Thursday, 11 February 2021

Big vaccine orders are coming by month’s end + new cases are on the rise

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends. We made it through another workweek together.

Anyone else find it a bit … surreal? … to think that it’s the 10-year anniversary of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, which followed 18 days of protest back in 2011?

THE BIG STORY at home this morning is Banque Misr’s announcement yesterday that it was launching a bit to acquire up to 90% of CI Capital, a leading investment bank and non-bank financial services house. Banque Misr now owns nearly 25% of CI and launched a tender offer yesterday afternoon at a slight premium to where the shares are trading. We had the story in yesterday’s EnterprisePM.

THE BIG STORY in the global business press: “Graphic” video footage, much of it “previously unseen,” of the 6 January storming of the Capitol in Washington leads the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and New York Times. The footage was presented by Democrats prosecuting Agent Orange at his trial yesterday. You can catch it at the top of this New York Times story.

But there are two sleeper stories to which you really need to pay attention as they could be setting up new themes for the coming weeks or more:

*** Sleeper story #1- We may be on the on-ramp to a new commodities “supercycle” in which everything from agricultural output, metals and oil go on a years-long rally. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America think we’re probably heading in that direction, but a group of top JPMorgan analysts called it loudest yesterday. The last cycle ended in 2008 after a 12-year run and was largely driven by the rise of China.

What’s driving the cycle? Pundits are hanging their hats on a strong global recovery from the pandemic. They’re also hedging against inflation, but the big twist that looks set to make the supercycle last is the war against climate change, which could “constrain oil supplies while boosting demand for metals needed to build renewable energy infrastructure, batteries and electric vehicles.” Throw in population growth and continued wealth formation in emerging markets… Bloomberg and the Financial Times have the story, while the Financial Post brings the cold water to the party, suggesting the rally may only last for two years.

*** Sleeper story #2 is probably the WSJ’s exclusive on Iran, which could ramp up tensions to our east. The paper claims Tehran has made uranium metal in breach of its nuclear accords. Uranium metal “can be used to form the core of nuclear weapons,” the Journal writes, suggesting Iran may have gone down that route in a bid to force the Biden administration to lift sanctions.

CATCH UP QUICK– The top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • Inflation was at its lowest in four months in January, falling to 4.3% from 5.4% in December 2020 on the back of steady drop in food prices as stockpiles across the country increased and exports fell.
  • The government has started rolling out a new water saving-technology in Upper Egypt that aims to help farmers reduce waste and improve crop productivity.

PSA- WEAR TWO FACE MASKS to protect yourself and those around you. The US Center for Disease Control is now officially recommending wearing two face masks as protection from more transmissible variants of the virus that causes covid-19, adopting a practice that is becoming widespread in other countries including Canada.

The recommendation: Wear a surgical mask underneath a reusable cloth mask, after the results of a CDC study showed that double masking reduces the exposure of the wearer by over 92.5%, compared to the 42% protection offered by a medical mask alone.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh is in town after kicking off yesterday a visit to Cairo along with a delegation of ministers.

It’s the penultimate day of a new round of Libya peace talks in Hurghada. Delegations from the Libyan parliament and the Supreme Council of State are discussing a timeline and arrangements to hold a national referendum on a new constitution. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi yesterday offered his best wishes to new interim Libyan prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and the head of the new Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al Manfi.

Egypt is hosting an arm of the World Conference on Science Engineering and Technology, which wraps up today at Luxor’s Hotel Pavillon Winter.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization is hosting the MENA x CEO panel on venture capital and entrepreneurism in the region next Wednesday, 17 February. Tap or click here to register.

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

enterprise

COVID WATCH

Big vax orders coming by month’s end + cases on the rise

We’ve passed our first vaccination milestone: All doctors in isolation and fever hospitals have now been vaccinated, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan yesterday (watch, runtime: 11:45). At the head of the line now are other medical professionals at isolation and fever hospitals, followed by MDs at other facilities.

We’re about two weeks out from receiving two new large-scale deliveries of vaccine. They include the first batch from a 5-8 mn dose order placed through the WHO’s Covax program, the majority of which will likely be the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab. The first big delivery is expected in the second half of February, Saad said. Egypt also expects to receive by the end of the month some 300k doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine. The doses are a gift from China.

We’re not getting all of the doses we need in one go, Saad was careful to say. And frankly, neither is any other country — look at choppy and delayed delivery everywhere from Canada to Europe and the United States.

