At last an Egyptian leadership with vision and foresight! President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi has grand ambitions for the future, which just months ago may have sounded more like wishful thinking than actually doable. Not so today!
The country’s Economic Development Conference that kicked-off in Sharm El-Sheikh last Friday, has turned what were once little more than paper projects into reality, thanks in part to central bank deposits, grants and investments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman amounting to $12.5 billion.
And as of Saturday evening, Egypt was the recipient of over $60 billion in investments, including $40 billion in the energy sector alone — and $90 billion worth of MoU had been signed. One of the biggest was the sealing of a $12 billion deal set to alleviate the country’s energy crisis with the development of new sources of oil and gas in the West Nile Delta.
Attended by monarchs, emirs, heads of state and government officials from the EU, Russia and China, as well as 2,000 corporate and private potential investors from 112 countries, it was a resounding success on every level. It not only elevated national pride and consolidated Egypt’s important role among the international community, it has provided Cairo with the financial wherewithal to facilitate its energy needs, improve infrastructure, create jobs, construct housing for low-income citizens — and to build the first phase of arguably, the most ambitious project in the nation’s history — a new capital city.
As yet unnamed, the new capital to be constructed 45km from downtown Cairo on an eastern corridor towards Suez is designed to be “a smart city,” a futuristic city linked by an electric train to Cairo, catering for the needs of the under-30s. Spread over 700 sq. km (on par with Singapore), it will be home to between five and seven million Egyptians in 25 residential districts and it’s anticipated it will provide permanent jobs for 1.75 million.
The city, largely reliant on renewable energies, such as solar, is scheduled to have its own international airport (larger than London’s Heathrow), 40,000 hotel rooms and a theme park, four times more extensive than Disneyland. The city’s website reads, “This new capital city will provide for an exceptional quality of life with compact walk-able urban neighborhoods, lush gardens and shaded walkways to ensure a sense of community.”
Just in case anyone’s tempted to think the above is little more than pie in the sky, on Saturday, Egypt’s Minister of Housing signed a contract for the implementation of the first phase with the chairman of Emaar, Mohamed Alabbar in his capacity as co-founder of a new company, Capital City Partners.
Crown Prince Muqrin affirmed Saudi’s support for Cairo’s battle against terrorism and urged the international community to drop its double standards toward Egypt.
Egyptians I’ve spoken with are overwhelmed by all the support their country is receiving, which has been an amazing morale boost after years of upheaval. The reaction of proud Egyptian, Ines Hanna reflects the general mood. “I’m so happy I feel like my heart will burst…Three days of doing nothing but following every tiny detail of the conference, and it’s all good news. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does,” she told me.
“And it’s not just me, it’s the whole country. At the same time, I’m scared. We are at a crossroads: Either we catapult Egypt into an incredibly prosperous era that will have positive repercussions for each one of us and also for the region and the world, or we fail to rise to the challenge and lose everything. The more we advance, the bigger the burden of responsibility on each Egyptian to prove worthy of our great country.”
LINDA S. HEARD