Thursday, 24 June 2021

You no longer need a PCR test to come to Egypt if you’re fully vaccinated



Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a super-busy news day to end this last full week of June. We’ve got tons of stuff for you today, so let’s get this show on the road:

Egypt has officially unlocked the third and final tranche of our USD 5.2 bn standby loan from the IMF after the fund’s executive board finished its second and final review of progress the country has made on measures to unlock the 12-month program, the IMF said in a statement.

A week to wait? An exact date for the disbursal of the USD 1.6 bn tranche — approval on which came after Egypt reached last month a staff-level agreement with the Fund — remains unclear, but Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said yesterday that Egypt would not wait longer than a week to receive it, according to Al Masry Al Youm.

PSA #1- We won’t have to pay fees on inter-bank EGP transfers, ATM withdrawals or POS transaction fees for another six months, after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi instructed the central bank to extend the exemption period to the end of the year, the CBE said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. Transaction fees for contactless payment cards, mobile wallets and e-payments will also remain suspended until 31 December while the central bank will continue to cover the cost of withdrawal fees for pensioners.

The measures were introduced during the first wave of the pandemic in March last year, and were put in place to cut footfall at banks and financial institutions, promote social distancing, and gradually move Egypt toward becoming a cashless society.

PSA #2- We have a long weekend next week, with the country taking 1 July off as a national holiday in observance of the 30 June revolution.

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

  • Nafeza customs system registration deadline delayed until October: Importers, multinationals, and foreign companies selling goods to Egypt through seaports now have until the last day of September to sign up for the Customs Authority’s new one-stop platform, Nafeza.
  • The Ever Given’s owners may have struck an agreement with the SCA. Lawyers representing the Ever Given’s owner and ins. Company reportedly reached an agreement in principle with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) over compensation claims for the six-day blockage of the canal in March. The value of the agreement was not disclosed.
  • Egypt is still Africa’s FDI darling: Egypt was the top recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa in 2020, attracting USD 5.9 bn in inflows during the year, according to UNCTAD’s 2021 World Investment Report.


Irrigation ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will discuss the GERD today and tomorrow in a meeting held by the African Union in the Democratic Republic of Congo, representative of the Arab League to the United Nations Maged Abd El Fattah told Al Shorouk. This is the first time senior officials from the three countries have met to discuss the dispute since the beginning of April, when talks to decide who should mediate the negotiations collapsed without agreement.

This could be one of the last chances for three-way talks before the rainy season is upon us: Ethiopia, which is determined to push ahead with filling the dam with or without an agreement, plans to resume doing so next month when the rainy season hits, giving the three sides little time to find a compromise.

Egypt and Sudan are trying to apply as much international pressure on Addis Ababa as possible to stop them going through with it: The two countries are expected to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council in the coming days in a bid to pressure world powers to discuss the dispute, and have convinced the Arab League to back their efforts.

MEANWHILE- An Egyptian trade delegation will conclude today the fourth round of discussions on a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement. For the past three days, coordination meetings were held in Moscow with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) over the FTA, which would, if struck, significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to Eurasian countries, the Trade Ministry said in a statement yesterday. Egypt has been in talks with the EEC over a possible trade pact since 2016.

Sound smart: The Eurasian Economic Union is a Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It’s market of about 180 mn people.

It’s day three of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals 2020-2021 at Mall of Arabia, and it feels like a very Franco-Egyptian kind of face-off. Up today: Women’s world no.2 Hania El Hammamy faces fourth-seeded Amanda Sobhy, while Salma Hany is up against France’s Camille Serme. In the men’s draw, no.2 Tarek Momen plays France’s Gregoire Marche while the Shorbagy brothers face off against each other. The tournament runs until 27 June. Tickets are currently on sale for the final two days on TicketsMarche.

Rejoice, Microsoft nerds: Windows 11 is going to be unveiled today. The company says it’s going to be the biggest update to its platform in a decade. The live stream will run at 5pm CLT and you can watch it here.


The Bank of England is expected to maintain record-low interest rates and continue its asset purchase program during its monetary policy meeting today, CNBC reports. This comes despite warnings from chief economist Andy Haldane of the looming “tiger of inflation,” with Haldane calling for a GBP 50 bn cut to the bank’s GBP 895 bn quantitative easing program. UK consumer price inflation rose faster than expected to 2.1% in May, beating the bank’s 2% target for the first time in almost two years, and is expected to hit 2.5% by the end of 2021. The main policy rate meanwhile is at a historic low of 0.1%, prompting speculation that tightening could follow next year.

