Monday, 9 November 2020

Businesses, public need to play ball as new covid cases reach three-month high –Health Minister

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

Good morning, friends. Two stories are vying for your attention this morning: The prospect that we’re in the early days of the second wave of covid and Egypt adjusting to the Biden administration.

But first: October inflation figures are due out tomorrow from the Central Bank of Egypt and Capmas and will feed straight into the Thursday meeting of the CBE’s monetary policy committee. Annual urban inflation ticked up to 3.7% in September, but remained near a record low as seasonal factors such as the reopening of schools had a smaller-than-expected effect on monthly prices. Expect interest rates to be left on hold according to six of eight analysts and economists in our poll.

The results of the second stage of the parliamentary elections will be announced on 15 November, head of the National Elections Authority Lashin Ibrahim said yesterday on the final day of voting. The two-day vote took place in 13 of Egypt’s 27 provinces with more than 31 mn people eligible to vote. The Associated Press has coverage.

The Techne Summit 2020 wraps up today in Alexandria.

Beware of misleading Black Friday discounts, says consumer watchdog: Retailers who peddle fake or misleading discounts for Black Friday later this month could face fines ranging between EGP 50k and EGP 2 mn, the Consumer Protection Agency said in a statement. Black Friday — sometimes called “White Friday” in Egypt by the more bland among us — is a straight import of the American consumer extravaganza and takes place this year on 27 November.

Egypt will announce the Saqqara area’s “largest” archaeological discovery in the next few days, Tourism Minister Khaled El Enany said during a press conference at the site yesterday. The find includes new wells and colored coffins, whose numbers exceed those discovered in the area in October.

The October 2021 IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings, which were scheduled to be held in Morocco, will be postponed until 2022 because of the pandemic, according to an IMF statement. The statement does not make clear whether plans for the Spring meetings have also changed, or whether they will be held virtually or in person. The meetings typically take place in Washington, DC, for two years in a row before rotating every third year to another member state.


Daily covid tally reaches highest level in more than three months: The Health Ministry reported 239 new covid-19 infections yesterday, the most daily cases reported since 31 July. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 109,201 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 13 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,368. We now have a total of 100,342 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

The infection rate could double and the death toll triple in December and January if the public continues to ignore the government’s call to wear facemasks, Health Minister Hala Zayed warned in a press conference yesterday (watch, runtime: 33:16), noting that deaths related to respiratory illnesses increase during those months worldwide. Cairo and Alexandria have the most covid-19 cases in Egypt, while Upper Egypt governorates have reported the least, Zayed said. Housewives and retirees accounted for the biggest share of cases, followed by workers in the health sector.

Public should take precautionary measures to avoid a new lockdown, Zayed warned in a call-in last night to Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi. Zayed warned that the number of covid-19 infections had begun to increase and urged the public to wear masks and maintain social distancing to avoid any restrictions that could disrupt the economy.

Zayed wants companies to play ball: While schools and universities will remain open, she called on companies to split workers into shifts and lower the number of staff in the workplace (watch, runtime: 23:52). Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosar (watch, runtime: 5:14) and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa covered Zayed’s press conference (watch, runtime: 6:01), while Salet Al-Tahrir’s Azza Moustafa spoke to Hossam Hosni, head of the Health Ministry’s covid-19 committee, who echoed the minister’s statements about the need for precautionary measures (watch, runtime: 15:13).

We have now seen 50 mn covid-19 cases globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. Making up almost 10 mn of the global total is the US, which once again set a new record for daily infections on Saturday, reporting more 126k new cases. More than 1.25 mn people globally have now died from the virus.

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Heads are rolling around the region-

Turkey’s finance minister — who also happens to be the Nutter in Ankara’s son-in-law — has resigned citing health reasons one day after the abrupt sacking and replacement of the central bank governor, Bloomberg reports, citing a statement on his Instagram account on Sunday. Berat Albayrak’s resignation throws the economy into further turmoil as the value of the lira continues to plunge and inflation climbs.

