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The urban challenge in Africa: Growth and management of its large cities
Edited by Carole Rakodi - United Nations University Press - TOKYO - NEW YORK - PARIS - © The United Nations University, 1997
4 The challenge of urban growth in
Mahmoud Yousry and Tarek A. Aboul Atta
L'antique cité du Caire est devenue aujourd'hui, avec ses quelques 12 millions d'habitants, la plus grande ville d'Afrique et du Moyen-Orient, un centre administratif, culturel et économique au niveau régional comme à celui du pays. Après 70 ans d'occupation, la révolution menée par Nasser en 1952 chasse l'administration coloniale de la ville et la haute bourgeoisie égyptienne du pouvoir et inaugure une période de planification centralisée, de contrôle des loyers et de vastes projets de logements sociaux, bénéficiant avant tout aux travailleurs et aux couches pauvres des classes moyennes. Le Caire passe de 1 million d'habitants dans les années 20 à 5 millions en 1970. Quoiqu'une croissance rapide naturelle y compte pour beaucoup, l'exode rural est aussi significatif, stimulé par divers facteurs de répulsion dont notamment la difficulté croissante d'accès à des terres arables de dimensions suffisantes, et par des facteurs d'attraction des villes, en particulier le programme d'industrialisation mené par les pouvoirs publics dans les années 50 et 60. Mais la guerre de 1967 avec Israël dévore les ressources des programmes publics égyptiens, la croissance urbaine se ralentit et l'infrastructure se détériore. Lorsque le gouvernement de Sadat prend le pouvoir en 1970, sa politique de "porte ouverte" attire les investissements étrangers, donne un nouvel élan à la croissance économique et ravive l'intérêt qu'offre le Caire. D'immenses investissements publics consacrés aux infrastructures ne réussissent cependant pas à satisfaire la demande et de nombreux aménagements se réalisent au mépris de toute planification, sans permis de construire. Les prix des terrains et des propriétés sont rendus exorbitants par la spéculation immobilière, accélérée par les rentrées de gains des nombreux Egyptiens partis travailler dans les pays producteurs de pétrole du Moyen-Orient. La croissance de la ville en termes de dimensions, de surface et de richesse s'accompagne néanmoins de disparités croissantes entre les biens, les offres de services, la qualité des logements et les normes concernant l'environnement. Les principaux problèmes d'urbanisme proviennent des très fortes densités au cœur de la vieille ville du Caire, des vastes quartiers de logements de mauvaise qualité construits récemment, de l'occupation illégale des toits et de la Cité des morts, de l'insuffisance des infrastructures et des services, des problèmes de transport persistants et de l'aggravation constante de la pollution. Ces vingt dernières années, la planification a visé à pallier ces problèmes tout en détournant les nouveaux aménagements des fertiles terres arables aux alentours de la ville vers de nouvelles villes et de nouveaux établissements de la région. De nombreuses nouvelles industries se sont installées dans ces villes nouvelles et des investissements massifs y ont été consacrés, mais en 1994, moins de 0.5 million de personnes y résidaient, soit 8 pour cent de l'objectif visé, et de nombreux logements restaient inoccupés en raison du retard dans l'apport des services. Depuis 1980, les importants investissements consacrés aux infrastructures dans la partie la plus importante de la ville ont quelque peu amélioré la situation. Mais la dispersion des responsabilités de gestion urbaine et l'insuffisance de la coordination entre les autorités régionales et les trois gouverneurs qui se partagent l'administration de la ville ont handicapé la réalisation des principaux objectifs. Au cœur de la métropole qui se constitue le long de l'axe Alexandrie-Le Caire, la domination de cette dernière sur la vie économique, politique et urbaine de l'Egypte ne risque guère de diminuer.
Egypt, with its strategic location in the centre of the old world, has become the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. Owing to its specific geographic conditions, most urban development in Egypt has taken place in the Nile Valley and Delta, which represent only 4 per cent of its total area. Throughout its long history, urbanization has occurred, and great cities and kingdoms have grown up along the banks of the Nile River. Thus, population and economic activities concentrated in this narrow and limited area, and polarization became the pattern of Egyptian life.
Egypt has a long history of growth and decline over almost 1,400 years. Cairo, its capital, has grown rapidly to reach more than 12 million inhabitants in 1994. It has become the largest urban centre not only in Africa, but also in the Middle East. The city's history has been closely related to that of Egypt, which has been subject to a succession of foreign rulers in the past 2,000 years. A study of the development of Cairo cannot ignore the prevailing political, economic, and social conditions in Egypt, which have affected its growth and shaped all related development policies. Such policies, in recent decades, have led to a massive process of concentration, with the result that Cairo today is not only the capital of Egypt but also its economic, social, service, and administrative centre. The city's size and rapid growth have resulted in serious problems in most aspects of the life of its population. The government has attempted both to decentralize population and activities from Cairo and to reorganize and manage its growth at the national, regional, and local levels.
