Thursday, 4 February 2021

Red-hot healthcare sector shows no sign of slowing down as Alfa lands USD 100 mn investment



Good morning, everyone — we made it through another week together, and our just reward is … rainapocalypse?

Today would be a great day to WFH: Expect rain with intermittent thunder and lightning in Cairo and Alexandria, the national weather service says. Rain is also forecast to sweep the Delta, there’s a chance of snow on St. Catherine in Sinai, while parts of the peninsula could see flash floods. As of dispatch time this morning, our favorite weather app shows rain hitting Cairo around noon, with as much as 10 mm falling this afternoon and overnight tonight. Look for a daytime high of 21°C in the capital city today.

Your weekend forecast: Sunny skies with intermittent clouds and the mercury at about 21°C during the day both Friday and Saturday.

THIS MORNING’S BIG NEWS: A USD 100 mn investment in Alfa Labs is the latest signal that investor interest in the country’s red-hot healthcare sector isn’t flagging. We also have confirmation that Ebtikar is heading for IPO in the back half of the year lead the domestic business. Both stories are in the news well this morning, below.

Further afield: One of our most important trade, investment and tourism partners is getting a new government after “Super” Mario Draghi, the well-respected former European Central Bank boss, was tapped to form a new government in Italy. And in the GCC, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are apparently giving Turkey the Qatar treatment as they look to bring Istanbul back in from the cold.

It’s interest rate day: The Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee will meet today to review interest rates in its first policy meeting of 2021. Eleven of the 12 analysts and economists we polled expect rates to be left unchanged, while 10 of the 14 of those surveyed by Reuters said the same.

Where do rates currently stand? The CBE’s overnight deposit rate is at 8.25% and the lending rate 9.25%. The main operation and disc. rates are 8.75%.

PSA #1- It’s still probably too early to make plans to travel outside Egypt this summer. Like many of you, we’d love to schedule a summer break abroad to spend time with family and friends we haven’t seen in more than a year. Why are we bringing this up now? We’re at the time of year when folks typically plan trips, and not even the airlines are sure what flights they should be running this summer, between the closure of airspace (including, most recently, KSA), a slow vaccine rollout, and uncertainty about the global patchwork of admission and quarantine requirements.

The latest wrinkle: That covid vaccination passport looks like it’s going to be a thing. The most recent sign: Denmark is launching coronavirus “passports” by the end of this month and expects to have a fully digital document ready to go within three months.

iSheep, your pandemic prayers are being answered: Apple could roll out a new option that allows users to unlock their iPhones using Face ID while wearing a mask, but only if they are also wearing an Apple Watch, according to Pocket Lint. The option is part of the iOS 14.5 software, which is currently out as a developer beta, and is expected to be rolled out to the masses “over the coming weeks.”

The Golden Globe nominations are out, and Netflix-produced films and series are dominating the list. Egyptian-American actor Ramy Youssef — the writer behind the hit Hulu series Ramy — snagged a Globe nomination for best actor in a TV series, and has also been nominated for Best Actor in a comedy series in this year’s Critics' Choice Awards.

PSA #2- Applications are now open for Qalaa Holdings’ scholarship program for Egyptians looking to pursue graduate studies abroad, according to a statement (pdf). The largest private-sector scholarship program in Egypt will accept applications until 15 April.


Al-Ahly faces Qatar’s Al Duhail at the Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar today at 7pm CLT.

The African Union’s annual summit is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday (6 and 7 February). The summit, which will be held virtually, will mark the official end of South Africa’s chairmanship of the AU. The Democratic Republic of the Congo will take over the position for one year.

FLIGHTS- Jordan Aviation is increasing the frequency of Cairo-Amman flights starting Saturday to three per week. Meanwhile, budget airline WizzAir will launch a new flight route from Abu Dhabi to Alexandria’s Borg El Arab airport this month, with two weekly scheduled flights, according to Al Mal.

Inflation figures for January will be released on 10 February.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

CORRECTION- Yesterday we incorrectly attributed a statement saying that Egypt could lose 130k hectares of cultivated land for every 1 bcm used by Ethiopia for the GERD to the US embassy in Cairo, rather than the Egyptian embassy in the US. The story has since been updated on our website.



Healthcare outfit Alfa lands USD 100 mn investment

UK government development finance arm CDC will invest USD 100 mn in healthcare group Alfa Medical (AMG) alongside healthcare investor Africa Platform Capital, AMG and CDC announced in a joint press release (pdf). The investment — which has been in the works since early last year — will go towards funding the establishment of the new Alfa Medical City, supporting the expansion of AMG’s laboratories and radiology centers into underserved regions, and establishing a training academy for AMG employees and other healthcare professionals. AMG owns and operates brands including Alfa Scan and Alfa Labs (with about 140 branches in total), and the 170-bed El Safa Hospital.

CDC had launched a USD 250 mn investment platform focusing on the pharma industry with EBRD and DPI last year, and had acquired almost 100% of pharma company Adwia as its first investment. The consortium of investors had said they planned to raise an additional USD 500 mn to invest in the pharma industry across Africa through the new platform.

The news comes as consumer healthcare giant IDH works toward a listing on the Egyptian Stock Exchange as early as this month. The London Stock Exchange-listed company, Cairo-headquartered company will see at least 5% of its shares listed here at home. IDH is the parent company of Al Borg and Al Mokhtabar labs, making it the country’s largest provider of diagnostic services. The Actis-backed outfit has also moved into radiology in Egypt and is a leading player in Jordan, Sudan and Nigeria.

Advisors: Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy and Clifford Chance LLP were counsel to CDC, according to a statement (pdf).


Agricultural commodities outfit Cairo 3A plans to invest EGP 100 mn this year to expand the capacity of a vegetable oil refining factory, Al Mal reports. The company hopes the expansion will help it boost oil sales by 40%, and also plans to double its tea sales this year.


Ebtikar eyes 2H2021 IPO

Ebtikar is planning an EGX debut in the second half of 2021, Omar El Labban, the IR director of majority shareholder B Investments, told Enterprise. The listing will only take place after the company has spun off most activities it has now that aren’t related to e-payments, he said.

This is the first time Ebtikar has targeted a specific timeframe to close the IPO, El Labban tells us. Local press chatter had claimed the company was eyeing a 1Q2021 listing, but this was speculation, he said. A separate press report also claimed the company will sell a 25-30% stake. El Labban declined to disclose the potential size of the offering.

Post-spin off: E-payment businesses Bee and Masary will remain under the Ebtikar umbrella. Its non-banking financial services activities will be spun out into a new company. These include Vitas Egypt and its portfolio company Tamweel Holding, El Labban said. Tamweel is a mortgage and consumer finance, factoring, and leasing player, while Vitas is a microfinance provider. Local press reports claimed last month that the new firm will be called Basata.

Why the split? The company wants to capitalize on growing investor appetite for digital payments companies, El Labban said. Industry giant Fawry is the standard bearer in this respect, becoming the country’s first bn-USD tech company one year after listing on the EGX.

Ebtikar hired EFG Hermes last year to explore its “strategic listing options,” and had been mulling to take one or two of its subsidiaries public, it said at the time. Private investors already approached EFG Hermes for stakes before it pulls the plug on the IPO, according to a local press report out yesterday, quoting sources “close to the offering.” The company has reportedly tapped Zaki Hashem & Partners as legal advisor, the sources say.

Who owns what? Ebtikar is jointly owned by B Investments (50.1%) and MM Group (49.9%).


Fawry could make MSCI, FTSE this year

Payments giant Fawry could make it onto the FTSE and MSCI emerging markets indices this year, Arqaam Capital said in a research note on Tuesday, a few days after the company was added to the EGX30.

Inclusion in FTSE is a “straightforward call” and is expected on 21 September: Fawry’s freefloat market cap (number of shares in freefloat multiplied by price) currently stands at some USD 631 mn, far exceeding the USD 487 mn required for entry. It also meets the liquidity requirements, which ensures inclusion in the FTSE EM All Cap Index’s next rebalancing on 21 September — with a weight of 0.0082%.

MSCI isn’t as clear cut: Fawry could replace Elsewedy Electric on the MSCI EM Standard index — which is currently tracked as one of the top three Egyptian stocks (alongside CIB and Eastern Company) — when the index is rebalanced on 21 May if Elsewedy’s shares continue to underperform. Fawry would need to outperform Elsewedy only by a small margin as Fawry’s shareholders include foreign institutions, which means its freefloat cap is adjusted by a foreign ownership factor, Arqaam said.


