Monday, 6 July 2020

The 1% covid-19 salary tax is one step closer to becoming reality

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

News from the House of Representatives dominates headlines today as MPs push through a ream of legislation in their customary last-minute dash to the start of summer recess. At the top of the list yesterday: A 1% surtax on all gross salaries of more than EGP 2k per month that should go into effect this month. House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal has yet to declare when summer vacation starts, so look for a busy week ahead.

It’s PMI day, with the gauge due out here at 6:15am, a few minutes after our traditional dispatch time. The contraction in Egypt’s non-oil private sector was slightly less catastrophic in May, recovering somewhat from the all-time lows seen in April — the first full month under lockdown restrictions. The hope is that the contraction will have eased further in June as the government started to unwind the lockdown.

The Saudi and Emirati PMIs were out yesterday, and the news was mixed. Business activity in KSA (pdf) fell at a faster pace in June than it did the month before amid a “sustained lack of customer demand.” In the Emirates (pdf), business activity “rose solidly” in June as demand came back after the lockdown. The one warning sign in the UAE: Cost-cutting is spurring more job cuts.

News triggers coming up over the next few days include foreign reserves figures for June, which should be out sometime this week, and inflation data for last month, which is due on Thursday.


COVID-19 IN EGYPT-

The Health Ministry confirmed 63 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 3,343. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 75,253 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,218 new infections. We now have a total of 20,726 cases who have fully recovered.

It’s too early to call this a trend, but both the death and new infection figures are the lowest the nation has seen in weeks.

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Famed actress Ragaa El Gedawy passed away yesterday after complications linked to covid-19, her daughter confirmed. The 82-year-old was receiving medical treatment for over a month. She was an icon of the small screen whose long, storied career also saw her take turns on the catwalk, the theatre, film — and as a frequent co-host with late night screamer Amr Adib. A one-time model and former Miss Egypt contestant, El Gedawy made her big-screen debut in 1958 with a turn in Ghariba. Adib lauded his friend in a segment last night (watch, runtime: 9:12).

Information Minister Osama Heikal and his family have fully recovered from covid-19, according to Al Shorouk. Heikal went back to work yesterday after self-isolating at home for two weeks. The minister had previously said he was isolating as a precaution, but confirmed yesterday in a talk with Sayed Aly that he had contracted the virus (watch, runtime: 1:04:08).

Hotels in the Red Sea governorate could bounce back to their normal occupancy rates by March or April of next year, Chairman of the Egyptian Hotels Association in the Red Sea Alaa Akel told Reuters Arabic. Akel expects all 252 hotels in the governorate to receive by October or November the health and safety certificates that allows them to operate under reduced capacity requirements.

Who’s visiting: Tourist arrivals this month will likely come largely from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belgium, while Italian and German tourism should pick up towards the end of the summer season, he said.

EFA pushes premier league start date: The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has decided to push the resumption of the Egyptian Premier League by two weeks to 7 August. Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi said last month that professional footballers would resume league matches on 25 July. The return to the field hasn’t been smooth sailing for the EFA, with several players getting infected with covid-19 and Zamalek FC preemptively pulling out of the league. Our take here: Diehard Zamalkawi need not freak out. Mortada Mansour said as recently as yesterday that the club was “discussing” the situation with Sobhi. Zamalek will be on the field when the season begins.

DONATIONS-

Egypt is ready to provide covid-19 medical aid, preventative supplies and technical support to Iraq, Health Minister Hala Zayed said during a meeting with the Iraqi Ambassador Ahmed Nayef yesterday.

Tetra Pak Egypt and UNICEF are providing enough personal protective equipment for 1.05k frontline workers for one month, according to a Tetra Pak statement.

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ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-

The UAE is drastically shrinking the size of its government as it looks for ways to bolster finances that have been battered by the covid-19 pandemic. Half of all federal agencies will be merged and three ministers have been appointed specifically to oversee the economy in moves designed to form a more “agile” government, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum announced yesterday. The Financial Times and Bloomberg both have the story.

Spain is now resorting to local lockdowns in Catalonia and Galicia in response to a spike in cases. Almost 300k people are now back under lockdown in areas of the two provinces, a month after the government eased its draconian restrictions on movement and reopened swathes of the economy.

