Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Your essential Ramadan schedule + more warnings about a third wave of covid-19

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and Ramadan kareem to everyone observing.

Your first Ramadan blessing of the season: This year’s calendar is nothing short of gorgeous. Consider this:

  • From where we sit this morning, it’s a quick sprint to the weekend.
  • Next week: A full workweek, followed by a long weekend for Sinai Liberation Day (25 April).
  • The week after: A shortened workweek as we observe Labour Day, Coptic Easter and Sham El Nessim (Saturday-Monday).
  • And the final workweek of the holy month: A three-day sprint before we fall headlong into Eid El Fitr.

But didn’t cabinet promise us all holidays would be on Thursday? Kinda. The decree gives the government the flexibility to move mid-week holidays to Thursdays or Sundays, but would typically leave unchanged religious observances including the Eids, Easter and Christmas.

Banks and the stock market move to a Ramadan schedule today: Bank hours will run 9:30am-1:30pm through the holy month (9am to 2pm for staff), while the EGX is also on shorter hours, with the opening bell at 10am and last trades by 1:30pm.

Your second Ramadan blessing: Mild weather nationwide today and tomorrow before the mercury heads for the 30s starting Thursday, according to the national weather service. Tonight is expected to be on the chilly side, but evenings will be milder as of tomorrow, in case you fancy an outdoor sohour.

Taraweeh prayers are back this year after being banned last year when mosques were closed during the holy month thanks to covid-19. The nighttime observance will be limited to half an hour this year.

Warnings of an imminent third wave of covid-19 came up again on the airwaves last night. Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed appeared on the nation’s TV screens again to reiterate the ministry’s warnings about Ramadan gatherings (watch, runtime 10:04). Ahmed Moussa also took note of rising cases in isolation hospitals and signalled possible stricter measures including a curfew during the holy month of Ramadan if citizens continue to violate the precautionary guidelines (watch, runtime: 6:12 I 3:00).

Clearly not enough people are watching Ala Mas’ouleety: Masaa DMC screened videos of packed streets and markets in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood last night, a scene that Eman El Hosary described as “scary” (watch, runtime 5:59).

The talking heads aren’t the only ones worried Ramadan will spark another surge in cases, particularly given the month overlaps with Coptic Easter and Sham El Nessim, the Associated Press reports. “The lack of adherence that happened last Ramadan, hasty lifting of the curfew imposed at the time and re-opening of places of congregations … led to grave consequences that lasted for months,” said Ahmed Al Mandhari, the World Health Organization’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

We seemed to have dodged new covid restrictions: Officials raised the possibility last week that we could see new measures in place, but the government has so far held fire.

But it’s not a given that it’ll stay that way: “If you want the houses of God to remain open, adhere to the precautionary procedures and regulations,” Nouh Elesawy, undersecretary for mosque affairs at the Endowments Ministry, said at the beginning of April.

You know who’s going to have an easy fast today? Our elected representatives. The House of Representatives’ general assembly is on recess until 25 April, after House Speaker Hanafi El Gibali suspended plenary sessions yesterday for the next two weeks, according to Youm7. The recess comes as MPs began getting vaccinated and after the general assembly signed off on a few bills. We have the rundown on both in the news well, below.

One thing we’re not thankful for this morning: Mr. Lavrov’s visit, which unfortunately did not bring word of when Moscow plans to allow the resumption of direct flights to Red Sea destinations.


*** CATCH UP QUICK with the top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

DID YOU MISS OUR RUNDOWN on essential Ramadan soaps?


THE TOP STORY ABROAD? Nothing, really — no single story dominates the global business press this morning. The Financial Times notes the Biden administration is about to slap Taiwan with a “currency manipulator tag,” while the Wall Street Journal is giving equal billing to China’s Ant Financial (which now faces a full overhaul under government supervision) and to Microsoft’s latest acquisition (which we cover in Planet Finance, below). Reuters is blowing its own horn, pointing out that it has its first female editor-in-chief in 170 years, while CNBC notes that the WHO says the covid pandemic is “growing ‘exponentially’ at more than 4.4 mn new cases a week.”

