The president of the DAL Group, businessman Osama Daoud, announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will build a new port in the Red Sea in Sudan as part of the new investment deal between the UAE and Sudan.
The deal, which represents the first major foreign partnership in Port Sudan, is part of a 6 billion dollars’ worth investment package, Daoud explained to Reuters.
Daoud explained that the four billion dollar port is a joint venture between DAL Group and Abu Dhabi Ports, owned by the ADQ Abu Dhabi Holding Company, and will be able to handle all kinds of goods and compete with the country's main national port of Port Sudan.
DAL Group, which is party to the building of a new port, is a private Sudanese conglomerate and the largest private company in the country. It operates across several business sectors including food, engineering, and agriculture.
The new port will be located about 200 kilometres north of Port Sudan and will also include a free trade and industrial zone modelled after Dubai's Jebel Ali and a small international airport.
The DAL Group chairman pointed out that the project is in "advanced stages" with studies and designs already completed.
Daoud said that the package includes a free trade zone, a large agricultural project, and an imminent deposit of $300 million to the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS). This would be the first large deposit to the bank since the October 25 military coup, after which a lot of financial aid and investments from Western donors were suspended.
This plunged Sudan’s already struggling economy into more turmoil and deprived the government of much-needed foreign currency, Reuters explains.
'The UAE wants a stable Sudan so that they can make more and more of these investments, but we are not waiting for everything to be fine'
Despite the withdrawal of Western donors, the UAE is willing to invest in Sudan. Daoud explained: “The UAE wants a stable Sudan so that they can make more and more of these investments, but we are not waiting for everything to be fine”.
“We and our partners in the UAE have already invested in a bank, a hotel and the mining sector,” said Daoud, whose group also advanced to control Zain Sudan, one of Sudan's largest telecommunications companies.
Sudanese Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim told Reuters last week that a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed with the UAE on a port and an agricultural project, but he did not give any further details.
Two high-ranking Sudanese government sources told Reuters that the outlines of the new deal were agreed upon between the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, during El Burhan's recent visit to the UAE in March.
Rumours of UAE investments in Port Sudan have sparked significant opposition and sometimes protests in eastern Sudan.
Yesterday, the High Council of Beja Nazirs* and Independent Chieftains in eastern Sudan accused the Minister of Finance of corruption and subterfuge by waiving wharfage costs at a Red Sea port.
The council’s spokesperson explained that “exemptions are unacceptable and obstruct the work cycle”. They called for a halt to ‘tampering’, saying that the purpose of the corruption may be to destabilise the port’s fiscal viability so that the construction of the new UAE-backed port on the Red Sea can commence without much competition.
Port Sudan has long struggled with infrastructure challenges and was shut down by a six-week political blockade late last year, which resulted in large financial losses. Last week, the port witnessed two accidents.
*A nazir is a state-appointed administrative chief of a tribe or clan, according to the Native Administration system in Sudan.