Tuesday, 15 June 2021

France wants to be our third-largest source of FDI

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends — we hope you got a good night’s sleep and are looking forward to hump day. It’s a busy news news morning, so let’s jump right in:

We have part two of our exclusive sitdown with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who signed in Cairo earlier this week infrastructure funding agreements worth almost EUR 4 bn covering transport, social security and development.

Le Maire tells us that the strategic and economic partnership between France and Egypt still has lots of as-yet untapped potential. Among his big aims is to make France one of the top three foreign investors in Egypt (it’s number eight today).

Highlights of our talk include:

  • How Egypt could become a regional export hub for French goods and services.
  • Egypt’s role in the post-pandemic recovery.
  • Why the G7 tax proposal is historic, and what it means for us here.

The interview leads this morning’s Speed Round (below) and you can catch part one here, in which Le Maire discusses Egypt’s rollout of the new universal healthcare system, along with renewables and urban development in the new cities.


It is time to discuss abolishing “in absentia” court cases. That’s the big takeaway from the news yesterday that Qalaa Holdings Chairman Ahmed Heikal has been slapped with a travel ban as the result of a commercial dispute involving a single USD 4 mn cheque. Heikal was on his way to the airport earlier this week to attend a board meeting of a Qalaa company in Sudan when he was turned back at Cairo International Airport, Qalaa said in a statement (pdf). Authorities told him that he was not allowed to travel as the result of a court ruling handed down to him without him even being aware there were proceedings for him to attend (or to which to send his lawyer).

This isn’t a move against Heikal or the private sector — it’s a not-uncommon feature of our legal landscape. The 1937 penal code allows court proceedings to move ahead — and verdicts to be handed down — without the defendant even being notified that they’re taking place. Verdicts issued in absentia are automatically set aside when the defendant appears and the court then re-hears the case. Legal scholars and lawmakers have for years called for the provision to be scrapped, most recently during a 2018 debate about the overhaul of the penal code. Don’t be surprised if the idea is back in the public arena in the weeks and months to come.

Heikal dropped in to chat with the queen of nighttime talk, Lamees El Hadidy, to tell the story himself, confirming that neither he nor his company were informed of the ruling before he showed up at the airport. He said Qalaa will clear up the situation with the cheque shortly (watch, runtime: 8:28).


THE BIG STORY ABROAD- Nato gets tough on China: Western military leaders warned that China is presenting “systemic challenges” to the alliance in a communique following Joe Biden’s first Nato summit. The Biden administration has sought to rally Western countries and allies to counter Beijing’s growing power, most recently at last week’s G7 summit, and judging by the content of the statement, it seems to have received a response, with Nato accusing China of undermining the rules-based international system and denouncing its lack of transparency over military programs.

The story is dominating the front pages of the global press this morning, from Reuters and the AP to the Washington Post and the FT.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

The Arab League will meet in Doha today for “emergency” GERD talks at the request of Egypt and Sudan. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has been in Qatar since yesterday, holding a one-on-one with his Qatari counterpart to talk about the GERD crisis and the process of normalizing bilateral ties following this year’s Al Ula pact. The emergency Arab League meeting comes just days after Washington’s Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman toured Gulf capitals to discuss the growing crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia.

The Federal Reserve will kick off it’s two-day policy meeting today. The central bank has been pushing the idea that the current spike in inflation is transitory, meaning policy action is unlikely, but investors will still be on the look-out for indications of when the central bank could begin to taper its stimulus.

This might be just what the central bank has in mind: Fed officials will discuss when it will begin winding down its USD 120 bn-a-month bond-buying program, according to the Financial Times, which describes it as a “tricky” step for policymakers as they look to avoid a repeat of 2013’s “taper tantrum.”

HAPPENING THIS WEEK-

The Central Bank of Egypt will meet on Thursday, 17 June to review rates. All 11 analysts and economists surveyed in our poll are calling another hold as inflation hit its highest level all year in May as the global commodities boom began to hit the domestic economy. A Reuters poll out yesterday found a similar consensus with all 18 surveyed analysts predicting a hold.

