by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- "The Egypt-China ties are in their best era," said Mostafa Ibrahim, chairman of the Egyptian Chinese Business Council (ECBC), citing that the two sides have just signed a number of cooperation deals worth 18.3 billion U.S. dollars.
China and Egypt signed the deals during a just-concluded visit to China by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who participated in the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on Sept. 3-4.
Among the deals include the construction of a pumping and storage station in the Mount Ataka area in northeast of Egypt, and a clean coal-fired power station in Hamrawein on the Red Sea coast, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.
"The signing of these contracts for major projects in Egypt is a leap in the volume of cooperation between the two countries," Ibrahim told Xinhua in an interview.
The Chinese investments also include a textile industrial project, a refinery and a petrochemicals complex in the Suez Canal corridor area.
"The expected investments to be pumped in the projects will lift the bilateral cooperation to a new level," Ibrahim said.
He said that Egypt, with its population exceeding 100 million, is certainly a promising market for the Chinese investments.
Ibrahim said that China, which is seeking opportunities for more investments in foreign markets, is qualified to be part of Egypt's plan to develop its manufacturing sector by constructing new roads and factories.
He hailed the mutual ties between Egypt and China as "important and in continuous progress," noting that the latest visit of President Sisi to Beijing has added more assets to the relations.
The China-Egypt relations have witnessed steady development over the years, especially since they were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014.
Sisi's participation in the FOCAC summit is his fifth visit to China since assuming office in 2014.
More than 1,500 Chinese companies are operating in Egypt, including 702 in the industrial sector, 432 in the services sector, 70 in construction, 79 in communication and information technology, 47 in agriculture, and six in tourism, the state-run Ahram newspaper reported citing Egypt General Authority for Investment and Free Zones.
The Chinese companies are participating in several major projects in Egypt, like the construction of the new administrative capital, Ibrahim said.
"Definitely the ties with China are special and Egypt undoubtedly desires to further promote it," he said.
"Egypt is the basic partner for China in Africa and the Middle East, and Beijing realizes that Cairo is the gate to Africa," he added.
Ibrahim believes the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative will raise the efficiency of trade between China and other countries, including China.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe by reviving the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
"Egypt will benefit the most in light of its unique geographic position, as well as the Suez Canal," he said.
He said the FOCAC summit in Beijing "is a golden opportunity for Africa to promote its ties with China. Africa should use the forum for achieving important benefits by cooperating with China."
Ibrahim lauded China's promise at the summit to provide 60 billion U.S. dollars in free aid, loans and special funds to support Africa's development as "a great move for achieving development in Africa."
Egypt will certainly be part of that progress, he said.
"That package of aid that doesn't seek political conditions will boost the relations between the two sides," said Ibrahim.
"What made the China-Africa ties special is that China aims at developing the African countries without intervention in their domestic affairs," he added.