Sharm El-Sheikh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday signed a deal to build Egypt’s new administrative capital, east of the existing capital Cairo.
The agreement to build the new, as-yet unnamed capital was signed between Egypt’s Ministry of Housing and Capital City Partners, a group of investors led by Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Dubai real-estate giant Emaar Properties, famous for developing some of the UAE’s most iconic real estate projects, including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
The deal comes as part of the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) currently taking place in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh. The Egyptian government is hoping through the conference to attract much-needed investments from Gulf and global partners, in order to fulfil future development plans, among them plans to build the new capital.
The new city will take up 270 square miles (700 square kilometers)—roughly the size of Singapore—and should take seven years to build, Egypt’s Housing Minister Mustafa Madbouli said on Saturday while showing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a model of the proposed city.
He added that the new capital, which will cost around 45 billion US dollars to build, should create around 1.5 million new job opportunities and would be a “sustainable city,” relying heavily on solar power and using an electric-powered train to connect it with Cairo.
Plans for the city also include an airport larger than London’s Heathrow, a large central park, schools, hotels and residential spaces for more than 7 million inhabitants.
This should take pressure off the existing capital Cairo, currently buckling under the strain of an estimated 20 million inhabitants—predicted to double by 2040—and a host of outdated and crumbling infrastructure.
Gulf countries have thus far promised a total of 12 billion dollars in direct central bank deposits to Egypt during the conference, which has now attracted more than 115 billion dollars in commitments from global investors.
Among them are investments for the Suez Canal region, which is seeking to benefit from new expansion plans announced last year to build a new canal parallel to the existing one.
The current canal only allows for one-way traffic along its 120-mile-long (193-kilometer-long) tract, except occasionally during less busier periods. The new proposed 45-mile-long (72-kilometer-long) parallel canal should allow 46 ships to cross the channel simultaneously and reduce waiting times for ships from 11 to three hours.
Speaking at the EEDC during an open session on the new canal on Saturday evening, Mohab Mamish, the head of the Suez Canal Development Authority, said once complete the new project should help treble the canal’s yearly revenues, currently standing at around 5 billion dollars each year.
He spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat shortly after the session and thanked Egypt’s Gulf partners Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait for supporting the project.
Speaking of Gulf investments for slated tourism and manufacturing facilities planned for the Suez Canal region, he said: “Everyone is coordinating to invest in these areas because they are now on the up and represent lucrative opportunities due to the canal’s central geographical location with respect to the entire world.”
“Through this region you can access not only global markets but also the domestic Egyptian market, which is a large one,” he added.
Mamish said Egypt hoped to transform the Suez Canal region into a major manufacturing hub, which will include building car assembly plants as well as glass and petrochemical manufacturing facilities.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, veteran Egyptian statesman and former Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa said the conference had been a great success and had “exceeded all expectations.”
“The important thing now is to build on this and make the best use of the funds pledged . . . and by this I mean what comes after the conference, whereby the Egyptian Investment Ministry should work with renewed energy in order to direct these investments to benefit the Egyptian people.”
Sawsan Abu Husain contributed additional reporting.