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Egypt: Building smarter cities

The first phase of the New Administrative Capital will be ready for ministries to relocate their headquarters and employees in 2021

Ahmed Morsy , Friday 25 Sep 2020
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Construction machines and labourers work at the future headquarters of the Council of Ministers in the government district of the New Administrative Capital (NAC) east of Cairo, Egypt May 2, 2019. REUTERS
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Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli toured the New Administrative Capital on Saturday to follow up on plans to relocate ministry headquarters and their employees to the new capital by 2021. He inspected construction work on the cabinet headquarters, the premises of the ministries of finance and foreign affairs, the Capital Park and the Central Business District (CBD).

The government district in the New Administrative Capital is being built on 1.5 million square metres, and will house 10 ministerial complexes grouping together 34 ministries, the headquarters of the cabinet and House of Representatives.

Officials accompanying Madbouli on his tour said 87 per cent of the government district is complete.

The ongoing construction is being conducted by the Armed Forces Engineering Authority in partnership with 20 private and public sector firms. The project has provided 100,000 job opportunities.

The Capital Park is planned to include a number cultural and entertainment venues serving residents and visitors to the capital.

“The Capital Park will cover 1,000 acres and provide recreational areas connected by an integrated network of pedestrian and bicycle paths,” Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar said.

Madbouli also followed up on the progress of the employees’ housing project in adjacent Badr City. He was briefed on the status of utilities, services and roads. The project is 85 per cent complete and is expected to be finished by the end of the year. It includes 9,024 housing units distributed across 376 residential buildings is being implemented at a cost of LE3.2 billion.

Madbouli issued instructions to develop another 10,000 housing units in the same area, to be allocated to workers in the New Administrative Capital. The area on which the housing complexes are being built is just 15 minutes away from the New Administrative Capital’s government district.

In the Central Business District, the prime minister said, the 45th floor of the planned 78-floor Iconic Tower is in place. At 385 metres, when complete, it will be the tallest building in Africa.

“Work on the foundations of the Iconic Tower began in May 2018 and construction of the building itself started in February 2019,” Han Bing, minister counsellor for economic affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The district will eventually house 20 towers. The tallest, the Iconic Tower, is being built by the Ministry of Housing, represented by the New Urban Communities Authority, in cooperation with China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), one of the largest construction companies in the world. According to the Housing Ministry, investments in the Centrail Business District have reached $3 billion.

Madbouli stressed the importance of completing the project quickly and instructed that all external work on the towers be completed by 30 October 2021.

The 700 square kilometre New Administrative Capital, located 60km from Cairo in the area between the Cairo-Suez and Cairo-Ain Sokhna roads, was launched in 2015 by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and when complete will house 6.5 million people.

The government had planned to relocate ministries and 52,300 government employees to the new capital by mid-2020 until the coronavirus pandemic forced it to delay the move. In April, Al-Sisi instructed the government to reschedule the inauguration of all national mega-projects planned this year, including the new capital and the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Khaled Al-Husseini, public relations manager for the New Administrative Capital’s Urban Development Company, says the majority of the first phase, including the government district, the parliament building, residential neighbourhoods, the cultural and sports zones and some universities, will be complete by mid-2021.

“The pandemic slowed work on the new capital. The curfew meant shifts were cut back to allow workers to return home in time, and social distancing measures necessitated a reduction in the number of people on site. Now though, we are back to work at pre-crisis capacity,” Al-Husseini told the Weekly.

The New Administrative Capital will relieve congestion in Cairo, one of the world’s most crowded cities. The population of Greater Cairo is expected to grow from 18 million to 40 million people by 2050.

Ali Al-Biali, head of Urban Planning at the Faculty of Engineering at Al-Azhar University, says the new capital had become a necessity given Egypt’s rapidly growing population. While Cairo covers 95,000 feddans, the New Administrative Capital is being built on an area of 170,000 feddans.

“Establishing a new capital at a distance from the old one will alleviate the pressure on Cairo and redistribute the population. Just 60 kilometres from Suez, the new city will also boost the Suez Canal Development Corridor project and lure more investments,” said Al-Biali.

He stressed the importance of transport systems linking the new capital with Cairo, and linking areas of the new city to one another.

Two electric train lines are being built to connect the old and new capitals. The first, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), which will be the first LRT system in Egypt. It will connect with the third line of the Cairo underground network in Salam City’s Adli Mansour metro station, and will link Cairo, Obour, Shorouk, Mostaqbal, Badr and 10 Ramadan with the new capital via six bridges and two tunnels, with 12 stops along its 70km length. Transport Minister Kamel Al-Wazir says the LRT, which is expected to cost $1.2 billion, will be operational by October 2021.

The second line is a monorail connecting the Cairo district of Nasr City with the new capital. It will begin at the Cairo Stadium in Nasr City and proceed to the new capital via New Cairo. Twenty-one stops are planned along its 54km length.

The monorail is being built by a consortium of Bombardier Transportation, Orascom Construction and Arab Contractors. It will operate 70 fully automated, driverless Bombardier INNOVIA monorail 300 trains, each with four carriages. Made of extruded aluminium panels, the trains are corrosion-resistant and recyclable.

According to Al-Husseini, there will also be shuttle buses to transport people to and from the New Administrative Capital.

The prime minister said the New Administrative Capital is one of 20 new cities that are being constructed. The so-called Fourth Generation Cities included New Alamein, New Mansoura, East Port Said, Nasser City in western Assiut and New Ismailia city.

“Building fourth generation cities is not a luxury but is essential to help disperse the large population, and double the country’s built-up area instead of overcrowding the Nile Valley and Delta,” said Madbouli.

 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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