EVENTS TODAY-

The EFG Hermes and Saudi Exchange Virtual Investor Conference is ongoing until 17 June, according to a press release (pdf). The virtual event aims to share and discuss insights on compelling prospects across the Saudi capital market, and brings together executives from 61 companies with more than 450 international investors from over 190 institutions.

The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies is holding a virtual seminar today exploring the extent to which SMEs benefit from Egypt’s financial services. The discussion will take place from 10-12 am and you can register to join the Zoom call using this link. The seminar will also be streamed live on their YouTube page.

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*** It’s Going Green day — your weekly briefing of all things green in Egypt: Enterprise’s green economy vertical focuses each Tuesday on the business of renewable energy and sustainable practices in Egypt, everything from solar and wind energy through to water, waste management, sustainable building practices and how you can make your business greener, whatever the sector.

In today’s issue: Construction accounts for at least 23% of Egypt’s greenhouse gas emissions, and materials including cement, steel, red brick and solvent are all major emitters. Some cement industry market leaders have sought to counter air pollution by supplying emissions-reducing ‘green’ cement. Today we look at how some construction companies in Egypt have also started applying internationally-recognized green certification and ratings to align their operations with global environmental standards. But though demand for these ratings has grown in recent years, adoption remains slow and the broader market cost-driven.

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Take a serene walk and dip your toes in the silky water as you get to know Somabay’s local equine citizens.

COFFEE WITH…

Bruno Le Maire wants to strengthen France’s economic ties with Egypt

EXCLUSIVE- France wants to be our third-largest source of FDI. Economic ties between France and Egypt have been growing since French President Emmanuel Macron took office in 2017. This was on display earlier this week when French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire signed EUR 3.8 bn worth of bilateral agreements with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. This bumper financing package includes EUR 2 bn in credit facilities and EUR 800 mn of concessional loans from the French government that will finance the development and renovation of Cairo Metro Lines 6 and 1. And the French Development Agency (AFD) is funnelling loans of EUR 1 bn into transportation, energy and water over the next four years, and will provide EUR 150 mn to help Egypt set up its universal health ins. system.

All of that said, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire thinks we can do better, telling us earlier this week of his government’s ambitions to increase trade, economic and strategic partnership with Egypt. The discussion touched on why partnership with Egypt is attractive, the role we could play in the global post-pandemic recovery, and the G7’s new tax pact and what it means for us here in Omm El Donia.

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

Le Maire is categorical on one point: France must become one of Egypt’s top three contributors to FDI. France is currently Egypt’s eighth largest source of foreign direct investment, but Le Maire isn’t satisfied with this ranking, he says. “We must be in the top three. I don’t know how long it will take us to reach that goal, but it’s the goal that reflects the level of friendship between our two countries.”

The pace of our economic cooperation has accelerated in recent years thanks to this friendship — and to Egypt’s role as a bulwark of regional stability. Economic cooperation between France and Egypt has accelerated in the last four years partly because of the strong personal relationship between President El Sisi and President Macron, says Le Maire. Egypt’s position as one of the most stable countries in the region also gives it considerable strategic importance. “Then there’s the friendship between our people. The French people have a lot of respect for Egypt, which also plays into how our economic relationship is developing.”

Egypt’s been doing all the right things to spur French investment: France has been impressed with Egypt’s post-2016 economic development, says Le Maire. Important economic reforms have been accomplished successfully, and the introduction of the new investment and tax laws have made the investment climate more attractive. This was seen clearly last year, when despite the global recession caused by the pandemic, Egypt’s economy avoided contraction.

His recommendation: stay the course: “Egypt’s on the right track, thanks to courageous decisions taken by President El Sisi and the courage of the Egyptian people, who have sometimes had to pay the price of reform,” he says. Egypt has become a model of economic development for many countries, Le Maire adds. “I don’t think Egypt has to do much more to drive interest from French companies.”

Egypt could capitalize on our geographic positioning to become a regional export hub for French goods and services: France is ready to support El Sisi’s aim for Egypt to serve as an export hub for French goods and services to Africa and the Middle East, says Le Maire. It’s also ready to think about developing industrial facilities in Egypt, he adds. This involves strategic planning about which jobs, qualifications and skills could be developed in Egypt, by Egyptians. “I’m also aware that President El Sisi is very interested in developing an automotive industry in Egypt. You can’t do that from scratch. But we could think about how to develop this industry bit by bit, with the goal of expanding Egypt’s industrial capacities.”

