Wednesday, 14 July 2021

EnterprisePM — Private sector to run much of national rail network as El Wazir announces sweeping overhaul



Good afternoon, wonderful people, and welcome to yet another busy news day. While the big story of the afternoon is word that the private sector will be handed a significant role operating and upgrading the nation’s rail networks, it’s difficult not to be more excited about what’s happening on Planet Startup.

HAPPENING NOW- We have two high-profile sales. The big news is that Egyptian event management startup Eventtus has been acquired by enterprise community event engine Bevy, according to an emailed statement (pdf). Nine-year-old Eventtus has attracted some of the biggest regional and global tech investors, including Algebra Ventures and 500 Startups. The value of the transaction was not disclosed. We’re aiming to have lots more on the story in EnterpriseAM tomorrow.

News that Eventtus has sold comes as A15 said it has divested its controlling stake in subsidiary Connect Ads to a US outfit. We have more on that story in this afternoon’s Speed Round, below.

ALSO- Prices of some local smokes are increasing as of today: Tobacco monopoly Eastern Company has announced it will raise prices of its own-brand cigarettes starting today, under new ceilings on taxable price brackets introduced two years ago. Proceeds will contribute to funding for Egypt’s Universal Healthcare Insurance program, the company said. You can see the full list of amended prices here (pdf). Maybe it’s a good time to consider quitting?

AND- The Oil Ministry’s gas-station-finder app is now available on the iOS App Store, according to a statement. The app, titled MOP Stations, is pretty simple to use. Just choose your desired fuel type (95, diesel, etc) and it shows you all the stations that offer it nearby, alongside some information about the gas station. You can also download the app from the Google Play Store.

Government agencies and state-owned companies selling goods or services have until 1 October to sign on to the Tax Authority’s new e-invoicing system, the Finance Ministry said in a statement. The decision, approved by the cabinet, particularly applies to public sector companies that have more than half of its capital committed to the consumer industry. Failure to sign up for the e-invoicing platform, which comes as part of a program launched last November, will result in a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

REJOICE- The CBE has spoken, and we’re all getting a six-day Eid holiday. Banks will be closed from Monday, 19 July, until Thursday, July 22. It’s back to business as usual on Sunday, 25 July, the Central Bank of Egypt announced today. Expect an announcement any moment now that the EGX is also closed — the exchange is shuttered anytime the banking system is closed.

Saturday is also a national holiday in observance of the 23 July Revolution.

** CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from today’s EnterpriseAM:

  • Bank ABC launches Blom MTO: The bank is looking to acquire up to 100% of Blom Bank Egypt and is valuing the business at EGP 6.7 bn.
  • Dabaa delayed by two years, thanks to covid: Work on the 4.8 GW facility will likely now finish in 2030 rather than in FY2028-2029.
  • More details on the EGP 100 bn mortgage finance initiative: Affordable homes will be built to support the new initiative which is likely to benefit 220k families, and cost the state coffers some EGP 120 bn over 30 years.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- No single story has yet captured the imagination of the global business press today. The Financial Times is leading with news that global investors’ exposure to Chinese assets has surged to USD 800 bn. Reuters, meanwhile, notes that crowds in South Africa have continued to loot shops and clash with police, “defying government calls to end a week of violence that has killed more than 70 people and wrecked hundreds of businesses.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg thinks the UAE is within striking distance of an agreement with OPEC+ to get a higher oil production quota, ending a standoff with the cartel.

THE BIG STORY IN THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF MAADI- We’re all bracing to be Heliopo-lized (or is it Zamalek-ized?) as the state seems to be on the verge of blasting a freeway through the historic neighborhood above the rail line that runs parallel to Road 250. Property owners: This is not going to be kind to valuations.


Tomorrow is the last day to visit the Cairo International Book Fair at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. The event will run through 15 July and the fair’s committee has now allowed the exhibition ground to operate at 70% capacity.

The Clean Energy Business Council’s webinar Women Entrepreneurs in Canada and the Middle East is taking place on 28 July at 3pm, showcasing female entrepreneurs working in climate tech in the two regions, and highlighting the challenges they face.


