Wednesday, 1 September 2021

EnterprisePM — Siemens, OC, Arab Contractors consortium sign USD 4.4 bn contract for phase 1 of the 1k-km high-speed rail line.

TL;DR

🔎 WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

It’s the unofficial Black Mirror edition of EnterprisePM, ladies and gentlemen, where we explore how tech is changing the landscape of business globally. Meanwhile, infrastructure topped headlines today in the local press.

THE BIG STORIES TODAY-

#1- Siemens, OC and AC win USD 4.4 bn rail contract: A consortium consisting of Siemens Mobility, Orascom Construction (OC) and the Arab Contractors (AC) have signed a USD 4.4 bn contract with the Transport Ministry to construct the first phase of the 1k-km high-speed rail line that will eventually link Cairo, Aswan, the North Coast and Safaga.

#2- Speed Medical secures the 💰: Speed Medical signed a EGP 1.6 bn financing agreement with the Luxembourg-based Global Emerging Markets (GEM) Investment Fund, according to a bourse filing (pdf) on the EGX today. It is not yet clear whether the agreement will be for equity or debt.

^^ We’ll have chapter and verse on both stories in tomorrow’s edition of EnterpriseAM.

HAPPENING NOW- Digi Sign Africa is underway: The three-day advertising and digital printing exhibition got underway at the Cairo International Convention Centre on Wednesday, 1 September.

THE MARKETS TODAY-

Oil prices were up ahead of the OPEC+ September meeting this afternoon, when the cartel is expected to stick to the plan to gradually ramp up production that its members hashed out in July. Brent crude futures for November were up 0.28%, to USD 71.83 as of dispatch.

OPEC+ revised its demand growth forecast upwards yesterday, sources within the group told Reuters. OPEC and its allies now expect demand to reach 4.2 mn barrels per day (bpd) in 2022, up from a previous forecast of 3.3 mn bpd. The demand report, which is not publicly available, is also forecasting a supply deficit of 0.9 mn bpd in 2021.

Even if demand is up, the oil producers probably aren’t biting: most analysts expect the group to stick to its plan to gradually ease production cuts that were initiated when the pandemic took a sledgehammer to oil demand. The US has tried to put pressure on the group to hike supply as Brent prices continue their months-long bull run, at times hovering at multi-year highs of around USD 75/bbl.

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

  • This Africa-focused PE outfit is looking to make its Egypt debut: Amethis could invest more than EUR 30 mn in Egyptian SMEs after it hit a first close of its second MENA fund.
  • The state just bought a large chunk of the film studio behind Souad, Paranormal: State-owned media investment firm Ergo Media Ventures will acquire a 49% stake in TV and film production company Film Clinic.
  • Auto sales continue to rise: Passenger car sales grew 43% y-o-y in July, according to industry figures.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- You guessed it: The Taliban could unveil their new government for Afghanistan in the coming days, after a consensus was reached that the new government and cabinet will be under the leadership of the group’s top spiritual leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, sources told Bloomberg. Akhundzada’s deputy and the main face of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is likely to be in charge of the daily functioning of the government, but it is unclear what role he will be taking. The developments come as US President Joe Biden continues to defend the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan which resulted in the Taliban taking power.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The key news triggers for the first two weeks of September:

  • PMI: August’s PMI figures for Egypt, KSA and the UAE will land on Sunday, 5 September.
  • Foreign reserves: The central bank will release foreign reserves figures for August sometime next week.
  • Inflation: Inflation data for August will drop next week.
  • Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 16 September.

Cypriot prez visiting this week: President Nicos Anastasiades arrives in Cairo on Saturday, 4 September for a joint Egypt-Cyprus summit.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- There are still no signs of any cooler weather as far as our favorite weather app goes. Here in Cairo, it’s 39°C during the day and 21°C at night. As for the lucky ones at Sahel, it’s 32°C in the daytime and 24°C at nighttime.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE

Bon voyage to business class? Some companies are ready to consign business travel to history after being forced to switch to digital methods to conduct their cross-border business — and realizing it’s cheaper, better for the environment, and eliminates jetlag. A Bloomberg poll of 45 large firms based in Asia, Europe and the US found that 84% are planning to cut back on travel costs after the pandemic, with more than half expecting to reduce their budgets by 20-40%.

Covid has changed how businesses use tech: Companies are now able to use AR headsets to direct activity on factory floors, drones to tour overseas facilities, and video conferencing software for everything from casual meetings to multi-day conferences. This has allowed them to save bns of USD running their businesses from afar, with little impact on operations.

Guess who isn’t happy about the news: Exclusive lounges. Executive suites. Business class flights. If it seems like industries have an obsession with premium travel, that’s because businesspeople accounted for three-quarters of airlines’ pre-pandemic profits while taking up only 12% of seats, and contributed two-thirds to overall hotel revenues. The industry, which has already been dealt a huge blow by global disruption, lockdowns, travel bans and PCR testing regulations, is now grappling with a shock that according to one estimate could see corporate spending on trips drop by USD 190 bn, or 13.3%, to USD 1.24 tn by 2024.

