Egypt is planning to establish a "Media Free Zone" near 6th of October City. The new free zone, which will encompass 3.5 million square meters, will be built adjacent to the existing Media Production City on land owned by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU). The financial daily Al Alam Al Youm reported that the Media City would offer production facilities and tax exemptions to encourage foreign news and entertainment organizations to set up shop in Egypt. It will also include elements from Egypt's public sector media infrastructure such as Nilesat, Cable News Egypt and the Nile Communications Network.
While being interviewed by Business Monthly magazine, Mr. Hussein Amin, an ERTU board member, predicted a bright future for the venture. "It will be open, very liberal and will attract a lot of foreign investors. If we do it right, this could generate resources comparable to tourism resources." The project's expected success goes hand-in-hand with generally positive expectations. UNCTAD's recent survey of business executives showed that foreign investors hold lofty hopes of potential market growth in Egypt. These expectations relate to the internal market as well as to the wider regional market.
This media project is expected to face regional competition from similar media free zone proposals in Dubai and Jordan. While either location could offer comparable quality technical facilities and infrastructure to those of Egypt, Amin notes that none can match Egypt's combination of local talent, low-cost labor, and "the best location in the world, right next to the Pyramids."
Expectations for the Media Free Zone have already had an effect on the Cairo stock exchange. It has revived the lagging Egyptian Production City Company (EMPC), which is half owned by the ERTU. The stock opened on the bourse at EP 55, but dropped as low as EP 25 last November. But speculation about the Media City caused the stock price to jump to EP 58.70 as of mid-February 2000. (EP3.4=$1).
Still, some details surrounding the Media Free Zone remain unclear. Al Alam Al Youm reported that issues such as censorship, the exact extent and duration of tax holidays and what kind of capital potential investors will need to provide must still be elucidated. According to a report by the ERTU, the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones will administer the Zone, while the Council of Ministers will set all controls and regulations.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )