Egypt: What the world refuses to see

Azza Radwan Sedky
Saturday 9 Dec 2017

As the world, its media in particular, focuses on fabricated innuendos, sketchy hearsay, and patchy made-up stories about Egypt, Egypt is turning the page on many fronts and reversing the stagnancy that existed for many years

Disbelievers remain outlandish in their grim look of where Egypt is heading. They intentionally overlook extraordinary economic accomplishments, never considering them triumphs. So here is my effort to let the world see the other side of the coin by studying the leaps and bounds Egypt is taking today.

It was high time the Egyptian pound got floated, and despite the burden that befell Egyptians and the hike in inflation, the results are manifesting successes.

Currently no shortage in hard currency exists; in fact, the hard currency reserve of $37.700 billion is over double the $17 billion that existed in 2014 surging the confidence of investors in Egypt.

Egypt’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is growing faster than the debt growth, which according to the Middle East Observer means “we can overcome the bleeding of debt accumulation,” as the ratio of net public debt to GDP fell from 84.4 percent to 77.4 percent.

This is allowing Egypt to repay some of its debts. It has repaid $2 billion to the African Export-Import Bank out of a $3.2 billion short-term loan with the intention of repaying the remaining $1.2 billion in weeks’ time.

This is in addition to the several repayments that occurred between 2014 and 2017: $6 billion to Qatar, 50 percent of the foreign oil companies’ debts totaling $6.5 billion, and, again according to the Middle East Observer, “$17 billion of foreign liabilities” repaid in 11 months (between November 2016 and October 2017).”

This while the unemployment rate decreased to 11.2 percent. It had reached 13.4 percent in 2013. The difference doesn’t sound as much, but it translates to over two million new jobs. These new jobs are being created in various sectors in all governorates across Egypt while utilising and enhancing existing industries and know how.

In the olden days, project inaugurations were single events where an official went to a governorate to cut the ribbon, reveal the memorial plaque, and announce the commencement of the project. Today, via video conferencing, the official inaugurates several national mega projects consecutively.

In one sitting, President El Sisi inaugurated the second phase of the western ring road, the first phase of Road el Farag axis, the first phase of expansion of Port Said/Sharm El Sheik Road, Ismailia/PortSaid Road, Taba/Ras el Nagab Road. That is in addition to the inauguration of bridges in Gharbiya, Qena, and Minya, a crossroad in Aswan, a social housing project in Ismailia, South Sinai, Minufiya, Damietta, and Sohag.

Another example is when, in May, President El Sisi inaugurated several major national projects in the industry and health domains in Damietta Governorate including a military hospital, a furniture city, and emergency hospital in Kafr Saad, and the first phase of a middle-class housing project.

Only a few days back, the largest fish farm in the Middle East was inaugurated in Berket Ghalioun in Kafr El Sheikh. The project consists of a hatchery for fish and shrimp on an area of 17 feddans with a capacity of 20 million fish and two billion shrimp, an ice factory to freeze the fish, a foam factory to produce containers to store and transport the fish, a development and training centre, and a central laboratory to ensure high quality products, in addition to housing areas to serve the workers.

Kafr El Sheikh is a vulnerable link in the immigration to Europe cycle, and this project is set to offer 5,000 job opportunities and supply 27 per cent of the fish consumed in Egypt, all this in one of the poorest villages in the country.

In 2013, power outages had reached an unprecedented level. Today, blackouts are almost non existent.  The government has utilized all the possible venues to clamp down on shortages, that as Egypt’s growing energy needs increase. By 2022, Egypt is to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable sources, solar and wind in particular.

This brings us to the Benban Solar Park, in Benban, Aswan, the biggest solar installation in the world. It will house 32 power plants. By mid-2019, the plants “will be capable of churning out a combined 1,650 megawatts of electricity—enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses,” according to IFC, the World Bank Group.

From 100 million palm trees in Wadi El Gadid, to produce 600,000 tonnes of dates, to fish farms in Kafr el Sheikh that will provide a quarter of the fish consumption to Egypt, from new cities in Alamein to Ismailia that aim to move Egyptians from congested areas to unutilized areas across Egypt.

More importantly Egyptians, because they are confident, are giving more than they ever did to build hospitals and power plants, bring clean water and sewage systems to hundreds of villages, empower women and provide them with the training that allows them to lead a respectful life, and treat Hepatitis C victims.

Over 2 million cases of Hepatitis C were treated, mostly for free, in the last two years with an efficacy rate of 98 percent. Then, Egypt instigated the Tour and Cure Project where it encourages Hepatitis C patients to visit Egypt and enjoy touring and visiting sites, this while being treated for a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world.

The new road network that is being built under international standards around Egypt is a national plan to connect all the corners of Egypt together. Up to 3,200km of new roads, including 15 new roads across the country, costing LE36 billion, are being built.

The amusing part in all this is that the president and his team have stopped listening to the fuss and the made up stories. You see they are on a mission to improve the status of Egyptians in the short allotted time: four more years.

They intend to leave Egypt in a better state, and they are on their way to do so.

The writer is an academic, political analyst, and author of Cairo Rewind: The First Two Years of Egypt's Revolution, 2011-2013.


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