If there is one lesson that Egypt took from its two recent revolutions: youth and women cannot be overlooked.
This is the message that Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister Ambassador Mohamed Edrees says ought to be emphasised in the week that the continent celebrates Africa Day. “Youth and women are good pillars that must be empowered,” he said in a recent interview with The Southern Times.
Africa Day 2016 is being celebrated in furtherance of the African Union’s theme this year: ‘Human Rights with a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women’.
Ambassador Edrees says Egypt was part of launching the foundation of the Organisation of the African Unity, now the African Union, a process in which Gamal Abder Nasser, the second president of Egypt, was very instrumental. “We are now trying to be inspired by [Nasser’s and other AU founding fathers’] legacy, but we have to work on many aspects of trade, tourism, culture. “Egypt has had a significant historical role in the liberation of the continent, now we need to move into shaping the future of the continent, enhance institutional infrastructure for intra-African trade and personalise this spirit on the ground,” says Edrees.
Regarding the lessons learnt from the two recent revolutions in Egypt, Edrees says: Government and leaders must aspire to be people-centred, to listen to the voice of the people, to look at the future with the understanding that, as leaders, they have a responsibility to ensure peace, and to keep in mind that we live in a globalised world, so whatever one country does its effects would be felt worldwide.
Hence the focus must be “on the interest of our people. [Let us] work together, not from a narrow perspective, but from a continental perspective, turning our resources into a really strong African common position,” he says.
Egypt experienced two deep-going revolutions in recent times: the youth-led protests of 2011 that removed president Hosni Mubarak from office and the protests of 2013 that removed from office Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood elected president after the 2011 revolution.
Not only have the events cast a shadow of a uncertainty over the country, it has also made Egypt to turn its attention from African affairs to the immediate needs of rebuilding the country. More so, given that the country is also battling insurgence terrorist organisations withing. This month ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack on policemen in the streets of Cairo. Two other attacks were reported in the previous months.“Terrorism has become a universal phenomenon, a great concern to our continent. We have to counter this with a collective strategy and work together as a continent,” the ambassador says.
To make things worse for Egypt, which enjoyed a high global ranking as a favourite tourist destination before the revolutions, is the recent accidents involving an aircraft belonging to Egypt Air. Edrees admits that these incidents have not helped instil confidence among tourists, whose numbers have been plummeting since the two revolutions. Egypt’s tourism association says the number of visitors and revenue from tourism have plummeted to below 50 percent of 2011 figures, prompting the country’s technocrats to redouble their efforts to lure more tourists to the country. Traditionally tourists to Egypt come from Russia, Germany, the UK, and Italy and France combined. Edrees describes terrorism as “a threat to the future of our country, including tourism, which is a very sensitive industry.”
However, he says as a country they have always looked at counter-measures of improving security and on “intellectual aspects” for people to understand that religion is different than to what is being portrayed by some terrorists in the name of religion – a religion that calls for the killing of those with different views. “It is a battle, but we have to take strong stance on this,” he says.