Conflict and Fragility

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Power & potential: The economics of Egyptian construction and ICT

25 May 2023 - 16:55
Source: ©Reuters - An aerial view of the site of 5th Compound district in east of Cairo, is pictured through the window of a plane, Egypt April 9, 2021

Young Egyptians’ dissatisfaction with their employment prospects was a key driver of protests in 2011 and 2013. Since then, the country’s political authorities have worked hard to create job opportunities for young Egyptians by boosting growth in the construction sector (infrastructure and public works), among other things. Since the sector also generates substantial revenues for the country’s power elite, this has been a win-win strategy in the short-term. But overreliance on the construction sector has also created too many informal and unstable jobs that are a poor match for Egypt’s many well-educated graduates. Cairo’s growth strategy has not addressed some of the country’s long-standing economic problems, such as informality and a low overall employment rate. Giving the country’s promising ICT sector a boost similar to that of the construction sector to address such deficiencies and anticipate a looming debt crisis requires a paradigm shift with two elements. First, a deal between Egypt’s political authorities and the power elite that buys time in exchange for future rents. Second, facilitation of private sector dynamism through regulatory encouragement and public seed funding for new business activity.

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