Assembling Priority Development Areas in Urban Contexts: A Case Study of the Sixth of October new city, Egypt

  • Hisham Nadim

Student thesis: Phd


This study aims to examine why and how specific sites are prioritised and others are marginalised in the planning and development of urban areas. In doing so, it develops a framework for analysing the rationales, spatial constructs, practices and the role of different actors in the articulation of priority development areas (PDAs), and testing it in the context of new cities in Egypt. The conceptual framework underpinning this study is rooted in assemblage thinking. The lens of the virtual and actual are mobilised to examine the multiple spatial imaginaries attached to different PDAs. The PDA assemblage framework identified three critical components necessary to understanding its formulation in different contexts. This includes: 1) the ‘codification processes’ practised through specific regulations, planning systems, institutional arrangements and technological tools, 2) the ‘milieu’ through which the scope of PDAs is defined, in addition to the spatial networks and scales framing the selection of sites, and 3) the state and non-state ‘actors’ and their capacities to mobilise certain imaginaries and PDAs through particular geometries of power. Drawing on empirical investigation of the Sixth of October new city in Egypt, the thesis illustrates the multiple interfaces between the three components, and their enabling and constraining effects on imaginary making and PDA implementation. Documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine how PDAs are perceived by policy elites, practitioners, investors and local communities. The analysis revealed three successive waves of urban-based imaginaries that emerged and retreated through the development of the city. Each imaginary focused on one of the three components as a leading rationale underpinning the making of PDAs. The first imaginary focused on the milieu of the Sixth of October city as a vanguard urban centre in the desert intended to help rebalance the Egyptian urban system in areas beyond the urbanised Nile Valley. PDAs were defined according to a blueprint land-use plan, while focusing on the physical structure of the city and its territorial separation from Cairo. Rooted in the socialist era, this plan depended on bureaucratic institutional arrangements and state finance. A challenge to the public funded urban development that characterised the first wave enabled a second imaginary to emerge, and shifted the focus on the roles and capacities of different types of actors, largely from the private sector, to drive growth. Underpinned by a neoliberal agenda, PDAs were articulated through close arrangements between elite political and market actors who led a real estate boom during the 2000s. After a period of flexible regulation and loose planning processes, a third imaginary emerged through a new strategic plan for the city. Informed by the planning system reforms in 2008, the new planning law articulated a participatory mechanism to define PDAs. However, the power of political and market actors to lead specific PDAs, weak institutional arrangements, a marginalised planning system, and a durable socio-spatial morphology were critical in undermining the efficiency and effectiveness of the strategic plan in actualising and coordinating PDAs across the city. The research concludes that while the milieu, codification processes and actors are pivotal components in the making of PDAs, their relative importance and capacities are reassembled according to the particular diagrams that hold them together to achieve certain political, economic, social or developmental goals.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Kingston (Supervisor) & Stephen Hincks (Supervisor)


  • Assemblage urbanism
  • Priority development area (PDA)
  • Urban growth management
  • Egypt
  • New cities

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