Egypt-Urban Issues

Population (2014): 86 million

GDP Growth (2013-14): 1%

Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 110/187 (2014)

Urban Population of total population (2012): 43.6%

Population growth rate (average annual 2010-2015): 2%

Urbanization growth rate: 2.04%

Proportion of urban population living in slum areas (2007): 17.1%

Youth population: 23.7%

Dynamics of Urbanization and Informality

43% of the population of Egypt lives in 223 cities, of which 56 % are concentrated in the Greater Cairo Region as well as Alexandria governorates.
The Greater Cairo Region is one of the largest metropolitan area on the African continent. It is a prime engine for economic growth in Egypt and with over 18 million inhabitants, it accommodates close to 20% of the country’s population. The events in 2011 aggravated the already existing trend of a growing number of informal and unsafe areas emerging in Egypt. According to the Ministry of Local Development, about 1,171 areas across the country are considered informal, inhabiting a population of around 15 million inhabitants. Around 60% of these areas are located in the Greater Cairo Region.
Urban planning, infrastructure and service delivery have not been able to keep up with the rapid urban growth experienced in Egypt over the last four decades. There is a lack of public space and increasing deficiencies in infrastructure and services. Due to inefficient public land management systems and outdated housing policies, impoverished individuals have no alternative but to settle in unplanned and sometimes unsafe areas. In addition, infrastructure is deteriorating, public services and transportation systems are stretched to the limit, air and noise pollution levels are high and traffic congestion is chronic in most areas. The complex set of institutional arrangements that fragment responsibilities, also constrains efficient service delivery. A lack of efficient and accountable planning and management systems in Egypt, as well as rapid urbanization, has caused socio-political and economic challenges that the country has not been able to address. This contributed to a situation from which the recent so called “Arab Spring” events could develop, that called for a more transparent and accountable government, social equity and justice

Impact of Syrian Refugees

Some 250,000 to 300,000 Syrians currently reside in Egypt according to government estimates provided in June 2013. Of these, 127,519 individuals have been registered by UNHCR as of 16 November 2015. Refugees continued to arrive and, as those who have been in Egypt for some time and continue to deplete their savings, Syrians become less able to find housing for themselves and their families. Additionally, there will still be a large number of Syrian refugees in Egypt that do not register with UNHCR, as they are able to legalize their stay through the normal immigration procedures, that will also require support and assistance. The impact of Syrian refugees in urban communities has caused considerable strain. In areas of the city where refugees have settled they compete with poor local residents for scarce resources and limited services and, as such, they are vulnerable to aggression, violence and exploitation. Egyptian residents in these areas have often very similar needs for assistance and support initiatives as the refugees.

El Maragha small city, Souhag, 2009. Photo© UN-Habitat

El Maragha small city, Souhag, 2009. Photo© UN-Habitat

Environment Issues

The river Nile determines the environment of Egypt, establishing a clear distinction between arable land and the desert. The fertile land of Egypt represents only 3.9% of the overall national territory, and it is divided up into two geographical regions: the Delta and Upper Egypt. The capital city, Cairo, is located in between the two and has a population of circa 20 million people. The density of this megacity is circa 20,000 inhabitants/km². The urbanisation in Egypt is also affecting regional capitals – such as Alexandria – by increasing their population exponentially. This is partly due to the rural population shift, partly explained by the demographic explosion. Despite the governments’ efforts to make the irrigation system in the Nile Valley and in the Delta more efficient during the last century, the demographic growth and its urban expansion is currently the biggest threat for the natural resources of the country. In fact, water pollution and poor sewage treatment is partly responsible for a high infant mortality throughout the country. In terms of energy, Egypt still has a strong oil and gas dependency -96% of its primary energetic needs- which has provoked the appearance of other environmental issues in the last 50 years, such as solid waste management and air pollution.

Urban Economy

Although there has been a slight improvement in the Egyptian peoples’ economic situation over the last decades, the country is, due to various reasons, still struggling to reach sustainable and diversified economic growth. The proportion of the population living in extreme poverty declined from 8.2% in 1990 to 3.4% in 2008/9. The total poverty ratio declined from 24.2% in 1990/1992 to 21.6% in 2008/2009. Updated data has not been available since the revolutions. According to Egypt’s Household Consumption and Expenditure Survey, the upper poverty line also stagnated at about 40% between the 1990s and 2008/2009. However, accompanying the revolutions, the rates of economic growth had declined to approximately 2% during the past three years. Another urban dimension of hindrances to Egypt’s economic development is its overcrowded streets, Cairo in particular. Egypt currently loses 4% of its GDP due to congestion which in turn creates an unattractive investment and business climate. UN-Habitat is focusing on encouraging cost effective public transportation systems and promoting non-motorized transportation.

Transitional Phase

Egypt had focused on progressing towards the Millennium Development Goals; the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty declined from 8.2% in 1990 to 3.4% in 2008/2009. Following the revolutions of 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013, Egypt is currently in a transition process and strives to overcome the growing challenges faced by different sectors. Despite many challenges faced by the Egyptian government during the past years, successive governments have taken steps in 2013 aimed towards restoring political and economic stability. The implementation of a political road map is almost finalized, which has so far included the preparation of a new constitution, presidential elections and parliamentary elections.

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