Also worth knowing: In a departure from the usual secrecy at Saudi family businesses, grocer BinDawood announced USD 76 mn in previously undisclosed loans to family members ahead of the company’s IPO, Bloomberg reports — and put the brakes on the process to set things right before going ahead with its offering.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso could visit Egypt later this month, Al Masry Al Youm reported this weekend following a meeting with Egypt’s ambassador to the UK Tarek Adel. This would be her first official visit to Egypt since she was appointed to head the bank in November.

More information on the new construction licenses + building code will be made public by this Thursday to explain the details of the new system that will hand out construction licenses.

“Summer hours” will come into effect for retail stores and restaurants as of this Saturday, 17 April. This means retail shops can close at 11 pm (instead of 10 pm during the winter), while cafes and restaurants can stay open until 1 am (instead of midnight currently). We have more details on the winter vs. summer hours here.

The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to discuss interest rates on Thursday, 29 April.

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

enterprise

*** It’s Going Green day — your weekly briefing of all things green in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, urban development and as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: For Egyptian companies seeking financial support to up their green credentials, the Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) is an important mechanism. Spearheaded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2014, the GEFF’s been in Egypt since 2017. It channeled EUR 140 mn to over 100 Egyptian industrial facilities in its first funding round, before a EUR 150 mn extension was announced in November 2020. But just what is the GEFF and how does it work? We run through it all in today’s explainer.

enterprise

ECONOMY

Current account deficit widens to USD 4.8 bn in 2Q2020-2021

Egypt’s current account deficit widened to USD 4.8 bn in 2Q2020-2021, from USD 3.2 bn in the same period last year, according to our math based on central bank figures (pdf) released last night. The deficit grew 74% on a quarterly basis from USD 2.8 bn in 1Q.

Drop-off in exports causes trade deficit to widen: Egypt’s trade balance fell further into the red during the quarter, reaching USD 10.6 bn as it widened 7% from the same period a year earlier. This was mainly due to a fall in exports, which were valued at USD 6.6 bn during the quarter compared to USD 7.1 bn in 2019-2020. Imports also picked up slightly from last year, rising a little over 1% to hit USD 17.3 bn.

The trade deficit widened more dramatically on a quarterly basis: The country’s deficit widened 24% on a quarterly basis from the USD 8.6 bn deficit recorded in 1Q. This was largely due to the country spending USD 2.5 bn more on imports in 2Q than 1Q. This is more than double the rate of widening seen between the first and second quarters in 2019-2020, a phenomenon that goes unexplained by the central bank’s data.

Foreign direct investment is picking up: Net FDI rose almost 10% to hit USD 1.75 bn during the quarter from USD 1.6 bn in 1Q.

But it remains heavily down from pre-pandemic levels: Egypt received more than USD 2.6 bn in net FDI in 2Q2019-2020, almost a third higher than the inflows seen in 2Q2020-2021.

Global stimulus is a wind at our back: Portfolio investment was comfortably higher during the quarter, with Egypt seeing some USD 3.5 bn in inflows compared to USD 2.3 bn in the equivalent period a year earlier.

Tourism revenues remained far below 2019 levels, bringing in USD 987 mn during the quarter, less than a third of the USD 3.1 bn taken in 2Q2019-2020. The tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with visitor numbers plunging due to the suspension of international travel last year and lingering concerns about the virus among would-be tourists.

There was some improvement on a quarterly basis though, with revenues rising almost 25% from the USD 801 mn taken during 1Q.

Remittances higher than last year: Remittances from foreign workers — a vital source of hard currency — rose almost 8% from last year, continuing a trend from the previous quarter that saw inflows surge almost 20%. In the second quarter, Egyptians abroad sent USD 7.5 bn back to the country, up from USD 7 bn the previous year.

Suez receipts almost hit pre-pandemic levels: Revenues from the Suez Canal — another source of foreign currency that was hit hard by the pandemic — were only fractionally below pre-pandemic levels, bringing in USD 1.51 bn during the quarter compared to USD 1.52 bn in 2Q2019-2020. Revenues rose slightly on a quarterly basis from USD 1.4 bn in 1Q.

Correction: 13 April 2021.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Suez Canal receipts totalled USD 5.16 bn in 2Q2020-2021 and USD 5.24 bn in 2Q2019-2020.

M&A WATCH

Bank Audi Egypt ≠ FAB in 2Q2021

First Abu Dhabi Bank is going to have to wait a while longer until it finalizes its acquisition of Bank Audi Egypt: FAB expects to complete its acquisition of Bank Audi Egypt before the end of 2021, FAB Egypt CEO Mohamed Abbas Fayed said, according to Al Mal. The Emirati lender is still waiting for the Egyptian and Emirati central banks to sign off on the transaction, he said, adding that he expects the Central Bank of Egypt to give its approval soon. Unnamed sources told the local press last month that the takeover will be completed this quarter.

Background: FAB had signed the final agreement to acquire 100% of Bank Audi’s Egypt operations in January. The banks didn’t disclose the value of the transaction — which chatter previously suggested is in the neighborhood of USD 700 mn — but it is expected to increase the Emirati lender assets to EGP 120 bn (c. USD 8.1 bn) post-acquisition. Audi’s total assets were valued at EGP 83 bn (USD 5.3 bn) at the end of 3Q2020. Once the transaction closes, FAB’s branch count will more than triple to 70 from its current 17. Bank Audi and Lebanese rival Blom Bank are both exiting Egypt as they go through a tough time in their home market, which has been grappling for months with liquidity issues.

SUEZ CANAL

The Ever Given’s freedom now has a price: USD 900 mn.

Egypt names its price for the Ever Given: The Suez Canal Authority has demanded the owner of the Ever Given container ship that blocked the canal last month pay USD 900 mn in compensation — and has obtained a court order to seize the ship until it receives payment, Al Shorouk reports. The Ismailia Economic Court yesterday approved the seizure request and will today notify the crew that it will take control of the vessel and prevent it from leaving the Great Bitter Lake, where it has been anchored for over a week as an investigation unfolds, sources told the newspaper.

The move to seize the ship is an escalation in the dispute over who pays what after last month’s accident, which blocked one of the world’s most important trade arteries for six days and left more than 400 ships stranded off the coast of Egypt. SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said last week that the authority will not let the ship go until it receives a settlement from the Ever Given’s owner, Japan’s Shoei Kisen Kaisha, but said nothing to suggest that steps would be taken to forcibly prevent the ship from leaving.

This is only marginally less than the USD 1 bn the authority had previously expected to claim. The USD 900 mn includes the costs of dislodging the ship as well as lost revenues, which have been estimated at USD 15 mn per day. The SCA has not publicly explained how it arrived at the figure.

Talks between the two sides are still ongoing, Bloomberg quoted Rabie as saying yesterday. The SCA chief said ins. companies are expected to pay most of the costs related to freeing the ship. The authority has reportedly been in talks with Shoei Kisen for almost two weeks to reach a settlement outside of court. A company spokesperson confirmed last week that it is “in the middle” of negotiations with the authority but declined to give further details.

The investigation into the cause of the accident should wrap up by the end of the week, Rabie told Al Hadath Al Youm yesterday (watch, runtime: 6:17).

IN OTHER SUEZ NEWS-

The SCA will be better prepared next time a ship decides to beach itself on the canal, after it received yesterday the cutter suction dredger Mohab Mameesh, which can move 3.6k cubic meters of sand per hour. Another vessel, dubbed the Hussein Tantawy, is likely to arrive in August (watch, runtime 53:07).

COVID WATCH

MPs + senators begin lining up for their covid shots

MPs and members of the Senate began receiving their covid-19 jabs yesterdaya day after Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly signed off on their eligibility, Youm7 reports. All MPs and senators will be vaccinated along with their immediate families. Rep. Mostafa Bakry had previously proposed that the entire House of Representatives go on recess until members are inoculated, after 15 MPs were infected.

The Health Ministry reported 818 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 801 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 211,307 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 42 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 12,487.

China can’t make up its mind on whether Sinopharm and Sinovac are effective: Beijing is walking back comments that its locally-made covid-19 vaccines “don't have very high protection rates,” with director of the China Centers for Disease Control Gao Fu saying his remarks had been “taken out of context,” the Financial Times reports. Fu told local media that he was suggesting that vaccines should be mixed to “optimise” China’s immunisation plan. “There are many scientific questions that need to be addressed,” Gao told Global Times.

By the numbers: The Sinovac shot, of which Egypt plans to produce 80 mn doses each year through state-owned Vacsera, was reportedly found to be just 50.4% effective at preventing symptomatic infections according to recently released data from a stage 3 trial in Brazil. Sinopharm, of which Egypt has so far received 680k doses, has claimed a higher 79% efficacy rate. We are expected to get our hands on an additional 900k-1 mn doses of the jab in the coming days.

A covid-19 antibody pill has proven to be 81% effective at reducing the risk of developing symptomatic covid-19 infection, according to a mid-stage study by Regeneron, who is now seeking to expand the use of its experimental antiviral med in the US as a preventative treatment, according to a statement.

LEGISLATION WATCH

Civil servant raises under review + FY2019-2020 budget report approved

A draft law stipulating an increase in civil servants’ basic salaries as of the next fiscal year is now with a joint parliamentary panel bringing together the House Manpower Committee and the House Planning and Budgeting Committee, Youm7 reports. The bill received cabinet approval earlier this month, stipulating a 13% increase in the basic salaries of civil servants not covered by the Civil Service Act, as well as a EGP 75 minimum increase to the monthly gross salaries of civil servants whose employment is covered by the act. The law would also increase monthly bonuses for state officials by a minimum of EGP 175 and a maximum of EGP 400.

Amendments to a law governing rail travel were also submitted to a joint transport and legislative affairs committee. The details of the amendments were not publicly available. The original law imposes penalties on individuals who damage railways, as well as those who flout basic rules such as sitting somewhere other than the coach they paid for.

BASIC COMMODITIES

Egypt's cotton exports to grow 14% this marketing year

Low cotton prices are expected to drive a 14% y-o-y growth of Egypt’s exports to 250k bales in the 2020-2021 marketing year, according to a report (pdf) by the US Department of Agriculture’s Cairo office.

India and Pakistan are expected to remain top importers of Egyptian cotton during the marketing year, which runs from July 2020 to June 2021. Imports of the crop are also expected to increase by 23% to 630k bales, as local supply falls short of domestic demand due to lower yields and area cultivation reduction. Local production is expected to decline by 30% to 215k bales during the marketing year. The report attributes the sharp fall in production to a 35% drop in total land cultivation, along with a surplus carried over into 2020, which added pressure on prices.

OTHER BASIC COMMODITIES NEWS- Egypt’s agricultural exports rose by 10% y-o-y in 1Q2021, totaling almost 2.2 mn tonnes, Agriculture Minister El Sayed El Quseir said in a Cabinet statement. Citrus fruits topped agricultural exports during the three-month period with 1.2 mn tonnes exported, followed by potatoes with over 400k tonnes, El Quseir added. Egypt exported last week its first-ever orange shipment to Japan, after meeting Japanese regulatory import requirements after Japan lifted a 25-year ban on Egyptian citrus imports. Egypt also began exporting citrus fruits to Brazil last year under the Mercosur-Egypt Freetrade agreement.

DIPLOMACY

Egypt turns down Moscow’s offer to mediate on GERD + El Sisi talks with emir of Qatar

Egypt turns down Russia’s offer to intervene in GERD impasse: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry declined yesterday Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s suggestion that Moscow could step in as a mediator in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) talks with Ethiopia and Sudan, Lavrov said during a press conference in Cairo yesterday (watch, runtime: 60:06). Shoukry thanked Lavrov, who was in town yesterday for talks with the foreign minister and President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, for backing Egypt’s position on wanting to reach a binding agreement on the dam’s operation and filling, but said that accepting the offer would be a “unilateral measure,” which Egypt does not condone.

That’s diplomacy-speak for “Ethiopia, take note”: Shoukry’s comment is directed at none other than Addis Ababa, which has insisted it will unilaterally move ahead with the second filling of GERD’s reservoir. Ethiopia has also rejected Egypt and Sudan’s proposal to bring in an international quartet to mediate the impasse, meaning Egypt accepting Lavrov’s intervention offer would also amount to a unilateral move.

Still, Egypt wouldn’t mind if Moscow gave Ethiopia a push in the right direction: “We also rely on Russia … to push parties to refrain from unilateral actions,” the minister said at the presser.

Moscow wants the three countries to reach an agreement “as soon as possible,” an Ittihadiya statement quoted Lavrov as saying in a meeting with El Sisi yesterday. The two discussed military and security matters, the statement said, without giving further details.

Ethiopia doesn’t seem in the mood to compromise right now, yesterday accusing Egypt of “failing to recognize Ethiopia’s generosity” and suggesting that there are ulterior motives behind Sudan’s rejection of the GERD.

You know what we would like, though? For Russian tourists to come back. The resumption of Russian flights to Red Sea resorts, which have been banned since the Metrojet crash in the Sinai in 2015, was supposed to be one of the main talking points for the FMs' meeting yesterday, according to Shoukry. However, the move was never discussed during talks, which rather focused heavily on the GERD impasse.

IN OTHER DIPLO NEWS-

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi exchanged Ramadan greetings with Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in a call yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. This comes after both countries formally agreed in January to re-establish diplomatic ties after a 3.5-year rift.

The president’s call with Al Thani was all over the airwaves last night. The Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies’ Khaled Okasha told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi that the call is “a positive indicator” for restoring relations between both countries (watch, runtime 5:44). Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime 5:39), Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime 5:51) and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime 4:09) also had coverage.

It seems that the new Libyan government wants to keep its arrangement with Turkey in the EastMed — and that could spell trouble with Egypt. Libya’s interim government is committed to the maritime agreement signed with Turkey in 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday following talks with Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdulhamid Dbeibeh. “The maritime accord signed between Turkey and Libya secures national interests and future of both countries … We confirmed our determination on this issue today,” Erdogan said at a press conference.

The Great Gas Game: Turkey and the Libyan government’s predecessor — the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord — staked a claim in the Eastern Mediterranean in 2019 by announcing a shared economic zone that would give the countries exclusive access to the territory — and its hydrocarbon reserves. The zone conflicts with a rival economic area delineated by Egypt and Greece.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance (GERD) issue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon:. Kelma Akhira's Lameed El Hadidi and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa focused on the GERD, which again dominated proceedings following Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Cairo yesterday for talks with Sameh Shoukry (watch, runtime: 2:11 | 3:42). Shoukry noted during a press conference following the meeting that both countries will coordinate to reach an agreement over the dam that fulfills the interests of the three countries in a bid to avoid any pitfalls of unilateral action by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia signalling war? Moussa read and analyzed a recent blog post published by the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, which he described as a “declaration of war.” The article, which mentions the phrase “you don’t die of fear rather you die while fighting” and says that Ethiopia has “all options on the table” is the “most dangerous” statement since initiating the GERD talks 10 years ago, Moussa said (watch, runtime 14:32).

Elsewhere, Masaa DMC highlighted the "Nile for Peace" conference, held from 5 to 11 April in Uganda, during which some civil society representatives from nine African countries called on Ethiopia to postpone the second filling of the dam (watch, runtime: 6:24).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a crickets in the foreign press as far as Egypt is concerned. Another blessing on this first day of Ramadan.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Things we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • Ora Developers and Telecom Egypt have signed a cooperation agreement that will see the state telecoms giant provide communication services to the former’s projects and connect optical fiber cables to its residential units.
  • Speed Medical will provide (pdf) facility management services to three of Alex Scan's branches in Alexandria, under a revenue-sharing agreement expected to increase Speed Labs’ annual revenues by 3.5%
  • The Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport tech investment arm and cybersecurity provider Logix will launch a learning platform that aims to be the largest of its kind in the region.

PLANET FINANCE

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GLOBAL M&A WATCH- Microsoft bets big on health tech: Microsoft Corporation will acquire AI speech tech company Nuance Communications for USD 19.7 bn, a transaction that will increase the tech giant’s presence in the health sector. The acquisition will be Microsoft’s second largest following its USD 24 bn purchase of Linkedin in 2016. Nuance has a large foothold in the US health sector, with its clinical speech recognition and “ambient clinical intelligence” products in use in 77% of the country’s hospitals.

Sawiris-backed fertilizer company eyes USD 1 bn Abu Dhabi IPO: Nassef Sawiris-backed chemical producer OCI and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) may take their fertilizer joint venture Fertiglobe public on the Abu Dhabi exchange, Reuters reports, citing sources close to the matter. The listing could go through after the completion of the IPO of Adnoc’s drilling business, which sources say should take place this year. Fertiglobe is 58% owned by OCI and 42% owned by ADNOC, with Nassef Sawiris serving as its CEO.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is getting closer to the IPO of Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), the Middle East’s largest aluminum producer, CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak said, according to Bloomberg. EGA, which is equally owned by Mubadala and its Dubai counterpart ICD, had previously planned to debut on the stock exchange in 2018 and 2019, but its plans were derailed by Trump era tariffs on Emirati aluminum exports.

Uber saw its gross bookings rise to their highest level in its 12 year history last month off the back of successful vaccine rollouts, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Average daily bookings were up 9% m-o-m, signaling a comeback for the ride-hailing business that suffered due to lockdowns last year.

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The EGX30 rose 0.6% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.23 bn (10.7% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is down 3.6% YTD.

In the green: AMOC (+6.7%), Ezz Steel (+3.7%) and Orascom Development (+3.2%).

In the red: ElSewedy Electric (-2.2%), CI Capital (-1.5%) and Cleopatra Hospital (-1.0%).

Asian markets uniformly in the green this morning and futures suggest much of Europe and Wall Street will follow suit, while shares in Toronto look set to open in the red.

greenEconomy

Enterprise Explains: What’s the Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) and how does it work? When it comes to greenifying businesses, Egyptian companies needing financial support have several mechanisms available to them. One of the most prominent is the Green Economy Financing Facility, which supports projects focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy, through loans provided by local banks and other financial institutions. It’s spearheaded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). So, what exactly is the GEFF, how does it work and how’s it helping Egyptian businesses? Read on.

GEFF is a global mechanism: Launched in 2014 after a 2004 pilot, it currently operates through over 140 local financial institutions in 26 countries, providing financial support totaling over EUR 4 bn of EBRD funding. It has so far allowed over 130k clients to collectively avoid emitting almost 7 mn tonnes of CO2 per year, it estimates.

In Egypt, it’s been channeling EUR mns into green projects since 2017: The GEFF has been up and running in Egypt since 2017. It channeled EUR 140 mn to over 100 industrial facilities in its first funding round. A EUR 150 mn extension, financing business in agriculture, construction and manufacturing, was announced in November 2020.

It’s supported by international organizations and works with local banks: The Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the EU collaborate with the EBRD to support the GEFF in Egypt through financing. AlexBank, Arab African International Bank, and QNB Al Ahli are the current local participating banks.

The aim is to provide funding for on-lending to businesses, to invest in the best energy efficient technology available. This might include production machinery, renewable energy applications, agricultural irrigation and rainwater harvesting equipment, along with a host of other things, the EBRD website states.

Along with advice to help businesses identify the tech that’s best for them: GEFF’s Green Technology Selector helps businesses identify the climate-friendly technology they want to invest in with a GEFF loan. And GEFF experts can advise businesses without charge on smart green investments to help them save energy and resources. They offer services including: assessing whether a prospective investment is compliant with GEFF eligibility criteria; suggesting equipment and processes for businesses to run a green project; financial analysis of different technology options; and a quality check after implementation of the green technology.

