What we can get is our future back. Our driving force should not be revenge, but to work together to build a new and better future for us and our children
We got our freedom! Clean and clear, with honor and grace. We did what no country in the region managed to do so far, a (relatively) bloodless and victorious coup. We showed the world true Egyptian colors and set ourselves apart. Yet, while that might have seemed like the biggest hurdle, the real challenges and opportunities still lie ahead. That is where we should focus now.
It is only natural to want to hold accountable corrupt leaders of the past. But we will not get[The challenge of a massive youth population] is also an opportunity. The demographic dividend played a key role in the economic boom of the East Asian Tigers. For that, we need the right conditions. revenge, nor should that be our motivating force. We will not be able to turn the clock back on 30 lost years. We will not recover all our stolen funds. And in the end, we will not get justice. What we can get is our future back. And that future depends on what we build today. Our driving force should not be revenge, but to work together to build a new and better future for us and our children.
During this transitional time, we need to keep a healthy distrust of military and religious powers. The military continues to try civilians in military tribunals; detain peaceful demonstrators; allow soldiers’ use of violence against protesters and detainees; and just widened the death penalty sentence to include “criminal acts” such as intimidation, thuggery and disturbing the peace if such “crimes” result in murder. Ironically, the military is now reviewing a law was passed by the Cabinet that categorized protests as a crime punishable by up to a year in jail or a 500,000 L.E. fine. Protests that ushered in this temporary military rule in the first place. These abuses have an air of deja vu from the emergency law under Mubarak.
What we need to build today is a strong economy. An economy that gives gainful employment to our working age population (15-64 years of age), a population 50 million strong. The youth bulge compounded by the youth unemployment in the Middle East is the biggest problem of the coming century. Sixty-five per cent of the population in the region is under the age of 30, that is 242 million people. If this youth formed a country, they would constitute the 4th largest country in the world, directly behind the US and ahead of Indonesia. This youth challenge is the most critical economic development challenge facing the Middle East in the 21st century.
That said, it is also an opportunity. The demographic dividend played a key role in the economic boom of the East Asian Tigers. For that, we need the right conditions. Conditions that provide our youth with a better education, affordable housing and the creation of sustainable jobs. Long term prosperity and stability hinge on the opportunities afforded to this generation. The nation can capitalize on this populationby increasing access to education (particularly for girls); adopting public health programs (sanitation, immunization, reduction of infant mortality); and implementing active family planning policies. As the ratio of dependents to working population decreases, the country will reap the demographic dividend we have seen in other high growth economies.
It is on the back of this generation that the Middle East will build a future middle class - a middle class which can be a catalyst for more open and democratic societies. This is exactly what Egypt has already started to show the world.
This will not be a small feat. But Egypt has all the resources our rich land offers us and the human capital to succeed.
Dina Said is a Managing Director at Unifund SA. A dedicated philanthropist, she has worked to promote female education, particularly as a means of fighting poverty and social instability in the Middle East and North Africa