Goldman downgrades US growth forecasts: Goldman Sachs economists now expect the US economy to shrink 4.6% this year after revising downwards 3Q growth projections, Bloomberg says. The economists forecast the economy to grow 25% quarter-on-quarter in 3Q, down from their previous projection of 33%. This would mean that the economy contracts 4.6% this year, rather than 4.2% as previously expected.

Germany could see its economy gradually recover from the pandemic fallout starting October, making a rebound of over 5% a possibility in 2021, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said, according to Reuters.

The World Bank has pulled the plug on its second round of so-called ‘pandemic’ bonds amid criticism that it was too slow to pay out aid, the Financial Times reports. The bank launched the first iteration of its pandemic bond program three years ago in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa, which aimed to channel private-sector funds to the low-income countries battling the disease. It was thought to be planning a second issuance to provide emergency assistance in response to the covid-19 pandemic, but a spokesperson told the salmon-colored paper that there are now “no plans” for a new round. The original program has come under criticism after paying out far too late to be of any assistance to stricken countries, with one global health expert calling it an “awful scheme” that the bank should “draw a line under.”

GLOBAL MACRO-

The global refining industry is faced with “catastrophic” margins, Bloomberg reports, as recovering oil prices have done nothing to offset slumping demand. “A refinery’s economics are ultimately simple: it thrives on the price difference between crude oil and fuels like gasoline, earning a profit that’s known in the industry as a cracking margin,” the business information service notes. Crude oil prices are back from predictions earlier in the crisis that they could hit single-digits, but demand from businesses and consumers for refined products still stinks. The outlook: Consolidation could be the name of the game for the industry — particularly if there’s another round of covid-19 shutdowns.

Molecules of freedom suffer setback after Dominion Energy bails on gas pipeline, sells natgas assets to Berkshire Hathaway: Dominion Energy — one of the largest utilities in the US — announced yesterday that it will sell its entire gas pipeline and storage portfolio to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for USD 4 bn, and cancel its Atlantic gas pipeline due to delays and “cost uncertainty.” Berkshire will acquire more than 7.7k miles of gas pipelines and 900 bcf of gas storage, as well as USD 5.7 bn of debt, in a transaction with an enterprise value of USD 9.7 bn. Bloomberg, Reuters and the Associated Press have the story.

Low cost air travel is “economically and ecologically irresponsible,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said in response to airlines marking down ticket prices to stimulate demand, Bloomberg reports.

AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-

A Libyan airbase belonging to Turkish-backed forces was yesterday struck by “foreign jets” allied to the eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, the Associated Press reports, citing Tripoli-based Libyan officials. The Al Watiya airbase was recently recaptured by the Tripoli-based government in May and is considered to be the most important airbase in western Libya. Haftar’s forces are backed by Egypt, the UAE, Russia and France, while Turkey and Qatar support the Tripoli government.

Rapper Kanye West is joining this year’s US presidential race. No, we’re not joking. If he goes through with it, West’s last-minute bid would require him to qualify for ballot access across 50 states and the District of Columbia, and form an independent political organization in a matter of months, according to Bloomberg. West also wouldn’t be on the ballot in a number of key states whose filing deadlines for independent candidates have already passed, such as Texas, New York and North Carolina. A cynic might draw a link between the announcement and the expectation that the pop culture fixture has a new album due out this year.

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*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: You told us what you thought about e-learning. We took that feedback to schools — specifically to CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla, American International School Director Kapono Ciotti, and GEMS Egypt CEO Ahmed Wahby. They spoke with us on what they are doing to develop their online learning systems for the 2020-21 academic year and how much of your feedback will be taken into account. Spoiler: That will not include tuition cuts or refunds.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

The death of Egyptian actress Ragaa El Gedawy dominated the airwaves last night. El Gedawy died in hospital yesterday, 40 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 3:18), Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary ( watch, runtime: 2:32), AlKahera Alaan’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 1:34:00), and El Hekaya’s Amr Adib (watch, runtime: 8:13) all featured segments paying homage to the veteran actress.