I have the power

The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) is waiting on the House of Representatives to sign off on proposed amendments to the Antitrust Act this year to be able to properly fulfill its role as a regulator, the authority’s newly-appointed chairman Mahmoud Momtaz said at a presser yesterday, according to the local press. The antitrust regulator currently doesn’t have the power to outright block mergers, but can challenge agreements after they’ve been made. The proposed amendments would, if passed, require companies to seek the authority’s approval before an M&A is finalized. The ECA has laid out a plan that would see it wrap these approvals within 60 days, Momtaz said.

Meanwhile, the ECA is gearing up to review the mega-merger between Cleopatra Hospitals Group (CHG) and Alameda Healthcare Group. CHG is set to hand over the details of its planned acquisition of 100% of Alameda to the ECA in a few days, and the regulator will appraise the potential economic return of the agreement before telegraphing its final position, Momtaz said. The authority made a preliminary decision earlier this month to oppose the coming together of the two industry players, arguing it could negatively impact the sector.


Nassef Sawiris’ investment in Signature Aviation is paying off: Signature’s value has almost tripled in size to USD 4.8 bn after a mid-March low as the pandemic causes more of the wealthy to turn to private air transport, according to Bloomberg. Sawiris raised his stake to 7.41% last month to become among a handful of b’naires controlling more than USD 1.2 bn-worth of the company’s shares. His stake in the company is now valued at close to USD 350 mn.


Private sector sentiment still in “contraction” territory

Non-oil private sector activity in Egypt continued to contract in January, albeit at a slower pace as falls in output and orders tempered, according to IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) figures (pdf). The PMI gauge edged up a little from 48.2 in December to 48.7 in January, below the 50.0 mark — which separates expansion from contraction — for the second consecutive month. This reflects a “moderate deterioration” in business conditions as output, new orders and employment indices climbed from December.

But respondents are optimistic about 2021: In a reversal of the gloomy sentiment seen during the final months of 2020, almost 40% of respondents now expect growth and output expansion throughout 2021 as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out. Just 1% now expect the situation to worsen.

Business activity had fallen back into contraction territory in December following three months of growth as the resurgence in coronavirus cases depressed demand and hit sentiment.

A pick-up in exports helped to support output in January, which continued to fall during the month due to falling new orders, reduced client spending and covid-related disruption.

Input purchases fell at their sharpest pace in four years, which translated into “a renewed drop in stock levels.” Disruptions caused by the pandemic caused deliveries to be longer than usual, and some suppliers struggled to meet demand for materials that were in short supply. This produced a ripple effect on purchasing costs, which jumped at the fastest rate for three months.

This didn’t translate into higher selling prices: “Efforts to keep market prices low meant average selling prices rose only marginally,” said IHS Markit economist David Owen. The reading indicates that the rise in average selling prices was the slowest since August 2020.

The employment gauge fell at its slowest rate in 15 months as some firms stepped up recruitment.

Meanwhile, in the GCC:

  • Saudi Arabia’s non-oil private sector showed signs of a dramatic growth, as its PMI gauge increased to a 15-month high of 57.1 in January, up from 57.0 a month earlier, based on the latest PMI (pdf).
  • Non-oil private sector business activity in the UAE continued to increase at a mild rate, as the rise in export orders and output spurred a renewed rise in employment, IHS Markit said (pdf).


AT Lease takes EGP 1 bn securitized bond to market

AT Lease has issued its second securitized bond offering worth EGP 1.09 bn after receiving the greenlight from regulators to move forward with the issuance, the company said in an EGX disclosure (pdf) yesterday. The three-tranche issuance, initially slated for 3Q2020, has seen AT Lease offer an initial 13-month EGP 267 mn bond, a 37-month, EGP 705.4 mn tranche and a four-year EGP 114.6 mn tranche. The first tranche was rated AA+ while the second and third tranches received AA and A ratings by ratings agency Meris.

Advisers: Banque Misr subsidiary Misr Capital handled the issuance which was backed by Banque du Caire, Suez Canal Bank, and Attijariwafa Bank Egypt. ALC Alieldean Weshahi & Partners were counsel for the offering.

