Interview: Ahmed Zaki Abdeen
How do construction projects help to promote growth in the broader domestic economy?
AHMED ZAKI ABDEEN: Large-scale construction projects are an important aspect of boosting economic growth and creating jobs. The impact is immediate in terms of short-term job creation within the construction sector itself, but because of the kind of work being undertaken, the investment in construction will also have a long-term impact in creating the necessary foundation for other businesses and industries to be successful. Major transport projects allow for more trade and easier access to consumers and other markets, while new cities require a whole range of goods and services for the inhabitants as well as those related to companies and government institutions located in the city. The New Administrative Capital will have a significant impact on the economy and on job creation, just from the point of view of the project itself given its size and scale. The expectation though, is that as the city develops, it will be the focus of economic activity that generates new growth while also creating the space to allow for the revitalisation of Cairo. Construction is vital to Egypt’s economy because keeping up with the infrastructural demands of population growth is central to creating an environment where business can thrive and support the population economically.
What are the central factors that determine the success of a newly established city?
ABDEEN: When approaching a new development it is important to think ahead of the particular challenges. The New Administrative Capital will be a smart city, which requires the digital infrastructure to be built in from the beginning together with the power and water utilities and roads that a traditional city needs. Sustainability should be considered from the beginning as well, particularly in an environment like Egypt where the desert conditions require the efficient use of resources, but also allow for the use of alternative energy sources. All of these aspects are important to the city’s eventual success, but equally important is the design of buildings and neighbourhoods, the availability of everyday goods and services, and a sufficient variety of housing to accommodate future inhabitants. Because the new capital will be the seat of government, with the ministries and the presidency moving by the end of 2020, this project has an additional draw for embassies and businesses, which in turn will drive demand for additional goods, services, retail outlets and entertainment. For new cities that do not have this same draw, it is important to determine how businesses and residents will be attracted to ensure it will be possible to provide the housing and services they will demand at a cost sustainable. One aspect to consider when building a city is that for it to be successful, it must attract business and inhabitants so it takes on a life of its own.
What role do new cities play in addressing the demands that come with population growth?
ABDEEN: One of the driving factors behind the need for a new capital is population growth. Egypt’s population has increased from 27m in 1960 to 64m in 2000 and around 97m in 2018. Cairo was the world’s fastest-growing city in 2017. This urbanisation is a global phenomenon because cities are the centres of economic growth. Cities are where people find jobs, education and access to a growing base of consumers of goods and services. Population growth is an opportunity as well as a challenge, and in order to allow Cairo to rejuvenate and to enable its sustainable growth moving forward, it was necessary to create a new large city to be the centre for the administration. The gap between supply and demand for housing will be closed through new cities and revitalisation of areas in and around Cairo. The housing gap and the availability of land will be solved through the joint efforts of the government and the private sector.
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