Remarks by Mahmoud Mohieldin at the Union for the Mediterranean: Suez Canal Conference on Maritime Transport and Logistics Conference: “Success Stories fostering Intermodality and Connectivity in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”

Policy Recommendations:

How should policymakers respond? First, they should work across borders and boundaries to smooth pathways to trade. When multiple entities make decisions on the basis of their own sphere of influence, they gain their independence but lose wealth, productivity, and competitiveness.  This concept is as old as Adam Smith himself, the father of modern economics, yet has proven to quite reliable over the centuries.

Second, increased competitiveness requires investments in both infrastructure and human capital. The Human Capital Project, launched recently by the World Bank, is a new effort to understand the link between investing in people and economic growth, and to accelerate financing for human capital investments.

Third, the Mediterranean region needs to collaborate to increase intra-regional trade, through the definition of shipping and supply chain routes and modes, collecting data and defining industry standards, and increasing trade and investments in infrastructure and complementary products and services within the region.

Fourth, to promote both growth and stability, the region needs complementary interventions in connectivity and the hinterland. Any development project should be rooted in and envisaged through an integrated port cluster strategy which should be part of a national freight and logistics strategy. One potential strategy is to attract vertically integrated shipping companies that are also involved in inland logistics and terminal operations. The World Bank is pleased to support the Government of Egypt in the upcoming development of this integrated National Multimodal Freight Transport and Logistics Strategy and Action Plan.

Fifth, policy makers could focus on one or a few core ports and core corridors. Cross-border cooperation between ports and countries should also be emphasized to avoid overcapacity.  Balanced development of port maritime networks should take into account regional and local connectivity, as through short-sea and coastal shipping, as well as roll-on, roll-off and global maritime connectivity.

Sixth, technology will increasingly impact the sustainable transport landscape, in everything from real-time data on congestion, automated data collection and processing, reducing transport’s time, cost, and environmental impacts. Private sector experience through public–private partnerships are also key. The World Bank has developed a port reform toolkit, a trade and transport corridor management toolkit, and are publishing a book on Maritime networks, port efficiency, and hinterland connectivity in the Mediterranean.

Finally, the Mediterranean needs more intermodal connections. Compared with other regions in global most Mediterranean ports have limited or no intermodal connectivity for moving containers to and from their cargo base or hinterland. A hinterland expansion strategy depends on infrastructure and logistics networks, preferably with rail, inland waterway and road connections, which can bring about the seamless supply chain connections that are essential for success. Barcelona, Tanger Med, and Marseilles are excellent case studies for successful hinterland connectivity strategies.

Belt and Road Initiative

I wanted to make a quick point about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to enhance global trade and connectivity, and if policy reforms and investments are coordinated, could certainly make positive impacts on development.

Egypt is a particularly crucial part of the Maritime Silk Road, with the Suez Canal functioning as the main transit point between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It will be critical to invest in infrastructure, with the Suez Canal as a transit point via land to other markets as well.

The World Bank Group is discussing with governments how to maximize benefits from BRI, providing technical advice on the potential effects, risks, benefits, and needed standards, while also providing financing and convening services when needed.

MFD and Role of Private Sector

Let me again re-emphasize, private sector investment will be indispensable to a more sustainably mobile world.

Through its new approach of Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), the World Bank Group is helping attract private sector solutions in the most challenging sectors and countries: from BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) services in Lebanon to railways investments and services in India and Morocco.


Finally, I would like to note that all of you here are stakeholders in sustainable transport in this region. You can help shape the future of Egypt, the Mediterranean, and its relationships with the rest of the world — and the World Bank Group stands ready to help.

For the Mediterranean is not just a monument to the history of trade, it is now a vibrant economic laboratory — which can transform its economies and create a brighter future for millions who live on its shores.

Thank you very much.