And help France diversify its supply chains: The pandemic has shown that diversification is essential, says Le Maire. Talks between France and Egypt about how they could cooperate to diversify their supply chains could be fruitful, though the process hasn’t started yet. “But I’m ready to think about diversifying the supply chain, and relying more on Egypt.”

But we can’t rely solely on trade. Strategic cooperation in industry, tech, science and culture is just as important. We want to develop the cooperation between France and Egypt in strategic sectors, while deepening our trade relationship, says Le Maire.

Egypt could play an important role as a bridge between more and less developed countries. Post-pandemic recovery will offer developed nations in Europe, the US and China chances to acquire and develop new and disruptive technology in key areas like AI, quantum computing, and space exploration. “We don’t want developing countries left behind. Egypt, which has been so successful, could form a bridge between developed and developing nations. This is vital for President Macron, and for me. It’s another reason we want to develop this strategic partnership with Egypt.”

This partnership was on full display when Egypt backed France’s recent push to reallocate USD 100 bn in IMF special drawing rights monetary reserves to Africa. A summit in Paris on the 18 May on Africa financing saw President Macron lead the push to increase the USD 34 bn allocated to African states. “Egypt played a key political role, supporting President Macron in his support of developing countries, and explaining the importance of the IMF providing new funding to Africa,” says Le Maire.

This partnership between developed and developing nations needs to extend to issues like climate change. It is in the interests of the global population to focus on sustainable development and the fight against climate change, says Le Maire. We should help all countries do this, bearing in mind the first countries to feel the impact of climate change are developing ones.

…particularly on climate finance: Finance is key in sustainable development, says Le Maire. Water and renewable energy require bns and bns in investment. “You need money to succeed in the fight against climate change, so green finance is of the highest importance for us. And we want Egypt to be part of this huge challenge.”

We can hope to see this naturally being reflected in our trade: “I’d be very happy to see the development of trade between France and Egypt in the fields of renewable energy and new technologies linked to sustainable development.”

Why the G7 tax agreement would benefit all: “For the first time, we’re ready to build a global international taxation system that’s fair and efficient,” Le Maire says, referring to the G7’s recent agreement to impose a global minimum corporate tax rate on multinationals. “Fair because all the digital giants which have made huge profits off the pandemic will have to pay their fair share of taxes. Efficient because there will now be a minimum level of corporate tax, meaning no big company will be able to make large profits in one country and pay fewer taxes in another.”

What about companies who fear the new tax will impact their investment in places like Egypt? That’s not a solid argument against it, says Le Maire. “You lose money when the biggest digital giants don’t pay the right taxes to the Egyptian people.” Egypt’s SMEs, its private companies and people can’t accept digital giants profiting from the Egyptian population without paying their fair share of taxes, he adds.

Does a 15% rate go far enough? 15% is a starting point, he says. “I hope that it will be more than 15%, but 15% would be an important success for all of us for the beginning.” President Joe Biden has previously proposed 21%, and both him and his German counterpart are ready to accept that rate, he says.

BUDGET WATCH

House greenlights FY2021-2022 budget, ups health + education spending

House passes FY2021-2022 budget, ups health + education spending: The House of Representatives has voted to increase spending on health and education in the coming fiscal year as it passed the FY2021-2022 state budget (pdf) in a plenary session yesterday. MPs signed off on EGP 4.56 bn of additional spending, including another EGP 2 bn to purchase medicine, EGP 1 bn to fund medical treatment, and EGP 500 mn to fund wage hikes for kindergarten and primary school teachers. This brings total spending on education to EGP 388.1 bn and total health spend to EGP 275.6 bn,

What we already knew going in:

  • The budget deficit should narrow: The government expects the budget deficit to narrow to 6.7% of GDP, from an expected 7.7% in the current fiscal year. It will then fall again to 6.2% in FY2022-2023.
  • Government spending will grow by 14%: The ministry expects the government to spend a total of EGP 1.84 tn in FY2021-2022, up 14% from its EGP 1.61 tn projected spend this year.
  • Revenues to grow more: Revenues are forecast to rise 22% to reach EGP 1.36 tn during the year. This will be driven by an 18% rise in tax collection, which will bring in EGP 983 bn compared to an expected EGP 830 bn in the current fiscal year.
  • Debt will remain the biggest cost: Almost a third of the government’s total expenditure will go towards servicing debt, rising more than 2% to EGP 579 bn.

