Wednesday, 24 February 2021

EnterprisePM — Gov’t signs off on Sputnik V, Astrazeneca vaccines



Good afternoon, everyone. You’re just in time for a flurry of news that has begun to flood in from an hour ago, starting with…

BREAKING- The Egyptian Drug Authority has given emergency approval for use of the Sputnik V and Astrazeneca vaccines, according to a statement from the authority picked up by Youm7. The move comes as Egypt is waiting on some 8.6 mn doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through international vaccine alliance GAVI to arrive in the coming days. This batch is part of a total of 40 mn doses expected before the end of the year. Egypt had signed on to receive a total of 100 mn doses from GAVI and individual companies.

The announcement also comes ahead of registration to receive the covid-19 vaccine online is due to begin next Sunday for Egyptians over the age of 40 and / or those with chronic illnesses, as we noted this morning.

HAPPENING NOW- Score one for infrastructure diplomacy: Talks over the Egypt-Iraq “oil-for-reconstruction” agreement appear to be picking up again, as the General Authority for Investment and Freezones (GAFI) CEO Mohamed Abdel Wahab is in Iraq to meet with the President of the Iraqi National Investment Authority Suha Dawud al-Najjar, reports Al Shorouk. The pair are reportedly discussing potential investment regulations and policies that could benefit Egyptian companies looking to enter Iraq. A number of Egyptian companies have expressed interest in taking part in development work in Iraq under the provisions of the agreement. Read more on how oil-for-reconstruction represents a key initiative in our infrastructure diplomacy.

Hungary looks to be wanting to be a stronger trading partner of ours: Egypt and Hungary could cooperate on manufacturing 200 sleeper train coaches, after talks started today between Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir and his Hungarian counterpart. This could see Hungarian companies work with the ministry and the Arab Organization for Industrialization and secure “the necessary financing,” the cabinet said in a statement. Hungary teamed up with Russia in 2019 to supply Egypt with 1,300 railcars made by Russian rail manufacturer Transmashholding, of which Egypt has received 260 so far. At the time, the Hungarian Export-Import Bank and Russia’s State Specialized Russian Export-Import Bank agreed to partially finance the EGP 22 bn contract.

This follows news this morning that Hungary plans to import Egyptian natural gas once a Greek-Bulgarian pipeline is complete.


The deadline to register for the standardized Egyptian Scholastic Test (EST) is tomorrow at 9pm CLT. The EST will replace the SAT for American Diploma students to gain admission into Egyptian universities, according to an Education Ministry statement. You can register using the ministry’s website.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly is talking about Egypt’s economy in a webinar held by AmCham and the Egypt-US Business Council tomorrow at 4pm. The event, headlined "Egypt: 2021 and Beyond," will have Madbouly tackling Egypt’s strategy to curb the effects of the global downturn as well as revealing the country’s future plans to maintain economic growth.

The Afro Future Summit is taking place tomorrow. The summit will be held virtually.

The Egypt International Art Fair kicks off Friday at Dusit Thani Lakeview Cairo, and is set to wrap on Saturday, 28 February. Don’t forget to request invitations using this link.


Wondering how much you need to become one of the richest 1% in major countries? Gather up USD 8 mn and you’ll join the ranks of the richest 1% in Monaco — the country with the highest entry point globally, writes Bloomberg citing the soon-to-be-released Knight Frank’s 2021 Wealth Report. Switzerland and the US are a bit more affordable, requiring fortunes of USD 5.1 mn and USD 4.4 mn respectively, while in Singapore USD 2.9 mn will get you over the threshold.


We haven’t touched base with any of our horror genre fans yet: We’re willing to remedy that situation by letting you know that season 2 of Two Sentence Horror Stories is dropping on Netflix today. The dark and unnerving anthology provides a new mini horror story with a freestanding storyline and characters in every 30-minute episode.

