Thursday, 28 October 2021

Will the CBE leave rates on hold today?



Good morning, friends, and welcome to the final workday of the week. We have a packed issue for you this morning, so let’s jump right in:

DRIVING THE STORY in Cairo: Its interest rate day. The Central Bank of Egypt will likely leave interest rates on hold when it meets later today for its penultimate policy meeting of 2021. All 12 analysts polled by Enterprise see policymakers leaving the benchmark rate at 8.25% to protect portfolio flows and hedge against inflation, which is expected to continue to pick up in the coming months due to rising food and energy prices.

A “threatening letter” found a seat on an EgyptAir flight heading to Moscow from Cairo was deemed a hoax and an alternative flight was arranged yesterday, EgyptAir boss Amr Abou El Enein said in a conversation with MBC Masr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 5:56). Crew members found the letter yesterday 20 minutes after takeoff, prompting pilots to turn back to the airport. Direct flights between Russia and Egypt’s Red Sea destinations resumed just a few months ago after a six-year hiatus following the 2015 Russian metrojet crash.

Meanwhile- EgyptAir is currently considering adding direct flights between Hurghada and Aswan in Upper Egypt after flights from Sharm El Sheikh to the Luxor began earlier this month, Abou El Enein said separately, according to Al Shorouk The move is part of a plan to encourage Red Sea resort visitors to also head down south for cultural tourism during their stay.

Health Minister Hala Zayed was discharged from hospital yesterday as her health improved after a heart attack, Hazem Khamis, Wadi El Nile Hospital’s medical director, told Masrawy.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- ESG is the story of the day after an activist investor took a big stake in Shell — and promptly used it as a platform to demand the oil giant be broken up. Activist hedge fund Third Point has taken a stake worth well over USD 500 mn in Royal Dutch Shell and is calling on the firm to “consider creating two stand-alone companies: one with legacy businesses such as refining that would provide steady cash flow and another that houses renewables and other units requiring substantial investment.” The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times are each claiming the story as an exclusive.

Expect our very rapidly warming planet to dominate the global business news cycle next week as the COP 26 summit gets underway.

And be prepared for more investors asking whether pressure from ESG investing is turbocharging the still-emerging global energy crisis. Blackstone founder Steve Schwarzman says that ESG is threatening to create a massive energy shortage by making it impossible for oil companies to get funding to drill new wells — and BlackRock boss Larry Fink is warning that “outflows from the fossil-fuel industry may be overdone.” The key: Governments will need to help manage our global transition away from fossil fuels and toward greener energy sources, Schwarzman said in Riyadh this week. The New York Times’ Dealbook and Matt Levine in his inimitable Money Stuff both have the story.

ALSO- The World Bank has halted aid disbursement to Sudan in response to the military’s assumption of power there, the group said in a statement yesterday. The move follows the US’ suspension of USD 700 mn in aid to Sudan and the African Union’s suspension of the country’s membership “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority.”


It’s a new month next week: Here are dates for some key news triggers as we enter November:

  • PMI: November’s purchasing managers’ indexes for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will land on Wednesday, November 3.
  • Foreign reserves: October’s foreign reserves figures will be out sometime during the first week of November.
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for October will be released on Wednesday, 10 November.

BOOK LAUNCH- Justo a Tiempo, a memoir penned by our friend ​​Maria Laura Sanchez Puerta (Morning Routine) about her family’s battle against cancer. Sanchez Puerta, who is the World Bank’s human development program leader in Egypt, is launching her memoir on Sunday, 7 November at Osana in Maadi. Argentinian Ambassador Eduardo Varela and Cairo University Professor Rasha Abboudy will also be speaking at the event.

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



US companies to work with military to produce desalination tech

Two US firms will work with the military to locally manufacture desalination technology in an agreement that comes as the Sisi administration looks to expand the country’s water treatment capacity and avert a water shortage. Aquatech and MPS Infrastructure have agreed to form a consortium with the National Authority for Military Production (NOMP) that will see them set up facilities to manufacture equipment used for desalination and wastewater treatment, and manage upgraded plants, according to a statement (pdf) out yesterday from New York-based MPS.

