Wednesday, 24 March 2021

EnterprisePM — All eyes are on the Suez Canal traffic jam



Good afternoon, friends. We’re long on digitalization and financial inclusion this afternoon, but the big story of the day is the ongoing operation to re-float the MV Ever Given, which ran aground and is blocking the Suez Canal. The ship’s foundering is hitting oil prices and is all over the front pages of the global business press. We have the full story in this afternoon’s Speed Round.

We’re stuck with this sand storm for much of what remains of today, but the forecast suggests tomorrow will be cooler and foggy in the Greater Cairo Area, while the North Coast has winds and the possibility of more rain to which to look forward.

MARKET WATCH- The EGX rose 2.2% at today’s close, snapping a losing streak that saw it erase all of the gains it has posed since 1 January.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD? No single story leads the world’s front pages, but every major business outlet has the MV Ever Given somewhere in the first screen. The Financial Times, meanwhile, says that a spat over sanctions threatens a trade agreement between China and the European Union, while the Wall Street Journal is giving ink to Intel’s USD 20 bn turnaround plan, which we discuss below in For Your Commute.

Meanwhile: It’s more political gridlock in our neighbors to the east after Israeli voters failed to give either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his challengers a majority in the Knesset, reports The Associated Press. It’s the fourth election to deliver a deadlock in the past two years — and could set up an unprecedented fifth election later this year.

Europe isn’t in the mood to be generous in sharing vaccines with Britain or other countries with “high inoculation rates,” Reuters reports. The move will include restricting exports by companies that have failed to meet their supply commitments, potentially including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, EU officials said.

CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from this morning’s edition of EnterpriseAM:

  • The tender for a license to establish Egypt’s second major tobacco company could face an antitrust probe after several tobacco players filed a formal complaint with the competition authority.
  • Is it a bird? A plane? The first batch of dual-fuel vehicles under the state’s scheme to swap out old, gasoline-fueled cars will hit the road within a month.
  • In the latest from the nation’s red-hot non-bank financial services sector: CIRA and Beltone are jumping into the education finance game with both feet.


The Real Gate real estate exhibition will kick off tomorrow and run until Saturday at the Egyptian International Exhibition Center.

The CIB PSA Black Ball Open 2021 men’s squash competition will wrap up tomorrow. Some 48 men have been competing for a USD 175k purse. You can stream the matches live on SquashTV or the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan). You can also snag tickets online to attend in person at the Black Ball Sporting Club in New Cairo. The women’s league saw Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini take home the grand title.


Bok, prijatelji: The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets next Wednesday, 31 March, for the first time since 2010. On the table: Giving a nudge to both trade and investment, a FEDCOC statement says. The forum will take place while Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić-Radman is in town next week. Grlić-Radman and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry are expected to attend.

Former cabinet minister Ghada Waly will address AmCham on Sunday at 3pm. Now the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Waly will talk about tackling corruption in African countries and women’s rights. Tap or click here to register for the event (Zoom event, not in person).

Head to Sharm for a startup gathering: Investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers will gather in Sharm El Sheikh for the Startup Festival on Sunday and Monday, 28-29 March. More than 80 startups will participate in the exhibition, which will feature panel discussions and workshops.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is set to open on 3 April in El Fustat. Local and international visitors alike will pay less for admission for the first two weeks to explore the museum’s central hall, according to a cabinet statement. Meanwhile, the Royal Mummies Hall will be ready for visitors starting 18 April.

The Spring Flowers Exhibit (Ma3rad El Zohoor) is currently taking place at Orman Botanical Garden in Giza. More than 200 exhibitors have set up shop to sell flowers, plants, agricultural products, and gardening equipment. The exhibit runs through 13 April.

AUC Press’ Mad March book sale will be ongoing for the rest of the month. The sale is open to the general public every day from 10am–6pm CLT at AUC Tahrir Bookstore & Garden.


Are we cozying up to Somalia and Burundi? Egypt is reportedly serious about a reset in relations with Somalia after Foreign Sameh Shoukry met the day before yesterday with Somalia’s minister of state for presidential affairs. The two countries share an interest in maritime security in the Red Sea and around the Horn of Africa. Egypt would like Somalia’s backing on the GERD file, while Somalia is looking for backing on its fight with the Shabab terror group. This piece in Al Monitor has more — and it’s doubly relevant given President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is meeting today with Burundi’s president. Evariste Ndayishimiye, the leader of the Nile Basin Initiative country, is in town for a three-day visit.

We keep inching toward covid passports. Remember how we told you about Europe planning a “green pass” that might ease travel for EU citizens within the bloc — and that China is pushing ahead with its own vaccine passport, while Canada studies the issue? Israel is in the spotlight now for how it’s using the passports domestically, writes Canada’s Globe & Mail. Its “Green Pass” system. “Green Pass holders, who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from the virus, can enter gyms, hotels, pools and other indoor facilities. The certificate, which can be downloaded through a phone app, has a barcode that can be scanned at entrances and is valid for six months, starting one week after the second dose of the vaccine.” The news comes as the travel industry is urging the Biden administration to open US borders to international visitors, CNBC reports. Yet another reason you’re going to want to register to get jabbed.

Intel is trying to fill the West’s chip manufacturing gap with a new USD 20 bn strategy that will see the semiconductor giant build two factories in Arizona and open its plants to outside customers, Intel’s newly-appointed CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a webinar, reports The Financial Times. Western companies — including Intel itself — have long-been lagging behind chipmakers in Asia such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung and have been relying on these companies to outsource chip production. This supply chain has failed in the past year as TSMC and Samsung struggled to cope with increased demand, putting auto and tech businesses in a crunch to secure necessary chips. Intel’s strategy directly challenges the two companies, with Gelsinger announcing plans to approach Qualcomm and Apple to manufacture their chips (previously customers of the Asian firms).

What’s the timeline? The new chip manufacturing plants — also called fabs or foundries — are expected to begin production in 2024, with construction to start as soon as this year.

How did investors take the news? Intel’s shares rose more than 7% in after hours trading, signaling investor enthusiasm for the new strategy, while TSMC’s shares fell as much as 3.9% this morning, reports Reuters, even as Taiwan’s Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua sought to downplay the impact.

Musicians are the latest to jump aboard the NFT train, snagging mns in the process as they try to offset a tough year with no live performances, reports The Wall Street Journal. In the music world, the original song creator can set the terms of the NFT, called a “smart contract,” and it allows the creator to take a cut — usually 10% to 30% in this case — of any resales. It’s important to note that owning an NFT doesn’t equate to owning the copyright to a given asset, music or otherwise, but instead makes it a collectible item only the buyer can own. Electronic music artist Justin Blau, known as 3LAU, has fetched USD 17 mn in the past month from NFTs, while artists such as Shawn Mendes, Deadmau5, Grimes, and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda are also selling NFT packs containing everything from song clips to avatar outfits.

Meanwhile, the art world is loving NFTs: Holders of fine artworks are also using NFTs to monetize a struggling business, reports Bloomberg. The buyers of fine art NFTs will get both the “trackability and traceability of information” of the new medium, Nanne Dekking, a former art dealer and the founder of Artory, explains, as well as the physical artwork itself to hang on a wall or add to a collection.

Uh, any chance this is a bubble? Observers of the NFT craze are questioning whether this is the “inevitable evolution of the collectibles market or the latest leg in a growing speculative bubble”, writes Bloomberg in a separate piece.

You can now buy a Tesla using BTC, Elon Musk announced on Twitter, adding that the crypto will be retained as BTC as opposed to being converted into a fiat currency or a government-issued currency.


Netflix’s Operation Varsity Blues is out. A mindmeld of a classic documentary and a series of reenactments, the flick sees actor Matthew Modine play admissions crook Rick Singer, whose sideline was to help the spawn of the rich and famous fake their way into top colleges and universities by making them appear to be recruits for niche sports including rowing and water polo. The scandal brought down big names including Full House actress Lori Laughlin and Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman — and brought into question the US college admissions system

Okay, but is it any good? Vogue and Rolling Stone are fans.


With the weekend approaching, there’s nothing like having something in your fridge to serve as the base of any meal you might want to make. Well, look no further than these homemade condiment jars, which ensure that even the laziest meal seems gourmet. My Jar boasts creations including chili jam, olive tapenade, and balsamic onion relish. Each jar comes freshly made. They’re the perfect addition to a cheese board, a filling side dish, or a condiment for your burgers or hot dogs. We’ve been buying their products for years and we’ve always been pleasantly surprised with consistent service and quality. A similar venture, Add Salt, boasts jars of both savory and sweet toppings and dressings. Their sweet jars include salted caramel and chocolate ganache toppings while their savory creations include roasted pepper, garlic confit, Asian vinaigrette, and green hummus with olive oil and herbs or red hummus with beetroot.


(All times in CLT)

Neo Cairo is performing at Agouza’s Cairo Jazz Club tonight featuring Issa and Assoud, while the Sheikh Zayed CJC branch is hosting Islam Chipsy and El Sawareekh at 9pm.

The Caravan Group is performing a rendition of Duncan Macmilan’s Lungs every Thursday and Saturday until 10 April at the Greek Campus Auditorium. The first showing will take place tomorrow at 8:30pm.

Coldplay tribute band Strawberry Swing are playing at the Cairo Opera House this Friday at 7:30pm.

Jordanian band Autostrad is coming to Cairo this Friday and will be performing at Sawy Culture Wheel at 2:30pm.


The newly released biography The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson plots the groundbreaking career of Jennifer Doudna. Doudna’s biochemistry lab unlocked CRISPR, a transformative genetic therapy that netted her the 2020 Nobel prize in Chemistry — and that could be the end of the human race, her critics say, if things go wrong. (And it’s done just that in one of the first attempts at editing human embryos.) In Isaacson’s first biographic portrayal of a woman, he paints a portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was told from childhood that science wasn’t for girls. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Doudna and Isaacson where the scientist explains her breakthrough research and the process of writing the book together. Isaacson is famous for writing striking biographies for names such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs — great minds who changed the course of our civilization.


The great Suez traffic jam continues

All eyes are on Egypt as a maritime traffic jam at the Suez Canal sees at least 100 vessels stranded in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean — raising global concerns that this might impact global shipping, supply chains, and oil prices. Authorities are racing against the clock to refloat the 224k-tonne, 400-meter-long container ship chartered by Taiwan’s Evergreen, which ran aground and blocked the waterway. Eight tug boats have been working to tow the MV Ever Given from the bank, the Suez Canal Authority said this morning. As of dispatch time, the authority hadn’t confirmed that the vessel had been partially refloated.

What happened? The mega vessel was en route from China to Rotterdam when high winds and a dust storm at 7:40 am CLT Tuesday left the crew unable to steer the ship several kilometers near the Suez Port, hitting the canal’s embankment. Some 42 other vessels travelling northbound to Europe, either as part of Ever Given’s convoy or arriving in transit, are waiting to head back to sea. As many as 64 other southbound ships have also been affected, transit service provider Leth Agencies told its clients, according to Bloomberg.

Some traffic in the Suez Canal could resume later today or tomorrow, Ahmed Mekawy, deputy head of Gulf Agency Company’s (GAC) canal operations said, according to Bloomberg. The Ever Given is expected to be fully cleared to continue sailing northbound shortly, but it remains stuck, Mekawy said following a statement by transit service provider GAC that had inaccurately suggested the ship was partially refloated.

It might be possible for authorities to divert traffic through the old canal, the canal authority said. Two senior Egyptian officials told the newswire that this could clear up some congestion, but both Reuters and Bloomberg suggest the vessel is blocking the accessway to the original body of the canal.

The vessel’s grounding led to growing worries that the canal could be clogged for days, with Bloomberg quoting sources this afternoon saying early attempts to pull the vessel out were unsuccessful due to the size of the ship and the small towing boats used by the authority. Its sources suggested larger towing boats with more power might be required to steer the vessel off the embankment and that the owner of the ship has contacted towing firm SMIT Salvage to help in operations.

