Tens of thousands of Cairo and Jakarta officials will soon hand over files, computers and pens in moving boxes and leave their offices - assuming they want to keep their jobs. Egypt and Indonesia are planning to relocate their governing and administrative offices to new cities built in the desert and jungle, respectively.

Cairo, Egypt's capital for more than a thousand years, will probably abdicate first as a seat of government. Only four years ago, the vision of a new administrative capital was presented to the public. There is still no real name for them, it is simply run as "The Capital Egypt" or "New Administrative Capital" NAC. Already in the second half of the year 2020 the prestige project of the president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is to be brought to life: From then 34 ministries, parliament and cabinet are to be laid in the nearly 45 kilometers east of Cairo located retort city. Foreign embassies are urged to follow suit. Promotional videos promise a futuristic, green and safe city, in which it can be jam-free and pleasant to live. But the new city still looks like a major construction site in a lunar landscape. "Medially, the date of June 2020 will hold well. How many ministries and government employees actually move at this time, will show, "says Martin Woller, WKÖ economic delegate in Cairo. 

The mega project is being implemented jointly by the Egyptian military and the housing ministry, who are not only struggling with the approaching deadline, but also with the financing due to reluctant investors. According to press spokesman Khaled El Husseiny (see interview), costs of three billion dollars are estimated for the new government district, with a total of 45 billion dollars. The master plan provides for the long-term development of a total of 700 square kilometers. In the end, the new city will have twenty residential districts for 6,5 million inhabitants, a financial district with 21 skyscrapers (including the tallest tower in Africa), an art and cultural district with an opera house and museums, and a huge amusement park. After all: the Capital International Airport, a large mosque, a huge church, government buildings and some housing developments are already rising up, hundreds of kilometers of roads are also ready. And already this November al-Sisi invites you to a large investor forum in the new conference center.


Interview with El Husseiny, spokesman for ACUD

Smarter rules from 2020

Khaled El Husseiny is spokesman for ACUD, the company that is developing the new Egyptian capital. He announces that the nameless city will become a highly efficient, sustainable and paperless Smart City.

Bye-bye Jakarta

Other countries are also considering the capital move. This year, Thailand's Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, shared his idea to remove the seat of government from hectic Bangkok and move it to a new city, or at least a suburb. It is quite possible that Chan-o-cha was also inspired by Indonesia. It was only in August that President Joko Widodo announced that the island state would no longer be located in Jakarta on the island of Java but in the Indonesian part of Borneo - the third largest island in the world - to be governed from.

The new seat of government in Indonesia will therefore be built in the province of East Kalimantan, in the nowhere between the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda. Despite the jungle location, suitable infrastructure is nearby, and there is also enough state-owned land available, they say. However, it will be expensive at an estimated 33 billion dollars, and this amount must be set up quickly - in cooperation with private investors. After all, the likewise nameless 1,5 million-inhabitant city should go into operation in 2024, i.e. before the end of Widodo's second term of office, which has just begun.

Vivencio Dizon, BCDA

And in another Asian island state, namely in the Philippines, a new administrative seat is being built: New Clark City. The city will not replace Manila, but will act as a back-up, explains Vivencio Dizon, CEO of the government agency Bases Conversion and Development Authority BCDA. “In phase one of the project, we are building the National Government Administrative Center with replacement government offices. Should Manila be struck by a disaster, all government business can still be carried out. "

Green, smart and resilient: New Clark City is, among other things, a back-up for Manila.

Since January 2018, a 95 square kilometer former military base has been transformed into a smart city. "Phase 1A" is already taking shape. In addition to residential buildings for civil servants and a crisis coordination center, it mainly consists of a modern sports center, which will host the 30th Southeast Asian Games this November. The $ 14 billion flagship project of the head of state Rodrigo Duterte is not finished, but at least he can cut a red cord or two now, long before the official end of his presidential career in 2022. It will be years before the desired 1,2 million people live in New Clark City.

Reset on the drawing board

Plan cities are not just lover projects currently acting heads of state. Settlements have been rebuilt for thousands of years, "for which there are examples from antiquity, ancient China, the Hindu kingdoms or the Roman Empire," says Sarah Moser, a professor of urban geography at McGill University in Montreal, who is currently a " Atlas for New Cities ". A country has shaped modern urban planning globally, she says: Great Britain. As a colonial power, it has developed numerous urban centers on the US East Coast, in Canada, Africa, Asia and Australia.

