UAE to build $ 6 billion Red Sea port in Sudan

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CAIRO – The United Arab Emirates will build a new Red Sea port in Sudan as part of a $ 6 billion investment package, DAL Group Chairman Osama Daoud Abdelatif, a partner in the deal, told Reuters.

Abdelatif said the package includes a free trade area, a major agricultural project and an upcoming $ 300m deposit at Sudan’s central bank, the first such deposit since the military takeover in October.

Western donors have halted billions of aid and investment to Sudan since the coup, sinking an economy already struggling to further turmoil and depriving the government of much-needed foreign currency.

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Ibrahim told Reuters on Wednesday that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the UAE for a port and an agricultural project, but details had not been announced earlier.

The Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the details of the deal.

The $ 4 billion port, a joint project between DAL group and Abu Dhabi Ports, owned by the Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ, will be able to handle all kinds of goods and compete with the country’s main national port, Port Sudan, Abdelatif said.

Located about 200km (124 miles) north of Port Sudan, it will also include a free trade and industrial zone modeled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali, as well as a small international airport, he said. The project is in an “advanced phase”, with studies and projects completed, he said.

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Rumors of investment in the Gulf of Port Sudan and in agricultural projects elsewhere in the country have provoked opposition and sometimes protests in the past.

Port Sudan has long been plagued by infrastructure challenges and closed by a political blockade for six weeks late last year, losing business to major international freight forwarders.

The deal with the UAE also includes the expansion and development of a $ 1.6 billion agricultural project by the Abu Dhabi conglomerate IHC and DAL Agriculture in the northern Sudan city of Abu Hamad, Abdelatif said.

Alfalfa, wheat, cotton, sesame and other crops will be grown and cultivated on 400,000 acres of leased land, he said. A $ 450 million, 500 km (310 miles) toll road will be built and connected to the port, funded by the Abu Dhabi Development Fund.

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Under the agreement, the fund will make a $ 300m deposit with Sudan’s central bank, Abdelatif said.

Abdelatif said the agreement was initially reached in July 2021 under a civilian-led transitional government.

Two sources in the former cabinet, who asked not to be named, said a different version of the deal was reviewed last year, but ultimately did not go to a vote due to reservations.

Two senior Sudanese officials told Reuters that the outline of the new deal had been agreed between Sudanese leader General Abdelfatah al-Burhan and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed during a recent visit to the Gulf state.

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi Ports said the company had no comment, while representatives of the ADQ, Abu Dhabi Fund, IHC and the governments of Abu Dhabi and the UAE did not respond immediately.

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“We and our partners in the UAE have already invested in a bank, a hotel, mining,” said Abdelatif, whose conglomerate has also applied to control one of Sudan’s largest telecommunications companies, Zain Sudan.

“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 perfect,” he added.

After the military ousted Omar al-Bashir in 2019 following popular protests, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have promised a combined $ 3 billion in grants and in-kind assistance to Sudan, which military and civilian leaders say has not been fully provided. (Report by Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reports by Yousef Saba in Dubai, edited by Aiden Lewis, William McLean and Richard Pullin)

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