Monday, 18 October 2021

EnterpriseAM — The Finance Ministry is lining up new business incentives + economic reforms

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

From the biggest IPO we’ve seen in years to government incentives for the private sector and progress on a closely watched fintech bill, it’s a really busy newsday in a city that is looking forward to the last long weekend of 2021.

And it’s just going to get busier through Wednesday morning. Here’s how it’s all looking:

The CGT could soon be on the Senate’s radar: Senator Ahmed Samir Zakaria has joined the chorus of voices speaking out against the 10% capital gains tax, saying in an official letter (pdf) to Senate Speaker Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek that the proposed levy threatens Egypt’s long-term goal to become more investor-friendly. Zakaria proposed running a series of meetings to discuss the feasibility of the capital gains tax in the upper house of parliament.

What’s the CGT? The 10% tithe would hit the net realized portfolio gains each tax year of domestic investors on the EGX. After years of delays, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has said the tax will come into effect on 1 January 2022. Many, from fund managers to figures from the securities industry and MPs have voiced concerns about the timing of introducing the tax, asking for it to be postponed after having been already pushed several times. Some are also suggesting replacing it with another levy, or scrapping it entirely to protect a still-recovering EGX. A related drive could put the tax on the agenda of the House Planning and Budget Committee.

SMART POLICY- The government is aiming to increase the number of prepaid water meters installed in homes to 16.6 mn by 2030, in a bid to reduce water waste, cabinet said in a statement.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- It’s all about China this morning. The Financial Times’ exclusive that China launched a hypersonic missile that stunned the US intelligence community is still leading the FT’s front page — and is now being referred to by the commentariat as a “Sputnik moment” for the United States (readers will remember we flagged the missile story yesterday). Meanwhile, China’s 3Q growth figures are out, and they’re grim: Growth slowed sharply to 4.9% thanks to the twin energy and supply chain crises. The story leads the front pages everywhere from CNBC to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

Oil prices have hit new highs around the world, with Brent crude (the international benchmark) touching a high we haven’t seen since October 2018 and WTI (the US price) reaching a peak unseen since October 2014.

Qatar smells opportunity, saying it has begun construction on up to four giant new natural gas liquefaction facilities it expects will help it raise its annual production of LNG to 110 mn tonnes a year from 77 mn currently, Qatargas, the world’s largest LNG producer, said yesterday. The gas-rich Gulf nation said last week that it had maxed out its production capacity despite high demand from other countries amid the ongoing energy crisis. The statement doesn’t make clear when the new facilities are set to start operations, but it could be years depending on when construction begins / began.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

EBRD Vice President of Banking Alain Pilloux is in town through Wednesday for a series of high-level meetings (pdf).

i-Sheep PSA: A Mac revamp and new AirPods are among new tech expected to be unveiled at Apple’s launch event today. You can catch a livestream here; it kicks off tomorrow at 10 am PDT, or 7 pm CLT for the folks tuning in from home. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has the rundown on everything you can expect.

Google will debut its new Pixel phones (the 6 and the 6 Pro) tomorrow night at the same time (watch here).

MARKET WATCH- Investors should brace themselves for a wave of market volatility that is bound to kick in as soon as the Fed begins to roll back its massive crisis-era stimulus, Mohamed El Erian, the Allianz chief economist and Queens’ College president, said on Fox News yesterday (watch, runtime: 9:10). “I worry a little bit that this wonderful world we’ve been living in of low volatility … may come to a stop with higher volatility, but a lot depends on behavioral changes,” El Erian said.

High inflation here to stay? The market sage also dispelled the US Federal Reserve’s much-challenged narrative that high inflation is transitory. “We should look forward to another year at least of high and persistent inflation,” he says, adding that the two main problems, inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, are only partially due to transitory reasons.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Fall conference season is still going strong. Among the exhibitions and business events here and throughout the region:

  • The GITEX Global at the Dubai World Trade Center kicks off today and runs through this Thursday. The event brings together players in Big Tech to discuss what’s next in areas such as AI, cloud, 5G, cybersecurity, blockchain, and more.
  • Cairo Water Week begins next Sunday, 24 October. The annual event will wrap next Thursday, 28 October.
  • The two-day Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference takes place next Wednesday and Thursday, 27 and 28 October.
  • Later this month: The Middle East Angel Investment Network is hosting its Angel Oasis in El Gouna on 27-29 October, with separate pricing for in-person and virtual attendance.

