Africa: Testimony of Hope After Egypt’s Revolution

Although Egypt may today look like a tragic example of why mass protest is doomed, but the turmoil of the five years since the demonstrators in Cairo and other cities in 2011 has unleashed a will for change and a resistance to power among ordinary citizens that could yet transform the country, and maybe the world.

The Egyptian protesters’ grievances focused on legal and political issues, including police brutality, state-of-emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, corruption, and economic issues including high unemployment, food-price inflation and low wages.

The protesters’ primary demands were the end of the Mubarak regime and emergency law, freedom, justice, a responsive non-military government and a voice in managing Egypt’s resources. Strikes by labour unions added to the pressure on government officials.

So far, the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions have influenced demonstrations in other Arab countries, including Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria and Libya.

However, Morsi’s government encountered fierce opposition from secularists and members of the military, and mass protests broke out against his rule in June 2013. On 3 July 2013, Morsi was ousted, the Minister of Defence, General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, became Egypt’s de facto strongman and was eventually elected as president in a 2014 election.

The emergence of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as a President brought about transformation in the country ranging from domestic policy to economic reforms. President El-Sisi called for the reform and modernisation of Islam; to that end, he took measures within Egypt such as regulating mosque sermons and changing school textbooks (including the removal of some content on Saladin and Uqba ibn Nafi inciting or glorifying hatred and violence) El-Sisi also became the first Egyptian president in the country’s history to attend Christmas Mass and gave a speech at the Coptic Orthodox Christmas service in Cairo in January 2015 calling for unity and wishing the Christians a merry Christmas. Coinciding with Sisi’s visit an Arabic hashtag that translates to “you are a leader, Sisi” has been tweeted 14,486 times, and the hashtag “Sisi in the Cathedral” has been tweeted 3,609 times accompanied with pictures of a cross and a crescent symbolising the national unity.

As a result of the economic reforms, Moody’s raised Egypt’s credit ratings outlook to stable from negative and Fitch Ratings upgraded Egypt’s credit rating one step to “B” from “B-“. Standard & Poor’s rated Egypt B-minus with a stable outlook and upgraded Egypt’s credit rating in November 2013. On 7 April 2015, Moody’s upgraded Egypt’s outlook from Caa1 to B3 with stable outlook expecting real GDP growth in Egypt to recover to 4.5% year-on-year for the fiscal year 2015, which ends in June, and then to rise to around 5%-6% over the coming four years compared to 2.5% in 2014.

In May 2015, Egypt chose the banks to handle its return to the international bond market after a gap of five years marking a return of economic and political stability in the country after the revolution of 2011.

In August 2014, President Sisi initiated a new Suez Canal which would double capacity of the existing canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. The new canal is expected to increase the Suez Canal’s revenues by 259% from current annual revenues of $5 billion. The project cost around 60 billion Egyptian-pounds ($8.4 billion) and was fast-tracked over a year. Sisi insisted funding come from Egyptian sources only. The new canal was inaugurated on schedule on 6 August 2015.

Sisi also started the National Roads Project, which involves building a road network of more than 4,400 kilometres and uses 104 acres of land, promising that there are many development and reconstruction campaigns for Egypt to reduce the unemployment rate and increase the poor’s income.

An ambitious plan to build a new city near Cairo to serve as the country’s new capital was announced during the Egypt Economic Development Conference. Located east of Cairo, approximately midway between Cairo and Suez, the proposed new capital of Egypt is yet to be formally named and is intended to relieve population pressures from the greater Cairo area.

President Sisi has also set a national goal of eliminating all unsafe slums in two years. The first stage of the project was inaugurated on 30 May 2016 containing 11,000 housing units built at a cost of 1.56 billion EGP (177.8 million USD). Funding was provided by the “Long Live Egypt” economic development fund in collaboration with civilian charitable organizations. The ultimate goal is the construction of 850,000 housing units with additional stages in processes funded in the same manner.

South Africa has been known as the continent’s second-largest economy since Nigeria rebased its gross domestic product (GDP) data in early 2014. However, the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in mid-April provided more sobering GDP statistics for South Africa the third-largest economy on the continent behind Nigeria and new silver medallist Egypt.

Nigeria’s rebasing exercise some two years ago revealed that the nation’s economy was almost twice as big as previously thought. The country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) ensured greater measurement of the informal sector, the inclusion of 46 industries from a previous 33, as well as methodological changes to measuring service sector activity with the rebasing. Backward adjustments to GDP indicated that Nigerian GDP in US dollar terms surpassed its South

African equivalent in 2011. By the end of 2015, Nigeria’s GDP was measured at $490 billion compared to South Africa’s estimate of $313 billion.

Today many of Egypt’s revolutionaries are locked behind bars, but this conceptualisation of revolution not just the toppling of a figurehead but a far deeper re-imagining of power and sovereignty is proving far harder for the state to vanquish.

Source: Leadership