Busy street market in Cairo (Photo: CIPE)
Observers around the world are tuning into Egyptian politics this week, ahead of the country’s November 28 parliamentary elections. Amid the necessary yet saturated discussion on election monitoring, candidate registration, and local media coverage, a refreshing point of view focusing on Egypt’s shifting economy aired
yesterday on NPR.
As the radio piece explains, President Hosni Mubarak has come to champion market-oriented reforms and has led efforts to privatize an estimated 85% of the Egyptian economy. This ideological change and ensuing policy reforms are reaping higher rates of foreign investment and engendering growth in key sectors, such as construction and tourism.
The street vendor is a ubiquitous feature of urban life virtually everywhere in the world. Food served from a battered cart, jewelry on rickety table, local souvenirs laid in neat rows on a blanket (ready to be pulled up by the corners at the first sign of the police).
Street vendors are often viewed as an urban nuisance even in the most developed of economies – recall Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s war on vendors, legal or otherwise, in New York City in the 1990s. The Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA), a grassroots federation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt, knew that this would be an issue that would capture attention when its launched its own program aimed at this unlikely group of small business owners.
Still, FEDA has sparked public debate on the issue in Egypt at a level it didn’t expect. It earned significant print and broadcast media coverage – most recently, a spot on Nile Life TV’s popular Every Night program. Every Night is seen nationwide in Egypt and by satellite throughout the MENA region.