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On the Egyptian uprising against the electricity cuts

April 18, 2024 at 8:18 am

People walk in darkness past open shops during a power cut in the Fleming neighbourhood of Alexandria, Egypt on November 25, 2023 [AMIR MAKAR/AFP via Getty Images]

With the Egyptian government announcing the start of implementing a load-reducing plan again, which requires cutting off electricity to homes for two hours a day, a social media campaign was launched strongly attacking the decision and carrying the hashtag #No_to_electricity_cuts.

Among the other hashtags used by activists that are related to the original hashtag, are #Enough_darkness, #Have_mercy_on_us#No_load_reducting, #Enough_electricity_cuts, #I_refuse_electricity_cuts, #Why_are_you_cutting_off_a_service_we_pay_for, #Electricity_and_water_and_public_utilities_is_a_basic_right

The campaign is logical, as those launching it are asking why the government is cutting our electricity when we are paying for the service according to the official prices that have been increasing over the past ten years.

Others are surprised by the decision to cut off electricity to homes, starting last Monday, for other reasons, including, for example, that it completely contradicts statements made by senior state officials about the country achieving self-sufficiency in electricity production in recent years, and completely eliminating the energy crisis by establishing huge production stations, whether in Beni Suef or other areas. The officials had stressed that the electricity crisis has become a thing of the past.

OPINION: Darkness haunts the blind in Egypt twice over

There has also been frequent talk in the media about starting to export surplus electricity to neighbouring countries, most notably Sudan, Libya, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Greece and Cyprus and, in the future, to Italy and the rest of the European countries.

Meanwhile, others link this decision to the government’s plans to export Egyptian gas or gas imported from Israel to Europe, which is thirsty for blue fuel, after the continent imposed a harsh blockade and sanctions against Russian gas following the Ukraine war in February 2022.

It is worth noting that those launching the hashtag #No_to electricity_cuts have posted pictures showing extremely wasteful consumption of electricity in other areas that enjoy the support of state agencies. They also spoke with complete confidence about the wasteful energy consumption in the New Administrative Capital, the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque, the highest iconic tower in Africa, and the cities of El-Alamein and the northern coast.

This also applies to cities inhabited by the wealthy, the elite and white-collar citizens, such as the First Settlement, the Fifth Settlement, Al-Rehab, Heliopolis, Madinaty and others. They considered this move a disregard for the people’s minds and their demand to rationalise consumption at a time when state agencies are wasting electricity in the areas they support.

The Egyptians’ uprising, this time against cutting off electricity, which resembles an Intifada, has valid and logical reasons. In addition to suffering from total darkness and the social and security problems it causes, the deteriorating living conditions, food spoilage, damage to electrical and household appliances, such as televisions, refrigerators, air conditioners and fans, and people being stuck in elevators for more than an hour, Egyptian families are approaching school and university exam dates, which fall in May and June.

Moreover, the crisis is also close to the summer months and, if the power cuts start from now, what will the situation be like when the scorching heat descends on Egyptians during the summer months?

Cutting off electricity will not only affect the livelihood of Egyptians, raise their anxiety and disturb their daily lives, but may also extend to vital sectors such as production, tourism, agriculture, economic growth and businesses.

This is a major issue if we are talking about real plans to encourage direct investment and increase state revenues through the vital export sector. Export contracts will not be signed in the midst of power outages and an increase in the cost of production, taxes and fees.

While one of the reasons given by the government for cutting off electricity since last 17 July is related to the lack of foreign currency needed to finance the import of fuel from abroad, what is the justification now, after tens of billions of dollars have flowed into the state in the past few weeks, whether from the Ras Al-Hikma deal, international institutions loans or hot money exceeding $17 billion?

The Egyptians feel that there is something fishy going on with regards to the electricity cuts because the aforementioned questions and others have no satisfactory answers, most notably: Should the Egyptian citizen have to sacrifice for the well-being of their European counterpart, who enjoys stable electricity, gas at an acceptable price and excellent services in all sectors?

READ: EU pledges Egypt $1.07bn in financial aid

This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby on 16 April, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.