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EBRD launches second phase of Suez Canal digitalisation project

EBRD Colourful shipping containers on a ship
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched the second phase of its technical support programme to digitalise the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone).

The SCZone authority has established a one-stop shop for investors, managed by its Investor Services Department (ISD), as a means of streamlining administrative formalities and fast-tracking the management of investor services, the EBRD said.

“The bank is helping the SCZone to develop an efficient, competitive and eco-friendly business environment that is attractive to international investors and that will position the SCZone as a leading space for global trade, industries and services, as well as generate jobs for Egyptians,” it said.

“The second phase will include the re-engineering of more than 60 services, including land management, project approvals, environmental approvals, company registration and foreign worker permits.”

ISD personnel are also to receive comprehensive training to boost their technical skills.

“We are delighted to extend our fruitful partnership with the SCZone and further contribute to the successful delivery of an autonomous, digital and interactive one-stop shop. The SCZone’s project is a good example of how we can speed up the rollout of digital services and assist with the SCZone’s ambition to become a world-class investment hub,” said EBRD vice president, banking, Alain Pilloux.

The first phase of the project, designed to cut red tape for international investors, was launched in August 2020 and successfully completed in 2022. According to the EBRD, the number of procedures for priority re-engineered services—construction permits, operating licences, industrial registers, practice permits, inspection and control—were reduced by 35%, the length of service delivery for the re-engineered services by 52%, while fees and service charges increased by 110%.

“The cooperation with the bank in accelerating the process of digital transformation of the SCZone reflects the diversity of development partnerships between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the EBRD at the level of flexible development financing as well as technical support,” international cooperation minister, Rania El-Mashat, and governor of Egypt at the EBRD, said.

“The digital transformation project of the SCZone is of particular importance in light of the government of Egypt’s commitment to attracting and promoting investments in this vital region and to stimulating the investment environment, facilitating and simplifying procedures, as well as enhancing the organisation of work and skills development.”

Egypt is a founding member of the EBRD and both parties recognise the canal’s importance as a global trade hub. Since the start of the EBRD’s operations there in 2012, it has invested over €10 billion in 163 projects in the country.

At the end of 2021 the EBRD said it adopted a digital approach to advancing transition, which sets out a comprehensive framework for how the bank will use its three instruments—investment, policy engagement and advisory services—to support digital transition in the economies where it operates.

“The one-stop shop service provided by the SCZone to its investors is part of the enabling strategy, which is based on digital transformation as one of the main pillars for the 2020-25 plan. The SCZone aims to provide competitive and simplified business procedures that attract foreign investment,” SCZone chairman, Waleid Gamal El-Dien, said.

“We appreciate the cooperation with the EBRD as we are working on the digitalisation and re-engineering of our investor services. The cooperation also aims to raise the efficiency for affiliated ports and increase their competitiveness.”