Egypt bets big as New Suez Canal opens


Sisi

After recent incidents of political violence and tensions in Egypt, the Arab world’s powerhouse finally has something to cheer about. In a spectacular opening, the New Suez Canal, also called Egypt’s miracle, was declared open in a ceremony at the edge of the Sinai desert with dignitaries, world leaders and citizens present. “The new canal will become a symbol of the new Egypt, a gift from the nation to the world, and a demonstration of the determination and commitment of the Egyptian people,” said Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi after inaugurating the canal.

The landmark project was completed in a year, a third of the expected time.

Among the prominent world leaders who attended the opening were Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. “The quick completion of the Suez Canal proves to the world that the Egyptian people do not know the impossible and do not admit despair,” said Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid. “Congratulations to the Egyptian people on the canal and to us on the Egyptians’ joy”, he added.

The canal, which is 160 km in length and gives the sea lane the capability to take two-way traffic for the entire length, is expected to contribute to growth and employment in the economically deprived Sinai. The canal, the main source of foreign currency earnings for Egypt, is estimated to bring in about USD 12.3 billion by 2023. The new canal also allows for simultaneous northern and southern vessel transit for the first time in its history.

The strategic significance of the new canal can’t be overstated. It is placed at the maritime crossroads linking Asia, Africa and Europe, while strengthening the strategic geopolitical role of Egypt along with opening newer avenues for economic and social progress for the country. This would also go down as Sisi’s legacy and if it succeeds, this would be a big game-changer in Egyptian history.

Some of the other world leaders who added aura to the event with their presence, included French President Francois Hollande, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The project could well bolster Sisi’s position if economic progress takes off as hoped.