In the first part of this chapter, the historical development of Cairo will be outlined. The growth of the city in the twentieth century will then be analysed in more detail, including its population, the factors that have influenced its growth, its physical development, and the problems that have resulted. In the final part of the chapter, attempts to plan the city and their outcomes will be analysed.
Since the dawn of civilization, the capital of Egypt has been located in the Cairo metropolitan region for long periods, in areas such as Manf, Lecht, Ono, and Babylon (see fig. 4.1). Few traces of these cities remain today. It was not until the year A.D. 641 that the existing city of Cairo was founded by Amr Ibn-Elass in El Fostat, east of the Nile River. Its location represented the centre of gravity of the whole country in terms of cultivated area, population, wealth, and power. The proximity of the fortress of Babylon (formerly the headquarters of the Roman and Greek armies in Egypt) influenced the choice of this particular site (Moselhi, 1988).1
Historically, Old Cairo expanded north-east of El Fostat, when the Abbacies built El Askar in A.D. 751 (fig. 4.2). Then Ibn Tolon added a third settlement - El Katae. After A.D. 870 Cairo El Moez (Fatimid Cairo) was built by Gawhar El Sikili along the Nile borders northeast of the previous settlements (fig. 4.2) (Selem, 1983). These four towns primarily performed the role of military settlements. A major mosque and sometimes palace were located in the centre of each settlement.
Fig. 4.1 Old locations of the Egyptian capital
Fig. 4.2 The development of Cairo in the Islamic period (Source: based on Moselhi, 1988)
In the twelfth century these settlements were united in one agglomeration, when Salah El Din El Ayouby surrounded them with walls and built his fortress (El Qalaa). Only then did Cairo begin to perform its role as a unified city where most of the political, cultural, social, and urban developments took place in the following three centuries and its area reached more than 5 km² (fig 4.3) The city expanded rapidly in the western, northern, and southern directions in the Mamlouk period (A.D. 1200-1500), reaching an area of 43,868 feddans (184 km²). The Mokattam hills form a natural barrier blocking any eastern expansion. Most studies estimated the population of Cairo by that time at almost 1 million inhabitants (Hamdan, 1982).²
In the following Ottoman period (1500-1800) the city deteriorated for various economic, political, and military reasons. Economically, the transfer of eastern trade from Egyptian territories to detour around Africa deprived the country of tremendous tax resources. This period was also characterized by political instability and conflict among the remaining Mamlouks, as well as among Ottoman army sections. National revolution against the Turkish rulers and the Mamlouks ensued and many districts in Cairo were badly damaged. After having been an established capital, Cairo became only an administrative base for foreign rulers interested in exploring the country's resources. The city witnessed notable out-migration to other parts of the country, with the result that by A.D. 1800 Cairo's population had decreased to about 260,000 (Moselhi, 1988).
However, with Mohammed Ali's rule (1805-1849), Cairo began its modernization, an era that reached its peak between 1873 and 1879 in the western part of the city. The extravagant cost of this expansion led to many problems, beginning with high foreign debts and political unrest and ending with the British colonization of Egypt in 1882 (Eddie Ibrahim, 1987). During the colonial period Cairo grew as the ruling centre, to which thousands of foreigners and nationals migrated looking for wealth and power. New districts were built in the west (Garden City and Zamalek), in the north (Heliopolis), and in the south (Maadi) (see fig. 4.4). The old city was left undeveloped to face tremendous problems of high densities, lack of infrastructure, and deterioration in living conditions. At the beginning of the twentieth century the newly formed upper middle class launched a reform strategy in most fields, such as education, banking, industries, and recreation, and migrated to the new districts. Cairo expanded rapidly
Fig. 4.3 The growth of Cairo, A.D. 971-1800 (Source: based on Moselhi, 1988)
and reached more than 1 million inhabitants in the late 1920s. Interclass inequalities widened in the following decades leading to major social, economic, and political problems and laying the foundations for the 1952 revolution against British colonization and the royal regime.
Subsequently, massive industrial and housing projects were undertaken by the new government, particularly in the Cairo zone. New districts appeared in the northern, southern, and western parts of the city. The Cairo metropolitan area emerged, with a population of 5 million in 1970 (El Shakhs, 1971; Moselhi, 1988). After the 1973 war, the policy of the government moved from a socialist, centrally planned, and public-sector-dominated economy to the so-called "open-door" policy. The latter aimed at encouraging the private sector and attracting international and Arab investment. A large part of such investment was directed to Cairo and its region, fostering further rapid urban development. By 1980 the population of Greater Cairo was 8 million. Informal and illegal housing appeared in this period in many areas on the outskirts of the city and in the City of the Dead. Such trends continued in the 1980s and 1990s. It is estimated that in 1994 more than 4 million people were living in illegal settlements in the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). The efforts of the government to control the growth of the city have not been sufficient and it kept growing in most directions, particularly to the west and north, to reach an estimated population of over 12 million in 1994.
