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Monday, 15 July 2019

How Egypt’s new cities program underwent a total transformation

How Egypt’s new cities program underwent a total transformation: Egypt’s new cities program has undergone a radical shift from what was first envisaged (pdf) in the 1950s and 60s: The development of satellite cities to absorb the strain of a rapidly growing population. When the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) started selling increasing amounts of land to luxury developers in the 1990s, places like Sheikh Zayed — originally intended to be a mixed-income city — were transformed into “enclaves for wealthy Cairenes eager to escape the chaos of the capital,” Rachel Keeton and Michelle Provoost argue in this excerpt from their book ”To Build a City in Africa.” With 22 built or partially-built new cities, inhabited by 7 mn, and plans by NUCA to build 19 more, they ask to what extent the program is succeeding, and where it can go from here.

Satellite cities have not solved ‘population pressures’: 10th Ramadan is home to 650k inhabitants, mainly industrial workers and their families, although NUCA’s target is 2.1 mn by 2023. The economic incentives that led people to settle there in the 1970s and 80s have waned, and while low-income housing development perseveres, infrastructure is poor. Meanwhile, Sheikh Zayed’s 330k inhabitants are less than half the number targeted, in large part because it is outside the price bracket of all but the very wealthy: 71% live in luxury accommodation, while only 15% live in low-income housing.

The question of where to go from here remains unanswered: The investment pouring into Egypt’s 700 sqkm new capital, which is intended to house as many as 6.5 mn people, shows that the building boom is far from letting up. Land prices continue to increase (NUCA is expected to raise prices by 15-20% in 2019 alone) and developers themselves are quick to point out that land is a scarce resource. NUCA has recently issued a new regulatory framework to handle requests for the allocation of land for mixed-use projects. But securing investment while meeting the housing needs of a rapidly growing population remains somewhat of a balancing act. Urban development expert David Sims expresses surprise at “how little public land actually directly benefits the masses, and how much of it ends up enriching a few investors.” He believes the push to continue building exists partly because the new cities program “may be too big to fail.”

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