The June 30th, 2013 revolution was a turning point in Egyptian history. While some Egyptians describe the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, in 2013, by Military General Abdel Fatah El Sisi, as a military coup, for most Egyptians, the end of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood was the light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, the June 30th revolution allowed a new beginning and a new republic under the presidency of El Sisi, who came to power in 2014.
The “New Republic”, a slogan launched by President El Sisi, not only rallies Egyptians around the new government, but it encompasses the President’s vision targeting economic and social development through the establishment of mega projects, aiming to benefit Egyptians and to restore the country’s leading regional and international role. But to what extent is the “New Egyptian Republic” a lived reality, eight years after President El Sisi came to power? In other words, has President El Sisi succeeded in establishing the pillars of his “New Republic,” and is the latter unchallenged?
Although he assumed office at a time full of variables and conflicts locally and regionally, President El Sisi managed to lead the country towards stability. More precisely, President El Sisi multiplied efforts and devoted military and economic resources to contain terrorism by radical Islamist groups, especially in North Sinai, who were involved in a violent backlash by Morsi’s supporters after his overthrow. By first fighting terrorism, President El Sisi could start building the pillars of his “New Republic” by revitalizing its economy and improving the living standards of its population.
A solution to unemployment
In this regard, President El Sisi launched huge development projects, generating hundreds of thousands of job opportunities, decreasing the high level of unemployment that the country had reached prior to 2014. As a result of this investment in economic development, Egypt’s unemployment rate decreased from 13.15 per cent in 2013 to 9.33 per cent in 2021, and dropped to 7.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.
Improving infrastructure In fact, since 2014, the government has invested $500 billion to upgrade Egypt’s infrastructure. The projects included an elaborate network of roads, the overhauling of the railway network and the construction of 12 cities, like El Galala, the New Alamein, and the New Administrative Capital, a fully smart village, following the country’s sustainable development plan. In addition, to improve the country’s infrastructure and to diversify its sources of energy, the “New Republic’s” government has built multiple power stations, solar energy farms as well as water desalination plants.
Improving Egyptians’ living standards:
However, President El Sisi’s “ New Republic” is not limited to the literal rebuilding of the country, nor to the sole economic pillar of development – it also targets social development.
In other words, to improve the living standards of Egyptians and especially those of the deprived communities, whose accumulated vulnerability could fuel dissent and could jeopardize the stability of the political regime, President El Sisi’s “New Republic” targeted social development and set it among its main pillars.
For instance, the development of new urban communities has progressed in tandem with several projects aiming to eliminate slums and to put an end to informal settlements by providing housing solutions for approximately 850,000 slum dwellers. For instance, President El Sisi invested $1.5 billion in the construction of affordable housing to relocate slum dwellers. For example, the relocation of slum dwellers to the newly built Al Asmarat and Tahya Misr complexes started in 2016 and continues as new phases of both projects are completed. Both complexes are constituted of state-subsidized modern residential units, with facilities such as health units and schools, aiming to improve the living standards of the most unprivileged citizens .
Similarly, “haya karima,” which translates to “a decent life,” is one of the largest social initiatives launched by President El Sisi in 2019, aiming to eradicate poverty in the 4,658 targeted villages. With investments estimated at 700 billion Egyptian pounds ($44 billion), “haya karima” aims to improve the lives of more than 60 million Egyptians, nearly half of the country’s population, through the development of an integrated development roadmap.
Moreover, numerous health initiatives launched by the president characterize his “New Republic”. The “100 million Seha,” which translates to “100 million healthy lives,” campaign launched in 2018, to eradicate Hepatitis C and detect non-communicable diseases is a clear example of the “New Republic’s” goal to improve the living standards of Egyptians.
A political step forward: the national dialogue
Not only does the “New Republic” target economic and social reforms, but it is also taking a step forward politically. In other terms, the national political dialogue, launched in 2022 and open to all Egyptians, especially targeted at youth, will forge a middle ground between the latter and the government as their recommendations will be embraced by the government, as pledged by the latter. The national political dialogue aims to bring together different political parties, including opposition parties and youth, to discuss the current political, economic and social issues and challenges facing the country and to propose their recommendations to the ruling authority. According to the state National Training Academy, the dialogue’s organizer, 70,000 Egyptians applied to participate in the dialogue’s forum. The “New Republic’s” political dialogue is a milestone in Egyptian political history as it will further freedom of speech and tolerance of dissent, which will improve the Egyptian government’s human rights’ record globally.
