Egyptians are waking up to a new political and economic future as Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Mursi begins the task of forming a new government, but the country’s young entrepreneurs are not feeling optimistic.
Egypt’s small business owners say they are unlikely to reap any benefits of economic development any time soon as changes to the government and delays on rewriting the constitution have kept the economic situation uncertain.
Vendors and small business owners alongside Cairo’s bustling streets say they are struggling to make ends meet as prices of food and products are on the rise. The worry is that the benefits will not reach the neediest.
Tarek Fattouh, 47, who has been in the tent-making business for 35 years, working near the Khan El Khalili market, a tourist hotspot told UAE daily The National that before the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year, he had five times more customers than today - now he has four or five a week, compared to 15 to 20 before the revolution.
He describes his work as difficult. “Making handmade tents requires lots of time that may take up to two or three month for one piece” he said.
“Not a lot of people know where we are, the street has to be closed for cars and we need better-quality streets”, he added.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s economic growth has slowed down, as political and social turmoil have hurt investments for over a year and a half. Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product has marked a growth forecast of 1.5 percent this year, but official unemployment has increased to 12.4 per cent from 9 percent before the revolution. Concerns are particularly acute for the estimated 20 percent of the Egyptian population living below the poverty line.
Another story from the streets of Egypt is that of family breadwinner Aliya, a widow and mother of four, who depends on a fruit cart for her daily wage. “The rising price of foodstuffs has made it more difficult to source the best produce and sell it at a competitive price”, she told The National.
“A watermelon now costs 10 Egyptian pounds ($1.7) it was 3 or 4 pounds before the revolution”, she says. “The poor people get leftovers and the good stuff gets exported” she added.