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The New Times – Rwanda
The contract for each of the bus companies that provide public transport in City of Kigali came to an end last year, with City Hall and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) adding the three transport firms an additional one year pending an assessment of their services and the existing gaps.
The additional one year is set to end in August.
City of Kigali says they have recently conducted a study to ascertain the quality of services offered by the three bus companies, including the size of their fleet, how both old and new routes are being served, the time intervals between one bus and the next one, among others.
This comes amid continued complaints from members of the public, with many citing continued shortage of buses especially during peak hours resulting in long delays at bus stops, and overloading of passengers.
Since the new public arrangement was adopted some six years ago a lot has changed. The city has grown further and new suburbs have emerged in areas with no designated bus routes.
While it was the right decision not to automatically renew the contracts of the current service providers with view of identifying issues that need to be attended to, it is important that authorities take into account the various concerns from the public to ensure improved services going forward.
However, with just about four months to the expiry of the current contract, time is running out for the authorities to finalise with the assessment of the current services, draw up new terms of reference, call for bids, give the potential bidders considerable time to meet the requirements (including acquiring buses), and then evaluate and decide on the bids.
Given the sensitivities that surround public transport, it is critical that all concerned authorities urgently pull their efforts together to ensure that this exercise is conducted in a timely, transparent and professional manner.
Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
By: Samir Sobhi
In Sinai, one of the holiest places in Egypt, a war is now being waged on two main fronts: to combat terrorism and to develop the Peninsula. Sinai’s holy character stems from its religious history, since the Prophet Abraham crossed it and so did the Holy Family as they fled into Egypt from Herod’s persecution.
In Sinai, God also spoke to Prophet Musa (Moses) and handed him the Ten Commandments.
Throughout the ages, Sinai has witnessed the strength of Egypt’s army and the ability of the Egyptian state to turn it into an inexhaustible source of treasures. Today, as part of efforts to uproot terrorism, the Armed Forces are building a model village, called Al-Goufa, in central Sinai. It will be the nucleus for a new urban community in the area, and the North Sinai governorate, the Sinai Development and Urbanisation Authority, and a number of NGOs are taking part in the project.
The head of the East of Suez Counter-Terrorism Authority and the North Sinai governor opened the first phase of the project last November. It includes 30 model Bedouin houses equipped with electrical appliances and furniture in a village that has all the necessary facilities and services.
Work on the second phase of the project is now ongoing, with each comprising the construction of 70 Bedouin houses, each of some 200 square metres.
A new Al-Gadie guest house has been finished, with its main hall able to accommodate 80 people on social occasions. During the inauguration ceremony, the leases of the new furnished houses were delivered to beneficiaries.
Efforts to develop Sinai in parallel with the ongoing military operations against terrorism were reviewed. The North Sinai governor praised the cooperation between the Armed Forces and NGOs in the area that had resulted in the implementation of several development projects and the upgrading of services and utilities with the aim of providing better living standards for Sinai residents.
Sinai has been the theatre of two wars. Following the 30 June Revolution, Egypt declared war on terrorism that was being carried out in Sinai by terrorists and extremists. However, it has also declared another battle, this time to complete the urbanisation of Sinai. Terrorism has been eradicated from Sinai with the help of the army, the police and local residents, and stability has been restored. The time is now ripe to develop Sinai further and to build its future.
This year is the year of the urbanisation of Sinai from the eastern bank of the Suez Canal to the international borders. The plans are mainly related to upgrading infrastructure, including roads, services, water, electricity and the new Bedouin houses. They will be followed by further land reclamation, the construction of new industrial zones, and the development of central Sinai, which is still in need of geological surveys.
Presidential Decree 17 for 2018 set up a working committee assigned with developing Sinai. The committee is headed by Ibrahim Mahlab, presidential adviser on national and strategic projects.
Today, there is the North Sinai Agricultural Development Project that aims to reclaim some 400,000 feddans of land at a total cost of about LE7 billion. Around five million cubic metres of treated water will be taken from the Bahr Al-Bakar plant to irrigate the land.
Such mega-projects will be the nucleus for the comprehensive development of Sinai. And they include the building of villages to settle the population. Five villages at Al-Tina south of Al-Qantara City are now under construction. Some 125,000 feddans of land have already been planted with sugar cane and other crops. Factories for sugar production and olive oil refining are due to be constructed.
Sinai is not all of a piece, geographically speaking. The northern part from Al-Arish to the Suez Canal is largely desert. The middle part is a great plateau forming nearly half of the Peninsula’s area and set among chains of limestone mountains. In the south of Sinai, red granite mountains can be found.
Increasing the population of Sinai is an important target of the government’s development plans, with the increase expected to reach one million. The development of animal husbandry will lead to increases in the population, and pasture and other agricultural land will be an additional pull factor. Bringing in farmers from the Delta, Upper Egypt and the over-populated governorates to Sinai will also be helpful. Many Sinai residents already have familial connections with people in the Sharqiya, Dakahliya and Qalyubiya governorates.