Ethiopia’s foreign minister, head of intelligence, and army chief were all sacked yesterday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as a military offensive Ahmed started in the Tigray region rolled into its fifth day, Reuters reports. Ahmed is attempting to put down an uprising by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, who have opposed Ahmed’s nationalist policies and his attempts to reduce their decades-long grip on Ethiopian politics.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Emirates NBD’s net profit plunged 55% y-o-y in 9M2020 as it more than doubled its loan loss provisions, according to the bank’s earnings release (pdf). The credit impairment provisions “more than offset” its income from Turkey’s DenizBank, which Emirates NBD acquired last year. Loan loss provisions also hit Egyptian banks in 1H2020, with profits shrinking 20% during the first six months of the year as banks set aside money on their income statements to hedge against the possibility of an uptick in loan defaults because of the pandemic.

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The Egyptian power couple behind global tech that transformed our lives: Our guests on Making It this week worked on the earliest web browsers, mobile phone operating systems, graphics and video editing software, and even peer-to-peer payment. We speak to MagicCube cofounders Nancy Zayed and Hisham Shawki on how they plan to take on a USD 48 bn industry and improve access to financial services, all with a simple piece of software.

You already have a podcast player on your iPhone and you can listen to Making It on our Website | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Anghami | Omny. We’re also available on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts. Subscribe to Making It on your podcatcher of choice here.


POST-US ELECTION WATCH- President-elect Joe Biden is set to begin rolling back some of The Donald’s policies: Rejoining the Paris climate agreement, stopping Trump’s attempts to leave the World Health Organization, and reinstating a path citizen for undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children are all on Biden’s to-do list when he enters office next year. His first priority though will be to assemble a task force to end the rampant spread of covid-19 and is scheduled to lay out his strategy on Monday. The Financial Times and Bloomberg have more, as does the New York Times, which zeroes in on the use of executive orders that will allow Biden to deliver results on his first day.

It’s beginning to dawn on Trump loyalists that attempts to fight the election result in court will likely come to nothing. While some in his administration, including son-in-law Jared Kushner, are advising Trump to persevere with his legal challenges, others are increasingly accepting the reality of a Biden administration, Bloomberg reports, citing three people familiar with the matter.

Investors are piling into EM assets as the prospect of a (sane) Biden administration combined with a divided Congress stokes appetite for risk, Bloomberg reports. After a month of pre-election volatility, EM equity and currency indexes hit two-year highs on Friday while local currency bonds clocked their best weekly gains since April as Biden edged closer to victory.

“A Biden presidency with a Republican Senate is likely the best possible scenario for emerging-market assets and if this outcome holds it should provide a very strong backdrop for the asset class,” said Eric Stein, chief investment officer for fixed income at Eaton Vance, adding that the prospect of a less confrontational president also signals optimism for the asset class. Meanwhile, heavyweight asset manager Blackrock says developing-nation assets could benefit from a more moderate leader in the White House, and UBS Global Wealth Management adds that Biden administration’s policy approach will probably reduce uncertainty.

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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: As universities in the US move away from using standardized tests as mandatory university entrance criteria, we ask if Egyptian universities should follow suit. The resounding answer from our sources is no — because they are an essential filter for universities hoping to select the best students.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

With the excitement about the US elections dying down, Egypt’s parliamentary elections took center stage on the talk shows last night.

Polls close in second stage of parliamentary vote: Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy interviewed Alaa Shalby, the head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights and Sobhy Essila, the researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, to comment on the second round of the House elections, which ended yesterday. Shalby said that the pandemic affected the participation of international election observers and pointed out that the National Elections Authority did a solid job curbing any irregularities brought to its attention. Essila noted that women and the elderly turned out in large numbers to vote, but predicted that voter turnout during the run-off vote for the first round later this month would be weak (watch, runtime: 31:40).

