On Wednesday, 16 provincial governors and 23 deputies were sworn in before President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. The step was a surprise, not so much because many were expecting a cabinet reshuffle on that day, but because this was the first time in Egypt's modern history that such a big number of young people have been appointed deputy governors.
According to presidential spokesperson Bassam Rady, four of the 16 governors had been governors previously in different regions, while 12 were completely new appointments. "But all 23 deputy governors are young people, and seven are women," said Rady.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told reporters that one of the main objectives of the appointments was to inject new blood into governorate leadership.
"We want to prepare a new generation of young and professional leaders in all sectors of Egypt, and for this reason we selected 23 young leaders, compared with 12 in the previous shake-up of provincial governors [in 2018], to join the new appointments."
Most of the young deputy governors are between 30 and 35 years in age, Madbouly said, and they were selected only after they had received specialised training programmes at the National Youth Academy and the Institute of Planning in the areas of local administration and executive leadership.
"I am sure that in just few years that all provincial governorates in Egypt will be young people between 30 and 35 years of age, and capable of performing all kinds of duties and responsibilities," said Madbouly.
Minister of Local Administration Mahmoud Shaarawi also said that "in a two-hour meeting with new governors and their deputies [on Wednesday], President El-Sisi said the new move would help young people take a note of the challenges facing the government in different governorates."
"You will gain experience when you face problems on the ground and you will have to find new solutions for them," El-Sisi said.
Shaarawi argued that, in selecting young deputy governors, their political or ideological background was not important. "The new young deputy governors are drawn from different political parties, including the opposition ones, because we want all to serve Egypt regardless of their political views.”
“All we hope is that they get the experience necessary to become the nucleus of future governors and leaders in this country," said Shaarawi.
Many of the young deputy governors are also graduates of the Presidential Leadership Programme (PLP), the minister said.
"We selected these 23 graduates in particular because they were the most industrious, hardworking, effective and smart ones, and were keen all the time to come up with new ,intelligent solutions for improving the government's performance in social, economic and political areas," said Shaarawi.
"President El-Sisi told them that, as you are the ones who introduce significant proposals, now you will have the opportunity to put these into action on the ground."
Since the new appointments were made public on Tuesday, most of the domestic media, particularly TV talk shows, having been focusing on the 23 young appointees.
"They are not former army and police officers as usual, and most of them are between 30 and 35 and could be future leaders of this country," said one TV commentator on Wednesday night.
Ahmed El-Sigini, head of parliament's local administration committee, told Ahram Online that "the appointment of 23 young leaders as deputy provincial governors is a very progressive step."
"As we see, the new initiative comes on the heels of others which have been taken since President El-Sisi came to office in 2014," said El-Sigini, adding that "the first initiative came in the form of holding seven National Youth Forums between 2016 and 2019, and most of these recommended that young people be appointed to leading positions in all sectors in Egypt.
"The election laws will also make sure that a large number of young people join two chambers of parliament – the House of Representatives and the Senate – and the local councils in the future," he said.
"So, in a short period of time, I expect that young leaders will be everywhere, taking charge of executive posts in the government and also exercising roles as MPs in the parliament."
Statistics show that five of the 23 young deputy governors are affiliated with political opposition parties which are members of what is called "the Parties' Young People and Politicians Committee.”
It was composed of 12 political opposition parties when it was first formed in April 2018, and has since grown to include 28 parties.
The committee's two spokesmen – Haitham El-Sheikh and Mohamed Moussa – were appointed deputy governors of Daqahliya and Menoufiya respectively.
Three other leaders of the committee – Ibrahim El-Shehabi (a member of the opposition Generation Party), Bilal Habash (a member of the Free Egyptians Party), and Hazem Omar ( a member of the prime minister's technical office and of the Future of Homeland Party) were appointed deputy governors of Giza, Beni Suef, and Qena respectively.
Out of the 23 new appointments, three were women who are graduates of the Presidential Leadership Programme. These are Jacklyn Azer, a Coptic physician; Ghada Abu Zeid, an electrical engineer; and Dina El-Dessouki, a psychiatrist. They were appointed deputy governors of Alexandria, Aswan and Marsa Matrouh respectively.
Amr Hashem Rabie, an Al-Ahram political analyst, said the appointment of 23 young people as deputy governors is an important step.
"I hope that next time we will see them be appointed governors, with the experience to reform Egypt's local administration system," said Rabie. "I also hope that we will see young people appointed deputy ministers when the time for a cabinet reshuffle comes."
"The next step should also make sure that laws on local councils and the two parliamentary chambers – the House and the Senate – stipulate that young people take a considerable number of seats," he added, arguing that "when people revolted in 2011 in what was called the Arab Spring it was because they were isolated and marginalised."
"Aware of this grave mistake, leaders of this country should make sure that the new steps and initiatives should reinforce the sense of belonging among young people who in their turn should realise that the more they are hardworking, the more they will be rewarded," said Rabie.