Sunday, 24 January 2021

Egypt’s vaccine rollout starts today



Good morning, friends. The big news this morning: Egypt’s covid-19 vaccination campaign kicks off today targeting the most at-risk frontline healthcare workers — and we’ll know more about the plan for a wider rollout later in the day as Health Minister Hala Zayed holds a presser this morning.

It’s early days, but it’s also exceptionally good news. As CIB chief Hussein Abaza said earlier this month: “The prospect of a vaccine is a game changer. We’re still in a tunnel, but we can see the light. The only question is how much longer we have to go.”

Also this week: Tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of the events of 25 January 2011. Expect to see a stepped-up security presence in and around downtown.

It’s a four-day workweek as we observe the Police Day / Revolution Day holiday this coming Thursday, 28 January. The central bank has confirmed that Thursday is a bank holiday, so you can expect an announcement soon from the EGX.

We then settle in for our long annual holiday drought: Your next day off will be Sinai Liberation Day in mid-Ramadan. The Holy Month should start on or about Monday, 13 April.

Expect more talk this week of a cabinet shuffle, particularly after newly-rehabilitated Ahmed Moussa used his bully pulpit on Ala Mas’ouleety all last week to castigate the ministers of information, supply and local development. All three also took fire from MPs as the new House of Representatives put in its first full week of work. Conventional wisdom is that you can expect the cabinet economic group to remain in place.

On the legislative agenda this week: The House Planning and Budgeting Committee convenes tomorrow to discuss proposed amendments to the VAT Act and a bill to exempt government treasuries sold on international markets from fees and taxes, reports Al Mal. The changes to the VAT law would apply the 14% tax to the rent and purchase of commercial and administrative properties.

The amendments would, if passed, also hike taxes on crackers and some forms of sweets by scrapping a 5% schedule tax and instead making them subject to the full 14% VAT. A senior official at Edita denied a report that the tax hike would push the sweetmaker to scrap capex spending this year, telling us instead on Thursday that the company was prepared to “move through a price point migration and a portfolio optimization strategy” as it did after the float of the EGP.

Russian officials will land in Hurghada on Wednesday for the umpteenth inspection of the airport’s security measures, ahead of a possible resumption of flights between Russia and the Red Sea resort town, Al Masry Al Youm reports.


PSA- Businesses have until 31 January (a week from today) to file wage tax returns for 2020 including separate filings for the first and second halves of the year. Sole traders and folks who generate income from outside of their day job will also need to file electronically for the first time.

Don’t sweat it if you have a day job with a company: Salaried employees in Egypt do not file income tax returns, but have taxes deducted at source by their employer, which is responsible for remitting the wage taxes to the state. Your employer will be telling the state before 31 January who you are, what your national ID (or passport number) is and how much you made in 2020.

PSA- Time is running out if you haven’t paid income, value-added, or real estate taxes and want to settle up without late fees. Late taxpayers are still eligible for a 50% exemption on interest fees and late penalties until 12 February under a bill passed last year, Tax Authority boss Reda Abdel Kader said last week, according to Al Shorouk.

There are plenty of things you can (virtually) attend over the course of this week:

The World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda is happening Monday through Friday. The Swiss ski town of Davos, which traditionally plays host to the annual gathering, is getting a break this year as the coronavirus forces the global elite to take to Zoom. A discussion on the global economic recovery will open the conference tomorrow morning while Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to set the tone for the event when he gives the first special address in the afternoon.

An in-person WEF event is still in the cards for this year, scheduled to take place between 13-16 May in Singapore.

AUC’s School of Business is hosting a webinar this Tuesday on “Rethinking Macroeconomics in the Digital Age” to discuss how technological change is changing the way we think about macroeconomics, investment, training the labor force and access to finance. The event will feature Subir Lall, the IMF’s deputy director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department. You can register for the webinar here.

A little further afield: It’s Davos in the Desert (yes, yes, we know, we’re not supposed to call it that) at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh (Tuesday-Thursday)

Egypt will face Slovenia tonight at 7 pm CLT for the final group game of the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championships. After the national team’s comfortable 35-26 victory over Belarus on Friday, a victory tonight should seal progress to the next round.