Reducing the costs of clean water: The public-private consortium will localize the production of energy-saving technology from Aquatech in a bid to make desalination more affordable to roll out here at scale, the statement said. Workers at the Military Production Ministry will be trained on how to operate and maintain the equipment, the ministry said in a separate statement. The agreement comes after the three companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on parts production in July.

Key details are still TBA: The statement doesn’t provide information on specific projects the consortium will undertake and doesn’t disclose any contractual details. MPS executive chairman Bjorn Aeserod said that forming the consortium would allow it “to competitively bid for development projects, maximize in-country content, and develop an in-house, world-class operating and maintenance capability,” without elaborating.

Aquatech has experience in Egypt’s water treatment industry, having implemented a number of local desalination and water reuse projects stretching back to at least 2009. MPS operates primarily in Africa and the Middle East, but doesn’t appear to have had a presence in Egypt until now.

Finding new sources of water is mission critical for Egypt, which will see its water supplies come under increasing stress in the coming years due to climate change, population growth, and Ethiopia’s dam on the Blue Nile.

Going big: The government wants to channel more than USD 50 bn into expanding the country’s desalination and wastewater treatment infrastructure by 2037 in a 20-year plan that is hoped to reduce its reliance on the Nile and reduce water scarcity.

The private sector should be taking a lead role: Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund has issued tenders for private companies to build 17 solar-powered desalination plants, part of a USD 2.5 bn plan to quadruple our desalination capacity in the next five years.


Egypt needs to fix withholding tax calculation to get Euroclearable status

A tax calculation issue could be the reason behind slow progress on Euroclearable debt: An issue in how Egypt calculates the withholding tax on government securities is what’s been delaying making the country’s debt Euroclearable, Euroclear head of global capital markets Sudip Chatterjee said yesterday during Saudi’s ongoing FII conference, according to Reuters. The pro rata temporis calculation tax authorities here use, which ties the tax to the duration of a security rather than a certain date, isn’t in line with what’s used internationally, Chatterjee added, noting that legislative changes were passed recently to change this.

As near as we can figure… While Chatterjee didn’t specify the changes, the House of Representatives greenlit a bill earlier this year that will exempt from fees and taxes any capital gains made from trading government treasuries that were sold on international debt markets.

Another hurdle is that “there is a lot of fear” from local primary brokers, who are anxious about how a new method of calculation would impact pricing. “It is very typical that you stumble upon a stumbling block like this,” Chatterjee noted. But “it will be done” as Euroclear is ironing out the issue with the government, he added.

Egypt signed an agreement with Euroclear in late 2019. A Euroclear link will make EGP bonds more accessible to foreigners, who can currently only access the market through a handful of domestic banks. Progress on the agreement moved slowly, with the government having to meet a number of requirements set out by the clearinghouse, including setting up a central securities depository in addition to logistical and administrative issues. The government was originally expecting to have wrapped up the process between September and November but according to statements made by Finance Minister Mohamed Maait last month, our debt may not become Euroclearable until 2022.

Chatterjee’s comments came as Saudi also seeks to make its debt “Euroclearable”: Saudi Arabia’s Securities Depository Center Company (Edaa) signed an agreement with the Belgium-based clearinghouse to pave the way for its local debt to be cleared in Europe, Euroclear said in a statement. The agreement will set up “a fully Euroclearable link enabling international investors access to the local sukuk and bond markets,” the statement said. The link is expected to launch next March. It will initially allow Saudi sovereign and quasi-sovereign debt to be cleared by the Belgium-based clearinghouse, with other asset classes planned for a later stage.

OTHER DEBT NEWS- Heliopolis Housing and Development is planning to issue an EGP 360 mn transfer of rights to fund its project to develop the Heliopolis neighborhood and set up a residential compound in the area, CEO Tamer Nasser said, according to Al Borsa. The company is currently choosing between three unnamed local banks to issue the transfer of rights, and is expecting to begin the project by the second quarter of next year.


Swvl backer VC firm Chimera Capital wraps up second closing of its maiden fund

Swvl backer Chimera Capital has exceeded its USD 50 mn target with the completion of the second close of its first VC fund, according to The Capital Quest. Chimera Global Fund is now looking to target investors for a third and final close it expects to wrap up this quarter, the VC firm, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Chimera Investment, said in a statement.

