Egypt Builds A New City & China Is Footing The Billl
Cairo’s chaotic streets may find some relief in the building of a new capital.
When your budget is $45 billion for phase one of your construction project, it’s safe to say that “small” and “scale” are two words you tend not to use alongside one another.
However, that is the going rate to build a new city these days in the Middle East. Egypt is the country in search of a new capitol and China is the country willing to bank roll it.
Cairo, notoriously over-crowded, polluted and in serious need of repair isn’t exactly getting rebuilt but rather sidestepped. Plans are in the works for a new 270-square-mile tract of army owned land that would house as many as five million people when work is complete in 2021. Soon many of Cairo’s workers will be able to walk like an Egyptian on spotless, uncongested streets that will make Dubai and Abu Dhabi doff their hats in respect.
Construction has already begun, with workers building apartments and laying down sewage lines. But how could a cash strapped, politically unstable nation like Egypt possibly attract such investment? The Chinese seem to have one philosophy when it comes to real estate: The bigger the better. China Fortune Land Development announced it will invest $20 billion in the still-unnamed capital. That comes on top of a $15 billion agreement by China’s state-owned construction company to finance 14 government buildings, a zone for trade fairs and a 5,000-seat conference center that would be the largest in Africa. Two other words the Egyptian President probably never uses in the same sentence: “over” and “leverage”.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Chinese are also in talks to build a new university in their new city. For China it’s a strategic move—using increasing wealth to garner greater power globally. For Egypt it’s a move born out of frustration and desperation.
“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.
Relocating a nation’s capital is hardly a new idea. Turkey, India and Brazil have done likewise in the past.
“Egypt’s administrative capital is not different from Ankara, New Delhi or Brasilia,” said Zeyad Elkelani, a political science professor at Cairo University to USA Today. He said the new city would help the president reduce unemployment and streamline the country’s massive bureaucracy—an estimated seven million public workers.
It sounds fine in theory. One question. How do they plan to pay back the Chinese?
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