How are the group winners decided? The top two teams in each group will progress to the quarter finals, but in the event that teams are tied the winners will be decided based on head-to-head results, rather than on goal difference.


Somabay Endurance Festival will be taking place at Somabay for the first time. With a phenomenal swim, beautiful cycling route, and truly unique run course, the Endurance Festival at Somabay will be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Mark your calendars for April 8-10 for the Spring Edition.


Egypt’s covid-19 vaccination campaign kicks off today with frontline medical staff working in fever wards, isolation facilities and chest hospitals being the first in line for the jab, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said yesterday in a press briefing (watch, runtime: 4:18). Hospitals have been notified about the vaccine rollout and each health worker will be given two shots administered 21 days apart, said El Sisi’s health advisor, Mohamed Awad Tag El Din.

Doctors can register now to receive the vaccine, which will then be made available to the general public once medical staff have been covered, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told Kelma Akhira's Lamees El Hadidi last night (watch, runtime: 11:53). Forty medical centres would receive the vaccinations, starting with the medical teams at the Abu Khalifa isolation hospital in Ismailia Governorate, Health Ministry adviser Noha Assem said on Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 7:32).

It’s not yet clear how long it will take to vaccinate medical staff, and Megahed didn’t provide a timeframe for when the program will roll out to the public. When it does, senior citizens and folks whose medical conditions make them high-risk will be at the head of the line.

Which vaccine will medical personnel be getting? The program will begin with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, Megahed said.

And how much do we have? The government will begin by distributing 50k doses of the Sinopharm jab (enough for 25k people) over the next three weeks, he said. The vaccine, which was proven to be 79% effective against the virus, was approved by Egyptian regulators at the beginning of the month. Egypt received the first shipment of vaccines from the Chinese vaccines in December and there have been reports that another 100k doses will reach our shores soon.

We also have 20 mn doses coming from AstraZeneca: Egypt’s medical procurement agency confirmed yesterday that contract manufacturers Serum Institute and R-Pharm would be providing the shots from India and Russia, respectively. Vaccine production was not impacted by a fire at India’s Serum Institute that killed five people. The first shipment should be arriving this Thursday, Megahed told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib yesterday (watch, runtime: 8:32) without mentioning how many doses we would be receiving.

Overall, Egypt is looking to secure 100 mn doses in the near term. That should be enough to cover 50 mn people, Health Minister Hala Zayed said earlier this month. This include 40 mn shots made by China’s Sinopharm, 40 mn from global vaccine alliance Gavi, and 20 mn from AstraZeneca. Egypt was also said to be in talks to purchase Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and is looking to secure the rights to manufacture at least one vaccine domestically, most likely Russia’s Sputnik V.

New daily cases continued to fall over the weekend: The Health Ministry reported 680 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 752 on Thursday and 748 on Friday. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 161,143 confirmed cases of covid-19.

The daily death toll is also starting to decline: The ministry reported 49 new deaths yesterday, down from 52 on Friday and 54 the day before. The country’s total death toll is now 8,902.

News of the vaccination campaign kickoff dominated the airwaves last night: El Hekaya (watch, runtime: 8:32 | 2:04), Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 8:29), Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 3:22 | 11:08), Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 7:28) and Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 11:53).


Morocco became the first country in Africa to receive enough doses of a covid-19 vaccine to kick off its immunization program after getting its hand on 2 mn doses of the AstraZeneca jab on Friday, reports Reuters. The vaccination drive is expected to begin this week.

REMINDER- Vaccination campaigns are two steps forward, one-step back affairs. Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech announced they can’t meet delivery schedules in Europe. Germany has already suspended its first vaccinations and jabs for health workers in Madrid have stopped. Italy also saw a large drop in daily vaccinations last weekend. Pfizer has also stood up Canada, saying it would not be able to deliver shipments contracted for this week.