China is on course to launch its massive national emissions trading program this week. The initiative is expected to create the world’s largest carbon market and help drive down the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by allowing polluters to trade the fixed amount of carbon they are each permitted to emit annually, the WSJ reports. Under the first phase of the program, some 2.25k energy companies will be able to buy and sell emission allowances through auctions or by negotiations. The aim is to “incentivize economically sustainable carbon reductions over the long term,” economics consulting firm Trivium China said. China is looking to bring in other carbon intensive industries (including petrochemicals, cement, steel, aluminum and domestic aviation) at a later point.

The EU could soon also be getting serious about climate change with new rules that place stronger restrictions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and impose higher taxes on non-EU companies selling their products within the trade bloc, the Associated Press reports. The legislative effort dubbed “Fit for 55” aims to bring the EU closer to meeting its new target of cutting GHG emissions by 55% this decade by placing caps on car pollution, building emissions, and imposing steeper duties on foreign companies producing goods in countries with less stringent climate regulations. The proposed legislation will require endorsement by the 27 member countries before it is passed into law.

Japanese child-sized robot Pepper can’t hold down a job. From chanting Buddhist scriptures at funerals to stints at funeral homes and baseball games, Pepper has been fired time and time again, implying the world may not be ready for robots after all, according to the Wall Street Journal. After Pepper’s disastrous entry into the workforce, the robotics unit of SoftBank said it would halt production of Pepper and restructure its global robotics department. But Pepper hasn’t been laid to rest just yet — it’s still on the job at some hospitals, schools, hotels, and cafes. Units change hand online for a few hundred USD.


Office comedy meets video game culture: Mythic Quest follows the team behind the world’s biggest multiplayer video game as they struggle to keep their game at the top. At the workplace, they’re busy creating worlds, heroes, and scenarios, but the real drama happens in the office. The sitcom is one of the few shows that bring the pandemic into the picture, with later episodes in season one seeing the team get together on video chat and grapple with loneliness. Mythic Quest is funny, light, and filled with commentary on gaming culture in each episode.

???? No football today, but you could tune into the NBA where the Suns are playing the Bucks at tonight (well, tomorrow morning) at 3am CLT. It’s game four of the NBA finals, which the Suns lead 2-1.

Royal drama The Crown and Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian each raked in 24 Emmy nominations, with the Crown expected to hand Netflix its first-ever top series trophy. The nominations point to the rising clout of streaming services, with most of the top-nominated scripted shows being hosted on platforms that emerged in the past two years, writes the Associated Press.

A more inclusive nominee list: 44% of the 96 actors nominated for roles in drama, comedy and miniseries this year were people of color.

Who we’re rooting for: While we’re big fans of the Crown and all things Star Wars, we have our fingers crossed for feminist dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale, which has kept us hooked since its first season dropped in 2017, and is nominated in 21 categories this year.

We’re also hoping Michaela Cole’s brilliant BBC produced drama I May Destroy You finally gets the recognition it deserves after its Golden Globes snub, with nine Emmy nominations including a nod in the Outstanding Limited Series category. The Queen’s Gambit also captured our hearts this year with its portrayal of the struggles of a troubled chess prodigy, and we hope it snags at least one of the 18 trophies it’s been nominated for.

The Emmys are airing on 19 September and you can check out the complete list of nominees here.


Rappers Karim Enzo and Afroto will be sharing the stage with trap producer and DJ El Waili at Cairo Jazz Club 610 in Sheikh Zayed tonight at 9pm.

Jordanian indie band Autostrad are playing at Zamalek Theater on Friday at 8pm.

A padel tennis tournament is taking place in Sahel over Eid, organized by JPadel at La Vista Bay and Swan Lake North Coast. The deadline to register for the C level tournament is today, and the deadline for the A&B level tournaments is on 18 July. The competition boasts a total purse of EGP 180k.


Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch tells the story of a group of expats in Africa, in a humorous and comprehensive take on the experience. The main character, Amanda goes to Namibia with her husband, Mark, a Fulbright scholar studying the German genocide of the Nama people in the early 1900s. It’s so far away from his usual interests that Amanda begins to suspect a ruse, and ends up justified when she discovers the real reason he was intent to go back to Namibia, where he served briefly in the Peace Corps 20 years earlier. As Mark’s story unfolds, the wife of an American diplomat in Namibia takes Amanda under her wing and the duo wrestle with identity, politics, and being far away from home. The Washington Post and The New York Times are big fans.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect daytime highs of 41°C in Cairo tomorrow, falling to 25°C at night, our favorite weather app tells us. Meanwhile, Sahel will see the mercury reach 32°C during the day and fall to 23°C at night.


The private sector will run much of Egypt’s rail network

SMART POLICY- Nine Egyptian companies — almost all of them private sector — will manage and operate Egypt’s rail system under a cooperation protocol signed with the National Railways Authority. Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir isn’t using the word “quasi-privatization,” but it feels very much like a step in that direction. The minister emphasized in a press release (pdf) that bringing in private-sector operators will improve the quality of rail service. The move comes after a string of rail accidents that have kept the sector in the spotlight.

Who’s in? The Transport Ministry is bringing in Orascom Construction, Samcrete, Elsewedy Electric, Hassan Allam Holding, Arab Contractors, Concord Engineering and Contracting, Alkan, Al Gharabli Group and Triangle Group. The ministry hasn’t made clear which companies are in the running for which contracts or roles.

What will they do? The companies will manage all of the country’s under-construction “modern means of transportation,” including two new monorail lines, a light-rail train (LRT) connecting Salam City and Tenth of Ramadan City (which will also be operated by France’s transportation operator RATP Dev), the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system as well as the Abu Qir Metro and El Raml tram. The contracts will cover the operation and maintenance of passenger trains and as well as locomotives, in addition to the maintenance and upgrades of tracks.

Wait, there’s more: The Transport Ministry wants to see a private-sector company offering rail freight services and others working on infrastructure development, the provision of “integrated services,” the repair and overhaul of rolling stock (both passenger and freight) and more. The ministry may also set up a company with Iratrac, a unit of Mantrac Group, to work on upgrades to rail lines, El Wazir said.

Please don’t call this privatization: The plan to involve the private sector doesn’t mean the government is looking to privatize the rail network, according to El Wazir. All railway activities and facilities will remain state-owned, and private-sector involvement is only aimed at expediting the planned overhaul of the national rail network, he said.

A long time coming: Bringing in the private sector to manage the country’s railways has been on the table since 2018, when the Transport Ministry began procedures to establish private sector-run companies to manage specific lines and functions — plans that went nowhere. Recent incidents including a derailment in Qalyubia and a collision in Sohag have put the plans on the fast track.


Cabinet approves EV tariffs

Proposed energy tariffs for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations won Cabinet’s signoff today, according to a statement. The tariffs cover both the cost of electricity sold to charging stations as well as charging costs to end users.

WHAT DOES INDUSTRY THINK? The tariff is “suitable” as a start and will be revisited annually, Infinity’s Shams El Din Abdel Ghaffar tells us. Abdel Ghaffar, who is managing director of the company’s EV division, believes the tariffs are an important step towards the more widespread adoption of EVs here. “The tariff is suitable as a start, and will be revisited annually by the government in order to ensure that it is feasible for EV station and infrastructure developers, like ourselves,” he adds. Infinity is counting on the government’s support as a catalyst for EV adoption, he says.

These are the same tariffs that the Egyptian Electricity Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency (Egyptera) proposed last September, Infinity tells us. Details on the timeline for implementation remain unclear. Until the new pricing is implemented, you can charge up your EV at Infinity’s stations without paying a piaster.

Also approved at today’s meeting:

  • Funding from French development agency AFD program to help strengthen the social safety net in FY2021-2022. AFD will pledge EUR 150 mn to support the rollout of Egypt’s universal healthcare system, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire previously told us;
  • A draft presidential decree ordering the establishment of a non-profit scientific research-intensive private university in the new capital’s Knowledge City. The facility will be called the Egypt Informatics University and will focus on computer and information sciences, digital arts, and business tech skills; and
  • A decision to move ahead with the implementation of the government financial management information system (GFMIS) to replace the “closed” financial management system that was previously used by the state and its affiliated bodies. The GFMIS system constitutes (pdf) the suite of electronic tools used to automate the government's financial management processes.


