Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

A capital under construction

Ahmed Morsy finds out about progress on building Egypt’s New Administrative Capital and how it will ease the lives of the 18 million people living in Greater Cairo

 

Egypt’s New Administrative Capital: 772 km2 Gross land area, 168 km2 First phase area, 60 km from Cairo, 35 km Green River

“I’m looking forward to buying an apartment in the New Administrative Capital. It is the future of Egypt,” Ayman Elwi, a petroleum engineer, told Al-Ahram Weekly. Elwi, who lives in New Cairo, said that Cairo was already one of the world’s most crowded cities and known for its overwhelming congestion. This was why he was keen on moving to the New Administrative Capital, he said.

“I’ve been living in New Cairo since 2010, escaping from the hustle and noise of Cairo in search of a quieter and less polluted place. However, New Cairo is becoming the same as Cairo, so now I’m planning to escape again, but this time to the New Administrative Capital,” Elwi said.

Egypt’s New Administrative Capital was announced during the Egypt Economic Development Summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh in March 2015. The mega-project is being built on an area of 184,000 feddans (one feddan is 1.038 acres), including 14,000 feddans of green belt and is expected to be completed in 2020. It is located 60km from Cairo, Suez and Ain Sokhna in the area between the Cairo-Suez and Cairo-Ain Sokhna roads and 50km east of the Regional Ring Road.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said during a ceremony on 11 October marking the official launch of the first phase of the project accounting for 40,000 feddans (168 square km) that the New Administrative Capital was part of a comprehensive development plan to expand the country’s urban areas in order to meet Egypt’s rapid population growth and improve the country’s infrastructure.


Construction in the residential and government districts

“The project will go down in history,” Al-Sisi said during the ceremony held in Al-Masah Hotel which was inaugurated on the same day.

Minister of Housing Mustafa Madbouli said during the ceremony that the project represented a boom for the construction sector. “This new sustainable and smart capital is intended to offer a better quality of life to all Egyptians,” Madbouli said.

Cairo’s total area is estimated at 95,000 feddans, while the New Administrative Capital is being built on an area of 170,000 feddans, excluding the green belt area. Greater Cairo’s population is set to grow from 18 million to 40 million people by 2050.

The New Administrative Capital will include  residential districts, a government district, a justice district, a central business and financial district, an international airport, an exhibition city and convention centre, an educational district, a diplomatic district, a medical district and a recreation centre including public gardens and parks stretching throughout the city with a total length of 35km (dubbed the “Green River”).

It is scheduled to include 20 residential areas and expected to accommodate seven million people in its first phase. The residential districts are divided between the Housing Ministry and private companies. Some 30,000 housing units have been built so far, though these are not yet up for sale. According to the Housing Ministry, an advertising campaign promoting housing units in the New Capital will be launched soon. The units — apartments and villas — will be fully finished but different in sizes and models. Sizes for the apartments vary from 120 to 180 square metres, while the villas vary from 230 to 328 square metres.


Construction in the residential and government districts; Al-Masah Hotel

“The prices of the residential units have not been determined, but the price per metre will be different from one unit to another, according to facilities, location and number of storeys,” Hani Youssef, a spokesperson for the Housing Ministry, said. He added that 10 per cent of the unit prices would be paid in advance, with the rest on different instalment systems.

Khaled Al-Husseini, public relations manager for the New Administrative Capital Urban Development Company, told the Weekly that pricing committees had been established to determine the prices of housing units ready for their first occupants in 2018.

According to current thinking in the real estate market, prices per metre of the units sold by the private companies would range between LE9,000 and LE12,000, while prices for villas are expected to be from LE13,000 to LE15,000 per metre. Units built by the Housing Ministry will cost less.

“Seventy per cent of the roofs of the residential buildings will be covered by solar power units,” Youssef added.

The government district will include 32 buildings, including the presidency, the cabinet and the parliament, in addition to buildings for each ministry. The total construction cost of the government district is estimated at LE35 billion. According to chair of the New Administrative Capital Urban Development Company Ahmed Zaki Abdine, 30 per cent of the government district’s construction has already been completed.