GERD talks continue to bear little fruit: After three days of emergency talks Egypt and Ethiopia continue to disagrees on 90% of issues relating to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Irrigation Ministry spokesperson Mohamed El Sebaei told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 19:26). Each country held bilateral talks on the critical legal and technical issues blocking a resolution to the dispute during the first two days of the talks, and will continue negotiations in the coming days, El Sebaei said. Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary also covered the GERD negotiations (watch, runtime: 2:08).

US ambassador on Libya, GERD: El Kahera Alaan’s Lamees El Hadidi sat down for a wide-ranging interview with US ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen (watch, runtime: 43:06). Among the highlights:

On military intervention in Libya: Cohen said the US is against any form of foreign interference in Libya, but understands Egypt’s security concerns about recent developments in the conflict. The US is calling for a ceasefire, compliance with the UN arms embargo and a return to UN-led negotiations. “The US and Egypt are in absolute agreement that there is no military solution to the Libya crisis,” said Cohen.

On the current state of GERD negotiations: Cohen praised Egypt for taking the dispute to the UN Security Council and came out against any moves by Ethiopia to unilaterally begin filling the dam. Although he cautioned that there remains weeks of hard work still to do to reach an agreement, he sounded a note of optimism that there is enough international support to break the deadlock.

Egypt’s potential as a regional energy hub: Egypt shows great potential for becoming a regional player in the energy sector, which has drawn interest from major US companies. During his time as ambassador, he has witnessed the agreement between Egypt and Israel for the gas pipeline run by Noble Energy, and the USD 6 bn agreement Bechtel secured for refining oil near the Suez Canal.

Speed Round

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LEGISLATION WATCH- House gives initial nod to covid-19 salary tax, aims to have it in effect this month: The House of Representatives has given a preliminary nod to a law that will require companies to deduct 1% from all employees’ monthly salaries and 0.5% from all pensions during FY2020-2021 to help fund the state’s efforts to contain the economic fallout from covid-19, Al Masry Al Youm reports. Announced in May, the temporary, 12-month tax is being put in place by the government to shore up public finances that have been hit by the pandemic and fund its emergency fiscal measures to prop up the economy, which include a EGP 100 bn stimulus package.

State coffers could take in as much as EGP 8-10 bn from the levy, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has reportedly said.

All public and private-sector employees will see 1% docked from their salaries as of this month and pensioners will be charged a 0.5% tax on their state pensions. The only people exempt from the charge are those earning a salary or receiving a pension of less than 2k a month or individuals or employees of companies that receive a special dispensation from the cabinet.

Cabinet has wide discretion over the use of the funds, which are to be placed in a special “epidemics and natural disasters” account at the CBE. Funds will be dispensed to support the economy, provide subsidies to impacted workers, offer financial aid to individuals and families specified by the president, develop and maintain the healthcare system, conduct research for preventative and curative care, alongside any other allocations determined by the cabinet.

House approves law to waive late fees on taxes: The House of Representatives has given preliminary approval to a bill that waives interest and late penalties on income, value-added and real estate taxes, according to Al Shorouk. The bill waives 90% of the fees if the taxes are paid within two months after it becomes law, 70% if paid within four months, and 50% within six months. Late taxpayers that were able to clear their dues before the temporary law passed received a 100% exemption, cabinet said in May.

Amendments to the Public Contracts Act also go preliminary approval yesterday as the House approved in principle changes that would allow the government to make payments it owes to contractors through FRA-licensed non-banking financial service providers, alongside the existing option of paying through banks, Al Shorouk also reported. The changes were approved by the cabinet earlier this year.

Background: The Public Contracts Act (previously known as Auctions and Tenders Act) was passed in 2018, and had its executive regulations published late last year. The act outlines the general framework which governs any contract to which a government entity is party. You can find the full text of the 2018 law here.

