In search of Egypt’s social capital

In search of Egypt’s social capital

There is no doubt that Egypt has undergone some consequential events since its popular outburst on Jan. 25, 2011. As the politics of power unfolds to fill the vacuum and establish who gets to govern the nation once again, one would do well to note that the real decisive factor for the future of Egypt will be in how it shall be done. Jun. 30, 2013, should leave no doubt that Egyptians have certainly established the right to have a real say in their political process. Regardless of their politics, millions of Egyptians have reshaped their image from apathetic to activist. 

The scene in Egypt might appear at times contradictory, sometimes justifiable, yet for the most part it is simply complicated as the forces of the new challenge the old. Encouraging signs of optimism are increasing as progress is made, as much as there are signs that cast serious doubt on the process. Compared to the faster pace of the political process and the required speed to resurrect the economy, attention to the social realm might seem slower. The cultural change, however, is undeniable. This is an opportune moment for innovative social leadership to ensure that energy derived from progress made is channeled to create a humane, productive and prosperous Egypt. Leadership will have to not only promise to act, but also to be enterprising and demonstrate effective responsibility for the challenges on the ground. This new formula for leadership must affirm the need for innovation, encourage team accountability and learn from mistakes. Attempts to restrict the growing demand for change instead of working with it will continue to not only be futile, but also to yield great dissent and violent objections. 

The interim Government’s announcements of a few immediate measures to relieve the burdens of the millions of poor families challenged in their daily lives came as a welcome move by many.

Announcements such as that all public school fees will be forsaken this year, signs of a considerable drop in the prices of some sustenance products and the presentation of a more detailed ambitious economic plan to move forward, ensure trust in the road map in progress. Alone they will not sustain that trust forever. The cultural product of their more recent past, Egyptians had been used to delegating responsibility of their lives to those in power. A formula of mere delegation without transparent accountability, social participation in decision making, or effective social responsibility will be of no use for much longer. 

The only way forward is to build on the massive engagement of the population in its current political affairs. The government must partner with the population as it is there to serve. Making Egyptians a big part of the solution instead of the major obstacle to development might be the only formula to harness the positive energy for change. To evolve Egypt’s culture and restore its strength and beauty, Egyptians must work hard and long. They will have to adopt new ways to replace the old; they will need to accept hard realities instead of favorable lies. Forging the essential partnership between Government and Civil society will be the only way to build the required social capital.