In Egypt, US Aid not Welcome?

A marker bearing the USAID logo and the Egyptian flag outside the Saints Sergius and Bacchus church in Cairo. The United States is gaining critics in Egypt for its ongoing efforts to channel millions of dollars in aid to civil society groups. Photo by: Moravsky Vrabec / CC BY-SA

The United States is gaining critics in Egypt for its ongoing efforts to channel millions of dollars in aid to civil society groups.

In May, the Egyptian government reportedly rejected the U.S. offer of economic assistance because it did not consider the aid package to be essential. It also opposed how the United States intended to implement the programs, including providing funds to civil society organizations, according to a local newspaper.  

>> Egypt Turns Down US Economic Aid Package

As per the U.S. Agency for International Development’s website, the United States has made $165 million available for “near-term assistance to support projects that generate jobs and economic growth and support Egyptian efforts to secure a democratic future” following the ouster of the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak. As of April, the U.S. had provided $105 million to various non-governmental organizations to promote political participation in the country, Ann Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Cairo, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  

Middle East Online reported in late July that more than 1,000 Egyptians have approached USAID’s Cairo office with grant proposals, citing U.S. officials and NGO representatives.

The trend is displeasing members of government. Pressured by prominent leftists and Islamist groups, interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered in July the creation of a fact-finding body to probe foreign funding of domestic and international NGOs not authorized by the government. The panel later published blacklisted NGOs and political parties that have sought USAID funding. Banks were instructed to report all funds made to NGOs.

“There is a difference between your development partners extending a helping hand and beginning to interfere in what is essentially national affairs,” Talaat Abdel-Malek, senior economic adviser for the minister of international cooperation, told The Jerusalem Post. “USAID in particular crossed that line.”

Abdel-Malek, however, did not discount the importance of USAID assistance to Egypt.

“There is no question that USAID has played a role in improving Egypt’s infrastructure, especially in the sectors of telecommunications, electricity, health and sanitary drainage,” she added.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Devex, Egyptian blogger and activist Dalia Ziada warned against giving the money to the government.

She said: “But what people need there is capacity building. Don’t just go there and give them money or give it to the governments to misuse it. Find the right people on the ground, the youths, the grassroots, the ordinary people. Go speak with them, hear their ideas. And give them the money after they’ve proven their capacity, not before. Otherwise, they’ll take the money and waste it because they don’t know how to spend it the right way.”

>> Dalia Ziada: An Egyptian Blogger Advocates Democratic Reform

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.