Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Urbanization Dynamics in Egypt: Factors, Trends, Perspectives

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Urbanization Dynamics in Egypt: Factors, Trends, Perspectives

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The article analyzes the specifics of urbanization dynamics in Egypt, which is noteworthy fora number of reasons. First, there was a shift from the logistic trend in the 1970s, and the share of urban population stopped growing. The U ? data analysis shows that such a shift usually occurs against the background of very serious economic difficulties (and other problems associated with them). However, the urban population proportion stopped growing in Egypt when the country was experiencing a period of exceedingly rapid economic growth. We find labor migration of unprecedented scale to be the main reason which engendered this seemingly paradoxical situation. We further proceed to analyze the UN forecast on the dynamics of the Egyptian urban population proportion up to 2050, which implies a return to the logistic trend and rapid growth of the urban population share, which is fraught with socio-political instability risks. However, we present data proving that the logistic urbanization trajectory is not inevitable for Egypt, and the destabilization risks connected with the rapid increase of urban population share are largely irrelevant to Egypt in the forecasted period.

Keywords: Egypt, urbanization, migration, economic growth, forecasts, sociopolitical destabilization

Logistic Trend of the Urbanization Process and the Deviations

Urbanization is an indispensable part of the process of modernization.1 So, urbanization proves to be a significant phenomenon to regard when talking about the modernizing countries. In this respect, of great use is the UN Population Division dataset presenting evidence on the share of the urban population in various countries of the world since 1950 up to the present (the data is given in five-year periods). Moreover, basing on the known dynamics of the share of the urbanized population, the UN experts present their own forecast for the future urbanization trend in various countries up to 2050 (again presenting figures with five-year intervals).

As has been already proved in scholarly literature,2 the overall urbanization macrodynamics is rather well described by a logistic model of growth. Indeed, logistic growth is a kind of growth with saturation which engenders the following dynamics: an accelerating growth of an indicator (in our case, the proportion of urban population) at the beginning of the process is changed by a slowdown in the growth rates, and the process is finally concluded by a stabilization of this indicator at some particular (saturation) level (see Figure 1).

The essence of the logistic growth of the proportion of urban population is as follows: when this proportion is rather low, the possibility of a rural dweller moving to a city is higher with the higher proportion of urban population. Indeed, the higher this proportion is, the more the probability that this rural dweller has a relative or an acquaintance residing in a city, who can supply him/her with the information necessary for committing a rural-urban migration and the initial support (as an ordinary peasant would hardly venture to move "into nowhere"). The growth of the urban population percentage tends to achieve its highest values when you have an equal number of potential and actual city-dwellers (that is with the proportion of urban population about 50 percent). However, as the proportion of the urban population exceeds 50 percent and starts approaching the saturation level, the proportion of potential city-dwellers drops more and more, and the growth rate of the variable in question slows down.

The UN Population Division data on the proportion of urban population in various countries shows that the logistic model describes rather well the unregulated urbanization transition in absence of strong resource limitations and is quite frequently encountered in the modernizing countries - see, for example, the Saudi case (Figure 2).

However, in a number of countries the logistic urbanization trend was clearly interrupted at a certain point of development, being still very far from the saturation level. …

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