Abbreviated as EGY by abbreviationfinder.org, Egypt is usually considered to be the most developed, i.e. the most industrialized, urbanized, well-educated and economically most diverse, Arab country. At the same time (because of the population growth rate) it is one of the poorest countries in the area. The employment rate in the country is low. In 2016, 11 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture, 36 percent in industry and 53 percent in service industries. However, these figures hide serious structural problems. The government has used public sector employment as a way of sucking up unemployment, and productivity is low in the industrial and service sectors. Egypt, which exported food until the early 1970s, has recently imported more than half of its food needs.
On the whole, the business structure has undergone major changes in recent decades. In the mid-1970s, “Arab socialism” was abandoned in favor of Infitah, the “open-door economic policy”, with increased investment in private ownership and the facilitation of foreign business start-ups. The change was initially sluggish but has accelerated during the 00s, and the private sector now accounts for about 70 percent of GDP. During the 00s, economic growth has also increased, but the economic differences in society have also increased. The unrest in the 2010s has slowed growth, mainly the tourism industry has been hit hard.
Agriculture has long been a neglected area in the country’s development planning. While the land reform was implemented during the 1950s and 1960s, its scope was limited. Around 1960, the entire agricultural sector was “cooperated”. However, the state’s efforts to control production far exceeded its ambition to modernize farming methods, etc. Nevertheless, agriculture is relatively high-yielding, mainly due to favorable climate, good soil and extensive irrigation. Since the completion of the Assuan Dam (High Dam) in 1971, all agriculture has been irrigated and the growing season lasts year-round, allowing an average of two harvests per year.
The countryside is heavily overcrowded, and the land shortage is great. The average cultivation unit is less than 1 ha. Cost-intensive new cultivation programs have increased the cultivation area by about 20 percent, but as much has been lost due to. urbanization and salting damage caused by inadequate drainage. The high dam has resulted in an increase in the groundwater level, and drainage of irrigated farmland has been made more difficult, with extensive salt enrichment as a result. If large areas of cultivation are not to be eliminated, irrigation methods must be used that minimize evaporation. Large resources of fossil groundwater in the desert allow for extended cultivation, but this is not sustainable in the long term.
The most important export crop is long-fiber cotton, with Egypt accounting for 1/3 of world production. Other important crops are maize, wheat and berseem (alexandria clover). Rice has become increasingly important, among other things. because of its greater resistance to salting. Non-controlled crops such as fruits and vegetables have increased in importance at the expense of mainly cotton, the most important “state” crop. The same goes for livestock farming, which increased rapidly despite the fact that Egypt has no natural pastures.
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The contribution of fish to overall production is small, but its development potential is significant. About 75 percent of the catch consists of freshwater fish from the Nile, irrigation channels and brackish water lakes in the delta.
Sea fishing occurs in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The fishing industry is expanding on Lake Nassersjön (High Dam’s water reservoir), and efforts are being made to develop fish farming in canals and smaller ponds. In 1986, Egypt, together with Jordan, formed a fishing company with the aim of developing sea fishing.
Fishing in the Mediterranean has decreased since the creation of the High Dam; the fertilizing sediment stays there and does not reach the Mediterranean. The fishing potential in the large lakes in the outer part of the Nile Delta, up to 1,400 kg of fish per hectare per year, is falling due to padding to win cultivation land, water pollution and dehydration. It also decreases by transferring land from fishing to fish farming, which is ecologically harmful and does not produce the returns that some improvement in fishing could provide. Egypt’s fishing yields 250,000 tonnes per year.
For a long time, Egypt was considered to be poor in minerals. In recent years, however, coal, iron ore, oil, gas and phosphate have been found. The uranium has been found in several places, as well as minor deposits of zinc, manganese and chromium. Phosphate is extracted at Isna in the Nile Valley and at Bur Safaja by the Red Sea. Bargains have also been made at the Kharijao oasis. Iron ore is mined at Assuan in the south and at the Bahariya oasis in the western desert. Oil deposits are mainly located in the Suez Bay and the Sinai Peninsula, but new finds have been made in both the Nile Delta and the eastern and western deserts. Egypt has been able to maintain a profitable oil export, but the reserves are estimated to be depleted some time in the 21st century. Natural gas was found in 1974 and has become of greater economic importance.
With a high degree of urbanization, rapidly growing population and growing industrialization, Egypt’s energy consumption is relatively high. In the past, about 60 percent of the electricity came from the High Dam at Assuan, but due to water shortages, gas power plants now account for most of the electricity production. The old plans to build nuclear power plants at Alexandria and to fill the Qattara sink in the western desert with Mediterranean water to extract electricity may also be revived.
In the 1950s and 1960s, industry was nationalized, and production was largely governed by the requirement that import dependence be avoided and employment given to a rapidly growing urban population. This led to low efficiency. Since the 1970s, the ambition has been to increase private ownership and improve capacity utilization. Although private investment has increased, due to import competition and experience from previous confiscations, they have mainly gone to the construction, tourism and service sectors. To some extent, however, an increase in investment has also occurred in the consumer goods industry.
