Egypt’s New Administrative Capital: How to avoid the failed experience of Sadat City

An image of a planned conference center in the New Administrative Capital. (Courtesy of the Administrative Capital for Urban Development)

It is what officials talk about and what billboards promise. The New Administrative Capital is now depicted as the most viable exit out of the congestion of Egypt’s capital with a smart traffic system, greenery, parks and high-tech services.

In 2015, then-housing minister Mostafa Madbouly announced the establishment of the New Administrative Capital halfway between Cairo and Suez. The city is promised to become the new administrative and financial capital of Egypt.

The school of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) released a policy paper entitled “Moving governmental staff to the new capital city” to look into the Egyptian government’s decision to build it. The paper was prepared by Dina Mahmoud, Sarah El Gerby, Soraya El Hag and Perihan Tawfik, and supervised by Khaled Abdel Halim, based on interviews with three professors working closely in the field of urban development and research conducted about the plan to move to the new capital.

Case study of Sadat city as a failed experience
During the reign of former president Anwar El-Sadat, there was a similar plan to move the capital to Sadat City. However, the paper argues that this was a failed attempt for various reasons, the most prominent being the lack of transportation between Cairo and the new city and people’s unreadiness to move out of Cairo. The significant absence of the role of the private sector at the time also hampered the relocation.

Additionally, the media in the 1970s was not as powerful as today; hence, failing to create public acceptance and support. However, the media nowadays plays a pivotal role in encouraging people to invest and buy in the new capital.

Current challenges facing the new capital
While the paper looks more positively at the current experience of moving out of the capital by comparison with the previous experience of Sadat City, it highlights the challenges facing the government in this regard.

The first challenge is the need to modernize the government and the connectedness between different institutions. Digitizing governmental institutions will be key, especially during the first phase of moving to the new capital.

Another challenge is transportation. According to media reports, there will be local transportation and even a monorail, as well as existing railways to facilitate mobility.

The gradual operation of moving to the new capital is set to start in June 2019; yet, the moving operation is not yet clear to governmental employees. In the first phase, the Ministry of Planning is mandated to partially move the executive offices of the ministries, but those that serve citizens will move at a later stage.

The public civil servants do have their concerns over who will move to the new capital; commuting means, time, and surely cost. There are also logistical issues that employees may face. While they believe that free transportation may be an incentive in the first phase, other problems will emerge later on, including arrival and departure time.

During interviews with some of the employees, solutions were suggested including reducing the working hours from eight to six hours only, in order to dedicate the two extra hours to commuting.

Another challenge: Affordability
According to the paper, the different urban planning models in the new capital are set to accommodate different socioeconomic levels. A point of attraction will be houses that cater to each income level – leading to the success of the move.

This success will not only be limited to public civil servants but also encompass Cairo residents. The construction of the district of ministries was the first incentive for citizens to move to the new capital. Also, the housing units are sold with 5 to 10 percent down payment plans – an attraction factor for youths during the construction phase, particularly since prices hike once construction is completed.

What does the paper recommend?
The paper concludes with various recommendations. Some of these recommendations are that the government should guarantee that the new capital will be finished according to the current plan in order to avoid the Sadat City narrative. Furthermore, the decision maker should guarantee that unit prices are not only affordable for citizens of high income and should cover a wide array of socioeconomic needs.

Another recommendation is that subsidies and discounts on the apartments should be offered in order to live in the new capital.

Services should be provided at almost the same prices as Cairo, and the working hours should be reduced from eight to six hours in order to spare the rest for commuting. The infrastructure for the internet should be stable and effective in order to facilitate electronic approvals and signatures, and the transportation should be offered at discounts or through annual memberships.

 

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