A15 sells controlling stake in Connect Ads to US outfit Aleph Holding

Miami-based Aleph Holding acquired 86% of Connect Ads — a subsidiary of tech investor A15 — through a cash and share swap agreement of an undisclosed value, according to a press release (pdf). The acquisition marks Aleph Holding’s first investment in the MENA region as it aims to expand its suite of global digital media firms. Founded in 2001, digital media and ad solutions provider Connect Ads counts Twitter, TikTok, Spotify and Huawei among its clients.

A15 is calling this it’s second “dragon exit,” a term typically used to denote that the firm was able to pay back the entire fund through a single startup exit. It’s also A15’s third major exit overall, said General Partner Karim Beshara. A15’s first dragon exit was TPay, in which it sold its 76% stake to Helios Investment. A15 will work alongside Aleph Holding to drive further growth for Connect Ads, with the partnership aiming to expand the digital media firm on a global scale.

ALSO FROM PLANET STARTUP- Four Egyptian startups have been selected to take part in a Google-led three-month digital accelerator program in MENA. Fitness app ElCoach, B2B fresh food supplier FreshSource, online legal-tech platform Hekouky, and e-commerce website builder Zammit were selected among 12 Seed to Series A tech startups from the region, according to a statement (pdf). Egypt-based pharma delivery platform Chefaa was among 10 MENA startups to take part in the first iteration of the accelerator program earlier this year.


Eastern Company goes up 3.5% on tobacco price increase announcement

The EGX30 rose 1.6% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.89 bn (36.2% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.2% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+4.7%), GB Auto (+3.5%) and Eastern Company (+3.5%).

In the red: MM Group (-1.9%), Oriental Weavers (-1.7%) and Orascom Financial Holding (-0.3%).


Hybrid work is making workplace inequality worse

It’s an uneven playing field for promotions during hybrid work: With the option of working from home on the table, employers are labelling in-office workers as higher performers and giving them bigger raises and promotions. Managers are still sticking to the age-old adage that in person workers are more productive, not to mention they feel better when they have their workforce under their nose, writes the Wall Street Journal. The on-site employees are more likely to be assigned bigger projects or have a louder voice in a decision making process, all playing into the end-of-year assessments we all know and hate.

What do the numbers say? A survey of over 4.2k employees by Gartner found that 43% of remote workers and 49% of hybrid workers were highly engaged, compared with 35% of in-office workers, proving that the belief that on-site work is more productive isn’t founded in either data or science.

During lockdown, everyone was equal. When virtual meetings were the norm and the discussion ended once the red end call button was pressed, employees had equal chances to contribute to discussions. But with hybrid work, the red end call button blocks out workers at home, while workers at the office may keep the discussion going, excluding those at home.

This makes people falter when given the choice to work from home… even if it’s better from them: Some 52% workers surveyed by CNBC said that they believe working in person will help their career advancement. 31% of those surveyed said remote and in-person workers will be assessed the same, and only 15% said they believed remote workers were at an advantage. These fears are making employees come back to the office even when it’s not in their best interest — which is the case for many, including parents of young children, and those caring for elderly family members.

Working mothers are among those majorly affected: The pressure on working mothers to concede career advancement and stay home or go into the office and battle with childcare could push the gender disparity in the workforce even further, writes The Guardian.

What should remote workers do to ensure they’re still visible? If you had a tendency to be reserved at the office pre-covid, it’s time to shrug off the shyness and get networking. The more you catch up with your colleagues and managers, the more you’re in the picture even when you’re physically not. It’s also good to establish an “in-office ally” that will remind the group to call you when impromptu discussions pop up. Meanwhile, if you’re going into a new job, a good question to ask is which senior leaders are working from home, giving you a sense of the career paths available for those out of office.

Managers, it’s on you too: The WSJ recommends you don your pjs and try out hybrid work yourself to build empathy for remote workers and understand they’re not on their couch watching Netflix as you slave away. Meanwhile, SHRM says that managers should make an effort to avoid “negative remote work bias,” and should consider whether promotions and raises are being given based on merit, or compliance with a corporate culture of presenteeism.


Can’t get that song out of your head? Here’s why.

Have an earworm stuck in your head? You’re not alone. The song stuck in your head on a seemingly never-ending loop — otherwise known as an earworm — affects 99% of people, while 90% of us experience earworms at least once a week.

