Rising up from the Sahara Desert just east of the Nile, Egypt’s brand-new capital city is been erected. The yet ‘unnamed’ new capital has ambitious plans to have the countries parliament moved 45 kilometres east from Cairo, into the parliament building – which is said to be larger than the Whitehouse – by 2022.
Dubbed ‘Sisi-City’ by most people since the city is the lovechild and would-be legacy project of President Abdel Fattah al-Sis, it’s boasted to be the biggest planned city ever. It is hoped that the new smart city is going to be the saviour to the ancient Cairo, which is bursting at the seams with a population of over 19 million. Cairo is overcrowded, congested, and one of the worst polluted cities in the world. With the population booming the problems the infrastructure is facing are causing it to crumble under the pressure, and the problems are only set to get worse.
Handing over its 1000-year long reign, the new capital offers a chance to rebrand Egypt as a stable and internationally inviting place which will guide the country into the future as well as being a guardian of the past. The city is said to be of Pharaonic and Islamic architectural styles, which will portray the rich heritage of the country’s past despite being a new build, allowing the unique history to shine through – linking the new to old.
Being the countries first smart city, the new capital will be up there among the likes of London, New York, Singapore and Seoul to name a few. So, what makes a city smart? A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data and then use insights gained from that data to manage assets, resources and services efficiently and intelligently.
The ambitious $58 billion project was announced in 2015 by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a year after he was first elected president and the government aim to have it up and running by the mid-2020s. “The large scale of the work leads to large scale problems” says Ahmed Zaki Abdeen, a retired general who heads the company building the new city. Finding enough skilled labour to build the smart city, as well as raising around 1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($58 billion) from land sales and stakeholders is proving difficult. China State Construction Engineering is training 10,000 Egyptian construction workers to help build the city, but does this offer enough to get the city built within a reasonable time, on budget, and to a high standard?
Accommodating 7 million people, the excitement of this smart, sustainable, clean, organised new capital, the city must not overshadow the need for a balanced, diverse and fair community. The new city aims to be more inclusive and shuning the rich poor divide which is prominent in Cairo. The city has to be a place people actually want to spend time in rather than just a place they have to be. They need to keep people in the city so they won’t just go and spend their free time in Cairo or Alexandria.
Across 270 square miles, the new city will be roughly the same size as Singapore. It will be home to the new parliament and presidential palace, Egypt’s largest airport, Africa’s tallest tower, the Middle East’s largest opera house, a $20bn entertainment district, and a giant urban park bigger than Central Park in New York. Contracts have been signed for a new $834m business district, and manufacturer Bombardier has been contracted to build a monorail servicing 21 stations in the new city, as well as a new line to connect East Cairo with the new capital.
The smart city will be fitted with a city-wide digital security system with Honeywell installing over 6,000 wireless cameras across the city. Cameras in a smart city offer a range of benefits; they allow the government to do everything from tracking and reducing crime, to monitoring any strange behaviour. A project in Detroit saw a 23% reduction in violent crime using high definition cameras that feed directly into police headquarters, allowing law enforcement to see the entire neighbourhood and respond to crimes faster.
A main drawing point of the new city will be its new business district. The business district will be at the centre of the city and will be home to 20 giant buildings carried out by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). It’ll also include twelve business complexes, five residential buildings and two hotels according to a Chinese newspaper Xinhua. Despite the many positives of the CBD (Central Business District) there is the rumoured concern that by taking a lot of these businesses and putting them into the new city, it could leave Cairo stripped of its businesses leading it to decay. Ideally, relocating so many large businesses out of Cairo should be hugely beneficial to both Cairo and the new city. By taking businesses out of Cairo, it offers a chance for the new city to absorb some of the population. This would split the booming population between the two cities, easing Cairo of the pressures that come with holding so many people and reducing some of the issues that come along with the overpopulation; such as reduced congestion and reduced pollution. A possible negative of the new business district could be that it takes all of the money out of Cairo, leaving only small independent businesses. If a lot of the customers were to leave to the new city, it could massively effect the local economy of Cairo with potentially damaging effects.
Waste management is also a key factor of running a sustainable city and Emirati Bee’ah has won the waste management contract in Egypt’s new capital. Bee’ah was founded in 2007, with the objective of creating a sustainable future, through creative and resourceful solutions. Bee’ah currently cater to millions of people in the UAE through a few different company divisions. Tandeef is a section of the company which finds smart solutions for integrated waste management and makes use of cutting edge technology like geo-tagged smart bin sensors and automated route optimisation, as well as an advanced fleet consisting of eco-friendly vehicles. The solar powered smart bins act as Wi-Fi hotspots, while being linked directly to Bee’ahs control room for fast and efficient waste collection. This system would ensure that bins should never overflow, waste collection shouldn’t be an eyesore and inconvenience the population, and the eco-friendly vehicles won’t cause pollution. They’ll also save on energy through the automated route optimisation. Tandeef also provides street sweeping, cleaning, and beautification services for the maintenance of pavements and public areas. Another division of Bee’ah is Tadweer – Tadweer is the division of waste sorting and treatment division. They invest heavily in waste sorting, processing, treatment and recycling facilities, to maximise efficiency in using resources, to attain sustainability goals. They work towards processing waste in a way in which products can be recycled, recovered, regenerated and put back into the economy to fuel a sustainable and environmentally conscious cycle. Bee’ah has also launched the Bee’ah Rewards program which is used in the UAE. They use reverse vending machines to encourage people to recycle used bottles and cans. People then receive a barcode from the machine which they scan into an app on their smartphone and they get entered into a monthly draw with the opportunity to win prizes. If this reward system was to be rolled out in the new city it has great potential – Cairo is known as a ‘trash city’, so by really encouraging people to recycle ensures that the new smart city’s waste management system will be effective and be used to its full potential. The new city could then influence other Egyptian cities to change their recycling habits therefore helping the whole country to improve.
Watching the new city rise and become a fully functioning capital will be an intresting process; the city has so much potential to inspire the entire country. From the whole management system to the business centre, this new smart city offers so much. Ensuring it is planned correctly is critical to it being a great success.