It’s been decades since optimism reigned in Egypt as it did yesterday after the announcement of giant development and construction plans heralding a “new Egypt”. Amid the positivity, there was no mention of the words “Muslim Brotherhood” and there was no talk of the absurd audio leaks, an attempt by rivals to pit the people against the government. Indeed, the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) has been a smart move; its sole focus on advancing Egypt—at a time when Brotherhood-affiliated media outlets are full of explosive stories aimed at damaging its leadership.
As far as these stories are concerned, the Egyptian people are confronted with two choices: to build the future or destroy the present. The conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh did not put forward a particular message, but rather several commitments. States like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Britain and Singapore announced they would participate in constructing cities and power plants and work with projects to reclaim land for agricultural purposes and to increase oil and gas production.
The most surprising announcement was the establishment of a new administrative capital: neighboring Cairo, or Nasr City. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has decided this will be his future focus. Eleven centuries after of the Fatimids’ establishment of “Al-Muizz’s Cairo,” the city is now being dubbed by some as “Sisi’s Cairo.”
All of Egypt’s leaders from the past—from pharaohs to sultans, and by turn Mamluks, Ottomans, pashas and kings—sought to leave their fingerprints on the capital. The British built beautiful bridges and neighborhoods that are still present today, marked by their elegant European style and design. Late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser proposed the Nasr City project in 1956 and completed it nine years later after building 15,000 condominiums in the area.
However, the wave of migration from the countryside into the city, along with the increase in birth rates, has caused Nasr City to become one of the most crowded and polluted cities in the region.
Thus, it has become a challenge for urban planners and engineers and developing it has become an almost hopeless cause. The Egyptian government tried to reform they city in 1992 but failed. In particular, it tried to rehabilitate its slums, which later proved to be a security and political threat to the state.
We must salute the organizers of the successful conference which included governments from across the world as well as global corporations. The ideas and projects addressed in the summit were the first of their kind in the Middle East region.
There’s no doubt that if the great promises put forward during the EEDC are fulfilled, there will be another Egypt emerging: a great country that deserves its status and place in history, and one which will be an asset to the region instead of a burden.
The success of these projects will help the regime gain popular support. This support will in turn guarantee the regime’s stability for a long time. After all, developmental failure was one of the major factors that led to the unrest in Egypt in 2011.
Previous Egyptian governments only succeeded at postponing development plans to expand the country’s security apparatuses, instead of focusing on changing Egypt for the better.
With determination, enthusiasm, and the optimism of Egyptians, and that of their allies, we expect the Egyptian government to protect the promised projects from administrative bureaucracy and corruption, which in the past put off both Egyptian and foreign supporters and investors.
Now, President Sisi’s task is to become the guarantor of his developmental aims, because those who attended the conference did so upon his call and on the basis of his promises.