Monday, 29 June 2020

New rules on how we all observe holidays = more long weekends


What We’re Tracking Today

THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE OF PLANS and we now have a long weekend to which to look forward rather than a midweek holiday tomorrow. The Madbouly Cabinet decided last night to make Thursday, 2 July a national holiday for the public and private sectors in observance of the anniversary of the 30 June protests that ended our Islamist interregnum, according to a statement.

But of course it’s just not that simple:

State-owned banks will be off on Wednesday, 1 July, as will any private sector banks whose fiscal years end 30 June. State banks always close their doors to the public at the end of their fiscal year to close their books.

All banks will be off on Thursday, the Central Bank of Egypt said last night in a new circular that set aside the previously announced 30 June bank holiday.

And the stock exchange will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday as the bourse doesn’t open when a significant part of the banking system is closed.

SMART POLICY- Cabinet has decided that we’re going to have more long weekends from now on. If a national holiday falls in the middle of the week, it will automatically be pushed to the following Thursday. The exceptions: Eid El Fitr, Eid El Adha, and Coptic Christmas. Mabrouk, everyone: We now have more clarity to plan and the promise of more long weekends. That’s a win, so far as we’re concerned, but enjoy redoing your corporate / school / personal calendars, boys and girls.

Enterprise is also off on Thursday and will be back in your inboxes at the usual hour on Sunday morning.

It’s a big day for the future of our water supply — and of farmers — as the UN Security Council is set to talk GERD today after the issue was put on the agenda at the request of France. Egypt held talks with several council members ahead of the meeting to clarify its stance on the dispute, according to Ahram Gate.

Egypt rallies int’l support as GERD talks resume: The Emigration Ministry released a video over the weekend urging viewers to sign a petition for Ethiopia to abide by the 2015 Declaration of Principles and refrain from filling the reservoirs of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without reaching an agreement with its downstream neighbors, Sudan and Egypt (watch, runtime 1:39). The video comes as the three countries have returned to the negotiating table this week in a last-ditch effort to reach a final pact on the dam.

Meanwhile, Egypt should receive the first USD 2 bn tranche of the IMF’s USD 5.2 bn standby loan within the next few days, Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Ramy Aboul Naga told Al Arabiya (watch, runtime: 7:14). The IMF had approved on Friday the loan, which will help the country plug a balance of payments shortfall and finance the budget deficit. The remaining USD 3.2 bn will be doled out in two further tranches after staff reviews.

And no, you weren’t imaging things: A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit Cairo yesterday evening at around 7:43 pm, said Gad El-Kadi, head of the National Institute of Astronomical Research, according to Ahram Gate.

Add the Financial Times to the list of folks concerned about what school closures and “hybrid learning” could mean for working parents. As we suggested yesterday, businesses need to consider what the possibility of blended learning could mean to their staff come September, which is not that many sleeps away.

One good piece of news for folks with young ankle biters in the house: Nurseries will be permitted to reopen as early as this Wednesday under guidelines announced by Social Solidarity Minister Nivine Kabbag (watch, runtime: 12:41). Kabbag told ExtraNews that nurseries will be allowed to operate four days a week — from Sunday through Wednesday — but will have to close their doors each day at 3pm rather than 5pm. All staff members will be required to wear masks and gloves (kids are exempt).


The Health Ministry confirmed 81 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,789. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 65,188 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,265 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 17,538 cases that have fully recovered.

New guidelines: Following World Health Organization guidelines, the Health Ministry is now considering any covid-19 patient who shows no symptoms for 10 days as being fully recovered, according to the statement. The last confirmed figure for the number of confirmed cases that tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated was 18,658 on Saturday.

Rep. Abdel Rehim Ali has tested positive for covid-19 and has been hospitalized in an ICU in a hospital in Paris, where he was attending a conference on the crisis in Libya, Al Shorouk reports. Ali is the eleventh MP to have tested positive for the virus thus far, according to Ahram Online.