Mo Salah to miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? Liverpool have told the Egyptian Football Association that they do not want any of their players to take part in this year’s Olympics, which will run from 22 July to 7 August — a week before the start of the Premier League season on 14 August, EFA chief Ahmed Megahed told ONTime Sports (watch, runtime: 11:56). “I do not want to say that it is impossible for Salah to participate in the Olympics, but it is difficult,” he said. Fifa has long acknowledged that clubs are not obliged to release over-age players for the Olympics Games.

Salah isn’t the only pro skipping the games: Tennis great Rafael Nadal has said he’s giving them a pass and it seems Serena Williams may do the same. A raft of golfers from world no.2 player Dustin Johnson to Australia’s Adam Scott have also said they’re giving Tokyo a pass.


We’re probably not going to have our usual end-of-June flurry of legislative activity next week: The current legislative session is expected to wrap up in the middle of July, instead of at the end of the fiscal year next week as is customary, a member of the House Legislative Committee told Al Shorouk this week.

Egypt Ventures + the International Cooperation Ministry’s Generation Next Forum will take place this Saturday, bringing together 400 entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups, according to a statement. The event will cover the role of international financial institutions in supporting tech startups, partnerships to facilitate access to finance, as well as startups’ role in achieving the sustainable development goals.

The Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC) MENA are holding a webinar titled Energy Efficiency in the MENA region: Status and Outlook on 6 July at 3:30pm. The session will focus on energy efficiency developments and provide recommendations for businesses and policymakers. Later on next month, CEBC will also host the webinar Women Entrepreneurs in Clean Energy on 21 July at 3pm in cooperation with the initiative, Women in Clean Energy MENA and WiRE.

The British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) is organizing a virtual education week from 5-6 July with three seminars planned. The first, taking place at 10am on 5 July, will discuss skills-based learning while the future of investment in education will be the topic on the table at 12:30pm the same day. On 6 July, a talk on the digitalization of education in Egypt will be held at 12pm.

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



Fully vaccinated? You no longer need a PCR test to come to Egypt

Egypt is now open to fully-vaccinated travellers: Fully vaccinated individuals will no longer have to present negative PCR test results to enter the country under new regulations (pdf) issued by the Health Ministry. Authorities consider people fully vaccinated against covid-19 starting two weeks after they receive their second jab of any vaccine that has been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What jabs qualify? Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V, Oxford / AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Unvaccinated visitors will still need to show proof of a negative PCR test prior to boarding their flight to Egypt. Those arriving from countries where covid-19 variants have been identified, such as India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Latin America, will have to undergo rapid covid tests upon arrival.

The Health Ministry reported 466 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 498 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 278,761 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 32 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,967.

Eva Pharma thinks it can produce a vaccine made with “100% Egyptian technology,” CEO Riad Armanious told the National. Armanious was light on details but said the drugmaker is looking to come up with the first locally-produced shot before the year is out. “We’re doing extensive testing and extensive work to develop a vaccine from scratch that is our own,” he said.

Abdala ❤️ Shahinaz: In light of Cuba’s launch of its creatively-named “Abdala” vaccine this week, we’re going to propose that Eva’s jab be called Shahinaz.

Egypt is already looking to make a jab from China’s Sinovac jab at Vacsera, with the first batches expected to be rolled off the lines these days and could be distributed as early as next month if quality control checks go well. Vacsera’s production facility is expected to produce 6 mn shots of Sinovac by the end of the year.

Could our success with local manufacturing see us booted from Covax? Some 60-70 countries could soon be removed from the Gavi / Covax vaccine-sharing scheme as the organization tries to find solutions to serious supply and distribution problems that has seen it fall far short of its targets, Reuters reports. The board is expected to discuss today a plan that’s aimed at increasing the program’s focus on the least vaccinated countries and reducing richer countries’ participation as both donors and recipients.

What’s the problem? At least 40 out of the 80 countries first allocated vaccines through the program are now facing shortages as Gavi struggles to find a reliable supply of shots. The organization is nowhere near meeting its target to deliver 1.8 bn doses by early next year, having shipped just 80 mn so far in 2021.

