Good morning, friends, and welcome to another workweek. Oddly enough, we love writing to you on Sundays, but that’s not why we’re so chipper this morning. So what gives?
#1- We have two short weeks coming up. We’re off a week from Thursday in observance of the anniversary of the 23 July Revolution. The month of July then ends with a long weekend marking Eid Al Adha. We expect to be off on Wednesday, 29 July for the waqfa, with the Eid running Thursday, 30 July through Monday, 3 August.
#2- Gary Larson is cartooning again. The creator of the Far Side was gifted a tablet and has three new pieces of work on his website under the heading “New Stuff.” Read his explanation and then tap the green “New Stuff” button for a smile this morning.
^^ Not new work, but exactly why we’re happy Larson is back.
SIGN OF THE TIMES- Traders in the GCC aren’t getting much of a summer vacation as locals stay home and expats put travel plans on ice thanks to covid-19, the gift that just keeps on giving.
REMINDER- It’s election season. Nominations for would-be senators opened yesterday as voters prepare to go to the polls on 11-12 August to elect the Senate, the nation’s newly reconstituted upper house of parliament. Egyptians abroad will cast ballots 9-10 August. Voters will elect 200 senators (half from a “list” system and half standing as individuals), while President Abdel Fattah El Sisi will appoint the remaining 100.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 67 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 3,769. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 81,158 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 923 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 23,876 cases who have fully recovered.
EU travel restrictions do not prevent European tourists from travelling to Egypt, EU officials in Egypt said in a meeting with Tourism Minister Khaled El Anany last week. Egyptian nationals are still unable to travel to Europe after Egypt failed to make the EU’s ‘safe travel list’ which last month eased travel restrictions on 15 countries.
Sudan’s Khartoum International Airport has partially opened to flights from Egypt, Turkey and UAE, state news agency SUNA reported on Thursday.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
India’s coronavirus epidemic continues to worsen, South Africa cases double in two weeks: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa have doubled to more than 250k in the past two weeks, while India reported a record single-day increase of 27,114 cases yesterday, the Associated Press reports.
US continues breaking records: US cases rose by a record 71,389 on Friday to take the country’s total to more than 3.2 mn. As if to mark the occasion, King Cheeto appeared in public wearing a mask for the first time.
More than 12.5 mn people around the world have now been infected by the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
Concerns are mounting over a “silent pandemic” brewing in Africa as the gap between official data and the reality on the ground continues to widen in several countries, Reuters says. The issue is largely a result of inadequate testing, particularly as some countries do not have the resources to test widely enough or share their data. African governments will need to significantly ramp up testing and encourage mask-wearing to prevent local healthcare systems from being overwhelmed, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong urged at a press conference.
Researchers are looking at different criteria in an attempt to more accurately gauge how far covid-19 has spread, such as death counts surpassing previous averages during this time of year, but information on these data points is also lacking. According to the UN, Egypt is among only eight countries in Africa that records more than 75% of its deaths. Nearly three quarters of the continent’s confirmed cases are in Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Algeria, according to Nkengasong.
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Middle East banks are consolidating to weather the fallout from covid-19 and low oil prices with some USD 440 bn-worth of mergers and acquisitions currently in negotiation phases, Bloomberg reports. Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank and Samba Financial Group are among the biggest players eyeing consolidation and are discussing a potential USD 15.6 bn merger. Some, however, have lost their appetite for big spending, leading some banks to put acquisition plans on ice. Among them: First Abu Dhabi Bank, which has shelved plans to buy Bank Audi’s Egypt unit.
Meanwhile: Dubai announced another USD 408 mn in stimulus to support the economy through the pandemic. United, the world’s third-largest airline, is considering laying off almost half of its workforce in what Axios is calling the opening salvo in the “second jobs apocalypse” across the pond.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
Among the international headlines worth knowing about this morning:
- Elon Musk is now richer than Warren Buffet, Bloomberg reports.
- The US is dangling 25% retaliatory tariffs on a number of French goods in response to France’s digital services tax, which would collect a 3% duty from US tech companies with locally accessible services, Reuters reports.
- Hagia Sophia is once again being operated as a mosque in a move that’s being accorded a less-than-warm responses from Unesco and the EU, Bloomberg writes.
- Sudan has a new cabinet after a sweeping shuffle — and Christian citizens can toast new ministers with their ethanolic beverage of choice for the first time in more than 30 years.
Enterprise After Hours, Episode 1: Meet Rania Al-Mashat, who is leading Egypt’s program of economic diplomacy in a time of covid. Al-Mashat, a rock in a crisis, has helped shepherd the country through the global financial crisis (while a sub-governor at the CBE) and oversaw the recovery of the tourism industry before moving on to the international cooperation portfolio.
Tap or click here to listen to the episode on our website | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Omny. We’re also available on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts.