Monday, 17 May 2021

Actis to double down on energy in Egypt, Africa + 10 more kids die in Israel’s attack on Palestine

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

 

Good morning, friends. Anyone else feel like someone just used the neuralizer on us all? We hope you had a fantastic break for Eid El Fitr — and that you’re looking forward to the six-week sprint until we run headlong into summer vacation season in July.

WHERE DID WE LEAVE OFF before our brains were reset by the five-day Eid vacation? Among the top stories before we went on holiday:

THE BIG STORY THIS MORNING at home and abroad is the ongoing Israeli campaign against Gaza, which overnight saw “Israel launch dozens of air strikes in Gaza … and Hamas keep up its rocket attacks on Israeli cities” as fighting spilled into a second week, Reuters, reports. We have chapter and verse in this morning’s news well, below.

WATCH THIS SPACE- Chevron shut down its operations at Israel’s Tamar natural gas field — which supplies Egypt with natural gas — amid the flare-up in violence, according to Reuters. It remains unclear how the shutdown could impact its business with Egypt, if at all.

Expect Bill Gates to be in the news again this week as the Microsoft founder faces a Wall Street Journal exclusive claiming “some Microsoft directors began an investigation in 2019 into a woman’s allegations of a prior [redacted] relationship” with Gates. A spokesperson denies Gates stepped down from the tech giant’s board in 2020 because of the matter.

Egyptians can now travel to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom removed us from the list of countries banned from visiting KSA as part of a bid to stall the spread of covid-19. Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Somalia, Democratic Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, and India remain on KSA’s restricted travel list.

Meanwhile, hugs are allowed again in the UK as lockdown measures start easing today. The country is moving toward reopening in full next month.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Greed is apparently good? “More than half of 100 companies with the lowest median employee wages in the S&P 500 Index boosted CEO pay by changing the rules for assessing executive performance during covid-19 pandemic.” Among the offenders: sugar peddler Coca-Cola and KFC parent company Yum brands. Gordon Gekko would approve.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK-

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi will discuss “regional developments” (read: GERD and Israel-Palestine) and terrorism with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris during a two day visit, according to an Ittihadiya statement. El Sisi landed in the French capital yesterday. The two leaders will meet during two back-to-back summits today and tomorrow in Paris — one on supporting Sudan’s political transition and another on plugging African countries’ post-covid financing shortfalls. El Sisi also met with Rafale jet maker Dassault CEO Eric Trappier; Egypt is reportedly purchasing 30 more fighter jets.

The Sovereign Sukuk Act is on the Senate’s agenda today as it resumes its sessions after the Eid holiday, Al Shorouk reports. The act has passed the House Economic Committee and will be shipped back to the House of Representatives for a final say following the Senate’s vote.

Avior Capital Markets and HC Securities are hosting a virtual conference on investing in Egyptian equities from today until Thursday, 20 May, according to a statement (pdf). Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Rami Abulnaga and Sovereign Fund of Egypt CEO Ayman Soliman are expected to speak at the conference.

Renaissance Capital’s annual MENA investor conference kicks off tomorrow. The event features three days of one-on-one meetings between investors and MENA companies. On the agenda tomorrow: An economic update on the region at 2pm CLT before Fawry CEO Ashraf Sabry and Taaleem Managing Director Mohamed El Rashidi join a discussion on what lies ahead for the MENA business community.

Accept WhatsApp’s new policy, or leave: WhatsApp’s new privacy policy came into effect yesterday, forcing users who haven’t accepted the new terms to use the app with limited functionality, Facebook said in a press release. Users will continue to receive reminders of the updates for several weeks, after which the app will stop working for those who have not accepted. Facebook delayed implementing the new policy in February following widespread backlash from users who feared Facebook would start screening message content.

MARKET WATCH-

US stocks recouped on Friday some of their mid-week losses as concerns about a commodities-fueled surge in inflation abated, according to Bloomberg. The S&P 500 rose for the second day running on Friday and the tech-heavy Nasdaq began to show signs of recovery following a volatile two weeks. The S&P saw its largest single-day fall since February on Wednesday after fresh figures showed US inflation rose more than expected.

