Thursday, 4 November 2021

AM — Egypt’s covid passport app is now live + PMI slumps as global logistics snarl bites

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Well, friends, we’ve just about made it through another workweek together. The big story here at home this morning as we prepare to slide into the weekend is the launch of the government’s digital vaccine record app, which eliminates the need to go separately obtain a QR coded paper certificate. Also today: Teens aged 15 and up are now getting covid-19 vaccines in classrooms. We have chapter and verse on how to get the app in the news well, below.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- COP26 keeps its place on the front pages of much of the global press this morning. Among the headlines from Day 3 of the climate conference:

The UN is throwing Africa a lifeline: The UN has launched a new short-term lending market for African governments in an effort to reduce borrowing costs and channel more money into green projects on the continent, the Economic Commission for Africa announced. The Liquidity and Sustainability Facility (LSF) will create a repo market for African bonds: bondholders will be able to swap the securities for cash, making them more attractive to investors and lowering borrowing costs in a move the UN says could save governments USD 11 bn over the next five years.

Egypt is backing the LSF: “Our aim is to be able to provide the same sort of liquidity-supportive environment to African governments and private investors alike,” Finance Minister Mohamed Maait is quoted in the release as having said. “African governments have historically faced high cost of borrowing while developed countries have long enjoyed the existence of large repo markets for their government bonds, facilitating the creation of stable and additional funding sources.” Reuters and the FT have the story.

Advisors: Citi was structuring agent, while White & Case and Matheson were legal counsel.

** Check out our explainers to find out how this will work: How repos work | The Liquidity and Sustainability Facility.

Countries pledge to stop financing overseas fossil fuel projects: At least 19 countries have pledged to stop channelling finance into overseas fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021, sources tell Reuters. There is yet to be an official announcement, but sources say that Denmark, Finland, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gambia, and the Marshall Islands, in addition to the European Investment Bank and the East African Development Bank, have made the commitment.

Global finance on board with climate goals: More than 450 banks, asset managers and ins. companies have signed up to a climate foundation set up by ex Bank of England governor Mark Carney and could channel some USD 100 tn over the next three decades into achieving net-zero emissions.

Over in the US, a stinging set of election results for the Democratic Party has the US Twitterati speculating about the future of Biden’s legislative agenda. Republican newcomer — former private equity bigwig Glenn Youngkin — won a surprise victory in the race for the Virginia governorship while the incumbent Democrat in the heavily blue state New Jersey only narrowly avoided a loss to the Republican challenger. (AP | Reuters | Washington Post | NYT | Politico | Axios)

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

SPACs could be coming sooner that expected: Regulations that will govern special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) here in Egypt could be ready in as little as three weeks, Financial Regulatory Authority Deputy Chairman Islam Azzam told CNBC Arabia yesterday. The rules could set an EGP 100 mn minimum size for a SPAC merger, as well as a minimum participation from SPAC sponsors / founders, who may be required to invest between 20-25% in SPACs they’re sponsoring, Azzam said. The regulator this week greenlit a plan spearheaded by EGX boss Mohamed Farid to allow SPACs in Egypt. News then emerged that two non-banking financial services players are considering acquiring fintech companies via SPACs.

Why set a minimum threshold for sponsors? In the SPAC-verse, sponsors usually get paid a 20% bounty known as the “promote,” as well as other benefits which keeps them safe while public investors are out in the cold, which is why the FRA is taking this bit seriously.

MARKET WATCH-

The Fed taper is here — and it could be over before the middle of next year: The Federal Reserve will begin unwinding its huge stimulus program this month amid concerns that inflation will remain elevated for longer than previously thought. In a statement following its two-day policy meeting yesterday, the central bank said it would taper its USD 120 bn-a-month bond-buying programme by USD 15 bn a month, reducing the amount of treasuries it buys by USD 10 bn and mortgage-backed securities by USD 5 bn. Should the central bank stick to this trajectory, this will mean the asset-purchase programme will be completely phased out by June 2022.

A taper ≠ a rate hike: Fed chair Jay Powell looked to straddle the middle ground between doves and hawks, saying in his post-meeting presser that monetary policy will remain accommodative despite the taper while pledging to take firm action should inflation threaten to get out of control.

Things might be a little different on the other side of the Atlantic this afternoon, where there’s a good chance that Bank of England officials could vote to start raising interest rates at today’s policy meeting.

This went down well with the US markets, with the S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 all notching new record highs on the same day for the first time since January 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Things are going to be different in EM, where currencies are going to start facing headwinds: Most emerging market currencies are set to weaken or at best hold on to their current value in 2022, according to a Reuters poll of analysts, who expect US yields to rise and money to start flowing out of EM assets next year.

And in Egypt? The government is signaling outwardly that it is not sweating the impact of a Fed taper and subsequent hike in interest rates, with Finance Minister Mohamed Maait talking up Egypt’s experience handling EM volatility in a recent interview with Bloomberg. S&P wrote recently that while Egypt is vulnerable to rising US rates, its high inflation-adjusted interest rate put it in a better position than other EMs to weather the effects of the taper (provided local inflation remains in check).

