“Damietta – An Egyptian City Innovating through Creativity”

Located 250km from Cairo, the capital of Egypt, the city Damietta was visited by the UCLG Africa delegation from March 6 – 9, 2019. Damietta is one of the smallest provinces of Egypt that has a strategic port and canal that links it to the Nile. The Egyptian authorities chose this destination for a field trip because the city is known for having no unemployed youth.

On March 8, the delegation, headed by the Secretary General, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, visited Damietta to observe the type of South-South cooperation that local authorities in Egypt undertake.

The success of the city lies in how it exploits its strengths and mitigates its weaknesses through creativity.

The development of the Damietta Furniture City was a response to boost the competitive advantage of the city in furniture making. The project has 50 halls, each measuring 2500 square meters (25 workshops) and was conceived as a one-stop shop cluster with 1125 workshops, 5 service centers, an exhibition hall, a shopping center, a hotel with 250 rooms and a conference center. The developer of the Damietta Furniture City is a consortium of investment banks that work with the Egyptian Army as the main contractor. The marketing of the project targets both Egyptian and non-Egyptian investors. It has a dedicated website as well as other promotion and marketing tools.

Phase 1 and phase 2 of the project will soon be finished, if one considers that the development is 90 per cent complete. Sales are also underway: 10 per cent of land plots have been sold, as well as 30 per cent of workshops. The target is to complete the sales over the next three years. Workshops cost 300 dollars per square meter. A down payment of 10 per cent is required at 5 per cent interest with the remainder paid through a loan given by the consortium of bankers. The cost of the project is estimated to be 2 billion Egyptian Pounds, equivalent to 10 million USD. The return on investment is expected within 5 years.

To date, 36 workshops are functional. The main advantage for workshop owners is that the project takes charge of marketing services and also provides a service center where owners can benefit from a range of services, including design services for their products. The project also works with an ISO center for certification and quality assurance under the leadership of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. This center stamps the products that meet requirements for export.

Damietta is one of the best locations in the world for furniture. At present the wood, which is the main raw material in the industry, comes mainly from Russia and partly from Europe. Given the huge endowment of Equatorial Africa in forestry, it was suggested that Damietta diversify the origin of its raw material by developing closer business and decentralized cooperation partnerships with the business community and local governments of countries such as Cameroon, Congo, DRC, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea, to cite but a few.