Territory and population. – After the peace accords signed at Camp David in 1979, Israel gradually made it to Egypt the Sinai territories occupied in 1967, while still retaining the Gaza Strip. Egyptian sovereignty is thus now exercised over 1,001,449 km 2, of which just over 4% escapes the desert.
In 1986 the census population was 48,205,049 residents, With an increase of 26% compared to 1976; in 1990 it rose to over 51 million residents, according to estimates by international organizations. The density on useful lands often exceeds 1300 residents / km 2 and reaches much higher peaks in the urban governorates of the Delta area.
About half of the population is under the age of twenty, with serious educational problems: despite efforts in basic education, the level of illiteracy remains at 49%. There were also serious employment problems, which led many Egyptians to emigrate: skilled labor was recruited from Arab oil-producing countries and many peasant families also settled in the colonization perimeters of neighboring countries. With the crisis in oil revenues and relations with Libya and following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, many workers have returned to their homeland, but there are still about two million left outside the Egyptian borders. The shortage of outlets has led many rural residents to flock to the cities in search of any job,
Impressive is the expansion of Cairo, which was home to 6 million people in 1986, but which numbered over 13 million with the myriad surrounding suburbs. To decongest the capital and allow building interventions on its historic center, some satellite cities are under construction. Alexandria too has far exceeded the threshold of 2 million people, while there are about twenty centers with more than 100,000 residents.
Economic conditions. – The Egyptian economy remains characterized by many elements of socialism, but in 1974 the president A. al-Sādāt gave it a decisive turning point, starting an open door policy (infitāḥ) to foreign investments, which then flowed mainly into the service sector. After the 1967 war, Egypt it made use of huge solidarity contributions from the richest Arab countries to cover military expenses and to remedy the damage suffered. After the agreements signed with Israel, the place of Arab aid has been taken by the strong credits provided by the United States. Western cooperation is particularly needed in food supplies, allowing political prices to be charged for certain kinds that would otherwise be inaccessible to many social strata. The latest five-year plans allocate significant public resources to strengthening the energy base and the apparatus of industries and social endowments, while private investments are mainly channeled towards construction.
Agriculture still employs over a third of the 13 million people, but its role is compromised by the scarcity of arable land. Some projects in the Delta area and in the ” New Valley ” (currently governorate of al-Wādī al-Ǧadīd between Aswan and the depression of alQaṭṭāra) aim at equipping additional irrigation perimeters with the waters of the Nile or with those of the aquifer; but the availability of land remains largely inadequate to meet needs.
Government efforts are opposed by the widespread process of land desertification and the high need for urban land; the practice of making bricks with clayey material from the Valley also had a negative impact, before a 1985 law blocked it. The work of the agrarian reform started in 1952 has continued, bringing the land so far redistributed to as many families to almost 450,000 ha; however, almost half of the cultivable area remains in the hands of 6% of the owners.
A substantial part of the 2.5 million ha cultivated is destined for cereals; nevertheless, the deficit in this sector appears to be increasingly marked due to the rapid increase in population and per capita consumption. The 31 million q of wheat and 37 million q of corn are therefore insufficient, while the 26 million q of rice allow for a modest flow of exports. Good overseas sales are fueled by expanding citrus and fruit and vegetable crops (especially new potatoes and onions). The livestock sector, on the other hand, is largely deficient: with only 4.6 million cattle and buffaloes and 3 million sheep and goats, the consumption of milk and meat remains very low. The once dominant crop of cotton has shrunk to 428,000 ha, but still yields 3.4 million q of fiber and 5.3 million q of seeds; although the Egyptian long fiber retains its qualitative primacy, purchases from the West are in sharp decline and only those from the countries of
A new hydroelectric plant (for 270 MW) has come to increase the energy contribution derived from the High Dam. The lake generated by this, however, undergoes a rapid silting, while the recent dry years and the withdrawals started in Sudanese territory decrease the volume of water available; there are some negative ecological consequences.
Oil resources are on the rise: Israel has made wells in the Gulf of Suez and Sinai and various finds are in progress in the Western Desert: production has increased to 43 million tons per year (1988). Six refineries now process crude oil, which also feeds four large nitrogen fertilizer plants. The network of oil pipelines was enriched with a junction between the Suez area and the capital and another between the Western Desert and the Mediterranean shores. In 1977, the Sumed, an oil pipeline from Suez to the Alexandria terminal, integrated the capacities of the Suez Canal. The energy balance includes large quantities of gas, found in the Western Desert and offshore Alexandria: part of the production (4.8 billion m 3in 1987) flows into the industrial plants of the capital and the Delta. Manufacturing companies employ (1985) 13% of assets; the prevalence still belongs to the food and textile sectors (some export contributions also come from the cotton sector).
According to Sportsqna, the steel industry (155,000 tons of cast iron and 1,600,000 tons of steel in 1987) is being expanded with a large contribution from Japanese capital and experience: a new plant in al-Diẖayla, near Alessandria, has been added to the inefficient one by Ḥilwān. The abundance of energy suggested the construction of a factory in Naǧ῾ Ḥammādī for the treatment of imported bauxite. A notable resource is given by phosphates: the reserves discovered in Abū Ṭarṭūr (Western Desert) increase the production potential (1,310,000 t in 1987), now fed mainly by the fields of the Red Sea region, which are exported through the port. by Safāǧa. Despite a strong expansion, cement production (8.8 million t) covers only half of the demand, generated by a frenetic construction activity and by public works, which employ a total of almost one million employees. With the return of foreign investments, new plants are set up for the construction and assembly of engines and cars, chemical and pharmaceutical factories. In the arms sector, the Egyptian industry has achieved a degree of specialization which also allows exports to some countries of the Third World.
Other revenues derive from a growing tourist activity (1.5 million visitors in 1986), supported by an adequate hotel network. The reopening of the Suez Canal, which took place in 1975, involved modernization of the waterway, through which over 18,000 vessels and 262 million tonnes of goods passed through in 1986. Despite the Canal tolls, workers’ remittances and oil revenues (equal to 60% of exports), the balance of payments is burdened by the interests of the heavy foreign debt and by the outlays necessary to cover half of the needs with imports. food. The liberal turn of the seventies depressed trade with Eastern Europe and increased relations with the West and Japan: for some years Italy has been the largest customer of Egypt and its second supplier (after the USA).