CDC plans USD 1 bn investments for Africa, including Egypt

CDC Group is earmarking some USD 1 bn for infrastructure and finance investments in Africa in 2021, with a particular focus on Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria, CEO Nick O’Donohoe told Bloomberg in an interview. This will be roughly what it invested in Africa in 2020, he said.

Where’s the money going? CDC — the UK’s development finance institution — is primarily focusing on climate-related and tech-based investments, but is “a big investor in infrastructure and will continue to be,” O’Donohoe said. CDC also sees “more attention” being given to healthcare after going through the pandemic, but expects these investments to be more concentrated in the private sector.

CDC has already made its mark on Egypt’s healthcare sector: Along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Development Partners International, CDC last year raised USD 750 mn — of which USD 250 mn was earmarked for Egypt — to invest in the pharma industry across Africa through a shared investment platform. The platform’s first investment was the acquisition of Egypt’s Adwia Pharma in November.


Nigeria’s number one lender is looking at Egypt: Access Bank is looking to take advantage of the new African trade agreement and make an entrance into Egypt’s banking sector, the bank said in an online presentation cited by Bloomberg. Egypt is among eight markets identified by the bank as “high potential,” CEO Herbert Wigwe said in a conference call last week, adding that the bank will look to “leverage the benefits of the African Continental Trade Area.” Access Bank has a presence in 11 countries outside Nigeria, including Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

What’s the strategy? The bank plans to open offices in some markets and partner with established banks or use digital platforms in others. It gave no country-specific information but said it would provide more details “in another month or two, once the arrangements have been put in place.”


Another healthcare M&A in the offing?

Alexandria Medical Services may be up for grabs again: A consortium made up of Mabaret Al Asafra Hospitals and Africa-focused investment firm Tana Africa Capital have reportedly made overtures to acquire Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s (ADCB) 51.5% stake in Alexandria Medical Services, Al Mal reported, citing sources close to the matter.

This is the latest in a string of offers to acquire shares in Alex Medical following reports last month that Egyptian-British entrepreneur Tamer Abdullah is seeking to increase his shares in the company from a current 9.8%.

Wait, when did ADCB get a 51% stake in Alex Medical? Short story, this was part of the fallout from the collapse of BR Shetty’s NMC Healthcare — which owned a majority stake in Alex Medical — on allegations of fraud. As one of NMC’s creditors, ADCB acquired its full stake in Alex Medical for EGP 275 mn last month. Prime Holdings and Zulficar & Partners had advised on the transaction.


Slow tourism recovery will weigh on GDP this year, but we’ll bounce back

Egypt’s economy will grow 2.4% this fiscal year “amid sluggish global tourism recovery and weak domestic demand,” but will accelerate to 4.1% in FY2022-2023, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said in its January report. The forecast for the current fiscal year is below the lower end of the Finance Ministry’s recently updated forecast, which targets a range of 2.8-4%. The EIU expects real GDP growth to rise over the next three fiscal years, peaking at 5.7% in FY2024-2025 before cooling off slightly to 5.2% in FY2025-2026.

The caveat: The recovery in vital sectors such as tourism — accounts for 9.5% of employment and 5.5% of GDP will “depend heavily” on how consumer demand in the EU recovers and a speedy vaccination program. The EIU expects a large-scale rollout of vaccines around the world in 2Q2021 in developed economies, while the rollout of vaccines “at scale” in middle-income and emerging economies is unlikely to happen before 2022. This pace suggests the global “mass coverage” milestone will only be hit by the end of the year.

The government will likely keep in place fiscal and monetary support measures for the tourism sector while withdrawing it from other sectors as the pandemic begins to taper off in 2H2021, the report predicts. While state coffers “will be tested” in their ability to roll out more relief after having raised the minimum wage and pensions, as well as hiking the exemption threshold for income taxes, other “pandemic-related tax-relief measures and tariff cuts” will be rolled back to rebuild public finances, the report says.

