The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recently released a report, titled "Jobs Make The Difference," that details the economic opportunities for Syrian refugees as well as the economic impact that they have had on their host nations.
The ongoing civil war in Syria has ravished the country and displaced millions. Estimates put the number at 11 million individuals. Neighboring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt bear the brunt of the exodus; the 5 nations collectively host more than five million Syrian refugees.
Egypt accounts for about 120,000 registered Syrian refugees. However, the Egyptian government believes the real number to be closer to 500,000.
Often maligned, the report reveals the positive effects of their activity. Let's take a look at the impact of Syrian refugees on the Egyptian economy.
An overwhelming positive impact
The capital invested by Syrian refugees in Egypt since 2011 has been estimated at approximately $800 million. And that might be underestimated. According to the report, Syrians frequently do not register their businesses or register them under an Egyptian name.
Syrian businesses don't only hire Syrians
Syrian businesses often hire Egyptian workers, fostering an exchange of expertise between the Syrian and the local workforce, and effectively boosting exports for the country.
The Egyptian market is huge, and the Syrians are capitalizing on that
Syrian businesses cover several markets. Their enterprises range from large factories to micro-enterprises, and cover sectors such as textile production, perfume shops, restaurants, and IT firms.
Many Egyptians wear clothes with labels that read "Made in Egypt, with Syrian hands".
Egypt has proven to be one of the most attractive locations for Syrian refugees to launch enterprises
The report attributes this trend to the willingness of Egyptians to allow these firms to flourish, Egypt’s large market and strong supply chain, in addition to a prominent pre-existing Syrian business community in Egypt.
Let's not forget about the informal economy
According to the report, the cumbersome process by which Syrian refugees can obtain residency permits hinders their ability to participate in the formal labor market.
As a result, Syrians refugees tend to enter into the larger labor market. Work conditions in the informal economy can be exploitative with low pay.
Measures are being taken to remedy this issue
There is an ongoing effort in Egypt to remedy this issue. Authorities are working on a framework that would allow Syrian educational and professional certifications to be recognized under the country's current law and practice.
It's not easy to start a business in Egypt in general
The entrepreneurial journey is quite troublesome to begin with, but issues are compounded further for refugees. In addition to the challenges that entrepreneurs in Egypt endure, such as insufficient access to credit and banking, refugees have an additional set of problems. It's hard enough to get into the country and work legitimately, but it's even harder to go on business trips on their refugee visas.
Putting the economy aside, Syrians have improved our food :)
At last we can have some real decent Shawarma! All due respect Egyptians, but no one has shawarma in French bread!
Not to mention their awesome كنافة على الفحم!
Or their sahlab and fatta!
The list goes on...