Securitized debt has been all the rage recently with industry players Sarwa Capital, Palm Hills Development, CI Capital’s Corplease, GB Auto subsidiaries GB Lease and Drive Finance, Amer Group, and Talaat Moustafa Group all moving forward with their own issuances this past month.


Misr Capital is setting up an EGP 500 mn real estate investment fund

Misr Capital plans to set up a EGP 500 mn real estate investment fund, according to Hapi Journal, citing sources familiar with the matter. The Banque Misr subsidiary has submitted to the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) the incorporation documents for the company, which will invest directly in real estate assets, rather than purchasing shares in EGX-listed real estate companies.

Advisers: Baker McKenzie are reportedly providing legal counsel to the state-owned bank.



FX reserves up again in January

Foreign reserves ticked up USD 38.2 mn in January to end the month at USD 40.1 bn, according to central bank figures released yesterday. Foreign reserves had made a significant comeback in December, rising by almost USD 800 mn to their highest level since April. The FX stockpile had fallen by around USD 10 bn between March and May 2020 when the central bank stepped in to cover portfolio outflows, meet debt repayments, and pay for commodity imports during the global selloff of emerging market assets prompted by covid-19.


We want to see goodwill gesture from Bibi

El Sisi wants Bibi to OK two state solution before Cairo visit: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is reportedly making a potential upcoming visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contingent on the PM publicly moving the ball forward on the peace process with Palestine, possibly including a commitment to a two-state solution, Axios reports, citing Israeli sources. Netanyahu had allegedly been scheduled to visit Egypt a month ago, but Egypt opted to postpone the visit after early elections were called in Israel, the sources say. The two heads of state met publicly for the first time in 2017 in New York as part of Egypt’s efforts to broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement.

Netanyahu is not in favor of making a public statement ahead of the Knesset elections on 23 March, in which he will be heavily reliant on his right wing supporters for victory. The sources say that Bibi’s planned visit is being put on ice for now while the two countries work on a compromise of sorts.


Regional stability and Egypt’s aid to Beirut post-explosion were the main topics of conversation between Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Rafik El Hariri and President El Sisi yesterday, according to an Ittihadeya statement.

Egypt will for the first time chair the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission for its 2021 session, according to a UN press statement.

UK Defense Senior Advisor John Lorimer talked armament partnerships with Egyptian Armed Forces officials in a three-day visit to mark the handover to his successor Martin Sampson, according to a UK government statement.


Ahmad Kamal (LinkedIn) has been appointed group tax manager at Swvl, effective 1 February. Kamal joins the company after spending seven years working at PwC, where he most recently served as the Middle East division’s M&A and international tax manager.


GENDER EQUALITY- CIB is one of 380 companies included in Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index (pdf), making this the third third consecutive year the bank has made it to the index since 2019, and is one of the few companies in Africa to make it to this year’s gauge.

Elsewhere on the gender equality front, Rania Elghobashy (LinkedIn), a product localization engineer at General Motors, became the first and youngest Egyptian, African and Arab mechanical engineer to snag a Silver Stevie Award for woman employee of the year in the automotive industry.

SPORTS- Coptic football player Girgis Magdy has joined the Egyptian Premier League after signing with Enppi, making him one of the very few Copts in recent memory to land a contract with the league.

ARTS AND CULTURE- Cairo International Film Festival head Mohamed Hefzy and adopted Cairene Hend Sabry (the actor is Tunisian, but she’s been resident in Egypt since 2008) were awarded France’s Order of Arts and Letters last week. Composer Amir Hedaya landed the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Title in Music.

INDUSTRY AWARDS- The Egyptian Food Bank received the Middle East Institute Visionary Award for their efforts to support Egyptians during the covid-19 pandemic. Elsewhere, Alaa El Zoheiry, the managing director of gig Egypt, was named professional of the year at the MENA Ins. Awards. Banque Misr snapped up five accolades from the European Magazine’s 2021 Global Banking and Finance Awards.

CHARITY AND DONATIONS- Shopping mall chain Carrefour has partnered with the Magdi Yacoub foundation this month on an initiative that would direct change from shoppers’ purchases to the construction of the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Center in Cairo. Cairo Festival City Mall is partnering with Misr El Kheir to sponsor a school in Fayoum, including renovating the campus and providing students with supplies and equipment.


It was a mixed bag on the airwaves last night, with no single story leading the conversation.

Amid rumors of a cabinet shuffle, MPs have mixed feelings on ministers’ performances following their parliamentary addresses over the past weeks, Rep. Ayman Aboul Ela (watch, runtime: 6:01) and Rep. Ahmed Maklad (watch, runtime: 5:33) told Ala Mas'ouleety's Ahmed Moussa. Our elected representatives think some 20% of cabinet members’ policy statements were not satisfactory, Aboul Ela said. Among those who got gold stars: Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker and Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar. Rep. Ahmed El Segeni also sounded off to Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer on inaccurate readings of electricity meters (watch, runtime: 3:38) and his suggestion to slash fines for violations of the building code (watch, runtime: 3:36).

The Environment Ministry aims to turn 50% of government projects green within the coming three years, Minister Yasmine Fouad told Al Hayah Al Youm's Mohamed Sherdy. The Environment Ministry is also working to complete the infrastructure for a new waste-to-energy recycling system (watch, runtime: 22:13).

Ministries will begin the move to the new administrative capital next month, as the buildings in the city’s government district are 90% equipped and furnished, Deputy Housing Minister for National Projects Khaled Abbas told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Moussa. The district has so far cost more than EGP 45 bn (watch, runtime: 3:45).

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • Egypt is preparing to host four world championships in the coming months: The World Shooting Championships in February, the World Weapon and the World Cycling Championships in April, and the World Cup for Artistic Gymnastics in June. (Ramy Radwan on Masaa DMC | watch, runtime: 3:16)


International media coverage of Egypt is as insipid as are domestic talk shows, including stories on the arrest of a father and nurse for performing FGM on a 15-year-old girl (Reuters), a spotlight on Al Ahly’s South African coach Pitso Mosimane (CNN),and the discovery of a mummy encased in mud (ScienceNews).


Hassan Allam Holding is bidding for a power generation facility in Iraq and could start work by the end of the year if Iraqi officials give the go ahead, Al Mal reports. The potential cross-border agreement falls in line with efforts from Iraq to bring on board Egyptian contractors to execute key infrastructure projects as it looks to reconstruct the war torn country. You can find more in-depth coverage of Egypt’s regional infrastructure ambitions in this issue of our weekly infrastructure vertical Hardhat.

ELSEWHERE- Prime Group subsidiary Data CIT is looking to provide the government with biometric vein scanning technology that would be linked with national IDs, subsidy cards and e-payments.


Egyptian covid-19 vaccines coming?

The Health Ministry reported 512 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 521 the day before. The ministry also reported 53 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 9,460. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 167,525 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Egypt currently has 2,553 beds available in isolation hospitals, of which 623 are occupied, Health Minister Advisor Sherif Wadee told Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan. There are also 1,046 total ICU beds in the country, of which 510 are occupied, and of the 483 ventilators in Egypt, 158 are currently in use (watch, runtime: 9:28).

The National Research Center is working on developing two covid-19 vaccines, and is seeking approval from the Egyptian Drug Authority to begin clinical trials for one, while conducting animal testing for another, the center’s head of covid-19 vaccine research Mohamed Ahmed Ali told Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 10:12). A locally-made vaccine could be available before the end of the year, depending on the availability of adequate human vaccine production facilities, which Egypt does not yet have, Ali said.

Egypt has received a shipment of 150k liters of oxygen from Saudi Arabia, Health Minister Hala Zayed said yesterday. The shipment comes after reports of alleged oxygen shortages in several public hospitals earlier this month, which the ministry denied. Egypt is estimated to be in need of 30k cbm of oxygen per day, according to the Covid-19 Oxygen Needs Tracker.

DONATIONS- The Federation of Egyptian Banks will provide EGP 500 mn to the Tahya Misr Fund to finance the supply of vaccines to low-income earners, Hapi Journal reports. CIB, the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, QNB AlAhli, Banque du Caire, and AAIB provided the bulk of the funding.