A film to watch after you put your kids to bed: What striked us most about Malcolm & Marie on Netflix is the amazing cinematography, with the entire film shot on 35mm black-and-white Kodak film and scenes with long takes that can span for almost 10 minutes. The storyline is simple: Malcolm (John David Washington) is a hotshot writer-director and Marie (Zendaya) is his girlfriend and muse, but after a successful film premiere where Malcolm forgets to thank Marie in his speech, all hell breaks loose and they fight about past, present and future. An interesting conversation about race is also tangled throughout the film that explores issues that often come up between couples in a long relationship. Vogue is a fan, The New Yorker is not, and The Atlantic describes it as a “meltdown” (though they didn’t mean it as a compliment).

Aswan and Sohag are currently going head-to-head in an Egypt Cup match that started at 2:30pm CLT and remained 0-0 at the end of the first half.

We have another round of European football tonight: There’s more Champions League action at 10pm, with Real Madrid playing Italian upstarts Atalanta and Man City taking on Borussia Mönchengladbach for places in the first leg of the round of 16. Meanwhile, in La Liga Barcelona will face off against relegation-threatened Elche at 8pm and Tottenham look a dead cert to make the Europa League quarter-finals when they play Wolfsberg at 7pm, having won the first tie 4-1.


Are all these dine-out options not tickling your fancy? How about ordering cookies to eat at home? Egypt’s cookie and sweets market has been flourishing in the past few years and we thought we’d highlight some of our favorite delivery platforms. Oven Heaven Bakery is a must-mention, with their oozing cookies and brownies, while NudeBakery also has great cookies (and blondies and donuts too — we recommend their Lotus crunch).

Not in the mood for cookies? We’ve also caught eye of a new creation that’s becoming all the rage: miniature donuts from @MiniMe_eg on Instagram. They’re so small that a cereal bowl could fit 50 donuts for you to dig in at your leisure. Looking for something bigger? How about a whole pie? Instagram seller makes pies so pretty that you’ll feel bad cutting into them. Side note: we need more pies in Egypt.


Sheikh Zayed’s Cairo Jazz Club 610 has a shaabi night planned tonight with Islam Chipsy and Filo Dakhlaweya set to hit the stage at 9pm. Meanwhile Agouza’s Cairo Jazz Club will host a boogie night today with Egyptian DJ, DJUNKIE, at 8pm.

The Room New Cairo is hosting karaoke nights today and tomorrow starting from 7pm.

Darb 1718 is kicking off a month-long pottery workshop for beginners today that you can still register for. Giving the course is Abdelhakim Sayed, the Director of the Foustat Traditional Crafts Centre. The Old Cairo art and culture center also has a concert on tomorrow, with post rock Sufi-inspired band Bath Takhrebi set to perform alongside rock band Kayan.

Craving a city-wide detective experience this weekend? CluedUpp is organizing an outdoor detective adventure across the city this Saturday where participants will need to find clues and solve the case of The Cairo Ripper. You and a team of up to six people can throw on your Sherlock Holmes thinking hats on this weekend by signing up here.


You don’t have to be extroverted to work a boardroom, Matthew Pollard argues in The Introvert’s Edge to Networking. The book is Matthew Pollard’s sequel to his first bestselling book (that also has a mouthful of a title) The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone, which also draws on over a decade of self-proclaimed introvert Pollard’s research and real-world examples to provide an actionable blueprint for introverted networking and getting over discomfort while in social business situations. His first book was included in the list of Best Introvert Books of All Time by Book Authority.

???? TOMORROW’S WEATHER- The skies will be mostly sunny tomorrow, with daytime highs of 22℃ dropping to 11℃ at night. While we’re still recovering from the pouring rain in New Cairo and thunderstorms in Giza and Sixth of October yesterday, our favorite weather app says there is a 20% chance of rain tomorrow (which hopefully won’t manifest).


Foreign holdings up to USD 29 bn

Foreign investment in EGP bonds has now exceeded its pre-covid peak, after continuing to stage a rebound from pandemic-induced lows in March through the second half of 2020 and into 2021, the local press reports, citing an anonymous government source. Total holdings now stand at some USD 29 bn, up from USD 26 bn in mid-January and above the USD 27.8 bn high seen in February before the covid-inspired emerging-market sell-off that saw foreigners dump some USD 18 bn of Egyptian bonds.

