Al Suwaidi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), told The National following the agreement signing on Sunday.
"One of the main benefits of this partnership is an integrated industry between the three countries, so the focus is on integrating value chains for different industries," he said.
"The value-add will be in terms of creating more value industries between the three countries and job opportunities for a population of 60 million young people.
"In terms of the size of the projects, we're looking at tens of billions of dollars for the five sectors."
The countries are undertaking feasibility studies, which will determine the timescale for starting the projects.
"It depends on the timing that comes out of these feasibility studies, but the emphasis is for an immediate start and immediate reduction of imports," Mr Al Suwaidi said.
A tripartite supreme committee, headed by the three countries' signing ministers, will be established. An executive committee will work with the private sector to increase opportunities. It will also review the progress achieved, enable co-operation, and consider next steps and new projects.
Asked if the partnership will incentivise other Arab countries to join, Mr Al Suwaidi said: "The base of the partnership is with all friends and strategic partners who wish to join integrative industries with a focus on food and drug security. There is an open invitation to all partners to reap the opportunities for co-operation."
The deal comes amid the UAE's efforts to support the growth of the local industrial sector, enhance its role in stimulating the national economy, and double its contribution to gross domestic product to Dh300bn ($82bn) by 2031. The partnership is also part of a wider effort by the UAE to help to bolster Egypt's economy and capitalise on the investment potential of the most populous Arab country, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Egypt and Jordan both rely heavily on wheat imports.
The partnership will lead to economic integration between the three countries, particularly in the industrial sector. This will help in fulfilling the goals of supporting local products, substituting imports, increasing value-add and creating jobs, Egypt's Trade Minister Nevin Gamea told The National.
Joint projects by the UAE and Jordan in Egypt will lead to higher productivity, increased exports and more investments, she said.
"We've unified our goal so that we put a plan to translate this agreement into actual projects and real investments on the ground," she added.
In the first phase of the agreement, the countries decided on key sectors and ensuing projects, followed by feasibility studies that determine the level of FDI entering the country, the trade minister said.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Vice Chairman of the Industrial Development Council, said the partnership will increase the competitiveness of the five prime sectors of common interest.
"The fact that the total value of foreign trade in the UAE, Egypt and Jordan amounted to $885bn in 2021 provides a promising foundation and ongoing opportunities for this strategic partnership," he said in a statement.
The agreement will boost the security, flexibility and sustainability of supply chains, and support the UAE's goals of diversifying the economy and stimulating industrial growth, while consolidating relations between the three countries, Dr Al Zeyoudi added.
"It will also unlock new opportunities for industrialisation and strengthen national industries in each country”, he said.
Sarah Al Amiri, UAE's Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, said the UAE believed that regional and global co-operation and partnerships are fundamental to opening new opportunities for industrial development.
"The vast resources and unique competitive advantages of the UAE, Jordan and Egypt are key to driving sustainable economic growth in the region," she said.
The UAE’s partnership with Jordan and Egypt represents an "unprecedented model" of co-operation at regional and global levels, paving the way for "a new era of collective growth and prosperity, as well as large-scale industrial development”, said Mohamed Al Suwaidi, director general of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.
Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE's largest industrial company outside of oil and gas, currently supplies aluminium billets to companies in both Jordan and Egypt, and has continuing active technology discussions in Egypt.
The partnership will "promote greater value-chain integration and drive the development of our industry for the future", EGA chief executive Abdulnasser bin Kalban said.
The three countries’ combined industrial capacity represents around 26 per cent of the total industrial capacity of the Mena region, according to the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology.
Almost half the total population of the partner countries comprising 122 million people are young people, who represent both a large market and an emerging workforce, it said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly believes the agreement will pave the way for a lasting Arab partnership.
"The pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian crises revealed beyond any doubt the need for integration between our Arab countries in a way that helps achieve the interests of our peoples in Egypt, the UAE and Jordan, and could become the seed for a stronger and broader co-operation," Mr Madbouly said.
Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc, said a $10bn investment fund had been allocated and managed by Abu Dhabi’s holding company ADQ to accelerate work on the partnership.
"We extend an open invitation to our partners to support this collaboration by encouraging private sector participation, enhancing advanced technology applications, providing smart financing solutions, and opening markets to encourage the growth of the industrial sector in these and other countries," he said.