Why wont that tune go away? Music is directly linked to conscious memories, prompting experiences to trigger certain songs. Your brain associates certain places or routines with songs, mentally playing those songs whenever you revisit those experiences. Songs that are more likely to get stuck in your head and become earworms usually have a more upbeat tempo, have a simple structure and melodic pattern, but are punctured with enough unusual intervals to make them memorable, according to research by Kelly Jakubowski of Durham University’s Music and Science Lab.

On repeat: How music plays in our minds is based on the science behind musical repetition. Hidden patterns in seemingly simple songs or even monotonous ones can have highly complex rhythms, which is how syncopation — the correlation between different tones that “sync” together to make up a single piece of music — works.

A shared rhythm buried deep within songs: Vox’s original series, Earworm, a musical journey that probes into the stories behind songs which have “a common musical DNA” suggests that some songs have their syncopation buried so deep that, on surface, the songs may sound completely different, but underneath they have the exact same patterns that subconsciously create a familiar tune. Entire genres become based on patterns; Blues for instance, is based on the I-IV-V pattern. Other songs that become earworms are structured around lyrical repetition, which is a staple feature in popular music around the globe.

The speech illusion: When musicians repeat the same word over 20 times, the focus shifts from the meaning of the lyrics to their rhythm and musicality. “Repetition grabs a hold of our brain in ways that we often can’t quite control and that might make us feel like the music is playing us, rather than us playing the music,” Vox’s series narrates.

The musical fabric of our emotions: Netflix’s documentary Music Explained argues that repetition is the essence of music; it is what differentiates an environmental sound from a musical one. Patterns in music help us create deep connections with our feelings. It claims 16th century Italian composer Clavdio Monteverde was the first to compose a simple baseline ascending the minor scale. In the hundred years since, composer after composer have used the exact same baseline to express lament, and with each repetition its meaning grows. We hear these melodies so often, that their effect becomes immediate and unconscious.

The ‘catchiness’ of certain melodies can also be an effective teaching tool: Music has long been used in the process of educating young children to help them retain information, as in nursery rhymes.

Everything is a remix: This documentary explains why sampling music has been universally accepted for decades. Baselines have been sampled so many times that music legends such as Led Zeppelin might actually come off as rip-offs.

Want visual evidence that shows how songs are packed with patterns? Song Sim is a tool that visualizes songs, revealing how a song can be structured around lyrical repetition. Turns out we “really, really, really, really like” repetition in music.

Myths on “catching” an earworm: Sing Happy Birthday! This isn’t entirely correct because what you’ll actually be doing is replacing one earworm with another. But one way that Jakubowski suggests to “deworm” yourself is to actually listen to the full song. Other bizarre methods: For some reason, chewing gum has been found to be effective at purging an earworm, according to research from the University of Reading.

Want to test these out yourself? Grab a stick of gum and check out this earworm playlist on Spotify.


July: The government’s fuel pricing committee will meet to announce 3Q prices.

14 July (Wednesday): The EGX will hold board elections for the 2021-2025 term.

Mid-July: Legislative session expected to end.

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

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

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

23 July-11 August (Friday-Wednesday): Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

28 July (Wednesday): Clean Energy Business Council’s webinar Women entrepreneurs in clean energy (3pm)

2-4 August (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt is hosting the Africa Food Manufacturing exhibition at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.

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.

3-5 September (Friday-Sunday): The World Karate Federation will hold the third competition of the 2021 Karate 1-Premier League in Cairo.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

15 September (Wednesday): The CFO Leadership & Strategy Summit is taking place in Egypt.

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.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September: Closing of 2021’s first oil and gas tender in the Gulf of Suez, Western Desert, and the Mediterranean.

1 October (Friday): Businesses importing goods at seaports will need to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally to the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

1 October (Friday): State-owned companies and government service bodies selling goods and services to customers that have not yet signed 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.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

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

24-28 October (Sunday-Thursday) Cairo Water Week, Cairo, Egypt.

27-28 October (Wednesday-Thursday) Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo, Egypt.

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

30 October – 4 November (Saturday-Thursday): The first edition of Race The Legends, Egypt.

November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

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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