What’s driving the rebound? Foreign portfolio investment is increasing by more than USD 1 bn each month, driven by the high yields and low inflation that offer some of the best real returns in the world, the person said.

Egyptian assets were hammered by the covid-19 sell-off in the spring: Investors sold more than 60% of their holdings of Egyptian bills and bonds between March and May as capital fled emerging markets in response to the escalating pandemic. Over the three months foreign holdings fell from almost USD 28 bn to just USD 10.4 bn. The money soon came roaring back. Holdings more than doubled in the following five months to hit USD 21.1 bn by mid-October. It was part of a reversal of flows that the minister described yesterday as a “very big shift.”


Vodafone’s Bee and Masary acquisitions confirmed, ElSewedy Electrics sees net profits fall 25% in 2020

The EGX30 rose 0.2% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.59 bn (8.7% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is up 5.44% YTD.

In the green: MM Group (+11.6%), Orascom Development Holding (+2.6%) and Cleopatra Hospital (+2.0%).

In the red: Fawry (-3.9%), Sodic (-2.4%) and Orascom Investment Holding (-2.1%).

ANALYST CORNER- News of Vodafone Egypt acquisition of a 20% stake in each of Bee and Masary has analysts going long on shares of all listed companies involved. B Investments and MM Group — who are joint venture partners in Ebtikar, itself the parent company of Bee and Masary — in particular have seen their shares jump 33% and 20% respectively since the beginning of the month, which is likely to continue as Ebtikar looks towards an IPO, according to Prime Research. MM Group saw its shares climb 11.6% to EGP 12.60 at the close of trading, while B Investments saw shares go up 1.4% to EGP 16.94.

This would have a knock on effect on the other side of the transaction, Vodafone Egypt (and consequently) Telecom Egypt, Prime says. What’s exciting them is the potential for synergies that could see Vodafone open the African markets to Bee and Masary. Telecom Egypt shares rose 1.9% to EGP 11.58.

One stock that could be hit by this is Fawry, says Prime. “The Vodafone partnership could be viewed as a competitive risk to Fawry which has until recently been the major player in the e-payment market,” it said in its research note.

What the sell-side of the acquisition are saying: Both MM Group (pdf) and B Investments (pdf) issued bourse filings confirming yesterday's reports in the local press, while providing little else by way of new details. Key details rehashed include:

  • Vodafone will acquire the stakes through a capital increase.
  • Ebtikar confirmed that it is looking to up its stake in Bee to 80% by acquiring the stake held by software services company Techno Beez
  • The companies will begin the due diligence process, which is expected to take around three months.
  • Advisers: Zaki Hashem & Partners is advising Ebtikar, while Alliance Law Firm is providing counsel to Vodafone on the transaction.

OVER TO BANKING- where the CBE’s mandate that banks raise micro, small, and medium enterprises’ share of their loan portfolios to 25% from 20% is expected to have a strong positive impact on banking stocks, Beltone Financial’s research arm said in a note today. The smart policy will increase the traditional banking sector’s penetration in the market with access to new customers, which will reflect positively on their toplines, said Beltone. It is issuing a buy recommendation for almost all major bank stocks with a hold on CIB and the Egyptian Gulf Bank.

EARNINGS WATCH- Elsewedy Electric saw its net profit after minority interest decline 1% y-o-y in 4Q2020 to EGP 1.3 bn, the company said in an earnings statement (pdf). Revenues for the quarter saw a substantial increase of 24% y-o-y, buoyed by a 20.1% y-o-y increase in the company’s turkey projects segment in FY2020 to EGP 22.7 bn. Despite the segment contributing a larger share to the company’s top-line (49% from 45% in 2020), revenues for FY2020 fell 1% y-o-y to EGP 46.4 bn, on the back of the challenging pandemic year which caused disruptions. This comes as topline from the meters, transformers, and wires and cables segments saw declining revenues for the year. Consequently, net profits for FY2020 declined 25% y-o-y to EGP 3 bn.

