Unemployment among key economic, social challenges facing Mideast youth: Egypt minister

The unemployment is one of the key economic and social challenges facing youth in the Middle East region, said Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said in Washington on Friday.

These remarks were made during a high-level session of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) under the title of “Growth and Job Creation: Skills and Entrepreneurship Development for Youth in the Middle East”, held on the sidelines of the World Bank (WB) Annual Meetings. 

The success of the strategies aiming to reduce unemployment depends on adopting a general policy for economic development, therefore the Egyptian government launched the “sustainable development strategy: Egypt’s vision 2030” to embark on an ambitious economic and social development programme, added the Minister.

The Egyptian government’s social programme focuses on supporting the most vulnerable groups and on cooperation between the government and the private sector to provide infrastructure projects for middle classes, Nasr said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has positioned youth empowerment at the core of the development agenda, which was reflected in his declaration that 2016 is the year of youth, said the minister. She called for youth to launch several initiatives and for the IFC support to overcome unemployment and empower youth economically, thereby enabling them to contribute to building their society.

The minister gave an overview of Egypt’s efforts in launching initiatives for youth development, given that President al-Sisi launched a comprehensive programme for supporting SMEs, which is considered one of his prominent achievements during his first two years in office.

The programme included allocating 20 percent of loans and injecting 200 billion Egyptian pounds ($22.5 billion) over the four upcoming years to contribute to financing 350,000 SMEs, thereby providing 4 million job opportunities, especially in Upper Egypt and lagging regions.

In order to alleviate youth burdens, Sisi decided that such loans would be with an annually decreasing 5 percent interest rate, stated the Minister, emphasising that sustainable development mainly depends on supporting entrepreneurship and youth.

Nasr further said her ministry cooperated with its development partners to secure $876 million worth of funds for supporting SMEs, including $600 million from the World Bank, a $76 million grant from the US Agency for International Development and a $200 million grant from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD).