Egypt's New Republic

Muslim worshippers offer the evening prayer Tarawih as they maintain social distancing at al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital Cairo, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on May 17, 2020. (Photo by Samer ABDALLAH / AFP)

Progress over the past few years means the country can pursue fresh priorities

Leading the Arab world's most populous nation, which has more than 100 million people, has been even more challenging in recent years. The responsibility falls to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, whose early political tenure has been defined by creating stability after several years of turbulence.

After a period of improved security, a stronger economy and vast infrastructure updates, Mr El Sisi now has the space to open a new chapter in his presidency.

Since the country's independence movement, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s, political slogans have offered insight into the priorities of Egyptian governments. Mr El Sisi started his time in office with "Long Live Egypt!" a phrase that captured minds across the country, after a period of anxiety and uncertainty.

Earlier this month, at an event in front of 50,000 spectators, Mr El Sisi referred to today's Egypt as "The New Republic". "New" might be the focus, but this is not a break from previous political goals. It is instead an updated version of them, which will build and secure the country by turning the government's attention to wider aspects of the economy and society.

Progress on these matters, after all, will feed into the country's safety. Egypt faces a number of demographic challenges, few more discussed than its youthful and growing population. Without jobs and robust public services, life could become increasingly hard and unstable for young Egyptians.

But, as the government is setting out to demonstrate with a huge policy agenda, it does not have to be that way. The New Administrative Capital, Egypt's vast new capital city to the east of Cairo, will give a modern, energising home to all aspects of life in the country, from its civil service, universities, businesses and diverse religious communities. Challenges can be turned into opportunities.

Traditional mainstays of its economy are also getting important updates. Early into his term, Mr El Sisi ordered a major and astonishingly swift expansion of the Suez Canal. In light of the Ever Given incident earlier this year – when a container ship became lodged in the waterway for six days with major effects on the global economy – a second expansion, announced first in 2019, was ramped up to modernise the canal's operations. Designed primarily to reduce the chances of future incidents, the project will also add to the economy, and is expected to almost triple the waterway's revenue to more than $13 billion by 2023.

In a sign of the resilience of today's Egypt, this huge domestic programme is staying on course as the country navigates complicated geopolitics, given its dangerous and often long borders with some of the Middle East's most unstable territories.

Moving towards a New Republic is an acknowledgement by government that while the nature of immediate priorities is shifting, the overall mandate remains the same. But this is not just an Egyptian event. It is one for the entire world, because the security of Egypt is of almost undefinable global importance. Very few governments carry such a multifaceted burden, and the country looked dangerously close to not being able to shoulder it a few years ago. Those looking at Egypt's transformation from afar should reflect on the remarkable speed at which a new country is emerging.

Published: July 29th 2021, 3:00 AM
Updated: August 1st 2021, 7:47 AM