2021 is the comeback year: The company adapted to the disruptions caused by the pandemic through improving operational efficiencies and controlling expenses growth. This was achieved through more stringent corporate governance systems and automating a number of business activities. Management believes that these measures will set up the company for a return to growth in FY2021. “As global economic conditions continue to normalize, Elsewedy will work to further expand its footprint into new markets and is working to identify opportunities for profitable investment,” the company said.

Misr Cement Qena reported a 39% y-o-y surge in net profits in FY2020 to EGP 23 mn compared to EGP 16.5 mn the previous year, according to a press release (pdf).

Heliopolis Housing reported a net loss of EGP 84.6 mn in the first six months of FY 2020-2021, compared to a EGP 351 mn profit in the same period a year earlier, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). This was caused by a collapse in the company’s revenues, which plunged almost 90% to just EGP 77.9 mn, compared to EGP 732.4 mn in 1H FY2019-2020.


Theater troupes in Egypt are facing a reckoning as covid-19 continues to make indoor gatherings risky, and partial restrictions on capacity mean that their audiences will remain limited. For those who have ended live performances (their raison d'etre), they have had to survive by turning online or making creative new partnerships with larger institutions.

El Warsha is one theater troupe that is also coping with scarce funding for the arts, which has put it in dire financial straits. The decades-old independent troupe, founded and led by Hassan El Geretly, is now staring down the possibility that it will have to put an end to its future performances, Ahram Online reports. Founded in 1987, the troupe has been home to prolific performers like Abla Kamel, Ahmed Kamal and Saied Ragab in the past and is credited with reviving interest in traditional stick performances, folk singing and classic musicals.

Maneuvering financial strife through bartering: Although funding has all but dried up for El Warsha, as financiers divert resources elsewhere, the troupe is for now making do with what Geretly describes as a form of bartering with creative services among other cultural institutions instead of funds.

Online workshops offer a means for survival: The Sitara Theater felt the burden of responsibility and took it upon themselves to shut down last July, despite the government gradually lifting lockdown measures at the time, Reuters reported. At the outset of the pandemic, the theater put its work on hold — and its actors put their costumes and props in storage — and then made the decision to remain shuttered, saying that it’s not “the safest option” to reopen, considering their work “mainly depends on gatherings” and often brings together young children in big numbers. Now, the theater offers online workshops and shows.

Some, however, are embracing the mantra of “the show must go on.” Among them is Cairo Show — a private Egyptian theater company — which kicked off the year with a musical comedy despite official figures indicating the second wave of covid-19 peaked in January, with the Health Ministry reporting 1,022 cases on 14 January (one week before the show).


China just did a quantum thing

Enterprise Explains: The race for quantum computing and why that matters: At the tail end of last year we noted how Chinese researchers had declared reaching “quantum supremacy“ with their experimental ’Jiuzhang’ machine at the University of Science and Technology.

Why should I care? We wouldn’t be that surprised if that was the response of a sizable chunk of our readership. After all, the number of people who have an understanding of quantum mechanics let alone understand the significance of using photons over superconductors is probably quite low. But esoteric subject matter aside, the developments in China may come to fundamentally change how we understand the world around us, so hear us out.

First things first: Quantum computers make that brand new MacBook Pro sitting on your desk look proto-neanderthal. Seriously, even the world’s most powerful supercomputers are no match for what their still-primitive quantum cousins can achieve. The system developed in China processed in mere minutes a calculation that would take a supercomputer 2.5 bn years to figure out.

How does it actually work? Computers talk in binary. That is, they process information through a series of 0s and 1s, also known as bits. This classical binary system has underpinned the history of modern computing, from the first, most basic machine produced in the 1930s to the world’s most advanced supercomputers being built in 2021. Quantum computing changes all of this. While standard computers are stuck communicating in either 1s or 0s, quantum theory uses what computer scientists call qubits: units that can be 1, 0 or both at the same time. The idea that a particle can be in two places at once, or in this case be in two states at once, is known as a superposition and is a foundational concept of quantum mechanics.