China’s move to squash the metals rally may have had something to do with the Wall Street recovery: Iron ore prices in Asia plunged 10% on Friday from record highs after the Chinese government stepped up its efforts to put a damper on spiraling prices, Bloomberg reports. Tangshan, one of the centers of China’s steel industry, said it could revoke licenses of businesses found to be hoarding materials or spreading rumors, after which iron prices experience their largest two-day fall since 2019.

Gasoline supply to the US East Coast returned to normal over the weekend after a cyberattack earlier this month forced the closure of the Colonial pipeline, which supplies almost a half of the East Coast’s fuel, Reuters reports. The supply shortage caused by the temporary closure pushed petrol prices up, exacerbating a seasonal price increase that was already underway. The Colonial pipeline is reported to have paid some USD 5 mn in ransom to the hackers using untraceable cryptocurrency; the hackers have since claimed they’re going to close up shop. The shortage prompted some particularly stupid hoarding behaviour.

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*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise.

In today’s issue: The state of play in the learn-to-code industry.

enterprise

INVESTMENT WATCH

Actis to double energy investments in Egypt, Africa in 5 years

Emerging markets private equity giant Actis aims to double its energy investments in Egypt and other African countries to USD 2 bn within five years, Lisa Pinsley, head of Africa energy infrastructure at the company, told Bloomberg. Actis hopes to sign agreements for six energy projects on the continent this year, and invest between USD 200-300 mn, she said, without disclosing further details.

It is unclear how much money Actis has earmarked for Egypt, nor is it apparent what investments might be in the firm’s pipeline. A senior company official did not reply to a request for comment yesterday.

Actis’ current Egypt portfolio: Actis has invested over USD 1 bn in Egypt and is active in the country’s renewables sector through Lekela Power, which has invested some USD 350 mn in its 250 MW West Bakr wind farm. The company has been an anchor shareholder of Cleopatra Hospitals Group since 2019 and holds a 21% stake in consumer healthcare giant IDH and 7.2% of Fawry.

In the pipeline: The company has plans to expand its portfolio of renewable energy and water treatment assets, Actis partner and MENA chief Sherif El Kholy told us earlier this year. Talks with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt over the privatization of the Siemens power plants are also still ongoing. The company is also looking to enter Egypt’s education sector this year with an acquisition through Honoris United Universities, in which it holds a controlling stake.

TOURISM

About those Russian flights …

The resumption of Russian flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resort towns may be further away than previously thought after Moscow suggested last week that the covid-19 epidemic will determine when it gives the all-clear. "It all depends on the epidemiological situation. Our key task is to preserve our citizens’ health,” Russian news agency Tass reported Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko as saying at a presser Wednesday in response to questions on when flights would resume.

We were expecting to see flights return next month: Russian ambassador to Egypt Georgiy Borisenko reportedly said as much to Red Sea Governor Amr Hanafi earlier this month, but warned that the timeline may be delayed should Egypt see a significant uptick in covid-19 cases. Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar Anba and Russian media also claimed flights would resume in early May, which has failed to come to pass.

But a June return date is now less certain, judging by Chernyshenko’s non-committal answer last week.

Covid seems to have altered Moscow’s thinking: Egypt’s covid-19 tally has been steadily rising since the end of March, prompting the government to announce new restrictions on shops and public gatherings before the Eid break. Daily cases reached 1,201 yesterday, 108% above the most recent (albeit brief and minor) ebb at the beginning of March.

Plans to resume flights follow an agreement last month between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to lift a six-year ban on flights between Russia and the Red Sea. The ban was imposed in 2015 after a bomb brought down a Russian Metrojet flight in the Sinai after takeoff from Sharm El Sheikh.

Russia is important to Egypt’s tourism recovery: Up to 1 mn Russians could visit Egypt this year as a result of last month’s agreement, head of the Red Sea Chamber of Hotel Establishments Alaa Akel had said. Some 3 mn Russians used to visit Egypt annually, bringing in around USD 3.5 bn in revenues to the industry.