Elsewhere: Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa covered the National Elections Authority’s decision to extend voting in Asmarat due to high voter turnout (watch, runtime: 3:59), Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi reported on voting in Gharbia Governorate (watch, runtime: 4:23), and Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary noted the State Information Service’s statement which reviewed international media coverage of the election (watch, runtime: 9:45).

There was more discussion about what a Biden administration will mean for Egypt: Former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told El Hekaya's Amr Adib the incoming administration could radically change its Middle East policy and become closer to Iran and Turkey (watch, runtime: 1:50). Ahmed Moussa, meanwhile, seems to have done a 180 on Joe Biden just one day after going full MAGA, telling his audience that the Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told him that the former VP loves Egypt and won’t return to Obama-era policies (watch, runtime: 6:03).

Tahya Misr allocates EGP 1 bn to support vulnerable families: Moussa highlighted President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's decision to allocate EGP 1 bn from the Tahya Misr fund to support the most vulnerable families during the winter season. The money will be used to purchase food, clothes and equipment for some 1 mn people, fund medical devices in hospitals and universities, and provide equipment to individuals working in the handicrafts and fishing industries (watch, runtime: 5:33).

Speed Round

Egypt is on track to grow at an average 4% clip over each of the coming four years, which would give it the MENA region’s highest real GDP growth rate between 2020 and 2024, according to Fitch Solutions’ monthly MENA outlook picked up by Ahram Online.

The research firm echoed high hopes for Egypt’s growth: Economic growth is projected to slip to 3.3% in FY2020-2021 from 3.5% last year, making Egypt the only regional economy to avoid contraction, Fitch says. The projections follow similar forecasts from the IMF, World Bank, Deutsche Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Fitch projected last month that Egypt would close out 2020 clocking economic growth of 3.5%.

But we’ll be spending more than we make: Egypt’s budget and current account balances are both projected to stay in the negative over the coming four years, Fitch says. The budget deficit will average at 10% of GDP between now and 2024, while the current account deficit will average 2.5%. This is more bearish than the IMF’s outlook, which sees the budget deficit widening from 7.5% to 8.1% by the end of the current fiscal year before rapidly narrowing to 5.2% in FY 2021-2022 and 3.8% by FY2024-2025.

And covid-19 will continue to hold us back: Fitch expects that weak prospects for a rebound in key sources of revenue such as tourism and remittances will keep growth muted, but says PMI data suggests the worst of the economic impact of the virus on Egypt has passed.

Brilliance Auto eyes Egypt’s microbus natgas conversion scheme: Chinese car manufacturer Brilliance Auto Group is in talks with its parent company, HuaChen Group Auto Holding, about potentially participating in Egypt’s microbus natural gas conversion scheme, said General Manager Khaled Saad without giving further details, according to Al Mal. Brilliance and HuaChen are looking at the resources they would be able to commit to the conversion project. Brilliance already manufactures the X30 microbus model, which runs on natural gas, and has said it could also consider manufacturing passenger cars that run exclusively on natural gas.

Who else is going with natgas? Brilliance would join others like Toyota, which struck an agreement with the Arab Organization for Industrialization late last year to manufacture 240k nat-gas minibuses, and agreed this year to convert its entire 100k microbus fleet in Egypt to nat-gas in the coming four to six years.

Background: The scheme comes as part of an ambitious EGP multi-bn government plan announced earlier this year to replace as many as 240k microbuses, and convert up to 147k to run on natural gas, and to offer incentives to private vehicle owners to do the same. The conversion scheme would run its first phase in seven governorates including Cairo, before expanding nationwide.

