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More changes ahead for Egypt.

The most important fact about Egypt as 2005 draws to a close is that the startling change of direction in Egyptian policy making-toward a vibrant market economy and away from an antediluvian, insular, authoritarian posture-begun with the reform cabinet installed in 2004 is still alive and moving forward.

Example: One of the world's biggest car makers also operating in Egypt meets with the new head of Egypt's Foreign Trade Ministry, complains about Egyptian suppliers, and very soon after the meeting sees the establishment of a public-private program aimed at advancing hundreds of small and medium Egyptian enterprises (SMEs) into the new global millennium. This from an October 24, 2005 Agence France-Press (AFP) dispatch.

Nonetheless, a Lebanese economist writing in The Daily Star (Beirut) on October 8, 2005, observed that currently Egypt's economy has three basic problems. One, foreign direct investment (FDI) is low. Two, unemployment is high, officially at 9.9 percent but probably twice as much according to "most local economists" cited in an October 11, 2005 report by the United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). And three, violent social unrest continues.

The perspective is similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its magazine, IMF Survey with a cover date of August 2005, the IMF said that, indeed, FDI was lacking but could be improved by an acceleration of structural reform and a strengthening of the country's monetary policies.

Egypt's consumer base of 74-million exhibits a sharp contrast between a growing, prosperous middle class and the urban and rural poor.

But Egypt's rich culture is a source not only of a strong national identity but also of important tourism revenue, economic growth and jobs for its citizens. The above referenced Daily Star story says that Egypt is home to approximately one third of the world's historical monuments.

The Star says also that Cairo is the biggest cultural center in the Arab world and the city dominates contemporary Arab media with, for example, 95 percent of Arab cinema produced there.

POPULATION GROWTH IS LARGELY UNDER CONTROL BUT JOBS ARE NEEDED

The population growth rate for Egypt is the same as the North Africa regional average, 26 per thousand inhabitants. Job creation has not kept up with growth of the labor force in recent years, and it is likely that the situation will improve somewhat in 2005. Unemployment is running about 9.9 percent, and this continues to erode consumer confidence.

Egypt's population reached 74-million people mid-2005, which amounted to just over 38 percent of North Africa's 194-million inhabitants. According to data released by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) in August 2005, Egypt's population will reach 101-million by 2025. Also, according to that source, Egypt is going to have a population of 126-million people in 2050.

The PRB revealed that a moderate 43 percent of Egypt's population lived in urban areas during 2005, and that the country's population density is a comparatively moderate 191 people per square mile. In land area Egypt is approximately the same size as all of Central America but is only half the size of Central America in poopulation.

Another source of demographic data, the CIA's World Factbook, indicates that 33 percent of Egypt's population was birth to 14 years old in 2005, while 63 percent was 15 to 64 years old, and 4 percent of the populace was 65 years of age and over.

CIA statistics revealed that the country's population growth rate was 1.78 percent in 2005. And according to the United Nations Population Division, in the year 2050, 20 percent of Egypt's population will be birth to 14 years old, while 59 percent will be aged 15 to 59, and 21 percent of the populace will be 60 years of age and over.
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Publication:Market Africa Mid-East
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:625
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