Fig. 4.4 Districts in the Greater Cairo Region (Source: General Organization for Physical Planning)
The urban growth of Cairo
Urbanization in Egypt and the development of the Greater Cairo Region
The process of urbanization itself is a result of rural-urban migration. Moreover, in Egypt, high rates of natural increase partly account for rapid urban growth rates. In 1907 the inhabitants of urban areas accounted for 19 per cent of the total Egyptian population, rising to 33 per cent in 1947, 43 per cent in 1976, and 44 per cent in 1986. UN studies suggest that the urban population in Egypt will exceed 50 per cent of the total population by the year 2010 (UN, 1993). However, such figures should be treated with care. On the one hand, the 1986 census showed that around 2.25 million Egyptians (mostly from urban areas) were at that time living outside Egypt. On the other hand, the growth rates in rural areas in the late 1980s and 1990s exceeded those of urban areas. High rates of natural increase in rural areas may be attributed to the fact that the adoption rates for birth control and family planning procedures have not been as high as in urban areas, while growth has also occurred because of the sharp increase in urban land prices, which has driven many to build on cheaper land in rural areas surrounding the cities.
Within the urban sector, large centres, particularly Cairo, have witnessed higher rates of growth than medium- and small-sized centres. Thus, whereas the population of Egypt has increased by more than 5 times in the twentieth century, Cairo's population has increased by nearly 16 times (table 4.1), with the result that its share of the national population increased from nearly 9 per cent in 1940 to 18 per cent or more in the 1960s and 1970s, and was estimated to be 21 per cent in 1994. It is clear that the real demographic change in Cairo's modern history began in the nineteenth century when death rates began to decline while birth rates stayed constant. The figures in table 4.1 show that the growth rate of GCR surpassed the national average except in the periods 1930-1940 (World War II) and 19601976 (owing to the 1967 war). Between 1976 and 1986 the open-door policy (see below) boosted economic and urban development and consequently population growth in the GCR.
Table 4.1 Population growth of Cairo and Egypt, 1800-1986
A large metropolitan area was formed, encompassing the city of Cairo and its extension in Shubra El-Khima to the north and Giza city to the west of Nile. The boundaries of this conurbation were later extended to include more surrounding areas and settlements, forming the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). The population of this region was more than 9.5 million in 1986 and was estimated to be more than 12 million in 1994, in addition to about 2 million daily commuters.
This extraordinary population represents about 20 per cent of the total population of Egypt and 40 per cent of its urban population. Cairo and, to a lesser extent, Alexandria, with a population of 3.5 million, dominate the urban system and there is a wide gap between these two cities and the remaining settlements (Aboul Atta, 1985). The urban concentration index increased from 0.623 in 1965 to 0.649 in 1980 and the four-city primacy index from 2.11 in 1965 to 2.70 in 1985, indices of primacy that are among the highest in the world.
Fig. 4.5 The population of the Greater Cairo Region, 1927-1994 (Source: Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics, Censuses. Note: 1994 population estimated)
Figure 4.5 shows the population share of the three sections of the GCR (namely Cairo, Giza, and Qalyubia) and detailed figures are given in the appendix. The population in Cairo, which includes the old city and its surrounding area, accounted for 70 per cent or more of the population of the GCR until 1960. At that time the built-up area was saturated, with very high densities. Since the 1960S growth has been directed toward the other two sections, while the proportion of the population living in the Cairo section declined steadily to reach an estimated 55 per cent in 1994. The growth rate of the population in the Cairo section declined from 5.9 per cent per annum in the 1940s to 1.9 per cent per annum in the 1970s, but subsequently increased owing to massive housing projects and expansion onto the desert land of Nasr city and Helwan (see fig. 4.4). However, its growth rate is still below those of the other two sections, which reached 5.2 per cent per annum in Giza and 7.9 per cent per annum in Qalyubia between 1986 and 1994. In the Giza section, a recent study suggests that another 2.3 million people have been added in informal areas and squatter settlements since the 1986 census (Al-Wali, 1993).
Factors of urban growth
Such rapid urban growth of the GCR has been the result of many factors, of which some are applicable to most large urban centres in Egypt and some are specific to Cairo. Some of the leading factors are demographic, economic, and political, while accessibility is also important.