Chimera Global will target 12-15 fintech, edtech, and health-tech startups, across the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well as in the US. Ticket sizes will go up to USD 5 mn and will be spread across series A to pre-IPO stages.

Portfolio: Alongside investing in Swvl, Chimera Global has also backed US-based online learning platform Coursera, expense management app Divvy, and UAE-based cloud kitchen platform Kitopi in its second close. Swvl, which was founded in Egypt and recently moved its HQ to the UAE, is expected to be the first Egyptian company to IPO on the Nasdaq later this year via a merger with US special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital. Kitopi is also another high-profile startup, and has recently became one the region’s tech unicorns after it closed a huge USD 415 mn series C funding round led by SoftBank in July.

Chimera, a part of the Royal Group in Abu Dhabi, is run by CEO Seif Fikry (LinkedIn) an Egyptian veteran of the regional capital markets scene and founder of the region’s first UCITS-compliant exchange-traded fund.

OTHER STARTUP NEWS- Flat6 Labs and healthcare company Oragnon have launched an accelerator program for female entrepreneurs in healthtech in the MENA region, according to a press release (pdf). Flat6 Labs will connect the startups to regional partner networks, and will provide training, while Oragnon will provide access to global industry experts. Ten of the best start-ups will join a two-month intensive accelerator program that will provide them support to securing venture funding.


The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will be a limited partner in Ezdehar’s Egypt Mid-Cap Fund II, joining the first close of the fund with a USD 25 mn commitment, the DFI announced yesterday. The fund has a target size of USD 150 mn. Private equity outfit Ezdehar founder and Managing Director Emad Barsoum told us last month that the fund expects to reach its first close by November, with a second and final close likely to take place in 1Q2022.

Ezdehar had originally targeted a USD 200 mn fund with two closes of about USD 100 mn each. The new fund will focus on manufacturing, pharma, healthcare, consumer goods, F&B and education, Barsoum previously told us.

Among the LPs: Besides the EBRD, Naguib Sawiris has made a commitment of USD 20 mn, the UK’s CDC is in with USD 25 mn, and the European Investment Bank has committed USD 15 mn. Other potential LPs include the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.


Bidding war for Alex Medical cooling off?

The bidding war for Alex Medical appears to be cooling down, with Alexandria Medical Investment subsidiary TAT Medical Service being the latest to pull its offer to acquire up to 100% of Alex Medical Services, according to a Financial Regulatory Authority statement (pdf). The company notified the regulator yesterday, according to the statement. TAT was offering EGP 49.04 per share of Alex Medical, upping its bid from the EGP 45.53 it had initially offered in May, which had put it in the pole position to secure the acquisition.

Background: TAT had submitted a mandatory tender offer (MTO) to acquire Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s (ADCB) 51.5% stake in Alex Medical in May, with an eye to snap up 100% of the company. After raising its bid in June, a consortium made up of Saudi’s Tawasol Holdings and private equity firm LimeVest then upped its bid to EGP 52 apiece, raising the purchase price to EGP 740 mn, and bumping TAT from the top position.

Where does this leave the battle for Alex Medical? TAT is the second to exit the heated (and protracted) bidding war for the company, after Speed Medical pulled out in May. The bidders still standing are Cleopatra Hospitals Group (which just purchased a brownfield project in East Cairo), UAE’s Global One Healthcare, Nile Misr, healthcare investment firm Seha Capital, and the consortium of Tawasol Holdings and LimeVest. Last we heard, Nile Misr Healthcare, which represents diagnostics lab Nile Scan, cautioned that it might pull out of the race as well due to the purchase price being driven up.


How bad are Egypt’s GHG emissions?

Who are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases? Ahead of the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow next week, the Financial Times has put together a neat searchable dashboard comparing the emissions and climate pledges of 193 countries, using data from Climate Watch and the International Energy Agency. Five countries — China, the US, India, Russia and Indonesia — together account for 50% of annual carbon dioxide emissions, with China alone contributing 23.9%, or 11.7 bn tons in 2018, according to the data.

Where does Egypt stand according to the FT? We came in 28th, contributing to 0.67% of annual carbon dioxide emissions, or 329.4 mn tons, in 2018. Despite the efforts made to reduce emissions, we still rely on fossil fuels for 91% of our electricity production (other estimates put the percentage even higher). Like China, we haven’t submitted legally binding targets on cuts as Paris Agreement signatories, but the government has set an ambitious goal of seeing 42% of the country’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2035.