The question now is how to benefit Sinai inhabitants by building dams to store flood waters that can be used to irrigate a further two million feddans of land. The maps are there, the satellite photographs are ready, the technical committees are available and the labour is on hand.
What is now needed? The answer is Egyptian investors and capital.
Al Ahram Weekly – Egypt
By: Abdel Moneim Said
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 announced astounding changes in the East Mediterranean. At the time, it seemed to simply facilitate navigation and connectivity (there were no airplanes back then). This feat was enough to create a deep rivalry among world powers over Egypt and the Near East, which carried a heavy price tag later, to the extent that Egyptian schoolchildren ask in geography lessons whether digging the canal was a “blessing” or a “curse” for Egypt, which as a result was shocked by British occupation.
There was another remarkable development in the 20th century, namely the internal combustion engine which needed a constant supply of oil as a source of energy. This led to the discovery of the first oil field in the region at Ras Ghareb on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, and since then the Arab region and oil have been synonymous.
The Suez Canal, with all its capacity for crossing vessels, became the gateway for Arab oil going to European and North American markets. During the height of Arab cooperation at the end of the 1990s, Al-Sumed pipeline — in cooperation between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — transferred Arab oil from vessels coming into the Port of Ain Sokhna on the Gulf of Suez to vessels waiting on the Mediterranean coast. Fortunately, this type of Arab cooperation survived political disputes, periodic Arab crises and even wars without obstructing the benefits of the Suez Canal and the pipeline transporting fuel. When Egypt decided to expand and deepen the Suez Canal recently by digging another branch to allow simultaneous crossing in both directions, Arab countries — especially the UAE — stepped up to assist accomplishment of the project in record time.
Although the second decade of the 21st century was not merciful to the Arab nation, in the past few years there has been a remarkable geo-economic and geopolitical development in the region, namely the demarcation of nautical boundaries between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and Cyprus. This step opened the floodgates for many interesting developments in the entire region. First, there was the discovery of vast gas reserves east of the Mediterranean Sea off Egyptian, Palestinian, Cypriot, Israeli and Lebanese shores. Second, the Red Sea became a prime target of economic reform policies in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. While this primarily meant diversifying sources of revenue from oil to other non-oil sources, such as tourism, trade and transportation, it also meant a historical transition from the River Nile to the coast of the Red Sea which has extended Egypt’s economic prospects to the middle of the sea, and revived the economies of Halayeb and Shalateen, Marsa Alam, Al-Qoseir, Safaga, Hurghada, Zaafarana and Ain Sokhna, right up to Suez.
While near-sighted Egyptians viewed the demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia as an issue about two islands, the agreement gave Egypt the ability to benefit economically from nearly 81 other islands. Demarcation of boundaries gave the Saudis the same, as well as the construction of a smart and tourism-friendly cross-border city, Neom. Gradually, the Red Sea is no longer merely a water body connecting the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has become a promising economic zone that could make the maritime mid-point between Egypt and Saudi Arabia a metaphorical and physical bridge between the two countries. Perhaps this geo-economic development is the reason for creating a political and security association among countries on the coast, so they can hold periodic meetings to coordinate among Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti and Yemen.
Similar developments have occurred in the eastern Mediterranean. Demarcation of maritime boundaries between Egypt and Cyprus triggered fierce competition along global oil and gas companies to prospect in the region, which resulted in key discoveries or announcements of previous ones. It created great opportunities for cooperation, including the creation of the East Mediterranean Forum which includes Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, where ministers of petroleum and oil can cooperate and coordinate on many issues regarding the transportation, liquefication and export of gas.
Egypt is prominent in this forum not only because its territories and seas have large reserves of gas, but also because it is a major market of fuel consumption with a population of more than 100 million. It is also home to high-energy consuming industries such as fertilisers, aluminium, cement, iron, steel and others. Third, it has two centres for the liquefication of gas, in Damietta and Edko, as well as ports capable of exporting not only Egyptian gas but also gas from other countries. Fourth, Egypt owns a gas pipeline company transporting gas to Jordan and Israel, with the possibility of extending delivery to Lebanon and Syria when circumstances allow. These developments, along with courageous economic decisions that eliminated subsidies on energy, have ended Egypt’s economic crisis which began at the beginning of the decade through subsequent Egyptian revolutions, and predicts a promising future.
The question now is whether we can invest these outstanding geo-economic developments in the Red and Mediterranean seas, especially since they are linked to significant political reform changes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. What is certain is that the vision of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia until 2030 is a factor at play. Saudi Arabia believes the kingdom is a Mediterranean state and a key pillar of Egypt’s vision is to move from “the river to the sea”. The strategic outlooks and visions of the two countries make this a feasible idea and not just a pipedream.
There is a good grasp of the obstacles on the path of such a project, most notably the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its recent serious complications. There is also Turkey’s urge to threaten Cyprus and some areas in Syria, while instability continues in Syria and Lebanon. Nonetheless, all these riveting geographic and political developments took some time to occur, and the results so far have done more good than harm. This is an invitation for politicians and intellectuals to think deeper about the matter.