Cairo - Egypt has progressed towards comprehensive reform, prioritizing advancement of the economy as a key driver of development, while putting Egyptians at the centre of the development process at the same time. This preserved development gains for all Egyptians in a decade that has witnessed important changes in Egypt and was characterized by major political and socio-economic transformations—according to Egypt’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2021, entitled “Development, a Right for All: Egypt’s Pathways and Prospects.” The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Egypt launched the report yesterday under the auspices of and in the presence of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
"The report we are launching today renews and confirms Egypt's commitment to a development approach that puts people at the centre of the development processes as the principal driver of and the primary stakeholder in its outcomes," said Ms. Randa Aboul-Hosn, UNDP Resident Representative in Egypt, adding that: "This is the human development approach advanced over the past thirty years in UNDP’s HDR, which now has become the main and most credible reference on development that all countries adopt and base their development planning and policy making on”.
This is the twelfth report in the series of national HDRs that Egypt has been producing since 1994, and it comes after a 10-year break, since its last issue was released in 2010. The report covers a critical decade (2011-2020) in Egypt’s modern history which has witnessed two popular revolutions in 2011 and 2013, a new constitution and strong economic and social reforms.
“The national sustainable development strategy, Egypt’s Vision 2030, aims primarily at improving the quality of life for the Egyptian citizen, out of a steadfast belief that human beings are the main actors in achieving development, and ultimately its desired goal,” said Dr Hala El Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development. She added, “Accordingly, Egypt increased investments in its human capital, undertaking serious reforms, and implementing major development projects and initiatives in the sectors of education, health, housing and utilities to provide adequate housing and a decent life for all Egyptians, while placing utmost importance on empowering youth and women politically, economically and socially, within a more general and comprehensive framework for guaranteeing human rights, foremost of which is the right to development”.
The report considers the “Declaration on the Right to Development” agreed upon by UN Member States in 1986, as a conceptual framework to discuss the main axes of Egypt’s endeavour to guarantee this right for its people. This includes investing in human capital, promoting economic and social reform, fostering environmental sustainability, empowering women, and strengthening governance.
Through in a video-recorded message to the launch UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, congratulated Egypt on its achievements in key developments areas, stating: “This report details challenges and opportunities at an inflection point for our global community. Across the world, poverty has spiked, and inequalities have widened due to COVID-19, and global human development is going backwards for the first time since 1990." He added, “Like the rest of the world, Egypt is grappling with these harsh realities. Yet notably, it has managed to maintain positive economic growth -- mostly due to the implementation of bold economic reforms.”
Investing in human capital
The report portrays Egypt's investment in developing its human capital in the areas of education, health, and adequate housing. Between 2010 and 2020It it reports improvement in indicators of access to pre-university education, with enrolment rates increasing at all levels of education and the gender gap in pre-university education levels eliminated as detailed data on enrolment rates for boys and girls between 2010/2011 and 2019/2020 demonstrate.
Drop-out rates for the lower secondary stage decreased from 5.5% for boys and 4.7% for girls in 2010/11 to 2.8% and 2.6% respectively in 2018/2019. Transition rates from primary to lower secondary stages increased, as did the transition rates from preparatory to secondary stages (both general and technical). The capacity of the higher education system has also increased with the opening of several new private universities and modern universities specializing in technology.
The health of Egyptians in general has also improved, and new innovative health programmes and initiatives have led to an increase in the performance rates of units across Egypt’s health system. Average life expectancy at birth in Egypt increased from 70.3 years in 2010 to about 71.8 years in 2018. Under-five mortality rate in Egypt decreased from 28.8 children to 20.3 children per 1000 live births between 2010 and 2019.