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STARTUP WATCH- Government-backed VC fund Egypt Ventures plans to close out 2020 having invested EGP 62 mn over the previous 12 months, CEO Ahmed Gomaa said during a meeting with International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat. The fund has invested EGP 257 mn since it was established in 2017, he said. Egypt Ventures was seeded by the International Cooperation Ministry and the Saudi Fund for Development and includes Dresscode, Nawah Scientific and AvidBeam among others on its portfolio. Earlier this year, Egypt Ventures announced a long-term investment strategy that focuses on startups that align with Egypt’s Sustainable Development Goals.

DEBT WATCH- Corplease is planning to issue EGP 2.5 bn of securitized bonds in an offering that will set a new record as the largest private sector issuance in Egypt, Al Mal reports, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter. The story gave no timeline for the transaction, but said that Banque Misr investment arm Misr Capital is on board to act as lead manager. Corplease, a subsidiary of CI Capital, is in talks with the Financial Regulatory Authority to greenlight the issuance, they said. Corplease had issued a four-tranche EGP 2.2 bn bond issuance earlier this year in a sale that was also managed by Misr Capital. Misr Capital parent company Banque Misr took a stake of more than 24% in CI Capital earlier this year, leading to speculation that Misr Capital and CI Capital could merge some of their operations.

Securitized bonds are becoming an increasingly popular means of debt finance: Corplease, Sarwa, Madinet Nasr Housing, Palm Hills, and Raya are just some of the private sector firms to sell asset-backed securities to investors this year. Sizes have ranged anywhere from Premium Card’s EGP 182 mn offering to Sarwa’s EGP 1.8 bn issuance in May. The New Urban Communities Authority has been responsible for the largest issuance this year, selling EGP 10 bn of bonds to investors to fund new developments in the new capital and New El Alamein.

INVESTMENT WATCH- Vodafone Egypt chief confirms sale talks are still on, says VFE will make full use of new spectrum in 18-24 months. Vodafone Egypt expects to maximize the usage of its new frequencies within the next 18-24 months, CEO Mohamed Abdallah said at a press conference yesterday, according to Al Mal. The company is still waiting to receive the two 20-MHz bands it recently purchased from the regulator for USD 540 mn, Abdallah said, adding that the new spectrum will be used to increase data usage and improve voice services.

Vodafone will not be seeking a loan to fund the purchase, the CEO said. The company will pay 50% of the amount in USD, and 25% in each of the coming two years in USD or EGP equivalent, said External Affairs and Legal Director Ayman Essam.

Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr also picked up spectrum in the recent auction. Etisalat Misr picked up two 10-MHz bands for USD 325 mn while Telecom Egypt bought a similar package at a discounted price of USD 305 mn.

Meanwhile, acquisition talks between Vodafone Group and Saudi Telecom (STC) are continuing, Abdallah said, without providing further details. The two companies vowed to continue talks in September after STC was unable to agree a price with Vodafone by the deadline set by a MoU signed in January. The Saudi company initially submitted a non-binding bid of USD 2.39 bn for the 55% stake, but talks to reduce the valuation later broke down. Telecom Egypt, which owns the remaining 45% of the company, could be about to exercise its right of first refusal, with sources telling the press in September that five banks are on board to finance its purchase of Vodafone Group’s stake

Egypt appears to be the North African country best poised to embrace a digital transformation, ranking 84 in the 2020 Network Readiness Index report (pdf). The index assessed 134 countries across 60 variables and considered them across the four pillars of technology, people, governance, and impact. The index is produced by DC-based thinktank Portulans Institute.

Egypt scored the highest among its North African peers in the people section, which rates how individuals use their skills to participate in the network economy, coming in at number 80. In the governance bucket, however, Egypt scored the lowest in the regional cluster, coming in at number 93. The ranking indicates that more needs to be done to develop trust, enforce regulation and leverage technology to overcome inequalities. The report found that overall, covid-19 is accelerating digital transformation, but increasing dependency on digital tools could widen existing divides between developed countries with sophisticated digital infrastructure and lower income nations.

More than 20 mn families will be onboarded in the government’s family planning program with over 2.8 mn new participants by mid-2021, according to a Planning Ministry statement. The program also aims to increase the number of women who use family planning clinics to 17.1 mn over the same period. The EGP 100 mn Two is Enough family planning program, an initiative launched in 2018 as part of the wider program that has been implemented in 10 governorates so far, will also be expanded.

BACKGROUND- The targets come as part of a wider government plan to stem population growth through awareness campaigns and cash payouts to families in the program. As Egypt’s population breached the 100 mn mark earlier this year, CAPMAS head Khairat Barakat had said we could be on our way to a population of 192 mn by 2052, a number that could be curbed to 143 mn if family planning measures are successful.

EARNINGS WATCH- CIRA revenues cross EGP 1 bn mark in FY2019-2020: Private sector education outfit CIRA reported a 54% y-o-y rise in net revenues to EGP 1.09 bn in their 2019-2020 fiscal year, which ends on 31 August, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Net profit for the year rose 21% during the year to EGP 267.3 mn, while gross profits were up 46% y-o-y to reach EGP 633 mn. Top line growth was driven by a 50% upswing in tuition revenue, which climbed to EGP 939.6 mn on increasing enrollment and higher tuition fees. The company’s K-12 segment performed particularly well, seeing revenues rise by 59% to EGP 441.6 mn. Rising enrollments also increased the company’s revenue from admissions and dorm fees, helping it to shrug off the reduction in bus fees caused by school closures earlier this year.

Covid fails to dent enrollment: The rate of enrollment outpaced the company’s expansion in both its K-12 and higher education segments, despite the pandemic causing widespread disruption in the sector earlier in the year. Enrollment at CIRA’s Badr University expanded 31%, while the company’s 20 K-12 schools saw student numbers grow by 9%.

Looking ahead: CIRA expects to deliver “solid growth” during the new academic year and will explore new ventures to allow the company to continue providing quality education, CEO Mohamed El Kalla said. The company will continue to rely on hybrid learning at its schools, and will maintain high safety standards to protect staff and students, he said.

Oriental Weavers net profit inched up 1.8% in 9M2020 to EGP 608 mn, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues were down 12.1% y-o-y, clocking in at EGP 6.67 bn as opposed to EGP 7.58 bn the previous year.

Credit Agricole saw its net profit plunge by 44.4% in 9M2020, dipping to EGP 1.04 bn compared to EGP 1.86 bn, according to the bank’s earnings release (pdf).

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Egypt in the News

The French foreign minister’s trip to Cairo yesterday leads coverage of Egypt in the international press this morning: France24 | AFP | Reuters | Xinhua | Gulf News. We have more in this morning’s Diplomacy + Foreign Trade, below. The visit is being positioned by the press as a move by France to “calm tensions” with the “Arab world” over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Elsewhere, Xinhua profiles an Egyptian woman who climbs palm trees to collect dates — a traditionally male-dominated job — as a way to make an income and feed her family.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Topping diplomatic coverage this morning: French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Egypt to affirm “deep respect” for Islam yesterday and calm tensions over the controversial Charlie Hebdo comics, telling journalists that French President Emmanuel Macron “has the utmost respect for the religion of Islam” following talks with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Al Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb (watch, runtime: 26:37). France has been the target of anger throughout the Muslim world after Macron defended Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed and announced plans to crack down on what he described as “Islamist separatism” among French Muslims. But Le Drian said yesterday that the president’s comments about the cartoons had been taken out of context, and that France is battling extremists and not Islam as a religion.

El Tayeb said after a meeting with Drian that he would resort to international courts to “prosecute” those who insult Islam or the Prophet Mohamed, Al Azhar said in a statement. El Tayeb said that insults should not be protected forms of speech and called on world leaders to take “tangible steps” to stop associating Islam with terrorism.

Shoukry congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory during the press conference, and said that the Egyptian government stands ready to work with his incoming administration on growing the Egyptian economy and stabilizing the region.