The effect of this on the sector? “Enormous,” one managing consultant told Bloomberg.

‘Business-leisure’ travel may increasingly become a thing, as airports and airlines pivot to a new class of traveller. Air France is offering more premium seats for holidaymakers, while some of its planes feature a “quick-change” system that allows the size of the business cabin to be reduced if necessary. EgyptAir could be following a similar strategy, going by a recent announcement that travelers can now bid online for upgrades to business class.


From Zoom to QR codes: Tech isn’t just hurting the pockets of the airline industry. Service workers in the US are increasingly finding their jobs under threat as shops and retailers turn to new technologies in response to the pandemic, writes the Financial Times. Rather than being made redundant by a cocktail-serving T-800, businesses are turning to the humble QR code to allow shoppers to buy items or browse stocks using their phone, reducing the need for staff. Restaurant workforces are also being cut down as management uses QR codes to allow diners to check the menu and order food without any human interaction — technology we’ve also been seeing here in Egypt. Cashiers and waiters are among the many who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and the technological shift means that it is unlikely that they will get their jobs back.

Women without college degrees are most susceptible to job losses, if the 2007 financial crisis is anything to go by, with female administrative assistants, telemarketers and payroll clerks being the most affected. A paper from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve suggests that the implications of the pandemic could see a similar trend.

That’s not to say that service workers are lining up to take up these jobs: The threat of the delta virus has pushed many workers in these contact-intensive sectors to opt out of returning to work. QR technology has largely helped bridge that gap, business owners told the FT.


Humans clearly can’t be trusted to navigate the Suez Canal. But can we really depend on HAL? We might find out soon enough. The world’s first self-driving cargo ship will in February embark solo on a 380-km voyage from Tokyo Bay to the coastal city of Ise in Japan, marking the first test of an autonomous tanker in busy shipping lanes, according to Bloomberg. The Japanese public-interest organization backing the trial has big ambitions: it wants half of Japan’s local fleet to be made up of ghost ships crewless ships by 2040, boosting the Japanese economy by USD 9 bn.

It’s a fast-growing sector: Expectations are that the technology will be in practical use by 2025, and could grow to be worth USD 166 bn by 2030. It also represents one solution to the problem of Japan’s dwindling shipping crew workforce, 40% of whom are 55 or older. And since around 70% of shipping accidents are caused by human error, autonomous ships could no doubt have their uses when, say, navigating narrow straits in one of the world’s busiest and most vital waterways.

Think the post-Ever Given bickering was bad? Just wait for the legal chaos caused by a ship crashing itself into the banks of the Suez Canal.

👌 ENTERPRISE RECOMMENDS

Egypt’s 2022 World Cup qualification campaign kicks off tonight

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

International football is back: Egypt is in action at 9pm tonight, taking on Angola at the Cairo International Stadium in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The Pharaohs will travel to Gabon for the second game of the round on Sunday.

Reminder: Egypt will Salah-less tonight after Premier League clubs forbid players from playing international fixtures taking place in red list countries over the next two weeks. Egypt’s star striker could be available for the game in Gabon, which is currently on the UK’s amber list.

HBO’s original series White Lotus has arrived and departed: Set in an eponymous Hawaiian resort, the satirical dramedy follows and exploits its wealthy guests and staff, where they both mingle but on a heavily anchored social ladder. Their inequities and iniquities unravel with every episode, as HBO paints a bleak picture of humanity with the backdrop of a tropical paradise. “The power structures that shape our world so fundamentally as to be almost invisible are increasingly revealed,” the Guardian writes. Critics and fans are dubbing it as one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking shows that has been recently made.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Homegrown Molotof will be taking the stage at Cairo Jazz Club 610 today at 9pm with his trap and mahraganat beats, while Abo Sahar will play his authentic homegrown tunes.

El Sawy Culturewheel is also hosting Amr Adel today at 7pm.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

In this collection of fourteen short stories, Life Among the Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks is an enjoyable read with a new storyline and a different theme in each. Our favorite: The author explores in the first one the future of sustainability of a shrinking Midwestern town called Bounty. When residents of Bounty see how their town’s buildings look on television, they are appalled by their condition. Their response? Hibernation. While we don’t necessarily recommend all the stories of this collection, we guarantee that there is something for everyone’s taste.

🌊 GO WITH THE FLOW

CIBC tops EGX brokerage league table in August

Commercial International Brokerage Company knocked EFG Hermes off the top of the EGX’s brokerage table in August, gaining a 18.9% market share compared to EFG’s 12.1%, according to the EGX’s monthly brokerage rankings (pdf). Rounding off the top five were Beltone with 6.6%, Pioneers with 5.1%, and Mubasher with 4.2%.


MARKET WATCH-

The EGX30 rose 1.3% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.5 bn (1% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net sellers. The index is up 4% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers Holding (+4.3%), Fawry (+3.4%) and Rameda (+2.8%).

In the red: Heliopolis Housing (-0.9%), Raya (-0.7%) and Mopco (-0.7%).