TOURISM

Egypt a member of the “fragile four” club

Egypt is one of the countries most vulnerable to a tourism slowdown: Egypt is among four “fragile” emerging economies that are particularly vulnerable to the latest outbreaks of covid-19, analysts tell Reuters. Along with Turkey, Tunisia, and Sri Lanka, Egypt is heavily dependent on tourism for hard currency. With a widening current account deficit, the country would be hard hit by another summer of weak tourism revenues.

“[Tourism] is a big topic for any country with a current account deficit,” Generali Asset Management’s senior emerging market strategist Guillaume Tresca told Reuters. “If you think about tourism in emerging markets, you have to focus on weak countries with weak external balances that rely on tourism — Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt.”

No slowdown in our crystal ball? Egypt is targeting 8 mn tourists and USD 8 bn in revenues this year, Tourism Minister Khaled El Enany told the National, a slightly more ambitious target than the USD 6-7 bn revenue goal announced by Deputy Minister Ghada Shalaby last month. Monthly tourism revenues registered USD 500 mn in April, with almost 500k tourists visiting during the month, El Enany told Reuters.

Revenues began to see a slow recovery at the end of 2020: Tourism income rose to USD 987 mn during the final quarter of 2020, up 25% from the previous quarter.

But there’s a long way to go: This was less than a third of the USD 3.1 bn in revenues booked in the equivalent period the year before. S&P Global Ratings said this month that it doesn’t expect the tourism sector to recover until 2023, contributing to current account receipts remaining below pre-pandemic levels for another two years. The government hopes that arrivals will recover to the 2019 levels of 13 mn by fall 2022.

And continued covid-19 travel curbs could hold back targets: One in three countries and territories worldwide are now closed to tourism as countries impose new travel restrictions to quell a new wave — and several new variants — of the virus, Reuters reports.

Egypt has remained only mildly affected by the latest wave: International travel between Kuwait and Egypt remains banned amid efforts to contain the spread of the virus, while Egypt is no longer on a list of countries from which travel to Saudi Arabia is banned as the kingdom resumes international flights today. The UK government advises people not to travel to Egypt and mandates a 10-day quarantine period for people traveling from the country.

It doesn’t help that Egypt's vaccine rollout is lagging behind other countries in the region: Both Egypt and Tunisia have so far vaccinated less than 5% of their citizens. This compares to 20-30% in Greece, Italy, and Spain. “[A slow rollout] is indeed a hidden risk factor economically, socially and politically for several EMs, since after a difficult 2020 it is tough to lose two seasons in a row,” Union Investment fund manager Sergey Dergachev told Reuters.

COVID WATCH

Covid restrictions could be extended

Longer “lockdown” possible as third wave’s “peak” approaches: The government could extend the series of measures it imposed for two weeks to curb the spread of covid-19, Al Shorouk reports, citing an unnamed government official. The restrictions, which include 9pm closing time on malls, restaurants, and cafes, are due to expire on Friday, 21 May. Egypt’s “third wave” is expected to peak early next week and the spike in cases is anticipated to continue through mid-June, by which time our daily covid-19 case count could double from current figures.

The Health Ministry reported 1,201 new covid-19 infections yesterday, on par with 1,203 the day before. The ministry also reported 58 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 14,327. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 245,721 confirmed cases of covid-19.

A 1.7 mn-dose batch of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines from the Gavi / Covax program landed in Egypt over the weekend, bringing the total number of jabs delivered under the UN-backed scheme to around 2.55 mn, the Health Ministry said (watch, runtime: 4:30). The shipment, which is part of a 5 mn-dose batch that is promised to be delivered to Egypt, is the second delivery of a 40 mn-shot order Egypt placed with Covax, following the delivery of another 854k doses in April.

And we also received 500k doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, as part of a 900k-shot shipment of the jab that is set to arrive during the month over two deliveries, the ministry said on Thursday (watch, runtime: 1:09). Egypt has an agreement with the company to supply 20 mn doses, and has so far received 680k.

Egypt has now received a total of 5 mn doses of various vaccines, the ministry said. That is enough to fully vaccinate 2.5% of the population, given almost all vaccines require two doses for full immunization against the virus.

Sinovac may be more effective than first thought: China’s Sinovac vaccine has proven to be highly effective at preventing covid-19 infection, death and hospitalization in a real-world clinical trial among health workers by the Indonesian Health Ministry, reports Bloomberg. The study’s data, which the Chinese vaccinemaker says it’s unaware of, found that participants were 98% protected against death due to the virus, while being 96% protected against hospitalization and 94% protected against symptomatic infection.

