Satellite image of the Nile delta in Egypt

Egypt Supporting reform-minded forces

Since the popular uprising which led to Hosni Mubarak stepping down as president in 2011, stabilisation of the political and economic situation in Egypt is proving to be a long time coming. The government has been taking some first steps to initiate sustainable economic reforms. At the same time, its actions are very much influenced by security policy considerations.

Since President Abdelfattah Al-Sisi took office in 2014, civil society and those with opposing political views have found their scope for action increasingly limited. Freedom of the press and the work of non-governmental organisations are severely restricted. The state of emergency, under which basic rights guaranteed in the constitution may be restricted, was extended in October 2019 for the tenth consecutive time; it has been in place since April 2017.

The protests in January 2011 were not just directed against an authoritarian regime. From the beginning people were also calling for jobs, affordable food and an end to corruption and nepotism. Egypt continues to face huge challenges when it comes to improving the economic and social situation of its people.

Development cooperation

Its political, economic and military significance in the Middle East and North Africa region makes Egypt an important partner for German development cooperation. It is one of the development partners with which the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) cooperates closely on the basis of intergovernmental agreements. Support is primarily being given to reform-minded forces in the government, civil society and the private sector.

Cooperation focuses on the priority areas of energy, water and sustainable economic development. The BMZ is also helping Egypt to carry out measures in the areas of urban development, civil society participation and economic empowerment of women.

Demonstration on Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo on 1 February 2011

Changes in the division of powers and curbs on basic rights Internal link

The rights to freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly and press freedom enshrined in the constitution have been increasingly restricted since 2014.

A farmer in the El Minya region of Egypt with two water buffaloes and a dairy cow

Competition for land and water Internal link

Social conditions are very difficult for many Egyptians, with a wide gap between rich and poor. Around one third of them live below the national poverty line.

Teenager selling fruit at a market in Egypt

Modernising the economy, creating jobs Internal link

President Mubarak began the process of transitioning Egypt from a state-controlled economy to a market system. Yet reforms were designed in such a way that they benefited mainly the top players in the economy.

German development cooperation with Egypt

The most important aim of Egyptian-German development cooperation is to help improve the living conditions of the general population. Development cooperation with Egypt is based on annual ministerial-level meetings of a “Bilateral Commission” (which have been held since 2016).

In November 2019, the BMZ committed 154 million euros for development cooperation projects in Egypt; of this amount, 65 million euros takes the form of loans.

The priority areas of cooperation are as follows:

  • Use and management of water resources / waste management
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Sustainable economic development

In addition, Egyptian-German cooperation addresses areas such as women's empowerment, the development of (pre-existing) informal urban settlements, human rights and administrative reform.

Strengthening civil society, improved governance and support for conflict prevention are cross-cutting topics that are firmly embedded in a number of ongoing projects.

Within the framework of its regional cooperation, the BMZ set up a financing mechanism at KfW Entwicklungsbank in 2011 with the aim of promoting economic development in the Middle East and North Africa. This Fund (called SANAD, which is Arabic for “assistance”) provides refinancing for national microfinance institutions so that they can grant loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

A man is sitting at an irrigation canal near Qena on the Nile, Egypt.

Protecting resources, avoiding conflicts Internal link

Egypt is one of the most water-poor countries in the world. Ninety-five per cent of the country is desert and less than four per cent of the land can be used for agriculture. Agriculture, industry and the population are heavily dependent on the Nile. In order to be able to meet the needs of the various user groups, the available water must be used even more efficiently than hitherto.

Production of towers for wind turbines in Egypt

Using wind power, boosting efficiency Internal link

Energy demand in Egypt is increasing as the population continues to grow. Energy shortages, accompanied by power cuts, are a frequent occurrence. At the same time, Egypt's Red Sea coast offers ideal conditions for wind power. In view of that, the government has adopted an ambitious plan and by 2020 intends to increase the share of renewable energy in power generation to 20 per cent.

Apprentice at the Leoni Company in Cairo

Needs-based training for young people Internal link

One important area of Egyptian-German cooperation is vocational training and youth employment. Each year sees more than 800,000 young Egyptians newly entering the labour market. However, a large proportion of them fail to find suitable work. At the same time many businesses are complaining that they cannot find suitable applicants for vacant positions. This is an issue affecting the non-academic labour market in particular.

Urban development: Helping people to help themselves

In addition to the priority areas for bilateral cooperation that have been agreed with Egypt, Germany is supporting good governance and participation by civil society, for example through neighbourhood development projects.

The main focus here is on poor districts in Cairo. More than half the people in Egypt's capital city live in informal settlements with a very high building density, where there is a significant lack of open spaces, social services, access to drinking water, sanitation and waste collection.

View of Cairo

View of Cairo

View of Cairo

By fostering self-help initiatives, Germany is helping the local inhabitants to come up with their own proposals for improving their lives. Working with local authorities and local people, efforts have already been made to improve the drinking water, sanitation and transport infrastructure. In addition, activities concerned with adaptation to climate change are being carried out with financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the EU.