Next up: The budget goes to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi for review; he is expected to sign it into law before the start of the state’s new fiscal year on 1 July.

You can find all you need to know about other key figures in our previous coverage: here, here, here, here, here and here.

ALSO FROM THE HOUSE– The House gave its final approval yesterday to the state’s FY2021-2022 social and economic development plan, Youm7 reports. The plan will see EGP 1.25 tn invested into economic and development projects, with EGP 933 bn allocated to public investments and EGP 317 bn provided to private and cooperative sectors.

CAPITAL MARKETS

An EGP share with USD dividends?

Egypt Kuwait Holding (EKH) stockholders can now apply to convert the trading currency of their shares to EGP from USD, the company announced in a bourse disclosure (pdf) yesterday. The window is open for the next three months and could be interesting to folks who have followed the compelling turnaround at EKH in recent years, but who have been turned off by the logistics of trading a stock that right now only changes hands in USD.

What’s EKH? As an investment company with holdings spanning from fertilizers and petrochemicals to natural gas distribution, manufacturing and electricity generation, the company plans to invest USD 300 mn during 2021 and 2022, USD 100 mn of which will be spent purchasing minority stakes in subsidiaries it thinks have room to grow.

How do I buy EKH today? Convince your bank to make a transfer from your USD account to your trading account at your broker. Don’t have USD? Go buy on the open market, head over to your broker, fund your account, and then start talking about the price at which you want to buy.

So, what’s happening, exactly? From today through to 14 September, EKH shareholders will be allowed to apply through their custodians to switch the currency of their shares from USD to EGP. The EGX will announce after 14 September the EGP rate at which the shares will be converted (based on the market price at the time) and set a date for the shares to start trading in the two currencies. Shares not converted into EGP will continue to trade in USD after that deadline just as they are today. You can check out EKH’s accompanying FAQ (pdf) if you want to dive into the details of how this will all work.

The idea is that making the share convertible will boost trading, making the stock — undervalued, some market observers believe, in view of the sell-side consensus — more liquid and giving EKH the chance to expand its shareholder base.

The best part, if you like the EKH story? Holders of EGP-denominated shares will still get their dividends paid in USD as they do today. EKH has distributed a dividend every year since 2007, with 10 of those dividends being in cash.

EKH has made a solid start to 2021, reporting 32% bottom line growth during 1Q, according to its earnings release (pdf) last month. The company achieved net income of USD 53 mn during the three-month period, driven by a 17% rise in revenues. EKH proved resilient through the pandemic last year, reporting a slight increase in net income to USD 153 mn in 2020.

HEALTH

IFC could invest USD 300 mn in healthcare

New IFC funding for healthcare in the works? The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is considering lending another USD 300 mn to healthcare companies in Egypt, Country Manager Walid Labadi told Hapi Journal. Labadi did not disclose who the IFC is talking to, in which sectors, or when it might pull the trigger on the financing.

The corporation’s biggest Egypt-focused financing agreement this year went to a healthcare firm: Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH) received USD 45 mn from the IFC earlier this year to help fund its expansion plans into other emerging markets.

And we could soon see better quality water, courtesy of the IFC: The World Bank’s sister organization is mulling teaming up with some public and private-sector companies in the field of water treatment in the near future, Labadi said, without specifying a timeline, naming companies or disclosing a value for the financing.

DIPLOMACY

Kicking the can?

Sudan could sign up to a stop-gap GERD agreement with Ethiopia provided it meets several conditions, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said at a presser yesterday, reported Reuters.

Conditions include: Committing to everything that has been agreed between the three countries thus far, agreeing to continue talks on the dam’s operation even following the planned second filling in the coming weeks, and signing off on a definitive timeline for all things GERD related, Abbas said.