A study in Brazil earlier this year handed the shot a 50.4% efficacy rate, making it one of the least effective vaccines produced worldwide to combat covid-19. The World Health Organization is still uncertain about the vaccine’s efficacy due to lack of peer-reviewed data on its risk of serious adverse effects, but the possibility of its emergency use approval remains.

Egypt cleared the vaccine for emergency use last month, and will locally manufacture 2 mn doses by the end of June after signing an agreement with the company.

INFRASTRUCTURE

No repeat of the Ever Given?

Dredging work to expand the New Canal and the southern stretch of the waterway began yesterday, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement. The expansion — which President Abdel Fattah El Sisi wants to see completed within 24 months — will add a 10 km extension to the New Suez Canal, as well as widening and deepening the canal’s southern stretch (where the infamous Ever Given got lodged). The expansions will allow more vessels to pass through the canal and are designed to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of the Ever Given saga. SCA boss Osama Rabie had presented the expansion plans to El Sisi last week, as the SCA continues to butt heads with Ever Given owner Shoei Kisen over compensation payments for the mega vessel’s week-long blockage of the canal back in March.

TELECOMS

MNOs: Let my people go

MNOs get slap on the wrist for failing to allow customers to take their numbers with them when switching operators: Egypt’s four mobile network operators (MNOs) were handed a combined EGP 20.65 mn in fines from the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) for violating the 2003 Telecom Regulation Act, under which customers can retain their phone numbers when switching providers, according to a statement. Vodafone Egypt was fined EGP 7 mn, Orange Egypt was fined EGP 5.8 mn, Etisalat Misr was fined EGP 3.95 mn, and We was fined EGP 3.9 mn for violations such as rejecting customers’ number transfer requests without justification and failing to implement the transfer.

The NTRA’s decision comes on the heels of a separate announcement earlier this month that it will ramp up its fines for telecom operators offering poor service quality and will impose new penalties for taking too long to resolve user complaints as of 2H2021.

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Israeli airstrikes kill another 10 kids

Israeli airstrikes yesterday killed 42 Palestinians, including 10 children, bringing the total death toll in Gaza over the past week to 192, 58 of whom were children, according to Reuters. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed it did not intend to kill civilians, saying its airstrikes “attacked a tunnel system used by militants, which collapsed” and brought down civilian homes. The IDF also flattened a building in Gaza that housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, in addition to several offices and residential apartments on Saturday, alleging that Hamas’ military intelligence unit was stationed in the building. The airstrike did not result in any casualties or injuries, according to the Associated Press. A total of 10 people, including two children, have been killed in Israel since last Monday.

Even with international pressure mounting for a ceasefire, Israel has no plans to stop its military offensive against Palestine, which will “take time” to “restore the quiet and security,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech yesterday. Netanyahu’s remarks came as the UN Security Council met virtually yesterday to discuss the escalation, but made no progress on the issue.

Washington is sitting on its hands: China, Norway, and Tunisia — all of whom have seats on the 15-member council — have unsuccessfully been lobbying the US to support a statement that calls for a ceasefire, according to the Associated Press. Washington said “such a statement could interfere with diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation.” Egypt's permanent representative to the UN called for an immediate end to the violence; Mohamed Idris told Extra News that Egypt would work to draw attention to the key issue of Israel’s illegitimate occupation of Palestinian land (watch, runtime 4:50).

Egypt has been trying to mediate a one-year truce between Palestine and Israel to no avail, with an Egyptian delegation leaving Tel Aviv on Thursday after Israel rejected Cairo’s mediation proposal, Ahram Online reports. The move came after Shoukry spoke with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi to push for an end to the violence on Wednesday, one day after Shoukry said at an emergency virtual meeting of the Arab League that Egypt “did not get a response” from Israel concerning its proposal. Egypt is still working with Jordan, France, and Germany to revive peace talks between Palestine and Israel, Shoukry said at yesterday’s Security Council meeting. Meanwhile, Egypt is suspending cooperation with Tel Aviv on “several issues” in response to the escalation, Al Arabiya reports, citing unnamed sources.

