Egypt’s animal-drawn cart owners struggle as government crackdown intensifies

Menna A.
Farouk, Al Monitor, May 20, 2018

animal-drawn cart owners are finding it hard to make ends meet as the Egyptian
government intensifies its crackdown against them as part of its campaign to
fight traffic congestion in Cairo.
Abdallah Dalsh. Men on a horse cart ride past posters of Egyptian President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 28, 2018.

animal-drawn cart owners are struggling as the government has intensified
its crackdown
on them in the last few months in order to clean up
Cairo’s streets and ease traffic congestion, which costs the Egyptian economy
billions of dollars.

The campaign, called “Cairo
Without Animal-Drawn Carts,” started in October 2017 with the aim of putting an
end to a scene that upsets many residents while at the same time guaranteeing a
dignified life for the cart owners by giving them an alternative — either a motorcycle or a pickup
truck, depending on their needs.
The price
of the vehicle is paid for in part by selling the cart and the
remainder is funded by soft loans repaid to the government in either short-term
or long-term installments. The
motor vehicles provided to cart owners are financed by the Social Fund for
Development, the Ministry of State Housing, Utilities and Urban Development and
the National Bank of Egypt.
Moustafa, the spokesman for the Cairo governorate, said that a total of 130
animal-drawn cart owners have given up their carts since the campaign was
launched in October, and that some of them are now taking driving
lessons in order to drive the motor vehicles.
“Now a
large number of cart owners are being convinced that they should give up their
carts to the government because if they get caught, their carts will be
confiscated and they can face fines. The animals are also being given to animal
rights associations,” Moustafa told Al-Monitor. The fine amounts to up to 16,000
Egyptian pounds ($900).
added that some cart owners said they cannot read or write and therefore will
not be able to obtain driver’s licenses. “That’s why we have started
to offer those cart owners, in cooperation with civil society organizations,
lessons to learn to read and write so they can obtain their
driver’s licenses,” he added.
initiative comes as part of government
to bring the capital back to its previous glory and put an
end to traffic congestion that is partly caused by having these animal-drawn
carts walking down the streets. Since 2014, the government has been taking a
raft of measures to preserve the history of the capital’s streets and restore Cairo
to the beautiful and clean city it was in the past. The measures have included
garbage-removing campaigns, upgrade projects such as the restoration of
historical buildings and initiatives to turn the walls in Cairo metro
stations into graffiti masterpieces.
Cairo was
among the most
beautiful and clean cities
in the world between 1915 and 1925. In
1925, the city won a medal of honor for being the most beautiful and clean
city in the Mediterranean and for the design of its buildings and the
smoothness of its traffic.
There are
about 1,718 animal-drawn carts in Cairo, according to Cairo Gov. Atef Abdel
Hamid. Abdel Hamid said in an interview with Al Bawaba News May 13 that
the number of animal-drawn carts had declined by 25% since the start of the
initiative, noting that Cairo will be free of carts by this
Some cart
owners said that the initiative is weighing down on their financial
situation and causing them to face hard times on the streets.
Mohamed, a donkey-drawn cart owner who uses the cart for selling fruits, said
that he has been suffering over the past few months as the government is
dealing strictly with any animal-drawn cart owners. “They take our carts and our
animals and also give us a fine,” Mohamed told Al-Monitor.
who hangs around with his cart in Heliopolis, in eastern Cairo, said he started
to avoid walking with his cart in the main streets in order not to be caught by
the local municipality. “I do not know what I will do if the government took
this cart from me,” he said.
Some cart
owners in other areas have not yet heard about the initiative. “I have not
heard of the initiative, and I am against it. That’s because someone like me
cannot drive a motor vehicle. I also do not have any other source of income;
the cart is my only source of income,” Hassan Abdullah, a cart owner who sells
scraps and used items in Kobry el-Qoba, in eastern Cairo, told Al-Monitor.
owners who have positively responded to the initiative said that the campaign
seeks to improve their social conditions and living standards and provide a
dignified life for them. “At first I did not like the initiative, but when
I saw the government intensifying its crackdown on cart owners, I gave up my
cart. Now I am convinced that the initiative is good because it helps cart
owners eliminate their illiteracy and get a driver’s license; at the
same time it beautifies the capital’s streets and makes it pleasant for citizens
and tourists,” Am Ismail Abdel Hakeem, who used to sell vegetables with his
cart, told Al-Monitor.
initiative also seems to come as part of the government’s strategy to integrate
the informal economy into the formal economy. The informal economy represents about 40% of the country’s
formal economy and is valued at 1.8 trillion
Egyptian pounds
($101 billion), according to Prime Minister Sherif
the initiative can be beneficial for the economy, it may harm the environment,
according to experts. Ahmed Fahmy, an environmentalist and chairman of a
nongovernmental organization focusing on environmental issues, said that
replacing animal-drawn carts with motor vehicles would harm the environment, as
these vehicles release toxic emissions.
“It would
have been better if the government replaced the carts with
beautiful tricycles, which are environmentally friendly and would not
cause any harm to the look of the capital,” Fahmy told Al-Monitor.