The Egyptian government has launched an ambitious program of large-scale national construction and civil engineering projects in a bid to kick-start the country’s economy.
So far, so good. Both unemployment and inflation rates are declining, while foreign reserves have hit a record high. There is likely more good news to come, with analysts and economists warmly welcoming the government’s recent decision to launch a sovereign wealth fund to continue its financial support for the transformation of the country’s infrastructure.
The project-driven nature of the turnaround in Egypt’s economic fortunes is especially good news for engineering, procurement, and construction contractors such as Orascom Construction. Listed on both the Nasdaq Dubai and Egyptian exchanges, the company has emerged as one the world’s largest in its field and one much valued by its shareholders, thanks to last year’s performance, which saw net profits rise 60% year over year.
Much of the credit for Orascom’s success goes to its management and the great teamwork that has enabled it to achieve these results. Orascom has carved a niche for itself at the heart of Egypt’s current rejuvenation in the power, water, and transportation sectors, as well as with the extension of the Cair0 Metro rapid transport system and the $2 billion excavation of three tunnels as part of the vast Suez Canal extension project.
“We are very excited to help improve the quality of life for Egyptians and to be creating value,” says chief executive officer Osama Bishai. “We are part of the power story, part of the water story, and part of the transportation story, but I don’t think we can ever relax or take these things for granted. Even when you are doing well, there is always room for improvement.”
This restless quest for improvement is paying dividends, as evidenced by the variety of the projects in which Orascom is currently involved—which range from a desalination plant near the Red Sea to a new Egyptian museum on the outskirts of Cairo. Both of these developments are flagship projects that promise to make a significant contribution to Egypt’s—and Orascom’s—long-term legacy.
The seawater desalination plant is an integral element of the country’s audacious plan to build an entirely new city on a 19,000-acre site on the highest plateau of Mount Galalah, between Ain Sokhna and Zafarana on the Red Sea coast; it is being developed as a joint venture between Orascom and the Metito Egypt water management company. The plant is due to be up and running by the end of the year, with the capacity to process 150,000 cubic meters of water per day. Without it, the president’s dreams of turning Galalah into a major residential and tourist destination would simply not be able to get off the ground.
At the other end of the spectrum, Orascom is also helping lay the foundations for the Grand Egyptian Museum. Situated close to the Giza pyramids, the new museum has been designed as a fittingly magnificent home for some 100,000 of Egypt’s most iconic artifacts. As well as housing objects from the tombs of King Tutankhamun and Queen Hetepheres I, the museum will be home to a colossal 30-foot-tall, 3,200-year-old granite statue of King Ramses II that weighs 83 tons.
It is not just the size but also the complexity of these projects that is so challenging, and it is Orascom’s relentless pursuit of innovation and its agility to react to changing client requirements that has made it so successful. “We don’t own any technology, we just use it,” Bishai explains. “This gives us the liberty to focus on water today and power tomorrow. Our core skill is our ability to manage complex, challenging projects.”
Evidently, it is a recipe for success.