The population in Egypt is growing quickly and has more than doubled since the 1970s: from 36 million citizens in 1976 to 84 million in 2013. As a result of this evolution, urban areas in the country like Cairo or Alexandria have become some of the most crowded in the world. Approximately 75 per cent of this population is under the age of 25.
Unemployment is one of Egypt’s main challenges, which affects 13,4 per cent of the total active population. The unemployment rate is especially high among women: 25 per cent of the active female population is unemployed, with this number increasing to 39,3 per cent of women between 20-24 years old and 20,9 per cent of women between 25-29 years old.
Situated in a strategic location, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, at the crossroads of Africa and southwest Asia, Egypt takes advantage of its strategic geographical position to become a trading hub as well as its preferential access to a number of major markets as a result of signed trade agreements.
Cultural and creative industries
Egypt is a country characterized by a long history and influenced throughout the centuries by many different cultures (pharaohs, Copts, Islam). This situation has led the country to accumulate an enormous cultural wealth, which is reflected not only in its architecture but also in a large number of traditional products.
The impact of Egypt’s culture has contributed to the development of knowledge on the creation and production of certain types of goods, such as leather goods, basketry, jewellery, textile, furniture, natural stone and carpets. It has also contributed to the development of other cultural expressions such as music, books, movies or performing arts. As a result of this process, Egypt has become a reference in terms of culture and creation for many Arab countries, with Cairo being a capital for cultural and creative industries (CCIs).
Most CCIs in Egypt benefit from a long tradition and are nowadays totally consolidated, especially in the design-based industries (marble, furniture, home textiles, etc.) and in cultural transmedia (film, publishing or music), which are mainly located in Cairo and Alexandria.
In addition, there exists a large number of smaller realities (hand-made products and short series of production) that also have a long tradition and are for the most part located in small cities or villages all over the country. Among them are traditional products related to local culture and heritage such as Khayameya, Kilim, carpets, pottery or different types of embroidery. Most of these products are sold to tourists and within the country.
Finally, there are also young sectors such as videogames or heritage management that do not have enough critical mass to be considered clusters, but which are emerging gradually.
The most advanced sectors are the industrialized, which are more international (such as the furniture and marble sectors) and those that have worldwide recognized leading companies (such as the jewellery sector).
Informal companies represent a high percentage of many clusters in CCIs, especially for handicrafts. The Egyptian Export Council of Handicrafts estimates that 95 per cent of the craft activity is informal. This situation creates serious difficulties to structure and support these crafts concentrations spread all over the territory.
Existing cluster framework and cluster programmes
While Egypt does not currently have a national cluster policy for CCIs, there are a number of organizations that actively support the development of CCIs in Egypt. One of these is the Industrial Modernization Centre (IMC), which besides helping to develop CCIs also supports the development of business opportunities in handicrafts. In cooperation with the IMC, the Chambers of Commerce and the export councils also provide assistance to developing industrial clusters. The Egyptian Export Council of Handicrafts was recently founded to supports artisans.
National stakeholders are thus working together to counter the declining participation in the handicraft sector and to develop products that compete on quality and not just on price. Another trend is the linkage by support organizations of designers with producers to foster innovation and the development of new products.
Potential clusters in cultural and creative industries
Among the 47 clusters identified in CCIs, almost half (21 clusters) are based on an industrial or service approach, namely involving a manufacturing process with a significant or intensive use of machinery and equipment, identical products and large series of production. The remaining 26 clusters are based on a more artisanal approach, i.e. hand-made products that are never identical as traditional techniques are used to produce short series. The clusters are:
- Advertising in Cairo
- Arts de la table and pottery in Tunis (Faiyum)
- Artistic glassware in Cairo
- Basketry decoration and arts de la table in Al Wahat
- Basketry decoration and arts de la table in Fayoum
- Basketry decoration and arts de la table in Shalateen
- Carpets (flat-woven carpet Kilim) in Al Wahat
- Carpets (flat-woven carpet Kilim) in Fowa
- Carpets (flat-woven carpet Kilim) in Siwa
- Carpets (traditional carpets) in Giza
- Carpets (traditional carpets) in Minya
- Carpets (traditional carpets) in Saqiet Abou Shaara
- Carpets in 10th of Ramadan City
- Decorative noubian art in Nouba
- Decorative alabaster in the Cairo region
- Decorative marble and alabaster in Gorna
- Decorative pottery in Al Wahat
- Decorative pottery in Garagos
- Film in Cairo
- Furniture in Alexandria
- Furniture in Cairo
- Furniture in Damietta
- Garments and home textile in Bourj Al Arab
- Garments and home textile in El Obour City
