Infotmation and stories on Egypt

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis C in Egypt
In Egypt, the country with the highest prevalence of hepatitis C in the world, the virus affects an estimated 6.3% of the population. Since 2014, Egypt has made great leaps in combatting hepatitis C. With support from the World Bank, the Transforming Egypt’s Healthcare System Project has worked to improve the quality of healthcare offered across medical facilities, as well as tested and treated patients infected with hepatitis C. Between 2018 and 2019, almost 50 million citizens were tested and 2 million patients received free treatment.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C, or HCV, is a viral infection transmitted through unscreened blood transfusions and the use of contaminated or unsterilized needles, as well as instruments used for tattooing or body piercing. While it can remain asymptomatic — in most cases, if untreated, hepatitis C can eventually cause chronic infections, liver inflammation (or failure) and death. Hepatitis C is a serious public health issue, which causes financial and social stress for patients and Egypt as a whole.

The hepatitis C epidemic began in Egypt during the 1950s–1980s, with the use of poorly sterilized needles in the treatment of schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. The anti-schistosomiasis treatment campaign terminated in the 1980s. However, HCV incidence rates remained high, despite regular screening of blood at blood banks and attempts to improve public health standards.

Mass Screening & Awareness Programs

In 2014, the Egyptian Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO, proposed with a program to educate, test and treat patients infected with hepatitis C, particularly in rural areas where the condition was more prevalent. Most of the treated citizens already had a positive diagnosis for the virus. Later, as the number of patients began to stagnate and dwindle. Efforts then shifted to testing and treating those who had possible infections but remained asymptomatic.

In 2018, a national population-based screening program was launched to test 62 million adults and 15 million adolescents. Additionally, the free screening program also included tests for diabetes, obesity and blood pressure. The program, offered at screening centers and mobile units set up at community spaces such as mosques, youth centers and factories — also provides HCV treatments.

Low-Cost Drugs & Free Treatment

The Egyptian government successfully negotiated significant price reductions for direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs with the drug manufacturer. Egypt achieved a further reduction in prices by permitting local, generic competition. This reduced the price for one DAA drug from $28,000 to $23 (for a one-month supply) and a second drug from $21,000 to $3.30. This allowed the Egyptian government to combat the epidemic on a scale that would have otherwise been impossible.

Furthermore, the Egyptian government offered a 12-week treatment program and follow-up care, free of cost for citizens. Between 2014 and 2019, the Egyptian government offered free care to 88% of patients.

A Healthcare Model for the World

The Egyptian government, with support from the World Bank and in alignment with the WHO, has made continued efforts to tackle hepatitis C through mass programs that spread awareness among citizens. These same programs provide free, accessible testing, vaccination, infection control, treatment and follow-up. While Egypt is still working to rescue its population from this epidemic, the country offers a model of admirable success for the rest world.

Amy Olassa
Photo: Flickr

#metoo movement in EgyptEgypt has consistently struggled with sexual assault, an issue that goes hand-in-hand with poverty. A United Nations study showed that 99% of all Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual assault. Additionally, another study in 2017 declared Cairo the most dangerous city in the world for women. Learn about the history and reasoning behind the #MeToo movement in Egypt.

Egypt’s History of Sexual Violence

The #MeToo movement in Egypt may be contemporary, but Egypt’s sexual assault problem has been around for many years. In an attempt to replace the president of Egypt with a more democratic figure, people took to the streets in early 2011 in what is known as the Arab Spring. Although the protests succeeded in orchestrating the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, any dreams of a democratic ruler failed to come true, and women faced worsening sexual violence.

Under Mubarak’s rule, sexual assault was covered up by the president’s own police force. After these aggressive authorities were removed, Egypt’s sexual assault issue was thrust into the world spotlight when stories emerged of several women being sexually assaulted in a public square in Cairo. The perpetrators faced no consequences, and the women were blamed for their own assaults. This paved the way for future sexual assaults to go unpunished in Egypt.

The Allegation that Reignited the Movement

Despite protests and performative legislative changes, the sexual assault of lower-class citizens in Egypt continues to occur at alarming rates. Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a 22-year-old former student at the American International School and the American University in Cairo, was accused of sexual assault by over 100 women in June 2020. The schools Zaki attended are regarded as some of Egypt’s most elite universities for wealthy families, which is what makes his case so unique. For the first time, an upper-class male was held responsible for sexual violence.

Zaki has been officially accused of blackmail and rape, with one of his victims being just 14 years old. Combined with several other stories of sexual assault that emerged in the last decade, this story contributed to the resurgence of the #MeToo movement in Egypt. The country’s campaign is supported by an Instagram account called Assault Police, where Egyptian women have shared their stories of assault. Zaki’s story clearly demonstrates that, regardless of age or social standing, sexual harassment is a rampant issue throughout Egypt. Although this concept applies to countries worldwide, the Egyptian government’s choice to ignore this problem has earned Cairo its reputation as an unsafe space.

Change Is on the Horizon

The Egyptian government has prioritized its presently unstable economy over many of its other problems, including sexual violence. Although Egyptian women have protested this issue in the past, their protests have failed to gain traction due to the dangers they face in public places. Furthermore, the default response to a woman’s sexual assault story in Egypt is to place the blame on her for dressing or behaving a certain way. Both of these considerations have essentially barred women from coming forward to share their stories, until now.

Women have embraced the opportunity to finally share their stories, and the prosecution of wealthy men like Zaki is a powerful step in the right direction. In response to Egypt’s #MeToo movement and the Assault Police Instagram page, current president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has enacted a law that increases protections for sexual assault victims. Although the country still has much work to do, the #MeToo movement in Egypt has made one thing clear: the country’s women refuse to be silenced any longer.

– Natalie Tarbox

Photo: Flickr

Fast Track COVID-19 FacilityAs of July, the World Bank committed $7.9 million in COVID-19 treatment and prevention aid to Egypt with the Fast Track Covid-19 Facility project. To find out more about this aid, The Borgen Project has interviewed the World Bank’s team of Egypt correspondents.

Interview With the World Bank’s Team of Correspondents

1. Could you speak more about why Egypt qualifies for the World Bank’s new Fast Track COVID-19 Facility and why the World Bank spurred this initiative?

“In March, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a package of fast-track financing to assist countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Bank organized and approved the fast track facility to quickly get resources to countries dealing with a fast-moving, global public health crisis.

As an IBRD* member, Egypt qualified for $50 million funding, the maximum amount available under the Facility based on the criteria of population size.

More information on the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 operational response is available on our website.”

*IBRD, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, consists of countries that are pre-approved for World Bank lending.

2. What organizations in Egypt will receive this funding? Why are these organizations chosen?

“The World Bank’s Egypt office worked closely with our counterparts in the Ministry of Health and Population to design the project, with funds that continue to support:

  1. procuring and distributing medical equipment and supplies necessary for the COVID-19 response
  2. health worker training
  3. operations of specifically designated quarantine, isolation and treatment centers
  4. mobilization of rapid response teams in contact tracing of COVID-19 cases
  5. development of contextualized messaging platforms and tools to improve public awareness of COVID prevention
  6. innovative monitoring and evaluation of social distancing strategies including community mobilization.

After receiving the funds, the Government of Egypt decides which organizations are chosen to execute specific parts of the project, such as the procurement of equipment. As part of the project, the World Bank’s technical experts continue to advise the Government of Egypt on technical issues related to the execution and evaluation of the project.”

3. What strategies does the World Bank use to ensure its funding avoids corrupt hands?

“With all of its operations, the World Bank has zero tolerance for fraud and corruption, and we take very seriously our obligation to ensure that the Bank’s funds are used for clearly defined activities and reach affected communities.

Emergency financing provided by the World Bank is subject to the same high level of safeguards as regular financing, including reporting requirements and oversight requirements. With the COVID-19 Facility, as in all World Bank operations, we have put checks and balances into place to help address fiduciary risks.

Additionally, the World Bank Group’s sanctions system ensures that fraud and corruption impacting WBG-financed activities are addressed efficiently and fairly, and that a strong deterrence message is complemented with a focus on prevention and integrity compliance programs.

More information on the World Bank’s procurement framework can be found on our website.”

Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Egypt
In early 2020, the population of Egypt increased to more than 100 million. Overcrowding in urban spaces, with an estimated 95% of the population living on about 4% of the land, has aggravated pollution and traffic while placing a strain on resources, such as clean drinking water. The poverty rate was at 32.5% in 2019, and unemployment, especially among youths, has elevated the need for affordable, accessible and quality healthcare. In recent years, these concerns have led to the implementation of measures to reform Egypt’s underfunded public healthcare system. Here are seven facts about healthcare in Egypt and measures to reform the system.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Egypt

  1. In Egypt, the Ministry of Health and Population governs the healthcare system comprised of the government, public/parastatal and private healthcare sectors. In 2016, reports determined that there were 1.5 beds per 1,000 people This is low in comparison to the world average of 2.7 beds per 1,000 people.
  2. The public/parastatal sector consists of quasi-governmental organizations such as the Health Insurance Organization and the Curative Care Organization. Citizens can obtain insurance coverage via private insurers who have government support. However, many consider services that public healthcare facilities to be low in quality due to years of underfunding. The lack of medical equipment and qualified personnel in combination with low sanitation and compromised safety measures, especially in facilities located in rural areas, compel citizens to turn to private facilities.
  3. Private healthcare facilities consist of nonprofit organizations and for-profit hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. With increased privatization and better quality healthcare, these facilities account for the dominant portion of services that Egypt provides. People largely have to pay expenses out-of-pocket (60% of health spending, as recorded in 2007-2008) and accessible only to people who can afford care. The private healthcare sector is highly fragmented, with the fewest number of beds in comparison to government and public/parastatal facilities.
  4. In 2017, reports determined that the maternal mortality ratio was 37 per 100,000 live births. The ratio has decreased substantially since 2000 when records stated it was at 64 per 100,000 live births. In the past few years, the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA have worked with the Ministry of Health and Population to improve the quality of obstetric and emergency care, access to family planning as well as midwifery and nursing care.
  5. In 2018, the Universal Health Insurance Law emerged to restructure the healthcare system by providing universal health coverage and making healthcare services affordable to all citizens. In June 2020, The World Bank announced $400 million in support of the implementation of the Universal Health Insurance System. The phased implementation of this law should be complete by 2032. It requires compulsory enrollment by all citizens residing in the country, with vulnerable groups receiving subsidization from the government. This law is also in alignment with the nation’s focus on preserving human capital through better prenatal and early childhood care.
  6. In Egypt, hepatitis C, an epidemic that has stretched across three decades, affected an estimated 6.3% of the population. In 2018, The Transforming Egypt’s Healthcare System Project emerged in alignment with the WHO’s Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis and with active support from The World Bank. The project accomplished mass-screening that tested more than 50 million residents and offered free treatment to more than 2 million patients.
  7. As of July 2020, Egypt has reported more than 4,000 deaths and over 85,000 cases of COVID-19. However, since testing is limited, the actual numbers could be higher. The pandemic has uncovered a lack of sufficient PPE supply and exposed a strained public healthcare system. In May, 2020, The World Bank provided $50 million in funding to Egypt’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project.

Egypt still requires work to reform its healthcare system. However, the implementation of the Universal Health Insurance Law and continued support from international organizations, such as The World Bank, is helping make a change. These combined efforts are working to make quality healthcare accessible to all citizens of Egypt.

Amy Olassa
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Women in EgyptRecently, five young Egyptian women were sentenced to two years in jail each for violating public morals through videos they uploaded to TikTok. These women in Egypt are influencers on TikTok and Instagram and have over two million followers. Haneen Hossam, a 20-year-old student at Cairo University, uploaded the video. In the video, she encouraged other young women to meet and cultivate friendships with men. Men are able to do this through a sponsored video chat app.

More Inequality Toward Women in Egypt

This repressive verdict is only the most recent in a series of laws and court decisions. Similar to others, it squashes young women’s freedom of expression in Egypt. This is especially done on the internet. More than 40% of Egyptian youths are regular internet users, which opens many doors for communication, education and entertainment. However, the certain punishments of young women for their behavior on the internet do not apply to young men in the same way. For instance, a belly dancer who posted videos on the internet was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for debauchery, and other female singers, artists and dancers have received similar treatment.

