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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has spoken of the immense challenge he faced to bring stability to Egypt in the past decade — and the way forward for the Arab world's most populous nation.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday, Mr El Sisi said the first challenge was addressing the loss of hope and desperation felt by Egyptians during these years of upheaval.
The years 2011 to 2013 saw mass protests in Egypt leading to the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak, setting in motion a chain of events that saw Mr El Sisi take power after the military intervened.
“The first challenge after 2011 was the loss of hope and the desperation Egyptians suffered,” said Mr El Sisi.
“Egypt was in real chaos. The entire government was facing internal difficulties. Another challenge was that Egypt was targeted by terrorism. People said we want peace and security and not even food. This was how dire it was. Terrorism is now something from the past. [But] the chaos in 2011 cost Egypt billions.”
Mr El Sisi was speaking in the presence of President Sheikh Mohamed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and he thanked the UAE’s leaders for assistance given to his country over the past few years.
He singled out Sheikh Mohamed for his support early in his presidency when Egypt was suffering a lack of fuel and people were queuing for petrol at stations across the country.
“I made no request but he knew what we needed,” said Mr El Sisi. “I saw ships being rerouted from the Red Sea and Mediterranean carrying gas, oil and fuel.
“Energy was a challenge,” he said. “This was difficult.”
The talk was moderated by Faisal Bin Huraiz of Sky News Arabia and also encompassed Egypt’s attempts at reforming the economy, climate change, population growth and how Mr El Sisi had tried to rebuild and re-energise the country after the years of turmoil.
“Egypt is trying to resolve these issues,” he said. “Everyone [was] afraid Egyptians wouldn’t take all that pressure. They have sustained so much pressure, are still doing so and have not succumbed.”
Turning to climate change, Mr El Sisi said Egypt had long been committed to doing what it could for the environment, had supported the 2015 Paris agreement and hosted the UN’s climate conference, Cop27, in 2022.
That summit resulted in the creation of a “loss and damage fund”, a compensation fund for developing countries who have been hit the most by the effects of climate change. Most of the details about how the fund will work remains to be established. It is expected to feature again at Cop28 in Dubai this year.
“We worked with the UAE even before Cop27 because they are always ahead of us,” said Mr El Sisi. “They will build on that achievement,” he said, referring to Cop28.
Mr El Sisi also touched on Egypt’s plan to move the capital to a site outside of Cairo. He said his administration was working hard to boost automation in government services.
He also reflected on last week's devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The death toll has risen to over 35,000, with rescuers still desperately searching for survivors under the rubble. Mr El Sisi specifically urged more aid to be dispatched to Syria.
He finished by saying greater trust had been established between Egypt’s government and its people recently, but some had tried to undermine this through “fake news, lies and fabrications”.
“[For what] Egypt has gone through, [it takes] 10 years to come out of that and revive the economy and renew social activity,” he said.
The World Government Summit takes place in Dubai until Wednesday.