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Netflix’s MENA rival just hit the jackpot: Regional streaming service Starzplay has received USD 25 mn in debt financing from Abu Dhabi’s Ruya Partners that could pave the way to an IPO. Prior to the latest investment, the company had received USD 125 mn from investors such as US financial services giant State Street and tech investment firms SEQ Capital Partners and Delta Partners since its foundation in 2015.

Kuwait taps wealth fund to rebuff potential liquidity crunch: A growing funding crisis has forced the Kuwaiti government to sell the rest of its performing assets to the sovereign wealth fund in exchange for cash as it looks to meet a monthly budget deficit of USD 3.3 bn, Bloomberg reports. This came as Fitch cut the country’s rating outlook to negative from stable amid “the imminent depletion of liquid assets.” The outlook change signals “near-term liquidity risk,” with the country already contending with the twin pressures of covid-19 and lower crude prices.

US regulators to address the Reddit craze: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will hold talks this week with the heads of the SEC, the Fed, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to address the Reddit-fueled market volatility in the equity and silver markets, Treasury spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna told Reuters.

Speaking of the Reddit rally: GameStop’s share price has nosedived in the past week, but closed up 3% yesterday and is now trading hands at USD 92. This came after the shares reached an incredible rock-bound peak of USD 423.


  • Oil giant BP registered a huge annual loss of USD 5.7 bn last year, its first in a decade, following a collapse in global oil demand in the wake of the pandemic, it announced yesterday. The scale of the loss was worse than expected after the company’s 4Q bottom line came in at USD 115 mn, less than half of the USD 285 mn forecast.
  • Siemens saw a 15% uptick in orders during 1Q FY2021, helping adjusted EBITDA to surge 39% to EUR 2.1 bn thanks to a quicker than forecast post-pandemic rebound in China and Germany, the German conglomerate said in its earnings release (pdf).




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The EGX30 fell 0.2% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.7 bn (17.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is up 7.1% YTD.

In the green: Cleopatra Hospitals Group (+3.3%), Qalaa Holdings (+1.5%) and Export Development Bank (+1.1%).

In the red: Abu Qir Fertilizers (-2.4%), MM Group (-2.4%) and Ezz Steel (-2.0%).

Asian markets are squarely in the red this morning, but futures point to a comfortably green open in Europe and on Wall Street later this morning.


Leslie Reed, Egypt mission director of USAID: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random work questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Leslie Reed (Bio). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

I’m Leslie Reed, and I’m the mission director for the US Agency for International Development — or USAID — in Egypt. Through USAID, the US government has invested more than USD 30 bn in Egypt’s development. Together with the Egyptian people and government, we’ve built an incredible legacy over the last 40 years.

When I first wake up, my husband and I like to walk our dog Cleo (Cleopatra) through the quiet streets of Maadi before the world has kicked into full gear. We usually walk a few miles, grab a cup of coffee along the way, and muse about current events or work ideas.

These days, a lot of my day is taken up by virtual meetings, with an occasional in-person or virtual event. Our team has been really creative about developing virtual field trips. This way, in spite of covid-19 restrictions, I’ve been able to see what USAID partners are up to outside of Cairo, whether collaborating with the Social Solidarity Ministry to provide support to survivors of violence against women or working with agricultural input providers who are working with smallholder farmers to increase yields and incomes. I can’t wait until I can get out there to see more in-person.

We WFH to the greatest extent possible and prioritize keeping our staff healthy and staying flexible so that people can meet the needs of their families during this global crisis. In a collaborative organization like ours, this has been a dramatic shift, and we are still adjusting. Our programs have shifted, too, to meet the changing environment and to meet emerging needs. On the whole, however, we have been pleased to see how much we can do virtually and how accelerated adoption of ICT tools has transformed how we work and what we do.

I love to be outdoors. I love walking, hiking, exploring, swimming — and I’m really looking forward to learning how to scuba dive. The Red Sea is calling.

Sometimes people confuse USAID’s development work and humanitarian assistance with charity. Charity is, of course, a wonderful expression of humanity. Development, however, is a discipline built on the premise that your well-being and mine are inextricably linked. We come at this from a place of humility, respect and, ultimately, mutual interest. If there was ever any doubt about that, I believe that the pandemic has made that truism abundantly clear.

