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Egypt's interim govt, businessmen revive Upper Egypt development plans

A Cairo conference considers public-private partnerships to develop Upper Egypt, home to 80 percent of Egyptians living in extreme poverty

Waad Ahmed , Saturday 14 Dec 2013
farmers
An Egyptian girl stands near banana fields grown by farmers to be sold at markets in Luxor, Egypt (Photo: AP)
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Egypt’s private sector launched an initiative last week to cooperate with the government in developing needy Upper Egypt governorates in a conference which saw the participation of businessmen and state ministers.
 
Development in Upper Egypt is achievable only through public-private partnership, said Mohamed Farid, head of the Federation of Egypt Investors.
 
In praise of the initiative, Ashraf El-Araby, minister of planning, welcomed private sector contributions while emphasising that development in Upper Egypt is a mission the government cannot embark on alone.
 
"We, the same working teams who worked together before the revolution, are preparing a development plan for 2015-2030," added El-Araby.
 
"The right path for developing Upper Egypt is that which was paved by Mahmoud Mohie Eddin (Egypt's former minister of investment who served under deposed president Hosni Mubarak)," said Sohag governor Mahmoud Othman.
 
Within that framework state ministers proposed building public housing and developing infrastructure, as well as training labour for private sector requirements.
 
Participants in the conference from the private sector proposed other projects, including establishing a holding company for Upper Egypt, and expanding industrial zones. They asked the government to provide them with land and to prepare the necessary infrastructure.
 
"I am inviting you to participate in developing Upper Egypt before we demand separation," Ashraf El-Thaalaby, the secretary of unregistered group the Upper Egyptians Party told the audience.
 
El-Thaalaby was invited to speak at the conference by the governor of Sohag to convey the problems faced by young Egyptians in the long neglected Upper Egypt region.
 
"Development in Upper Egypt is urgently needed. I am warning that if Upper Egypt does not get soon the attention it desperately needs from the state we could be seeing the Sudanese scenario," said El-Thaalaby in reference to the 2011 secession of South Sudan.
 
Adel Labib, minister of local development, responded with contention, arguing that Upper Egypt is not as neglected as the young journalist claimed and that such talk opens up space for a bidding war on participants' patriotism.
 
The crisis
 
Roughly 25 million Egyptians reside in Upper Egypt, accounting for almost 40 percent of the population, according to January 2013 statistics from state-owned statistics agency CAPMAS.

Upper Egypt is home to 80 percent of Egyptians living in severe poverty, according to a report issued by the World Bank.
 
More than half of Upper Egypt residents living in rural areas are poor, while the two poorest governorates in Egypt are located there — Assiut and Qena, with poverty rates at 60 and 58 percent of residents respectively, says CAPMAS.
 
In fact, even as poverty declined in the period from 1995 to 2000 by 14 percent on the national level, rural Upper Egypt actually saw an increase in poverty rates by 17 percent, according to UNICEF.
 
One of many ramifications is the spread of chronic malnutrition among young children. Illiteracy in Upper Egypt is also higher than the national average, sitting at 17 percent, shows the World Bank report.
 
Almost half of youth in Upper Egypt are jobless, neither employed nor seeking work, while official youth unemployment (those actively seeking work) is at 16 percent.
 
The report also showed that government jobs remain the only socially acceptable form of employment, especially for women.
 
Last September, during a visit to Upper Egypt, Interim President Adly Mansour pointed out that it was long marginalised because previous governments failed in their duty to develop it, underlining that it is time to start a real development process in Upper Egypt, especially in the fields of infrastructure, health and education.

Existing projects
 
Upper Egypt is already home to 6,130 industrial establishments at investments amounting to LE35.8 billion (9.7 percent of total industrial investment in Egypt), according to the country's Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
 
Those industrial establishments employ 148,639 workers (8.6 percent of labour employed in industrial establishments across Egypt) who are paid wages amounting to LE1.2 billion (5.9 percent of wages paid in industrial establishments across Egypt).
 
In 2009, the government had approved LE4.3 billion for projects on infrastructure improvement in the country's poorest 1000 villages, which are mostly located in Upper Egypt. 
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Ahmed M Ibrahim
16-12-2013 10:33am
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Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt is home to Aswan Dam, Aswan High Dam, East Oweinat project, Toshka Mega Agricultural project, Tourism projects in Luxor, international airports at Aswan, Luxor and Sohag besides such prosperous trading centres like Assiut and the New Valley which is booming with agro industrial activity. Poverty and unemployment are mainly confined to villages, where it has to be tackled by introducing new schemes for development, mainly based on handicrafts, tourism as also mini loans to local women entrepreneurs. Heavy industries like cement will spoil the environment which is fast deteriorating.
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Sam Enslow
16-12-2013 05:59pm
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Ramses II
You are correct, but the Egyptian government has a Ramses II Complex. Many strides have been made in mico economic projects and infrastructure projects for small villages, but all of these seem to be ignored. Everyone wants a BIG SHOW rather than actual rersults. I will also bet no one spoke to the people of the villages to ask what they thought they needed.
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