How much would we miss out on if we were booted from the scheme? Just under 2 mn doses. Egypt has so far received 2.6 mn vaccines from Covax, more than half of the 4.5 mn it has been allocated in the first round.


Egypt gets its own “super app”

MNT merges with Halan in share swap: Netherlands-based payments company MNT has entered into a share swap agreement with fintech / delivery / ride-hailing company Halan, it announced in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The combined entity — MNT-Halan — is positioning itself as Egypt’s first “super app” that will combine a host of services, including e-payments, microfinance, delivery and ride-hailing services, the company said.

The merger would see Halan’s tech infrastructure combined with MNT’s large unbanked customer base through a single digital platform. “This transaction acts as a catalyst in digitizing lending, payments, e-commerce, consumer finance (buy now, pay later) and logistics for mns of underserved and unbanked customers,” MNT founder and CEO Mounir Nakhla said in the statement. MNT, which reportedly has around 1 mn active customers and a 21.7% market share, hopes to use the Halan’s tech to scale up its services, according to the statement.

What is MNT? MNT is the parent company of GB Auto’s microfinance subsidiary Mashroey and is majority-owned by GB Auto’s financial services arm GB Capital. The company had acquired 100% of Egypt’s first CBE-licensed digital wallet provider, Raseedy, which helped pave the way for the merger with Halan. MNT has raised USD 50 mn in VC funding, and hopes to raise more capital soon, according to Reuters.

Advisors: Wilkie Farr, White & Case, VanCampen Liem provided legal advice on the transaction.

IN OTHER M&A NEWS- Zeta’s ANFI bid gets regulatory approval: The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has approved Zeta Investments’ mandatory tender offer (MTO) for 90% of Alexandria National Company for Financial Investments (ANFI), the regulator said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The Hong Kong-based company this week decided to raise its offer to EGP 6.00 per share from EGP 5.48, a move that came on the heels of a higher rival bid by Compass Capital, which offered to acquire up to 100% of the firm for EGP 5.72 per share.

Subscription period extended: A subscription period for the MTO which was originally set to end on Monday is now pushed for 10 business days, the FRA said.


Suez Canal services may be exempt from VAT

Shipping companies are in line for a Suez Canal VAT break: Shipping companies would no longer have to pay VAT on Suez Canal transit fees under proposed amendments designed to make the canal more attractive to shippers. Under the draft changes approved by the cabinet yesterday, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) would no longer have to charge and remit VAT on payments it receives from shipping companies for its transit services, according to a statement published following the weekly cabinet meeting. Any past VAT taxes the authority hasn’t still remitted will be waived should the amendments become law, the statement said.

Changes likely to be fast-tracked: The bill isn’t expected to take long to be ratified as the SCA has accumulated a large pile of unpaid VAT, and wants to avoid having to raise transit and service fees amid competition from other waterways, director of taxpayer services at the Tax Authority Mohsen El Gayar told us. The SCA has not paid VAT on services since the act passed in 2016, due to disagreements on whether they fall under the act’s purview, El Gayar said.

This is separate from the other VAT changes in the pipeline: The government had drafted and approved several changes to the VAT Tax Act last year as part of an overhaul to the 2016 legislation, but the changes are yet to make their way through the House. They include subjecting most commercial advertising to the tax, allowing tourists to claim VAT rebates, affording special economic zones including the Suez Canal Economic Zone the same VAT treatment as freezones, and closing exemptions for commercial and administrative real estate remain, among others.

The government is on a charm offensive right now to attract shipping companies to the canal. The SCA this week announced it would slash transit fees by up to 75% on some shipments travelling between Southeast Asia and Europe, the US and West Africa.

And there’s a good reason why: Suez Canal revenues are an important source of hard currency for Egypt, bringing in more than USD 550 mn in April — their highest month on record.


Multi-bn electric rail contract approved by the government: A contract the National Authority for Tunnels is due to sign with a Siemens-led consortium that also includes Orascom Construction and Arab Contractors to develop a USD 23 bn high-speed electric rail network was approved by ministers. The consortium signed an MoU with the authority earlier this year. The three companies are expected to design, install, and commission the rail system — which could span a massive network of up to 1.7k.


Giving small-caps a chance to shine?

