The Egyptian government is fast tracking a national project that has been too long in the coming, something to which the decline in the rural development indicators testify. This has been due to decades of neglect of the development needs of the Egyptian village. The National Programme for the Development of Egyptian Villages aims to improve the quality of life for all of the country’s 4,741 villages, promising each its rightful share of infrastructural development, public services and income-generating economic projects that will create job opportunities for their inhabitants.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi launched this programme in 2019, in the framework of the Decent Life Initiative, in order to change the face of rural Egypt and raise the standards of living of the 58 million Egyptians who live in the countryside. Over LE 500 billion has been allocated to the programme. In the light of rural to urban migration rates of up to 55 per cent, the government hopes the village development programme will significantly reduce these rates.
According to a recent statement by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, the first stage of the programme targets 143 rural communities in 11 governorates in the 2019-2020 fiscal year and 232 more rural communities in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
A total of 375 villages in this stage, home to approximately 4.5 million people, will soon receive the benefits of 2,180 projects costing a total of LE 13.5 billion. This stage, which is nearly 50 per cent complete, includes bringing 58,000 houses up to the standards of dignified housing through the installation of new roofing and water pipes and wastewater linkups as well as upgrading the community’s potable water, wastewater, drainage, road, electricity and street lighting grids and networks, and other such services. The communities will also be linked by a network of modern roads.
The cabinet will meet once a week in order to follow up on the implementation of the various stages and projects of the programme, which experts believe will radically transform life in Egypt as a whole. The prime minister said that 60 per cent of the Egyptian people will feel the fruits economic reform as the many development projects in this programme come to life.
The Egyptian government has adopted a multi-pronged development approach. It is expanding urban construction and development projects while modernising old communities where possible, and creating new agricultural, residential and industrial zones. It is simultaneously modernising the means of production with the introduction of new technologies and digitalised processes. We can already see vast progress in urban areas where random development and unsafe housing had prevailed.
This urban renewal in fact began before the village development programme. In addition, as part of what has been described as an “unprecedented development drive that seeks to deliver the tangible fruits of development efforts to all sectors of society”, the government has constructed thousands of kilometres of new roads and repaired and upgraded double that amount in the existing road network. It has also improved the rail and public transportation services and converted public transportation vehicles to natural gas as part of the drive to optimise domestic potential.
Infrastructure and infrastructural services are a key element in development and a main draw to direct investment in the local market. They are among the inducements that encourage investors to adopt positive economic and investment positions in the framework of a clear investment map and a comprehensive development vision.
With its latest national projects, the Egyptian government has once again underscored the centrality of the Egyptian market as an important investment hub in the Arab world and Africa. This market offers a robust and modern infrastructure, an array of investment incentives and privileges for companies and individuals with serious business projects, access to a vast consumer market and ample possibilities for deals that will enable locally produced products to reach dozens of markets without customs duties or taxes.
Rural Egypt will be an integral part of the new gravitational force drawing investors into the race for sustainable development to make life better for all Egyptians.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly