“Egypt’s population has increased by 25 million since 2011 and the state has a duty not only to build new housing units to accommodate this increase but to implement urbanisation strategies that transform low-income slum areas with poor living conditions into modern residential communities,” said President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
Al-Sisi’s remarks were made during a visit to the new residential district of Asmarat in south Cairo’s Moqattam neighbourhood on 6 April during which he attended an Iftar with residents, community leaders and members of the House of Representatives.
Asmarat was founded in 2016 as part of the state’s efforts to provide housing for low-income families relocated from slum areas. The first residents were relocated from the slum areas of Dewiqa and Manshiyet Nasser in east Cairo, and 15,000 families now live in the new district.
Al-Sisi said that when he came to office in 2014 he was determined to improve living conditions for residents of slum areas and in less than a decade two million new affordable housing units had been built. The massive construction project had generated thousands of new jobs.
“Unemployment in Egypt currently stands at 7.4 per cent. Though the rate is understandable given the ongoing global economic crisis we are trying to reduce it by creating new job opportunities in construction projects, and building new housing communities is an important element,” he said.
The government has built 300,000 housing units in Cairo and other governorates to accommodate people living in slum areas.
Al-Sisi used the occasion to highlight the Decent Life initiative in rural areas which aims to improve the lives of 60 per cent of Egypt’s rural population by building housing units, clinics, youth centres, schools and power, drainage and drinking water stations.
“When I came to office, only 13 per cent of rural Egypt was covered by sanitary drainage. We are now approaching 100 per cent. While the improvements have cost a great deal, we needed to implement them now rather than later, when costs would have increased exponentially,” said Al-Sisi.
He promised that mega development projects, including the building of modern residential communities, would continue despite the global economic crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, saying “we are all suffering from the global crisis, but Egyptians must join shoulders to overcome these difficult economic conditions.”
During his tour of Asmarat, Al-Sisi also visited a fair promoting products made by women from the neighbourhood. Hassan Al-Ghandour, general manager of Asmarat’s Urban Development Unit, said products made by 1,400 Asmarat families are now being exported to Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the US.
Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar noted that since 2014 unsafe slum areas in 13 governorates had been eradicated as part of the government’s strategy to create a slum-free country by 2030.
“Informal settlements and slum areas constituted 40 per cent of Egypt’s urban space, but projects are underway everywhere to relocate residents of these neighbourhoods to modern residential areas,” he said.
According to Al-Gazzar, 250,000 housing units at a total cost of LE61 billion are currently in the pipeline to rehouse residents of unsafe areas, and a further 750,000 are being constructed as part of the Social Housing Programme.
In July 2000 President Al-Sisi inaugurated the third phase of the Asmarat housing project. With 7,440 residential units and covering 188 feddans, Asmarat 3 includes playgrounds, health units, a 9,000 car capacity garage and a service complex to meet the needs of Asmarat’s projected 100,000 residents.
Moqattam MP Sayed Hanafi told Al-Ahram Weekly that President Al-Sisi’s Ramadan Iftar with low-income families in Asmarat underlined the state’s commitment to improving the standard of living of poorer citizens.
“When President Al-Sisi came to office there were three choices for dealing with the problem of unsafe slums areas: maintaining the status quo, i.e doing nothing, introducing some simple improved services to such areas, or relocating residents to modern communities,” said Hanafi.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 April, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly