by WorldTribune Staff, September 30, 2016
Egypt’s plan to build a glittering new capital city in the desert was written off by many as nothing more than a dream for a country with a struggling economy.
That dream, however, appears headed for reality after China stepped in to bankroll much of the $45 billion project.
China Fortune Land Development announced on Sept. 25 it would invest $20 billion in the project. That announcement followed the pledge of $15 billion from China’s state-owned construction company.
Work has already begun for the as yet unnamed new capital 28 miles south of the current capital Cairo. The new city, located on a 270-square-mile slice of desert owned by the Egyptian army, would be home to some 5 million people.
City planners envision a city with skyscrapers rivaling those in Dubai, green areas comparable to New York City’s Central Park, an international airport larger than London’s Heathrow and an amusement park on the scale of Disney World.
Several hundred apartment buildings already have gone up in the new city, and construction crews are building roads and laying sewage lines.
The target for completion of the new capital is 2021.
Egyptian officials have long sought to relocate the capital away from highly-congested Cairo, in which 30 million people (a third of the country’s population) reside.
“I can say with total honesty that this project is 20 years overdue,” said Mohsen Salah El Din, chief executive of the state-owned Arab Contractors, which is involved in the project.
“We had to find an alternative location to suck this congestion out of Cairo and relocate where the government would be and where the civil servants working in these agencies would live so that they don’t have to commute long distances between home and work,” he said.
The moving of the capital would not be unprecedented. Turkey, India and Brazil all moved their capitals in the 20th century.
“Egypt’s administrative capital is not different from Ankara, New Delhi or Brasilia,” said Zeyad Elkelani, a political science professor at Cairo University.
“The new capital is an important step to make room for the private sector,” Elkelani said. “The bureaucracy has been choking business in Egypt and the residents of Cairo.”
The government of Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi also announced it was speaking with the Chinese about building a university in the new city.