So who’s eligible for this funding? Only private companies are eligible for GEFF funding. They could be service providers offering maintenance, installation, construction or the like; vendors of equipment or materials listed on the Technology Selector; or “green” tech manufacturers listed on the Technology Selector wanting to expand their green services.

The amount of funding available for businesses depends on the scope of their projects: Small, clearly-defined projects with tech equipment that packs a punch could be eligible for up to USD 300k. Larger projects (up to USD 15 mn total investment size) which focus on energy efficiency or renewable energy and where the GEFF team can provide advice, could be eligible for up to USD 5 mn in GEFF funding. Commercial building construction projects that meet GEFF standards on energy performance, quality, and health and safety could get up to USD 4.5 mn, or up to 30% of construction costs, in GEFF funding. And supply chain development projects for energy efficient or renewable energy technology could be eligible for up to USD 2 mn.

How does it work, step by step? Whether businesses are applying for a loan to purchase specific technology or they want financing for a green project, they submit application forms directly to one of the local participating banks. The bank then performs financial and technical eligibility checks before an agreement is drawn up, and the funds are disbursed and put to use. GEFF will later follow up to make sure the tech has been adopted or the green project is moving forward as planned. If everything goes well, the bank will then release an additional incentive payment to the business.

Egypt’s GEFF successes span funding for rooftop solar PV systems, energy efficient furnaces, and waste-to-energy projects. Odiba Textiles in Sharqia received a GEFF loan of USD 167k to invest in a rooftop solar PV system, allowing it to save 303 MWh per year and offering CO2 savings of 176 tonnes per year. The company wanted to become more competitive and reduce its dependence on the national grid. The Arab Aluminium Company in Ismailia upgraded its furnace to one that’s more energy efficient, using a USD 200k GEFF loan. The new furnace is expected to reduce overall energy consumption by 18,169 MWh per year and save 3,574 tonnes of CO2 per year. Other projects include waste-to-energy, water and energy savings in food production, glass and plastic manufacturing.

It all comes with a clear message: Energy efficiency makes good business sense. Relying on unsustainable resources could constrain Egypt’s future economic development, the EBRD notes in an explainer video. As the largest non-OPEC oil producer in Africa, Egypt still relies heavily on industries that are energy and carbon-emissions intensive. Increasing energy efficiency means businesses can produce more using the same amount of energy. So investing in green technology allows them to be more competitive, as well as bringing benefits for the environment and the country overall.

Your top climate stories for the week:

  • Juhayna aims to cut carbon footprint: Juhayna’s carbon footprint in 2019 (pdf) was less than 76.2 mn tonnes — below average emissions of global dairy producers. The EGX-listed company aims to cut emissions by 15% over the next four years.
  • Eco-friendly cement? Lafarge Egypt has introduced (pdf) Egypt’s first line of low-carbon recycled cement products, dubbed “EcoLabel.”
  • Green buildings: Egypt is among the countries that account for a bulk of Africa’s 700 certified green buildings. The continent is expected to double that figure over the upcoming five years.
  • Electronic recycling: Egypt launched “E-Tadweer,” an initiative to promote the safe recycling of outdated electronic items.
  • Waste treatment + disposal: Tenth of Ramadan City could be getting a new waste treatment zone as part of the USD 200 mn World Bank loan to improve air quality and lower pollution levels.
  • Waste management: An intermediate transfer station for solid-waste disposal was inaugurated in Mokattam, as part of the state's plans to regulate the management of the municipal solid waste system across Egypt.

CALENDAR

April: The government’s fuel pricing committee is scheduled to meet for its quarterly review of prices.

April: EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso expected to visit Egypt.

13 April (Tuesday): First day of Ramadan.

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): Coptic 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).

7-9 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.

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

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.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

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

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.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

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.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The 54th session of the Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference 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.

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday) Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt

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.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt

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

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo

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.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

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