By Hisham Allam
CAIRO, May 25 2023 – The conflict in Sudan is impacting the economy in Egypt, and those who make their living moving goods across the borders have spent weeks hoping the situation will normalize.
Muhammad Saqr, a truck driver, left Cairo with a load of thinners on April 13, heading to Khartoum. By the time he had arrived at the border, the battle had flared up. Saqr remained, like dozens of trucks, waiting for the borders to be reopened.
On April 15, 2023, clashes erupted in Sudan between the army led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces led by Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as “Hamidti.” According to the UN, the clashes have resulted in hundreds of deaths and displaced more than a million people, with 840,000 internally displaced while another 250,000 have crossed the borders.
Saqr was stuck at the border for 28 days.
“We began to run out of supplies, and we reassured ourselves that the situation would improve tomorrow. Twenty-eight days passed while we slept in the open. The information we received from the bus drivers transporting the displaced from Sudan to Egypt convinced us that there would be no immediate relief. We knew that if we entered Khartoum alive, we would leave in shrouds,” Saqr told IPS.
“The merchant to whom we were transferring the goods asked us to wait and not return (home), particularly because he could not pay the customs duties due to the banks’ closure.”
Eventually, they returned with the goods to Cairo, Saqr said.
Mahmoud Asaad, a driver, was stuck on the Sudanese side of the border. Due to customs papers and permits, the livestock he was transporting had already been stuck in the customs barn in Wadi Halfa, Sudan, for thirty days. Then when the conflict broke out, the cows were trapped for another thirty days.
“We used to transport shipments of animals from Sudan to Egypt regularly,” Asaad explains. The average daily transport of animals to Egypt was roughly 60 trucks laden with cows and camels. This trade has stopped, and many Sudanese importers have fled to Egypt while waiting for the conflict to end.
“Sudan is regarded as a gateway for Egyptian exports to enter the markets of the Nile Basin countries and East Africa, and the continuation of war and insecurity will reduce the volume of trade exchange between the two countries, negatively impacting the Egyptian economy, which is currently experiencing some crises,” Matta Bishai, head of the Internal Trade and Supply Committee of the Importer’s Division of the General Federation of Chambers of Commerce, told IPS.
According to Bishai, commodity prices have risen significantly in recent months as the Egyptian pound has fallen against the US dollar. He also stated that the current situation in Sudan would result in additional price increases in the coming months, particularly for commodities imported from Sudan, such as meat.
Bishai explained that while Egypt had an ample domestic meat supply, it was nevertheless reliant on imports. Importing it from other countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Chad would take longer and be more expensive than importing it from Sudan, as land transport is more convenient and cheaper than transporting the goods by sea.
According to Bishai, Sudan is a major supplier of livestock and live meat to Egypt, supplying about 10 percent of Egypt’s requirements. Higher meat prices will put additional pressure on Egypt’s inflation rates.
“Rising commodity prices, combined with the current situation in Sudan, are expected to result in higher inflation rates in Egypt in the coming months,” said Bishai.
According to data from the General Authority for Export and Import Control on trade exchange between Egypt and the African continent during the first quarter of this year, Sudan ranked second among the top five markets receiving Egyptian exports, valued at USD 226 million.
According to Ahmed Samir, the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and African markets amounted to about USD 2,12 billion in the first quarter of this year, with the value of Egyptian commodity exports to the continent totaling USD 1,61 billion and Egyptian imports from the continent totaling UD 506 million.
Mohamed Al-Kilani, an economics professor and member of the Egyptian Society of Political Economy, said: “The negative consequences will be felt in the trade exchange, which has recently increased and reached USD2 billion. Egypt has attempted to expedite the import process from Sudan by expanding the road network and building a railway.”
Credit rating agency Moody’s warned that should the conflict in Sudan continue for an extended period, it would have an adverse credit impact on neighboring countries and impact multilateral development banks. Moody’s added that if the clashes in Sudan turn into a long civil war, destroying infrastructure and worsening social conditions, there will be long-term economic consequences and a decline in the quality of Sudan’s multilateral banks’ assets, as well as an increase in non-performing loans and liquidity.
As the conflict entered its sixth week, attempts at a ceasefire have failed – with both sides accusing each other of violating agreements.
IPS UN Bureau Report