The global impact: Asia-Europe trade flows could be severely impacted if this lasts, causing serious delays should vessels be forced to use the alternative route rounding the Cape of Good Hope, which is a week slower, Reuters quoted Liner Research consultant Tan Hua Joo as saying. Some 12% of world trade volume passes through the vital Suez Canal, including some 30% of the world’s container ship capacity, the newswire noted, citing Liner Research and other official figures. The most common cargo carried through the canal are crude, refined energy products and consumer goods, S&P Global said.

We might also see port congestion in Europe: Delayed cargo could start pouring into EU ports when the canal reopens as it would arrive at the same time as cargo sailing behind it, SeaIntelligence Consulting chief executive Lars Jensen said.

Oil is particularly sensitive to slightest shipping disruption: Some 66% of oil sent from the GCC to western countries is shipped through the Suez Canal or the Sumed pipeline linking Alexandria to the Red Sea, Suez Canal Authority boss Osama Rabie said last month. “The inability of oil to transit a major chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial supply delays and higher shipping costs, resulting in higher world energy prices,” the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), meanwhile, noted in a 2017 note. Closure in the canal or the pipeline would mean oil tankers would add some 2.7k miles to transit between Saudi and the US using the Cape route, the EIA estimates.

But oil markets have held steady on expectations the blockage will be cleared soon. Oil futures in New York were trading 2.5% higher just before dispatch after having earlier climbed 3.2%.

Everyone and their mother is talking about Egypt this morning: Associated Press | FT WSJ | NYT | BBC | CNBC.


Life is about to get easier for small businesses that want to go legit

SMART POLICY- Life is about to get easier for small businesses that want to go legit: The Central Bank of Egypt is pushing through procedures that will make it easier for micro-businesses and self-employed folks to open business accounts at the nation’s banks. The changes involve reducing the number and complexity of know your customer (KYC) documents banks have to ask for before they open an account, the CBE said today in a statement (pdf).

What do the guidelines say? The only hard requirements for unbanked micro-businesses, freelancers, and craftsmen are a national ID and a new account application declaring their venture’s line of work. In case the occupation stated on the business or venture owner’s ID doesn’t match the application, the bank would ask for supporting documents including syndicate membership cards, occupational licenses, tax or social security registration, or a letter from the Labour Bureau. Micro-enterprises lacking a commercial registration will also be allowed to submit property ownership or rental contracts for their base of operations, while freelancers and craftsmen would be asked to hand over utility payment receipts to document their place of residence.

State-owned National Bank of Egypt will start opening accounts under the new rules as early as next month, the bank’s head of products and financial inclusion, told Masrawy earlier this week. The bank will impose an EGP 100k monthly limit on accounts set up by self-employed individuals, and an EGP 200k ceiling on micro-enterprise accounts that provide formal documentation.

BACKGROUND: The move comes under new KYC regulations introduced by the CBE last October allowing small businesses and self-employed individuals to open bank accounts by declaring their occupation — a bid to encourage more individuals to join the formal economy, boost financial inclusion, and boost enterprise growth through access to credit.


Good news, brokerage firms

The EGX30 rose 2.2% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.12 bn (24% below the 90-day average). Regional investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.3% YTD.

In the green: MM Group (+5.9%), Ibnsina Pharma (+5.8%) and Abu Qir Fertilizers (+5.4%).

In the red: Orascom Development (-1.1%), EKH (-0.5%) and SODIC (-0.2%).

Brokerages are about to get a financial shot in the arm from a fund to which the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has given the green light. The fund aims to boost trading volumes on the Egyptian Exchange, the regulator said in a statement (pdf). The statement provided no information on the size of the fund, who would own and manage it, or how it will work. We reached out to a number of sources at the FRA for comment; all declined to provide additional information.

The fund will be structured to allow brokerage companies to access financing at competitive rates to support margin trading, EGX Chairman Mohamed Farid told us, adding that authorities are yet to decide eligibility criteria.

The move is an extension of the central bank’s share-purchase initiative launched last year and it aims to support the market stability and boost liquidity, he said.