The UK is still in negotiations with Egypt on a trade agreement before Britain’s post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year — and with it dozens of EU trade benefits, according to the Financial Times. Negotiations are also ongoing with Mexico and Vietnam, who combined with Egypt had a total trading relationship with the UK worth around GBP 12 bn in 2019 for goods alone. Trade Minister Nevine Gamea said in June that negotiations between the two countries were close to being finalized though nothing has been heard since.

Measures to curb the effects of the pandemic on the movement of goods and people between Comesa countries were the main topic of discussion during a meeting between Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea and Comesa Secretary-General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe yesterday, the cabinet said in a statement. The two also looked into preparations for the Comesa heads of state summit that will be held next year.

Egypt and the Netherlands look set to work more closely on water management techniques after the countries’ irrigation ministers agreed to exchange experiences in agricultural methods, coastal management and wastewater treatment, the Egyptian Irrigation Ministry said in a statement.

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Should standardized tests be given less weight in Egyptian university applications? For American Diploma students, scores from standardized tests like the SAT comprise most of their Egyptian university application. But the US is shifting away from submitting standardized test results as a mandatory university admissions requirement, spurred by covid-19. Pre-pandemic, nearly 1.1k out of 2.3k US universities eliminated test score requirements. Now it’s about 1.6k, close to 70%, says Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of Fair Test. This could push more students from top-tier schools in Egypt to study overseas this year, as we noted last month.

Should Egypt follow suit, and reduce the importance of test results in the application process? No — because until the academic integrity of all schools offering the American Diploma in Egypt is guaranteed, standardized tests remain an essential assessment tool for universities, several sources tell Enterprise.

Universities here use standardized tests as a form of equivalency measure for non-Thanaweya Amma students. Students following the national system see their Thanaweya Amma scores compiled into an average, with that number determining their eligibility for university places, says Allison Fleet, principal of El Alsson’s American School. Similar calculations are performed for students of other educational systems. For American Diploma students, a standardized test result — historically the SAT, but following its cancellation through June 2021, the ACT — counts for 60% of their application, with the remaining 40% an average of selected results from courses taken in 11th and 12th grade, she adds.

But the SAT and ACT are notably different to exams like the Thanaweya Amma that follow a course of study: The SAT and ACT are commercially-bought, machine-scored standardized tests. They were designed to compare students in the very decentralized US education system, and assess their eligibility for university. American Diploma students don’t finish school with a final exam, but are awarded a GPA by their school. While systems like the IB, IGCSE, Abitur or French Baccalaureate involve a multi-year course of study and an external exam, American Diploma students are awarded grade point averages (GPAs) by their schools — with varying degrees of rigor, says Massimo Laterza, Schutz’s Assistant Head of School.

Egypt gives standardized tests such weight precisely because of the variation in education quality among American Diploma schools, say sources. The GPAs and diplomas awarded by schools offering the American Diploma don’t all have the same value because of the differences in quality among the schools, says Kapono Ciotti, AIS director. This disparity is particularly great in Egypt, with over 6k private schools for its population of 100 mn, compared to 1.5k private schools for 350 mn US citizens, he adds.

But this reliance on test scores means our university application process is much less holistic than in the US. US colleges look at test scores along with a student's full high school record, letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities, says Fleet. Requiring “cut off” test scores for admissions — as Egypt does — is increasingly less common in the US because it violates test use guidelines (pdf), argues Schaeffer.

And because the test scores count for so much in Egypt, there remains a clear incentive to cheat or profit from the system. Egypt’s SAT problems continue to outweigh those of most other countries — the notable exception being mainland China, says Schaeffer. “These are the only places I know of still facing wholesale SAT cancellations,” he says. As an online test, the ACT is expected to face fewer security issues than the SAT. But heavy reliance on test results means the incentive to cheat remains. And the lucrative private tutoring and test preparation industries will still be powered by the importance placed on standardized tests, sources add. “With so much at stake, integrity can become questionable,” says Fleet.