Why is this so special? Put simply, the ability of qubits to be placed in superposition allows them to store previously unthinkable amounts of information. Two qubits alongside each other can be placed in four possible states (00,01,10,11), but the 53 cubits that Google used in its prototype machine provided upwards of 9 quadrillion possible states (2^53). Adding more qubits exponentially increases the processing power of the machine, allowing it to calculate in minutes what for a MacBook would take millenia.

Google was actually the first company to stake a claim to quantum advantage: In October 2019, the tech giant became the first company to claim that it had built a machine that can solve complex problems that are beyond the reach of standard supercomputers. Using a 53-qubit superconducting circuit, the team performed a calculation in 200 seconds that it claimed would take a classical computer 10k years.

Notice that we wrote “quantum advantage,” rather than “supremacy”: Quantum advantage refers to a machine that can merely do calculations faster whereas supremacy suggests that it can perform complex tasks that are beyond the reach of a classical supercomputer.

Jiuzhang has just one-upped the Silicon Valley behemoth, reaching near genuine supremacy: Rather than using super-cold superconductors, the team at the University of Science and Technology in Hefei used photons (particles of light) to solve a problem known as boson sampling, a problem that its inventors contend is impossible for a standard computer. Jiuzhang managed it in just 200 seconds.

Despite their power, it’s going to be a long time before quantum machines become useful, but development is accelerating. Although existing machines remain fairly primitive and are unable to be used for practical purposes, quantum startup Rigetti is looking to change this. The business, started by a former IBM researcher, has announced plans to build the first commercially-viable quantum machine, and is working with Edinburgh university and Standard Chartered to investigate its uses in finance, and quantum software start-up Phasecraft to apply it to design, energy and pharma.

And they’ll be getting bigger and better as we advance through the 2020s: IBM has committed to building a 1000-qubit quantum computer by 2023 and a mn-qubit machine by the end of the decade.


  • Quantum mechanics fit for a six year-old: Wired explains quantum in five levels of difficulty. (watch, runtime: 19:27)
  • Why is building a quantum computer so hard? Controlling the qubits. (ScienceMag)
  • How will we use quantum machines? (McKinsey)


February: France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, is set to visit Egypt.

6-27 February (Saturday-Saturday): Mid-year school break (public schools — enjoy the break from bumper-to-bumper traffic).

7-28 February (Sunday-Sunday): The Finance Ministry will receive applications from companies wishing to take part in the second phase of its program for the immediate payout of export subsidy arrears to exporters, minus a 15% fee.

17 February (Wednesday): MENA x CEO MENA Entrepreneurship & VC Panel: Investor Perspectives from New York to North Africa will be hosted by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization.

20 February (Saturday): Final results of applications for private university places will be announced on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

22-24 February (Monday-Wednesday): Second Arab Land Conference on land management, efficient land use, among other topics.

22 February- 5 March (Monday-Friday) Egypt will host the World Shooting Championship in 6 October’s Shooting Club, with 31 countries set to participate

26 February (Thursday): The Afro Future Summit will take place virtually.

26-28 February (Thursday-Saturday): The second edition of the Egypt International Art Fair will be held at Dusit Thani Lakeview Cairo.

28 February (Sunday) Deadline for businesses, sole traders, and those generating income from sources other than their day job to file wage tax returns through the electronic filing system.

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

1 March: Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum comes into effect.

1-5 March (Monday-Friday): Aswan Forum for Peace and Development will take place virtually.

4-6 March (Thursday-Saturday): Cairo Fashion & Tex trade show, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt

8 March (Monday): The IDC Future of Work Egypt conference will be held virtually featuring experts from Egypt and Jordan.

9-11 March (Tuesday-Thursday): EduGate 2021 – Enter The Future conference, Kempinski Royal Maxim Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

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

23 March (Tuesday): The second edition of the Egypt Retail Summit takes place at the Nile Ritz Carlton hotel.

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

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.

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

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).

15 May (Saturday): All large taxpayers will need to join the Tax Authority’s new e-invoicing system (pdf) as part of implementing its third phase.

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 June-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.

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.

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

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

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.

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