OTHER INDICATORS: The EIU sees Egypt’s fiscal deficit widening to 8.5% of GDP this fiscal year, sees inflation “subdued” this year at about 5.9%, and sees the EGP strengthening by 2025, although it will be susceptible to “bouts of volatility” this year from “negative sentiment towards emerging economies in global financial markets, or to a weakening of the current-account position.” The EIU expects the EGP to weaken slightly in FY2021-2022 before the FX rate settles at EGP 15.52 / USD 1 in FY2024-2025.


Three more companies get a hold of mining contracts

Three mining companies have signed five new gold exploration contracts worth a combined USD 13 mn with the Oil Ministry, according to a cabinet statement. The contracts include a USD 9 mn agreement signed with Canada’s Lotus Gold for the rights to explore 11 blocks, while Mining and Manufacturing Company (MEDAF) received the rights to explore one block in a USD 3 mn contract. Egypt’s Ebdaa for Gold also signed a USD 1 mn contract for the rights to explore one block.

Eleven mining companies were awarded 82 exploration blocks under the results of a tender last year. The blocks were distributed among seven foreign firms and four local companies, which will invest around USD 60 mn in the exploration phase. Amendments to the Mineral Resources Act offering investors more attractive terms were approved last year. Molla had announced that Egypt would issue a new gold exploration tender every four months.


Energean ramping up spending at former Edison assets

Energean is planning to spend some USD 235 mn to develop the North Amriya and North Idku concessions offshore Egypt, the Greek company said in a statement (pdf) on Thursday, its first major investment in its Egypt assets since acquiring them from Edison last year. The North Amriya concession contains the Yazzi and Python fields, both of which have been discovered and appraised, while the North Idku concession contains four gas fields, including one that is ready for development, the statement says. The development of both concessions is expected to deliver first gas in 2H2022, and could yield 49 mn barrels of oil equivalent, 87% of which is gas.

The concessions were among Edison’s oil and gas assets in Egypt, which Energean acquired at the end of last year as part of a wider purchase of the Italian company’s total energy portfolio. The development of the concessions is a “key [project] for the Egyptian portfolio which will provide substantial benefits to the long-term production profile in the country,” the statement says.


Rawaj completes EGP 308 mn securitization

Arabia Investments Holding’s (AIH) consumer finance subsidiary Rawaj completed a EGP 308 mn securitized bond issuance, AIH said in a bourse filing on Thursday (pdf). The bonds were backed by accounts and notes receivables. The issuance was segmented into three tranches, which were rated AA+, AA, and A by Meris. The sale was arranged and managed by CIB. Rawaj is the latest in a slew of businesses offloading receivables in the country’s hot securitization market, including Sarwa Capital, Palm Hills Development, CI Capital’s Corplease, GB Auto subsidiaries GB Lease and Drive Finance, Amer Group, and Talaat Moustafa Group.

IN OTHER DEBT NEWS- CI Capital’s consumer finance arm Souhoola is looking to raise a EGP 100 mn line of credit with state banks as part of its efforts to up its portfolio to EGP 300 mn this year, Souhoola Managing Director Hazem Madani tells Al Mal.


2020 was a good year for Egypt’s fintech scene

Fintech flourished in Egypt in 2020 despite covid-19’s negative impact on funding, writes Citibank’s Vice President of Europe, the Middle East and Africa strategy Michel Assaad for Wamda. Though health and transport startups managed to raise the biggest total sum of funds last year, 2020 saw the launch of a number of exclusively focused fintech funds including the USD 25 mn Disruptech, and the Central Bank of Egypt’s EGP 1 bn fintech fund.

Our Enterprise tracker counts 49 investments in Egyptian startups last year, with fintech just edging out e-commerce as the most popular sector with investors. VCs made commitments to 12 fintech outfits and 11 e-commerce plays in 2020. Tap or click here for the full rundown here.

Legislation and milestones: The passing of the Banking and Central Bank Act provided a regulatory framework for the operation of digital payments, banks, and currencies, providing more certainty as the industry grows, Assaad writes. 2020 also saw the launch of Egypt’s first independent e-wallet provider, Raseedy, as the number of mobile wallets jumped 17% between March and October last year thanks to increased reliance on digital payments because of covid-19. Fawry became Egypt’s first unicorn after achieving a market capitalization of USD 1 bn, while a number of partnerships (Paynas and Banque Misr, Visa and Fawry) helped propel the industry ahead as big banks and companies help up-and-coming fintech players “expand their footprint,” Asaad says.