Negotiations to lock in supplies of Russia’s Sputnik V and the Johnson & Johnson jab are continuing, Saad added (watch, runtime: 11:45). The Health Ministry has said it would like to see a vaccine made here at Vacsera, and Russia has suggested it may make Sputnik V available for license.

The Health Ministry reported 610 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 573 the day before. The ministry also reported 53 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 9,804. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 171,390 confirmed cases of covid-19.

The uptick in cases is not cause for concern, but citizens need to adhere to precautionary measures, Saad stressed to Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 7:09).

VACCINE WATCH- Chinese pharma companies are struggling to produce enough vaccines to meet demand at home and abroad, potentially putting Egypt and other developing countries on long waits for inoculations, according to the Wall Street Journal, which joins the Financial Times in wringing its hands over the notion that Russia and China are engaged in “vaccine diplomacy.”

The Oxford / AstraZeneca jab is now approved for folks over the age of 65, Reuters reports, saying the World Health Organization has given its use in seniors two thumbs up. Meanwhile, South Africa said it will be using the still-unproven Johnson & Johnson jab over the Oxford vaccine after the latter proved reasonably ineffective against the South African variant.

What might the next school semester look like? The cabinet’s covid-19 committee will meet in a few days to assess possible scenarios for the second term of the 2020-2021 academic year in public schools, Youm7 reports, citing unnamed government sources. The government had said earlier this week that it’s preparing the back-to-school plan to discuss with the covid-19 committee ahead of the end of public schools’ mid-year break on 20 February. Potentially on the table: Ring-fencing students during mid-year examinations.

IPO WATCH

Ghazl El Mahalla planning a summer IPO?

Ghazl El Mahalla FC could move ahead with its IPO on the EGX around the summertime after closing in on an agreement with Prime Securities to manage the offering, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik told Masrawy. The football club is looking to list around two-thirds of its shares and reel in EGP 100 mn from the offering — which Tawfik previously said will include EGP 75 mn raised in a public offering and EGP 25 mn in a private placement. The minister had previously said the football club was eyeing a 1Q2021 timeline for its EGX debut. Ghazl El Mahalla FC belongs to the state-owned El Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company.

The Enterprise Realness Rating: Enterprise’s patented IPO tracker currently gives this listing a realness rating of 3, indicating that it is somewhat likely to go ahead.

A little further down the line, Misr Life Ins.’s IPO could be back on the table by the end of this year and was under consideration at a recent meeting of the government committee managing the state privatization committee, Tawfik told Masrawy. The company could debut 20-25% of its shares on the EGX as part of the state privatization program. The IPO was originally slated for 2018 before being postponed to give the company more time to reorganize ahead of the transaction. Chairman Basel El Hiny then said in 2019 that the IPO would go ahead by the end of 2020, but covid-19 pushed the timeline to 2021. This listing also gets an Enterprise Realness Rating of 3.

DEVELOPMENT

EU lays out its new strategy for the SouthMed — and that includes Egypt

Water, public transit and a green economy will become the focus of the European Commission’s support to Egypt under its new agenda for the Southern Mediterranean region (pdf), which was announced yesterday. The commission has allocated up to EUR 7 bn in direct funding in addition to an estimated EUR 30 bn in funds that will be mobilized indirectly through public and private sector financing for the entire region between 2021-2027. How much of this will be allocated to Egypt remains to be seen.

Egypt-focused initiatives will include support for upgrades to our public transit infrastructure, diversifying our clean energy sources, and supporting public and private investment in water management. The report specifically named support for the National Water Resources Plan which will include waste water management, irrigation upgrades and canal rehabilitation. Other programs which the strategy broadly defined as regional goals include a push for wider digitalization, education, judicial reform and human rights reform.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENT NEWS:

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide a EUR 1 mn grant for advisory services to the Tenth of Ramadan City dry port project under an agreement with the General Authority for Land and Dry Ports. The grant will go towards “preparation and procurement” for the project, according to a bank statement.

BACKGROUND- The new dry port “is part of Egypt’s transport master plan, which recommends the development of an intermodal corridor” between the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, the statement notes. The project is designed to cut down on congestion at seaports and help streamline customs procedures, which will in turn help local producers become more competitive and contribute to sustainable economic growth.

CABINET WATCH

Cabinet approves natgas vehicle switch incentives

Vehicle owners are one step closer to getting financial incentives to swap out their old cars to new ones running on natgas or dual fuel engines after the Madbouly Cabinet signed off on the proposal in its weekly meeting yesterday, according to a statement. Under the proposal, owners of private vehicles can get up to 10% off of the cost of a new vehicle — with the ceiling set at EGP 22k — while taxi and microbus owners will be able to get 20% and 45% off, up to a maximum of 45k and 65k, respectively. The incentives come as part of the government’s multi-year plan to convert or replace 1.8 mn cars to run on natural gas in a bid to reduce dependence on petrol-fuel, which also includes EGP 1.2 bn of low-interest financing provided by the Trade and Industry Ministry, the Central Bank of Egypt, and the MSME Development Agency to fund the conversion.

GB Auto expects to be among the top beneficiaries of the vehicle replacement program, as it was under the white taxi replacement program, a company official told us. The first year of the program will likely cover some 70k vehicles that have been on the road for more than 20 years, while another 180k cars will follow in the two subsequent years.

Some 80k individuals have already registered for the scheme, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa yesterday (watch, runtime: 14:39).

BACKGROUND- The “white cab replacement program,” announced in early 2009, saw the government give incentives to cabbies of what were then some 70k black-and-whites in Cairo. Vehicle owners could pick up a locally assembled white cab on a subsidized, no-interest payment plan if they scrapped cars that had been on the road more than 20 years. There was a movement afoot by early 2011 to expand the program to civilian vehicles, but that initiative died on the vine with the events subsequent to 25 January. There’s essential background here — including on the environmental benefits — if you’re so inclined.

Also approved during the meeting:

  • A USD 500k grant from the African Development Bank for emergency humanitarian aid during covid-19.
  • A partnership agreement with Germany to help create jobs and support SMEs.
  • Amendments to the law governing the Cotton Arbitration and Testing General Organization that would grant it oversight over all stages of the ginning process through cotton records. The amendments would impose a maximum jail sentence of 6 months and a maximum fine of EGP 1 mn for anyone found to have obstructed the organization’s access to these cotton records.

TRANSPORT

RATP Dev Metro Line 3 takeover delayed

RATP Dev is going to have to wait to take the reins on Metro Line 3: The National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) has postponed handing over the operation of Cairo Metro Line 3 to French transport firm RATP Dev until the middle of the year while the two sides finalize the details of the contract, Al Mal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. RATP Dev — short for Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens — was due to take over management of the line for a 15-year term at the end of February after it sealed a EUR 1.14 bn agreement with the authority in September.

enterprise

STARTUP WATCH

DilneyTech secures USD 160k grant funding

Egypt-based healthtech startup DilenyTech has obtained a USD 160k non-equity grant from the IT Academia Collaboration program, affiliated to ITIDA, according to Ventureburn. The company, founded in 2018, will use the funding to develop its AI-enabled breast cancer detection platform. DilenyTech provides tools for medical imaging analysis, breast health and structured medical reporting.

EARNINGS WATCH

Credit Agricole Egypt’s net income plunged more than 42% in 2020 as the covid-19 pandemic weighed on income and caused a deterioration in the quality of its loan book. The bank booked a EGP 1.36 bn profit last year, down from EGP 2.36 bn in 2019, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf) released yesterday. The economic crisis and rate cuts caused its net banking income to fall more than 10% to EGP 3.64 bn, while loan impairments grew by EGP 558 mn due to what it described as “covid-19’s negative impact on risk portfolio.”

KUDOS

17-year-old Egyptian ballet dancer Luca Abdel Nour has been named one of the six winners of the Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition, and will be handed a scholarship at one of the Prix de Lausanne’s partner organizations. Abdel Nour, who also won the “Best Swiss Candidate” and the “Audience Favorite” awards, competed against 79 dancers from around the world to win the competition, which took place from 31 January to 6 February in Switzerland.

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Cabinet’s approval of proposed incentives for natural gas car conversion scheme was all over the airwaves last night, with Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 0:32) and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 14:39) taking note. We have the details in Cabinet Watch, above.

Could the Information Ministry be scrapped altogether (again)? MPs are less than impressed with Information Minister Osama Heikal after his address to the House of Representatives, which apparently included incorrect figures and a claim that Ethiopian media has come out on top with its coverage of the GERD situation. House Media and Culture Committee Secretary Tamer Abdel Kader told Moussa that the ministry is redundant and some MPs consider it a waste of public funds (watch, runtime: 47:32). While the ramblings of an MP may not necessarily ensure a policy shift, Abdel Kader’s statement comes as rumors of an impending cabinet shuffle have been making the rounds for several months now.

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • Construction crackdown continues: Building code violators will face tribunals, said Administrative Prosecution Spokesperson Mohamed Samir (Ahmed Moussa on Ala Mas’ouleety | watch, runtime: 10:51).

SPOTLIGHT

The state of Egypt’s arbitration environment + case pipeline, as told by Assistant Justice Minister Moustafa El Bahabety. Egypt has made a concerted effort to settle as many international arbitration cases and investment disputes as possible in the past four years, drawing a line under more than 40 cases. These include major disputes such as the spat with Union Fenosa Gas over the cutting of gas supplies to the Damietta LNG facility back in 2012, which was finally resolved last year.

To go deeper into how the government is approaching its international disputes and look at the steps that have been taken to level up the local arbitral environment, we spoke to Moustafa El Bahabety, assistant justice minister for arbitration and international disputes and the commissioner of the high council for international arbitration.

The key takeaways:

  • Settling your disputes pays (USD 20 bn+ to be precise)
  • Tanta Linen dispute to be settled within a month…
  • …but Omar Effendi remains in limbo.
  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration wants to set up shop in the new capital
  • The investment dispute resolution committee has got new teeth.

The treasury could have been forced to cough up more than USD 20 bn over the past four years without the government’s settlement policy, El Bahabety said. Notable examples are the cases resolved with EMG Gas, Union Fenosa Gas and Agrium. Other settlements were with Al Kholoud for Touristic and Real Estate, and Emaar Misr after a two-year dispute over its Uptown Cairo development.

Progress is being made in several other cases: Tanta Linen and Oil’s settlement with its former Saudi owner would be reached within a month, El Bahabety said. The dispute originated when the government reversed the privatization of the company in 2013, prompting its new Saudi owner to demand compensation. A solution to end the long-standing dispute over Nile Cotton Ginning Company — the privatization of which was also scrapped by the government — is also in the works and the government is pushing towards a final agreement, he said.

Compensation coming … eventually: El Bahabety noted that the ministry aims to remunerate investors for losses that resulted from renationalizing state companies, but said this would take a year or so to wind up.

Progress is slower on the Omar Effendi dispute: Although Egypt reached a settlement with the International Finance Corporation a few years ago in a dispute related to the ongoing Omar Effendi affair, the government is no closer to reaching an agreement with the Saudi investor, almost a decade on. The Holding Company for Construction and Development last year offered to settle with Anwal United Trading Company, but El Bahabety says negotiations remain in limbo after the investor said that negotiations cannot go on.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) might be setting up shop here: “We seek to have international arbitration centers setting up their headquarters here, and we will soon have a branch of the PCA, most likely in the new administrative capital,” El Bahabety told us. This would be the fourth PCA office to be set up outside of its headquarters in The Hague, and could promote Egypt as a venue for regional arbitration cases.

The authority responsible for handling international arbitration has been handed new powers: The Higher Authority for Arbitration and International Disputes — which includes the PM, central bank governor, 7 ministers and representatives from the military and the intelligence service — was given oversight last year on all arbitration cases in Egypt, with the power to handpick law firms and appoint arbitrators, El Bahabety told us. It is also now able to review investment contracts to make sure there are no loopholes or terms that could benefit one party over another. “It does not interfere in the technical and financial clauses, but rather reviews the agreement’s provisions including arbitration clauses, financial balance and force majeure,” he said.

Why is this necessary? Restructuring the committee aims to limit the number of arbitration cases being filed against the government by preempting potential problems, El Bahabety explains. He draws a link between the move and the reduction in the number of arbitration hearings — and enhancing both awareness of arbitration and of law at state agencies and state-owned companies, he said.

The ultimate goal of the changes: For investors to have confidence that (a) Egypt is taking concrete measures reduce potential for disputes between investors and government entities; (b) that we’re clearing our backlog of disputes; (c) that arbitration in Egypt is easier to pursue thanks to improved practices and a wider range of arbitral tribunals from which to choose.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a mixed bag of nuts in the foreign press: On the rights front, Amnesty International is wagging its finger at the UK government, saying it hasn’t done enough to support human rights defenders in Egypt and six other countries during the covid-19 pandemic. The Long Island City Post takes note of a New York mural that will feature late Egyptian-American Moustafa Kassem, who died on hunger strike in prison in Egypt after being detained during 2013 protests. Reuters, meanwhile, is out with a heartwarming story about a 12-year-old teaching neighborhood children during school closures.