Entrepreneurs in Egypt: You have one month to apply for the acceleration exchange program Meet Silicon Valley, which will take a group of entrepreneurs to California for a 10-day program to meet with tech executives and investors. The program is being implemented by Injaz Egypt and TechWadi with the support of the US Embassy in Egypt. Startup founders must be between the ages of 23 and 35 to be eligible for the program. The deadline for applications is 15 November, and you can check out the full criteria and program details here.

(Much) further down the road: A conference and exhibition on MENA healthcare is coming to Egypt in June 2022, head of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement Bahaa El Din Zidan said last week, according to Ahram Online.

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

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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 the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: Egyptian universities were well represented in the newly-published QS 2022 World University Rankings: Arab Region. This continues a trend we identified last week, of more Egyptian universities being featured in prestigious ranking systems, with private universities in particular seeing notably higher levels of representation. The Times Higher Education rankings put a bigger emphasis on teaching, research and citations, while QS heavily weights academic reputation, employer reputation and faculty/student ratios. We take a look at how Egyptian universities fared in the QS rankings, compared to other ranking systems, and examine how important these rankings actually are to universities.

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This is your shortcut to a comprehensive platform, designed to bring you closer to 10 mn m2 of incomparable experiences, and a colorful art gallery inspired by the natural beauty of Somabay.

ECONOMY

New business incentives are in the works at the Finance Ministry — here’s the rundown from Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk

EXCLUSIVE- FinMin has a few incentives in the works for the private sector: Growing Egypt’s tax base has always been a mandate of the Finance Ministry. And while a significant portion of that during the 2016 economic reform agenda had been focused on roping in as many business into the tax rolls, the ministry is now planning a series of incentives designed to help businesses in sectors it identifies as key grow — consequently, raising tax revenues, Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk tells us in Part 2 of our exclusive interview.

Among the ministry’s priorities on the incentive front:

  • Extending the current freeze on electricity prices for industry;
  • A new incentive program for local automotive assembly (in the works since 2016)
  • “Economic Reform Program 2.0,” which will pick up where the IMF-led program Egypt completed two years ago left off.
  • A revamped export subsidies program

THE BIG THEME- Kouchouk says the programs are being revamped to reward high-performing companies that build on the value-added components of their products and grow exports.

Below are edited excerpts from our conversation:

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY- The government is working on a new incentive program that targets the auto assemblers, Kouchouk said. The aim is to target larger auto assemblers with output of over 10k cars a year and who source over 45% of inputs locally.

The new program is designed to replace the now-defunct automotive directive, which we note never saw the light of day after it drew criticism from the EU for breaching trade terms. Draft legislation to move forward with the new incentive program made its way to the House after getting a nod from cabinet in 2020, but was recalled by authorities from the hands of legislators earlier this year for a closer look. The legislative framework is expected to boost the auto industry through infrastructure improvements and trade agreements with other countries.

ENERGY PRICES- The brewing global energy crisis will only bring more attention to Egypt’s use of energy, which has been an issue for the Sisi administration since the president’s first term as it has tackled decades of ruinous energy subsidies. Now, the government is looking to help keep energy bills affordable for industry at a great cost to the state, Kouchouk says.

Now, manufacturers can look forward to a few more years without electricity price hikes: The government plans to keep electricity price fixed for another few years. Factories were  spared the most recent hikes in electricity prices.

This had come at a great cost to the state coffers, as keeping prices fixed has so far cost the state EGP 10 bn, Kouchouk noted.

This will likely shield factories from the worst of the global energy crisis, which has seen Natgas futures rise to USD 5.4 / mmbtu, and Brent crude futures rising to USD 84.86/bbl.

EXPORT SUBSIDIES- The government is planning to dole out EGP 8 bn this fiscal year for the new export subsidies plan, which received the greenlight from the cabinet last June, Kouchouk tells us.

The new export subsidy program will care very much about performance: The new system will focus more closely on “the performance of exporters” — and introduce a sliding scale of incentives that become larger as an exporter’s use of local components increases, he added.

