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As every day, a long queue stretches in front of the Egyptian consulate in the center of Khartoum. The residence visa issuing desks open from 2 pm. With the tip of his truncheon, a policeman in a turquoise uniform brings order to the crowd. Mohammed Abbas emerges from the crowd, all smiles, brandishing the precious sesame seed. In a week he will take the first bus to Cairo.
“It is with reluctance, but I am leaving this country that is collapsing”, says the 26-year-old Sudanese man. Since graduating in accounting from the University of Bahri in 2021, the young man has looked for work, in vain. “My whole generation is unemployed”he regrets.
Travel agencies in the center of the capital are being taken over by more and more Sudanese eager to try their luck in the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the lead, but, above all, Egypt. Almost thirty buses are chartered to Cairo every day on the road that runs along the Nile. According to the director of a private transport company, demand has doubled in one year. “We mostly see young men hanging out”observes the businessman, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Get married, have kids? Not in dreams”
In 2022, tens of thousands of Sudanese, all social classes combined, would have left to settle in the northern neighbor, adding to the 4 million Sudanese who already live in Egypt according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). They would now number 6 million, estimates an Egyptian diplomat, including those who come and go frequently.
Among them, more and more students who decide to leave Sudanese universities, abused since December 2018 and the beginning of the revolution against the regime of Omar Al-Bashir. “Every week, at every demonstration, the armed forces close the bridges and blockade the center of the capital. We had Covid, then the teachers’ strikes demanding a living wage, not to mention the power cuts. And now the coup d’état that plunged us into uncertainty. Studying in Sudan has become an obstacle course »laments Dafallah Ahmed, 25, who started his engineering studies in 2016 but has yet to graduate.
And the horizon, for graduates, is not about to dawn: the Sudanese economy is in free fall one year after the coup led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Bourhane, on October 25, 2021. Deprived of aid, international authorities have increased dramatically taxes and duties leading to the closure of many businesses. The country’s exports have collapsed and inflation is still in the triple digits: it was 117% in September. The rising cost of living, compounded by the global rise in food and energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine, has become unsustainable for many Sudanese households.
“It is no longer habitable, we have no opportunity. Get married, have kids? Not in dreams! I know some Sudanese in Egypt who are doing better than here, so I’m taking a chance.”, ventures Abubakar, a mechanic from the district of Kalakla, south of the capital. At his side, two colleagues, in their 20s, have also obtained their visas. The former dreams of getting into boxing and hopes to participate in competitions in the Egyptian capital. The second half-heartedly admits that Egypt will only be a first step before Libya attempts to cross over to Europe.
“Throughout the country, insecurity and an uncertain future are growing”, adds Maryam Al-Fateh, who has worked for ten years at the Ministry of Health in Port-Sudan. After many months of reflection, this mother sold her car and half of her share of the family land in the Red Sea region. 1er In September 2022, she flew to Cairo with her three daughters to enroll them in Egyptian universities, where Sudanese pay just 10% of fees imposed on foreign students.
A convention signed in 2004 between Egypt and Sudan guarantees the free movement of citizens of both countries on both sides of the border and gives them the right to work and own land or businesses without restrictions. In the Egyptian capital, dozens of Sudanese schools opened their doors. In some neighborhoods, like Ain Al-Shams or Faysal, the influx of Sudanese has caused property prices to double.
“Even if these recent and massive arrivals put some pressure on our infrastructures and our services, this is not a threat to us. These migrations are positive, they arrive with capital, they inject money into our economy but also into health and education.says the Egyptian diplomat who preferred to remain anonymous.
Egypt, whose population has surpassed 100 million, also faces rising inflation. Forced to ease the burden of the country’s huge debt, Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for currency devaluation. But the deterioration of the local economy remains disproportionate to that of its southern neighbor. “Daily prices are quite affordable compared to Sudan, especially for gasoline. Moving to Egypt is no longer just for privileged Sudanese. We see people from all walks of life., continues Maryam Al-Fateh. And among those who go into exile, few plan to return to Sudan.