Biden talks to Netanyahu, Abbas: US President Joe Biden held separate phone calls with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the situation. Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself” in his call with Bibi and told Abbas that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israel. Netanyahu thanked Biden for the US’ “serious backing” of Israel. Separately, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry agreed in a phone call yesterday to continue working together to advance peace talks. Blinken also called up the foreign ministers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Egypt is still drumming up regional and international support: Shoukry has been in talks over the issue with his regional and foreign counterparts including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Jordan, France, Pakistan, Russia, and Ireland.

Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing yesterday and prepared hospitals in North Sinai to treat wounded Palestinians, Reuters reports, citing medical and security sources.

DIPLOMACY

US says it supports GERD talks, but won't mediate

The US is pushing Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to “urgently” resume negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Following a 10-day tour of the region, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman called for the resumption of talks, which have been stalled since April after the three sides were unable to agree on how to proceed with negotiations. “Egypt and Sudan’s concerns over water security and the safety and operation of the dam can be reconciled with Ethiopia’s development needs through substantive and results-oriented negotiations,” Feltman said, after holding separate talks with all three sides earlier this month.

But Washington isn’t willing to play mediator right now: Feltman expressed support for the current negotiations being led by the African Union and said the US is ready to provide “political and technical support.” Cairo and Khartoum have both called for new mediators to enter the fray alongside the AU, while Ethiopia has insisted that the AU should remain the sole player in the process.

More of the same, coming soon: Feltman will return to the region “in short order” to continue what the administration calls an “intensive diplomatic effort” to find a way out of the crisis. [

EARNINGS WATCH

GB Auto’s net income more than doubled to EGP 299 mn in 1Q2021 compared to EGP 138 mn in the same quarter last year, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues rose 16% to hit EGP 6.8 bn during the quarter, compared to EGP 5.9 bn a year earlier, off the back of “pent up demand and strengthening purchasing power,” according to CEO Nader Ghabbour. The growth despite both the impact of low season and a global semiconductor shortage that has affected the company’s supply chains, Ghabbour said.

Moving forward: “We expect the continuation of the strong start of the year, particularly as market conditions continue to improve and consumers normalize to the covid-19 situation,” Ghabbour said, highlighting the accelerating pace of the vaccine rollout worldwide. The planned launch of GB Auto factoring arm Drive’s mobile application in 2H2021 is likely to further boost the company’s growth trajectory. The company also aims to expand its auto and auto-related segment as well as GB Capital, and expects the effect of the global chip shortage on its operations to diminish by the end of the year.

Egypt Kuwait Holding’s (EKH) attributable net income rose 41% y-o-y to USD 42.7 mn in 1Q2021, up from USD 27 mn during the same quarter last year, according to an earnings release (pdf). EKH’s 1Q2021 top line came in at USD 191.9 mn, compared to USD 146.6 mn in 1Q2020, up 19% y-o-y, which the company says was driven primarily by “the fertilizer and petrochemical segment’s solid performance, driven by rallying urea and commodities prices for the period.” The rally was underpinned “by a normalization of market conditions with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and easing restrictions,” Chairman Moataz Al-Alfi said.

Looking ahead, the market recovery and improved commodity prices will leave EKH “well-positioned to carry forward our strong momentum from the start of the year,” Al-Alfi said. The company has earmarked USD 75 mn in capex spending, including investing in new platforms and drilling campaigns, at its subsidiary Offshore North Sinai to capitalize on growing gas consumption, said CEO Sherif El-Zayat. EKH is also moving steadily towards bringing its sulphuric acid factory at Sprea Misr online by mid-2022, El-Zayat said.

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EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Leading coverage of Egypt this morning in the foreign press: Egypt’s prosecutor general has temporarily halted the nine-month probe into the 2014 [redacted] assault case at the Fairmont Hotel, ordering the release of the four suspects due to “insufficient evidence,” according to a statement. Reuters reported that Egyptian social media users and civil society groups expressed frustration at the decision, while the Associated Press noted that seven rights groups have called on prosecutors to review their decision. Among outlets giving the story attention: Reuters | AFP | BBC.