The country may also take a less diplomatic approach, according to Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki, who said on Ala Mas’ouleety last night that it could formally appeal to the UN Security Council to take action on the dispute (watch, runtime: 15:16). The council has the authority to prevent Ethiopia from filling the reservoir this summer and could take action given the risks posed to downstream countries by the dam, Zaki said. This comes after Egypt last week made its second appeal to the UN Security Council to step in and help prevent Ethiopia from continuing to fill the dam.

MOVES

Ahmed Shaheen appointed chairman of EgyptAir Cargo

Ahmed Shaheen has been appointed chairman of EgyptAir Cargo, replacing Bassem Gohar under a decision by Egyptair Holding Company Chairman Amr Abo El Enein, the local press reports. Shaheen held several previous positions including general manager of stations at EgyptAir carrier, general manager of EgyptAir in Saudi Arabia, and chairman of EgyptAir Ground Services.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Diplomacy took center stage on the nation’s airwaves last night, as the talking heads mostly turned their attention to today’s emergency Arab League meeting in Doha. The meeting could see a group of Arab foreign ministers, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Iraq, taking a bolder stance against Ethiopia in support of Egypt and Sudan, Kelma Akhira's Lameed El Hadidi said (watch, runtime: 2:37). El Hekaya (watch, runtime: 8:56) and Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 13:07) also took note.

Will the Arab League make a difference? Arab foreign ministers are expected to put pressure on Addis Ababa to cancel plans to unilaterally fill the dam, and instead reach an agreement on the GERD’s filling and operation. This could clear a pathway to new negotiations and help convince Ethiopia to make compromises, pundit El Azab El Tayeb Taher said in a phone-in to Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 7:29) last night. The league backs Egypt and Sudan’s stance on the GERD and supports their decisions all the way, even if the situation deteriorates and military action is required, Taher said (watch, runtime: 3:56).

The talking heads still had time to cover the Egypt-Qatar bromance: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s meeting yesterday with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha saw El Hekaya’s Amr Adib dedicating a segment to shed light on how the two countries have been patching things up since the lifting of Egypt and the GCC’s 2017 blockade on Qatar (watch, runtime: 2:19 | 1:32). Kelma Akhira’s El Hadidi said that improved Egypt-Qatar relations could contribute to resolving the Israel-Hamas conflict (watch, runtime: 5:22). Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 6:14) and Hadith Al Qahera (watch, runtime: 3:51) also had coverage.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Gender and women’s rights seems to be generating a lot of attention from the foreign press this morning: An opinion piece in Reuters commemorates the one-year anniversary of the death of LGBT rights activist Sarah Hegazi, ABC News is out with a piece on Egypt’s #MeToo movement, and Reuters has the spotlight on a female boxing coach in Beni Suef.

Elsewhere: The Jerusalem Post claims that the Palestinian Authority is unhappy with the recent rapprochment between Egypt and Hamas, the Guardian is out with another piece on Giulio Regeni while the National carries an image gallery of Egyptian Copts’ visiting the “Second Bethlehem” on the Nile.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

The Court of Cassation (Egypt’s highest appeals court) has upheld death penalties handed to 12 Ikhwan members including Mohamed Beltagy and Safwat Hegazy for their involvement in the 2013 Rabaa sit-in, Masrawy reports. The court also reduced the death penalty to life imprisonment for another 31 Ikhwan leaders including the group’s general guide, Mohamed Badie. In 2018, 75 Ikhwanis, including Beltagy and Hegazy, were sentenced to death in a mass trial. In a separate case, the two leaders also received life sentences along with Badie in 2020 for inciting violence outside a police station in Port Said governorate in 2013.

The story is dominating the conversation on Egypt this morning: Reuters | AFP | AP | Gulf News | Amnesty.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia agreed to step up cooperation in over a dozen sectors ranging from agriculture to energy and from natural resources to trade, during a meeting of the Egyptian-Saudi Joint Committee yesterday, cabinet said in a statement. Among the list of minor agreements yesterday: Egypt will brief Saudi state-owned miner Ma'aden on investment prospects in the mining sector; the two countries will set up logistics zones to store and process dates; and agencies involved with Egyptian-Saudi electricity interconnection project were told to hurry up.