But does this mean educators are seeking to reduce the weight of standardized testing in university applications? No, because there are no resources for universities to select the best students without testing. Less reliance on standardized testing would be ideal, but Egyptian universities don’t currently have the resources to select the best students without using test results as a guide, say sources. “Is it still right to give standardized tests such a high percentage? I don’t know. But I believe it’s still necessary,” says Laterza. Tests provide an essential filtering role, argues Ciotti. “If we move away from standardized tests counting for 60%, K-12 educators have to give the universities something else that they can lean on.” Without testing, students would have to pay hundreds of USD in application fees for vast numbers of people to conduct interviews, or make do with only low-level analysis, he adds.

Still, focusing on the accreditation of American Diploma schools themselves could be a step in the right direction: Quality accreditation and school inspection could give the American GPA system more credibility, says Ciotti. It would potentially reduce the risk of grade inflation, enhancing trust in the GPAs awarded, and perhaps helping shift the emphasis back to learning, rather than test score achievement, argue sources.

Some universities would also welcome having a bigger say over who they let in: Standardized tests shouldn’t be abolished, but universities should have more scope to assess students before admission, says Mohamed Eid, BUE’s Director of the Internationalisation Office. Cognitive skills, comprehension, analysis, research skills, creativity, and employability skills should all be looked at, he argues. AUC is developing some of its own assessment tools, including multimedia interviews for borderline candidates, says Ahmed Tolba, Associate Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management. But most Egyptian universities won’t be able to fairly apply tools like aptitude exams and interviews because of their size and large numbers of applicants. Essays and references, used quite effectively in the US, don’t yet have high credibility in Egypt, he adds.

Ultimately, standardized test results still have a crucial role to play in university admissions: Without a mechanism to hold American Diploma schools accountable for the GPAs they award, along with universities having more resources and autonomy to set their own effective entry assessments, it seems impossible that Egypt could reduce its reliance on standardized test results for university admissions. The SAT and ACT may come with significant challenges, but right now they’re our best hope of a fair benchmark for American Diploma students.

Your top education stories of the week:

  • Schools and universities will not close due to covid-19 this month, the education and higher education ministries said in response to rumors circulating online.
  • The Education Ministry has decided to stop the annual increase in tuition fees charged by private and international schools during the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • Public sector teachers will receive a EGP 390-630 wage bump starting January, after the House approved the plans last week. Payments for performance-related incentives and exam grading will also be increased.
  • Raya Contact Center is working on a vocational education project to train 100 students from various public universities to enhance their employability, in cooperation with the Alashanek Ya Baladi Association, according to the local press.
  • Emerging markets that invest in ensuring all girls receive a secondary education could see their GDP grow by an average of 10% by 2030, according to a report by Citi Global Insights and Plan International (pdf). This comes as many girls in developing countries have been disproportionately affected by school closures caused by the pandemic.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.61 | Sell 15.71
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.61 | Sell 15.71
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.63 | Sell 15.73

EGX30 (Sunday): 10,680 (+0.5%)
Turnover: EGP 601 mn (46% below the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -23.5%

THE MARKET ON SUNDAY: The EGX30 ended Sunday’s session up 0.5%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended up 0.3%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Ibnsina Pharma up 3.6%, Oriental Weavers up 2.9%, and SODIC up 2.4%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Dice down 1.5%, Emaar Misr down 0.9% and Juhayna down 0.9%. The market turnover was EGP 601 mn, and local investors were the sole net sellers.