“The ministries will be moved to the New Administrative Capital on 30 June 2019,” Abdine said in media statements. “The moving process will affect some departments of each ministry, and the Ministry of Planning will set the regulations,” Abdine, a former local development minister, said. He added that employees expected to move to work in the new city would be given help to buy an apartment in the residential districts.

In the diplomatic district, an area ranging from between one to 15 feddans is planned for each embassy. The central business and financial district will include the headquarters of the Central Bank of Egypt and a government printing house, as well as dozens of business complexes.


Al-Masah Hotel

The China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) signed the final agreement to build the central business and financial district, estimated to be completed within the next three-and-a-half years, early in October. This will be built on an area of approximately half a square km and will include 12 business complexes, five residential buildings, two hotels, and a 345-metre skyscraper, which will be the tallest building in Africa when it is completed, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The justice district will feature a court complex, hearing halls, and the headquarters of the Administrative Control Authority. The educational district will include more than six international universities, a number of national universities, and 16 international schools. The city will also include 1,250 mosques and churches, a 5,000-seat conference centre, over 600 medical facilities in the medical district, and a major theme park of eight square km that is planned to be the world’s largest.

 

CONSTRUCTION AND INFRASTRUCTURE: The government is developing the project through an Egyptian joint stock company in a partnership agreement between the Armed Forces, with 51 per cent of the shares, and the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA), with 49 per cent, named the New Administrative Capital Urban Development Company.

 The company, which has an estimated LE20 billion in paid-in capital and LE204 billion in issued capital, held its first general meeting on 8 May last year. The board of directors of the company consists of 13 members, including three NUCA representatives, six independent experts, and four Armed Forces representatives.

“The company was established to manage the development and construction of the New Administrative Capital, as well as the sales of the residential units and investment deals,” Al-Husseini said.

The major contracting companies working on the project are Orascom, Hassan Allam, Petrojet, Concord, the Talaat Mustafa Group Holding Company, Arab Contractors, Wadi Al-Nil, the Misr Concrete Development Company, Al-Abd, Mokhtar Ibrahim and EGYCO.

Arab Contractors is set to construct 44 buildings, including 1,408 housing units. Concord for Engineering and Contracting is currently constructing 61 buildings and a total of 1,792 units. The Talaat Mustafa Group Holding Company is carrying out the construction of a total of 69 buildings, including 2,096 units. Petrojet will build 36 buildings, including 1,008 units. The roads in the New Capital will be developed by Orascom, Arab Contractors, Concord and the Holding Company for Construction and Development.

“The first phase of the project [of 40,000 feddans] is planned to be completed late in 2018. It includes the parliament, the headquarters of the presidency and cabinet, part of the residential districts, and part of the embassies district,” Shaaban Dahi, assistant chair of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, told the Weekly.

“More than 400 companies are cooperating on the construction of the New Administrative Capital, with 200,000 workers participating in the work every day,” Dahi said. Fifty-five per cent of the roads in the city have already been constructed, he said.

Abdine said that the company had received requests from investors to purchase land in the New Capital for the establishment of residential and commercial projects. The first round of auctions of investment land in the New Capital achieved sales of LE10 billion, distributed over seven plots on an area of 950 feddans.

The New Administrative Capital will be connected to Greater Cairo by the Cairo-Ain Sokhna Road on one side and the Cairo-Suez Road on the other, and it will be connected to New Cairo through the Bin Zayed Axis that is currently under construction. It will also be connected to Cairo by a new electric railway constructed by Chinese firms.

China is constructing the electric railway system to have 11 stops, and it is providing the carriages through a $740 million loan to be repaid over a period of 15 years with a grace period of five years, according to Egypt’s state news agency MENA. The construction of the railway will take three years, but President Al-Sisi has asked for this to be reduced to two years. The railway will connect with the third line of the Cairo underground system in Salam City, linking the cities of Greater Cairo, Obour, Shorouk and Badr with the New Administrative Capital through 10 Ramadan City.