Some 50% of the 300k registered restaurants, hotels, and tourist facilities in Giza opened their doors on Saturday, when the government lifted the curfew and allowed a host of non-essential services to return to normal working hours for the first time in three months, according to Al Mal. The Consumer Protection Agency, along with the Health and Tourism Ministries, have started inspecting facilities at random to ensure they abide by the precautionary measures, including a 25% cap on occupancy. The Tourism Ministry has handed out safety certificates to 144 restaurants and cafes, a statement said.

Matrouh’s El Negelah Hospital, the country’s first dedicated covid-19 quarantine facility, is resuming operations as a full-service hospital and will no longer be limited to operating as a quarantine facility, deputy director Mohamed Ibrahim said (watch, runtime: 5:49). The hospital is still treating covid-19 patients.

Uber’s Careem expects demand for its services to pick up sooner than initially projected, and return to pre-corona levels sometime in 2021 as countries relax lockdown measures, CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters’ Arabic service. The pandemic has hit the ride-hailing company hard, forcing it to slash 31% of its workforce in May after business fell by 80%. Both Careem and parent company Uber have indefinitely suspended recruiting new drivers amid the slump in activity.

Reminder: We’re also reopening our international airspace on Wednesday, 1 July, with EgyptAir set to resume flights to 22 destinations. You can find details on the flights and how to confirm your bookings here.

Three tour groups are set to arrive in Egypt in early July, said Travco Tourism Group General Manager Moataz Sedky, which organized the tours, according to Hapi Journal. The Travco groups are coming out of Italy, Belgium, and Ukraine. Charter flights are resuming at the beginning of the month to the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Matrouh.



The covid-19 pandemic reached a grim milestone yesterday as the global infection count crossed into eight figures. Johns Hopkins University data shows that there have now been more than 10 mn cases of the virus and 500k deaths since the outbreak began in China at the start of the year. The news comes as the US health secretary warned that the “window is closing” to halt the spread of the virus across America and as the New York Times reported that US testing sites are overwhelmed.

Another 500k people in China have been locked down, after authorities detected a new virus cluster near Beijing, Deutsche Welle reports.


The Egyptian Private Equity Association is holding a webinar with Sovereign Fund of Egypt head Ayman Soliman today at 11 am. Moderated by EPEA chairman and the fund’s new CIO Abdalla Elebiary, the session will cover the fund’s targets, plans and partnerships. Contact the EPEA for more info.

EG Bank and Cairo Angels are now accepting applications for the fall 2020 cycle of the Mint Incubator. The program will for the first time feature a dedicated track for fintech startups.The deadline for applications is 15 August. Apply here.


Three Egyptian businesses made it into Forbes’ 2020 Top 100 Arab Family Businesses in the Middle East, which is dominated by Emirati and Saudi firms. Egypt’s Mansour Group — managed by Mohamed, Yassin and Youssef Mansour — landed in the top spot on the list overall, with a combined wealth of USD 7.4 bn. Memaar Al Morshedy ranked 55, while ElAraby Group ranked 68.

More big brands have pulled their ads from social media for the foreseeable future: Starbucks, Levi’s, Hersheys and alcohol maker Diageo have all joined Unilever, Coca-Cola and Verizon in pulling out of most forms of social media for a six-month period amid suggestions that Facebook, in particular, has become a toxic player in global society. Most of the bans appear so far to apply primarily to the companies’ US media spend. Diageo’s moratorium on social media spending is global, the Financial Times notes. CNBC has more.

It’s the salmon-colored paper’s equivalent of newbie foreign reporters showing up in Cairo and talking to taxi drivers to take the pulse of the “Arab street,” but there’s a kernel of truth nonetheless to Rana Foroohar’s latest column for the FT, wherein she argues that the picture painted by small businesses offers a much grimmer assessment of the health of he US economy than does the performance of the stock market. Read: Small business: a canary in the US economic coal mine.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Covid-19 was in the limelight on the airwaves last night after the country took its latest steps towards reopening the economy on Saturday.