What should we expect moving forward?: A number of fintech IPOs are in the pipeline, having been postponed during a turbulent 2020, including non-banking financial services platform Ebtikar, which is planning an IPO of a 25-30% stake in the company some time in 1Q2021, while state-owned e-payments platform e-finance could debut as soon as 2Q2021. Raya subsidiary Aman Holding is reportedly also planning an EGX debut in the coming two years. 2021 could also see the growth of digital banks, as well as a growth in the mining and use of bitcoin and regulation governing cryptocurrencies.


Plan to overhaul state-owned enterprises hits the House

Tawfik outlines SOE overhaul plan for parliament: The Public Enterprises Ministry is looking to streamline state-owned spinning and weaving companies by merging nine companies into one mega-entity with seven ginning facilities under its purview, Minister Hisham Tawfik said in his address to the House of Representatives last week, according to Al Shorouk Another 23 spinning and weaving companies will be consolidated into nine, Tawfik said. No details were provided on which companies would be consolidated. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had said last year that Egypt would upgrade all spinning and weaving factories in El Mahalla within two years as part of an ambitious EGP 21 mn plan to restructure the spinning and weaving industry.


Egyptian Iron and Steel’s new mining company will be registered with the EGX in the next three weeks, Tawfik told El Hekaya's Amr Adib last night (watch, runtime: 9:00). The minister said earlier this month that the new company, known as Iron and Steel for Mines and Quarries, will be listed on the bourse within the next two months. The spin-off comes after the ministry decided to liquidate Iron & Steel following years of losses.

A big payout for workers: Employees of the struggling firm will be entitled to at least EGP 225k each when it goes into liquidation, the Public Enterprises Ministry said in a statement. Tawfik, who has come under fire for the decision to dissolve the 67-year-old company, had promised that some 7k factory workers will be compensated in the next three months. Egypt’s trade union last week said it plans to file a lawsuit against the decision, arguing that company officials refused to consider a turnaround proposal. Egyptian Iron and Steel has lost bns of taxpayer money for as long as we can remember.



Fairmont witness released pending investigation

The public prosecutor has released one of the witnesses held in the Fairmont [redacted] assault case pending investigation. Ahmed El Ganzoury has been held for some four months for his alleged connection to the incident, which took place in a Nile Fairmont suite following a party he hosted in February 2014. Two other suspects, Nazli Karim and Seif Bedour — who were reportedly detained after coming forward to testify in support of the victim — were released this month. The incident first came to light last summer when the victim of the attack posted anonymous testimony online and filed a formal charge accusing the men of [redacted] her in the hotel. Five of the seven young men charged with perpetrating the assault were arrested late last year but two remain at large.


AUC’s head of the finance Islam Azzam was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Financial Regulatory Authority, reports Hapi Journal.


Earnings watch: Obour Land

Cheesemaker Obour Land reported a 5.1% y-o-y rise in its consolidated net income in 2020 to EGP 310 mn, up from EGP 295 mn in 2019, the company said in a bourse filing (pdf). Revenues for the year came in at EGP 2.74 bn, up from EGP 2.59 bn in 2019.

Madinet Nasr Housing and Development’s presales in 2020 hit EGP 7 bn, rising 11% y-o-y from EGP 6.3 bn in 2019.


The announcement that Egypt’s covid-19 vaccine program will start today dominated the conversation on the airwaves last night. We have full coverage of the story in this morning’s Covid Watch, above.


  • School exams: Mid-year examinations will begin after students return from their mid-year vacation on 20 February, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abd El-Ghaffar told Amr Adib. The dates will still depend on the state of the covid-19 outbreak, he said, voicing optimism that the worst of the second wave is now over (watch, runtime: 4:24).
  • President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s speech on village development got a lot of attention: Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 11:19), Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 5:57), and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 7:53).
  • Ten years on: Masaa DMC’s Ahmed El-Deriny interviewed Senator Abd El-Moniem Saeed, who gave his analysis of the 25 January revolution (watch, runtime: 3:36).


