- The war is hitting Egypt hard, from a food shortage to an economy heavily reliant on Russian tourists.
- Neighboring countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are offering Egypt more than $ 20 billion in aid.
- They do it to help themselves as much as to help the Egyptian people.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine further worsened the dangerous situation in Egypt. Her neighbors are here to help.
Egypt imports most of its grain from Russia and Ukraine, and Russian visitors make up a large chunk of its tourism industry – or at least, they did. To help, Qatar awarded $ 5 billion to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates $ 3 billion and Saudi Arabia $ 15 billion this week. Part of the money will go to Egypt’s central bank, which will assist with food subsidies for the country’s citizens as prices soar. Other funds will go to the Egyptian agricultural sector.
After all, Egypt wasn’t doing very well even before the war. According to Gallup, over 40% of Egyptians reported having no money for food at some point in 2021.
“The move helps alleviate short-term funding pressures and should help seal the IMF program as it covers part of the projected funding gap,” said Mohamed Abu Basha, head of macroeconomic research at the Egyptian investment bank. EFG Hermes. The International Monetary Fund is made up of 190 countries and lends money to nations in crisis: Egypt recently asked the group for help.
The outage in Ukraine and Russia endangered nearly a third of the world’s wheat, 80 percent of its sunflower oil supply, and 19 percent of the world’s corn. With world food supply disrupted and more people at risk of starvation, leaders in the region are also concerned about the unrest, as food shortages fueled rebellion in the past. Donations from other countries reflect their leaders’ political calculations, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt having a common interest in not involving the United States, for example. Also, hunger is a lighter political fluid, experts say.
“Food prices have mobilized people,” Rami Zurayk, professor of agronomy at the American University of Beirut, told PBS NewsHour of the Arab Spring, of which Egypt was a key part.
The invasion of Russia exacerbated an ongoing food crisis
One could say the food situation in Egypt, the data show.
The country received 70% of its wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine in 2019. The war is hitting the country hard as well as other nations in the Middle East and North Africa region, such as Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. Countries like Lebanon are receiving aid from neighboring countries and the United Nations.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated a food crisis that caused the loss of capacity of 10 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region in 2020 alone,” said Sarah Saadoun, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should do everything in their power to protect people’s right to food, for example by providing adequate subsidies or intervening to control prices, or by providing adequate social protection.”
This comes at a time when Egypt has already tried to reduce food subsidies.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are politically motivated to help make such subsidies and social protections sustainable. Saudi Arabia appreciates Egypt’s military presence, for example, and both countries fear American intervention by the Biden administration, according to Arab Center Washington DC, a non-partisan research organization.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE helped the Egyptian economy in 2013 after its former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Morsi came from the Muslim Brotherhood group, now banned in Egypt and classified as a terrorist organization. The group was seen as a threat by the Gulf monarchies and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates supported the removal of Morsi. Likewise, Qatar has mobilized to support Egypt after the tensions generated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
These countries also have reason to fear a rebellion in Egypt due to food shortages. The Arab Spring, a wave of democratic protests and revolts in the Middle East a decade ago, began in Tunisia but has spread throughout the region.
“While the riots that hit Syria in March 2011 are clearly a reaction to a brutal regime far from the needs of the population and a response to the wave of political change that began in Tunisia”, Giulia Soffiantini, researcher with the Global Food Security Journal, said written in 2020. “Civil war and the rise of rebel groups exemplify the potential effects of food insecurity on political instability as a catalyst for social unrest.”