Last Thursday, March 22, marked the celebration of World Water Day under the 2018 theme of Nature for Water. Bringing together international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national governments, and civil society worldwide, World Water Day highlights the importance of this precious and essential natural resource for human existence within the Earth’s ecosystem. On the other hand, this week, the Arab Republic of Egypt is celebrating its presidential election, which will very likely see the reelection of military leader Abdelfattah Al-Sisi as head of state. The reelection of President Sisi relates to World Water Day because in Egypt, the issue of water security along the Nile River valley will be a key issue during the upcoming years. Being a water scarce country, Egypt relies heavily on the water flow from the Nile River for agriculture, power generation, and rural sustenance.

Therefore, the imminent completion and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) further up along the Nile would represent a major issue for President Sisi given that the GERD could reduce Egypt’s river water supply by up to 25%. Once the elections in Egypt are settled by the end of the week, the government in Cairo will face a major foreign policy challenge negotiating with the Ethiopian government in order to prevent a major water and agricultural shortage.

The Importance of Water for International Development

Egypt is a presidential republic located along the southeastern Mediterranean. With a total territory of little over 1 million square kilometers, Egypt is larger than any state except for Alaska. Furthermore, Egypt has a coastline of 2.450 kilometers. Geographically, a large desert plateau and the Nile River valley along with a mostly hot climate dominate the country. Today, Egypt has a total population of almost 100 million citizens with an average age of 24 years. Similarly, about 43% of Egyptians live in an urban setting, notably the capital city of Cairo with its 19 million inhabitants. However, most of the country’s citizens live in a rural setting along the Nile River valley and its delta.

In economic terms, Egypt has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximately US$1.2 trillion (in terms of purchasing power parity, PPP), which is divided into 12% agriculture, 33% manufacturing, and 55% services. Furthermore, it is estimated that the agricultural industry employs 29% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 24% and services employ another 47%. Meanwhile, in Egypt, the agriculture industry only utilizes 4% of the national territory.

In terms of trade, Egypt is the world’s fifty-second largest export economy. During 2016, the country imported US$57.7 billion worth of goods and exported US$22.4 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$35.3 billion. Furthermore, Egypt’s main export, representing 12% or US$2.7 billion of the country’s total in 2016, was gold. Likewise, the country’s main import that same year, representing 5.7% or US$3.3 billion of all international purchases, was refined petroleum. Lastly, Egypt’s main trading partners are China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, and the United States.

(Read more about Strategic Trade between the United States and China)

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