Called the New Administrative Capital, the city is expected to open to its first civil servants later in 2021.
It’s not for everyone. For ordinary Egyptians for whom Cairo has been home for generations, it would be a stretch of the imagination to consider a move to the new capital as costs would be unthinkable.
But for those who can, it will make sense.
Egypt adds about two million people a year to its population, so by 2050, the country’s population is expected to reach 150 million, up from just over 100 million today.
The new capital is said to cost between $45 billion and $58 bn and cover 700 square kms. It will be located 35 kms east of Cairo. The city will include Egypt’s largest airport and minaret, Egypt’s tallest church steeple, Africa’s tallest tower, the Middle East’s largest opera house, a $20 bn entertainment district, a giant urban park, a new parliament, and a presidential palace.
The government is aiming to move 34 government ministries to the new capital next June.
Some critics said the country is dealing with inflation and unemployment, and that no time or money should be invested in extravagant endeavors like this.
“For the country to watch the government spend tens of billions on this while also hearing them say we all have to tighten our belts, it sends a contradictory message,” Timothy Kaldas, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Cairo, told NBC News.
How smart is this city?
In Egypt’s newest future capital, residents will use smart cards and apps to unlock doors and make payments, and surf the web on public WiFi beamed from lampposts.
A network of at least 6,000 cameras will monitor activity on every street, tracking pedestrians and vehicles to regulate traffic and report suspicious activity. A surveillance system developed by Honeywell will “monitor crowds and traffic congestion, detect incidents of theft, observe suspicious people or objects, and trigger automated alarms in emergency situations,” the company says.
It promises modern infrastructure, steady internet and phone coverage, and no red tape for administrative errands or for things like paying utility bills, accessing local services, and reporting complaints and problems, all of which can be done digitally.
Officials say advanced technology systems will help reduce waste by detecting leaks or faults, and by allowing residents to keep an eye on consumption.
“Through their mobile app a citizen will be able to manage all their life affairs from their mobile phone,” said Mohamed Khalil, head of technology for the Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD), the military and government-owned company building the city.
Authorities plan to repeat and synchronize the technology through other developments championed under President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, for whom the new city is a flagship project.
“This model is being applied in all the 14 new cities that are being established, (and) one of our goals is the integration of cities,” said Khalil.
Technology and communications contracts for the new capital total $640 million, which could rise to $900 mn in later phases, Khalil said. Partners include Huawei, Orange, and Mastercard.
Improvements to Egypt’s internet connectivity
Recently, Egypt’s communications and information technology minister revealed their intent to improve internet connectivity for 60 million Egyptians living in about 4,500 villages by upgrading broadband infrastructure. They plan to invest more than $360 million to connect one million households with fiber-optic cables.
Ehab Kanary, VP Sales Infrastructure EMEA Emerging Markets at CommScope, said, “We applaud Egypt’s ambition to provide the necessary infrastructure that would be vital to empower their large youth population with the knowledge to avail themselves of the career opportunities offered by today’s digital world. The growing bandwidth demand has pushed worldwide data centers to support fast speeds and low latency requirements as transition to higher speeds like 100G and beyond is driven by the emergence of new technologies pushing the limits of data transfer.”
“The best way for operators to be better prepared for the improved speeds isn’t higher-speed fiber, more adaptable connectors. or better patching and splicing solutions. But instead, a combination engineered to work together and provide greater speed, efficiency, and agility.”