Canada’s development assistance in Egypt
With a population of 89 million, Egypt is the most populated Arab country in the Middle East. The country is an important broker for peace in the region but faces challenges of its own, including economic and political uncertainty. Egypt has witnessed significant change since the 2011 Arab Spring, and the swearing-in of the newly elected Parliament in 2016 marked the final step in the democratic transition roadmap. Egypt’s economy is suffering from a notable downturn, closely linked to the uncertainty of the political transition, social unrest, terrorist attacks and the insecurity of the past five years. These factors have negatively affected tourism, manufacturing and exports, significantly increasing unemployment and poverty rates, most notably in rural areas. Egypt has also been affected by the crisis in Syria and continues to host over 100 000 refugees, providing them with social services equivalent to those provided to Egyptian citizens.
Egypt ranks 108 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2015 Human Development Index (110 in 2013). The country has made great progress along a number of important human development indicators: child mortality, life expectancy, primary and secondary school enrolment, along with literacy rates, have improved dramatically in the past 30 years. However, economic growth has been moderate and insufficient to absorb the rapidly growing population and labour force, with average per capita income growth at around two percent per year since 1980. More than 20 million people (22 percent of the population) live below the national poverty line. Other economic stresses include significant wealth disparities, mismatches between education/skills training and labour market needs, and limited trade and investment. More than a quarter of the population is aged between 15 and 24. This group is disproportionately affected by unemployment, with youth under 30 representing 42 percent of the country’s unemployed. Egyptian women also face substantial restrictions on their activities, leading to low female participation in the economy and in social and political institutions. The unemployment rate for women is double that of men. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015, Egypt ranks 136 out of 145 countries in gender equality.
In recent years, market reforms have improved economic growth somewhat but not enough to substantially raise living standards for the average Egyptian. The Government of Egypt has also launched several initiatives to combat corruption. In 2015, Egypt ranked 88 out of 168 on the Transparency International report on global corruption, an improvement from 2011, where it ranked 112 out of 183 countries.
Egypt is also facing substantial energy and water challenges. The country has been identified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as being extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, especially with respect to water availability and the risk of rising sea levels on its coastal zones.
While Egypt has succeeded in achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—namely in the areas of combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, as well as environmental sustainability—the circumstances and events of the past few years have prevented the country from achieving the desired progress on most MDGs, including in the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.
Canada’s international development program in Egypt is closely aligned to Egypt’s National Development Plan 2030, announced in March 2015, which lays out a long-term sustainable development strategy to create employment through economic reforms, stimulating investment and promoting private sector participation in the economy.
Sustainable economic growth
In line with past programming, Canada continues to focus its bilateral development assistance on sustainable economic growth, with an emphasis on employment for youth and women. Canada’s programming is helping Egypt to support the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, expand entrepreneurship and boost the productivity of the private sector. The programming is also helping strengthen the quality and range of market-responsive vocational, technical and professional training programs available to marginalized populations including young men and women.
Children and youth
Canada’s development assistance to Egypt also aims to improve the resilience of the Government of Egypt and host communities to address and mitigate the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis. Canada and its development partners work with the ministry of education to provide quality education opportunities and services to vulnerable Egyptian and Syrian children, while at the same time strengthening social cohesion within host communities.
Key anticipated results
- increased number and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises through support to business start-ups, training to expand existing businesses, and improvements in the enabling environment to support business development
- job creation and improved employability of youth and women through skills-for-employment training
- improved resilience of the Government of Egypt and host communities to address and mitigate the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis
- Distribution of 12 million packs of nutritious date bars to more than 124,000 Syrian and Egyptian children in those public schools where there is a high concentration of Syrian refugees
- 168 teachers trained in the techniques of teaching reading, 117 teachers trained in active learning methods and 15,215 children received uniforms and school supplies
- 9,308 jobs created through contributions to the World Bank/International Finance Corporation credit lines
- delivery of entrepreneurial training to 21,700 graduates from 21 technical colleges and 9,700 graduates from more than 40 government vocational training centres
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