Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign deals to support microfinance projects

The signing ceremony took place at the headquarters of the Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation in Cairo. (SPA)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign deals to support microfinance projects

  • SR28.2m pumped into renewable energy, agriculture and livestock

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia has signed a triple agreement to finance a range of industrial development projects in Egypt, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) is to pump 125 million Egyptian pounds (SR28.2 million) into renewable energy, agriculture and livestock projects in the African nation.

Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Dr. Sahar Nasr said the funding would provide vital support to small- and medium-sized projects and encourage young investors to play a greater role in economic development.

“The agreements reflect the great interest in the diversity of sources of funding, according to the youths’ demand to be able to rely on something other than the banks, where procedures would be easier and would not require too many guarantees,” she said.

The signing ceremony took place at the headquarters of the Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation, in Cairo, in the presence of Nasr, Egypt’s transport minister, Lt. Gen. Kamel Al-Waziri, and the Saudi ambassador to Egypt and the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the Arab League, Osama Nuqali.

The agreements were inked by Hasan Al-Attas, director general of operations and head of the SFD’s grant management committee, and the director general of projects and studies at the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY).

FASTFACT

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) is to pump 125 million Egyptian pounds (SR28.2 million) into renewable energy, agriculture and livestock projects in the African nation.

EFG Hermes for Leasing, a subsidiary of EFG Hermes Finance, will receive 75 million Egyptian pounds, while UE Finance, a microfinance company, and Global Lease Co. both get 25 million. The funding will be directed toward micro and industrial projects outside greater Cairo and Alexandria, in addition to financing new and renewable energy projects and the agricultural and livestock sector.

Speaking at the ceremony, Nuqali said the development grants would benefit microfinance projects in Egyptian provinces and reflected the strong bilateral relations between the two countries built up with the support of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Nasr said that the ministry would continue to cooperate with the fund with a view to gaining further backing for the private sector and investors through initiatives that would benefit both countries.

Al-Attas said the latest agreements formed part of the Saudi fund’s continued support for small and emerging firms in Egypt, and the grant would contribute to creating job opportunities and supporting companies and projects especially in rural areas and industry sector-deprived regions.


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.