Egypt: the Nile revolution suggests a better future for cooperatives

Egypt has experienced an unprecedented revolution which led to the fall of President Hosni Moubarack. Essam Charaf, the new Prime Minister, has been nominated by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. In the meantime, it has been announced that presidential elections will be held by the end of the year. So far, the first step towards democracy has been reached with the referendum on constitutional amendments approved by 77.2% of Egyptians.

27 May 2011

The Egyptian revolution has completely modified the destiny of the country which till recently was in the regime’s hands, leaving little space for the freedom of thought or to do business. For 30 years, the fallen president relied on police control and a political party which answered to him, in a country where more than 40% of the population lives on only 2 dollars per day. “Egypt has woken up to a new political consciousness; and will not be fooled by anyone!” declared the Egyptian writer Alaa el-Aswany to the French newspaper ’Libération’.

The chaotic situation in Egypt has had important consequences for the economy of the country. A drop of 25% is foreseen in the income generated by tourism. In this respect, cooperatives represented by the Production Co-operatives Union (PCU) have also felt the pinch. “The Egyptian economy is experiencing a slow-down, everything has stopped. The unrest in the streets doesn’t help. All this has affected the activity of the cooperatives, although what has happened to the country is something positive” says Mounir Shaarawy, the PCU Secretary General. “We are very proud of our noble revolution and are optimistic that reforms are coming, especially for aspects of cooperative work. Hope is now floating as the control of some big businesses over the Egyptian administration has disintegrated. Former business magnates controlled laws and the decisions of the ministries undermined the efforts of cooperatives as they threatened corrupt activities”.

Until now, cooperatives were controlled by the ruling power. Needless to say, worker cooperatives which are based on democratic values and principles did not have any advantages granted. Today, it seems that things are better for cooperatives. “The regime had no trust in cooperatives since they were always working against decisions made about the welfare of workers and small businesses. They aimed at making cooperatives suffer by cancelling many of their legal privileges, such as tax exemptions, in order to increase their operating costs and making their work more difficult” says Shaarawy.

Mounir Shaarawy is confident about the future. “We are on the right track” he says. “We have seen positive signs. With reforms and a new administration that arose from the Egyptian people, we believe that the new laws to be enforced will be to the benefit of the cooperatives, workers, and trade unions to create a call for social justice.”
Today, Egypt is slowly waking up to this revolution and there is quite a long way to go. Things will gradually turn back to normal for the Egyptian people. At least they can be assured that they will re-emerge much stronger from this Nile revolution.

International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives

Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037
E-mail: cicopa[at]

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