Serious Negative Consequences of Egypt’s Impending Population Explosion

Sent On: 
Wed, 2018-04-11
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The Dutch daily newspaper Trouw is publishing a series of articles under the title “Europe’s Fraying Edges”. One of these articles concerned Egypt. Author Jonathan Holslag argues that there is a huge risk that Egypt’s population boom in combination with persistent socio-economic problems could in turn, be the catalyst for a new revolution. A new revolution in Egypt has the potential to be much bloodier than the uprising in 2011. This revolution is not likely to occur in the coming few years, but could certainly happen in the next two or three decades if no drastic changes to improve Egypt’s situation would happen. Thus, Holslag argues, Europe should do everything to support Egypt.


Egypt is suffering from high population density and growth, water scarcity, and economic insecurity which will only increase with loss of fertile agricultural lands. The latter two issues of course are only likely to be further exacerbated by global warming. David Sims described efforts to develop the deserts that have largely failed. These pressures are already difficult enough to address on their own, but the lack of consensus building between different political streams and resulting political violence makes addressing them even more difficult. The lack of consensus building is the product of the developments of many decades and became abundantly clear in the year that president Morsi [Muḥammad Mursī] was in power. Unlike the Al-Nahda Party in Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood responded to the opposition to their rule by organizing counter-demonstrations and replacing high ranking government bureaucrats with Muslim Brotherhood loyalists – even if this meant deepening existing rifts in society. Islamists responded to the removal of Morsi with militant attacks on primarily police and army personnel, which in turn resulted in massive arrests and the crushing of the Islamist opposition [for more details see C. Hulsman (ed), From Ruling to Opposition; Islamist Movements and Non-Islamist Groups in Egypt 2011-2013, Anwendungsorientierte Religionswissenschaft, Band 9, Tectum Verlag, 2017]


Jonathan Holslag rightly asks, where is Europe? If Egypt fails, we would have a geopolitical nightmare on our hands, with an even larger pressure placed on Egyptians to emigrate. Where are Europe’s universities that can help Egyptian agriculture become more sustainable? Where are Europe’s companies to help create more jobs? Instead, European investments are declining, at precisely the moment that Egypt needs them the most. This lack of interest in Egypt could result in a disaster for both Egypt and Europe. If Egypt implodes, we can forget about stability in the region. We may not be in full agreement with all arguments of Holslag. Of course, it is possible to add more detail, but the main argument is clear: Europe needs to support Egypt to address the huge problems the country is currently facing. This won’t be easy, but neglecting Egypt is not an option for creating a sustainable future for both continents.


We much appreciate Maya Williamson translated this text for AWR. Please find the full text here.


April 11, 2018


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report