Several professors have criticised Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, which is set to open in December having been delayed from its initial launch date which was to coincide with the June 30 protests.
The $45 billion, 45-kilometre city has been touted as a solution to the overcrowding in Cairo which has a population of 22 million, but is unlikely to have the desired outcome, say critics.
“[The new capital is] already on the edge of Cairo without anyone moving there yet and, in a few years, it will expand and infuse into Cairo,” urban planning Professor Galila El-Kadi told AFP.
“This will only increase problems of managing human density of such magnitude,” she said, adding that since the pharaohs “administrative capitals were established for the purpose of isolating the ruler from the people.”
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who has said the planned opening will mark the birth of a republic, has been criticised in the past for pursuing multiple mega-projects, or vanity projects, whilst most Egyptians suffer under austerity measures.
Two thirds of the country live below the poverty line and projects such as the new capital city and residential housing units there will remain unaffordable and inaccessible. Critics say the money should have been spent on improving living conditions in other parts of the country.
“The [government’s] vision of what is dubbed modernity is just a transfer of the manifestations of Western modernity to Egypt,” said political science professor at Cairo University, Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyed.
“It means having skyscrapers, wide roads and advanced technology. But modernity in reality is about a government being accountable to its people such as providing good education.”
“Sisi wants history to remember him by moving the centre of power from Cairo to a place that will immortalise him.”
Over half of the company overseeing the construction of the capital, ACUD, is owned by the military and is also in charge of selling housing units meaning the army is set to benefit massively.
The capital will also house 30 ministries, a presidential compound, embassies, government agencies and a main mosque whose name has been taken from the president’s first name, Al-Fatah Al-Aleem.