The government could decide to re-impose lockdown measures, including returning to the nighttime curfew if the infection rate spikes as a result of the reopening, Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad told Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary. Saad reminded viewers that the pandemic is not over — and that everybody should follow personal precautionary measures laid out by the government, including wearing face masks in closed spaces and on public transport (watch, runtime: 6:20).

We’re seeing more cases, but fewer people in critical condition, Hossam Hosni, head of the scientific committee at the Health Ministry told Al Kahera Alaan’s Lamees El Hadidi. Around 2-3% of new daily confirmed cases are considered “critical” and only 10% require ICU treatment, Hosni said (watch, runtime: 2:15).

On the bright side, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of e-learning, which is part of the Education Ministry’s broad reform program, Minister Tarek Shawki told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib. Shawki noted that the ministry has rolled out several online communication platforms and online libraries for students to benefit from (watch, runtime: 11:24).

Are you ready for an electric 128? State-owned El Nasr Automotive is expected to complete feasibility studies and sign a final agreement to assemble as many as 25k electric cars a year with a Chinese company within three months, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik told ‘Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa. Tawfik didn’t name the company, but we’re still banking on it being Wuhan-based Dongfeng, which was in negotiations with El Nasr to assemble EVs since last year before the covid-19 pandemic delayed talks. Tawfik expects each car to retail for about EGP 300k (watch, runtime: 18:38).

In other transport updates, Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir broke down his ministry’s plan to develop the Arab Organization for Industrialization’s Semaf railway factory, which should be complete by October 2020 (watch, runtime: 52:53).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

IPO WATCH- Pioneers Holding to split into three new companies, list them on the EGX in 4Q2020: Pioneers Holding plans to split into three separate arms, one each focused on financial services, real estate, and industry, it announced in a statement (pdf). This will mean that Pioneers will be spinning three subsidiaries off onto the EGX under three separate tickers in 4Q2020 in a first-of-its-kind move in Egypt. The restructuring, which the company announced in October, aims to help expand into new businesses while improving its focus on core activities, the statement said. The company has recently completed an MTO in a bid to cobble together larger positions in five of its EGX-listed subsidiaries — which wrapped up earlier this month — before moving ahead with the restructuring.

Advisors: UHY United is acting as Pioneers’ financial advisor and Baker McKenzie is providing legal advice.

Sodic sells out of Vye villas in two days: Sodic sold all its first batch of detached, solar-powered villas in its Vye compound within 48 hours of going on sale, in what was the developer’s first launch since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. The sales brought in EGP 250 mn, the company said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The real estate developer hopes to sell EGP 43 bn worth of units in Vye, having already recorded EGP 1 bn in sales in just two days in December. The Vye project is the first of three compounds to be included in a 500-feddan development in New Zayed City.

M&A WATCH- Saudi’s Khaled Abdullah Al Subaie Holding looks to acquire Maridive Offshore Projects: Jeddah-based Khaled Abdullah Al Subaie Holding Company has expressed interest in acquiring Maridive Offshore Projects, a wholly owned subsidiary of EGX-listed Maridive & Oil Services, the company said in a regulatory filing (pdf) that provided no further details of the potential transaction. Maridive said in March that it was in talks with creditors as it struggled with covid-19 and plunging oil prices.

PHD, CI Capital’s Taaleem ink MoU to set up life sciences university in Badya compound: Palm Hills Development (PHD) has signed a preliminary agreement with CI Capital subsidiary Taaleem to jointly set up a new private university in its West Cairo Badya project, according to a press release (pdf). The two companies would set up a joint venture to establish the university, which would span 100k sqm of PHD’s development and be home to a health sciences college in partnership with the Medical University of Vienna, as well as branches of at least one other international university. Taaleem would be in charge of managing and operating the project, which is still subject to corporate and regulatory approvals, the statement says.

