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Can Egypt afford a new capital city?

Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 02:04

A new capital city for Egypt - that's the ambitious plan designed to solve congestion in Cairo - one of the world's most overcrowded cities. But can those involved fund a project which is expected to cost $300 billion? Sonia Legg reports.

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An oasis in the desert and a new capital for Egypt. That's the mulit-billion dollar plan to solve Cairo's chronic overcrowding problem. The idea is to build a new administrative centre from scratch over the next 5 - 7 years. It'll be the size of Singapore and feature an airport as big as London's Heathrow and a building taller than the Eiffel Tower. There'll also be 350,000 residential units and 10,000 hotel rooms, along with numerous schools, playgrounds and parks. It's certainly needed - the population of Cairo is set to double from 20 million over the next 40 years. And it's already one of the world's most congested cities For many residents it's a case of "at last." (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) CAIRO RESIDENT, HAMADA AL-SHAKANKEERY, SAYING: "It's a good decision but it's very late - those in charge should have planned for the future before the problems arose." The project was unveiled at an investment event in Egypt at the weekend. It's being led by United Arab Emirates property tycoon Mohamed Alabbar. He's reportedly priced the city at $300 billion - with an initial payment of $45 billion. But new Cairos have been started before on the outskirts of the capital and they've never been completed - often ending up as homes for the super-rich. One retired deputy minister, Affaf Fathy, says this time things must be different. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RETIRED DEPUTY MINISTER, AFFAF FATHY, SAYING: "Every year we increase in numbers. And moving the ministries and embassies to a new far away place will improve traffic and allow people to walk around easily and safely. This a wonderful, wonderful project" Egypt says it secured $36 billion of investment during the conference in the resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh. It also hopes to make $20 billion from tourism. But it's only four years since the uprising that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. And corruption remains rife. Prosperity is also in short supply - two fifths of the country's 90 million population live on or around the poverty line.

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Can Egypt afford a new capital city?

Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 02:04