As the new school year is about to start in several days in Egypt, back-to-school shoppers under the pressure of price hikes and high inflation are flocking to government-run low-price fairs to hunt for affordable supplies.
Reem Shafiq, a 44-year-old housewife from Cairo, was happy that she had managed to buy all she needed for her three schoolchildren at lower prices from one of these fairs.
“I bought a dozen of 60-sheet math notebooks for 65 Egyptian pounds (about 2.1 U.S. dollars) instead of 85 pounds in stores outside the fair,” she said with a smile of relief, noting that at the fair, some shoes, schoolbags, and uniforms are 50 percent off their prices.
Dubbed “Welcome Schools,” the one-month event started last Thursday and will run even after the new term begins on Sept. 30 to help families cope with inflation.
A total of 480 back-to-school fairs, including 84 formed by caravan shops, are held across Egypt, according to the State Information Service.
Some 427 bookstore chains and more than 2,500 stores participated in the event, offering discounts of up to 50 percent.
In the largest exhibition area in the capital Cairo, parents toured the fair to buy school supplies like pens, pencils, bags, stationery, uniforms, and other items for their children.
“Prices here are affordable, and there is a large variety of items to meet our needs,” Teleb Ahmed, a 53-year-old civil servant from Cairo, told Xinhua while shopping for his two kids.
“It provides not only school supplies but also food and beverages, even computers,” Ahmed added.
Khaled Abdel-Salam, an accountant, said low-income families welcome such fairs as they offer one-stop shopping at a lower cost.
“The exhibition has all we need,” the 41-year-old father of two told Xinhua.
Egypt’s annual inflation rate rose to an all-time high of 39.7 percent in August, more than doubled compared to the same month last year, when it stood at 15.3 percent.
It set a national record for the third month in a row, with that in July and June at 38.2 percent and 36.8 percent.
Amid high inflation and local currency depreciation, food prices rose by over 70 percent in August from the same month last year, according to the country’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.
Wael Ali, owner of a school bag store, said he took part in the fair to sell in large quantities with a small profit margin.