PLANET FINANCE

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Global remittance flows have held up in the face of the pandemic: Remittances to low- and middle-income countries fell only 1.6% to USD 540 bn in 2020, according to the World Bank, despite widespread expectations that covid-19 disruptions would cause flows to tank. Fiscal stimulus and the rapid adoption of fintech helped remittances stay more or less stable through the year, despite the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic.

In comparison: The global fall in remittance flows was less than that seen during the global financial crisis (-4.8%) and was far less than the fall in FDI flows to low and middle-income countries (excluding China), which saw a 30% drop last year.

An 11% increase in remittance flows from Egypt helped buoy figures from the Middle East, with the region witnessing a 2.3% growth in remittances to USD 56 bn, the World Bank report found. Of those, a record high of USD 30 bn flowed into Egypt, the WB said. Central bank figures released earlier reported Egypt’s remittances growth as 10.5% during 2020 and put the total amount at some USD 29.6 bn. This is an increase from the USD 26.8 bn recorded in 2019, even as GCC countries — where most Egyptian expats are based — were rocked by the twin shocks of covid shutdowns and collapsing oil prices.

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THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 0.8% at Tuesday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.11 bn (10.5% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 0.7% YTD.

In the green: Edita (+8.9%), Fawry (+5.0%) and MM Group (+4.2%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-3.4%), Credit Agricole (-0.9%) and Madinet Nasr Housing (-0.6%).

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Egypt is jumping on the learn-to-code bandwagon: Coding has been hailed as a key future employability skill. The World Economic Forum estimates that tech may displace 85 mn jobs by 2025 and create 97 mn new ones, making overall digital skills acquisition a must. Egypt’s government is pushing this agenda, and has dedicated some effort to promoting coding skills. Egyptian startups offering coding courses say demand for their services is steadily increasing, particularly for children. But the sector remains fragmented, with a notable lack of large, private sector operators.

At the heart of learning to code: Mastering programming languages and problem solving skills. Of the estimated 700 programming languages, the most popular include Python, JavaScript, and C++. Which language you learn depends on whether you’re developing a web-based startup, a mobile app, an internal software app, video game, or robot. Just as important as absorbing data is thinking critically, argue web developers — so coding is touted as an ideal skill for children.

In Egypt, it’s hard to quantify the size of the industry: There’s little government data on private companies offering coding or programming tuition, representatives at ITIDA tell Enterprise. Only some companies are accredited, so compiling a sector overview is difficult, say IBM representatives. A Google search lists 106 programming courses in Egypt, but sources say it’s safe to assume the real number is much higher — possibly in the thousands. Search engine Laimoon lists 449 programming courses available in Egypt from 292 providers, but most are very basic online courses with few academic entry requirements.

Adults have the option of some instructor-led courses by international providers — with hefty price tags: Finding reasonably-priced full stack (comprehensive design) courses to attend in person in Egypt is very challenging, says one source, speaking on condition of anonymity. UK-founded training provider The Knowledge Academy offers 42 different programming courses, with a 2-day online instructor-led course costing USD 1095 and 1-day course costing USD 495. Poland-founded operator NobleProg offers 30 programming courses in Egypt, with a 7-hour course costing USD 2,155 in person and USD 773 online, while a 28-hour course costs USD 7,270 in person and USD 3,090 online.

New regional player GoMyCode seeks to provide a well-priced alternative: Tunisian startup GoMyCode launched its Egypt branch in mid-March, initially offering one full-time, 20-week full stack course and several part-time 12-week courses for adults, in areas ranging from introduction to web development to introduction to artificial intelligence, says Egypt Marketing Coordinator Nesma Elsehmawy. Its price point is considerably lower than the international consultancies, coming in at EGP 13k for its full stack course. GoMyCode is active in 8 countries in Africa.

At the gov’t level, ITIDA’s focus is on secondary school students: ITIDA planned to train 5k 15-year olds in the basics of programming — including HTML, CSS, and Python — between 2019 and 2020. It successfully trained 1.2k secondary school students and 1.06k students who had finished school, from 616 schools throughout the country. But covid-19 has seen the program suspended, a representative tells Enterprise. Some of ITIDA’s digital skills provision is through partnership with Udacity, Coursera and EdX. An EGP 300 mn contract with Udacity allowed ITIDA to offer coding courses to students free of charge, the source adds.