Also receiving preliminary approval by the House during Sunday’s session:

  • A dual taxation agreement with Cyprus that includes income and real estate tax in Egypt and covers income tax for individuals and companies and capital gains tax in Cyprus, the local press reports.
  • A draft law to regulate and facilitate access to short-term loans offered by corporations and civil society groups under the supervision of the Financial Regulatory Authority, Al Mal reports.
  • An ِِEGP 80 bn overdraft for the FY2019-2020 state budget, the local press reports. It was required to pay off dues owed by the Electricity Ministry to the Oil Ministry and the state pension fund.
  • An anti-cheating bill that would impose fines and jail time to those found guilty of illegally obtaining and leaking exam materials and automatically fail students caught cheating during exams, according to Al Masry Al Youm.
  • A draft law prohibiting army officers from seeking public office without approval from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces received committee-level approval, Al Shorouk reports.

Final votes on all of the above were postponed due to lack of quorum.

New press and media heads sworn in before the House: The newly appointed head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation Karam Gabr, and new head of the National Press Authority Abdel Sadeq El Shorbagi were sworn in before Parliament on Sunday, Sada El Balad reports. Hussein Zein, the new head of the National Media Authority was also sworn in, El Watan reports.

enterprise

Corporate earnings in Egypt are expected to “hold up relatively well” in comparison to their MENA peers in 1Q2020, EFG Hermes said in a note yesterday. EFG expects earnings to fall 22% in Egypt and 25% in Qatar, compared to a 41% y-o-y fall in aggregate MENA earnings during the first three months of the year. The investment bank sees UAE corporate earnings taking the biggest hit (-65%) during the quarter. On a q-o-q basis, Egypt’s corporate earnings will fall 18%, according to the note. The culprit: Covid lockdown measures.

Materials and industrial earnings will fall close to zero in 1Q2020, with these two sectors expected to sustain a 100% y-o-y earnings drop. The region’s financial sector will see an aggregate 33% y-o-y dip in earnings, and telecoms earnings will fall 14% y-o-y.

M&A WATCH- Naguib expects to close talks on Shalateen stake purchase within weeks: Naguib Sawiris is still in talks with the government to buy a 51% stake in state-owned Shalateen Mining and expects negotiations to wrap in the coming weeks, he tells Hapi Journal. He did not provide any details on the expected value of the transaction. Sawiris, the chairman of La Mancha Mining, has been zeroing in on the mining industry lately, expressing interest in the government’s gold exploration tender in the Eastern Desert and acquiring Shalateen earlier this year.

Passenger car sales are forecast to shrink by over 8% this year after having been expected to grow by 9.2% prior to the coronavirus, Fitch Solutions’ BMI research said in a report (paywall) on the market in Egypt picked up by the local press. The downward revision came as the industry faces headwinds and “worsening local and global economic outlook due to the spread of covid-19.” The situation will continue to deter personal car purchase decisions, says the research house.

Commercial vehicle sales will also shrink in the short run, but Egypt’s thriving construction industry is likely to create a demand pull for the segment — which includes trucks, trailers, and heavy equipment transport vehicles — in the medium term.

Bus sales, meanwhile, are expected to drop by as much 20% after having been forecast to increase by 2.1%.

Background: Egypt’s automotive companies saw business grind to a near-complete standstill when the government introduced lockdown measures towards the end of March. PC sales dropped for the two following months as the sector is yet to stage a recovery, data from the Automotive Information Council (AMIC) measuring volume in April and May showed.

European automakers eyeing component manufacturing in Egypt? Three European automotive manufacturers are looking at setting up “strategic partnerships” with auto component manufacturers in Egypt as they look to distance their supply chains from China, head of the Engineering Export Council Sherif El Sayad tells Hapi Journal. El Sayad did not disclose the names of the manufacturers. The council is currently working on briefing the manufacturers on the local market and how to make the proposed partnerships feasible according to their standards.

The global majors don’t yet seem interested in (re)starting assembling here in Egypt. Last year, several international automotive manufacturers — including Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz (which suspended assembly here four years ago), Kia, and Volkswagen — had all signaled they were looking at potentially assembling models here in Egypt. This came after the government began talking up a package of incentives to automakers designed to spur domestic automotive manufacturing and assembly, which finally earned Cabinet approval this March. The strategy will comprise legislative provisions, incentives, infrastructure improvements, and trade agreements with countries in the region and elsewhere.