Given that gender equality and women’s empowerment are crucial to eradicating global poverty, attacks on women like these by the Egyptian government are especially troubling. In light of these disturbing outcomes for young women in Egypt, it is important to highlight nongovernmental organizations. These are the NGOs that do the important work of fighting for gender equality and empowerment in Egypt. The below organizations work to elevate women’s status in Egyptian society by providing opportunities for economic participation. They also work to address sexual violence and improve access to education.

What is Being Done

Only 26% of Egyptian women participate in the labor force, compared with 79% of men. Women in developing economies that include the economy of Egypt will forge progress in gender equality, economic growth, and poverty eradication.

The Center of Egyptian Family Development operates in Upper Egypt, providing women with economic opportunities. The NGO provides technical training and marketing support for handicraft production offered exclusively to women in this area. The NGO has reached nearly 340 women with its economic initiatives and has seen numerous positive outcomes. Communities are more aware of gender equality issues, women have improved negotiation power, and many women have since become interested in running for local elections.

Women also suffer from lower literacy rates in Egypt at 65% compared to 82% for males. Access to education for women and girls is critical to ensuring their active participation in the workforce and the reduction of poverty. One NGO working to protect access to education is the Association of the Advancement of Education. This organization prioritizes reducing dropout rates for Egyptian girls through researching and influencing education policy.

Based in Cairo, the NGO works with the United Nations as well as the Egyptian Ministry of Education to achieve its goals.

More Help from Organizations

Another enormous obstacle that women in Egypt face is the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence. Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault in Cairo provides a hotline for victims of sexual assault, and also works to combat sexual harassment in public places. This organization steps in to evacuate women from violent situations. It also provides them with legal and medical assistance and operates safe houses as well. The group also believes in the importance of female participation in its cause. It erodes the narrative that women need to be rescued by men. Activist Reem Labib said, “The solution is not just for men to defend us. We, too, have to participate.” Where the Egyptian government and courts fail the women of the country, groups such as OpAntiSH step in.

 

The NGOs highlighted above are only a few of the myriad organizations working tirelessly toward women’s equality and empowerment in Egypt. They face many barriers like the recent women’s censorship online and the harsh punishments that followed. However, one thing is clear: Egyptian women have demonstrated their refusal to be silent and complicit. As a result, a new generation of young activists yields hope.

 

Addison Collins
Photo: Care

child homelessness in Egypt
Egypt is a presidential republic in North Africa. Famous for its history, archaeological values and vast deserts, Egypt is one of the oldest countries in the world. However, Egypt went through a period of political, societal and economical turmoil during the 2010s. By 2011, former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his office, and between 2011 and 2018, the nation went through multiple presidents. All of this political and societal turmoil contributed to homelessness. In particular, child homelessness in Egypt is a pervasive issue.

Child Homelessness in Egypt

Child homelessness is an issue that has plagued the country for a long time. According to a survey conducted by Egypt’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research, there were an estimated three million homeless children in Egypt in 2011. The Egyptian government took measures to combat child homelessness, however. In 2003, the government adopted a new national strategy that aimed to protect and rehabilitate homeless children, also known as street children. This initiative aimed to alleviate child homelessness in the country through multiple coordinated projects between the government and NGOs.

While this initiative saw a relative amount of success, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead of alleviating child homelessness in Egypt. These homeless children are often in danger of sex trafficking, street begging and forced labor.

Life for Street Children

Poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, child abuse and neglect are some of the main causes of Egypt’s child homelessness crisis. While not all street children lack a stable family and a home to return to, the majority of the street children still live, work and sleep in the streets. A young woman interviewed by France 24 in 2017 said that she left her parents’ house when she was six years old because her father abused her. She has lived on the streets ever since. Unfortunately, this young woman’s story is not uncommon among street children.

However, life on the streets is still harsh. Many people in Egypt view street children as drug-addicts and criminals. As a result, there seems to be a general hesitation in donating to the NGOs and shelters that are trying to assist the homeless street children of Egypt. According to a 2010 study that interviewed a total of 857 street children in Cairo and Alexandria, 93% of the children stated that they faced harassment or abuse on the streets. Furthermore, the study found that 62% of the children used drugs. Among adolescent girls 15 to 17 years old, most of them stated that they had suffered sexual abuse.

