2021 Yearender: Shifting cities

Ahmed Morsy , Friday 31 Dec 2021

Work on the New Administrative Capital continued throughout the year, with the project now due to be inaugurated in mid-2022

Shifting  cities

Government offices and state employees will start a gradual relocation to the Government District of the New Administrative Capital later this month, beginning with a six-month experimental phase during which government buildings and electronic systems will be tested.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has described the inauguration of the New Administrative Capital and the relocation of government employees as marking the “birth of a new republic” and “a new era of modern governmental work”. The project is an integral component of Egypt Vision 2030 which aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and expand urban areas to cater for Egypt’s rapidly growing population.

The experimental phase has been delayed by almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the soft opening of the New Administrative Capital will now take place mid-2022, Khaled Al-Husseini, Spokesperson of the New Administrative Capital for Urban Development Company, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Located between the Cairo-Suez and Cairo-Ain Sokhna roads, 60 km away from downtown Cairo, the new capital will house 6.5 million people when completed. Under construction since 2015, it is planned to cover 184,000 feddans (720 sq km), nearly twice the area of Cairo.

Ninety-five per cent of work on the Government District has been completed and by the end of 2021 all ministry headquarters will be ready to be handed over, said Al-Husseini.

In a November statement, the cabinet made it clear that the transfer of state employees to the new capital will be implemented gradually, and that government offices that deal directly with the public will not be transferred to the new capital for the time being.

The New Administrative Capital’s Government District comprises 10 ministerial complexes that will house 34 ministries, the cabinet headquarters, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. Built on 1.5 million square metres, it will host 50,000 employees when it is fully officially operational in 2022.

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

“The inauguration of the Government District will not be limited to opening new buildings for ministries, but it will be linked to a new vision, a modern electronic system, and different work mechanisms,” said Al-Husseini.

IT skills were among the criteria for selecting the 50,000 employees who will be relocated, and many of them have already received training.

The initial, experimental phase will not involve the inauguration of housing projects for the soon-to-be relocated employees since they are not yet complete, Al-Husseini noted.

The first phase of a housing development for government workers in neighboring Badr City includes 376 residential buildings, comprising 9,024 housing units, each between 115 to 120 square metres. The project is being built at a cost of LE3.2 billion. Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli has said state employees who have their workplace relocated to the New Administrative Capital can choose between receiving a transport or a housing allowance.

Employees can secure an apartment in Badr City with a LE110,000 down payment — 25 per cent of the discounted property’s cost — with the balance paid in installments. According to official statements, the average cost of constructing an apartment is LE700,000. Employees who are unable to move to Badr City will receive a transport allowance, starting at LE2,000 per month.

Interest in housing units being built in the New Administrative Capital has increased, head of Smart Step real-estate company Maged Ashour told the Weekly. Demand is being fed by the imminent inauguration of the new capital, and by competition among real estate developers who are offering a range of payment options. The price per metre for housing ranges from LE10,000 to LE14,000 for half-finished units, and from LE14,000 to LE16,000 for fully-finished ones.

The new capital will be connected to Greater Cairo by Egypt’s first monorail train, and its first Light Rail Transit (LRT). Until they come into operation, employees will rely on a network of shuttle buses.

The monorail will consist of two lines. The first 56.5km line will be served by 22 stations and connect the New Administrative Capital with the east of Cairo and Nasr City. The second, covering 42km and served by12 stations, will begin from 6 October city. They are being constructed at a cost of 2.7 billion euros. The two lines will connect with Cairo’s underground network.

When complete, a commuter from 6 October will be able to take the monorail to Mohandessin, change to the third metro line and travel to Nasr City’s Cairo Stadium, and then take the second monorail east to the New Administrative Capital.

The first phase of the Nasr City monorail is scheduled to be operational in June 2022. The first phase of the light train is due to open in March 2022, and will connect with the third line of the Cairo underground network at Adli Mansour station in eastern Cairo. It will link the cities of Cairo, Obour, Shorouk, Mostaqbal, Badr, and 10 Ramadan with the New Administrative Capital, and will have 16 stations over its 90 km length.

The New Administrative Capital, the spokesperson said, will be Egypt’s first smart city to come on line though 13 others are under construction, including New Alamein, New Mansoura, East Port Said, Nasser City in western Assiut, and New Ismailia. They are being developed by the Ministry of Housing, in conjunction with the New Urban Communities Authority.

The 14 smart cities, which are planned to house 14 million people and provide six million permanent jobs, are being developed to the highest standards of sustainability, using renewable and recyclable materials, and with a careful eye kept on reducing energy consumption and waste and protecting the environment.

In the New Administrative Capital, Al-Husseini said, the parking system will be based on an application that will inform citizens of available parking spots. Traffic will be monitored by thousands of cameras: the first phase of the new capital, according to Al-Husseini, already has 6,000 advanced cameras installed, able to track vehicles and save facial images, while drones will be used for continuous monitoring and to help in dealing with accidents.

The new capital also includes an Arts and Culture District built on 127 feddans and is home to theatres, cinemas, libraries, museums, and an opera house. The opera house was inaugurated in mid-November by the prime minister who attended a concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the 80-year-old celebrated maestro Riccardo Muti.

The New Administrative Capital also boasts a Central Business District (CBD) centred on 20 skyscrapers. The CBD is being built by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, one of the largest construction companies in the world, in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing, represented by the New Urban Communities Authority. It will include the 78-storey Iconic Tower which, at almost 400 metres, is set to be the tallest building in Africa. Work on the tower began in May 2018 with the digging of the foundations.

In September, the cabinet announced that it had received an offer from a Chinese company to operate and manage the CBD which the government is studying before giving a final decision.

Representatives of the Chinese company expect the CBD to attract a host of international companies, said a cabinet statement. Investments in the CBD total $3 billion.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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