As the numbers now stand, over a million people globally are infected with the novel coronavirus. The world is currently threatened by a disease that is more contagious than SARS, which brings up the necessary question: will the world cooperate and unite in solidarity to fight this global pandemic?
In a video conference with over 100 international development organization representatives, Rania Al Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, presented a forward-looking strategy, New Global Partnership Narrative, which prioritizes cooperation among international development partners as well as the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Streamlining efforts under one
umbrella: mindful mobilization.”
The strategy, in short, aims to streamline all efforts under one umbrella: mindful mobilization. Rather than focusing on short-term solutions, it hopes to ensure that the promotion of future collaborations is based on an up-to-date, consistent and a complete narrative between the Government of Egypt and its multilateral and bilateral development partners.
Dina Saleh, director of the sub-regional office of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations in Egypt and the Middle East region, praised the new strategy, noting that the Ministry of International Cooperation plays a pivotal and important role in bringing together all development partners.
She also stressed that the International Fund for Agricultural Development is ready to provide all support to the Egyptian to ensure reducing the negative impact of the coronavirus on the agricultural sector.
Other development partners, notably the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), expressed their approval of Egypt’s strategy and their commitment to support the country in its fight against the global pandemic.
“The EBRD is working urgently across Egypt to deliver our €1 billion global solidarity package to companies and banks that are suffering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” Dr. Heike Harmgart, Managing Director of EBRD for its southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, said, “We already working with existing clients across Egypt to understand their needs and support them with working capital, trade finance as well as taking an enabling view to re-scheduling if existing loans.”
Re-imagining the Next Normal
Economists and experts around the world are currently debating new policies to confront the world’s future challenges. In a recent article by the Economist, it was noted that countries are now trying new radical economic policies to counter COVID-19. “The rules of the game have been moving in one direction for centuries. Another radical change is looming,” it was mentioned.
For that reason, Egypt is working to create a new vision that will focus on three pillars: ‘People at the Core’, ‘Projects in Action’ and ‘Purpose as the Driver’.
“Through our New Global Partnerships Framework and communication framework, the Ministry of International Cooperation aims to ensure that COVID-19 does not derail us from pushing forward with the SDG agenda. It is an innovative means to transparently showcase projects with purpose and their impact on people to boost inclusive growth as a means to promote SDGs and bolster credibility,” Al Mashat stated.
For the first pillar, Egypt is committed to improving the Egyptian peoples lives by identifying existing gaps and providing multi – sectoral assistance through public private partnerships that push Egyptians towards realizing their full potential.
As for the second pillar, the Minister highlighted that projects have been implemented across multiple sectors including in education, transportation, water desalination, renewable energy, entrepreneurship, and women empowerment.
For the third pillar, the Minister referred to partnerships with purpose as key drivers to generate sustained and inclusive growth in a rapidly changing world.
PROTECT, PROVIDE, AND PROGRESS
Egypt’s response in COVID-19 fight stresses on the importance of protecting the population from the virus, providing easier access to credit to help households smooth consumption and liquidity for firms to survive the disruption, and pushing progress by expediting structural reforms through and beyond COVID-19.
“You can’t win a football game only by defending,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “To win, we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics.”
To ensure that the country is preparing for the future and that sustainable development is at the core, a clear strategy was outlined to ensure that each goal is given enough attention and focus.
GOAL 8: DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
To mitigate impact on an un-organized labor force, employment protection legislation and unemployment benefits will be provided, as well as prioritizing the transition from an informal to a formal sector.
A new debt relief initiative for individuals at risk of default has also been announced that will waive marginal interest on debt under EGP 1 million if customers make a 50 percent payment.
The preferential interest rate on loans to SMEs, industry, tourism and housing for low-income and middle-class families has been reduced, and the regulations issued last year requiring banks to obtain detailed information of borrowers have been relaxed.
GOAL 10: REDUCE INEQUALITIES
To reduce inequality, the Minister highlighted 60,000 households were added to Takaful and Karama Program. An additional 100,000 will be added as the budget will increase to 19.3 Billion EGP compared to 18.5 billion EGP.
A one-off monetary compensation (500 EGP) offered to informal workers registered at the database of the Ministry of Manpower through post offices. Registration had been done for approximately one million individuals working in construction, agriculture, fishing, plumbing.
GOAL 5: GENDER EQUALITY
The government also increased payments to women community leaders in rural areas from EGP 350 to EGP 900 per month to ensure gender equity.
GOAL 4: QUALITY EDUCATION
Egypt launched a new digital library available for free to every Egyptian student with learning material (digital objects) extracted from EKB and sorted out/assembled for G1-G12 students in both Arabic and English.
In a parallel action, the Ministry of Education and Technical Education (MOETE) decided to deploy a customized version of the Edmodo Learning Management System for around 55,000 schools and train teachers to create their own virtual classrooms and invite their own students (and possibly their parents as well).
GOAL 3: GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Alternative mechanisms for testing patients were identified through the establishment of 27 laboratories across the country and additional 4 university laboratories, as well as scaling up the infection prevention and control (IPC) program with the WHO to prevent transmission and ensure patients & health workers are protected.
It also aims to expand capacity to conduct up to 200,000 tests within two weeks and setting up eight isolation hospitals with capacity of 2000 beds with 1000 ICU beds, as well as 400 ventilators and setting field hospitals for the admission of mild and asymptotic cases.