For the 10th anniversary of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after widespread protests, Foreign Policy is out with a piece comparing President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s policies to those of Mubarak.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Samsung will manufacture 1 mn tablets each year in Egypt after being awarded a tender led by the education, communications and military production ministries, sources tell FollowICT. The tablets, which will be used to aid student learning at public schools across the country, will be assembled at a new USD 30 mn factory, the sources said, without elaborating on which parties will fund the new facility. The products will be made using local components and sold to the Education Ministry at a fixed price, that has yet to be disclosed. The ministry had tapped Samsung back in 2018 to supply 1 mn tablets for the 2018-2019 academic year under a USD 240 mn contract.

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

  • German airline Condor will operate a flight from Frankfurt to Hurghada every Thursday throughout the month of February, and will increase its number of flights as of March.
  • Flights between Kazakhstan and Hurghada are set to resume mid-March, and should total around 38 flights per month.

PLANET FINANCE

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Saudi Arabia’s economy continued to rebound from recession in the final quarter of 2020, growing by 2.8% compared to the previous three months, according to the official figures (pdf) released yesterday. Growth over the full year contracted by 4.1% thanks to covid-19 restrictions in 1H2020 which saw output plunge by 5.2% in the second quarter.

Demand for shipping containers is back — and it’s causing bottlenecks that would make Kobri October jealous. International freight rates are rising as a resurgence in global trade this year has left shipping firms struggling to meet demand. Trade volumes were up 5% y-o-y at the end of 2020 causing “a significant bottleneck in terms of lack of capacity and lack of containers, which have driven freight rates higher,” Maersk CEO Soren Skou told CNBC, calling the demand surge “unprecedented”.

TikTok’s forced sale is on the back burner: The sale of TikTok’s American operations to potential investors including Oracle and Walmart has been pushed back “indefinitely,” unnamed sources told the Wall Street Journal. The Biden administration is reviewing the potential security risks posed by Chinese tech companies, and a decision on whether to proceed with Trump’s ban or to rescind it could come as soon as the 18 February.

Up

EGX30

11,545

+0.8% (YTD: +6.4%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.60

Sell 15.70

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USD at CIB

Buy 15.59

Sell 15.69

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

8,902

+0.1% (YTD: +2.4%)

Up

ADX

5,667

+0.1% (YTD: +12.3%)

Down

DFM

2,632

-0.6% (YTD: +5.6%)

None

S&P 500

3,910

– (YTD: +4.1%)

Down

FTSE 100

6,524

-0.1% (YTD: +1.0%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 61.02

-0.7%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.99

+2.7%

Down

Gold

USD 1,841.30

-0.1%

Down

BTC

USD 44,421.19

-3.8%

The EGX30 rose 0.8% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.92 bn (26% above the 90-day average). Regional investors were net sellers. The index is up 6.4% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+4.2%), Pioneers Holding (+3.1%) and Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals (+2.4%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-1.0%), CI Capital (-0.9%), and Export Development Bank of Egypt (-0.9%).

Asian markets are largely in the green this morning. European markets look set to open in the red later this morning, while Wall Street should be in positive territory when the opening bell sounds, futures suggest.

AROUND THE WORLD

Biden snubbing Bibi? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to receive a customary call from newly elected US President Joe Biden, an ally of Bibi’s said in a tweet (which seems to have since been deleted). This could point to Israel’s fall from grace after enjoying a close relationship with the Trump administration, the Financial Times reports.

IN DIPLOMACY: Bilateral relations with Iraq are still going strong this week, with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein meeting President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to discuss joint economic and trade cooperation according to an Ittihadiya statement. Hussein had met with Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly earlier this week to discuss projects that include 15 MoUs signed last November, and an “oil-for-reconstruction” mechanism that could see Egyptian companies work on development projects in Iraq in return for importing Iraqi oil.

Preparations for the UN’s climate change conference COP26 in November were the focus of a meeting between COP 26 President Alok Sharma and Madbouly, according to a cabinet statement. The prime minister stressed the importance of funding to enable developing countries to cut down on their carbon emissions. Egypt and the UK had launched a UN working group on climate change adaptation and resilience in June 2020, and had co-led a coalition of countries in the Climate Action Summit in September 2019.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry touched base on bilateral relations with Sudan’s newly appointed foreign minister Mariam Al Sadiq Al Mahdi yesterday.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

Solomon Baumgartner-Aviles, CEO and chairman of Lafarge Egypt: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Solomon Baumgartner-Aviles, CEO and chairman of Lafarge Egypt (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Solomon Baumgartner, I’m a multinational. I say that because I come from a mixed background — my mother is African, my father is Swiss and I spent my early childhood in Saudi Arabia. I'm an engineer by background and my passion is for people. I’ve been working now for 20 years on international assignments across five continents with Lafarge.