It’s the 10-year anniversary of the 25 January revolution, and you know what that means… The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Malsin and the New York Times Cairo bureau chief Declan Walsh take a trip down memory lane, while Deutsche Welle recounts how street art played a role in sparking the uprising. Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders is not happy about the current media landscape. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders also chimed in with a strongly worded statement expressing “concern” over the “misuse” of pretrial detention.


Some 1.4 mn tourists visited Egypt between the resumption of international flights on 1 July and the end of the year. We closed 2020 with a total of 3.7 mn tourist arrivals, down almost 75% from 13 mn in 2019.

The Finance Ministry is pulling back a bill that would set up a new agency to look after “repatriated funds” including assets seized by the state and money the government lands through settlements. The draft law was heading to the House Budgeting and Planning Committee for discussion, the local press reports, citing unnamed sources. Cabinet had last year approved the bill to establish the agency.

Other things we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • The House of Representatives extended the state of emergency for another three months in a vote on Thursday.
  • Crédit Agricole Egypt signed a cooperation protocol with Dsquares to tap the loyalty services provider to design technological solutions for the bank’s new loyalty program.
  • China State Construction Engineering Corporation will manage and operate the new administrative capital’s central business district under an MoU it signed with Egypt’s Housing Ministry.
  • State-owned El Nasr Automotive looking to partner with distributors and after sales services providers for its EV line of cars, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik tells Al Mal.


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It’s earnings week in the US of A with Apple, Microsoft and Tesla all set to make announcements alongside more than a fifth of the S&P 500, the Wall Street Journal notes. Boeing and McDonald’s will also announce results, “shedding more light on how businesses performed at the end of 2020 as Covid-19 cases rose.”

Optimism that a “massive” global economic recovery is in the cards for 2H2021 is spurring on a surge in stock markets, says the Financial Times. The optimism comes as vaccines are being proven effective against the new covid variant, while the Biden administration promises to push out a USD 1.9 tn stimulus package and rejoin the World Health Organization.

THE BIG WORRY: The spread between market performance and the real economy is still too wide. The stimulus plans “make a credible attempt at addressing short- and longer term economic issues” but ultimately are not enough to narrow the gap between the economic fundamentals and market performance, which already “sprinted ahead,” market sage Mohamed El Erian told Bloomberg (watch, runtime: 2:21). The gap is a result of what El Erian calls an “unhealthy codependency” between markets and central banks, wherein policy reacts to markets and markets react to policy. “Markets have been conditioned to expect ample and predictable support from central banks,” he said, pointing to European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde stressing the ECB’s commitment to “very accommodative” monetary policy.

El Erian isn’t the only one sounding the bubble alarm: One of the world’s top value investors is worried that central bank policies and government stimulus have made it impossible to tell the true health of the economy — and with it, impaired our ability to gauge risk in the market. A data point on the journey, courtesy of dotcom bubble fixture Henry Blodget (who went on to build and run Business Insider): The “percentage of public companies that are losing money is now at an all-time high, exceeding even the dotcom boom…” And self-described bubble expert investor Jeremy Grantham said Thursday that the US stock market “is in a bubble with ‘very seldom seen levels of investor euphoria.’




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Brent crude

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USD 32,415

-2.9% (as of midnight)

The EGX30 rose 0.5% on Thursday on turnover of EGP 1.7 bn (20.4% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is up 7.5% YTD.

In the green: Dice (+8.0%), TMG Holding (+3.6%) and Madinet Nasr Housing (+2.8%).

In the red: Egyptian Iron & Steel (-7.7%), Ibnsina Pharma (-1.7%) and CIRA (-1.6%).