- Garments and home textile in El Sadat City
- Garments and home textile in Shubra El-Khaymah
- Garments and home textile in 6th of October City
- Garments and home textile in El-Mahalla El-Kubra
- Garments (decorative embroidery designs) in North Sinai
- Garments (decorative embroidery designs) in South Sinai
- Garments (decorative tally and embroidery designs) in Shandawil
- Garments (traditional scarves) in Naqada
- Habitat design in Cairo
- Hand-made leather goods in Shalateen
- Home textiles (Khayameya applique embroidery designs) in Cairo
- Home textiles (bed throws) in Akhmim
- Home textiles (blankets and embroidery designs) in Siwa
- Home textiles (crochet goods) in Quseir
- Jewellery in Cairo
- Leather shoes and fashion accessories in 10th of Ramadan City (Cairo region)
- Leather shoes and fashion accessories in Alexandria
- Lighting in Cairo
- Marble and granite in Cairo (Sha’a El Te’Aban)
- Marble, granite and mosaics in Alexandria
- Music in Cairo
- Publishing in Cairo
- Traditional wood hand-carving products for home in Hegaza
Other economic realities in cultural and creative industries
There are a number of other economic concentrations that do not fulfil all the required criteria to be considered as clusters. These are:
- Architects: more than 100,000 architects currently work in Egypt, with 50 universities and 6,000 new graduates every year. However, they are not concentrated geographically
- Heritage management: in spite of the many heritage sites in Egypt, there are only a few companies in the value chain offering related services and they are also spread around the country
- Videogames in Cairo: the videogames industry is emerging but there is not enough critical mass to form a cluster
- Ceramic manufacturing: 38 companies produce ceramic tiles with 3,000 workers spread throughout the territory. Thus, there is neither geographical concentration nor a critical mass of companies
- Candles: there are 15 candle and wax accessories manufacturers in Egypt but there is a lack of critical mass and concentration in a specific location
- Performing arts in Cairo and Alexandria: several dance and theatre companies have been identified but there is a low critical mass to consider them a cluster
- Visual arts in Giza: there is a limited concentration of visual artists and professionals in Haram, a district of Giza
- Hand-made leather products in Cairo and in Fayoum: despite the relocation of many companies to Badr City (for tanneries) or 10th of Ramadan City (for leather products), there are still some tanneries and leather workshops in Old Cairo but they are mainly oriented towards the local demand
- Furniture industry in different locations: there are three main clusters in Alexandria, Cairo and Damietta with other concentrations (for example in El Minya, Gharbia and Sohag) spread around the country; these do not have enough critical mass to be considered a cluster. Others agglomerations such as those in Assiut, Daqahleya or Al Sharkeya could be potential clusters but focus on the local market
- Garments and home textiles in Alexandria and Cairo: in Cairo, there is a concentration of companies but not enough critical mass to be considered a cluster. In Alexandria, there is also a concentration of the textile industry but not enough critical mass
- Marble in Suez and Ismailia: as quarries are spread all over the country, there are small agglomerations of companies focused on marble processing such as in Suez and Ismailia, but in both cases there is not enough critical mass to consider them clusters
- Cotton-ginning in Tanta: there is an agglomeration of companies specialized in cotton ginning (separation of cotton fibres from their seeds) that is part of a value chain but does not qualify as a cluster
The two selected clusters
Habitat design cluster in Cairo:
- Sector: habitat design in Cairo
- Strengths: the cluster addresses designers in Cairo as well as handicraft manufacturers all over the country who work with the designers. The objective is to develop an integrated design hub with a complete value chain to preserve and revive Egyptian heritage through the promotion of local designers and crafts as well as through the development of new creative designs oriented to match market needs and trends. The designers’ products are very creative and strongly linked to Egypt’s cultural heritage; there is a strong potential to expand the number of current participants and support institutions within the existing economic reality of the sector. At the same time, there is a strong environmental awareness and a very promising potential to export products to high-end markets
- Weaknesses: Export capacities are currently limited. Moreover, the cluster faces several challenges in terms of availability of materials, project financing, marketing and advertising and export promotion, among others
Leather cluster in Cairo:
- Sector: leather in Cairo
- Strengths: the cluster operates in the leather sector in Cairo (leather goods and shoe manufacturers). It seeks to improve their capabilities in new product development as well as to access new markets. The cluster already benefits from a strong coverage of the value chain and a wide range of products including wallets, women bags, business bags, leather garments, accessories, etc. Overall, there is a strong critical mass of the leather economic reality and a potential high socio-economic impact (in terms of job creation) as well as a high potential for exports
- Weaknesses: the current strategic vision needs to be more focused to achieving the expected results; activities should be better defined during the development of the business plan
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Nahla Kamal
National Project Coordinator