I see myself as a facilitator and a coach. Being a facilitator during a pandemic means guiding people, developing routines and helping facilitate performance. As a coach your objective is to keep everyone focused, aligned and communicating.

Lafarge Egypt has been WFH since March. As things loosened up a little we left it up to our office staff to decide whether they would like to go back to the office, but in November we went back to full WFH. Personally, I find it very important to be with people, so I make it a point to still be physically present whenever I can. I can't ask people to expose themselves while I'm safe at home. We have roughly 1.1k site workers and 400-600 people at our offices. The manufacturing site, where most people are employed, is a 24/7 operation where WFH is really not an option.

I arrived two days before the lockdown. In the first month on the job I was faced with my first major decision to send everybody home. Creating relationships through Zoom and Teams really wasn't all that easy. As efficient as they can be they’re often not the most effective in establishing relationships. I micromanaged way more than I would’ve liked at the very beginning, but it was necessary to instill these daily routines and establish a strategy together.

We were able to go on Zoom from day one. Our remote working network was already capable of supporting the WFH shift pretty effortlessly, which was a huge advantage and even allowed us to connect with the families of our employees. It was really stressful for everyone at the beginning but when we ran a company-wide survey on work arrangements we found that most people favored a partial WFH scheme. We were at our most efficient and effective when people were choosing what worked best for them.

I'm an industrial guy by background so I get up pretty early. I start my day at around 5:00 am. I do emails and read Enterprise from home when it’s still nice and calm. Once admin work is done, I get breakfast ready with my family. I have two boys, a nine year-old and a three year-old. I drop my older son off at school at 7:15 am and stop by Starbucks before heading into the office.

Starbucks in the morning is crucial for me: It's the first indicator of business and helps me gauge how the day is going to go. At 9:00 am I have individual meetings with leadership and twice a week we meet as a team for performance checks and health and safety reviews. Usually in the afternoons I try to be on site or have client meetings—which have mostly been on Duo during the pandemic. My final hours are spent looking at the day’s numbers and gathering the right questions to ask my team the following morning. I'm home by around 8:00 pm to have dinner with my family and normally start winding down by 9:00 pm when I get to spend some time with my wife before getting a good night’s rest.

I take Arabic classes in the mornings three times a week. But I have to say, it’s more difficult than I anticipated. My first language was actually Arabic, since I spent my early childhood in Saudi Arabia, and I imagined it would be buried inside somewhere. I’ve also taken up boxing since moving to Egypt. It's an agile and versatile sport — well-suited for the times we’re in.

Making sure you’re doing well at your job without burning yourself out is essential. I've had a tendency to be consumed by my work, but I’ve learned you need to be more mindful of what you’re doing and how you do things. So, as Eckhart Tolle said: “Wherever you are, be there totally.” I try to apply this principle to life at large. In particular when I'm with my family I need to remind myself to be there totally. It makes no sense to be with them but be thinking about work, this way nothing really gets accomplished.

The pandemic has confirmed to me that we must face problems together. Collaboration during covid has been necessary at an institutional level and a global scale. What stood out to me in 2020 is the difference it made to know that we were not alone; that we were facing challenges together and found solutions to shared problems together.

I try to stay engaged with public life in Egypt and help out during covid. Social responsibility is huge for us at Lafarge. We’ve reached more than 150k people through our outreach programs that distribute medical safety equipment, food and other necessities to those in need.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Two Egyptian films are set to make their festival debuts at this year’s Berlinale: Souad — a 2020 film about two sisters in a Delta City directed by Ayten Amin — will premiere in the festival’s panorama section, while Seven Years Around the Delta — a five and a half hour documentary/travel film shot after 2011 by Sharief Zohairy — will screen as part of the festival’s Forum Expanded lineup. The festival will hold online screenings from 1-5 March, and will hold in-person screenings over the summer from 9-20 June.

CALENDAR

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

6-20 February (Saturday-Saturday): 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.

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.

12-15 February (Friday-Monday): Students will be able to apply for placement at private universities on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

17 February (Wednesday): MENA x CEO MENA Entrepreneurship & VC Panel: Investor Perspectives from New York to North Africa will be hosted by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization.

20 February (Saturday): Final results of applications for private university places will be announced on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

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.

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.

1-5 March (Monday-Friday): Aswan Forum for Peace and Development will take place virtually.

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.

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).

7 June-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

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.

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

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.

27 June – 3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.