As already mentioned, Egypt has experienced increasingly rapid growth in the past 40 years (2.7 per cent as compared with 1.3 per cent between 1900 and 1950; see table 4.1). The birth rate during the first half of the twentieth century was among the highest in the world (45 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1952). Since 1950 it has declined, to reach 32 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1990, owing to the spread of education, rising living costs, government policies for birth control, and family planning programmes. However, these rates are still high compared with those of more developed countries. Fertility rates, which are usually higher in rural areas, were slightly higher in the late 1950s and 1960s in the major urban centres than in surrounding rural areas. In addition, death rates have decreased steadily from 20.4 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1948 to 7.5 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1990 owing to improvements in public health and a decrease in child death rates. High fertility and birth rates in urban areas have coupled with decreasing death rates to produce rapid natural population growth in urban and rural areas alike. However, the rate of natural increase seems to have reached a peak of 30.4 per 1,000 in 1985 and is now showing signs of a steady decline (24.7 per 1,000 in 1990).
Rural-urban migration has been the major driving force behind urbanization in Egypt. It has resulted from the deterioration of rural areas as well as from the concentration of economic activities (and hence employment opportunities), services, political power, and wealth in the major urban centres and mainly in Cairo. Most rural migrants have kept their traditional way of life at their urban destination, creating what has been called "ruralization of urban areas" (UN, 1961). They usually reside with or near their relatives, forming foci of interrelated families. They work mostly in the informal sector, earning low and unsteady wages. They have limited social and economic mobility. Many still keep strong contacts with their rural relatives and send them financial support.
Since the British colonization of Egypt in 1882, government policies have favoured urban areas and particularly large centres. In the early stage of colonialism a strongly primate settlement system was developed, primarily focusing on Cairo as the political and administrative centre. Alexandria was developed as a port to link the country with the exterior and to facilitate the export of agricultural products. After the 1952 revolution, the government directed its major resources towards these large urban centres for efficiency, political, and sometimes prestige reasons. It was argued then that it is more efficient to develop urban centres because of the availability of services, infrastructure, power, and skilled labour. Moreover, the favoured strategy, for political as well as developmental reasons, was industrialization concentrated in urban centres, especially Cairo. Rural areas did not receive much attention, with the exception of a few instances where rural development experiments have been carried out, such as in Mudiriat El Tahrir in the 1950s and Salhia in the 1970s.
There are a number of reasons for the underdevelopment of rural areas, which has been the driving force behind rural-urban migration. In addition to the lack of government investments, land issues are crucial:
Table 4.2 Agricultural land consumed by new development in Greater Cairo, 1968-1982
The result was added inefficiency and decreased productivity in the rural areas, increasing their underdevelopment and pushing more migrants to urban centres. Invasion of agricultural land by the desert is another specific factor that threatens rural development. Although it has not been measured yet, it has had an impact on land adjacent to the western desert.
Since 1952, when Egypt began to implement its national industrial plan, the share of the industrial sector in the total economy increased from 8 per cent in 1952 to 22 per cent in 1961 and to 42 per cent in the late 1970s. Since then, it has decreased in relative terms, to 25 per cent and 28 per cent in 1980 and 1985, respectively, leaving the lead to the service sectors since 1983. Most of this industrial development was concentrated in the major urban centres and particularly in the GCR. In 1976 more than 55 per cent of Egypt's industrial establishments, 48 per cent of industrial employment, and 51 per cent of industrial output were located in the GCR. Although these percentages have fluctuated since, industries are still highly concentrated in the GCR. In the past decade major investments have been directed towards industrial development in the new cities, particularly the ones near the GCR such as 6 October and 10 Ramadan, thus decreasing the share of Egypt's industrial employment in the GCR to 35 per cent (table 4.3). However most of these investments originate in and profits are returned to the GCR, further pushing its economic pre-eminence. Unequal distribution of services has been an important factor in attracting migration from rural to urban areas. High levels of educational, health, cultural, entertainment, recreational, and commercial services can be found only in the GCR, as well as to some extent in Alexandria.
Table 4.3 The composition of employment in the Greater Cairo Region and Egypt, 1986
In Egypt, an enlarged formal sector has emerged in recent decades which has offered the prospect of material standards of living equivalent to those in the more developed countries. However, the support needed to develop this sector has created a kind of dependency on developed countries for technical and financial aid. Formal sector establishments and enterprises have concentrated in the GCR near the seat of the government and political decision makers. This locational preference has also increased the imbalance between the developed and underdeveloped regions. The formal sector is dominated by large-scale, high-technology, and capital-intensive processes imported from the more developed countries. Yet its products are characterized by limited life-spans, because they depend on the middle class for consumption of their products. Increased consumption has occurred at the expense of savings and the strategy has accentuated disparities within urban areas.