Tamayoz, Nilex’s new revamped small-cap index, is up and running as of yesterday’s trading session. Tamayoz replaces the NileX index and is designed to help draw attention to listed SMEs with solid fundamentals that are also significant growth stories. The new inclusion criteria, according to EGX boss Mohamed Farid:

  • A four-year revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% or more — or revenues of more than EGP 10 mn over the past year in the event that their four-year revenue CAGR is below 10%;
  • Positive cash flow in the past two years;
  • A minimum freefloat of 10%.

Bringing the rest of the pack to the fold: So far, only eight out of the current 26 NileX companies have been included in the Tamayoz index. But Farid is looking to help the other companies meet eligibility criteria by providing them access to nominated advisers in a program that is 75% funded through the EBRD. These advisers will also help drum up business for the small- and mid-cap exchange.

And that seems to be encouraging small-caps to list: Farid says there are 10 companies interested in talking about possible Nilex listings.


It’s official: Pension payouts to rise 13% from 1 July

Next month’s 13% increase for pensioners is now law of the land: Legislation that raises state pension payments on 1 July has been ratified by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, according to the Official Gazette (pdf). The above-inflation hike — approved by the cabinet in April — will cost state coffers an additional EGP 31 bn in the upcoming fiscal year, and is designed to raise the standard of living of the country’s pensioners.


Egypt now has an ambassador in Doha

Egypt has an ambassador to Qatar for the first since 2017 after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi approved the appointment of Amr El Sherbini as Egypt’s new ambassador to Doha in a decision (pdf) published in the Official Gazette on 22 June. The appointment of El Sherbini comes a day after Saudi Arabia sent its new ambassador to Doha.

Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, had removed their ambassadors from Qatar in March 2014 in protest of the alleged interference by Qatar in other countries' internal affairs. But the signing of the Al Ula accord this year ended almost four years of the Qatari rift with Egypt and its Gulf neighbors. El Sisi received in late May an official invitation to Doha from Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, while Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met last week with the Qatari Emir for the first time in Cairo since the lifting of Egypt and the GCC’s 2017 blockade on Qatar.

We also have a new ambassador in Ethiopia: El Sisi appointed Mohamed Gad as Egypt’s new ambassador to Ethiopia, succeeding ambassador Osama Abdel Khalek.


Mohamed Loutfi appointed BUE president

The British University in Egypt (BUE) has appointed Professor Mohamed Loutfi (bio) as its new president and vice-chancellor, with his term beginning next September, according to a press release (pdf). Loutfi has more than 30 years of experience in higher education under his belt and is currently the special envoy to Coventry University’s vice-chancellor. He was the first president of Coventry Uni’s ‘Knowledge hub’ campus in Egypt and has also held leadership at other institutions. “I feel privileged to have been appointed as the incoming president and vice-chancellor,” Loutfi said. “The higher education sector is living a challenging time worldwide, trying to meet the ever-changing societal needs combined with the continuing pandemic, but I am optimistic.”


KUDOS- Orange’s Ramadan 2020 advertisement has snagged the #2 spot in the Cannes YouTube Ads Leaderboard list which ranks the most popular global video ads released between June 2020 and May 2021, according to a press release (pdf). The advertisement (watch, runtime: 02:26) was released in the midst of the pandemic lockdowns and showed all the ways families and friends were keeping in touch and making memories together through video calls — with Hussain Al Jassmi singing in the background. The ad was watched more than 78 mn times on YouTube, while together the 10 ads on the list garnered over 635 mn global views. Topping the Cannes list is Hyundai’s collaborative ad with K-pop band BTS titled For the Earth (watch, runtime: 1:09).

Who was responsible? The creative agency was Leo Burnett.



The belle of the ball on last night’s talk shows here at home: The Suez Canal Authority’s preliminary agreement with the Ever Given’s owner and ins. company over compensation demands for the container ship’s six-day blockage of the canal in March. SCA’ boss Osama Rabie dropped into Masaa DMC last night to discuss the compensation case, telling Ramy Radwan that both sides could reach a binding agreement by mid-next week (watch, runtime: 7:34). Rabie didn’t disclose the amount of compensation the two sides agreed to yesterday.

Avoiding Ever Given Season 2: The southern stretch of the Suez Canal will see deepening and expansion works to avoid the recurrence of another blockage in the future, Rabie said (watch, runtime: 3:22). Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 7:22) also had coverage.

Also getting attention on the airwaves: The recovery of 114 Egyptian antiquities found in Paris, which French authorities intercepted and prevented their smuggling and sale, the Public Prosecution said in a statement yesterday (watch, runtime: 15:56). Public Prosecutor Hamada El Sawy was among the Egyptian officials who landed in the French capital last night to examine and take inventory of the recovered artefacts before they are transferred back to Cairo, the statement said. Among those who took note: Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 15:39) and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 3:15).