Back on the regional and international scene
Furthermore, the “New Republic’s” foreign policy aims to restore the Egyptian leading role regionally and internationally.
On the regional level, the “New Republic” devotes resources to modernize the equipment and update the strategies of its military, which is one of the most powerful militaries in the region. The Egyptian military ranks first in the Middle East, and 12th globally out of 142 states, according to the 2022 review of Global Firepower. Hence, the “New Republic’s” highly ranked military allows it to maintain its leading position regionally as a strategic security partner. In addition, the high ranking of the Egyptian military allows Egypt to be a guarantor of peace and to balance power in the Middle East, with Turkey, Iran and Israel, that come right after Egypt in the military ranking in the region.
Moreover, the Egyptian “New Republic’s” foreign policy is one that is flexible and has helped the country regain its regional leading role. After Egyptian membership in the African Union was suspended in 2013 after President Morsi was overthrown, thanks to its adaptive and flexible foreign policy, Egypt, under the “New Republic” , was able to rejoin the African Union in 2014, after it found stability with the election of President El Sisi. Moreover, the “New Republic’s” foreign policy allowed it to occupy the presidency of the African Union from February 2019 to February 2020, which helped advance the country’s profile regionally and globally.
By the same token, the “New Republic ” is one that attracts foreign investment regionally, from neighboring Gulf countries, like the United Arab Emirates, which investments in Egypt amount to $20 billion, as well as internationally from countries like China, the United States and the European Union, in the Egyptian mega infrastructure projects. In fact, the Egyptian government is engaged in more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, as the country emerges as a top destination for foreign direct investments. As a result, foreign investments not only benefit the country economically, but also politically, by strengthening the political ties with its regional and international partners.
Tourism is one of Egypt’s leading economic sectors, accounting for more than 12 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019. In that sense, the revitalization of the tourism sector is among the priorities of the Egyptian “New Republic.” For instance, President El Sisi invested 540 million dollars in the tourism and antiquities sector, which had been declining because of the political turmoil and instability that reigned over the country from the January 25, 2011 Revolution until 2014.
Events like the Royal Mummies Parade, transporting the mummies of 22 pharaonic kings from the Egyptian Museum to the Museum of Egyptian Civilization, won widespread admiration worldwide. This worldwide attention contributed to the revival of the tourism sector by attracting new fluxes of tourists to Egypt, boosting its economy, after tourism had been declining because of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions .
The “New Republic”: not unchallenged
Although the Egyptian “New Republic” seems to be on a good track, leading to economic, social and political development, the Republic is not unchallenged. In fact, many external factors may hinder the progress made in the “New Republic” and could threaten its political stability.
The ripple effects of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict threaten Egyptian food security, notably of its neediest people, which could fuel future unrest. More precisely, Egypt is the largest wheat importer in the world, with about 50 per cent of its wheat supplies imported from Russia and 30 per cent from Ukraine. Hence, the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine threatens food security in Egypt, and is increasing uncertainty in the global wheat market, causing wheat prices to rise, amidst global inflation in prices of basic commodities. As a result, the food security of over 102 million Egyptian consumers is at risk, as national wheat output barely covers less than 50 per cent of local consumption.
Lastly, the riparian conflict over the Nile River with Ethiopia, could affect the political stability of Egypt in the coming years. More precisely, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which began filling in July 2020, would reduce the already declining water flow in the Nile which is the primary source of drinking and irrigation water for Egyptians. Thus, the threat of water scarcity in the coming years could propel mass discontent in the absence of an alternative source of water.
Hence, although President El Sisi’s “New Republic” has crossed crucial milestones that allowed it to revitalize its economy, improve the living standards of a large part of its population and retrieve its former leading position regionally and on the global scene, the “New Republic” is unavoidably challenged by many factors that may hinder the progress it made.
Edited by Sophie Gunyon
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Featured Image by Marina Zaki. Taken on on July 28, 2022 near a construction site at the New Alamein city. The Arabic slogan on the banner reads “Tahya Misr” which translates to “long live Egypt”).