The absolute best part of my job is getting out to meet those that USAID is supporting — and learning new things. When I first arrived in August 2020, I met Hagga Fayza, a farmer from Beni Suef who has increased productivity, reduced production costs, and become more lucrative because of a partnership pilot between USAID and Chipsy. Not only did I meet an amazing woman farmer, I learned a lot from the agronomist explaining how this model could be replicated and scaled up. And, when our acting administrator was in town, he, US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat, and I met with young entrepreneurs at Flat6Labs who are starting up exciting new businesses, often with cutting-edge technology at the core. They were an impressive group and their potential is super exciting.

USAID shares the perspective that there is great power in the private sector. We will be supporting the Egyptian government’s efforts to improve Egypt’s ease of doing business scores, so that more private sector companies and investors choose Egypt, and we have created some feedback loops with the private sector so that we can keep tabs on progress. But despite the dynamism and growth, there are still great inequities in the country. We will be working to minimize these disparities, ideally in ways that close the gaps permanently.

When I first wanted to get into development, an Egyptian friend’s father advised me that I had two choices: The World Bank or USAID. Now, many years later, there are so many people and organizations engaged in development that we couldn’t possibly count them all — including the private sector. There are many, many challenges in the world and it will take all of us working together, bringing together our different perspectives, to address them.

I believe that my most important job as a mission director is to reignite the spark and to support each person’s leadership potential, so that we have 150+ people within USAID galvanizing the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of partners who themselves are leaders in their respective fields and communities. That’s how ideas become reality and real change can happen.

I just finished reading The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which follows Winston Churchill during the first years of his being prime minister. It’s a page-turning tale of the early stages of the Second World War, with an insider’s view of his leadership style — how he built coalitions, supported innovation, cut through red-tape, and deployed his incomparable communication skills to garner support for what was really an up-hill battle against the Nazis.

It’s easier to be organized when you are freed from clutter, and moving every few years compels us to divest ourselves of unneeded items. Not only do we end up with less “stuff,” but our outgrown clothes, extra furniture, unused household items, etc., are often just what someone else was looking for.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given actually came from someone I never met. There’s an inspiring quote from Benjamin Mays — one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mentors — that I usually keep at my desk: “The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream … It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin.”


February: France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, is set to visit Egypt.

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

6-7 February (Saturday-Sunday): African Union annual summit.

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

7-28 February (Sunday-Sunday): The Finance Ministry will receive applications from companies wishing to take part in the second phase of its program for the immediate payout of export subsidy arrears to exporters, minus a 15% fee.

8 February (Monday): Egypt leads an emergency Arab League minister-level meeting on the Israel-Palestine peace process.

8 February (Monday): AUC will hold a webinar titled ‘The Rise of Citizen Capitalism’ featuring Michael O'Leary, the managing director of Engine No. 1, and Warren Valdmanis, a partner at Two Sigma.

9 February (Tuesday): International Conference on Global Business, Economics, Finance and Social Sciences, Ramses Hilton, Cairo, Egypt.

10-11 February (Wednesday-Thursday): Egypt will host an arm of the World Conference on Science Engineering and Technology, Hotel Pavillon Winter, Luxor, Egypt.

12 February (Friday): Deadline to reach a settlement with the Tax Authority on overdue income, value-added, or real estate taxes without all the 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.

22-24 February (Monday-Wednesday): Second Arab Land Conference on land management, efficient land use, among other topics.

22 February- 5 March (Monday-Friday) Egypt will host the World Shooting Championship in 6 October’s Shooting Club, with 31 countries set to participate

26 February (Thursday): The Afro Future Summit will take place virtually. The event will bring together futurists, investors, tech entrepreneurs, celebrities, politicians and business moguls to address challenges that affect the people of african descent.

28 February (Sunday) Deadline for businesses, sole traders, and those generating income from sources other than their day job to file wage tax returns through the electronic filing system.

March: Potential visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

4-6 March (Thursday-Saturday): Cairo Fashion & Tex trade show, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt

8 March (Monday): The IDC Future of Work Egypt conference will be held virtually featuring experts from Egypt and Jordan.

9-11 March (Tuesday-Thursday): EduGate 2021 – Enter The Future conference, Kempinski Royal Maxim Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

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

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo.

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 (TBC),

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).

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

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

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, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June 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.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

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

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the 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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