Yesterday’s preliminary agreement between the Suez Canal Authority and the owner of the Ever Given container ship is dominating the foreign press this morning: The story, which we covered in yesterday’s PM edition, is getting ink all over the place, from the Associated Press and Financial Times to the New York Times and Business Insider.

Also making headlines:

  • Is it ethical to display mummies to the public? From preparing an autopsy for scientific purposes to throwing an extravagant royal mummy parade, the question of the seemingly ghoulish display still persists. (Undark)
  • Unicef claims cases of female genital mutilation in Egypt were on the rise during covid-19. (Unicef)


Raya subsidiary Aman Holding is in talks with a syndicate of the Arab African International Bank (AAIB) and the Arab Bank for a EGP 250 mn credit facility to on-lend to micro projects, Hapi Journal reports.

Non-bank lenders have been barred from accepting blank-checks or IoUs that don’t specify exact amounts as guarantees, under a decision by the Financial Regulatory Authority. The decision came after an investigation found that several companies are involved in this practice.

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

  • Orange Egypt is moving ahead with its plans to develop OrangeCash wallet services by partnering (pdf) with the National Bank of Egypt to manage the wallet, while Aman for E-Payments will soon roll out its deposit and withdrawal services through OrangeCash and EtisalatCash wallets.
  • Flights can now operate at Port Said International Airport following its reopening yesterday, under the management of Egypt-based tourism firm Tishoury Tours and state-run Petroleum Air Services.


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Eurozone business activity grew at its fastest pace in 15 years in June thanks to reopening measures and pent-up demand that boosted activity in both services and manufacturing, according to the preliminary IHS Markit PMI survey. The flash composite index for the bloc jumped to 59.2 in June compared to 57.1 in May. But higher covid-19 infections driven by the delta variant as well as labor market shortages mean economic uncertainty is likely to remain for some time, IHS Markit’s chief business economist told CNBC.

The ultra-optimistic PMI wasn’t enough to boost shares yesterday: Investor concern about inflation overrode the impressive figures, leaving European shares down 0.7% at the end of the session, Reuters says.

Autonomous trucking startup Embark is going public via a USD 5.2 bn SPAC: The San Francisco-based firm plans to list shares in a merger with Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp. II that may raise USD 614 mn in proceeds, including USD 200 mn in investment from Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global, to help meet a goal of commercializing its service by 2024, according to a press release.




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The EGX30 rose 0.7% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.63 bn (22.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 5.3% YTD.

In the green: AMOC (+4.3%), Ezz Steel (+3.3%) and Abou Kir Fertilizers (+3.0%).

In the red: Orascom Investment Holding (-3.4%), MM Group (-1.9%) and Medinet Nasr Holding (-1.4%).

Asian markets are mixed in early trading this morning and futures suggest that shares in Europe and the US will open in the green later today.


Progress in Libya talks: Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said there had been progress towards an agreement to withdraw foreign fighters from Libya during talks between the interim government and world powers in Berlin yesterday, Reuters reports. “Hopefully within the coming days mercenaries [on] both sides will be withdrawn,” she told reporters following the meeting, without giving further details. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pledged to “not stop working” until all foreign forces had left, though said it would be a “step by step” process. The government also pledged to stick to its timetable and hold national elections in December.

In attendance: Members of Libya’s interim government held talks with foreign ministers from Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, France and Italy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and officials from Russia, the UAE and others.


Ahmed Gaballah, founder and CEO of Sokna: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Ahmed Gaballah, founder and CEO of Sokna (LinkedIn).

I’m Ahmed Gaballah, a former techie who’s now in the funeral business. I started Egypt’s first end-to-end funeral service, Sokna, after spending 16 years in California working my way up the ranks at Google, Adobe and Facebook. I’m a problem-solver who’s drawn to new challenges and I saw an opportunity to transition the traditional and largely informal sector of funeral services in Egypt into something transparent and systematic.

Being the CEO of a start-up, I’m effectively wearing several hats all the time. I’m in charge of handling strategy, expansion, growth and sourcing great talent. I also spend a lot of time studying international standards in funeral services so I can ensure we’re adhering to best practices in the field. Business development is also a top priority for me, so I spend a lot of time meeting with potential partners like hospital CEOs and companies that are considering adding Sokna’s services to their employees' benefits package.