Another visualization of similar data (covering just CO2) is in the image above — and it’s pretty stunning when you look at it in full detail (tap or click here for the full resolution version from Our World in Data.)

The UN wants countries to be a lot more ambitious when it comes to climate: Countries signed up to the Paris Agreement were asked to up their goals for reducing emissions ahead of COP 26. The US is now promising to cut net emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030, but that will still leave it as the world’s biggest emitter by capita. China, meanwhile, says it intends for carbon emissions to peak around 2030 and reach net-zero by 2060, though it is yet to make the target legally binding. Greenhouse gas concentrations hit an all time-high last year: without action, at the end of the century emissions will likely be far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Oil and gas multinationals are, predictably and rightful, in the hot seat: ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell executives will face a committee of US lawmakers on Thursday amid allegations by investigative reporters that they knew their products were driving climate change decades ago but chose to downplay or deny it, Axios reports. Lawmakers will be looking to figure out whether and to what extent top executives tried to mislead the American public on the existence of climate change and its human causes.


President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has tapped Lt. Gen. Osama Ahmed Askar as the new Armed Forces chief of staff, according to an Ittihadiya statement. Askar most recently headed the Defense Ministry’s Military Operations Authority and previously served as assistant commander-in-chief of the development of Sinai, according to Sada El Balad. Askar takes over from Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid, who will now become the presidential advisor for a Decent Life initiative, the presidency said. Hegazy has completed his four-year term as chief of staff, having been appointed in 2017.

Ahmed Abdallah (LinkedIn) has been appointed as CEO and managing director of Egypt Post’s investment arm, Post for Investments (PFI), Al Borsa reports. Abdallah was previously the PFI’s chief investment officer and succeeds Emad Ezzat (bio). He has over 23 years of experience in the banking sector and financial services in Egypt and the Middle East.


Three Egyptian companies made it onto Forbes’ 10 Sustainable Companies in MENA list: Solar EPC and financing company Cairo Solar, recycling and waste disposal company Egyptian Company for Solid Waste Recycling and solar distributor KarmSolar.

EFG Hermes’ consumer finance arm Valu snagged the “fintech company of the year” award at the inaugural Gulf Business Tech Awards, which were held on the sidelines of electronics expo Gitex in Dubai last week, EFG said in a press release (pdf).

The factoring industry’s global body Factoring Chain International has tapped Egypt Factors General Manager Doaa Hafez (LinkedIn) as an executive committee member, making her the first Arab and African woman to make it onto the committee, according to Al Masry Al Youm.

Zaki Hashem & Partners was named the IFLR1000 “law firm of the year” for Egypt in 2020-2021, in recognition of “landmark transactions” including Egypt’s first green bond issuance and its work on the Cairo monorail project, the law firm said in an emailed statement (pdf). Senior Associated Peter Maurice was named “rising star lawyer (Egypt).” The awards were handed out during the IFLR Middle East Awards 2021 ceremony held in Dubai yesterday.

Damietta is one of 10 cities to receive UNESCO’s Learning Cities Award for its implementation of the learning city strategy outlined by UNESCO (pdf). Other awardees include Dublin, Ireland; Shanghai in China; Jubail Industrial City in Saudi; and Qatar’s Al Wakra.

Digital transformation scholarship: Graduates can now sign up for a “digital transformation” scholarship that is being launched by Microsoft and the Communications Ministry to increase knowledge of advanced technologies. The course will allow students to specialize in one of six different fields, including cloud infrastructure, database management and data science, through “several training platforms, virtual classes and practical exercises,” the ministry said without providing further information. There are only 1k places available; you can register here.



President Abdel Fattah El Sisi made a rare call-in to the small screen last night, ringing up a visibly delighted Sherif Amer on MBC Masr’s Yahduth fi Masr to praise a young kid, Ahmed Tamer, making headlines for his skill at reciting the Qur’an (watch, runtime: 11:38).

