CAIRO – 28 December 2018: 2018 saw the Egyptian government, under the leadership of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, make a one of a kind leap towards security the future of those working in the informal economy, whether as building workers, temporary workers or otherwise. Through the creation of multiple different-level safety programs and initiatives to protect the country’s less well-off segment and to help them escape the poverty trap, the government was able to secure the future of almost 250,000 individuals and their families.
“Aman has changed our lives, it has truly made a difference for us. We now feel safer and more at ease; I know that if something were to happen to me, my kids would be alright,” Saad Mohamed, a construction worker in New Cairo, told Egypt Today.
“I have purchases a certificate and many of the people that I know have also purchases Aman Certificates, however, some are still saving up. I think that a good idea is to offer Aman Certificates in installments; I think you cannot get them in installments right now,” Mohamed Bayoumy, a porter in New Cairo, told Egypt Today.
As part of the government’s initiatives towards poorer segments of the population, it has encouraged banks to launch Aman Certificates, translating to Safety Certificates. The certificates are designed to be life insurance plans for informal and temporary workers. Official estimates show that the number of informal workers – craftsmen, daily-hire workers and self-employed – stands around 15 million.
The certificates come after President Sisi ordered, during the inauguration of the first phase of the new Alamein City, the creation of social insurance networks for daily laborers, whom he described as building the country and helping its economy. The President gave authorities responsible 15 days to fulfill his orders.
Sisi also called on the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, and the Ministry of Housing to obligate the companies working with them to provide their temporary employees with insurance within 15 days.
A screenshot of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during his speech in the inauguration of Alamein City and other projects
As a result, on the first day of March, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced the introduction of the certificates, explaining that they will be established by state banks and state-owned insurance companies.
Ismail said last year that the country’s informal sector is worth LE 1.6 trillion, echoing Sisi’s message on the importance of informal laborers to the Egyptian economy.
As of right now, official estimates show that the number of informal workers – craftsmen, daily-hire workers and self-employed – stands around 15 million. Thus, many stand to benefit from the certificates.
Egypt’s move towards intensifying and fortifying its safety nets, a move that has occurred over the past few years, comes in line with the World Bank’s ‘Social Protection and Labor Strategy 2012-2022.’ The strategy recommends that creating social safety nets will help countries move from having fragmented economies and programs to a more affordable social protection system that will enable individuals to reduce disaster risk, whether manmade, natural, economic, or physical, and will build on their human capital. This will increase people’s access to jobs and their ability to manage and handle risks.
According to the research carried out by the World Bank in recent publication, 69 million people living on less that $1.25 per day, defined as living in absolute poverty, are lifted from this poverty gap through social safety networks.
Similarly, the World Bank’s research also suggests that 97 million people are lifted from relative poverty, defined by economist Amartya Sen as individuals lacking the resources to consume as would be seen appropriate in their society.
American economist Robert M. Townsend also agrees, stating in a 1979 publication, “Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged, or approved, in the societies to which they belong.”
As per the World Bank, relative poverty is “defined as people in the bottom 20 percent of the income or consumption distribution.” The World Bank holds that social safety nets are a vital tool in addressing poverty and reducing it. It helps to help people out of the poverty trap that they remain inside due to debt, lack of appropriate credit mechanisms for them, as well as many other factors that could easily be addressed via social safety networks. International research agrees with this view.
As a result of this research consensus, four Egyptian banks, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), Banque Misr, Banque Du Caire and Agriculture Bank of Egypt, encouraged by the Egyptian government, have provided the Aman Certificates. The four banks will start issuing the certificates during the first week of March across their 2,475 branches.
The certificates can be purchased by any informal or temporary laborer between the age of 18 and 59. The labourer simply needs to present his or her national identification card for the certificate to be issued.
The purchase of the Aman Certificates, which range from LE 500 to LE 2,500, do not require opening a bank account and it does not entail any fees.
Providing insurance coverage and monthly pensions for casual workers with a 16 percent interest rate, the certificate includes coverage for natural and accidental death and are set to help the estimated 15 million informal workers lead a better quality of life.
The policy pays one-time benefits of LE 10,000 to LE 250,000, in case of accidental or natural death, or monthly pensions of LE 200 to LE 1,000 over a period of five years or LE 120 to LE 600 over a period of 10 years.
National Bank of Egypt (NBE)
FILE - National Bank of Egypt's logo
Chairman of the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) Hesham Okasha revealed that the bank issued Aman certificates for informal, temporary and seasonal workers with a total outcome of LE 5 million ($283,500) since it first started issuing them on Sunday, referring to the high amount of purchase turnout.
Okasha told Egypt Today that the average issuance of the certificate is LE 2,000.
Given the coordination with companies that have large numbers of workers, and through raising awareness about the certificate by civil society organizations, Okasha expects that demand for buying the certificate to increase during the upcoming days.
He explained that there are 420 branches representing the entire network of branches of the NBE, as well as branches of Banque Misr, Banque Du Caire and Agriculture Bank of Egypt.
Agriculture Bank of Egypt
Chairman of the Agriculture Bank of Egypt Al Sayed Qaiser receives BT100 Crystal Award, February 19 - Egypt Today
In similar vein, the Agriculture Bank of Egypt has seen high demand over the Aman Certificate since it opened its doors on Sunday.
Chairman of Agriculture Bank of Egypt al-Sayed al-Kosair said that the bank issued 1,650 Aman certificates for informal, temporary and seasonal workers with a total outcome of LE 1.7 million ($96,311) in just 48 hours.
Kosair told Egypt Today that the bank sales of the certificates focus on the LE 500 segment, affirming that they seek to market the certificate in agricultural communities during the upcoming days.
This is somewhat interesting as it suggests that different banks are facing high demands for different segments of the certificate.
The remaining two banks, Banque Misr and Banque du Caire, are expected to follow suit and start issuing Aman Certificates over the next few days.