In 2016, the industry accounted for 36 percent of GDP. About 2/3 of the production is from the public sector. Egypt has built up a heavy base industry (chemical and petrochemical industry, steel industry), but the traditional industries (food and textile industry) account for almost half of the industry’s production value. The concentration of industrial operations in the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria is striking, but attempts are made to spread operations to other areas, including through the construction of several new cities in the desert and by locating energy-intensive industry in the southern parts of the country, near the High Dam.
Since World War II, Egypt has had an almost constant current account deficit. However, this has been partly offset since the 1970s by revenues from tourism, fees from the Suez Canal and cash payments from labor abroad, which has allowed a reasonably good balance of payments. However, the situation worsened during the 1980s. Expensive foreign borrowing did not lead to expected production and income boosts but to a gigantic foreign debt. Expected export increases have been hampered by lack of competitiveness, partly due to overvalued currency, and oil revenues have fallen due to lower oil prices. The main focus of exports has – temporarily – shifted from traditional agricultural products to crude oil. Imports are mainly food, machinery and transport equipment.
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Tourism and gastronomy
Tourism plays an important economic role for the country; In 2013, Egypt was visited by 9.2 million people, corresponding to 16.2 percent of the country’s export earnings. Domestic tourism plays a significant role economically. Due to the economic importance of tourism and the publicity surrounding it, non-Arab tourists have periodically set targets for terrorist acts by fundamentalist Islamic groups, which has caused the number of visitors to fluctuate.
Note: the capital city of Egypt is Cairo with a population of 9,700,000 (estimate 2016). Other major cities include Alexandria with a population of 3,900,000, Gizawith a population of 2,500,000, Shubra al-kheima with a population of 1,000,000, Port Said with a population of 555,000, Suez with a population of 506,000 (2007 estimate).
Even in ancient times, Egypt was a tourist country and so it is today, even though the sights of the time in the newly divided mostly disappeared; the exuberantly fertile and populous delta area is still worth a detour. A contemporary tourist visit encompasses Cairo with the outstanding Egyptian Museum, with the tomb of Tutankhamun, for example, and the nearby pyramids of Giza. Then a trip to Luxor is recommended, with important ancient sites in the area (Karnak and Thebe) and finally the trip to Assuan with several ancient sites and opportunities for sailing on the Nile – perhaps even an excursion to the UNESCO-saved temples in Abu Simbel. Many tourists take a bathing holiday in Hurghada (al-Ghurdaqa) on the Red Sea or visit the Katarina Monastery in Sinai, one of the foremost and most remarkable monasteries of the Orthodox Church.
A car ride up the Nile Valley during the cooler season provides an opportunity to visit interesting pharaonic monuments without congestion: Akhenathon’s Amarna on the river’s east side, Idfu (Edfu) and Kawm Umbu (Kom Ombo) are some examples. In cities such as al-Minya and Asyut there are hotels with restaurants. Coptic Egypt offers memorable experiences of living ancient Christian culture in the monasteries of the Natrundalen Valley west of the main road between Cairo and Alexandria, with interesting architecture and striking frescoes.
Cairo is especially famous as one of the historical centers of Islamic culture; there is a rich selection of mosques from the 800s and a thousand years onwards (Ibn-Tulun, Hasan, al-Azhar) and several fine Islamic museums. The bazaar Khan al-Khalili attracts the purchase of glass, textiles and metal. The entire district of Bulaq seems to bring visitors several centuries back in time.
Those who can’t should neglect a visit to Alexandria, whose now-declining and once somewhat depraved elegance is best expressed in the European turn of the century architecture along the several-mile promenade and on some of the main streets. In the city there is an excellent museum of Hellenistic-Egyptian culture as well as the newly built library. To the east of Alexandria lies the well-equipped seaside resort of Montaza with the former royal family’s summer palace (now a museum). A completely different kind of memories awakens the monument to the fallen from both sides at el-Alamein, in the desert on the road to the Libyan border, where one of the decisive battles of the Second World War took place.
In Egypt, there are, in more or less renovated condition, some of the more than century-old classic tourist hotels for fine-dining: Cecil (since 2014 Steinberger Cecil Hotel) in Alexandria, Mena House in Giza and not least the hotel renovated guest house for Empress Eugénie when she inaugurated Suez Canals 1869; in Assuan is the Old Cataract Hotel. These hotels and many other restaurants, mainly in Cairo, eat well: European, Lebanese or Turkish cuisine, or why not Egyptian.
The roots are the same for gastronomy in Egypt as throughout the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean: a simple food attitude in nomadic culture, mixed (and spiced) with influence from all over the known world that trade provided in combination with access to fish in the coastal regions. Cheese corn bread is the basis of the kitchen. Specifically Egyptian is the foul madame, which consists of brown beans with garlic, oil and lemon juice. The national court considers many to be molokheya, a sweet, green soup made from a spinach-like herb, with rabbit or chicken, garlic, coriander and sometimes tomato. Some claim that the origin of the law is ancient.
Sheep are the most common meat, roasted, ground or cooked, often as stew with eggs and vegetables. Cumin, coriander and cinnamon are daily spices. An essence of orange blossoms or cherry blossoms is used to give a fresh taste to the water. Dates, pistachios and almonds are ground into sweet pastries; Plums, pomegranates, mangoes and lime are eaten fresh.