Smaller local startups far outnumber other providers, and focus on teaching children: Many cater to children as young as 5 and go up to 16, teaching a combination of programming and robotics to groups of 4-6 students. Classes for younger children are often charged at an hourly rate of roughly 150-300 LE, while longer courses could run from EGP 2.1k (for 6 weeks) to EGP 15.9k (for 9 months). Notable providers include iSchool, Koding4Kinder, AlMakinah, and Evolution. Many providers started with a focus on robotics and assembly before shifting into coding and online education, says Sherif Amin, founder of new market entrant YallaNCode. “From day one, I focused on the programming, coding, and e-learning experience. That’s where I saw a market gap,” he says.

Why do so many startups target children? Because there’s a gap in the market. Adults wanting to learn coding can seek international certification from Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco or others, says Moe Ashour, founder of programming and robotics startup Robo-Tech Egypt. “There’s little incentive to launch a startup that would compete with these big players.”

Local providers fall into three groups, says Ashour: freelancers, who teach coding part-time and generate work via word of mouth; outfits like Robo-Tech, which are branded entities with an online presence but no permanent physical location; and companies with their own physical centers. Freelancers may find providing coding tuition to be very lucrative, says Ashour. Branded startups generate revenue through their course offerings, but in most cases put in the capital themselves to get their ventures off the ground, say sources.

Demand for learning is spurred by competitions, Ashour believes. Local and international competitions raise awareness about the value of learning to code, and help to build communities of programmers, sources say. Notable competitions include the Egyptian Collegiate Programming Contest, the ROV (underwater robotics) competition, and Google’s Kickstart Coding Competition.

Ultimately, coding has clear employment benefits, so naturally demand is high: With covid-19 forcing people — especially children — to stay home, demand for online coding courses in particular has increased, say Koding4Kinder’s founders. Service demand tripled within the year because of covid, they estimate. “We were forced to restructure because we couldn’t give courses face-to-face. It ultimately increased our publicity,” they say. “After YallaNCode’s launch, we’d reached over 20% capacity in a few days. I expect to be at full capacity within weeks,” says Amin. “But it’s not a surprise. I was expecting this.” In Tunisia, around 85% of students who graduate from GoMyCode are able to rapidly find jobs, says Elsehmawy.

But where are the big, private sector players? There’s currently enough space in the market for everyone, but some are awaiting the entry of bigger players. “So far, there hasn’t been much competition. Demand is high enough that everyone can do their own thing. But I think we may soon see more players in the market, including big private sector operators potentially interested in creating their own coding companies,” Ashour says.


Your top education stories for the week:

  • The schedule for Edadiya exams will be announced after the Eid break.
  • Misr Uni for Science and Technology President Dr. Mohamed H El Azzazi passed away on Wednesday.

CALENDAR

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

17-20 May (Monday-Thursday): Avior-HC Egypt Virtual Conference.

18-20 May (Tuesday-Thursday): Renaissance Capital’s annual MENA Investor Conference.

20-28 May (Thursday-Friday): Gouna International Squash Open 2021.

26 May (Wednesday): Final day for Africa-based startups to apply for the French government-sponsored AFD Digital Challenge (pdf).

27-29 May (Thursday-Saturday): Informa Markets’ Nextmove real estate exhibition, Cairo International Convention Center, Nasr City.

30 May (Sunday): Al Mal GTM is organizing the Portfolio Egypt conference under the theme ‘Growth under the weight of the pandemic.’

31 May (Monday): Egypt is hosting Trescon Global’s World AI Show with the support of ITIDA.

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.

22-27 June (Tuesday-Sunday): The CIB PSA World Tour Finals for 2020-2021 will take place in Cairo.

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

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

July + August: Thanaweya Amma exams take place.

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.

1 July (Thursday): Businesses importing goods at seaports will need to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally to the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system.

15 June (Saturday): EGX-listed will have to complete filing their financial disclosures for the period ended 31 March.

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.

17-20 August (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

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 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.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

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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