Government Efforts

Fortunately, there are programs in place to help the street children of Egypt. In 2016, the government launched a project aimed to build shelters and educate street children. Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity also launched the “Children Without Shelter” program. Ministry workers train street children in first-aid and try to collect any paperwork or identification which they can use to move the children into a shelter. Getting children into shelters is difficult because Egyptian law does not allow shelters to receive children who do not provide a birth certificate.

The government also created the “Protecting Homeless Children” program, which deploys 17 mobile bus teams that provide temporary medical and psychological services. If a child is able to be united with their family, a separate team keeps in touch with the child’s family.

Moving Forward

Street children of Egypt are the ones who are most vulnerable to homelessness in Egypt. These Egyptian street children, who ran away from abuse, neglect and poverty, face harsh realities living on the street. On top of lacking shelter and food, the homeless children of Egypt face discrimination and further abuse on the streets. Thankfully, the Egyptian government is taking measures to alleviate child homelessness in Egypt. Many hope for a future where child homelessness will be a story of the past in Egypt.

-YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Egypt
Egypt’s rich history and fantastic architecture, such as the Pyramids of Giza and other attractions, often convince travelers across the globe to visit. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused tourism, a beneficial economic endeavor in Egypt, to reduce. Those in government positions are working quickly to try and appease the challenges that COVID-19 has caused in Egypt. Here is some information regarding the economic impact of COVID-19 in Egypt and possible solutions to ease the hardships that the population is facing daily.

Tourism

The Egyptian economy heavily relies on tourists between January and March before the summer. The climate temperatures during those months favor travelers who do not wish to encounter the intense heat while exploring the area. This industry makes up 12% of Egypt’s workforce. COVID-19 in Egypt is complicating revenue that tourism generates for Egypt’s economy because of the travel restrictions it caused. In fact, projections have determined that Egypt’s GDP could reduce between 0.7% and 0.8% due to COVID-19 measures such as travel restrictions. The loss of visiting tourists could make up two-thirds of this GDP reduction.

Children

Egypt lies within the North African region’s borders. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the area contains nearly 25 million children in need, including refugees and internally displaced children. Estimates claim that this area could lose 1.7 million jobs in 2020 because of the virus in the region. Increases in poverty may occur with an additional 8 million, about half being children.

UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa asked governmental and nongovernmental partners for $93 million in support to help children in the region. Additionally, UNICEF has included Egypt on the list of countries with potentially vulnerable populations due to limited access to nutritional food because of COVID-19. UNICEF’s Regional Nutrition Team will send follow up calls to Egypt to aid those with limited access to food.

Confirmed Cases

As of May 21, 2020, the worldwide cases of COVID-19 reached around 5 million. In Egypt, there are 14,229 COVID-19 cases and there have been 680 deaths. The nation implemented several restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus. For example, the Egyptian government has only allowed essential businesses to remain open following strict guidelines.

Curfew

On March 25, 2020, one of the government’s most restrictive orders included implementing a curfew to combat the virus spread. Enforcement of the curfew remains effective from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Shops that the government has allowed to stay open can operate until 5:00 p.m. During these hours, all forms of transportation are not available to provide service. Violators of the order could receive fines or possible imprisonment. Additionally, the Government of Egypt extended the suspension of incoming commercial passenger flights into Egypt for two weeks beyond March 31, 2020.

One Step at a Time

Egypt is continuing to try to flatten the curve of COVID-19 through the implementation of strict guidelines. Moreover, UNICEF is providing aid to Egypt’s vulnerable people. The nation is diligently working to combat the virus with hopes of having people visit again and see what Egypt’s culture has to offer to the world.

– Donovan Baxter
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Morocco
Social and political unrest often take the blame for rising poverty rates in the Arab world. However, unrest alone cannot explain why poverty in Morocco has continued to fall after the Arab Spring protests. It also cannot express why Egypt has seen a relative rise in poverty. However, it is possible to relate the reasons behind the countries’ two trajectories by examining the recent policies of each. Here are five reasons for Morocco’s falling poverty rate. Also included are a few reasons why the poverty rate is climbing in Egypt. This article will highlight the differences between poverty in Morocco and Egypt.