The program also targets new industries in governorates selling to new destinations: The revamped program aims to boost domestic manufacturing, push for export growth from Upper Egypt and other regions outside of Cairo and Alexandria, as well as drive sales to Africa. The new program will replace an EGP 6 bn plan that fell out of favor with the nation’s exporters shortly after the government started it in FY2019-2020 — mainly due to a lack of clarity in its executive regulations and delays in doling out the subsidies.

On that front, the government has already paid out some EGP 23 bn in overdue export subsidies, Kouchouk tells us.

ECONOMIC REFORM 2.0 will also target new industries, including agriculture and tech, Kouchouk said. You can read a refresher on the new three-year program here.

MISSED PART 1? Kouchouk discussed how Egypt’s debt strategy is adapting to the new times, including the timing of our next eurobond issuance, new debt instruments in the works and how Egypt can withstand a Fed stimulus tempering. You can read the full interview here.

 

CORRECTED ON 18 October 

The government is keeping electricity prices frozen for the next two years, not natural gas prices (which we incorrectly said it would hold for five years) as was previously written.

COVID WATCH

Starting 1 December, unvaccinated folks won’t be allowed into government institutions, the Health Ministry said in a statement yesterday. The new decision will apply first to government employees, who won’t be allowed into their workplaces unjabbed starting 15 November, unless they get a negative PCR test every week, the ministry said. The news is getting plenty of attention from the domestic press and on the state’s various social media feeds.

New EGP 1 bn spending package for covid: The government has set aside EGP 1 bn it plans to use for covid-related spending, the ministry said without revealing further details.

The Health Ministry reported 871 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 874 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 318,456 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 44 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 17,970.

IPO WATCH

Foreign institutions lining up for e-Finance’s IPO –Sarhan

Foreing investors had heavy appetite for shares of e-Finance, the state-owned fintech platform and payments infrastructure provider whose ongoing offering on the Egyptian Exchange is set to be the largest IPO that Egypt has seen in years. The bankers quarterbacking the transaction have yet to release official figures, but you can expect to hear that foreign fund managers accounted for about 70% of demand for the offering to institutional investors, according to a chat last night between e-Finance Chairman and CEO Ibrahim Sarhan and nighttime talkshow queen Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 6:50). The institutional offering was covered about 6.8x over, Sarhan added.

Look for trading of e-Finance shares to begin on Wednesday, Sarhan told El Hadidi. Shares will open at EGP 13.98 each, meaning the IPO is worth about EGP 5.8 bn (USD 367 mn).

The offering to individual investors was as heavily oversubscribed as you would expect given (a) intense retail interest and (b) the small size of the offering to folks who aren’t running institutional or quasi-institutional money. The retail component of the IPO officially closed yesterday 61.4x oversubscribed, the EGX said in a bulletin at the end of trading. Retail investors placed bids for a total of 1.6 bn shares. The company offered just 25.78 mn shares to individual investors. The IPO will see e-Finance selling 417.8 mn shares (or 26.1% of the company). e-Finance had raised the size of its offering from 257.8 mn shares (16.1%) last week.

Advisors: Renaissance Capital, CI Capital and Al Ahly Pharos are quarterbacking e-Finance’s IPO as co-lead managers. NI Capital is acting as the IPO advisor for the listing. Zaki Hashem & Partners has been appointed as counsel to e-Finance, while Norton Rose Fulbright is acting as US counsel to the co-lead managers. Inktank is the investor relations advisor.

Ahead of its highly anticipated EGX debut, e-finance has launched a digital healthcare service platform with the Universal Health Ins. Authority (UHIA), according to a company statement (pdf). The company, named eHealth, is a platform that provides comprehensive and integrated services to the healthcare sector, from managing and operating the daily operations of ins. and health technology systems to technical support services and consulting. The platform will manage and operate the tech backbone of the government’s universal healthcare scheme.

LEGISLATION WATCH

House committee gives final nod to proposed fintech law

The House of Representatives’ CIT Committee yesterday gave final approval to a draft law to regulate Egypt’s fintech sector, Al Mal reports. The proposed law would govern fintech use by non-banking financial services (NBFS) providers, as well as put the Financial Regulatory Authority in charge of overseeing the fintech space. Under the draft approved yesterday, NBFS players that want to use fintech will need to obtain approval from the FRA by submitting a standard request form, along with proof the company has sufficient capital.