The Fed meeting is the big story in the global financial press this morning: AP | Reuters | Bloomberg | FT | WSJ | CNBC.


The world’s largest trading bloc will come into force at the start of next year, after Australia and New Zealand this week ratified a pan-Asian trade agreement. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will also include China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), covering almost a third of the world’s population and GDP and making it bigger than other trading blocs like the EU and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The pact will gradually reduce import tariffs on more than 65% of goods, and standardize rules governing e-commerce, intellectual property and financial services.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The Africa Early Stage Investors Summit continues today, featuring virtual sessions featuring speakers from angel networks, VC funds, accelerators, and the public sector, among others.

Key news triggers coming up:

  • Foreign reserves: October’s foreign reserves figures will be out any day now;
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for October will be released next Wednesday, 10 November;
  • There’s no MPC meeting this month — the central bank will next meet on 16 December to review interest rates for the final time this year. The CBE has yet to issue its MPC calendar for 2022.

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


CORRECTION- Egypt will be shipping natural gas to Lebanon via the Arab Gas Pipeline. We incorrectly said earlier this week that the pipeline will carry liquefied natural gas which simply isn’t how that sort of things works, of course. We’ve updated the story on our website to reflect this correction. H/t Marwan S.

enterprise

COVID WATCH

Egypt’s covid passport app is now live — here’s how to get it up and running

The Health Ministry’s covid passport app is now live: The app acts as proof of covid vaccination, and is designed to replace the paper certificates in efforts to avoid fraud. The application is straightforward: All you have to do is enter your national ID or passport number and vaccine registration number — sent in a text message by the Health Ministry upon your vaccine registration — upload a profile picture, and pay the EGP 100 fee (for Egyptians) or EGP 400 (for foreigners). Download the app: Google Play | Apple App Store.

How it worked for us: For two of us using iPhones, it worked a charm — the whole process took about five minutes, two of them spent looking for our hand-written vaccination cards. One of us on Android was unable to retrieve their personal information during the registration process. Reviews on the App and Play stores are so far mixed — split between one-star reviews complaining of technical glitches and five star reviews from people who had an easy time (like most of us) getting it up and running. We suggest you try for yourself.

You don’t need a QR-coded vaccination record to make this work: The app recognized our hand-written record — and displays your QR code when you tap a button.

Reminder: From 1 December, you’re going to need either this app or a paper certificate proving you’ve been vaccinated in order to enter government buildings.

The app received widespread coverage on the talk shows last night: Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 2:02) Yahduth Fi Masr (watch, runtime: 3:04) and Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 13:35)

Children between 15 and 18 can now register on the Health Ministry’s website to get their Pfizer jabs, according to Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 3:34). The ministry earlier this week announced that the vaccine would be handed out to 15-18 year-olds, and jabs in schools started yesterday. The news comes as the US Center for Disease Control officially recommended that 5-11-year-olds receive Pfizer’s pediatric covid jab

The Health Ministry reported 951 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 921 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 333,840 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 63 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 18,832.

IN GLOBAL COVID NEWS-

There’s a new WHO-backed vaccine on the block: The World Health Organization (WHO) just approved India’s homegrown covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, for emergency use on people aged 18 and older. The vaccine, which was co-developed by local manufacturer Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the state-funded Indian Council of Medical Research, will be administered in two doses, with four weeks between the shots. The Indian jab had been shrouded in controversy since it was first introduced to the public, with WHO claiming that it has waited for months for information from the company in order to authorize the inoculation’s use, saying it would not “cut corners” to greenlight it.

ECONOMY

Private sector activity at five-month low as global supply chain crisis stokes inflation

Private sector activity dips to five-month low: The contraction of non-oil private sector activity in Egypt deepened in October as continued supply chain disruptions abroad caused input costs to rise at their quickest pace in over three years, the IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) (pdf) showed yesterday. The index inched down to a five-month low of 48.7 from 48.9 in September, marking the 11th consecutive month that the index has been below the 50.0 mark that separates growth from contraction.

The Great Global Supply Chain Snarl is starting to weigh on businesses: Worsening global supply chain bottlenecks were to blame for the dip, as a lack of materials saw companies forced to scale back output and up their input buying to cushion themselves from future supply gaps. “Having previously been less impacted than Europe and other regions, Egyptian firms started to feel the burden of material shortages on both output and inventories, with the latter decreasing at the sharpest rate in 16 months,” said David Owen, economist at IHS Markit.

Prices rose across the board: “Inflationary pressures were spread across a vast array of inputs, including metals, plastics, wood products and construction materials, plus rising freight costs,” Owen said.

The result: Input costs and output charges accelerated at their quickest rate since August 2018.

Egypt’s headline inflation rate has been ticking up in recent months and hit a 20-month high of 6.6% in September amid rising food and energy prices. The headline rate remains within the CBE’s target range of 7% (+/-2%), and many analysts predict prices to stabilize come next year.