Reasons for Declining Poverty in Morocco

  1. Morocco announced the National Human Development Initiative Support Project (INDH) in 2005. The project had $1  billion budget and a five-year timeline to improve the living conditions of citizens, reduce poverty in Morocco  and assist the most vulnerable families. Unfortunately, much of the funds did not reach the most vulnerable. However, the share of its rural population in poverty that the project targeted was 32 percent while 28 percent of the targeted urban population was in poverty.
  2. Population growth has slowed.Fertility dropped from 5.5 to 2.3 children per adult woman during the past three decades, which settled the population growth rate to 1.7 percent. The result of reduced pressure on public services and better living standards overall occurred due to a changing population structure. Better access to education could be one cause.
  3. The Moroccan government invested in basic infrastructure programs.This included an expansion of the drinking water supply, the electricity network and the road system. In addition, social programs existed for decades that provided free education, access to health care and basic food commodities.
  4. Policymakers shifted from universal public spending to targeted public spending. Prior to this 1996 program designed jointly with the World Bank, policymakers allocated only 1 percent of Morocco’s GDP toward programs that target those living in poverty in Morocco. The Social Priority Program marked a shift from universal public spending to targeted public spending. The program focused on 14 of the poorest provinces with projects in basic education, job creation and social assistance.
  5. NGOs in local development helped people move out of poverty in Morocco. This benefitted the poor in areas such as  water and electricity management and literacy programs. Since a 2002 amendment that allowed NGOs to receive foreign funding, the number of NGOs increased to 40,000 over a period of two decades. Government officials have tolerated NGOs with the understanding that they stay out of local political issues. 

Egypt and the Rise of Poverty

In looking at some of the causes of the falling rate of poverty in Morocco, it is possible to compare it to other nearby countries, as well as examine what policies have not been working in said countries. Egypt is a country that has seen the opposite trend in its overall poverty rate, now climbing to 32.5 percent in 2018, up from 16.7 percent in 2000. However, it is not fair to say that the social and political situations of the countries are equivalent. Egypt faced the removal of two presidents within two years. Still, there are many parallels between the two countries that make a comparison relevant between poverty in Morocco and Egypt. 

Egypt has had a growth rate of 2.15 percent over the past three decades. To give some understanding of what this difference means, Morocco’s population would have been 36 million in 2010 if its growth rates were that of Egypt’s over the same period of timeIn 2010, Morocco’s population was only around 32 million. Providing better access to education may reduce the growth rate, as Egypt’s education system is underfunded and in need of reform.

Policies Impacting Poverty Rates in Egypt

  1. Economic Policies: In terms of economic policies, Egypt has taken a much different approach that has harmed the country’s poor in favor of macroeconomic improvement. It has slashed subsidies for essentials and fuel, a move that helped the government cut its enormous deficit but that has  hit the poor particularly hard. This is somewhat in contrast with the policies of Morocco as the government hiked prices on the essentials of drinking water and electricity. 
  2. NGOs: NGOs have not been able to operate freely due to a 2017 bill hampering their ability to provide social and developmental work. The detainment of many NGO workers has occurred because of their engagement in behavior that some see as morally upsetting.
  3. Infrastructure: Egypt has also invested in infrastructure projects like Morocco but primarily in the private sector. The result has had an insulating effect on the rich. The construction of gated communities and shopping malls continues while public schools and hospitals fall into disrepair. Areas often bulldoze slums and poor housing areas  in favor of upscale complexes that add to a growing housing crisis. 
  4. Floating the Currency: Perhaps the most damaging policy was the decision to float the currency in November 2016 in another effort to strengthen the economy. Prices went up and imports became particularly unaffordable for anyone outside of the upper class. The move occurred in order to secure a $12 billion IMF loan over a threeyear period.

The comparison between poverty in Morocco and Egypt has highlighted useful information about the best policies to eradicate poverty. Poverty in Morocco has decreased dramatically in the past three decades due to a few policies. The policy measures that Egypt has taken unsurprisingly show that slashing subsidies that benefit the poor have had a negative impact on poverty rates. Investing in infrastructure that benefits the poor, subsidizing basic needs and a lenient stance toward foreign NGOs are just a few policies that Arab governments and otherscould enact in order to achieve the results that Morocco has seen.

