Governing greater Cairo: An example of dominant national authorities and fragmented responsibilities


City Profile:

Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt with a population of 10,230,350 in 2011. The city´s metropolitan area is the largest in the Middle East and the Arab world, and 15 th largest in the world. The economy of Cairo was ranked first in the Middle East in 2005, and 43rd globally by Foreign Policy`s 2010 Global Cities Index.



David Sims specializes in aspects of urban development, economics, and housing in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Since 1971 he has worked for a wide range of multilateral and bilateral development agencies, as well as host countries. Half of his experience has been in Egypt, and he has written extensively about Greater Cairo’s development and, in particular, the growing dominance of informal settlements. His books include Understanding Cairo: The Logic of a City out of Control (Cairo: AUC Press, 2012.) He was educated at Yale and Harvard universities. For four decades he has been based in Cairo.



Greater Cairo offers an interesting case study of a huge metropolitan area and primate capital city that has developed under a governance system characterized by dominant national authorities and virtually no metropolitan-level coordination or structures. In spite of serious challenges that include dichotomous spatial development, very weak local authorities, massive informal settlements, serious transport problems, and imbalances in the funding of investments, attempts at instituting metropolitan governance have so far had no success. The difficulties of introducing useful reform offer a cautionary tale for efforts at promoting metropolitan governance elsewhere.