Egyptians learn from transition to democracy and social, economic advances in Brazil

19 Apr 2012

A delegation of Egyptian business leaders and governmental officials wrapped up a two-day visit to Brazil this week and are heading to Chile to learn how the two South American countries transitioned to democracy in the 1980’s and 1990’s respectively, following two decades of military regime.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP)-led initiative promotes direct exchange between Egyptians and South Americans to boost the North African country’s own transition to democracy and support its path towards sustainable development.

The exchange takes place in a key moment in Egypt’s restructuring process. In 2011 a wave of protests resulted in President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation after 30 years in power. Egypt is currently drafting a new constitution and presidential elections are taking place in the coming months.

"Democratic transition and social and economic development need to flow together," said Gerardo Noto, UNDP’s Democratic Governance Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean. "Latin America has vast experience in democratic transition, and we think there is a great deal of mutual cooperation that will take place now.”

The delegation was especially interested in the Brazilian 1988 Constituent Assembly which established the country’s new democratic Constitution, forging consensus in a polarized political context.

Another key component of the mission was to learn how the Brazilian government and private sector have been boosting entrepreneurship and encouraging informal businesses to enter into the formal sector. Brazil’s simplified taxation system for small and medium enterprises and a network that provides entrepreneurs with free of charge technical and judicial support sparked the Egyptian delegation’s interest.

Ghada Waly, Director of Egypt’s Social Development Fund said that such mechanisms to support young and new entrepreneurs show a practical solution to one of Egypt’s major problems, since 85 percent of economic activity there is informal. She added that the Brazilian initiatives to boost entrepreneurship and support small enterprises can be crucial for Egypt, where 92 percent of the companies are small and micro-enterprises.

The Egyptian delegation also learnt from Brazil’s social protection schemes and strategies to fight hunger.

The experience exchange taking place in South America results from the UNDP-Government of Egypt forum Pathways to Democratic Transition  held in Cairo in June 2011. The two-day meeting gathered world leaders and specialists to explore lessons learnt from Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia, and Africa in their democratic transition.