Foreigners: Net long | EGP +4.3 mn
Regional: Net long | EGP +2.3 mn
Domestic: Net short | EGP -6.6 mn

Retail: 83.2% of total trades | 81.4% of buyers | 85.1% of sellers
Institutions: 16.8% of total trades | 18.6% of buyers | 14.9% of sellers

WTI: USD 37.14 (-4.25%)

Brent: USD 39.45 (-3.62%)

Natural Gas: (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.89 MMBtu, (-1.84%, December 2020 contract)

Gold: USD 1,951.70 / troy ounce (+0.25%)

TASI: 8,160 (+0.88%) (YTD: -2.73%)
ADX: 4,706 (-0.25%) (YTD: -7.28%)
DFM: 2,181 (+0.98%) (YTD: -21.09%)
KSE Premier Market: 6,084 (+0.54%)
QE: 9,908 (+0.19%) (YTD: -4.96%)
MSM: 3,552 (+0.05%) (YTD: -10.78%)
BB: 1,441 (-0.03%) (YTD: -10.49%)

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

November: An Egyptian-Russian ministerial committee will meet to discuss trade and investment in Moscow.

7-9 November (Saturday-Monday): Techne Summit 2020, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria.

7-9 November (Saturday-Monday): Egyptian marketing firm IMFND is holding their virtual Digital Commerce Connect Summit

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

12 November (Thursday): The African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) is organizing an online conference titled “State of African Private Equity & Venture Capital: Regional Perspectives.” You can sign up here.

13-15 November (Friday-Sunday): A conference on banking in the time of covid by the Union of Arab Banks, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

15 November (Sunday): Egyptian Tax Authority’s online intro seminar on new electronic invoice system for first tranche of companies transitioning to e-filing program.

16 November (Monday): Postponed trial of alleged abuser Ahmed Bassam Zaki, after he failed to attend the previous court date

18 November (Wednesday): The 50 Million African Women Speak online event will be held, organized by the Egyptian MSME Development Agency and Comesa

19-28 November (Thursday-Sunday): Cairo International Film Festival, Cairo Opera House, Egypt.

21 November (Saturday): Deadline to install electronic vehicle stickers

22-25 November (Sunday-Wednesday): Cairo ICT 2020, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

23-24 November (Monday-Tuesday): Runoffs for parliamentary elections in Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira, Matrouh.

30 November (Monday): Final results will be announced for Parliamentary elections held in Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira, Matrouh.

December (date TBC): Egypt Economic Summit, Cairo, Egypt, venue TBD.

December: Fifth round of Egypt-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks.

December: The 110th regular session of the Egyptian-Iraqi Joint Higher Committee will be held under the chairmanship of the prime ministers of the two countries.

1 December (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a first review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June (proposed date).

5 December (Saturday): A court will hold a postponed hearing to look into an appeal by Syria’s Anataradous against an arbitration ruling in favor of Amer Group and Amer Syria.

7 December: Former Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafik faces trial over embezzlement allegations.

7-8 December (Monday-Tuesday): Runoffs for parliamentary elections in Cairo, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.

9-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): BiznEx, the international business expo in Egypt, venue TBD.

14 December (Monday): Final results will be announced for Parliamentary elections held in Cairo, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.

15 December (Tuesday): House of Representatives reconvenes from recess.

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.

1Q2021: The Seventh Annual Egypt Automotive Summit will be held

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

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

13-31 January (Wednesday-Sunday): Egypt will host the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship at the Giza Pyramids.

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

25-29 January 2021 (Monday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s “Davos Dialogues” will take place virtually.

26-28 January (Tuesday-Thursday): Future Investment Initiative, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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.

6-18 February (Saturday-Thursday): Mid-year school break.

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 2021 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

6 May 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

12-15 May 2021 (Wednesday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

18-21 May 2021 (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting will be held under the theme of “The Great Reset” in Lucerne-Bürgenstock, Switzerland

31 May-2 June 2021 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

1 June 2021 (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

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

24 June 2021 (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year.

26-29 June 2021 (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center

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

30 July-3 August 2021 (Thursday-Monday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday (TBC).

1 October 2021-31 March 2022 (Friday-Thursday): Postponed Expo 2020 Dubai.

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