Jean-Jacques Cornish

New Suez the latest in a line of Egyptian infrastruture achievements

By Jean-Jacques Cornish
Since the dawn of history, Egyptians have been making huge political statements by building symbolic structures.
The giant pyramids of Giza and the royal temples of Luxor have drawn millions of international visitors over the years – not nearly enough of late for the Egyptians feeling the crippling effect of the tourist stay-away following the Arab Spring of 2011 and particularly since the coup of 2013 that they prefer to call a revolution.
The pharaohs structures were about power plain and simple.
The ages have not changed things much.
In 1961 President Gamal Abdul Nasser opened the 187-metre Cairo Tower. At the time, the lotus-shaped structure, built with a $6-million bribe from US President Rooseveld, was the highest building in Africa.
President Abdul Fatah El Sisi took his Russian counterpart atop when Vladimir Putin visited Egypt last January.
The Russian leader presented El Sisi with an AK47 illustrating that Moscow does not give much truck to international calls to freeze arms sales to the government of the general who ousted democratically elected Mohammed Moursi and won the presidency in a subsequent election.
El Sisi is making his mega infrastructural statement on Thursday
The Second Suez was built in the record time of one year.
The orginal Suez took ten years to dig out of the sand nearly 150 years ago.
Naser’s nationalising it, in retalliation for Britain and United States freezing promises to finance the Aswan High Dam was a causes belli for Britain and France.
Things are thankfully a great deal more peaceful now as the 72 kilometres of new waterway will allow the world’s largest container ships to navigate the canal in both directions.
Working around the clock, involved moving 200 million cubic metres of sand.
Egyptian military protection was essential because sometimes security forces were involved in clashes with terrorist only kilometres away.
Egypt’s income from the new canal will rise to $13 billion a year – up from the current $5,3 billion.
El Sisi’s faith in the project was vindicated by Egyptians digging into their savings to come up with $8,5 billion-worth of investment certificates in eight days.
They will get the money back with 12% interest in quarterly payments over the next four years.
Egypt’s official line is that this is more an African project than simply a national undertaking.
If it works – and uncertain global shipping operations will determine success or failure above any public leap of faith or politician’s rhetoric – El Sisi will justifiably claim full credit when he goes to the polls by the end of this year.



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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.