Protesters in Tunisia are marching like it’s 2011 as hundreds took the the streets of Tunis yesterday, reports Reuters. Hundreds have been arrested since demonstrators began clashing with police in several Tunisian cities earlier this month, with people venting anger against the country’s high unemployment rate. The government has banned protests and extended its 8pm-5am curfew as covid-19 infections spread.

Russia is also dealing with protests that saw police arrest thousands “as demonstrations in support of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Nvalny swept the nation, beginning in the Far East, where people braved subzero temperatures, and reaching the capital.” The story is front page in the NYT and the FT, while Reuters has more.

No dice on reining in Al Jazeera? A Qatari official denied that a meeting between Egyptian, Emirati, and Qatari officials — during which Doha had allegedly promised to tone down Al Jazeera’s rhetoric against Egypt — took place at all, telling Reuters that the countries’ diplomatic relations were only restored “via written correspondence.” Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani also said in televised statements that Al Jazeera is “an independent media institution,” casting doubt on whether Cairo and Doha see eye to eye on the broadcaster. The newswire had cited Egyptian intelligence officials last week as saying that Qatar had agreed to tone down Al Jazeera’s critical coverage of Egypt.

The dramatic epilogue to the four-year Trump experiment kicks off 8 February when the former president faces his second impeachment trial. Senators agreed to push back proceedings by two weeks to focus on newly sworn-in President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and cabinet appointments, the chamber’s majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said, according to Reuters. The House of Representatives will formally hand the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday, accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection against Congress for the Capitol riot on 6 January.

A step to frictionless trade with Sudan? Egypt and Sudan plan to remove import duties on some products crossing the border, with an eye to eventually eliminating “all [trade] barriers,” Trade Minister Nevine Gamea said yesterday following talks with several Sudanese cabinet ministers in Khartoum. The minister, who was in Sudan for the International Khartoum Fair, stopped short of giving further details.

Egypt and Sudan’s planned freezone is moving forward as the feasibility study is now complete for the zone, which will be set up at the border between the two countries, Gamea said in a meeting with Sudanese Industry and Trade Minister Madani Abbas on Thursday, according to Al Shorouk. The two countries had begun discussing the potential zone back in 2017.


  • The interwebs were awash with memes of Bernie Sanders after the former presidential hopeful was photographed at Joe Biden’s inauguration last week bundled up in a coat and patterned mittens. Bloomberg has more.
  • Veteran broadcast Larry King has died at 87. The New York Times has a nice obit.


Construction to begin on Zamalek’s Cairo Eye ferris wheel project

Zamalek will be home to a EGP 500 mn ferris wheel next year as the controversial Cairo Eye project was launched on Thursday, reports Al Shorouk. The Cairo Eye is designed to “promote sustainable tourism,” said Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal. The ferris wheel will be built on a 20k sqm area and should be completed in 2022, said Ahmed Metwally, the chairman of Hawai Tourism and Investment Company — the company tapped to develop the project. The project has earned the ire of many Zamalek residents, who fear it will snarl traffic on the island.


13-31 January (Wednesday-Sunday): Egypt will host the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship in four venues in Alexandria, Cairo, Giza and the New Capital.

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

25-29 January (Monday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda (virtual).

26 January (Tuesday): AUC’s School of Business webinar on “Rethinking Macroeconomics in the Digital Age.” Registration available here.

26 January (Tuesday): Uber will host a virtual panel discussion titled ‘Tech for Transport Safety’, which will be the inaugural panel in a MENA-wide series of events under the name Ignite.

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

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

31 January (Sunday): The deadline for businesses to electronically submit their annual tax return to the Egyptian Tax Authority.

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

6-18 February (Saturday-Thursday): Mid-year school break (public schools — enjoy the break from bumper-to-bumper traffic).

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

8-10 April (Thursday-Saturday): The TriFactory’s Endurance Festival at Somabay.

13 April (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

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

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

18-21 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting “The Great Reset”

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

30 May-15 June (Wednesday-Thursday): Cairo International Book Fair.

1 June (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).

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

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

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

30 June (Wednesday): June 30 Revolution Day

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday)

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday)

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year

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

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day

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

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday

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

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

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

Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

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