Background: The Badya compound is a 3k-feddan West Cairo project under development by PHD in partnership with the New Urban Communities Authority. Taaleem is a subsidiary of EGX-listed CI Capital (which holds a 16.4% stake in Taaleem and has “influence over the decision[s] of its board of directors”) and owns the Nahda University in Beni Suef, the largest private university in Upper Egypt with 5.6k enrolled students.

REGULATION WATCH- The FRA has set new solvency standards for consumer finance companies in a bit to curb concentration risk and strengthen financial stability, according to a statement (pdf). Under the new rules companies will only be allowed to lend up to 10% of their capital base to a single borrower to prevent them from becoming overexposed to a small number of clients. Companies will also be allowed to take loans worth up to 9x their equity value to support their activities.

The statement also notes that stricter capital requirements will be introduced to shore up balance sheets but didn’t disclose the specifics. We were unable to reach the FRA for comment yesterday.

Companies will have to comply with the new rules by the end of FY2020-2021 and submit quarterly compliance reports to the FRA.

NBFS players may, in the future, be able to raise funds from both retail and institutional investors through a new type of fund. That’s the primary takeaway from a decision by the FRA last week that will allow the creation of funds dedicated to providing liquidity to leasing, mortgage and consumer finance, factoring, and microfinance companies. These NBFS players will be able to transfer their receivables to those funds, which the authority labels as “specialized in transferable value.” The funds will in exchange pay the companies the present value of their portfolio. This will help NBFS firms to comply with the increased capital requirements as both retail and institutional investors will be able to invest in the securitized debt of the companies by buying into the dedicated funds.

Think of it like securitization, with a twist: Companies with substantial unrealized revenues — such as NBFS and real estate firms — often pool their receivables into special purpose vehicles and sell them to institutional investors. Those institutional investors provide immediate liquidity for the issuers to finance working capital. This dedicated type of fund will function in a similar way, except it will be open to both institutional and retail investors, introducing a whole new layer of funding. The FRA hopes this will increase capital inflows and make it easier for NBFS firms to access liquidity.


REGULATION WATCH- Administrative Court hands down landmark ruling in real estate M&A case: The Administrative Court has issued a ruling that any mergers or acquisitions between real estate joint stock companies have no legal bearing on these companies’ legal status. The ruling — which accepted a case filed by Shahid Law Firm — sets a new legal precedent that exempts these companies from a 2010 ministerial decision that imposed fees on real estate companies that cede land plots to other developers, which only apply to sole proprietorships.

The ruling overturns a EGP 1.38 bn fine the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) had slapped on EastGate Developments. The dispute arose after NUCA awarded a land plot to Barwa Egypt for Real Estate Development in 2007, before Barwa New Cairo Development bought up the company and later changed its name to East Gate Developments. NUCA had claimed that this acquisition qualifies as a cessation of land, which would entail paying the cessation fees.

DISPUTE WATCH- Court rules in favor Amer Group, Porto Group in Antaradous dispute: The North Cairo Court has turned down claim for compensation lodged by Syria’s Antaradous for Touristic Development against Mansour Amer and his two holding companies, Amer Group and Porto Group, the defendants said (pdf). Arbitrators had originally ruled in Amer’s favor, but the Syria based company decided to pursue the case in court.. The dispute dates back to 2008 when the parties entered into a partnership to develop a Porto-style project in the coastal city of Tartous.

CBE Credit Guarantee Company will guarantee loans by banks under EGP 100 bn stimulus program: The Central Bank of Egypt has launched a new initiative to hedge against part of the risk associated with bank lending under its EGP 100 bn initiative to extend low-interest loans to industrial, agricultural, and construction firms. The bank said in a circular that EGP 7 bn will be set aside for its recently formed Credit Guarantee Company, expanding the scope of the company to guarantee loans to larger companies alongside its current focus on SMEs.

