Building a new national capital: Tanzania can learn much from Egypt

Thursday November 18 2021
Capital pic

President Samia Suluhu Hassan with her Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, during the Tanzanian leader’s official visit to Egypt last week. PHOTO | FILE

By J.M. Lusugga Kironde

President Samia Suluhu Hassan had a three-day official visit to Egypt from November 10, 2021, in response to an invitation by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. The two heads of state had discussions on areas of cooperation between their countries: diplomacy, economy, politics, tourism and social services. The President also witnessed the signing of one contract and seven agreements between Tanzania and Egypt.

From what we saw in the media, President Hassan visited a number of areas of interest - and it goes without saying that Tanzania has a number of lessons to draw from Egypt.

Egypt is a global tourist destination on account of its conservation of monuments going back thousands of years. Egypt is famous for its ancient civilisation and the monuments of the majestic pharaohs, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Sakkara, and Dahshur.

In the south, there are famous monuments such as the Luxor Temple, the Karnak Temple, Abu Simbel, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Valley of the Kings - with emphasis on the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Temple of Edfu (Horus), the High Dam of Aswan, and the Philae Temple. There indeed are many more attractions across the country, all well-looked after.

There is no doubt that Tanzania can learn from Egypt’s techniques on conservation, for future generations. Tanzania’s attractions mainly relate to physical features and wildlife. It is indeed sad that time and again we see historical buildings being torn down on the excuse of modernising metropolises. Many historical buildings and monuments are not cared for properly, while many more are yet to be identified and preserved.

Tanzania’s resolve to build Dodoma as its new national capital has parallels with what is happening in Egypt. A huge new administrative capital is being build about 45km to the east of the current capital Cairo (pronounced ‘Al-Qahirah,’ meaning the ‘Victorious’).

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The new capital - dubbed “Smart City” - is to house embassies, government agencies, Parliament, 30 ministries, a spiralling presidential compound and some 6.5 million people when completed.

It seems that it will not only move administrative activities out of Cairo, but also create much-needed housing. Moreover, the government committed to allocate 15 square metres of green space per inhabitant in the new development. The new capital will also have a large central “green river:” a combination of open water and planted greenery, thus addressing the problem of pollution, and making Egypt greener.

Expected to cost around $45 billion, the project is being overseen by a company known as the Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD).

The new administrative capital is designed to operate with smart technology on virgin land away from the clutter and chaos of Cairo. It will boast universities, leisure facilities and a diplomats quarter. The city is being designed as a high-tech model for Egypt’s future. Control centres will monitor infrastructure and security electronically. Roofs will be covered by solar panels. Payments will be cashless.

It may bring relief to the current capital city of Cairo, with over 20 million denizens, which makes it highly congested - especially in its inner area which is largely unplanned. Government administration has been ordered to start working from the new city from December 1 this year.

Clearly, those in-charge of building our Dodoma may learn a thing or two from the Egyptians.

There is little doubt that President Samia Suluhu Hassan talked to the Egyptian companies building the Julius Nyerere Hydroelectric Power Project across River Rufiji, possibly seeking to benefit from their experience in building power dams. Egypt’s Aswan High Dam is the world’s largest embankment dam, which was built across the Nile in Aswan, Egypt, between 1960 and 1970 by the Arab Contractors Company of Egypt.

The contractors for the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant and Dam Project are Arab Contractors Company in joint venture with Elsewedy Electric, two Egyptian engineering construction companies

There are many areas in which Tanzania can learn from Egypt - not least being the judicious use of water.

We learn’t, in our earlier education, how Egyptians were able to draw water from River Nile, first using buckets, and then “shadufs” for irrigation. Today, 95 percent of Egyptians live within a few kilometres of the Nile. Canals take water from the Nile to irrigate farms and support cities.

Also, the Nile is used for transport and for leisure activities.

Long live the cooperation between Tanzania and Egypt.