With a population exceeding 105 million citizens and nearly 9 million foreign residents, Egypt boasts a sizable and continually expanding populace. It currently holds the 14th position among the world’s most populous nations. The population issue has been a long-standing concern for successive governments, impacting various facets of life in Egypt.
This is precisely why the construction of new cities has been initiated, with the promise of mitigating congestion in Cairo. The Egyptian capital’s population has now surged to 10.3 million, as per the continuously rising population estimate maintained by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Anticipations indicate that the number of new cities in Egypt will reach 44 by the year 2052, with an average land area of 23,000 square meters. These forthcoming urban centers are strategically designed to be environmentally conscious, embracing principles of sustainability such as reliance on renewable energy sources and the implementation of recycling practices.
History of New Cities Concept in Egypt
Building new cities to ease population density is not a new problem in Egypt. It dates back to the 1970s. Since then, four generations of cities have been built.
The first-generation cities came into existence between 1977 and 1982, totaling seven in number: New Salhiya, New Damietta, 6th of October City, Burj Al Arab, Sadat City, 15th of May City, and 10th of Ramadan City.
Moving on to the second generation, which emerged between 1982 and 2000, we find approximately six new cities, including New Minya City, Badr City, New Beni Suef City, New Nubaria City, Obour City, and Sheikh Zayed City.
The third generation of cities took shape from 2000 to 2019, and this phase witnessed the establishment of around nine cities, such as New Thebes, New Aswan City, New Sohag City, Shorouk City, New Qena, New Fayoum City, New Cairo, New Akhmim City, and New Assiut City.
Lastly, the fourth generation of cities emerged from 2014 to 2020, boasting approximately 14 new urban centers, among them the New Administrative Capital, New Alamein, New Ismailia, East Port Said, New Mansoura, New Gamasa, West Qena, West Assiut, Galala, New Rafah, New Arish, New Bir al-Abd, New Rashid, and New Toshka.
The most important question remains, which is have new cities improved population density in Egypt? According to the Egyptian think tank, Al-Marsad Al-Masry, population density in Egypt has steadily increased.
In 1882, it stood at 6.6 people per square kilometer, rising to 103.6 people per square kilometer in March 2023. If the population reaches approximately 120 million people by 2030, the density is projected to reach around 119 people per square kilometer.
Total population density is calculated by dividing a country’s population by its total area.
However, the real crisis lies in the fact that the entire Egyptian population resides in an area that makes up less than 7% of the country’s total landmass. In 2021, the total inhabited population density across the entire country reached about 1,494 people per square kilometer.
An evident disparity exists between the proportion of inhabited land and the total land area at the governorate level.
The Cairo Governorate has achieved a record population density within the country, surpassing even the most densely populated regions worldwide.
The population density in Egypt’s capital reached an astounding 52,000 people per square kilometer, while the Giza Governorate followed in second place but with a significant difference, registering a density of 7,400. people per square kilometer.
In 1970, the Greater Cairo region covered an estimated 52,000 acres with a population of 5.6 million people. This resulted in a net density of 250 people per acre and a gross density of 100 people per feddan.
By 2015, the region had expanded to about 140,000 acres, a 240% increase, with a total population of approximately 16.8 million people, marking a 300% growth.
Consequently, the net population density reached about 500 people per acre, a significantly high figure, and the total density was estimated at 140 people per acre.
This surge in population was further compounded by substantial internal migration, with Cairo absorbing the largest share. According to the 2006 census, Cairo saw the arrival of 804,400 people, constituting about 16.8% of the total internal migration.
This underscores the failure of cities that were constructed before the 1980s in addressing this issue, Al-Marsad’s report said, adding that one possible explanation could be the lack of appeal these cities held for the majority of citizens during that era.
“Living in these cities was often perceived as a form of exile for their residents. Traveling to the capital’s center required covering extensive distances, incurring substantial expenses, and contending with poorly maintained roads at the time. For some workers and students, the daily struggle to navigate these challenges while pursuing their professional and academic endeavors seemed nearly insurmountable. Buying residential units in these new cities often served as little more than a real estate investment, with uncertain returns,” Al-Marsad said.
Additionally, there has been a deficiency in the construction of housing units to keep pace with the rapid housing demand in recent decades. What was achieved over 38 years (from 1976 to 2013) is equivalent to what was accomplished in just seven years (from 2015 to 2021).
During the initial 30-year period (1976 – 2005), approximately 1.2 million housing units were built, averaging 42,000 units annually. Though construction rates experienced a slight uptick in the subsequent eight years (2005-2013), resulting in a total of 383,000 units, the annual average remained around 48,000 units.
Meanwhile, the population grew by about 48 million people over 38 years, translating to an average annual increase of 315,800 families (assuming an average family size of four individuals). However, the yearly construction of housing units barely exceeded 45,000 units.
Compelling Factors that Draw Residents to Egypt’s New Cities
“The government and urban planners need to address these factors and create attractive, well-planned urban environments that offer tangible benefits and opportunities,” Sherif Hassan, CEO of Coldwell Banker Commercial Advantage, told Invest-Gate.
He highlighted the importance of effective communication and public awareness campaigns to convey the advantages of moving to these new cities.
According to Hassan, the following key factors that can significantly influence people’s decisions to relocate to new cities are:
- Employment Opportunities: The availability of jobs and career prospects stands as a significant motivator. New cities that offer better employment opportunities are more likely to attract potential residents.
- Better Quality of Life: Improved infrastructure, healthcare, education, and a cleaner environment can make new cities appealing, especially for families seeking a higher quality of life.
- Affordable Housing: Affordable and accessible housing options are crucial for attracting residents. Government incentives and subsidies can play a pivotal role in making housing more affordable.
- Urban Amenities: Access to recreational facilities, shopping centers, restaurants, and cultural attractions can enhance a city’s appeal.
- Safety and Security: A safe environment is essential for potential residents to consider relocation. Effective law enforcement and safety measures can be pivotal in encouraging migration.
- Education and Healthcare: Quality schools and healthcare facilities are vital for families. Proximity to good educational institutions and hospitals can be a strong motivator for relocation.
- Infrastructure Development: Efficient transportation networks, including roads, public transit, and airports, make it easier for people to move and commute within these new cities.
- Financial Incentives: Government subsidies, tax breaks, or other financial incentives for relocating to new cities can be particularly attractive to potential residents.