Egypt is building a New Capital City with a Mega Project. Egypt has a large-scale project of a new capital city that has been under construction since 2015. The capital city is considered one of the programs and projects for economic development, which is part of a larger initiative called Egypt Vision 2030. Officially, a major reason for the undertaking of the project was to relieve congestion in Cairo, which is already one of the world’s most crowded cities, with the population of Cairo expected to double in the next few decades. Therefore, there is a necessity to build a new capital city to host political, financial, and touristic facilities.
Egypt has a large-scale project of a new capital city that has been under construction since 2015.
The capital city is considered one of the programs and projects for economic development, which is part of a larger initiative called Egypt Vision 2030.
Officially, a major reason for the undertaking of the project was to relieve congestion in Cairo, which is already one of the world’s
most crowded cities, with a population of Greater Cairo, expected to double in the next few decades.
Therefore, there is a necessity to build a new capital city to host political, financial, and touristic facilities.
Egypt is busy building a new capital, designed to be the country’s new administrative hub and home to more than 6.5 million residents.
The new capital will cover 700 square kilometers, making it about the size of Singapore, and
will be located 35 kilometers, east of Cairo.
Plans for the city include a new parliament and presidential palace, Egypt’s largest airport, Africa’s tallest tower, the Middle East’s largest opera house, a $20 billion worth entertainment district, and a giant urban park bigger than Central Park in New York.
One key driver behind the initiative is the country’s rapid population growth.
A new baby is born in Egypt every 15 seconds, which translates to about two million new people a year.
Cairo is already a congested, polluted, and overcrowded city that is predicted to double in size by 2050 to 40 million people. By then, the country’s wider population is
expected to jump to 150 million, up from just over 100 million today.
Population challenges aside, other potential
motives for the move include a desire by President Sisi
who came to power when the military
took charge in 2011 to break from the
past and make his mark in history, as well
as efforts to stimulate the economy, which
has remained sluggish since the events of the Arab Spring.
Projected costs for the new capital range
between $45 billion and $58 billion.
While the initiative has its supporters, others
have questioned the expense, given some of
the financial challenges that the country
has faced in recent years.
Although there are positive signs in all these
areas, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“For the country to watch the government spend
tens of billions on this city while also hearing
them say we all have to tighten our belts,
it sends a contradictory message,”
Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir
Institute for Middle East Policy in Cairo, told media.
“There is something very wrong with the order
of priorities,” agreed political analyst
Hassan Nafaa in an interview with AP.
“Maybe Al-Sisi wants to go down in history
as the leader who built the new capital.
But if Egyptians don’t see an improvement
in their living conditions and services, he
will be remembered as the president who destroyed
what is left of the middle class.”
Despite these misgivings, development is rapidly moving ahead.
The first government ministries were intended
to relocate to the new capital in mid-2020,
and a flurry of contracts have recently been
signed for everything from a new $834 million
worth of business park to a city-wide digital
security system, and “Honeywell’ installing
over 6,000 wireless cameras across the city.
Meanwhile, the state-owned operator Telecom
Egypt agreed in September 2019 to build a
$2.44 billion worth of telecommunications network.
Train and plane manufacturer “Bombardier”
has been contracted to build a 21-station
monorail in the new city, as well as a new
line to connect East Cairo with the new capital.
Described by Danny Di Perna, the president
of “Bombardier Transportation”, as “the
smart mobility solution for Cairo’s urban
future”, the 54-kilometer line can carry 45,000 passengers an hour.
The estimated travel time from East Cairo
to the new capital is around 60 minutes.
A website for the project promises that “the
new capital is developed with the strategic
vision for a smart city integrating its smart
infrastructure to provide many services to citizens”.
This vision includes smart monitoring of traffic
congestion and accidents, smart utilities
to reduce consumption and cost, smart buildings
and energy management including a focus on
renewable energy and using IoT – “Internet
of things” to save power consumption, as
well as “building optical-fiber infrastructure
connecting every building using Fiber technology”.
Plans for a 90-square-kilometers solar farm
are also part of the mix.
Alongside this, the government has announced
that it intends to make the New Administrative
Capital the first cashless city in the country.
The development of e-commerce which will be
stimulated by this move, and mobile money
is a big strategic priority for the government.
At present, there are around 20 million active
mobile payment accounts in the country, but
the Egyptian Central Bank wants to double
this in the next two years.
Although plans are progressing, there have
been some bumps in the road.
Reuters reported last year that the “project
is struggling to raise funds and needs to
overcome other challenges after investors pulled out”.
“We need very extensive financing,” it quoted
Ahmed Zaki Abdeen – a retired general who
heads the company building the new city.
As a result, around 20% of investment to date
has come from overseas.
China has contributed up to $4.5 billion towards
the costs and China State Construction Engineering
is also training 10,000 Egyptian construction workers.
Interestingly, writing in Daily News Egypt
last year, Matt Walker of MTN Consulting has
stated that much of China’s contribution is
in the form of loans, and that “Chinese banks
are lending funds only to buy Chinese equipment”.
And, of course, building in the desert also
brings with it other challenges.
One obvious example, which Reuters highlighted,
is that the city will consume an estimated
650,000 cubic meters a day of water from the
North African nation’s scarce resources.
Cairo’s continued expansion is clearly unsustainable.
The city faces many problems, including being
named the most polluted city in the world.
However, whether creating a new capital city
is the best solution to this problem is a moot point.
The Economist, for example, described the
move as “an elephant in the desert”, noting
that although the new capital will be an employment
hub, “few civil servants can afford to live there”.
Others are concerned about the potential implications
for Cairo’s historic capital.
“With a new Egyptian capital being built,
what becomes of Cairo?” asked AP’s Hamza Hendawia
in an article.
There are fears, as expressed by Amar Ali
Hassan, a socio-political expert, that Cairo
– Egypt’s capital for over a thousand years
– “could be neglected, become estranged
and left to die a slow death.”
As a result, Khaled Fahmy, a history professor
at the American University in Cairo, is just
one critic who has argued that the money needed
for the new capital could be better used to
fix the existing capital’s problems.
Moreover, recent history is littered with
examples – from Brasilia to Abuja – of
new administrative capitals that didn’t quite
deliver on their early promises.
Consequently, Egypt tries to eliminate concerns
regarding the new capital although the country
currently faces many problems in Cairo.
However, there is a big expectation of achievement
in the new capital.