Facts about Egypt
Egypt has a population of 83.1 million. It has a labour force of 25.4%. the fertility rate is 2.9 children per woman, the infant mortality rate is 34.8/1000. Literacy is 72% and Electricity is 1,460 Kwh per person. There are 33 cars for every 100 people (although it feels like 100%).
According to the Economist magazine the political situation is that there is one party, one man rule. The population is perceived as passive. In 1952 army officers were engaged in an uprising, the leader was Nasser. The British occupied the Suez Canal since 1882. People have to pay cash for health care. Army officers are considered lower middle class. The poor queue up for susized bread and most scrimp and save to buy shoes.
GDP (gross domestic product) increased from just under 5% in the mid 1990’s to 7% in 2006-08. Egypt’s share of world trade has started expanding as exports tripled in value. Foreign investment increased to a total of 46 billion between 2004-2009.
The deserts feed Egypt’s demand for iron ore, phosphates and manganese as well as marble granite and limestone crushed to make cement and recent discoveries of gold.
The Nile is richly endowed even though the land is mostly desert and the people are mostly poor. It appears as an oasis in the desert rising out of the sand dunes. Desert takes up 95% of the country but the fertile remainder is fractured into millions of small holdings. Egypt was once the breadbasket of the Roman empire has been unable to feed itself. Something i contemplated on my train ride to Alexander as i looked at the corn and wheat fields.
Egypt imports less food then it did and the government subsidises prices. It imports around 6 billion worth of food. It exports $2 billion worth of agricultural goods a year, including fruit, vegetables, cotton and rice.
The Suez Canal provided a steady stream of revenue against little outlay providing the shortest shipping between Europe and Asia. I have taken pictures of this narrow shipping route. Revenues doubled from 2002 to 2008 hitting a record $5 billion per year.
Visitors to the Egyptian museum will notice the lavish use of metal in Tutankhamen, yet for two millennia the mines in Egypt’s eastern desert made it the biggest supplier of gold to the ancient world lay unexploited.
The biggest gift of the desert is energy both reserves and oil production, Egypt ranks 27th in the world. Crude production started in the Gulf of Suez in 1910, oil never stopped flowing despite six wars and the nationalisation of industry in the 1960s. The country is considered mostly unexplored. Energy prospects are in both oil and gas.
Clean energy is expected to meet 20% of Egypt’s power needs by 2020. Egypt has the world’s choicest spots for wind turbines. Two large wind farms on the Gult of Suez already generate 500 Mw. Another is due to come on stream. The World Bank is providing $220 million loan to connect these to the Nile valley.
The antiquities generate considerable wealth for Egypt, the industry doubled in the past decade.
The big issue from my perspective appears to be corruption and having spoken to a few people it is a real problem. There is no democracy in Egypt and it is clear by the police presence that the people are not to have power. This is likely to affect their motivation to work, their sense of freedom and innovation and to maintain poverty as money talks. The social tensions are likely to grow given the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and then visibility of that wealth is increasing. The more people are suppressed the more the groundwork is laid for insurrection. Egyptian governance is yet to understand the importance of freeing the people to enjoy their skills and talents and create a real security. Oil and gas has an end date and with the environment severely under pressure there is likely to be economic collapse around the world.
The Egyptians come from a legacy that knew greatness of architecture and knowledge. I saw many ankh symbols on the hieroglyphics, these mean goddess, I suspect there was a strong respect and honouring of women. That is the secret power of Egypt I feel and all countries across the world. Balance and values are the key in my view.