Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

Egypt is investing heavily in phosphates. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018
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Egypt’s phosphate revolution a boon for Aswan industrial zone

  • Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers
  • The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year

LONDON: Cairo is upping its game in the global phosphates market by funding a new multimillion-dollar phosphate industrial zone in Aswan, as well as expanding Safaga Port on the Red Sea, a major hub for agribusiness exports to India. 

Phosphates and potash are part of a group of fertilizers that boost crop nutrition, and increase the yield from soil used to grow food. A report in Egypt Today said that since 2015, Egypt’s Industrial Development Authority had approved about 10 new projects in the field of phosphate fertilizers, with two already in production.

Phosphate rock producers are integrating in order to add value and meet the demands of Asian customers who find it more cost-efficient to buy intermediate or finished products since the price of phosphate rock has more than doubled since 2006. 

That makes it harder for Asian middlemen to make money when they sell the raw material up the supply chain. It also means more manufacturing opportunities for Egyptian phosphate producers and suppliers, the prime targets of the new phosphate industrial zone in Aswan.

The fertilizer sector is also growing domestically, with Egypt consuming 14.3 million tons of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers per year, according to the annual report of the Chamber of Chemical Industries (CCI), affiliated with the Federation of Egyptian Industries. Egypt could achieve self-sufficiency before too long, as well as bolster exports, the CCI said. The international phosphate landscape is changing as US production declines and American mines become depleted.

The US has recently been an importer of phosphate rock, which means a bigger role for non-US producers such as Egypt. Asian customers can buy cheaper from North Africa as it is closer, putting the US at a disadvantage, and this spurs investment in the region. Phosphate production was slowing in China, but growing strongly in places such as Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to a US Geological Survey report last year.  OCP Group of Morocco is the largest phosphate producer in the world. Morocco has the biggest phosphate rock reserve base in the world, accounting for about 75 percent of worldwide estimates, according to the report.


Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

Updated 17 October 2018
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Search engine Baidu becomes first China firm to join US AI ethics group

  • The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research
  • Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI

BEIJING: Chinese search engine Baidu has become the first Chinese company to join an artificial intelligence (AI) ethics group led by top US tech firms, amid wider political clashes over AI competition between China and the US.
The Partnership on AI (PAI), which counts Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as members, is a body that develops ethical guidelines for AI research, including ensuring research does not violate international conventions or human rights.
Last year China’s industry ministry named Baidu as one of four national AI champions, and the search firm has invested heavily in autonomous driving and deep learning in recent years.
“Baidu’s admission represents the beginning of PAI’s entrance into China. We will continue to add new members in China and around the world as we grow,” said PAI in a statement on Tuesday.

 

Baidu’s inclusion in the group comes as Chinese and US companies are looking to ramp up cooperation on AI, despite a looming political scuffle between the US and China over technology transfers.
Last year China set out a roadmap to become a world leader in AI by 2025, with plans to invest roughly $400 billion in the industry in the coming years.
The ambitions have rankled the US government, which has discussed plans to bolster security reviews of cutting-edge technology, including AI, over fears that China could access technology of strategic military importance.
China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.
Despite the clash, US companies have expanded their AI presence in China while Baidu and other Chinese firms have launched AI research labs in the US.
Last month China’s cyber ministry hosted Google, Amazon Inc. and Microsoft Corp. at its annual AI forum. All three companies have launched AI research labs in China over the past year, despite tightening censorship and data restrictions that limit the companies’ involvement in the market.
At the forum, top government officials stressed that China’s development of AI technology would be ethically conducted, adding that they have plans to retrain workers who lose their jobs to AI.

Decoder

China’s AI roadmap encourages technology sharing between private, public and military research groups.