Smart Mobility Leading Egypt's Sustainability Agenda

Osama Bishai
Chief Executive Officer : Orascom Construction

How is Orascom Construction  impacting smart mobility in Egypt?

We have a long history of supporting the Ministry of Transport in its projects. We've been involved for more than 40 years. The metro programme is crucial for transportation and mass transit in megacities such as Cairo. It's also essential to highlight the High-Speed Rail project. The High-Speed Rail has an advanced communication system. It is more than a smart train; it’s connected directly to the Siemens headquarters for technical support and preventative maintenance. Furthermore, it's an electric train, which means no additional emissions are being added. With the full completion of the network, Egypt will become one of the top 10 countries with high-speed networks worldwide. Moving from the Red Sea coast to Alexandria, the journey will take less than two hours which is transformational. Lastly, the southern area between Cairo and Aswan is currently one of the least developed areas. With the rail reaching this area, further commerce and development will be possible.

How are you working with allies and partners in the European Union and the region to enhance infrastructure growth?

We believe infrastructure has tremendous potential in the region and in Africa. This is our core competence. We develop water power, roads, railways, ports, with the purpose to enhance socio-economic infrastructure. We are investing in renewables in developing industrial areas for investors to do their best in manufacturing or fabrication. We are the main shareholder of the largest Belgian contractor and we have been a significant player with Siemens, whether in power or transport. We understand international norms and we have the ability to deliver in emerging economies such as the MENA region. Our track record built through time has allowed us to work internationally.

Knowing that education is such a central pillar for Orascom Construction, could you tell us more about the project you're working on in this domain?

What is needed in Egypt is to enhance education because this is the only way to create human capital that will further develop the country. We sponsor some of the brightest students going to Ivy League schools in the US. We pay for their tuition and provide them with the support needed during their time abroad. After finalising their studies, they must return to Egypt and work for two years in their field of expertise. So far, we have probably funded Ivy education for more than 120 students over the last ten years. We're also working closely with the Cairo School of Economics, mainly supporting their exchange programme with Chicago University. At Orascom, we try to provide as many opportunities to enhance human capital in the younger generations. We believe that the most significant asset Egypt has is its population of 100 million people. We have a very young, bright population and with the proper education, we can do wonders here.

With COP27 around the corner, how is Orascom Construction's vision in line with the Climate and Sustainable Development Goals of Egypt?

We are an investor in renewables. We have built a 250-megawatt renewable power station for the  Ministry of electricity. We are currently developing another 500 megawatts station. We have a very strong health and safety policy and guidelines within the company to maintain our project sites' security. We try to minimise the waste by recycling as much of it as we can. The High-Speed Rail is an example of infrastructure development combined with sustainability. In the short term, I would like to see more renewable investment, more recycling of construction material and the integration of sustainability throughout our projects.

Where does your passion for engineering and procurement come from?

I think construction in simple words is seeing what you do. We feel fortunate that when we go to a particular area, we work on it, and when we leave, we have improved someone's quality of life. I think what drove me to get involved in construction is that you can do things, realise them, and physically see them happening in front of you.