I wake up at 7 am and the first thing I do is check my phone. We’re a 24/7 hour operation so I have to look at how our field teams have been doing and check for updates on what happened overnight. After that I usually listen to the news on Google Home, and scroll through Enterprise while I grab coffee from TBS or Brown Nose.

The best remedy for me is polo. Nothing relieves stress like a good mallet swing. I have polo games scheduled three times a week first thing in the morning. I’m actually a lifelong equestrian. I started out show jumping when I was younger and later transitioned into polo, which I now play regularly. I call my assistant on my way to the office at 8 am to run through the schedule for the day which typically consists of meetings, brainstorming sessions with the team, and field visits. I try to wrap things up by 7 pm but on busy days it's a little closer to 10 pm when I start to wind down. The reality is that I’m thinking about work all the time though, even in my sleep.

I like to decompress in the evenings by cooking or grabbing dinner with my fiancé. Every once in a while I try to get in a good chess game with a cup of tea before I head to bed.

Witnessing the chaos of organizing a funeral first hand was one of the early signals that something had to change. I was closely involved with supporting one of my closest friends in 2005 after his father passed away. I remember the experience being incredibly traumatic because of how stressful and chaotic it was. I wanted nothing to do with funeral services again and I actually refrained from attending any until 2013 when I was living in California. I was stunned by how different the experience was. I felt that my friend, who had suddenly passed away, got the calm and respectful end of life service that he deserved. This became the catalyst for starting the company: I wanted to solve a tangible problem that not only affected me personally but eventually affects everyone in Egypt.

We intentionally chose to avoid marketing our services when we first launched. We rely mostly on online reviews and word-of-mouth – which is actually how we prefer people find out about us. Otherwise, partnerships with 15 hospitals in Egypt that now have in-house spaces for Sokna staff to offer immediate support, gives us direct exposure to people who most need our services. Media coverage in several local and international news outlets have also helped drive familiarity with our services.

We’re currently working on signing partnership agreements with more hospitals and private companies. I think corporations are starting to realize the importance of supporting their employees in times of loss. We’ve had a number of companies approach us about providing services as part of their employee benefit packages. We’re also working on growing our newly launched service called Pre-Planning, where people can make pre-arrangements for funeral services to ease the burden of decision making during a time of loss. For now, we cover anywhere in Egypt as long as the burial process starts or ends in the greater Cairo region, but we’re looking to expand our geographic footprint.

My time in tech taught me to focus on customers and their experience. Approaching problems through a well-structured process has been a crucial tactic that I learned from my previous work. Relying on data to measure quality, growth, customer satisfaction — and everything really — was an indispensable skill I picked up while working in the US. You can’t make informed decisions without data. I also learned how to build and coach excellent teams.

The transition to Sokna wasn’t easy at first. I had to do a lot of research and spend time on the ground in Egypt, establishing relationships with morticians, speaking with families experiencing loss, and pinpointing exactly where the process could be improved. I also spent substantial time in Asia and the US researching how funerary processes and systems worked there.

As a frontline service provider we don’t have the luxury of WFH. We have to be available at a moment’s notice to our customers wherever they are located in Greater Cairo. The company has been tech-enabled from day one, however, so we’re able to communicate remotely through our internal infrastructure. We have a one hour team meeting and a 20 minute team scrum on a weekly basis. We regularly bring everyone together to regroup through team building activities in fun, outdoor settings while following health and safety guidelines.

I’m passionate about good coffee. It’s been lovely exploring all the local, homegrown coffee brands sprouting up around the city. Dark Solution Coffee (Maadi), Seven Fortunes, Brown Nose and 30 North are my favorites.

My best advice? Work on what you’re passionate about, everything else will follow.


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 June (Saturday): International Cooperation Ministry and Egypt Ventures’ Generation Next entrepreneurship conference, Cairo, Egypt

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.

1 July (Thursday): Deadline for 17 EGX-listed companies to file their 1Q2021 earnings.

1-10 July (Thursday-Saturday): The government’s fuel pricing committee will meet to announce 3Q prices.

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

Mid-July: Legislative session expected to end.

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.

24-28 October (Sunday-Thursday) Cairo Water Week, Cairo, Egypt.

27-28 October (Wednesday-Thursday) Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

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