KSA to give EGP 200 mn grant to five Egyptian MSMEs: Saudi Arabia will provide EGP 200 mn to finance five new micro, small, and medium enterprises in Egypt, International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat said yesterday. The Agricultural Bank of Egypt will receive EGP 100 mn to finance a rural development project, livestock supply chains, and dairy factories. A healthcare support program by Contact Financial Leasing and a SME logistics support program by UE Finance will receive EGP 50 mn each.

LEGISLATION WATCH- The House Health Committee approved in principle yesterday a bill that would raise the salaries of state-employed healthcare workers under a directive from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, according to Masrawy. The bill would, if passed, grant general practitioners an additional EGP 1,225 in hazard pay, while dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians and physiotherapists would see an EGP 875 bump in their compensation. Specialized nurses, chemists and physicists would see EGP 790 added to their paychecks, while technical diploma holders in nursing and health would receive EGP 700.

Other legislative news to note in brief:

  • The House Religious Affairs committee approved a bill restructuring the Religious Endowments Authority to bring it under the Religious Endowments (Awqaf) Ministry’s umbrella, and grant the authority the right to manage and invest endowment funds, Al Shorouk reports.
  • Shou Ming, they’re coming for you: The House Constitutional and Legislative Affairs approved an anti-cheating bill that would impose fines and jail time to those found guilty of illegally obtaining and leaking exam materials, and automatically flunk students caught cheating during exams, according to Al Shorouk.

EARNINGS WATCH- Palm Hills Developments (PHD) saw its net profits fall by 42% to EGP 81 mn in 1Q2020 from EGP 141 mn in the same period last year, according to its quarterly financials (pdf). This came despite revenues rising 18% to EGP 1.1 bn from EGP 958 mn.

Pioneers Holding’s net profits nearly halved in the first quarter of 2020 on a y-o-y basis, falling to EGP 271 mn from EGP 456 mn in 1Q2019, according to its earning statement (pdf).. Profits fell on the back of much lower revenues, which fell 30% to EGP 1.73 bn from EGP 2.49 bn.

Sidpec turns loss in 1Q2020: Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals Company (Sidpec) reported losses of EGP 31.3 mn in 1Q2020 against net profits of EGP 193.1 mn in 1Q2019, the company said in a regulatory disclosure.

Suez Cement turned an EGP 390 mn loss during the first three months of the year compared to the EGP 213 mn profit made in 1Q2019, the company said in an EGX filing (pdf).

MOVES- Palm Hills Developments has appointed CI Capital Holding’s group co-CEO and managing director Tarek Tantawy (LinkedIn) as a board member, after accepting the resignation of COO Mohamed Fahmy Soliman (LinkedIn), according to a disclosure to the EGX (pdf).

Egyptian Ferro Alloys Company boss Mohamed El Saadawi has been selected to succeed Medhat Nafea as chairman of state-owned Metallurgical Industries Holding Company, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik said, according to Hapi Journal.

Sri Suma Chakrabarti is preparing to mark his final day as president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Cooperation Minister Rania Mashat noted on Twitter yesterday, saying Sir Suma — a longtime friend of Egypt — will be “truly missed.” Chakrabarti, who has led the EBRD since 2012 and championed its expansion outside European borders for the first time, will step down in July.

In this week’s episode of Making It: Trella co-founder and CEO Omar Hagrass delves into the practices that make a sustainable business, and offers advice to entrepreneurs looking to secure their first funding round. Hagrass and his co-founders completed a USD 600K pre-seed round with only a pitch deck in early 2019, showing that having a strong team ready to solve a big problem is a significant pull for investors.

Trella eliminates the need for middlemen between shippers and carriers, saving both parties time and resources.

Tap or click here to listen to the episode on our website | Apple Podcast | Google Podcast | Omny. We’re also available on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts. Subscribe to Making It here.


Enterprise is available without charge — just visit our English or Arabic subscription page, depending on which edition you would like to receive. We give you just about everything you need to know about Egypt, in your inbox Sunday through Thursday before 7am CLT (8am for Arabic), and all we ask for is your name, email address and where you hang your hat during business hours.

