Chinese firms set to invest in Afghan energy sector

Chinese firms set to invest in Afghan energy sector
The investment plans are being seen as the latest sign of growing economic engagement by Chinese entrepreneurs in the mineral-rich country. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Chinese firms set to invest in Afghan energy sector

Chinese firms set to invest in Afghan energy sector
  • Afghan officials hail plan as sign of growing links between the neighbors

KABUL: A group of Chinese firms was poised to pump $400 million into a coal-fired electricity generation project in Afghanistan, officials revealed on Monday.

The investment plans are being seen as the latest sign of growing economic engagement by Chinese entrepreneurs in the mineral-rich country.

The group, involved in a number of private businesses in Afghanistan, shared its spending ambitions during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday.

Sangar Niazi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s power department, told Arab News: “Several Chinese companies during their meeting with President Ghani showed their preparedness for investing $400 million in the energy sector through which we can generate 300 megawatts of electricity.”

Fatima Murchal, a spokeswoman for Ghani, said the planned investment was a “good opportunity” for the Afghan energy industry, adding that the president had “instructed authorities to facilitate the necessary cooperation in this regard.”

While the technicalities of the project had yet to be finalized, Niazi pointed out that the initiative would be expected to provide a much-needed jobs boost to war-ravaged Afghanistan, which imports 80 percent of its electricity from neighboring countries.

“Using coal for producing electricity is also cheaper than importing hydroelectric power from the region,” he said, adding that necessary measures would be taken to limit environmental pollution.

Khan Jan Alokozay, deputy head of Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News: “This (the Chinese energy investment plan) indeed is important. Other foreign investors will also be encouraged to come here and invest.

“The Chinese have a huge interest in investing here, and without any doubt, Afghanistan is a big market for them. China is an international economic superpower; we are neighbors and have the resources for their investment and raw materials for exporting for their domestic consumption too,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

The group, involved in a number of private businesses in Afghanistan, shared its spending ambitions during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday.

Alokozay noted that since the Taliban’s ousting in late 2001, the Chinese government and private investors had been at the helm of several small and megaprojects throughout Afghanistan including oil exploration in the north, copper mining in Logar province south of the capital Kabul, and road building in northern border areas.

Decades of war in Afghanistan had seen China reluctant to invest in major Afghan infrastructure development schemes while almost 70 other countries, including Pakistan, benefitted from inclusion in Beijing’s 2013-launched global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“The volume of trade between the two countries stands at some $3 billion annually while China is keen to include Afghanistan through Central Asia in its BRI for reaching Gulf nations,” Alokozay added.

However, he noted that a Chinese firm’s oil exploration operations in the northern Afghan province of Sari Pul had been suspended “because of violence there and due to contractual problems,” and that copper extraction work had been halted in Logar.

Saturday’s talks coincided with the recent start of work by Kabul on the construction of a $5 million road in the mountainous Pamir region to connect with China via a land route for the first time.

Building of the 50-kilometer highway through the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province was expected take 18 months to complete and, once ready, would allow Beijing to export raw materials from untapped Afghan mines for its increasing domestic consumption.

Both countries have been using the railway network in Central Asia for their commercial interactions, while Afghanistan has been flying its famed pine nuts to China.

Kabul has a $2.2 billion five-year deal to export its pine nuts to China and Afghanistan is already a huge market for Chinese goods. Over the past 20 years, China has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan, contributing nearly $240 million in development aid between 2001 and 2013 and ramping up investments in the country, especially since the reduction in the number of US-led troops in Afghanistan began in late 2014.

In 2007, China inked a multibillion-dollar deal with the Afghan government to secure exclusive rights to extract copper from the Mes Aynak mine in Logar. As part of the contract, China will build a railway network to export the mined copper to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif and on to Beijing through an existing rail network in Uzbekistan.

However, the ambitious project has yet to get underway due to delays in copper extraction, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and the discovery of an ancient Buddhist site.


Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
Updated 6 min 46 sec ago

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture

Spanish movie studio Minimo to invest $250m in Saudi joint venture
  • Minimo VFX will open a headquarters in Riyadh in early 2022
  • Minimo helped produce The Dark Knight, Avatar and Harry Potter

RIYADH: Spanish film studio Minimo VFX plans to invest $250 million in the Saudi market through a joint venture with a local company, said CEO Felix Balbas.

“Our partnership with the Saudi Next Level Co. consists of opening a regional headquarters in Riyadh and localizing the film content industry, as well as training Saudis and empowering them globally,” Felix told Asharq on Thursday.

Minimo was involved in the production of films including The Dark Knight, Avatar, The Mission, Doom, and Harry Potter.

It will begin operations in Riyadh in early 2022 with a team of about 45 employees, offering production, logistical and advisory services for visual effects, long and short films, television shows and advertisements, he said.

Filmmaking and the screening of films is a recent phenomenon in the Kingdom after Saudi Arabia allowed the opening of cinemas in 2018.


Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to auction two major mining licenses in 2022 for commodities including gold, copper and zinc, as the Kingdom aims to triple the mining
sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP) to SR240 billion ($64 billion) and double the number of jobs to 470,000 by 2030.
The auction was announced by Vice Minister for Saudi Mining Affairs Khalid Al-Mudaifer during an interview with S&P Global on the sidelines of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Leaders Forum in Dubai this week.
Looking ahead, Al-Mudaifer said: “We expect to see an increase in international investment in mining, particularly because demand for minerals around the world is growing fast.
According to geological surveys dating back 80 years, the Kingdom has an estimated reserve of untapped mining potential valued at $1.3 trillion.” Saudi Arabia’s mining industry has already attracted some major foreign investors. American industrial corporation Alcoa has a 25.1 percent stake in two companies, Ma’aden Bauxite and Alumina and Ma’aden Aluminum, as part of $10.8 billion joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) located in Ras al-Khair Industrial City in the Eastern Province.
The Mosaic Company, a fertilizer producer, has a 25 percent stake in the $8 billion Ma’aden Wa’ad Al-Shamal Fertilizer Production Complex located in Wa’ad Al Shamal Minerals Industrial City in the north of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Barrick Gold has a 50 percent stake with Ma’aden in the Jabal Sayid underground Copper Mine and Plant.
Al-Mudaifer said that a new mining law, which came into force on Jan. 1, 2021, will help attract more foreign investors because it treats them equally with local investors.
“We have already received a number of applications for exploration licenses from locals and are also in conversations with a number of international mining businesses,” he said.
Speaking at the GPCA forum, Al-Mudaifer described how the Kingdom’s mining sector remained resilient throughout the pandemic.
“The government’s robust response to controlling the pandemic, paired with our thoughtful approach to executing the country’s mining strategy, has enabled us to continue moving forward with our industry transformation,” said Al-Mudaifer.
He also highlighted the launch of the National Geological Database, which provides online access to 80 years of national records of geological, geophysical and geochemical information, and the introduction of a new web-based platform called Ta’adin, which will be the single point of access for mining license applications, issuance and information.
Saudi Arabia plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to map the country’s mining potential. “The mining sector recently invested $500,000 to launch our Regional Geological Survey Program, designed to collect the essential data required for mineral exploration in the Kingdom,” Al-Mudaifer told S&P Global.
“The five-year program will conduct geophysical and geo-chemical surveys and create detailed mapping of more than 700,000 square kilometers of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Vision 2030 reform plan identified the mining sector as a potential third pillar of the Kingdom’s industrial growth, alongside petroleum and petrochemicals. The country is investing SR14 billion to develop the sector.
“We have emerged more confident than ever that mining in the Kingdom is on the fast track to becoming the third pillar of Saudi industry.” the vice minister said.
About $45 billion in private and public sector investments have gone into the mining sector over the past decade, mainly in phosphate and aluminum production.
“Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, and so we are investing in major phosphate projects such as Ma’aden’s large-scale phosphate complex, Phosphate 3,” Al-Mudaifer said.
The $6.4 billion Phosphate 3 expansion will make Ma’aden one of the top three global phosphate fertilizer producers and Saudi Arabia the second largest phosphate fertilizer exporter worldwide.


Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
  • Thirteen electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month

CAIRO: Egypt will begin testing electric cars on the country’s streets from July, ahead of plans to launch full-scale production of the vehicles from mid-2022.

Thirteen imported electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month, Hisham Tawfik, minister of the Egyptian public enterprise sector, said while attending the launch of the Nasr E70 electric car.

Nine of the electric cars will be tested by drivers nominated by Uber, the global ride-hailing company, he added.

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company, an affiliate of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector’s Metallurgical Industries Company.

Tawfik said that the ministry began studying the electric car production project in mid-2019 as part of efforts to reform and develop its affiliated companies, including the revival of El Nasr Automotive Company.

FASTFACT

E70

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company.

The project is in line with the global move toward electric cars and aligns with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s directives to localize the manufacture of vehicles used for clean energy.

The Dongfeng Corporation, one of the largest automobile producers in China, is partnering in the production of the Nasr E70 vehicle, the minister said.

An agreement between El-Nasr and Dongfeng was signed in June 2020 following months of negotiations.

The Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector recently released images of the first electric car of its kind in the country.

El Nasr CEO Hani El-Khouly said that three types of electric car models will be available in Egypt, based on battery capacity.

Batteries initially will be made in China, with production later shifting to Egypt.

Trials of the imported cars will continue for up to four months under a range of Egyptian conditions and with different drivers.

The Nasr E70 can reach a speed of 145 kilometers per hour and travel up to 400 km on a single charge.

El-Khouly said that a delegation from China will arrive in Egypt in July to follow up on the tests.

Government subsidy of the car will total about EGP50,000 ($13,333) to support the local market, he said.


From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
Updated 18 June 2021

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
  • Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.
  • Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief

SYDNEY: A wave of brief Iinternet outages hit the websites and apps of dozens of financial institutions, airlines and other companies across the globe Thursday.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange said in a post on Twitter Thursday afternoon Hong Kong time that its site was facing technical issues and that it was investigating. It said in another post 17 minutes later that its websites were back to normal.

Internet monitoring websites including ThousandEyes, Downdetector.com and fing.com showed dozens of disruptions, including to US-based airlines.

Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.

Australia Post, the country’s postal service, said on Twitter that an “external outage” had impacted a number of its services, and that while most services had come back online, they are continuing to monitor and investigate.

Many services were up and running after an hour or so but the affected companies said they were working overtime to prevent further problems.

Banking services were severely disrupted, with Westpac, the Commonwealth, ANZ and St. George all down, along with the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Services have mostly been restored.

Virgin Australia said flights were largely operating as scheduled after it restored access to its website and guest contact center.

“Virgin Australia was one of many organizations to experience an outage with the Akamai content delivery system today,” it said. “We are working with them to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring.”

Akamai counts some of the world’s biggest companies and banks as customers.

Calls to Akamai, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but has global services, went unanswered.

The disruptions came just days after many of the world’s top websites went offline briefly due to a problem with software at Fastly, another major web services company. The company blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a customer changed a setting.

Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief. But the outages have underscored how vital a small number of behind-the-scenes companies have become to running the internet.


Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
  • Russian ambassador to the Kingdom says new commercial attache at the embassy will help Saudi businesses

RIYADH: A proposal to open a Russian bank in Riyadh was presented at a meeting between Saudi and Russian officials on Thursday.
The move would facilitate trade and economic exchange between the two countries, a meeting of the Saudi-Russian Business Council of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) was told.
Russia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, Sergei Kozlov, said he promised to support and study the proposal to open the bank in Riyadh.
He said a commercial attaché had been appointed at the embassy in Riyadh to help Saudi business owners overcome obstacles.
Ajlan bin Abdulaziz Al-Ajlan, president of the CSC, said the meeting provided strong impetus toward developing more trade and economic relations.
Chairman of the Saudi-Russian Business Council Tariq Al-Kahtani said it was important to strengthen economic and trade cooperation.
The meeting also dealt with some challenges that contributed to the weak volume of trade exchange between the Kingdom and Russia, including the lack of a direct shipping line to facilitate import and export operations.