Egypt at a glance
Full Name: Arab Republic of Egypt
Capital: Cairo
Area: 1,001,449 sq km (386,659 sq miles)
Population(m): 84.2 (2013)
Currency: Egyptian Pound (E£)
Religions: 94% Muslim, 6% Christian
Languages: Arabic (official)
International organisations: Arab League, OIC, UN, Arab Maghreb Union, Opec, IMF, WTO, IAEA
Head of state: President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi

Government

Under the Egyptian political system, the president appoints the prime minister and cabinet. The two chambers of Egypt’s parliament, the People’s Assembly (lower house) and the Shura Council (upper house), approve laws, but they lack the power to draft new ones themselves. Following widespread popular protests in January and February 2011, Egypt’s president of nearly 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down. Elections for parliament were held before elections for the presidency were carried out in 2012. Mohamed Mursi, a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected president of Egypt in June 2012.

The military performed the function of interim government while elections took place. Under the original plans, the military was to hand over power following the election of the president. However, in June 2012 Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court declared the results of the People’s Assembly unconstitutional. The parliament reconvened regardless.

Next elections

Parliamentary election:

2012/2013 – People’s Assembly (People’s Assembly members sit for five-year terms)

2016 (Shura Council members sit for six-year terms, but half the members stand for election every three years).

Economy

Egypt’s economy was making good progress in the years leading up to the revolution. The country weathered the global financial downturn well by global standards. The revolution changed this significantly. The interim military government tried to limit the impact of the unrest as much as possible, but with 18 months of political turmoil, damage was inevitable.

Foreign currency reserves were drained and the instability exacerbated unemployment. Egypt’s traditionally strong sectors of tourism and trade, in particular, suffered.

Egypt’s economy stalled in the first half of 2011, when the revolution was at its height with growth of just 0.3 per cent. In 2011 as a whole, Egypt’s economy expanded by 1.8 per cent. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to reach 1.5 per cent in 2012 and a further rise of 3.3 per cent in 2013.

At the end of March 2012, Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves stood at $15.1bn. It has been losing about $1.4bn every month since the revolution began in February 2011. Revenues are down 65 per cent since the start of the revolution and there is currently enough to cover to about three months of imports.

Telecoms

There are currently three mobile operators in Egypt. The largest in terms of connections is Mobinil, a joint venture between France Telecom and local outfit Orascom set up 12 years ago. Vodafone Egypt is the most profitable mobile operator. Etisalat Egypt, a subsidiary of the UAE telecoms giant, joined the market about two years ago and has the smallest market share with 14 million connections.

The number of mobile subscribers has increased rapidly in recent years. At the end of April 2010, there were 58.7 million subscribers in Egypt. The penetration rate, currently at 80 per cent, is relatively modest in comparison with other countries. Libya’s penetration rate is 135 per cent and Algeria’s is 90 per cent.

Egypt was the first country in the world to register a domain name (.misr) in Arabic.

Power

Demand for power is rising in Egypt. While the construction of several new power plants continued throughout the revolution and consequent period of uncertainty, others have been delayed. Projects that were approved before the revolution have gone ahead, but the number of new projects in the market has fallen and this could impact upon Egypt’s electricity supply in the coming years.

Pgesco, the body responsible for procuring new power plants, is tendering several projects, but power capacity is set to become increasingly stretched over time as demand growth is expected to outstrip installed capacity growth. In addition, Pgesco is in a period of transition, as its 40 per cent shareholder, Bechtel, is planning to sell its stake.

Egypt is a regional pioneer of renewable energy with several wind farms along the Gulf of Suez and a large-scale solar/gas hybrid plant in operation. Egypt plans to supply 20 per cent of its power needs from renewable resources by 2020.