While capitals such as Athens, Rome, Delhi and Beijing, as well as Damascus or Yerevan, can look back on several thousand years of history, many well-known capitals do not exist for a hundred years yet: Canberra replaced 1927 Melbourne as Australia's political center. The Planstadt was built as a compromise solution between the rival cities of Melbourne and Sydney. 1960 was dedicated to Brasília as a symbol of a modern Brazil - with which Rio de Janeiro had to abdicate. The new building was raised in the middle of the country, with the aim of promoting economic development off the coast as well. Pakistan's acquisition of independence was again the catalyst for the construction of Islamabad as a centrally located alternative to the coastal city of Karachi (from 1966). And today's governments of Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Myanmar have been inaugurated for the past three decades. 

Nothing works anymore

There is one main reason why Cairo and Jakarta have to abdicate and a back-up is being built for Manila: excessive demands. The three megacities - as cities with more than ten million inhabitants are called - are struggling with housing shortages, a lack of green spaces, pollution, traffic jams and other congested infrastructure. In the rankings of the most livable cities in the world, the metropolitan region of Manila with around twelve million inhabitants and the metropolitan area of ​​Cairo with 20 million inhabitants are therefore probably never top. Regarding the situation of Jakarta with around 25 million inhabitants, Widodo said: “We cannot allow the pressures on Jakarta and Java in terms of population density, the already heavy traffic congestion and air and water pollution to increase further.” Jakarta is also threatened with doom . Because too much groundwater has been pumped out for years, the city's soil sags up to 20 centimeters a year in places. In combination with rising sea levels and heavy rain, there is a threat of permanent flooding. Environmental experts fear that by 2050 a third of the city could already say: land under.

Safety was therefore high on the criteria list for the alternative accommodation. "The risk of flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions is minimal on Borneo," said Widodo. Also, New Clark City in the Philippines is marketed as catastrophically safe, it should ensure the favorable location about one hundred kilometers north of Manila and special construction measures.

The desire for security may not be limited to natural disasters. For Egypt's President al-Sisi, against whose authoritarian regime recent violent protests have emerged, the New Administrative Capital may turn out to be an attractive retreat: far enough away from the crowds in Cairo - and, according to spokesman Khaled El Husseiny, " Give a command center that controls the entire city, with cameras and sensors everywhere. "

Modern business card

For the construction of urban megaprojects, economic reasons are usually also mentioned: planned cities are presented as a development model in order to stimulate the economy and create new jobs. For example, President Widodo of Indonesia is suggesting that the Borneo City "encourage the development of technology start-ups and a digitized manufacturing sector" and stimulate economic activity outside the island of Java. For New Clark City, according to Vivencio Dizon, industries are foreseen "that rely on state-of-the-art technologies, are sustainable and environmentally friendly", and that the city is also embedded in a special economic zone of the same name.

Last but not least, new cities are regarded as a turbo for self-confidence. Countries want to show the world that they can build modern, liveable, functioning cities. Striking in the new projects is the emphasis on environmental friendliness and rich green. In New Clark City only 40 percent of the area to be built, the remainder for free and green areas are kept. The Cairo alternative advertises with solar cells on the roofs and clean transportation, vertical forests on houses and a 35-kilometer river with leafy promenades - however, many observers are worried about where the water will come from.

Global construction site

The three new cities are a prominent segment of a larger trend. According to city expert Moser, more than a hundred new cities are currently being planned or built in around 40 countries. They have names like Korgas (on the Kazakh-Chinese border), Mohammed VI Tanger Tech City (Morocco), Forest City (Malaysia), Nanhui New City (China), Duqm (Oman), Neom (Saudi Arabia) or Oyala ( Equatorial Guinea). Some countries are adding several entries to their maps: Egypt plans to build twenty cities for 2030 million people by 30, reports economic delegate Martin Woller. Saudi Arabia, China, India, Indonesia, Morocco and Malaysia are also among the particularly active planners. The need is definitely there: According to United Nations forecasts, almost 2050 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 70. That means an increase of 2,5 billion city dwellers, with almost 90 percent of the increase taking place in Asia and Africa.

