Swords into satellite dishes

The Arab world’s largest arms manufacturer is testing the waters of satellite-dish production as a way to diversify in an increasingly depressed international market for heavy weaponry.

The Cairo-headquartered Arab Organization for Industrialization has begun producing dish antennas for the civilian market at its aircraft factory in the industrial suburb of Helwan, south of Cairo.

The company evidently wants to get its foot in the door of a fast-expanding Middle Eastern market for satellite dish antennas.

This regional growth has been fueled in large part by viewer dissatisfaction with much of the programming on Arab TV stations, most of which are state-operated and subject to religious and political censorship.

Egypt, with a population of 57 million, represents a huge potential market.

While reliable figures on present satellite dish households are virtually impossible to obtain, 35 dish antenna sales agents have opened for business in Egypt in the short time since the government approved private ownership of the dishes in 1990.

So far, the company is producing only the dishes, but it also is exploring joint-venture deals for the manufacture of the electronic components, per company spokesman Mohammed Shafik.

Firm has its eye on possible dish exports to other Arab states, he said.

The Arab Organization for Industrialization continues to produce a wide range of weapons, from rifles to armored personnel carriers to trainer planes, for Egypt’s armed forces and for sales to other Arab and African states.

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