A series of concerning statistics and policies have been cascading out of Egypt in recent weeks and months. As these trends begin to converge we should anticipate Egypt being featured more prominently in the news reports as a potential return to crisis mode transcends upon the country.
To begin, recall the background of Egypt’s current predicament. In 2011 and 2012 as the Arab Spring swept through North Africa and the Middle East many commentator mistakenly identified this as a surge toward freedom and democracy. At the time I pointed out in this podcast episode that this was not in fact what was taking place. The reality was poor economic conditions were hitting the people of Egypt and other locations really hard and Arab Spring was simply the point of being fed up with it.
After the removal of Hosni Mubarak from Egypt’s leadership the Muslim Brotherhood was elected. They were more or less thrown out of office in a bloodless coup led by Egypt’s military. Egyptian General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi led this effort and has led the country since that time.
This brings us to the present situation.
First there is the growing issue of Islamic extremism in Egypt’s Sinai region. This issue and the extremists pre-date General Sisi’s hold on power but it has been growing progressively worse. The most famous incident was the terrorist attack on a mosque last November that resulted in more than 300 deaths. The terrorists are also specifically targeting Christians and other minorities in the area.
In an effort to counter the terror groups General Sisi has imposed a large number of authoritarian measures that greatly curtail civil rights. The effectiveness of these efforts are not yet known but they have been hotly debated throughout the west among think tanks and various human rights organizations.
Meanwhile the economic situation has never been resolved in Egypt. This was a backward economy propped up on western aid and administered by corrupt leaders for decades. Those types of issues and their repercussions are not solved overnight. General Sisi has invited western assistance into the country’s economy via the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF assistance works this way. Loans and grants are given to the Egyptians and in return drastic economic reforms are implemented within the economy. These reforms are more popularly known as austerity measures.
So now we have an already weak economy merging with the effects of the IMF reforms within Egypt.
Overall unemployment in Egypt edged slightly downward in the last year but youth unemployment in 2017 was still above 30%.
Electricity prices for manufacturers have risen by more than 41% and for households by more than 20%.
Oil prices have increased by 50%.
The price of drinking water has risen by 50%
Now, bring together all these different realities that are each part of the cause and effect cycle unfolding in Egypt.
- Rising extremism
- Rising authoritarianism
- High unemployment among the age group most attracted by extremism
- Rising oil, water, and electricity prices
We have a recipe for almost certain disaster in Egypt that I suspect will explode before the end of the year. Keep an eye on this! When this happens the popular media will attach a lot of different narratives to it. They will call it democracy or civil war or terrorism or something else….The reality is we have a nation full of frustrated people being pressured by a system that is compressing upon them from all sides.
If you like this article you might also enjoy this one: The Wave of Global Protests and What They Are Really About