Many of the new city projects are planned as business centers. For example, the Moroccan Mohammed VI Tanger Tech City is intended as a hub for the automotive, aerospace industries and is expected to attract 300.000 residents. The border town of Korgas is to become the central hub for the prestigious Chinese project “New Silk Road” and to house one of the largest freight stations in the world. In Oman, on the other hand, the former fishing village of Duqm is being transformed into a new Eldorado for business and tourism - also with Chinese support. 100.000 people will soon be living in Duqm.

When financing the major projects Moser states: While in the 1960er years cities such as Brasília and Chandigarh (India) were publicly funded, large-scale state projects, today it is mainly about private-public and sometimes completely private megaprojects.

Weak magnets

Whether more than six million people will actually live in the modern residential districts of the new Egyptian capital is doubtful. Because the apartments and houses are expected to afford only wealthier elites, but not average families of civil servants. It is therefore possible that only the roads and rails between Cairo and the new capital will be intensely animated by commuting officials. Even a large-scale project in Malaysia is not based on the small Börserl: on four artificial islands near Singapore is just emerging Forest City, a "model for the future," it is said, with residential towers and villas for 700.000 people. The city islands built with Chinese funds are marketed as environmentally friendly and business friendly - and as an investment opportunity in top location. The project operators offer on their websites "international buyers luxury homes". For Malaysian families, it may be hard to register for residence in the green enclave.

How cared, but deserted urbanity feels, can be experienced elsewhere: Putrajaya, home of the Malaysian Prime Minister and located at the gates of Kuala Lumpur, offers impressive administrative buildings, impressive mosques and bridges - and no hustle and bustle on the streets. Even twenty years after opening, only 90.000 residents live here. And Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar since 14, is nicknamed the "Ghost Town". The city, which is spread over 7.000 square kilometers, has ample residential areas, green areas and, unlike the surrounding countryside, a stable supply of electricity, water and the Internet. Nevertheless, the official figure of one million inhabitants is considered too high, even tourists hardly get lost there.

But patience may be needed, complains Michael Woodbridge of the NewCities Foundation in Canada: "The world today does not lack cities that are admired for culture, architecture, commerce, nightlife or aesthetics. But these cities have developed multi-layered identities over time. Such liveliness can not be achieved overnight. "

Young cities

Abuja, Nigeria

Abuja has been the capital of Nigeria since 1991. The move from the coastal metropolis of Lagos to the center of the country took place in order to rule from a neutral location in view of the various religious and political currents. Today the Great Mosque, the National Church and the Presidential Seat shape the skyline of the planned city. Abuja has around 2,7 million inhabitants.

Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

The Kazakh capital has been called 2019 no longer Astana since March, but Nur-Sultan - in honor of ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan's seat of government was relocated to 1997 from the southern Almaty 1.200 kilometer to the north. Massive structures characterize the newly built government district. Nur-Sultan has one million inhabitants.

Putrajaya, Malaysia

Malaysia's capital is Kuala Lumpur, but the government and administrative center has been in Putrajaya, 1999 kilometers away, since 25. In addition to striking government buildings, the city offers a huge mosque, a trade fair center, lakes and parks. Putrajaya has 90.000 inhabitants. With Cyberjaya, a second planned city is very close.

Naypyidaw, Myanmar

In 2005, the capital of Myanmar was relocated from Rangoon to central Naypyidaw ("City of Kings"), 320 kilometers away. The city designed on the drawing board is 7.000 times larger than Vienna at 17 square kilometers, but has a maximum of one million inhabitants. Naypyidaw is strictly zoned and has a 22-lane main road.

Oyala, Equatorial Guinea

Oyala (also known as Ciudad de la Paz) is currently being built in the jungles of Equatorial Guinea. 2017 had President Teodoro Obiang transfer the seat of government of the African small state of Malabo (on the island of Bioko) to the unfinished city on the mainland. According to the plan, Oyala is to become 2020's official capital and get 200.000 residents. This is considered unrealistic.

Photos: Mohigan / Wikimedia, Isabelle Kirsch / Flickr, Kabusa16 / Wikimedia, Balou46 / Wikimedia, Ruta47 GE