Cronyism and Elite Capture in Egypt : From Businessmen Cabinet to Military Inc. book cover
1st Edition

Cronyism and Elite Capture in Egypt
From Businessmen Cabinet to Military Inc.

ISBN 9781032028118
Published November 30, 2021 by Routledge
246 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Examining business-state networks in Egypt (1991–2020), this book highlights the complicity of international actors in facilitating inequality and elite capture. Using interdisciplinary methodology, it argues that Western actors promoting market liberalization have served as central partners in enabling elites to capture the fruits of Egypt’s economic reforms.

In the years leading up to the 2011 Revolution, Egypt’s crony capitalism reached new levels of visibility with the appointment of a "Businessmen Cabinet." The businessmen-turned-state representatives ushered in a wave of "market liberalizing" reforms, expanding avenues for the abuse of power. Providing a detailed look at some of this period’s chief beneficiaries, including a number of Egypt’s wealthiest oligarchs, the volume follows their ascent from former President Hosni Mubarak’s first round of neoliberal reforms in 1991 through his last wave of reforms beginning in 2004 and ending in regime overthrow. The final chapter examines the fate of these elites under the brief rule of Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohammed Morsi, and of Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s current military-backed regime.

Based on five years of fieldwork and dozens of interviews with businessmen and state representatives, this book offers a unique look into the politics of policy, and inequality, in Egypt. It will be of interest to scholars reading political economy, international development, and Middle East studies.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Providing Context

Chapter 2: Reconceptualizing "Business" and "State" in Business-State Relations

Chapter 3: Developing Egypt’s "SMEs:" The Social Fund for Development

Chapter 4: USAID’s "Private Sector" Projects: Planting the Seeds of Exclusion

Chapter 5: The Businessmen Cabinet’s "Public Private Partnerships" for Exclusive Development

Chapter 6: Reform Losers: The Cosmopolitan Capital Deficient

Chapter 7: Public Resources, Private Equity: Reaping the Fruits of Financial Liberalization

Chapter 8: The QIZ Agreement: Negotiating Networks of Privilege

Chapter 9: Expanding Privilege?: International Actors Complicating Domestic Agendas

Chapter 10: Reorganizing Networks of Privilege: Disruption, Reconfiguration and Persistence in the

Face of Regime Change, 2011-2020




Appendix I: Network Chart

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Sarah Smierciak is currently based in Cairo where she writes freelance political economy analysis. She taught undergraduate courses on history and politics in the Middle East and North Africa at Oxford University. In 2016 she was awarded a Fulbright Grant to conduct research in Istanbul with Syrian and Iraqi communities. Sarah co-edited the Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Egypt (2021) and wrote Moon Egypt, a travel guide for the Moon series (2022).


"This book is both uniquely broad and deep in its approach to understanding Egypt’s development ‘failure’ which has occurred despite massive external support provided to the country. It presents a model by which similar developmental failures, whether in the MENA or elsewhere, can be analyzed and compared."
Robert Springborg, Naval Postgraduate School, USA 

"Sarah’s work is an excellent contribution to the political economy of Egypt and the Middle East. It studies Egypt’s globalized trade and investment sectors. It reveals how foreign financial and developmental institutions were part of the networks of state-business relations, which has been hardly addressed before."
Amr Adly, The American University in Cairo, Egypt

"Interdisciplinary in methodology and theoretical orientation, Cronyism and Elite Capture in Egypt provides the most persuasive account of the networks, domestic and international, that shaped Egypt’s global market integration on neoliberal terms and reaped its benefits. Smierciak also reveals herself as a gifted narrator, and the result is an eminently readable story, absorbing and infuriating in equal parts, of crony capitalism in the late Mubarak era."
Roberto Roccu, King’s College London, UK