This isn’t the first time policymakers have tried to boost liquidity on the exchange: The fund is part of several initiatives to stimulate trading on the EGX including allowing factoring companies to finance margin lending by brokerage companies and the EGP 20 bn share-purchase program launched last March in a bid to stem sell-off and support asset prices amid the covid-19 induced market volatility and of which the bank used EGP 500 mn as at last January.


A little bit of gaming is the best medicine

A little bit of gaming is the best medicine — words no parent ever spoke, but every child longed to hear. But that is set to change with the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval last year of the world’s first prescription-only video game, EndeavorRx, created for the treatment of ADHD in children 8-12 years old. Developed by Akili Interactive, the game is based on a system that treats cognitive dysfunction by presenting challenges designed to target specific neural systems associated with attention. The FDA granted the approval following several clinical studies involving over 600 participants diagnosed with ADHD, including one published in the Lancet Digital Health journal.

How does it work? EndeavorRX is a racing game with bright colors, featuring a character who navigates through ‘Planet Frigidus’ and taps and steers to progress and earn rewards. By keeping children who struggle to focus engaged in the game, “it serves to break rumination loops and uses the same psychological tactics that mobile apps rely on to goad people into spending more attention or money—but instead uses the tactics to improve moods and emotional states,” the Future Today Institute said in its 2021 Tech Trends Report.

And it seems to be effective. The Lancet study found that about half of parents of children who played the game for 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks reported a “meaningful” reduction in their child’s attention impairment. This percentage increased to 68 when the child continued playing the game for a second month.

But it isn’t a cure all: The therapeutic use of the video game should be one of a number of tools used to treat attention deficit disorders and is not a substitute for medications and other established treatments, the study said.

Parents and healthcare providers have traditionally been concerned with the negative effects of (excessive) gaming on children, including their potential to cause depression in adolescents, their promotion of violence and aggression in young children, and their triggering of epileptic seizures. Other negative, physical effects include musculoskeletal problems, obesity, and vision issues. Yet other research has shown that gaming can promote positive behaviours in children, including perseverance, patience, learning to deal with failure, teamwork, and problem solving.

The rise of edutainment: With the ubiquity of digital devices, more and more games are being designed with overt educational aims, using the reward mechanism built into the game to keep players hooked as a vehicle to deliver useful information. There is now an abundance of such games available for use by parents and educators, especially for homeschooling use under lockdown.

Will we see more therapeutic games? The field is slated for growth amid promising preliminary results, but it will take time to determine its long-term effectiveness. Video games can also be used for other therapeutic purposes such as pain management (distracting the patient from physical pain), and physiotherapy in patients with impaired arm or hand manipulation, according to studies. Such games could “serve as the backbone of telehealth for sufferers of chronic illness or those under remote patient monitoring,” according to the Lancet report.


March: Potential visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

25-27 March (Thursday-Saturday): The Real Gate real estate exhibition, Egyptian International Exhibition Center, Cairo.

28 March (Sunday): Executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Ghada Waly will address AmCham in a talk on tackling corruption in African countries and reinforcing women’s rights. You can register for the event here.

29-30 March (Monday-Tuesday): Arab Federation of Exchanges Annual Conference 2021.

29-30 March (Monday-Tuesday): Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport Startup Festival, Sharm El Sheikh.

31 March (Wednesday): Deadline to visit the moroor and get an RFID sticker affixed to your car’s windshield — or run afoul of the Traffic Police.

31 March (Wednesday): Income tax deadline for individuals. Real estate tax filing deadline.

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo.

6 April (Tuesday): French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Egypt working breakfast with Sovereign Fund of Egypt CEO Ayman Soliman.

7 April (Wednesday): British-Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) webinar on digital banking and fintech.

8-10 April (Thursday-Saturday): The TriFactory’s Endurance Festival at Somabay.

13 April (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day (TBC),

29 April (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

1 June (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

7-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

17 June (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

24 June (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year (public schools).

26-29 June (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday).

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday).

5 August (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

16 September (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

7 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

28 October (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

27 June – 3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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