From the editor
If a secret referendum were to be held in Egypt today, I wonder how many Egyptians would still be in favour of ousting President Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out of office in 2011, or the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who was kicked out in 2013?
The Egyptians have arguably been even better than us at scoring political and economic own goals. The impact can clearly be seen in its tourism industry, a key sector of the economy and major contributor to employment and foreign exchange earnings, which has taken a substantial knock. Monthly visitor numbers fell from a high of nearly 1.5m in October 2010 to 440 000 in December 2015, according to data from Tradingeconomics.com.
Those visitors who weren’t deterred by the political turmoil of the two revolutions, are certainly thinking twice after the hijacking of a plane that was on its way from Alexandria to Cairo on 29 March. The hijacking, which wasn’t terror-related, probably wouldn’t have been problematic if it wasn’t for the Russian airline that crashed in Sinai (most believe a bomb exploded on board) in October last year, which highlighted concerns over airport security in Egypt.
In many ways, the Egyptians are back where they started with Mubarak. The country is, for all practical purposes, once again a military dictatorship in deep economic trouble, with justified concerns over human rights abuses, limits on freedom of expression and allegations of police and military brutality. Conspiracy theories abound, but the reality is that international headlines about the accidental killing of eight Mexican tourists in the Western Desert in September 2015 by Egyptian security forces, and the torture and killing of an Italian PhD student in Cairo in February, will do nothing to attract investment and tourists.
Admittedly, most of this has very little to do with us. But it should serve as a reminder that, while a president can cause significant damage to an economy, as Mubarak showed so deftly in those months he clung to power in 2011, a president alone cannot salvage a country.
Many have called for the ousting of President Jacob Zuma – which may restore confidence in some quarters over the short term, much as Morsi’s much-hailed democratic election did for Egypt in 2012. But with regard to the structural economic and political reforms we need, we’d still be firmly in the starting blocks.