El Sisi’s speech during a press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who was in town yesterday for talks, was aired on both Al Hayah Al Youm and Sada El Balad (watch, runtime: 5:45 and runtime: 2:03). The two leaders discussed pushing for a political settlement in Libya and sharing thoughts on a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We have more in Diplomacy, below. El Sisi also phoned in to talk shows for the first time in recent memory, praising the Quran recitation of a child to Yahduth Fi Masr’s Sherif Monir (watch, runtime 11:38).

How has Nafeza been going so far? FinMin advisor Mona Nasser tuned in on Al Hayah Al Youm for updates on the new one-stop Advanced Cargo Information (ACI) system, which graduated from pilot phase at the start of the month and is now mandatory for importers to use (watch, runtime: 7:07). So far, some 21.5k importers have registered on Nafeza, the online platform running the ACI, and nearly 52k foreign exporters have already signed up for blockchain platform CargoX, which allows shippers to Egypt to upload shipping documents.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abou El Gheit spoke to Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa for political bits and pieces. Abou El Gheit discussed El Sisi’s decision to end emergency rule (watch, runtime: 5:19), weighed in on Sudan (watch, runtime: 4:29), as well as Libya (watch, runtime: 4:14), Syria (watch, runtime: 4:49), and Lebanon (watch, runtime: 4:23), among other topics.


How is the region responding to the military takeover in Sudan? Shifts in regional diplomacy got play in the foreign press today following this week’s military takeover of Sudan. The longevity of changes in government in both Sudan and Tunisia will rest on the tacit support of regional power-brokers Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor argues. Military leader Abdel Fattah Burhan has had the trio’s backing for some years, according to the Associated Press, which notes that Burhan attended military college in Egypt.

And what does the military takeover mean for GERD? If the new government in Khartoum sticks, Egypt can expect its strong support in any dealings with Ethiopia over the hydropower mega-dam, according to the Africa Report. Meanwhile, Bloomberg says that military rule in Sudan could further inflame the GERD crisis in an explainer on recent events in the country. Also predicting an escalation in tensions over GERD is Thomas Friedman, who argues in his latest New York Times op-ed that a recent shake-up in regional alliances will push climate concerns front and center. We are firmly in a transition from a Middle East shaped by great powers to a Middle East shaped by Mother Nature,” he writes.


The General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) purchased 360k tonnes of wheat from Russia, Romania and Ukraine for shipment between 1-10 December at an average price of USD 328.05 per tonne FOB and USD 360.03/mt CFR, according to Reuters. Egypt has been relying less of Russian wheat, which accounted for just 20% of all Egyptian imports by August this season, marking a seven-year low, on the back of high tariffs on exports by the Russian government.

Suez Canal Revenues were up 12.6% y-o-y between January and 25 October this year, reaching USD 5.1 bn, Suez Canal Authority boss Osama Rabie said in a statement yesterday. Some 16.6k vessels carrying 8.5% more cargo y-o-y passed through the canal during this period.


Kids as young as 3 can now get a Sinopharm jab in Bahrain

The Health Ministry reported 907 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 871 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 327,286 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 53 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 18,428.

IN OTHER HEALTH MINISTRY NEWS- Prosecutors are probing a number of Health Ministry officials for unspecified allegations, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office. The agency said reports circulating on social media were inaccurate and that it would provide further details on the investigation as it progresses. We’re keeping an eye on the story as it develops.

Kids in Bahrain are now eligible for vaccination with the Sinopharm jab, after the country’s vaccination committee approved the vaccine’s use in children aged 3-11, according to the Bahrain News Agency. Children aged 5-11 will be eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab soon, the statement says. Bahrain’s announcement coincided with the US’ Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that children aged 5-11 receive Pfizer vaccines. In September, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi announced that Egypt could start providing vaccines to children under 18, pending approval.


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EFG Hermes -

Fertiglobe shares jumped 20% in their ADX debut yesterday before closing 17.6% higher at AED 3.06 per share. The joint venture between the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc) and Nassef Sawiris’ OCI raised some USD 795 mn in last week’s IPO, pricing shares at AED 2.55 apiece. The listing was heavily oversubscribed and made the company third largest by market cap on the ADX, valuing its shares at USD 5.8 bn. You can catch the start of trading announcement here (pdf).