Image of the Day

Robo-gastronomy may be the future: A pandemic sure can change your neuroses. Just six months ago the coming robot takeover was a serious source of existential angst. Now, we’re begging them to cook us our koshary. This restaurant, developed by Country Garden subsidiary Qianxi Robot Catering Group, is the world’s first ever contactless, fully automated robotic eatery — perfect for those among us who are now terrified of coming into contact with other humans while eating out.

Egypt in the News

Egyptian belly-dancer Sama El Masry’s three-year jail sentence and EGP 300k fine is leading the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press. El Masry was arrested in April after sharing videos online which the court said incite “immorality” and upend Egyptian family values. The dancer denies the allegations, and claims the videos were stolen and uploaded from her phone without her knowledge. (Reuters | Sky News | Independent | Times of Israel | The Mirror | The Telegraph)

Elsewhere: Egypt’s film festivals are set to go ahead as planned in 2H2020 as covid-19 restrictions are lifted, according to Al Monitor. This includes El Gouna Film Festival, the Cairo International Film Festival, and Alexandria International Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Egypt imported 5 mn tonnes of wheat in 1H2020, down 16.6% compared to 6 mn tonnes in the same period last year, the local press reports, citing official data. State grain buyer GASC accounted for a little over half of the imports, while the remainder was imported by private sector players. Russia was our biggest source market, providing 46.52% of the wheat we imported during the first six months of the year, followed by Ukraine (25.19%) and France (12.25%).


USAID’s support to Egypt’s education sector: How does it work and will it be impacted by covid-19? The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been active in Egypt for over 40 years, providing financial support to the tune of over USD 30 bn since 1978. Education is a key focus for USAID and its projects in Egypt, and the organization leverages government and private sector partnerships to run education programs aligned with the priorities of the Egyptian government.

We sat down with Sarah Banashek, the deputy director of USAID Egypt's Office of Education, to learn more about these public-private sector partnerships, which of its education programs USAID Egypt considers to be the flagships, and how covid-19 is impacting its work.

The key highlights:

  • Strategically, USAID is working to support Egypt’s shift towards critical thinking and skills acquisition — and away from rote memorization.
  • Much of its current focus involves building technical knowledge and capacity, as well as facilitating employment through career centers and scholarship programs.
  • Covid-19 is having an impact on program implementation, but not on USAID’s priorities and strategic support.

USAID works with multiple partners in Egypt at all levels of the education sector: This spans kindergarten through secondary school, all the way up to undergraduate, graduate, and even post-doctoral work, says Banashek. It has a very broad partnership with the Higher Education Ministry and the Education and Technical Education Ministry, and also collaborates quite a bit with the private sector, she adds.

These partnerships are guided by a strategic focus on skills acquisition and a move away from rote memorization. USAID has supported the Egyptian government in its planning and implementation of Education 2.0, the sweeping reform announced by Education Minister Tarek Shawky, says Banashek. At the basic education level, this involved establishing a new curriculum focused on imbuing children with critical skills. USAID helped to train over 28k kindergarten teachers in the summer of 2017. “So we have been very much involved in this pivot to bring learning back into the classroom,” she says.

USAID’s work here also focuses extensively on supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in high schools through its Support for STEM Secondary Education program. Starting in 2011, the program helped establish Egypt’s first two STEM schools and it built the capacity of their teachers. Now, USAID partners with the education and higher education ministries to train future STEM teachers. USAID has built this program from the ground up, working with the Education Ministry to help schools produce world-class graduates and supply them with the best-trained teachers, says Banashek. The private sector plays a key role in the STEM schools’ capstone projects (or final student assignments), where students look at issues including food and water scarcity, electricity supply and other challenges facing Egypt’s government and people, and apply their best skills to see how they could bring about broad-based economic growth. USAID and the Education Ministry’s STEM unit seek private sector partners who can bring the best of these ideas to market, she continues.