REGULATION WATCH- EGX looking to change how closing share prices are calculated, says Farid: The EGX plans to implement “soon” a mechanism proposed by the Financial Regulatory Authority’s stock exchange advisory committee that would see the EGX conduct auctions to determine the closing price of shares, EGX boss Mohamed Farid said last week, according to Hapi Journal. The mechanism would see the bourse conduct an auction towards the end of each trading day, and the price set by the auction would override the weighted average calculated from the latest session price, granted the auction meets a minimum participation requirement from brokerages.

Exchanges the world over fiddle with closing price mechanisms with running arguments over the arcana of what is the ‘best” methodology. Page 6 of this pdf provides a nice, succinct overview of last trade vs. closing auction vs. volume-weighted average. Saudi’s Tadawul uses a closing auction system, and real geeks will want to read this presentation (in English) from Banque de France (pdf).

Banks dole out EGP 69 bn to local industry under CBE’s EGP 100 bn subsidized loan initiative: Egyptian banks — primarily CIB, the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, QNB, and the Export Development Bank — have handed out EGP 69 bn in loans to over 4k businesses under Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) EGP 100 bn subsidized loan initiative, according to Hapi Journal. Some 60% of the loans have been doled out to manufacturers in the food and beverage, printing and packaging, plastic, iron and steel, and agricultural industries.

Background: The initiative, which was launched in December, allows companies access to subsidized loans at a declining 8% interest rate. The funding pool was originally geared towards medium-sized factories with annual sales revenues between EGP 50k and 1 bn, but was expanded in April to include manufacturers of all sizes. The program was then broadened to include agriculture companies and contractors.

Elsewedy Electric is extending its stock buyback program to October, after the board of directors approved last week pushing back to 1 October the company’s deadline to buy up to 54.6 mn shares, equivalent to 2.5% of the company, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf)

EARNINGS WATCH- Banque du Caire profits fell almost 31% in 1Q2020 after the bank reported income of EGP 838 mn, down from EGP 1.21 bn in the same period last year, according to Al Mal. The state-owned bank’s revenues rose 19% during the quarter to EGP 2.4 bn, from EGP 2 bn in 1Q20219.

MOVES- Rafik Batny has been appointed CFO at Minapharm, succeeding Sameh Fahmy, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).

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Egypt in the News

Human rights are once again at the center of the conversation on Egypt in the international press this morning. The Financial Times’ Middle East editor Andrew England and the Independent’s Bel Trew recap what they say is a clampdown on dissent in the time of covid.

Canadian citizen Yasser Albaz has been released from pre-trial detention and returned to Canada on Thursday, according to Reuters. Albaz was arrested last year at Cairo International Airport. Canada’s CBC and CTV also picked up the story.

Italy is unhappy with progress on the case of murdered Italian researcher Giulio Regeni: President of the Italian Parliament Roberto Fico described the current state of affairs as a “punch in the face” of Italy on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

The arrest of a 22-year-old man for allegedly assaulting, harassing and blackmailing 100+ women over the past several years is being picked up by the National.

blackboard

You told us what you thought about e-learning. We took that feedback to schools. Our recent Blackboard e-learning poll showed many parents want to see online platforms being more interactive, offering more feedback from teachers and relying less on parents, as well as providing a longer academic year or reduced tuition fees as compensation for missed classroom learning. We asked three leading school operators — CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla, American International Schools Director Kapono Ciotti, and GEMS Egypt CEO Ahmed Wahby — for their reaction.

The key takeaways: Since the rapid shift to online learning in mid-March, schools have been assessing its efficacy and planning changes to the platforms. Key changes include upping the use of engaging media like video and interactive group conference calls; increasing the scope of platforms to cover all subjects in detail; scheduling more regular feedback sessions with parents and students; and increasing training and technical support for teachers.

But the sizable refunds some parents have been asking for? Not likely to happen.

School leaders know there’s a substantial burden on the parents of young children to support their learning. 81% of parents said that parental involvement has been a feature of online learning, especially for parents of young children. But this is difficult to overcome entirely. Apps including Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom are fine for older students, but are not designed for younger users without parental involvement. “Any good online system for high school students doesn’t need any engagement from parents at all,” says El Kalla. But between Kindergarten 1 and Grade 7, there is a need for parents to ensure basic commitment and behavior from younger children, who can’t be expected to sit down and study alone, he adds.

