Egypts difficulties with African allies

by Yacoob Cassim

2017_1_10-President-of-South-Sudan-Salva-Kiir-Mayardit-L-is-welcomed-by-Egyptian-President-Abdel-Fattah-el-Sisi-
President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit (L) is welcomed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on 10th January 2017(Image source:Middle East Monitor)

Egypt finds itself in a precarious position as the Country faces a rise in their cost of living. The nation’s Consumer Prices have soured in the Major Urban Areas to a second straight eight year high. It rose in December hitting 23.3% on the Government’s decision to halve the National Currency, the Egyptian Pound effectively halving its value.
Since the 2011 Revolution that toppled long time President Hosni Mubarak and the 2013 Coup that toppled the Democratically Elected President Muhammad Morsi Egypt’s economy has suffered terribly. Egypt has also been hit by militant attacks by ISIS. This was especially true of a bombing of a Coptic Cathedral in Central Cairo during a Church Service. This has led to anger being directed at the Government whereas in the past the Coptic Community was very supportive of the Regime. In this case some called on President Abdel Fattah El Sissi to fire the Interior Minister over his failure to provide security for their service. At a Funeral held for the victims, The Church’s spiritual Leader Pope Tawadros II who presided over the Funeral saying the Perpetrators were not of Egypt even though they were on the land of Egypt. Copts make up ten % of Egypt’s population as they are the largest Minority in the Middle East and North Africa. ISIS celebrated the brutal tragedy while exiled Brotherhood Officials condemned the attack along side other conservative religious Parties.

Meanwhile with the country facing an unemployment rate of 12.6%, core inflation of 25.86% in the Urban Areas, the official CAPMAS statistics informed the press and the Public on Tuesday. Sissi finds himself in a Royal Pickle to show the World he can manage the Situation. He has lost his most important Ally Saudi Arabia, due to disagreements about how to handle the complicated situation in Syria. Egypt’s decision to support Russia’s stance on the United Nations Security Council put it at loggerheads with its former ally. Saudi Arabia having been so mournful about not having its way cancelled much needed oil Exports to the Country. This caused Sissi to turn to Iraq to help alleviate his country’s rising prices.

Iraq’s government is now allied to Iran causing some to believe that Sissi is leaning towards Saudi Arabia’s enemies. The Situation in Syria has certainly produced some new manoeuvring among the countries in the region. The truth is that even though Egypt may now be leaning towards the Middle East’s Anti-Western Alliance they are also now finally turning south towards Africa for Greater trade and Economic Development. Although Egypt is geographically part of the Continent, previous Foreign Policy has always put Relations with the Middle East first. But for now President Sissi realizing if he wants to improve his nation’s prosperity and Security must embrace its African Identity. That means according to Sissi his “country is committed to Africa and will spare no efforts to extend and strengthen ties and integration across all African Countries in order to help drive its economic and social development.” This was what he told a delegation of African Presidents and Business Leaders at a lavish Forum held at Shaam el Sheik Resort. The fact that such a forum took place at Egypt’s most popular Holiday Resort frequented by the Rich and famous must not be ignored. However as Egypt presses for greater integration and trade with the African Continent they have to also  contend with an entrenched culture of Racism within the nation. Most ordinary Egyptians become offended if you refer to them as Africans. This was according to Abdel Rahman Sherif, founder of the Black in Egypt blog. “There is a staggering contempt of everything that is African.”

Meanwhile as Egypt has committed itself to joining the African Union’s Peace and Security Council this year and contributed 12.5% in aid to the Institution’s budget. The country has committed troops to many of the Continent’s chaotic nations including South Sudan, Sudan, Ivory Coast and Liberia to name but a few. However how it manages relations with the continent’s other Regional Military Power House Ethiopia will depend on the solution the two countries reach over the Ethiopia Renaissance Dam. The Dam was built to control the flow of the White Nile which provides the Annual floods to Egypt’s farmlands. Egypt fears that the Dam’s construction will be cutting down on the flow of the Nile and jeopardise a major food source and economic livelihood. How Egypt resolves this crucial dispute as well as improve on relations with other countries will determine its future.