Another thing we’re keeping an eye on this morning: The deadline for private sector companies to bid in Heliopolis Housing’s tender to develop the Heliopark project in New Cairo has been extended (pdf) to 29 June from 16 June.

COVID WATCH

A refreshingly light covid news day

The Health Ministry reported 613 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 691 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 273,795 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 31 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,654.

We have a new vaccine on the block: A vaccine produced by biotech firm Novavax has been found to be 90% effective against covid-19, the Associated Press reports. The company also said that its two-shot vaccine protects people against covid variants and — unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines — doesn’t need to be stored in super-cold temperatures, making distribution easier.

It’s not going to be around for a while though: The company said it is hoping to get regulatory clearance in the US, Europe and elsewhere by September, after which it will have capacity to produce 100 mn doses a month.

PLANET FINANCE

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EFG Hermes - https://efghermes.com/

Don’t look at the mountain of US corporate debt: Total corporate debt in the US has risen to USD 11.2 tn thanks to the pandemic, as rock-bottom interest rates and the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programs allowed companies to borrow big to keep themselves afloat, the Wall Street Journal reports. Non-financials firms sold some USD 1.7 tn of bonds last year, pushing the amount of corporate debt to roughly half the size of the US economy.

Europe has started taking investor orders as it kicks off a five-year plan to sell USD 1 tn worth of debt to finance grants and loans to member states under a program dubbed NextGenerationEU, according to Bloomberg. The inaugural sale of 10-year bonds is expected to raise over USD 12 bn after the instruments are priced later today.

HSBC is forecasting robust demand in Dubai’s real estate market fueled by a growing appetite for large homes due to the pandemic, writing in a note that the pick-up in sales so far this year has been “remarkable,” Bloomberg reported. This mirrors a sentiment shared by Morgan Stanley last month, whose analysts predicted several years of growth.

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The EGX30 rose 0.5% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.05 bn (18.6% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 8.4% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+1.5%), CIB (+1.5%) and Eastern Company (+1.4%).

In the red: CI Capital (-3.8%), Qalaa Holdings (-3.2%) and Emaar Misr (-1.8%).

Asian stocks are down early this morning ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting later today, but futures suggest that US and European shares will open in the green.

greenEconomy

Beyond green cement: What else are Egypt’s construction companies doing to reduce pollution? Construction accounts for at least 23% of Egypt’s greenhouse gas emissions. In part one of this series, we looked at how construction materials including cement, concrete, steel, glass, red brick, paint, and solvents are major emissions contributors. In part two, we profiled how cement industry market leaders are countering air pollution by supplying ‘green’ cement, which could reduce their emissions by anything from 20-60% compared to industry benchmark Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). Today, we ask what else is being done by construction companies to lower emissions.

Some have begun aligning operations with global standards. Companies aiming to be more environmentally-friendly are seeking independent green building certification — using programs like LEED or EDGE — and undertake processes that quantify their products’ environmental impact.

But it’s a drop in the ocean: While demand for independent certification has grown in recent years, its adoption in Egypt remains ridiculously slow with barely any genuine impact being felt on the ground.

LEED-certified materials have been used in big name developments over the years: Among the LEED-certified materials gaining traction in Egypt is autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), a lightweight concrete product usually used for masonry that is LEED certified (pdf). AAC blocks emit 1.5kg of CO2 for every 1 sq. ft of carpet area, compared to 12kg emitted by clay-fired (red) bricks. AAC construction projects in Egypt include Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel, Cairo American College and most recently, the Mars Factory.

This is notable, because red brick is widely-used and very energy intensive: 87.5% of Egypt’s building walls are red brick, according to a joint study (pdf) by BUE and several Scandinavian universities. Switching to sun-dried clay (white) bricks could eliminate 80% of the harmful air emissions from brick production, with a reduction of 5907 kg CO2e in CO2 emissions for every 1000 bricks produced, it estimates.