The bill also mandates that the FRA set up a lab to test new fintech products — and that it put in place provisions for digital identification systems, as well as regulations for issuing digital contracts. The bill also reportedly covers crowdfunding, robo-advisory, nano-finance and insurtech, and introduces penalties that include imprisonment of at least six months or fines of EGP 200k-1 mn for unlicensed operators.

What’s next for the law? It will be handed over soon, along with a committee report, to the House general assembly for a final discussion and vote, after which it can be signed into law.

Background: The bill — which received Cabinet approval last April, and was given a preliminary nod by the house in May — is a bid to expand the sector’s beneficiaries and promote financial inclusion by granting the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) the power to license and regulate NBFS businesses and fintech startups. Under the law, the FRA would have supervisory powers over the sector to ensure companies adhere to transparency and governance standards, in addition to protecting consumer rights. The FRA had drafted and approved the bill last year.


ALSO FROM THE HOUSE- Some good news for the private sector: The House of Representatives’ general assembly gave preliminary approval yesterday to proposed amendments to the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Act, according to a statement. The entire bill was approved “in principle” except for article 17, which still needs further review to square it in with a recently-ratified law governing the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, whose investment mandate focuses on partnerships with the private sector, Al Mal reported yesterday.

What we know about the law: The proposed amendments would explicitly state that government authorities are allowed to partner with private companies on infrastructure and utility developments in sectors including transport, energy, communications, and healthcare. The House Planning Committee approved amendments to the PPP Act early this year.

Other details we know about the changes: The amendments would cut the time to issue tenders for PPP projects and introduce new mechanisms for private sector contracting, including allowing private sector players to submit unsolicited proposals. The government would also be allowed to negotiate directly with a sole bidder without needing to take the project through the competitive bidding process. The government is looking to encourage private sector involvement in infrastructure, public services, and utility developments, particularly in the new cities.

STARTUP WATCH

Construction tech outfit Elmawkaa and mobile security startup MagicCube close rounds

Egyptian construction tech startup Elmawkaa has raised an undisclosed USD six-figure sum in a seed round led by Flat6Labs, with the participation of a group of Saudi investors from the OQAL Angel Investors network, the startup said in an emailed statement (pdf). The company is looking to onboard 2k suppliers and process 4k transactions worth USD 2 mn next year, CTO Mahmoud Habib said.

Local and regional expansion ahead: The company is planning to expand across the country and have a presence in all Egyptian cities by 2023, before setting its eyes on cross-border expansion to Saudi’s Riyadh the following year. Egypt’s building materials market is worth USD 17.5 bn — accounting for 30% of the sector in MENA — and is expected to grow to more than USD 62.3 bn by 2029, according to Habib.

What does Elmawkaa do? The company’s platform uses matching algorithms to help users buy and sell building materials, allowing customers to request quotations from suppliers before choosing the best bid. Founded in 2017, Elmawkaa was part of a 500 Startups accelerator in late 2019 and has since onboarded more than 1k suppliers and 4.5k contractors, facilitating sales of more than USD 1 mn. “We are not a listing or ordinary marketplace, we are digitizing and innovating the process of buying building materials,” said co-founder and CEO Ebrahem Anwar.

ALSO FROM PLANET STARTUP- California-based mobile security startup MagicCube — co-founded by Egyptians Sam Shawki and Nancy Zayed — raised USD 15 mn in a funding round led by Mosaik Partners, with the participation of Bold Capital, Epic Ventures, payments-hardware maker ID Tech and unnamed individual investors, TechCrunch reported.

The global chip shortage is good news for MagicCube: The company’s software-based mobile technology allows businesses to securely process payments, theoretically making security chips obsolete. “The chip shortage that is halting entire industries and hiking device prices has exposed how antiquated the current approach is and how valuable MagicCube’s solution is to tackle this issue — this round reflects that,” Shawki (LinkedIn) said.

Background: MagicCube has raised USD 30 mn to date since its debut in 2014, having previously secured two investments from Visa as well as backing from Azure Capital Partners, Epic Ventures, NTT Data, Silicon Valley Bank and the Sony Innovation Fund among others, according to TechCrunch. The company’s co-founders, CTO Zayed (LinkedIn) and Shawki, are an Egyptian power couple whose careers have taken them from an Egyptian startup to major tech companies including Apple and Netscape — back to a startup, this time in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Want to hear more about MagicCube? We sat down with Zayed and Shawki last year on our podcast, Making It, to learn how they went from building software in Egypt to working at tech companies that arguably changed the world (listen, runtime: 42:18).

INVESTMENT WATCH

Mashreq Capital favors Oman, Bahrain investment over Egypt, Turkey

Egypt is “fantastic” but overcrowded, says Mashreq Capital: The asset management arm of UAE-based Mashreq Bank prefers the current investment climate in Oman and Bahrain over Egypt and Turkey, head of Fixed Income and Global Portfolios Oliver Kettlewell told Bloomberg Daybreak (watch, runtime: 8:23). “We’d rather invest in the two GCC countries [Oman and Bahrain] sovereigns than Egypt and Turkey right now,” he said.

The rationale: Kettlewell says that while others are right to say Egypt is “fantastic,” the market is overcrowded, “so if we’re getting more capital … we won’t be putting it to work in Egypt.” The case against Turkey is obvious because of the high risk from “all of the shenanigans with misfiring central bankers,” Kettlewell said. Oman and Bahrain, meanwhile, have solid-looking fiscal balances and have also made decent strides in terms of fiscal reforms. He said Bahrain could potentially double its VAT, while Oman’s government is discussing introducing income taxes.

DEBT WATCH

Palm Hills board signs off on EGP 1 bn securitized bond issuance

Palm Hills Developments (PHD) will issue EGP 1.1 bn in securitized bonds, after the property developer’s board signed off on the move at a meeting yesterday, according to a regulatory filing (pdf). Sarwa Securitization is managing the issuance for Palm Hills.

The bond issuance comes as part of several financing arrangements PHD is looking to finalize by the end of this year “in the form of on and off-balance sheet financing including the securitization of receivables, syndications with banks,” as well as the company’s first long-term sukuk issuance worth EGP 5.5 bn, Executive Chairman Yasseen Mansour said previously. The company reported annual growth of 41% to reach EGP 278.2 mn in 2Q2021, with revenues more than doubling due to new residential and commercial sales.

MOVES

Shake-up at Oil Ministry agencies and affiliated firms: Minister Tarek El Molla tapped a number of new executives and officials to fill positions that were left vacant after the retirement of previous holders, the ministry announced in a statement. The moves included the ministry’s central administration for projects — which will now be headed by Ahmed Mohamed El Khalifa, Enppi — which now counts Mohamed Abdel Aziz as its chief executive, and state-owned Egyptian Maintenance Company — which tapped Ashraf Bahaa El Din Abou El Fotouh as its new chairman and managing director.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Recent government decisions dominated the airwaves last night, with the talking heads each taking turns phoning government officials for their two cents. Among the highlights:

Renewed austerity measures: A six-month extension of pandemic-era austerity measures to streamline public spending, after Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly signed the decision into law. The story made the rounds on Kelma Akhira, with Lamees El Hadidi phoning Hany Mahmoud, the prime minister advisor for administrative reform to weigh in (watch, runtime: 4:40). Mahmoud said the measures, which also include putting a freeze on government hiring and promotions, target “unnecessary expenses” and will not affect employees or the performance of their agencies. The extension was approved by the cabinet last month.

Vaccination deadline for gov’t employees: El Hadidi also spoke to cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad to discuss yesterday’s Health Ministry decision to make vaccines mandatory for government employees and for anyone entering government agencies (watch, runtime: 6:18). According to Saad, the decision was made possible off the back of Egypt significantly increasing its stock of vaccine doses in recent months. El Hekaya’s Amr Adib also took note of the decision (watch, runtime: 8:42), which we recap in Covid Watch, above.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a quiet morning for Egypt in the foreign press. The sole story of note: Late Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat’s nephew Mohamed El Sadat is negotiating in an unofficial capacity for the release of prisoners in Egypt by liaising with security officials and the families of detainees, AFP reports.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

EETC, Elsewedy Electric ink monorail substations contracts: Elsewedy Electric has signed an EGP 178 mn contract with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to build substations in Sheikh Zayed for the upcoming monorail project. The contract will see the latter construct a 66/22-kilovolt (kV) substation that will power the part of the monorail passing through the 6th of October area.

The EU is in talks with Cairo to approve its new EU-Egypt Association Agreement, before finalizing the updated agreement at an upcoming Association Council meeting, said head of the EU Delegation to Egypt, Christian Berger said, according to Al Dostor. The agreement has been updated to prioritize covid response, health and vaccines, green energy and the digitization of the economy.