Part of the challenge is that under normal circumstances, school doubles as cost-effective childcare — and the pandemic is highlighting just how important that role is, says Ciotti. In the US, even private K-12 schools are significantly cheaper than most good nursery schools, which could cost USD 2k a month or more unless they are publicly funded. For small children who are not yet self-reliant, it’s unavoidable that parents will be providing childcare when they are at home, he adds.

But schools are increasing the scope of their online learning tools to engage students and check their understanding. 56% of parents who responded to our survey weren’t totally convinced about the effectiveness of e-learning tools. GEMS plans to expand the lesson length and subject offerings on Microsoft Teams — which initially focused on core subjects like English, math and science — by September, says Wahby. CIRA had introduced some follow-up online lessons towards the end of the last academic year, after completing the curriculum, to offer extra support to children who need it. They intend to include this in a more systematic way in the coming academic year, says El Kalla.

Covid-19 calls for a move to more at-home project-based learning — which shouldn’t need substantial parental involvement, says Ciotti. This involves children undertaking longer-term projects, inquiries or service. The input needed varies according to age group, and younger children will still need help receiving instructions from their teachers. But this shouldn’t be significant. Flipgrid is one program AIS has used successfully to give smaller children instructions for project-based learning, where a parent’s job is just to facilitate the child watching video instructions. “That’s 90% of what we should be asking parents to do,” Ciotti adds.

A lot is being demanded of teachers, so schools are monitoring classes and providing more training. Only 8% of parents felt teachers communicated clearly, 10% found teacher feedback effective, and only 6% said teachers provide extra support. But teachers have been making huge efforts under difficult circumstances, school administrators emphasize. School leadership needs to equip teachers with the technology and the methodology to teach online, says Wahby. CIRA has increased its training hours by 40% this summer, according to El Kalla. And AIS is dedicating its entire week-and-a-half orientation period in August to teacher professional development and preparation for using online platforms, says Ciotti. Regular, unscheduled monitoring of online classes to understand how they could be improved has also been part of their approach from the beginning, say both Wahby and El Kalla.

Schools are diffusing technical know-how to help troubleshoot technical issues: Although 72% of parents essentially found the e-learning platforms user-friendly, technical challenges were frequently cited. To address this, the schools we spoke to have invested substantially in upgrading teachers’ internet packages and providing them with equipment and training. CIRA has also been working with partners, including Microsoft, to look at technical options like switching to lower bandwidth. Students in areas with less developed infrastructure are offered extra time to submit assignments online in case of unreliable internet, says El Kalla.

Virtual classroom software is available but expensive — and once again tech issues could still impede its efficacy. Many parents were in favor of a virtual classroom setup so children could work more independently, and school representatives say the software is quite accessible. Flipgrid, Seesaw, Google classroom and Schoology are all very effective, says Ciotti. But whether a school uses one of these, or a combination of Microsoft 365, Google’s G Suite and its own learning management system, as CIRA does, costs add up. They also rely on a strong internet connection and the availability of good devices, which not all families have. And a full shift to a virtual classroom also makes the global need to establish standards for online assessment and exam systems even more pressing, says El Kalla.

Assessment is a big challenge… Only 6% of parents in our poll ranked assessment at the top of what e-learning platforms do well. Effective feedback and assessment requires more channels of communication between parents and teachers, says Wahby. GEMS is arranging to hold more regular scheduled online or phone conversations between teachers and parents to discuss the well-being and performance of students, he says.

…but also an area that online learning could accelerate, by connecting students to the real world. AIS aims to assess students on their content skill and conceptual understanding in a way that mirrors the real world. Online learning has actually accelerated this process, says Ciotti. “In an online setting, students build their alliance between school and the real world. Students can find something on YouTube. They can publish their own blog. A real audience exists online, beyond the teacher.” But this does put the onus on schools to be especially mindful of online safety, because the internet can be a dangerous place for children, he adds.

