Chinese construction projects in Egypt’s new capital city model for BRI-based cooperation

(Xinhua/Wu Huiwo)
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On a sunny day, some 45 km east of the Egyptian capital Cairo, one of the gates of the under-construction new administrative capital city had a Chinese sign on top, welcoming visitors at the huge Central Business District (CBD) project carried out by a renowned Chinese construction firm.

Egyptian and Chinese engineers and workers can be seen everywhere in the CBD construction site that has the Iconic Tower as one of its buildings, whose height is expected to exceed 385 meters to be the tallest tower in Egypt and Africa.

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Carried out by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the project is a landmark for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks win-win development cooperation between participating states through economic and trade partnerships as well as infrastructure projects.

Ahmed al-Banna, the project manager from Dar Al Handasa, the Egyptian designer and consultant of the project, said that the CBD has about 18 giant, extremely tall buildings including the 385-meter-high Iconic Tower.

The area of the tower’s base is about 3,600 square meters and the total area, after its 80 floors are completed, will be 260,000 square meters, he added.

“With our humble efforts, we hope that we are taking part in the progress of our country for a better future,” Banna told Xinhua near the concrete base of the Iconic Tower, highlighting the importance of the new capital city for Egypt’s development.

The engineer hailed CSCEC as “not only the right choice for this project but also a beginning for new techniques to be witnessed in the history of construction in Egypt.”

“It is my first time to deal with a Chinese company and Chinese people in general. They are very friendly, organized and hardworking. We also learned from the Chinese how to use manual piles and post-grouting piles in construction for the first time in Egypt,” said the Egyptian project manager.

Built on an area of 714 square kilometers, the new administrative capital city is expected to be a new home to most government buildings including 29 ministries and the cabinet, in addition to the parliament.

It will also have 20 residential neighborhoods that can accommodate 6.5 million people, luxurious hotels, malls, parks and many other venues, making some room in the congested and overpopulated traditional capital Cairo that is home to about one fifth of the country’s 100-million population.

The four-year CBD project started in May 2018 and is expected to be completely finished in early 2023 including the giant Iconic Tower.

Project Manager Tang Ling from CSCEC said that China in general and his corporation in particular hope, through the CBD project, to take part in building the future of Egypt and creating more job opportunities for Egyptians through win-win cooperation.

“When the CBD is completed, it will be another landmark for Chinese-Egyptian cooperation under the BRI,” said the Chinese manager.

The Iconic Tower base of about 18,500 cubic meters of concrete and 5,000 tons of reinforced iron bars was poured in late February in one shot for 38 hours non-stop, an unprecedented process in Egypt’s construction history.

The concrete mass pouring process was attended by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly who described the architectural project as “a miracle by all means.”

Zhou Changming, a Chinese construction team leader, said that it is his first time to work outside China and that he is happy to be with CSCEC team working on this huge project.

“We are currently working on the construction foundations of the Iconic Tower and the process is expected to be completed in June, after which the tower will be rising at a noticeable speed,” Zhou told Xinhua.

CSCEC hired many local architects and construction workers to carry out the CBD project, holding free training courses for them on the latest construction techniques, including 27-year-old site engineer Mohamed al-Tantawi, who joined CSCEC in June 2018.

Tantawi said he learned a lot from the Chinese expertise and made many Chinese friends during his work with CSCEC, expressing pride of being part of the CBD project.

“This is the biggest project in Egypt now and the new capital city will be a very big shift for the country. It is a huge honor to be part of this project,” the Egyptian engineer told Xinhua near the Iconic Tower.