Caleb Steven Carr
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in EgyptNearly one-third of Egyptians fall below the poverty line, with the unemployment rate trending higher than extremely impoverished countries such as Ghana, Lebanon and Zimbabwe. In 2011, lasting poverty rates and poor living conditions caused Egyptian retaliation against the government. Political instability has complicated Egypt’s foreign partnerships since that time, subsequently affecting all areas of the economy; as a result, foreign investment in the country’s resources has had notable fluctuations. The inconsistency in Egypt’s economy leaves few employment opportunities, especially among younger generations, inevitably affecting rates of poverty in Egypt.

Travel in Egypt

Typically, travelers visiting Egypt receive encouragement to exercise increased caution, per the U.S. Global Health Advisory. The country ranks two out of four on the U.S. Department of State’s safety scale; this rating indicates that the U.S. Department of State has approved travel there although tourists should recognize the possible risks. This system is not solely unique to the United States – many countries have similar regulations. However, due to the global impact of COVID-19, regular travel ratings are momentarily on hold.

Factors responsible for Egypt’s pre-pandemic, level-two status include levels of terrorism and lingering tensions with the U.S. Embassy. This score is an improvement from a travel rating of four in 2011. Egypt received this high rating during a violent national rebellion that broke out against police brutality, the poor economy and religious divides. When a country has a level-four rating, the U.S. Department of State tells Americans not to travel there.

Tourism’s Impact on Egypt’s Economy

In February 2019, research expert Amna Puri-Mirza provided a statistical analysis that demonstrated that a decline in tourism impacted the Egyptian economy. From 2010 to 2011, national profits from the tourist industry dropped 32 percent in reaction to the Egyptian rebellion. In 2015, news of a Russian airline crash that was traveling to Cairo decreased tourism from 14.7 million to 5.4 million people in 2016.

The connection between tourism and poverty in Egypt correlates with the market value of different services and goods that the country produces; profits from tourism hold a large percentage of the country’s overall income. In 2018, tourism supported 2.5 million jobs, indicating heavy reliance on the industry. When situations adversely impact tourism around the globe, this substantially impacts the economy, and in turn, poverty in Egypt.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Egypt

Working to ease economic stress, the Egyptian government succeeded in obtaining a loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. While there might be uncertainties for the future of the loan, it is certainly aiding the nation in the return of tourists. Research on Egypt’s travel and tourism show promising signs of continued recovery, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 2019, Egypt’s tourism level improved by 16.5 percent from the previous year, which is higher than the global average. Such an incredible growth rate is a promising sign for the rates of poverty in Egypt.

Foreign Relations with the U.S.

Despite past tensions, the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt has greatly improved. The established relationship could substantially impact the state of poverty in Egypt. The Trump Administration announced a priority of aid for Egypt; specifically, it intends to provide economic reforms and military funds to combat radical terrorism in Egypt. “Our relationship has never been stronger. And we’re working with Egypt on many different fronts,” said President Trump. Upon continuing a solid relationship with the U.S., the Egyptian government could utilize the support in developing a sustainable economy post-loan.

Other Initiatives

Egyptian President El-Sisiis and his officials are also working on economic reform needed to reduce poverty in Egypt. Like many nations, the sudden 2020 Coronavirus outbreak presents additional obstacles in accomplishing this goal. Experts expect that Egypt’s tourism industry will lose more than 40,000 workers to unemployment as a result.

Now, more families will be at risk of falling into poverty, causing a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. On March 20, 2020, The World Bank Group donated $7.9 million to fund Egypt’s emergency response. The nonprofit is working with Egypt to create financial, technological and health strategies to protect citizens. Ideally, the country should be able to avoid the anticipated increase in poverty in Egypt through this aid. Assisting the Egyptian economy has become an international effort. Not only is does The World Bank intend for the aid to provide the government with resources, but it also intends to disperse it among Egypt’s citizens, especially those experiencing poverty in Egypt.

Tourism is a key source of income for the country but has recently halted. Additionally, tense international relations and a poor global image have further damaged the already struggling economy. Fortunately, new global partnerships with Egypt have aided in encouraging tourism in Egypt. While the 2020 pandemic puts this travel on hold, the response of increasing aid will support the economy and prevent further poverty in Egypt. If aid continues, Egypt will receive a great opportunity to sustain its economy and people.

GraceElise Van Valkenburg
Photo: Pixabay