European travel operator TUI is targeting making 40 trips to Red Sea resorts from UK cities before the end of the year, after landing its first flights to Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh last Saturday.

PLANET FINANCE

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Uber + Careem just got hit with a massive tax bill in KSA. The ride-hailing companies will be charged a combined USD 100 mn in taxes in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom resolves disputes on how to calculate VAT by gig economy firms over the past few years, Bloomberg reports, citing sources in the know. The additional taxes, which “include hefty penalties for late payment,” may scare off investors at a time when Saudi authorities are looking to attract foreign investment. Earlier this month, a top Dubai investor in courier app Fetchr announced that it was considering filing for liquidation due to a USD 100 mn tax bill in Saudi Arabia, according to the business information service.

Up

EGX30

11155.57

+1.5% (YTD: 2.9%)

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Buy 15.66

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Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

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11,773.4

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ADX

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2,802.1

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4,471.4

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USD 84.86

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USD 5.41

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USD 1,768.30

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BTC

USD 60,814.31

+0.3% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 1.5% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.3 bn (13.1% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is up 2.9% YTD.

In the green: Ezz Steel (+10.3%), Qalaa Holding (+6.4%) and Raya (+4.0%).

In the red: CIRA (-2.1%), Aspire Capital (-1.8%) and Eastern Company (-1.8%).

Asian markets are starting the trading week in the red, with everything from the Kopsi to the Nikkei, Hang Seng and Shanghai down by less than 1%. Futures suggest a mixed open for major benchmarks in Europe later this morning. The outlook for Wall Street is similarly mixed, suggesting the Dow will open (barely) in the green while the S&P and Nasdaq will open (just barely) in the red.

DIPLOMACY

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed the situation in Libya, Palestine, Syria in a sit-down with James Cleverly, the UK’s Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa, who was in town yesterday. The two officials also touched on the recent string of events in Lebanon, which led to last week’s gun assaults that killed seven people on the streets of Beirut.

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New QS 2022 Arab university rankings show Egypt continuing to make strides, with more private unis represented: After our look last week at how Egypt is raised its profile in international university rankings, Egypt’s universities continue their ranking ascension with the QS 2022 World University Rankings: Arab Region, released last week. The latest rankings, in which Egypt tied with Saudi Arabia for the largest number of universities included, saw 31 Egyptian institutions featured, including six new entrants.

AUC, Cairo University and Ain Shams were the three top-scoring Egyptian universities in the newly-released rankings, with AUC and Cairo University maintaining their 11th and 12th positions for a second year, while Ain Shams inched up one spot from the 2021 list.

Private universities have upped their game in this one as well: Eight of the 31 Egyptian universities in this year’s QS Arab university regional rankings are private institutions — up from five out of 25 Egyptian universities that made the cut last year. Along with AUC, we have Future University (51-60), GUC (71-80), Nile University (91-100), AASTMT (101-110), BUE (101-110), 6 October University (151-180), and Pharos University (151-180).

But while more Egyptian unis were featured this year, some of the strongest performers slipped a little. The number of Egyptian institutions featured in the top 50 of this year’s QS regional rankings slipped to six in 2022, from seven in 2021, continuing a downward trend from 2020, when nine Egyptian institutions were among the region’s top 50. Among top-50 institutions, Alexandria University slipped from 18th to 21st place, Mansoura University fell one spot to land in 29th, and Assiut University dropped from 32nd to 35th.

Egyptian universities’ performance in the regional rankings follows the same trend seen in the QS global rankings: The QS World University Rankings 2022, released in June, noted strong overall gains from Egypt’s universities. 13 Egyptian universities were featured out of roughly 1.3k universities from all over the world ranked by QS this year, up from nine last year. But Egypt’s top performers were down: AUC fell to 445 from 411 in 2021 and Cairo University to 571-580 from 561-570. Ain Shams remained steady at 801-1000.

The results differ substantially from the newly-launched THE Arab University Rankings: Egypt generally fared better in the Times Higher Education Arab University Rankings, inaugurated in July, as we noted last week. THE includes 19 Egyptian universities in the region’s top 50 — and puts different names in Egypt’s top spots. Zewail City of Science and Technology is ranked number 10, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) is number 11, and Mansoura University is number 13.

