Business, Economics and Jobs

In Post-Revolution Egypt, Businesses on the Brink

Just down the road from Tahrir Square is Gallery Paris, an aging antique store that has seen the best and the worst of Egypt's 2011 revolution.

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Hossam Zenhom is the store's 28-year-old owner. Under a dozen glittering chandeliers, Zenhom recalls the heady days of the uprising.

"In the beginning, the revolution was something tremendous," Zenhom says. "But now, the negatives outweigh the positives."

Business is bad, Zenhom says. Egypt's economy is in shambles. And his former clients simply can't spend on things like antiques, even though middle class and upper-middle class customers were the norm.

The lack of business isn't only affecting Zenhom. Many of his neighbors make the same claims.

Catchy Arabic pop tunes float in the air just outside Mohamed Lotfi Ahmed's tiny CD and DVD store right next to Gallery Paris. Ahmed says even a business like his that caters to young people is getting hammered.

"This revolution has stalled everything for us. It shouldn't be considered a positive one for those in downtown, shop keepers or business owners downtown."

The problem, the men say, is that even if people did have money, they're too afraid to go downtown. Since the uprising, there has been an uptick in violent protests and sexual assaults, especially in downtown Cairo. On any given weekend, there are protests about something.

The threat of violence and the declining income of the middle class is proving to be a deadly mix for businesses and the Egyptian economy as a whole.

"The Egyptian economy in general is so sensitive these days, by every day to day events that happen," says Mohamed Yousef, director of the Egyptian Businessmen's Association.

Yousef says Egypt is in a dark tunnel thanks to political insecurity. But he says businessmen like Zenhom need to hang on, because the country will bounce back eventually.

"Despite all bad things that we have, the black points, the dark tunnel we are in, Egypt has the ability and the capability to grow rapidly once there is a sort of stability," Yousef says. "We have all the resources that give us a privilege to run fast and fast and back again. We could compete with the strongest economy in the world, if there's a stability and if there is a will."

But Zenhom says he can't wait that long. He's spending about $2,000 a month for rent, and he hasn't sold anything in over two years. Zenhom thinks the current government under President Mohamed Morsi should step in and do more for its people, many of whom are still waiting in long lines for government subsidized bread.

"Morsi should stand by his people," Zenhom says. "To put us on the first step to recovery. We don't need any more than this."

He warns that with a hungry people and businesses like his on the decline, another revolution might be on its way.