Chinese investments in the New Administrative Capital include $3.2 billion invested in the second phase, Osama Magdoub, Egyptian ambassador to China, said in a television interview on 3 September. He said that investments worth $8 billion would be implemented in the New Capital over the next 10 years.

“The New Capital will be linked to the national electricity grid and power plants will also be constructed in the city. A water plant has been built with a capacity of 125,000 cubic metres to supply the city with water,” Al-Husseini said, adding that work was currently underway to build a new sewage system.

The New Administrative Capital is ready to be supplied by natural gas as the construction work for this has already been finished. It will also have 91 square km of solar energy farms as a source of power along with natural gas.

 

CAPITAL OBJECTIVES: The New Administrative Capital is intended to be a momentous endeavour to build national spirit, foster consensus, provide for long-term sustainable growth and address various issues faced by Egypt through a new capital city that will create more places to live, work and visit, according to the New Administrative Capital Urban Development Company.

One major objective is to relieve congestion in Cairo, one of the world’s most crowded cities. The New Capital will also help to strengthen and diversify the country’s economic potential.

“The New Administrative Capital will be every Egyptians’ dream to live in a safe, quiet and well-functioning place,” CUBE Consultants, a consulting firm for the new city, said.

Ali Al-Biali, head of the Urban Planning Department at the Faculty of Engineering at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, said that a New Capital to replace Cairo was a good idea because the latter was no longer able to absorb the rapidly growing population.

“As a result of a lack of proper planning, the new urban communities east of Cairo [New Cairo] and west of Cairo [6 October and Sheikh Zayed] have not played a proper role in solving the problems of congestion. Instead, they have almost become a burden,” Al-Biali told the Weekly. This had happened, he said, because the new districts were located too close to Cairo and thus had put additional pressure on roads and services.

“The idea of establishing a New Capital a suitable distance from the old one will alleviate the pressure on the old capital and redistribute the population. As it will be 60km away from Suez, the New Capital will also play a role in linking up to the Suez Canal Development Corridor, attracting more investment,” Al-Biali added.

Regarding present and future challenges, Al-Biali said that not only was the transportation system linking the New Capital with Cairo important, but a good transportation network within the New Capital itself should also be established to facilitate mobility. He stressed the importance of transparent criteria for moving state employees to the New Capital such that there was no danger of millions commuting every day between the New Capital and Cairo.

“A building code should be drafted governing the construction of buildings inside the New Capital to preserve the architectural shape of the buildings. The 35km Green River in the New Capital will also require a huge amount of water that may exceed treated wastewater,” he said.

 

EGYPT’S HISTORICAL CAPITALS: Over the many millennia of Egypt’s history, the country’s capital has been moved some 21 times, including to Memphis (2950 BC) Thebes (2135 BC), Akhetaten (1353 BC), Alexandria (332 BC), Fustat (905 CE) and Cairo (since 972 CE).

In modern history, the idea of building an alternative capital to Cairo has surfaced three times. During the rule of late president Anwar Al-Sadat, there were plans to move the capital to the outskirts of the Menoufeya governorate. A new city was built 94km northwest of Cairo and named after Sadat, but this failed to replace Cairo as the country’s capital though it did become one of the largest industrial cities in Egypt.

During the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, attempts to establish a new capital east of Cairo were made. A project to build a new capital was announced, but this was later halted on presidential orders.

In March 2015, the idea of a New Capital again emerged during the Egypt Economic Development Summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh when a memorandum of understanding was signed between the government and Emirati businessman Mohamed Al-Abbar. Al-Sisi also discussed with Al-Abbar the need to cut the construction time from 10 to three years.

Despite the announcement of a new company, the Capital City Partners Company, a joint venture of Al-Abbar and other Emirati businessmen, to build the new city, the agreement was not completed due to disagreements between the government and the Emirati partners over the mechanism of funding and the state’s stake in the project.

The government then decided to develop the New Administrative Capital through a joint stock company established in 2016 between the Armed Forces and the NUCA.

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