Why the discrepancy? There are major differences in the two ranking systems’ methodologies, as we’ve noted previously. THE puts a bigger emphasis on teaching, research and citations, while QS heavily weights academic reputation, employer reputation and faculty/student ratios. QS designs their rankings primarily for students, but other systems are more aimed at university leadership, a 2013 Guardian piece notes.

Both QS and THE use the same data for their World rankings and their Arab regional university lists — but it’s weighted differently. QS gives employer reputation — or how successfully a university prepares its students for the labor market — more weight in its Arab university rankings, while academic reputation and faculty-student ratio are less heavily weighted. THE gives more weight to teaching, research, and international outlook, and less to citations, in its Arab university rankings.

Having separate Arab university rankings shows ranking bodies are trying to assess universities within a distinct regional context: When QS piloted its Arab region rankings in 2014, it noted that “extensive consultation has been undertaken with university leaders in the region to identify a suitable methodology.” And when THE launched its regional rankings earlier this year, it said “the new regional table will also introduce metrics that are specific to the missions of universities across the Arab world.” This includes work on sustainability, and an academic reputation survey on universities in the region completed by published scholars. The methodology is expected to keep evolving, to reflect the changing higher education landscape in the region, THE said when announcing the new rankings.

But just how important are these rankings for universities, anyway? Rankings do matter, but it’s important to view them in context, as we’ve discussed previously. “No institution wishing to compete globally — or even nationally — can afford to ignore [rankings],” writes Imperial College professor Stephen Curry. But as well as looking at the numbers themselves, we need to be aware of the limitations of what they can measure, he adds.

Rankings focus on quantifiable metrics — which means they can’t really measure overall education quality, experts note.

Still, a strong performance in international rankings could help Egypt’s universities attract talented staff and students, Yehia Bahei El Din, BUE’s Vice President for Research & Postgraduate Studies, previously told Enterprise. In this sense, rankings are arguably more important for private universities — which recruit students — than for public ones. And strong research departments are a big pull for prospective staff members, he noted.

Your top education stories for the week:

  • Grade 4-6 students are getting classroom materials from NatGeo: National Geographic is set to provide print and digital classroom materials for 7 mn Egyptian students in grades 4-6, according to an Education Ministry statement. The materials will cover English, Social Students, Career Skills and ICT.
  • Overpopulation at the nation’s schools: High density in public schools was the talk of the town over the week as the 2021-2022 academic year kicked into full swing.
  • House throws back at Education Ministry for restricting student access to books: The Education Ministry faced backlash from the House of Representatives after a decision to hand out curriculum textbooks only to students that had paid tuition fees.
  • Decision to ban photography in schools also prompted a debate: The nation also plunged into debate following a parallel decision banning people from taking photos and videos in public schools without the ministry’s permission.

CALENDAR

October: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis could visit Egypt mid this month to discuss ways to boost tourism cooperation between the two countries.

14-22 October (Thursday- Friday): El Gouna Film Festival.

Mid-October: The Egyptian Banking Institute, the Financial Services Institute, and I-Score will begin airing in mid-October the Digital Credit Scoring Webinar Series, a line-up of webinars on the banking sector and banking regulations.

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

20 October (ًWednesday): E-Finance begins trading on EGX.

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.

28 October (Thursday): Second tranche of overdue subsidy payouts will be handed to eligible exporters.

30 October – 4 November (Saturday-Thursday): The first edition of Race The Legends, Egypt.

30-31 October (Saturday-Sunday): G20 Leaders’ Summit, Rome, Italy.

31 October (Saturday): World Cities Day, Luxor, Egypt.

November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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.

2-3 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

7-10 November (Sunday-Wednesday): Cairo ICT 2021, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo.

15-21 November (Monday-Sunday): Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

25-27 November (Thursday-Saturday): RiseUp Summit, Cairo, Egypt.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Centre.

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

8-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research (GFHS), Cairo, Egypt.

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.

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

15 December (Wednesday): Deadline for joint stock companies and investment companies in Cairo to join e-invoicing platform.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

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

19 February 2022 (Saturday): Public universities begin the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year.

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

22-24 April 2022: World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt

16 June 2022 (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools

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

2H2022: IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum, Egypt. Date + location TBA.

18-20 October 2022 (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

**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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