A package of health initiatives has contributed to radical improvements in Egyptians’ health such as ‘100 million Healthy Lives’ Initiative and the Egypt’s globally recognized experience in fighting Hepatitis C, with prevalence rates among the highest worldwide. Egypt succeeded in reducing the cost and duration of treatment, which made it accessible to all, resulting in raising rate of recovery by to 98% through the national campaign to eradicate Hepatitis C, launched in 2014, which also contributed to achieving financial savings in the cost of treatment estimated at 8 billion Egyptian Pounds.
Egypt was one of the world's leading countries that incorporated the "right to housing" into its constitution. In this context, Egypt worked to provide adequate housing for all through extensive programmes to support social housing and urban development to provide decent housing for low-income groups; develop areas that were unplanned and lacking services; and increase the coverage of drinking water and sanitation services. The number of beneficiaries of the social housing programme until June 2020 has exceeded 312,000, who received cash support from the Social Housing Fund amounting to 4.9 billion pounds, and real estate financing in the range of 30.8 billion pounds.
Advancing the economy and developing the social protection system
The notes the success of Egypt’s Economic and Social Reform Programme in improving macroeconomic indicators, reducing public debt rates, closing the balance of payments gap, and restoring flows of foreign direct investment. These reforms have contributed to preparing the Egyptian economy to face COVID-19. Egypt succeeded in achieving positive growth rates despite the pandemic, which led to achieving a growth rate of 3.6% in 2019/2020 and 2.8% in 2021/2020 (subsequently revised to 3.3% at fiscal year closure) with an expected growth rate of 5.4% in FY 2021/22.
Egypt has also focused on mitigating the impact of economic reforms on the most vulnerable groups by increasing allocations for social protection programmes, expanding programmes for conditional cash transfers, and improving targeting in the national system for food subsidies. While poverty rates decline to 29.7% in 2019/2020 compared to 32.5% in 2017/2018—for the first time in 20 years, more programmes are needed to sustain such downward trend in poverty rates.
The report underscores Egypt’s adoption of a new philosophy to achieve social justice and enhance human security—shifting from protection to empowerment, in conjunction with economic reforms. Egypt dealt with the issue of social protection from a comprehensive inclusive perspective and worked
to expand citizens' options by enhancing their capacities and empowering them to access assets and resources.
The report examines this transformation and its most important outcomes, as Egypt redirected dividends of its rationalization of energy subsidies to social protection programmes based on good targeting—thus raising the percentage of financial allocations for social protection programmes in its successive public budgets. It has also expanded its empowerment and social protection programmes based on conditional cash transfers and rolled out the “Takaful and Karama” programme in all governorates, focusing on the neediest groups, especially women. The number of beneficiaries of cash support in all its forms reached 3.8 million households in February 2021.
Perhaps the most significant and long-standing challenge that the development process in Egypt is facing is high population growth rates, which had reached 2.62% in 2016/2017 before declining to 1.79% in 2018/2019. This puts pressure on Egypt’s resources in terms of subsidies; the provision of health and educational services; allocating sufficient resources to invest in infrastructure, scientific research; and improving the quality and geographical distribution of services. High population growth rates also exert strong pressures on social policies, especially those related to social protection and social and health insurance. The analysis of the characteristics of poverty in Egypt illustrates a close link between poverty and household size.
Promoting environmental sustainability
The report registers that Egypt has worked to maximize benefits from its natural assets and has begun to adopt risk-informed environmental management approaches. The national Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt’s Vision 2030 has emphasized the significance of integrating environmental dimensions of sustainable development into various economic sectors.
Egypt has also worked to rationalize water use and improve the irrigation system through a huge project for lining canals and exploring non-traditional solutions to secure its future water needs, such as desalination of sea water and recycling irrigation and waste waters.
Egypt has also implemented reforms in its energy system, starting with the rationalization of its energy subsidies system to curb unsustainable consumption patterns of traditional energy sources, and seek to achieve justice in subsidies distribution to ensure proper targeting. Egypt has adopted a pioneering project to improve the efficiency of energy use in all public facilities. In this regard, the report also mentions Egypt's increasing reliance on renewable energy sources represented in, for example, the establishment of one of the largest plants in the world for producing solar energy– in Benban. Issues of water scarcity, air pollution and waste management remain at as top of challenges that Egypt needs to address with innovative solutions.