USAID considers the STEM high schools to be among its most successful education projects in Egypt. The program didn’t exist before 2011, but now there are 15 STEM schools reaching over 12k students, owned and operated entirely by the Education Ministry, says Banashek. And while the first part of the project involved getting the schools on their feet, now the focus is on working with the Higher Education Ministry and faculties of education to provide the schools with well-trained staff. “At the beginning, we found that a lot of the teachers working in these schools just didn’t have the skills to teach using an enquiry-based curriculum,” says Banashek.

USAID leverages public-private partnerships to provide support to technical schools and establish university career centers. Through its Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) program, USAID Egypt works with 60 technical and tech education schools, and with the private sector, to ensure that students have diplomas and degrees that will help them get jobs, says Banashek. To date, USAID has established two diploma programs in these technical schools — one in renewable energy and one in logistics — both designed with private sector involvement and ministry approval. Students graduating from technical secondary schools are now able to get jobs immediately after graduation. All of this constitutes a huge success, says Banashek, especially because technical schools are often not the prime focus either for governments or donors.

Private sector support is also key to USAID’s university centers for career development program, run in collaboration with AUC and the Higher Education Ministry. So far, the program has seen 15 centers established in 10 Egyptian public universities, says Banashek. When the pilot phase of the career center program was launched in 2012, it was much harder for students to link their educational experiences to the workplace, says Banashek. “I think of them at that time sort of cooking in this bubble, completely separate from the outside world.” The career centers open their minds up to questions about how they will use their degrees, how they will provide for their families, what skills they need to master to get the jobs they aspire to, she adds. Students learn critical skills, including presentation and interview skills, that tend not to be taught in traditional university classes focused on the theory behind different disciplines. And the career centers organize things like employee-employer roundtables and job shadowing. “So for example in Beni Sueif, Titan Cement Egypt has a manufacturing facility close to the university, and through the career center some very strong ties have been developed between the two,” she says.

Egypt has one of USAID’s largest scholarship programs, having provided almost 4k Egyptians with scholarships over the past 40 years, says Banashek. These programs are predominantly merit-based, and they offer selected students support to get into fee-paying sections at Egyptian public universities or to attend private universities. “It’s an entire package that offers leadership, entrepreneurship and English-language skills, to give a well-rounded experience,” she adds. USAID Egypt is currently recruiting for two scholarship programs now, but in the covid-19 context, they are not able to physically visit Egypt’s 27 governorates as they would in the past, and are instead relying on online recruitment and word of mouth.

As for projects going forward, Banashek notes that the Higher Education Ministry has been very forward-leaning in moving to online learning. She also notes, however, that there are always areas where support is needed — whether to improve access, upskill faculty, or roll out blended learning models. Projects are selected for funding after identifying market gaps where USAID would be well-placed to set up a program, says Banashek.

All USAID projects are regularly monitored and adapted when necessary. USAID programs are designed to be flexible and adapt to different circumstances. “Our activities are iterative every year, and we always incorporate what we call collaborating, learning, and adapting methodologies,” says Banashek. This process entails the regular review of a project’s work plan, and monitoring it against targets agreed upon with partners.

And performance measures can also be adapted, if let’s say a global pandemic hits: “We’ll be modifying a lot of our initial targets for this year due to covid-19.” All projects include a monitoring and evaluation component and a learning plan that adheres to USAID policy, and they have very strict standards for the data collected through implementing partners, she adds.

So far, covid-19 is impacting program implementation but not USAID’s overall financial or strategic support. From a practical perspective, USAID Egypt is trying to learn from its own experience and from other countries in the region, in its response to covid-19 challenges, says Banashek. They are doing everything they can to enhance distance learning across the board, she says.

In some cases, the crisis has enhanced the impact of programs, including the career centers: The career centers are physically located in the faculties of Egyptian public universities, so when campuses were closed in March, they moved to an online learning platform, says Banashek. “Now, not only are they reaching their target audience, but they’ve even expanded their reach.” In the past, each center could accommodate 60 students for an in-person class, Banashek estimates. “There was always huge demand.” Now they’re able to reach some 13k students through their online platforms, and they made that shift in 3 months, she says.

