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Regional Disparity in Egypt

Khaled DESOUKI
Cairo
Nubian village in Upper Egypt / Photo Shutterstock
Improvements in the national human-development indicators, as defined by the UNDP in 2005 and 2008, are not so much the result of higher standards achieved overall, but of the catching-up of previously under-privileged parts of society.

Rural areas still lag significantly behind urban areas. Upper Egypt (the south) does not perform as well as Lower Egypt (the Delta and other northern regions). Although the differences have become smaller in the past decade, the gap is still large in areas such as education, health care, access to sanitation, unemployment, and poverty. For example, the proportion of people spending less than two USD a day is 50 percent in rural Upper Egypt compared to 5 percent in the cities.

The situation in Upper Egypt is particularly alarming because poverty is increasing among individuals who have had a basic education, compared to those who have learned only how to read and write. The explanation for this lies in the faster population growth and slower job creation in the south.

The total population in urban areas increased by 40 percent in the ten years leading up to 2006, when it numbered 31 million. In rural areas the total population increased significantly faster, by 64 percent from 1996 to 2006, and is currently put at 42 million.

The five lowest-ranking governorates, according to the UNDP Human Development Index, are all in Upper Egypt, while the five highest-ranking governorates are all in Lower Egypt.

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