City Development Strategy for Sustainable Development - Phase II

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Main actors

Local Government, National Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Private Sector, NGO / Philanthropy

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2005/11

Local economic development, participatory urban upgrading and environmental rehabilitation are the three pillars of the strategy

Alexandria suffers from economic and social problems: high rate of unemployment, inadequate housing conditions, extensive pollution... The governorate of Alexandria tried addressing these problems in a City Development Strategy (CDS). However, the goals in CDS first phase were not adequate enough.

The new Alexandria CDS is based on three stakeholder pillars: local economic development, participatory urban upgrading, and environmental rehabilitation of Lake Marriout. The CDS also addresses key challenges such as the development of illegal settlements, lack of employment opportunities, and environmental degradation. The project includes the establishment of a CDS department for implementation and long term development sustainability, and priority development projects and potential sources of project funding. CDS’s vision and action plan forms an overarching umbrella to organise and leverage donor support using broad-based stakeholder participation.

Alexandria represents an ideal location for a CDS project because planning and working together to improve the city has relevance for many groups. The notion of ‘resurrecting’ Alexandria received enormous support from decisions to build the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and pilot CDS processes. The business community, in conjunction with Alexandria governor’s extraordinary efforts and support, has created synergy and opportunity for investment in public infrastructure and in developing a vision for Alexandria.

Sustainable Development Goals

End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Alexandria, Egypt

Size and population development
2011: 4,494,000; 1990: 3,063,000; 2025: 6,189,000; 2010-2015: +2.21%

Main functions
harbour city, industrial city

Main industries / business
textile industry, automobile industries, steel industry, chemical industries, food industry

Alexandria faces several challenges to improve living conditions for inhabitants: almost 40% live in informal settlements; many are in need of improved water supply, sanitation, electricity, safe roads, and walkable streets. Only 25% of city inhabitants are active in the labour market (although formal unemployment is no more than 7-10%), and there are severe environmental problems affecting public health. The population growth rate and high percentage of young people under 20 years, lead to high numbers of new entrants into the job market each year, making job creation the number one economic priority to improve living standards. Another challenge manifests itself in the existence of 30 squatter settlements, where one-third of inhabitants (1.2 million) live, with limited access to infrastructure or municipal services and high unemployment rates of 15-20%. The last challenge which is cited as one of the main objectives is extensive pollution in Lake Marriout, due to untreated and primary treated sewage and industrial waste being discharged. Absence of strategy, resources, and management capacity in Alexandria made this a key issue in Alexandria CDS.

A joint World Bank and Arab Urban Development Institute mission visited the city and met with political and administrative leaders as well as academics from Alexandrian universities. In a 2004 workshop, a long-term CDS was formulated through a broadly-based participatory process.

Objectives of the newly-formulated CDS process, identified by the stakeholders, are the three main pillars:

  1. Local economic development (LED) to build on the city assets, comparative advantages, and to make local business environment more favourable to investors;
  2. Participatory urban upgrading in squatter settlements, making the poor both contributors and beneficiaries of local economic development;
  3. Environmental rehabilitation in Lake Marriout zone, developing surrounding land, addressing key challenges of environmental degradation, ineffective management, and overall underutilization of this key Alexandria asset.

The process consisted of formulating a long-term vision and action plan for sustainable development, constructed through broad-based participation of key public, private, and civil society stakeholders. The project is structured to respond to locally defined needs and to contribute to the cost of high investment priorities. It also aims to contribute to a higher level objective, supporting local authorities´ efforts in strategic planning, local economic development, improving local business climate, and socio-economic inclusion of Egyptian urban poor.

The Alexandria CDS vision and action plan formed the foundation for a large scale investment project known as Alexandria Development Project (ADP), in which the World Bank, the Government of Egypt, and a number of donor agencies contributed, with financial and technical support from the Cities Alliance Program, German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), UN Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat), the Arab Urban Development Institute (AUDI), General Organization of Physical Planning, Cairo (GOPP), Canadian International Development Association (CIDA), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

A Partnership Forum was established, including senior government officials, elected local councillors, Alexandria Businessmen Association, academic personnel and major civil society organizations in Alexandria Governorate, central agencies concerned, and donor agencies active in Alexandria, allowing for wider representation and consultation. Stakeholder consultation workshops were held semi-annually, to review work progress and supply inputs to the CDS team. The difference between the present CDS approach and approaches taken in the past is the involvement of all stakeholders in the strategy making process, to ensure feedback and inter-active participation.

Another point is a unified strategic development vision, ownership, and sustained commitment of all parties. Additionally, there are integrated mechanisms to implement the strategic development plan, and, at least, harmonize local and central government planning processes. Alexandria CDS development followed World Bank tested methodology based on best practice developed by Cities Alliance, Cities of Change (Bertelsmann Foundation), and other donor agencies.

The emerging long-term vision is for Alexandria to take advantage of its competitive advantages, better manage its local assets, and remove constraints to private sector-led growth, while ensuring socio-economic integration for poor people.

The following points summarize items planned as part of the second CDS phase:

  • Priority infrastructure in support of LED:
  1. Carry out downstream cluster analysis of the following sectors: textile and garments, food processing, maritime and Shipping, petrochemicals, and ICT.
  2. Conduct a detailed study and action plan for improving the local business environment, focusing on access to industrial land and property registration in productive sectors.
  3. Hire a municipal finance specialist to conduct a comprehensive review of Alexandria local finance, focusing on enhancing revenue streams, maximizing expenditure efficiency, good fiscal management, and sensitizing municipal officials for the creditworthiness issues.
  • Urban upgrading in squatter and informal settlements:
  1. Support participatory planning and upgrading effort in the first three pilot areas.
  2. Conduct participatory rapid appraisal PRA in the remaining 10 squatter settlements.
  3. Identify the next six to eight squatter settlements, prepare detailed remodelling plans and community socio-economic development programs in collaboration with GTZ and Social Fund for Development (Egypt) SFD.
  4. Complete a city-wide urban upgrading strategy, including physical / environmental improvement strategy; land tenure security; local economic development and institutional development strategy.
  • Institutional development:
  1. Hire an institutional development specialist to design the most appropriate legal and institutional framework for a new City Development Department/Agency/Corporation to be responsible for coordinating three CDS pillars, ensuring sustainable development in Alexandria.
  2. Capacity building for the new City Development Department on urban upgrading, to be delivered by GTZ; LED, through organizing an international LED workshop in Alexandria in conjunction with Barcelona, Turin, Seville, London, Lyons and Lisbon, providing guidance and tools to formulate Alexandria LED vision and objectives.
  3. Organized training and study tours.
  4. Ensure broad consultation with stakeholders, communities, and interest groups through regular CDS workshops, creating a website, media, and dissemination.
  • Environment/Lake Marriout: 
    With GEF Global Environment Facility, help to establish a Lake Management Authority with an independent Board of Directors, account, and operating mechanisms.

Alexandria CDS has been advocated by Alexandria Governorate, Cairo General Organization of Physical Planning (GOPP), Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development. It was prepared with technical and financial support from the Cities Alliance program and the World Bank. Total project costs are approximately 632 000 USD.

CDS process brought together people and organizations which would not have been brought together in normal planning practice. CDS created an appropriate forum to discuss problematic issues, even though at times the forum was not as inclusive as it could be. Furthermore, Alexandria is now the pioneer in Egypt in implementing a CDS project that includes a city-wide slum upgrading program. As the Government of Egypt began to put in place a national CDS program, other governorates were looking at the Alexandria experience. This CDS has contributed to the urban reform process and to nation-wide scales of action.
Alexandria CDS illustrates coherence of effort. Stakeholders note that government financing is better targeted through CDS. Processes structured exactly how infrastructure funds were to be spent. Furthermore, new partnerships and synergies have been established. From the outset, active World Bank involvement helped secure significant levels of follow-up finance for CDS program implementation.

Although Alexandria is one of the most economically successful governorates, focused on creating a dynamic and attractive city, CDS was not only a mechanism for participatory strategic planning but also a catalyst for investment and planning. CDS and follow-up investments suggest strategic interventions in both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ infrastructure. The former improves inhabitants’ living conditions and tackles key constraints on private sector development and economic growth. The latter addresses key barriers to investment and builds local capacity.

Inclusivity has always been a problem of traditional processes in Egyptian policy and project planning. All relevant stakeholders scheduled to be included in developing an urban vision and to have a granted voice in actual design, implementation and prioritization of urban investment, were not consulted in passing laws, regulations and plans. Thus CDS inclusivity requirement represented an enormous challenge.

This was particularly the case regarding participation by a wide range of NGOs, community development associations and other community groups representing the voices of poor people in the CDS process. Although a number of leading NGOs were always invited and actively participated in almost all workshops, in an affluent city such as Alexandria with many civil society organizations and community groups, the number of organizations not able to participate was always greater.

Several stakeholders felt there was lack of regular and frequent contact between people in charge of CDS, the Alexandria Governorate and other stakeholders. Several times it was emphasized that feedback and information were vital to CDS implementation. Otherwise, it was relatively easy for important stakeholders to forget or ignore CDS issues and even withdraw from the process. It was hoped that regular meetings, Partnership Forum workshops and other forms of informal communication would alleviate concerns to a certain extent and create opportunities for stakeholders to continue to think and talk about the progress being made.

As a general rule, investment plans are implemented in traditional top-down, supply-driven approaches. Instead, Alexandria CDS and follow-up investments relied on a bottom-up approach where ownership rests with local authorities/stakeholders, emphasizing broad-based participation in formulating the long-term vision, and identifying development programs.

In summary, the Alexandria case raises some points to be considered in future CDS in Egypt:

Timeline – if processes are to be participatory, a longer timeline may be required. In effect, with the two phases approved by the Cities Alliance, Alexandria CDS will require more than 24 months for completion. Participation – the project combines CDS and slum upgrading, yet without GTZ and SFD Social Fund for Development (Egypt) there could have been lack of opportunity for residents of slum communities to provide input to the broader CDS.

Sustainability – CDS funds establishing mechanisms (new bodies, such as the City Development Agency) to ensure CDS implementation is institutionalized. The next challenge is whether Alexandria will be able to assume the costs of the new unit. Municipal financing – CA grants help to fund a consultant (in phase II) in the area of municipal finance. This has been a gap in other CDS, it will be important to track how this kind of advisory / consulting service adds value to the CDS process. Stakeholder communication – established mechanisms used regularly to provide updates on progress to stakeholders. This will continue to facilitate continuous stakeholder engagement in the process.

Outreach – the study notes that CDS should be the “talk of the street;” however, this appears not yet to be the case. There is a need to emphasise communications and outreach in the CDS process.

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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