Strategically speaking, the US government is committed to continuing its support to the government and people of Egypt during this crisis, she adds. USAID Egypt is still pushing its scholarship recruitment during this time, and even launched a new project earlier this month called Teach for Tomorrow, supporting teachers during the transition to Education 2.0. “Our partnership is important to US foreign policy and the American people, so we will continue to move forward with all the programs I’ve mentioned. We will continue to support both the government and the private sector as they adapt to the economic shifts related to covid-19. Our priorities haven’t changed.”

Your top education stories of the week:

  • The academic year for Egypt’s universities will now end on 15 September to accommodate end-of-year exams, which will begin on 1 July.
  • President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed potential investment and cooperation in higher education programs in Egypt in a phone call last Wednesday.
  • Palm Hills, Taaleem ink MoU to set up university in Badya compound: We recap the full story in Speed Round, above.
  • The nationwide Thanaweya Amma exams kicked off last week for some 650k students amid preventive measures to curb the spread of the covid-19.
  • Noon Academy has raised USD 13 mn in its latest funding round as more students resort to distance learning through the Saudi-based company’s educational technology platform.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 16.12 | Sell 16.22
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 16.12 | Sell 16.22
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 16.10 | Sell 16.20

EGX30 (Sunday): 10,849 (-0.4%)
Turnover: EGP 757 mn (6% below the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -22.3%

THE MARKET ON SUNDAY: The EGX30 ended Sunday’s session down 0.4%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended down 1.1%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Porto Group up 6.1%, Ibnsina Pharma up 4.0%, and CIRA up 3.4%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Elsewedy Electric down 3.4%, Madinet Nasr Housing down 1.8% and Ezz Steel down 1.7%. The market turnover was EGP 757 mn, and domestic investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -50.6 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -12.1 mn
Domestic: Net Long | EGP +62.8 mn

Retail: 73.0% of total trades | 75.4% of buyers | 70.6% of sellers
Institutions: 27.0% of total trades | 24.6% of buyers | 29.4% of sellers

WTI: USD 38.49 (-0.59%)
Brent: USD 41.02 (-0.07%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.54 MMBtu, (-0.13%, August 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,780.30 / troy ounce (+0.55%)

TASI: 7,292.62 (+0.83%) (YTD: -13.07%)
ADX: 4,304.55 (+0.44%) (YTD: -15.19%)
DFM: 2,085.04 (-0.07%) (YTD: -24.59%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,656.43 (0.00%)
QE: 9,128.05 (-0.62%) (YTD: -12.45%)
MSM: 3,524.47 (-0.04%) (YTD: -11.47%)
BB: 1,277.20 (-0.17%) (YTD: -20.68%)

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30 June (Tuesday): Anniversary of the June 2013 protests, national holiday.

1 July (Wednesday): Official reopening of Egypt’s airspace to inbound and outbound international flights.

12 July (Sunday): North Cairo Court will hold a court session for the international arbitration case filed by Syrian Antrados against Porto Group for USD 176 mn after being pushed back from an initial 17 May court date.

28-29 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

30 July-3 August (Thursday-Monday): Eid El Adha (TBC), national holiday.

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

20 August (Wednesday-Thursday): Islamic New Year (TBC), national holiday.

15-16 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

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

24 September- 2 October (Thursday-Friday): El Gouna Film Festival, El Gouna, Egypt.

6 October (Tuesday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

29 October (Thursday): Prophet Mohamed’s birthday (TBC), national holiday.

November: Egypt will host simultaneously the International Capital Market Association’s emerging market, and Africa and Middle East meetings.

4-5 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

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

15-16 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

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

25 December (Friday): Western Christmas.

1 January 2021 (Friday): New Year’s Day, national holiday.

7 January 2021 (Thursday): Coptic Christmas, national holiday.

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