• 20 March 2014

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    Category : Opinion

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    Egypt, beyond Consumers Day

    Article by Alejandro Bueno, head of the FIIAPP Public Administration and Social Affairs team, published on 3500 Millones, the newspaper El País's blog, on the 15th of March, International Consumer Rights Day.

    21st of January 2014, 8:30 p.m., Terminal 3 of Cairo International Airport. In the midst of a swarm of taxi offers (legal and otherwise), we glimpsed a handwritten sign with our names on it at the exit to the terminal. The pleasant Egyptian man holding it up quickly ushered us into an SUV to take us to our hotel. While we wove through the crowds of cars, people and obstacles crossing the streets of an overwhelming and chaotic city, we got down to pumping him for the very latest information: whether or not the United States would provide financial aid, what had happened with the Muslim Brotherhood, with Mohamed Mursi, where Safuat el Hegazy was, and his opinion of Mohamed El Baradei, as well as of the provisional government formed after the demonstrations of June 2013.

    The man, eager to make his opinion known to foreigners like us, patiently answered our questions one by one, impassive in his expression and emphatic in his statements. Only two questions disquieted him: explaining how the poorest population was suffering the worst consequences of the political situation, and how tourism was shut down in the city. For this reason, many families are seeing their subsistence options wrecked. Clearly, consumption is collapsing, and with it the way of life of 12.5% of the population of a country with over 80 million people, according to World Bank data from 2012, whose income represents 11% of Egypt’s GDP.

    Today, the 15th of March 2014, is International Consumer Rights Day. Frankly, I have to admit that until a few years ago, I had no idea of its existence or the specific origin of the celebration, which it seems lies in a speech by the late President Kennedy before the United States Congress in 1963.

    I’m not in the dark anymore. Fifty-one years after that speech and after two years of work in Egypt, the Egyptian Consumer Protection Agency (CPA), a young institution created in 2007, is pulling out all the stops to celebrate it today to make itself visible, to be heard over the political tumult of the country.
    At an event in the Conrad Hotel in Cairo, hosted by the Minister of International Cooperation and Planning, Dr. Ashaf El Arabi, and the Minister of Supply and Internal Trade, Dr. Khaled Hanafy, the results of the cooperation project “Strengthening the consumer protection network and improvement of the capacities of the Consumer Protection Agency” are being presented. Executed by a consortium made up of the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry and the General Directorate of Consumption of Castilla-La Mancha, management of the project was led by the FIIAPP jointly with other European agencies. Financed by the European Commission, the main objective of the project was to help the CPA, as the leading national authority, strengthen its basic action functions, as well as to cover the effective framework of consumer protection.

    As a result of this project, no one doubts the improvement of the regulatory and legislative framework, the skills learned by the protection agency itself, the collaboration with the NGOs in this field and the creation of awareness campaigns for consumers, merchants and other interested parties. Even so, there is still much left to be done in a situation of political instability, pressing structural reforms and problems generating economic resources, and so this is just a spur to continue collaborating with the Egyptian authorities.

    These small steps will make it so that the titanic work of an institution like the CPA, which, apart from resources, lacks nothing in the way of enthusiasm or effort, endures and keeps working to improve the dynamic culture between producers, merchants and consumers to enhance all sectors of the Egyptian economy, from agriculture to industry and tourism. As Atef Amin Yacoub, Director of the Egyptian Agency told me, any help will be welcome and making itself known is a good start. May it last.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.