Ramadan is the most highly anticipated month of the year not only for Egypt but also for the entirety of the Arab world and Muslims worldwide. A holy month dedicated for praying, fasting and refining yourself as a Muslim. Most people view it as a cleansing period to repent of all your previous wrongdoings and for some to revamp their ideals. However, the fact that you have to fast and refrain yourself from eating till Maghreb prayer and that the state has to accommodate that for you has an economic upside and a hefty economic downside.
The Economic Upside:
Just the idea of knowing that the majority of Egyptians will be sitting down after having an excessively colossal meal around the TV to slowly digest, is an absolute and downright gold mine that has to be exploited to its fullest by marketing, digital media and advertising entities.
Exporting TV series to the Arab world is a very imperative stream of generating revenue for Egypt and it sees its peak during the Ramadan season with production costs exceeding 2.5 billion EGP. Now if I’m a company and I want to produce an advertisement for my product, I will combat my way through all obstacles imaginable to get my advert in the most appropriate time slot on the most watched TV show, which is usually the one right after Iftar. However, each time slot, depending on its placement, frequency and timing, could cost up to 10 million EGP. So you could imagine how high the competition could be. Statistics has even proved that the highest season for social media engagement in Egypt is Ramadan, which is also another money-spinner for brands to get their Ramadan game on.
Another sector that is able to capitalize on the Ramadan season is the foods and beverage sector. According to the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) that is affiliated with the cabinet, Ramadan sees an estimate of 70% increase in the average Egyptian household’s food expenditure and consumption. Egyptian families spend annually an average of 200 billion EGP, whereas in Ramadan solely 30 billion EGP is pumped into the F&B sector.
The Hefty Economic Downside:
However, not everyone perceives Ramadan as a high season for their services and sales. Reem Hashem, a drama child therapist, expects a prominent halt in her work during Ramadan. “Most of my clients are putting all their sessions on pause during Ramadan because of the long and intensely hot fasting days, the parents look at Ramadan as a very busy month for them to schedule anything. Before Iftar they just want to curl up on their beds till the prayer calling and after Iftar they’re so full they can barely move”.
Moreover, Loai Naguib, a construction engineer, stated that lack of progress and work during Ramadan has become much normalized in Egypt. “Ramadan this year is at the start of the summer with temperatures expected to reach 40 degrees, and between the fasting and the long hot days, workers are super exhausted and are in no condition to perform heavy labor. Their festive mood, and the fact that they are observing and abstaining from food and water make them completely unproductive”.
Actually, the fact is that this specific attitude that Reem and Loai were talking about applies to all the practicing Muslims in Egypt, from manual laborers to office workers. Dinar Standard, a consulting group, published a study that implies that Ramadan may cut the month’s GDP by nearly 8%. Many managers actually postpone major events and decisions till the end of the Holy month. Not only are the working hours shortened to 6 hours, but also their productivity during those 6 hours are reduced by a rate of 30% to 35%. If you have approximately 25 to 26 million registered employees in Egypt and two hours of productivity lost that’s approximately 50 million hours of productivity in the formal sector lost!
So basically Ramadan is an excuse for a lot of individuals to be lazy for a month and get away with it. Even if you are not fasting the vibe that is generated, due to the normalized attitude that the people around you exude, will subconsciously diminish from your daily productivity.
It is a season for certain sectors but a nightmare for a lot of businesses as well. Take for example an average street vendor; his sales literally are reduced to a few hours.
However, putting aside the economic tornado that Ramadan brings with it, we love it nonetheless. We have this unconditional love for it, because its purpose and message are higher and greater than graphs and numbers.
Ramadan Kareem, everyone!