EFG Hermes rides the Gulf IPO rush: Fertiglobe’s strong start follows the success of Adnoc Drilling’s USD 1.1 bn public listing, in which shares rose c. 30% on their debut earlier this month. Energy giant ACWA Power also made its debut on the Tadawul this month, with its share price shooting up its 30% limit to SAR 72.80 following its USD 1.2 bn IPO. EFG Hermes worked on all three listings, putting the investment bank on track for “a landmark year” in 2021, according to a statement, which added that the firm has closed a record 23 transactions worth USD 6.1 bn so far this year.

El Salvador has bought 420 BTC after the price of the cryptocurrency slid from its recent high, saying “we just bought the dip.” El Salvador made the digital currency legal tender alongside the USD last month. Since then, the price of bitcoin reached a record USD 67k before nose diving to USD 58.6k by yesterday.




+1% (YTD: +4.8%)



Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76



Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76


Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending




-0.3% (YTD: +35.9%)




-0.6% (YTD: +55.7%)




-0.07% (YTD: +14.9%)


S&P 500


+0.07% (YTD: +21.9%)


FTSE 100


-0.3% (YTD: +12.3%)


Brent crude

USD 84.61



Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 6.20




USD 1,800.10




USD 59,098.03

-3.7% (as of midnight)


The EGX30 rose 1.0% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.21 bn (20.7% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 4.8% YTD.

In the green: Aspire Capital (+3.5%), CIRA (+3.3%) and CIB (+3.1%).

In the red: Rameda (-5.2%), Ibnsina Pharma (-3.8%) and Egypt Kuwait Holding-EGP (-3.0%).

Asian markets are all in the red at dispatch time. Futures suggest a mixed open for major European benchmarks later today — and that Wall Street has a chance of opening in the green.


Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly met with a group of leading French banks and investment funds in Paris yesterday to promote Egypt as an investment destination, according to a cabinet statement. The statement didn’t name who Madbouly met. This came during the final day of the prime minister’s visit to the French capital, during which he met with representatives of some of the country’s biggest companies and signed a three-year agreement with the OECD to support the government’s economic reforms.

Romanian president in town for talks: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi held wide-ranging talks with Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis in Cairo yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The two heads of state discussed bilateral trade, energy and economic ties, as well as regional issues such as terrrorism and the Libyan peace process.


Talks on restoring the Iran-US nuclear accord are due to begin before the end of November, the country’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, said on Twitter. Kani and the EU’s top diplomat Enrique Mora agreed on a rough date to restart the negotiations following a meeting in Brussels, with an exact date yet to be determined. Talks on the pact have been stalled for several months, after Iran elected conservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency. Raisi harshly criticized the US in his inaugural UN address yesterday, calling the sanctions “crimes against humanity.”


Seán O Regan, Irish Ambassador in Cairo. Each week, My Morning 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 Seán O Regan (LinkedIn), the Irish Ambassador in Cairo. Edited excerpts from our conversation:

I’m Seán O Regan and I’m the Irish Ambassador in Cairo. I’ve been here for just over four years and it’s my second ambassadorial posting. I’ve also had postings in Finland, Turkey, China and Slovenia since working at the Department of Foreign Affairs. My background is in science, and I started my career in that field before returning to university to do an MBA and taking the civil service exam.

In many ways, my job is my hobby. I’d always been interested in politics, but not electoral politics. And while this job has a little bit of everything, what interests me most is the political analysis — which is very much about understanding people and what motivates them. Someone once told me my job is to make friends for my country, which is so true — whether it’s at the Foreign Ministry, in Chambers of Commerce, or in the arts.

Egypt and Ireland have a long history of converging policy objectives. Even before either country was independent, we sought to cooperate with the Egyptian delegation at the Treaty of Versailles negotiations. And there was quite a lot of contact between the Irish and Egyptian independence movements. Nowadays, we work closely together on foreign policy issues like the Middle East peace process, and peacekeeping generally. We established our embassy here in the 1970s.

Our trade relationship with Egypt is good, but could be better. Most of the food that Ireland used to export here, like meat, has become too expensive — in part as it’s produced through sustainable agriculture — for many Egyptian consumers. We do export quite a lot of dairy products, though you might not see them on shelves as they’re sold as commodities.

