What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Egypt?

By Joseph Kiprop on January 9 2019 in Economics

An oil rig in the desert of Egypt.
An oil rig in the desert of Egypt.

Egypt is an African nation situated in the northern section of the continent where it spans an area of roughly 390,121 square miles. The Egyptian economy has had ups and downs, although at one time it was one of the best developed in Africa which was primarily the result of the country's proper utilization of its natural resources. Egypt has a wide array of natural resources such as the River Nile, arable land, and natural gas. In 2017, the Egyptian gross domestic was ranked as the 44th highest in the world at roughly $235.4 billion. On the other hand, the Egyptian per capita gross domestic product was ranked as the 131st highest in the world at roughly $2,413.

The River Nile

Since ancient times, the Nile has been one of Egypt's most essential natural resources. Because Egypt receives limited amounts of rainfall, the country is heavily reliant on the Nile as a primary source of water. The waters of the Nile are used for a variety of purposes such as irrigation, transport, and the generation of hydroelectricity. The Egyptian government constructed the Aswan High Dam during the 1960s to efficiently utilize the waters of the Nile. The dam has been vital to Egyptian agriculture as it provides a steady supply of water for irrigation. The Egyptian government estimated that as a result of the Aswan High Dam, roughly 11 cubic miles were diverted into canals to be used for irrigation. Approximately 130,000 square miles of land benefit from the irrigation. Irrigation in these regions is considered to be extremely efficient, operating at roughly 82% efficiency. Apart from irrigation, the Aswan High Dam is vital in the generation of hydroelectricity as it has 12 turbines each with capacity of 175 MW. The electricity produced at the dam ensured that a large number of Egyptians living in rural areas got access to electricity. The major challenge facing Egyptian utilization of the Nile is the disagreement between Egypt and other nations within the Nile catchment area on how to properly utilize the waters of the river.

Arable Land

In 2015, statistics from the World Bank indicated that roughly 2.95% of Egypt's land was considered arable. The data also indicated that for much of the 21st century, the size of arable land in Egypt fluctuated significantly. Despite Egypt's limited size of arable land, agriculture is still one of the country's most important sectors. The Egyptian government estimated that in 2017, agriculture contributed 12% of the country's gross domestic product. The Egyptian labor department estimated that in 2015, approximately 30% of the Egyptian labor force was employed in the agricultural sector. Egyptian farmers grow a wide range of crops such as maize, sorghum, and cotton. Dates are one of Egypt's most essential crops since the country's farmers produce more dates than other farmers in the world. The most significant challenge facing the Egyptian agriculture sector is the increased desertification in the country.


Another primary natural resource in Egypt is fish. Egyptian fishers catch fish in different areas such as Lake Nasser, the Gulf of the Suez Canal and the River Nile. Some of the species of fish caught in Egypt include ariid catfish, Starry triggerfish, and Pallid rock skipper. Fishers in Egypt have also invested heavily in aquaculture to increase fish production in the country. Since its introduction, Egypt's aquaculture sector has grown at a rapid rate, and by 2010, it accounted for roughly 65% of the total fish produced in Egypt. Private individuals owned most of the fish farms in Egypt. Commercial fishing is one of the most important economic activities in the country since it creates employment for a significant number of people. In 2010, more than 1,300,000 tons of fish were caught by commercial fishermen in Egypt. A significant portion of the fish was sold to the foreign markets. The government of Egypt has set up laws to limit the number of fish that fishers can harvest. The government has also put in place laws to limit the pollution in the fishing spots. The measures have been relatively successful as it has resulted in the reduction of pollution in fishing spots.

Natural Gas

Egypt has vast quantities of natural gas that are some of its most important natural resources. According to the Egyptian government, the country has more than 65,201 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Due to the vast quantities of natural gas in the country, the Egyptian government has put in place a strategy to ensure that the country becomes one of the leading producers of natural gas in the region. Egypt's most important natural gas field is the Zohr gas Field which is situated within the Mediterranean. Eni, an Italian corporation discovered the Eni field in 2015, and after an assessment of the natural gas within the field it was declared as the Mediterranean's largest natural gas field. The Egyptian government thought that if the natural gas in the field was utilized correctly, the nation could be self-sufficient in natural gas. Before Egypt achieved self-sufficiency in the production of natural gas, it imported natural gas from Israel.


Egypt also has significant deposits of petroleum, which are incredibly vital to the country's economy. The oil reserves in Egypt are considered to be the sixth largest on the African continent. Despite the vast size of its oil reserves, Egypt is not a member of OPEC. Commercially viable deposits of oil were first discovered in Egypt during the early 20th century. In 2005, the Egyptian government estimated that the country had roughly 3.7 billion barrels of oil. Some of the leading oil producing areas in Egypt includes the Sinai Peninsula, the Eastern Desert, and the Gulf of Suez. By 2005, there were nine oil refineries in Egypt that could process roughly 730,000 barrels of oil each day.

Challenges Facing The Egyptian Economy

The Egyptian economy faces several challenges with the most significant one being the country's political instability. The political instability discouraged foreign companies from investing in the country. The country's climate also poses a significant challenge to its economic prosperity.

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