“We’re creating a more beautiful image of our country.”
Former president Hosni Mubarak’s government tried to stem the tide of tuk-tuks, banning them in most of Cairo’s affluent neighbourhoods, but it also allowed tuk-tuk parts to flow from South Asia to Egypt, where vehicle manufacturers legally assembled and sold the unlicensed vehicles.1
In September, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced a sweeping plan to phase out tuk-tuks in 20 governorates, swapping them for seven-seater minivans. The proposal, offering drivers a payoff period of up to five years, bars all tuk-tuks from cities and main roads but allows new and licensed tuk-tuks to continue operating in narrow alleys and rural villages.
Egypt’s finance and military production ministries, along with three major vehicle manufacturers, have opened an economic review to hammer out the details and expect the microbuses to hit the streets within a year. El-Qassim, the spokesman for the development ministry, said the tuk-tuks contribute to congestion, air pollution and fatal car crashes – even terrorism, since the government cannot trace unlicensed vehicles.
- 1. The state had long turned a blind eye as tuk-tuks became part of the fabric of life in Cairo’s vast informal settlements. The new plan requires that drivers sell their tuk-tuks for scrap and take loans to buy new minivans – or risk fines and even prosecution. It has raised fears that the poorest Egyptians, already squeezed by economic austerity measures, will shoulder the bulk of the burden.
It was a classic example of the state’s contradictory approach towards the informal economy, which accounts for as much as 50% to 60% of Egypt’s GDP, according to the International Labour Organisation. “Because of its limited capacities, the state lives with deeply embedded informality,” or do-it-yourself infrastructure, like unauthorised housing, which saves the government from providing mass services to the poor, said Amr Adly, a Cairo-based political economy expert.