💾 TECH

Bring on the techno-panopticon

Are we just that cool now with being surveilled at work? Demand for employee monitoring software saw a significant uptick at the start of the pandemic. Representatives of workforce analytics software provider ActivTrak told Vice last year that the company had seen a threefold increase in license requests in March 2020, while workforce management platform Hubstaff said it saw a 72% increase in unique visits to its site during the same period.The global market for employee monitoring solutions is predicted to increase by 84% to USD 1.3 bn by 2027, according to a study, reported on by In The Black. Some of the biggest software solutions currently being rolled out include those from Controlio, FairTrak, InterGuard and StaffCop (what a name…).

…So much so, that employees are opting for tracking by algorithms as opposed to humans: A new study by researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California found that workers are more likely to accept or encourage tracking if it is conducted and analyzed by machines. But when you bring humans into the work monitoring process, employees are a lot less keen. So how come we trust tech more than our fellow employees?

Ironically, algorithms are perceived as less biased: The researchers set up five experiments that gauged participants’ reactions to various aspects of having their work activity tracked and analyzed, with the results showing an overwhelming preference for technology-based analysis over human judgment, which can be biased or judgemental. AI tracking gives employees a greater sense of autonomy, the study found, but the kind of software utilized can make all the difference.

Technology-aided monitoring can help boost productivity: Some types of technology can notify employees of improvements in their performance, while providing insights on their peak productivity hours, and scheduling breaks during the times they are less focused. This kind of tech can go so far as to make employees excited to follow the software’s recommendations, explains Roshni Raveendhran, University of Virginia professor and one of the authors of the study, to the Wall Street Journal.

But other tech is less helpful: So-called “tattleware” softwares can track hours worked and applications used, with some even secretly recording keystrokes and capturing screen images at random, according to Neo.Life. Companies such as PwC and Teleperformance have even mandated that their employee webcams stay on, and have given IT staff license to remotely activate cameras on remote worker’s devices at any time. Other than the inevitable privacy concerns, the decision was found to have a demoralizing effect on staff.

Employee monitoring can chip away at a positive workplace culture: Putting in place monitoring tools sends the message to employees that they are not trusted, Katie Bedborough, CFO of VoCoVo told Financial Management. Productivity tracking software is “fundamentally at odds” with a culture of innovation that allows employees the freedom to work in their own way in order to produce the best results.

Are we heading towards a techno-panopticon? 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s disciplinary concept of the panopticon — a circular prison where cells are monitored by a central guard tower that overlooks them all — has found parallels in the misuse of contemporary tech, from CCTV to smartphone data collection. The idea is that though it is impossible for a single prison guard to monitor all cells at once, the fact that prisoners know they could be watched at any moment will lead them to behave as if they are, and have them self-policing their behaviour. When employees consent to workplace monitoring by software, are they hastening the arrival of a future in which a techno-panopticon becomes our new normal?

Proponents say feedback, rather than control, is the key to successful employee monitoring. Programs that provide employees with insights into performance and give workers direct access to their data can help improve workflow and feel empowered to make informed decisions. In best case scenarios, managers can also use the data to identify if employees are getting stuck on certain tasks, and get a bigger picture perspective on how to make workers’ lives easier. The key objective should be to improve office productivity, as opposed to simply spying on employees.

📆 CALENDAR

24 August-5 September (Tuesday-Sunday): Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

September: Delegation of Russian companies to visit Russian Industrial Zone.

1-3 September (Wednesday-Friday): Digi Sign Africa, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt.

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

4 September (Saturday): The first Egypt-Cyprus Intergovernmental Summit is taking place in Cairo.

5 September (Sunday): The updated date for EGX listed companies to institute the new mechanism for calculating closing share prices. The deadline was previously 2 September.

5-7 September (Sunday-Tuesday): The Arab Security Conference, The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo, Egypt.

7-8 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Euromoney Conferences will host the GlobalCapital Sustainable and Responsible Capital Markets Forum 2021, featuring Vice Minister of Finance Minister Ahmed Kouchouk.

8-9 September (Wednesday-Thursday): Egypt-International Cooperation Forum (ICF), Cairo

7-9 September (Tuesday-Thursday): Egy Health Expo, Al Manara International Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

9 September (Thursday): DevOpsDays Cairo 2021 is being organized by ITIDA and the Software Engineering Competence Center in cooperation with DXC Technology, IBM Egypt and Orange Labs.

11-12 September (Saturday-Sunday): International Conferences on Economics and Social Sciences, Cairo

12 September (Sunday): International schools begin 2021-2022 academic year

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

13-21 September (Monday-Tuesday): 76th session of the general assembly, New York

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.

18 September (Saturday): Expiration of United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh/ISIL

21-22 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

22-25 September (Wednesday-Saturday): Cityscape Egypt, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

October: New legislative session begins — must be held by the first Thursday of October.

October: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis could visit Egypt in mid this month to discuss ways to boost tourism cooperation between the two countries.

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.

9 October (Saturday): Public schools begin 2021-2022 academic year

11-17 October (Monday-Sunday): IMF + World Bank Annual Meetings.

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.

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.

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

2-3 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

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

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

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

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

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.

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

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.

22-24 April 2022: World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt

16 June 2022 (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools

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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