(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt is set to announce the construction of a brand new capital city, Egypt's Investment Minister Ashraf Salman told the UAE based The National newspaper on Tuesday.
Located east of Cairo towards Suez, the new city, to which the government will relocate, is meant to encompass 70,000 acres, or one-hundred and nine square miles and is forecast to take twelve years to build.
Mr. Salman, who said that the city will only be getting the official green-light next month at a conference in Sharm el-Sheik, indicated that Gulf-based companies are contracted with the building process. “We are talking to a master developer," he said, withholding the companies name due to a disclosure agreement, although a well known Dubai developer, Emaar Properties is said to be involved.
Emaar Properties, which is chaired by businessman and adviser to the ruler of Dubai, Mohamed Alabbar, has been responsible for several grandiose projects, including the development of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, as well as the King Abdullah Economic City, a Saudi port metropolis announced in 2005 and valued at $86 million dollars.
It was only last year that rumors surfaced of Egypt considering a new capital to house the government, ministries and foreign embassies, yet this is the first confirmation of concrete plans to actualize the idea.
According to Mr. Salman, the city, which is in the "branding phase" and does not yet have an official name, would be funded privately, a fact that he claims shows that Egypt is "really committed to an open-market economy."
“The government will incur zero cost in the city, and this will be totally developed, master planned and executed by a private sector company – a developer from the Gulf,”
Zeroing in on the economic factor, Salman further described the vision for the city.
“It is a whole city, with shops, retail, new industrial areas, new commercial areas, the government buildings and cities, residential areas.”
The new capital will, upon its grand opening, also serve as a source for new investments, ranging from initiatives in energy, health and education.
“We will be offering around 25 projects in different sectors, amounting to around US$30bn."
The involvement of Gulf companies who, despite being privately owned, often have direct or indirect connections to their country's powerful rulers, has been seen by some as a feature of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's attempts at forging new regional ties.
Since the overthrow of then-president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE, have thrown their weight behind Sisi, pledging some $12 billion dollars in aid to Egypt after the military's 2013 coup. The general turned president, like the Gulf kingdoms, views the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood (Morsi's party) and its more militant strains such as Hamas in Gaza as a threat, banning the former last year and the latter on Saturday.
Sisi, who arrived in Riyadh on Sunday seems intent on developing this relationship. In an interview with al-Arabiya, Sisi stressed the importance of Egypt's relationship with its "brothers in the Gulf" and commemorated them for having "played a huge role in supporting the Egyptian people's will until today."