Allocating more time for questions and peer-to-peer interaction is crucial to students’ wellbeing. Only 16% of parents put participation and interaction at the top of what e-learning platforms are good at. And schools understand that more needs to be done to facilitate this. That’s exactly why schools are advocating strongly for a blended learning model next year, says El Kalla — because even partial, physically-distanced interaction would solve many full-class participation challenges, and offer the social benefits of peer-to-peer interaction. Until a blended learning model is implemented, ideas like allocating more time for check-in or question sessions with teachers are seen as very positive by all the school leaders.

The bottom line? Schools want to hear and respond to parents’ concerns. But that doesn’t mean tuition refunds. Almost half the parents who participated in our poll wanted to see changes made to e-learning platforms before the next academic year. School leaders we spoke to have heard the message, but maintain that large refunds are just not possible, as school costs have actually increased during the lockdown period. If schools cannot cover their costs, the reality is they will go out of business and their services will no longer be available, says Ciotti.

A longer academic year might be in the cards though, says Wahby. “We are looking at different options, including a longer academic year, a longer academic day, or having more concentrated learning time — with the focus on learning and fewer breaks. There are different possibilities.”

Your top education stories of the week:

  • The House of Representatives’ general assembly approved an anti-cheating bill to impose fines and jail time for leaking exam materials.
  • The Education Ministry now requires American Diploma students to complete the ACT standardized test to enter Egyptian universities.
  • University exams kicked off on 1 July, and the 2019-2020 academic year has been extended to 15 September (instead of 31 July) as a result of the delayed start of exams.
  • Nurseries have been allowed to reopen at 50% capacity and under other health guidelines from the Social Solidarity Ministry.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 16.04 | Sell 16.14
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 16.09 | Sell 16.19
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 16.05 | Sell 16.15

EGX30 (Sunday): 10,959 (+1.8%)
Turnover: EGP 1.1 bn (33% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -21.5%

THE MARKET ON SUNDAY: The EGX30 ended Sunday’s session up 1.8%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended up 1.9%. The EGX30’s top performing constituents were Porto Group up 9.9%, Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals up 6.1%, and Orascom Investment Holding up 5.9%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Credit Agricole down 1.3%, Ibnsina Pharma down 1.2% and CIRA down 0.2%. The market turnover was EGP 1.1 bn, and local investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net short | EGP -7.8 mn
Regional: Net short | EGP -2.0 mn
Domestic: Net long | EGP -+9.8 mn

Retail: 81.4% of total trades | 80.4% of buyers | 82.4% of sellers
Institutions: 18.6% of total trades | 19.6% of buyers | 17.6% of sellers

WTI: USD 40.32 (-0.81%)

Brent: USD 42.80 (-0.79%)

Natural Gas: (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.75 MMBtu, (+0.92%, August 2020 contract)

Gold: USD 1,787.30 / troy ounce (-0.15%)

TASI: 7,388 (+1.04%) (YTD: -11.93%)
ADX: 4,303 (-0.18%) (YTD: -15.21%)
DFM: 2,062 (+0.03%) (YTD: -25.42%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,624 (+0.44%)
QE: 9,187 (-0.27%) (YTD: -11.88%)
MSM: 3,508 (-0.09%) (YTD: -11.87%)
BB: 1,277 (+0.25%) (YTD: -20.66%)

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Calendar

23 July (Thursday): 23 July revolution anniversary, national holiday.

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.

11-12 August (Tuesday-Wednesday): Senate elections take place.

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.

8 September (Tuesday): Postponed court session to decide on Raya’s Chairman and CEO Medhat Khalil appeal against a EGP 110 mn fine after the Financial Regulatory Authority filed a lawsuit against Khalil

8-9 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Run-off Senate elections.

15 September (Tuesday): 2019-2020 academic year ends for Egyptian universities.

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.

6 October (Tuesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

23-31 October (Friday-Saturday): Updated dates for El Gouna Film Festival, El Gouna, Egypt.

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.

25 January 2021 (Monday): 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

28 January 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

4 February 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

18 March 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

12 April 2021 (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April 2021 (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

6 May (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

12-15 May (Wednesday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

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

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

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