But the go-to strategy for construction companies is to get accredited by a third-party organization, like the Egypt Green Building Council (EGBC): As an emerging member of the World Green Building Council, EGBC is one of a network of over 70 independent non-profits worldwide, made up of construction companies and NGOs working in construction. EGBC began applying international ratings to construction materials in Egypt roughly two years ago, EGBC board member Hoda Anwar tells Enterprise. It started by applying LEED certification rating standards, along with environmental product declarations (EPDs) — verified and registered documents quantifying their environmental impact by evaluating a product’s carbon emissions — EDGE certification, ozone depletion potential, global movement potential, and any other environmental impacts. It recently started running volatile organic compound (VOC) and REACH (chemical regulation) tests on products, including paints and adhesives. EGBC has also established its own rating system, Tarsheed, adapting international systems to the Egyptian context.

Internationally-recognized ratings are a pull for companies seeking green credibility: Demand for these ratings has clearly increased in the last two years, says Anwar. Companies in Egypt (especially international corporations) with sustainability strategies to comply with, have started to see the value of green building certification — which they want as a stamp of approval, says Anwar.

Does this mean there’s a movement by traditional construction companies to use environmentally friendly materials? Not yet, according to Anwar, who says that the number of factories working to reduce their carbon footprint in Egypt is still relatively small. Currently, the number of construction companies and engineering firms using internationally-recognized ratings in Egypt is around 15, and includes Consolidated Contractors Company, Orascom Construction and Hassan Allam, says Anwar. Master Builders, SIKA, Knauf, Saint Gobain and Jotun have all made substantial efforts to use environmentally friendly materials, focusing on environmental and health product declarations, along with VOC emission tests, she adds.

Costs of materials still outweighs the need to monitor climate impact: “The Egyptian market at large isn’t yet aware of the need for these products,” chemical construction company Green Build Egypt Technical Office Manager Ibram Nady tells Enterprise. “Its basic driving force is still price, so the cheaper a product, the higher its market share — irrespective of its environmental impact.” Environmentally-friendly products could be an estimated 30% more expensive than traditional ones, he believes.

And not without reason: Obtaining Gold LEED certification could add 1-4% to an original construction budget, and perhaps 6-10% in developing countries, representatives of construction firm Dorra Group tell Enterprise. Platinum LEED certification would be higher. But long-term savings in energy performance, reduced carbon footprint and social impact strongly outweigh this slight additional construction cost, they add.

The Environment Ministry agrees, and standards could be mandatory down the road: The Environment Ministry is aiming for EPDs to be issued for all factories in Egypt within three years, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad said at an online webinar held by EPD Egypt in March, Anwar tells us. We will be keeping an eye out for developments here.

Next week: We look at startups and other organizations providing alternatives to traditional construction materials.


Your top climate stories for the week:

  • Green bonds: Finance Minister Mohamed Maait refused to rule out the possibility of issuing more sovereign green bonds in FY2021-2022, saying the matter was not yet settled.
  • Green financing: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will lend QNB Al Ahli USD 50 mn to on-lend to green and renewable energy projects.
  • Reducing water waste in agriculture: Egypt has succeeded in growing 15 feddans of drought-resistant rice for the first time in New Valley governorate to reduce water usage in rice cultivation.
  • Green hydrogen projects: Studies for one of several planned green hydrogen plants are expected to be submitted to the Sovereign Fund of Egypt and other state bodies as early as next week.
  • Renewables: Renewables make up 10% of the EUR 5 bn French companies currently invest in Egypt, French Ambassador to Egypt Stéphane Romatet told Enterprise, hoping the figure to rise to 20% in five years.

CALENDAR

14 June-17 June (Monday-Thursday): The EFG Hermes and Saudi Exchange Virtual Investor Conference

15 June (Tuesday): Arab League meets to discuss the GERD in Doha.

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.

20 June (Sunday): Ismailia Economic Court to hold hearing on Ever Given compensation case.

20 June (Sunday): Deadline for Enpact + Tui + GIZ tourism recovery program (pdf).

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. The Big 5 Egypt Impact Awards will also be taking place at the event on 27 June.

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: The Cairo International Book Fair, Egypt International Exhibition Center.

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 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).

2-4 August (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt is hosting the Africa Food Manufacturing exhibition at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.

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 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.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

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.

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.