Al-Dahra Land Deal in Egypt Declared Illegal

An Egyptian court has declared a 100,000 feddan (43,000ha) land acquisition by Abu Dhabi based Al-Dhara illegal.

The transaction happened in 2008 and Al-Dahra anticipated to invest $500 million in the southern Toshka Valley where land has been reclaimed from the desert and is supposed to be irrigated with water from the Nile, which is transported via canals to the project area.

Al-Dhara would lose its acquired land except for a paltry 100 feddans. Something similar happened to Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding in 2011 when it lost most of its land in the Toshka Valley that it had acquired in 1998.

The ruling came after  an anti-corruption case against the former Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Yousef Wali. Wali was also Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of the ruling NDP before he was stripped of his official positions in 2004 already under another corruption charge. As a large landowner he used to be a driving force of the Mubarak’s regime drive at economic liberalization.

The Toshka valley project’s diversion of water from the actual Nile bassin is regarded critically by southern riparians like Ethiopia. The Egyptian government hopes to cultivate wheat in the valley as part of its current program for wheat self-sufficiency. However, the  salty soils and the hot climate are hardly suitable for wheat cultivation.

For Gulf countries the examples of Al-Dahra and Kingdom Holding show the risks of legal uncertainties and highlights the importance of fair and transparent deals. Reliance on backdoor deals with corrupt regime representatives can backfire.

The preference of Gulf countries for developed agro-markets like Australia or Argentina will likely be reinforced by these developments.

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