Empowering women and achieving gender equality
Over the past few years, Egypt has sought to promote the integration of women and their issues in policymaking, and to enhance their political, economic, and social roles. Since 2014, Egypt has witnessed significant efforts in promoting the role of women and empowering them as an indispensable partner for achieving sustainable development. In 2017, Egypt adopted a national strategy for women's empowerment at all levels, political, economic, social, and protection—a first of its kind—within the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Egyptian women have attained many positions never reached before. Women representation in the Parliament (28%) and the Senate (14%) exceeded the minimum limits stipulated in the constitution (25% and 10% respectively). In the executive sphere, the share of women reached 25% as ministers, 27% as deputy ministers and 31% as deputy governors. The Ministry of Justice is currently making several efforts to appoint women in all judicial institutions and at all levels, including in leadership positions in judicial bodies, the State Council, and the Public Prosecution. In this regard, Egypt has developed several supporting mechanisms, including selection criteria for selecting candidates to judicial positions giving priority to efficiency and avoiding discrimination against women.
Egypt has also advanced in supporting women’s entrepreneurship, especially in micro and small businesses, where the number of women beneficiaries of microfinancing has exceeded twice the number of beneficiaries. In addition, the gender gap in pre-university education has been eliminated between the years 2010-2020 and women's health witnessed radical improvements with the launch of the Women's Health Campaign in Egypt; women life expectancy rate at birth increased, and maternal mortality rates per 100,000 live births witnessed a remarkable decrease from 54 to 44 during the years 2010 and 2018 respectively.
Legislations and laws providing protection for women and girls have been strengthened. Bullying has been criminalized, the punishment for harassment and female genital mutilation have been strengthened and executive procedures for implementing those legislations have been strengthened. In addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt has adopted quick and decisive response policies to address the impact of the pandemic on women and has been ranked among the world's leading countries in this field, and the first among North African and West Asian countries.
The report traces Egypt's endeavours to strengthen governance and to develop and reform the state's administrative apparatus --and financial management systems— to raise performance, effectiveness, and efficiency in providing basic services, through clear policies and programmes across various fields, issues, and sectors. In 2014, Egypt adopted its Vision for Administrative Reform to reach an efficient and effective administrative apparatus characterized by good governance and accountability, contributing to the achievement of national development goals, and raising the level of citizens’ satisfaction. The move to the new administrative capital is part of an effort to bring about a qualitative leap in the Egyptian administrative system.
Egypt has also worked to strengthen accountability mechanisms, activating a greater role for government performance monitoring and evaluation systems, and developing its local administration systems to enhance decentralization and upgrade the quality-of-service provision countrywide. In addition, it has taken serious steps to enhance transparency and improve communication with citizens on various issues using several means to enhance accountability and fight corruption, as well as developing new mechanisms for youth participation in decision making and public policy implementation, as well as to qualify them to lead political, administrative, and societal work. Egypt has also taken important steps towards digital transformation and financial inclusion, mainstreaming, and integrating financial technologies across all transactions. To that end, Egypt has adopted legislative and institutional reforms and directed significant investments to the CIT sector to strengthen the information infrastructure.
A new Decade of Action (2021-2030)
The report confirms that development challenges can be faced by setting priorities and strengthening Egypt’s pragmatic capacities to complete its development path to guarantee the right to development for all Egyptians during a new Decade of Action (2021-2030) in light of the close alignment of Egypt’s Vision 2030 plan and the global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and the Africa 2063 agenda. The report reviews practical steps to guarantee the right to development, including strengthening financing for development; developing the knowledge base for sound development planning; expanding and accelerating digital transformation in public services and financial transactions; and the development of executive institutions to enhance the efficiency and quality of public service provision
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