Egypt plans to build new capital east of Cairo
14 March 2015, 13:14
Sharm el Sheikh - Egypt plans to build a new administrative
and business capital east of Cairo that will house five million people and
feature a theme park "four times bigger than Disneyland", a minister
announced at a global investor conference.
Housing Minister Mustafa Kamel Madbuli said the new city
would relieve pressure on overcrowded Cairo, with its population of 18 million
expected to double in coming decades.
"The idea to build the new city originated from our
awareness that Cairo's current population will double in the next 40 years,"
Madbuli said on Friday in a presentation showcasing the details.
Madbuli said the new city would have large green spaces and
provide a better standard of living.
It will also have "an international airport, a theme
park four times bigger than Disneyland in California, 90km2 of solar
farms, and an electric train" to link with Cairo, he added.
Parliament, presidential palaces, government ministries and
foreign embassies would move to the new metropolis, the minister said, adding
these projects would be executed over the next five to seven years at a cost of
The overall cost of the new city was not revealed, nor were
details on how it would be funded.
The plans were presented at a three-day investor conference
which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes will help kick-start Egypt's
'Cornerstone of stability'
Sisi, who has positioned himself as a bulwark against
jihadists, said investing in the Arab world's most populous country would help
stabilise the entire region.
Egypt's stability "is a cornerstone in regional
stability," he told the conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm
Arab states pledged $12bn in investment aid but the United
States came empty handed, with Secretary of State John Kerry only affirming
that Washington stood beside Egypt as it seeks to recover from years of
A visibly irritated Kerry, who was slotted as the 15th
speaker at the opening session, promised Washington's "full
commitment" for the security and prosperity of Egyptians, which he said
they "desire and deserve."
Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pledged
$4bn each. Most of the funds will be invested in projects while $3bn will be
deposited in Egypt's Central Bank.
Kerry, who earlier met Sisi and the leaders of Jordan and
the Palestinian Authority, told businessmen that Washington was "eager and
ready and willing" to help Egypt's economic development.
But a US diplomat travelling with him said there had been
"no decision" on freeing up $650m in military aid frozen during the
height of a crackdown on Sisi's Islamist opponents that left hundreds dead.
Washington had released some of the aid, including the
delivery of Apache helicopters Egypt says are important for its fight against
Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula.
'Putting Egypt back on the map'
Sisi, who won elections after toppling Islamist president
Mohamed Morsi in 2013, has been criticised for unleashing a crackdown on
The former army chief has portrayed his Islamist opposition
as no different from radical militants such as the Islamic State group, which
has affiliates in Sinai and Egypt's neighbour Libya.
"Egypt presents a model for Arab civilisation,"
Sisi said on Friday.
"A country that rejects violence and terrorism and
extremism, a country that strengthens regional stability and peace."
Restoring the economy and attracting foreign investment have
been key tenets of Sisi's presidency.
In one of the biggest deals expected at the conference,
British Petroleum is to sign a $12bn agreement - shared with its Russian
partner DEA - to develop Egyptian gas fields.
Conference consultant Richard Attias told AFP that
"more than 30 projects will be unveiled, which can attract billions of
dollars of investment."
GE unveiled plans to set up a $200m training and
manufacturing facility in the canal city of Suez.
"For Egypt this is not an economic event, but rather a
political one," a Western diplomat told AFP.
Representatives from about 100 countries and international
organisations are attending the event, giving the conference a firm diplomatic
push in a bid to strengthen Sisi's international status.
"The aim is to put Egypt back on the map of
international investment, and send a message to the world that the country is
safe and attractive," International Cooperation Minister Naglaa al-Ahwani
"They particularly want to return Egypt to the
headlines in a positive way," said Aaron Reese, a researcher at the
Washington-based Institute For The Study of War.
Sisi amended the law Thursday to make it more attractive for
foreign investment, which has plummeted since the 2011 uprising that ousted
longtime president Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt aims for 4.3% growth in 2015-2016, compared with 2%
annually since the anti-Mubarak uprising, while also reducing the budget
deficit and easing unemployment.