Egypt’s major infrastructure projects which are now underway are expected to shape a new future for the North African country after decades of a growing population and random construction, experts say.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi can be seen frequently inspecting road, bridge, and train projects in Cairo and then urging workers to complete construction in the shortest time possible.
The roads and bridges that the Egyptian leader inspects represent the most visible aspect of a major infrastructure drive aimed at revitalizing the economy and putting an end to traffic congestion.
The public works projects include several new cities and the construction of one million low-cost housing units and have helped Egypt weather the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the areas that is witnessing intense activity is eastern Cairo as a network of new roads and bridges being built in the desert are leading towards a new capital which is under construction in the desert and due to open in December.
A total of six new bridges to reduce traffic jams were built in Cairo’s eastern neighborhoods of Heliopolis and Nasr City in record time as part of Egypt's National Project for New Roads and the East Cairo Development Plan.
The new bridges have eased traffic to and from Heliopolis and Nasr City and reduced journey times by establishing limited access superhighways capable of accommodating large volumes of traffic while providing parking lots and modifying the direction of a number of streets which are also being widened.
Among the mega projects carried out by the Egyptian government is the New Administrative Capital Monorail project, which is believed to be representing a revolution in the transport sector of Egypt.
The project, in which Egypt is racing against time with record rates of completion, will change the map of the Egyptian cities through which it will pass.
According to figures from the Egyptian Ministry of Transport, the implementation rate of the Monorail project in the new administrative capital is 21%, which is a record rate.
One of the most important steps of the project is to manufacture and fully test the first train while the second, third, and fourth trains are under construction, according to information from the Ministry of Transport.
The project will have a length of 56.5 km, which represents a major cultural shift in mass transportation, as it is fast, safe, and environmentally friendly, according to economists.
It also saves fuel consumption, reduces environmental pollution rates, and relieves traffic congestion on main thoroughfares and streets, they add.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the first phase of the monorail from the new administrative capital to the Al-Mushir Mosque station is 45 km long and is planned to open at the end of May 2022.
That will be followed by the February 2023 opening of the section from the Al-Mushir Mosque station to Stadium station, with a length of about 11.5 km.
Hassan El-Haywan, an economist and professor of economics at Ain Shams University, said that road projects will bring a lot to Egypt.
“It will not only benefit the people who will feel an easing in traffic congestion but it will also benefit businessmen and investors as well as tourists who visit the country,” he said.
He added that development in areas that were worthless desert or completely isolated villages is greatly beneficial for both the government and the people.
“Such development boosts economic goals in the speed of transportation of goods and raw materials and the availability of job opportunities, whether direct or indirect, as well as investment and tourism goals,” he said.
Ahmed el-Shami, another economist, said that using smart transport helps manage the transport system more efficiently and contributes to achieving the highest efficiency of road and traffic management.
He added that development in the desert would reduce the crowding on the main arteries within the city and would create new integrated communities.
Elsewhere in other governorates nationwide, road projects are in full swing. The Egyptian transport minister said that spending on the transport sector will reach 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds (USD$70 billion) in 2024.
“Taking care of infrastructure in other governorates will greatly reduce migration from rural to urban areas and would end the centralization of the capital,” El-Shami said.
However, some have raised concerns about the excessive spending on roads and bridges while neglecting other key fields like education and health.
In televised statements, President Sisi said that it is necessary to implement these projects to facilitate people's lives, reduce wasted time and pressure, and reduce fuel consumption and pollution.
A study prepared by the World Bank in 2014 estimated the cost of congestion in Greater Cairo to be the equivalent of 3.6 percent of GDP, which is much higher than some other major cities.
“The government loses millions of dollars every year because of traffic and trying to reduce these costs would greatly help the economy,” El-Shami said.
He added that easing traffic and reducing journey times would also lower daily pressures on people which would increase their productivity at work.
“This is not only about roads and bridges it is about the society and the future of the people,” he added.