Now, much of our trade with Egypt consists of services. Virtually all “made on the internet” companies like Google and Facebook have their Europe or MENA headquarters in Ireland. Many Egyptians living in Ireland work for those companies. Likewise for pharma companies, and we’ve got a very strong fintech sector — several Egyptian banks use Irish fintech products.

We’re hoping that EgyptAir will launch a direct flight to Ireland in the not too distant future — which would also make a big difference to the trade relationship.

My working day typically starts around 8:30am, reading the papers — with Enterprise second on my list, after the Irish Times. Then it’s the New York Times, the Economist, and various press summaries provided by the EU and other organizations. It generally takes me an hour to get through everything. I often hold meetings in the morning, and do my report reading and any writing in the afternoon.

Obviously, working lunches and dinners are a big part of this life, and tend to take place two or three times a week. It all sounds very social and glamorous — and a lot of it is — but of course it’s work too.

We did work from home during the height of covid, but now we’re pretty much full-time back in the office. Both have their challenges — especially when it comes to keeping people motivated during a really difficult period. I think that’s something that all organizations, large and small, have faced. The next challenge will be making sure people continue to practice safe behavior back in the office.

Outside of work, I enjoy reading, walking, and watching good films. During the pandemic, I also started playing golf regularly. Reading is important to me, and I like fiction, though I probably read more biographies and political history. My other big love is rugby.

I love the serenity of the desert. There isn’t necessarily one particular part I like more than any other. I just love it all. I also feel the same way about Siwa, which I’ve visited several times.

I’m currently reading several interesting books: My current fiction book is “A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom” by John Boyne. My current non-fiction is “The Islamic Enlightenment” by Chris de Bellaigue. My most recent Egyptian book was “Otared” by Mohammed Rabie.

A fascinating 1920 book called “An Egyptian in Ireland” gives some insights into the Ireland-Egypt relationship. It tells the story of a young man, Ibrahim Rashad, who went to Ireland to study economics. He wrote a wonderful book about the history of the Irish cooperative society movement, arguing it was something Egypt should adopt in its own development.

People may be interested to know that Halloween is Irish, and holds an important place in Irish culture. The modern-day celebration of Halloween is derived from the ancient holiday of Samhain, which marked the transition from autumn to winter. Some call it the Celtic new year. Traditionally, it was a time when the veils separating past, present and future became thin, which people believed allowed them to commune with their ancestors and predict the future. The feast became associated with fortune telling and visiting. People carved skulls out of turnips to frighten away roaming spirits, and keep their houses safe.

The history of Halloween is in some ways the history of the Irish diaspora. Irish emigrants took the holiday to the US, but some of the stuff Americans think of as Halloween doesn’t resonate with us at all — particularly when it comes to the horror and gore.

In Ireland, our celebrations don’t have the excesses of Hollywood but do retain all the mystery and fun. Starting last Sunday and running until Halloween itself, there’s a Halloween festival in Dublin, with events like ghostly tours of the city. Bram Stoker was Irish, so the Dracula story gets told a lot. We celebrate with traditional children’s games, like bobbing for apples. We might also eat special food, like barmbrack — Irish fruit bread that traditionally has various objects baked in as part of a fortune-telling game. Dressing up is important — especially for children, who would traditionally perform a song or dance in exchange for sweets or an apple.

Will I be celebrating Halloween in Cairo? Of course. We have a Halloween celebration at the embassy every year. This year, we’re undergoing some repairs — so for once I’ll be going to someone else’s party.


23-28 October (Saturday-Thursday): A high-level delegation of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will visit Egypt to meet with government officials and travel to IFAD-supported projects in the country.

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.

6 November (Saturday): Deadline to apply to Nahdet El Mahrousa’s Rabeha, a women entrepreneurship accelerator program.

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

8 November (Monday): Egypt CSR Forum, International Citystars, 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.

18-19 November (Thursday-Friday) British royal family members Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit 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.

30 November (Tuesday): Launch of open call by GIZ and KfW for green project proposals in Egypt as part of their Investing for Employment facility (pdf).

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.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

27 January 2022 (Tuesday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

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.

2 April 2022 (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

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

24 April 2022 (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians).

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

2 May 2022 (Monday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

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.

30 June 2022 (Thursday): June 30 Revolution Day, national holiday.

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

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

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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