We could be in for a rocky few months: Materials shortages will likely lead to further output reductions by the end of the year, IHS Markit says. Where inputs are available, they will be more expensive — and that cost will be passed onto consumers in part. “This suggests that businesses and consumers will struggle to avoid price rises in the months to come," Owen said.

Rising commodity prices will also make their mark over the coming months: The government’s decision last month to hike the cost of natural gas for manufacturers and gasoline prices for motorists will fuel further inflation. Fertilizer and chemicals producers could raise their prices by up to 20% to protect their operating margins. And the government is preparing to cut back on bread subsidies for the first time in decades as rising international wheat prices put pressure on the state budget.

The supply chain crisis hit exports as well: Foreign orders fell at the fastest pace in 17 months, continuing a downward trend from September.

The private sector doesn’t expect supply chain disruptions to end anytime soon: Business confidence plummeted from September’s record high last month, with output expectations falling 20 points to their lowest level since April. The tumble in confidence reflects increasing concern over the possibility that inflation could last long enough to inflict real damage. “Firms were particularly concerned that high inflation could lead to a slump in demand and reverse the economic recovery seen since COVID-19 restrictions were eased,” IHS Markit said.

On the bright side: Employment is up for the fourth consecutive month, although backlogs of work are piling up for the third time in four months due to input shortages. And despite all the inflationary doom and gloom, we’re still above our PMI series average, which is the total average of PMI scores we’ve earned since 2011.

And demand is going relatively strong — for the time being. Thank tourism: New orders dipped only marginally on the back of weak exports, saved by a rebound in local sales. Local tourist hotspots in particular are seeing a revival after covid-19 restrictions had almost halted their operations.

ELSEWHERE IN THE REGION- Saudi Arabia’s PMI (pdf) slipped slightly from last month’s reading of 58.6, but output levels expanded at a record rate. The Gulf state logged its second-highest reading since the start of covid-19. Purchase price inflation rose to an 11-year high amid the supply chain crunch.

Dubai Expo 2020 drove the UAE’s business growth up to a high not seen since June 2019 as PMI (pdf) surged to 55.07 in October, up from 53.3 in September. The event, which helped drive a rise in spending and a spike in tourism, also boosted output levels at the strongest rate in over two years.

PRIVATIZATION WATCH

Heliopolis Housing wants to ride that e-Finance wave

Heliopolis Housing and Development’s plan to tap the EGX appears to have been brought back from the dead in the wake of e-Finance’s recent IPO, with the state-owned real estate company now looking to pull the trigger on a secondary offering by the middle of 2022, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik told Masrawy.

Take one: Heliopolis Housing originally intended to offer another 15% of its shares on the EGX last year alongside the sale of a 10% stake to a private investor, but scrapped the plans after seemingly failing to find an interested buyer.

The reboot: The company is yet to decide on the size of the stake it plans to sell as it is still working on determining its financing needs, Tawfik said. The plans are part of a shift in company strategy that will see it pursue partnerships with private developers in hopes of boosting interest in its shares.

Everyone wants to be the next e-Finance: The state-owned e-payments firm’s successful listing two weeks ago has revived talks of the scheme, which had seen transactions postponed multiple times. Following e-Finance’s sale, state-owned sports club Ghazl El Mahalla announced it would go ahead with its own IPO this month, while ins. giant MIH unveiled plans to list 25% of its subsidiary Misr Life Ins. on the EGX during the second half of 2022. We can expect up to five state companies to offer shares on the EGX during the state’s ongoing fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.

GREEN FINANCE

More Egyptian companies have the green bond bug + “green incentives” coming for the private sector

Egypt’s private sector is preparing to take to market USD 120-200 mn in corporate green bonds, Planning Minister Hala El Said said during COP26 climate summit in Glasgow yesterday. The minister stopped short of giving further details on which companies could issue the bonds or when the sales could go ahead.

The plan would mark Egypt’s second corporate green bond issuance: Leading private sector bank CIB was the first in the country to issue corporate green bonds when it completed a USD 100 mn sale of the securities in July. The sale was initially capped at USD 65 mn, but the bank raised the size on the back of strong demand from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which snapped up the entire issuance.

Big green finance meets high-level climate diplomacy: El Said announced the news during Tuesday’s high-level panel hosted by the Adaptation Action Coalition (AAC), a UK-led alliance to address climate change of which Egypt is a founding member. Also in attendance were IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva and WHO climate director Maria Neira.

Also in the works: Unspecified “green incentives” for the private sector, Gamil Helmy, assistant planning minister for sustainability, said at a separate event. The incentives would be linked to environmental standards the Planning Ministry released in cooperation with the Environment Ministry earlier this year, according to the statement.

STARTUP WATCH

Grocery delivery app Breadfast raises landmark USD 26 mn in series A round

Grocery delivery startup Breadfast has secured USD 26 mn in funding in a series A round co-led by Vostok New Ventures and Endure Capital, according to a press release (pdf). Also participating in the round were Tinder co-founder Justine Mateen’s JAM Fund, Y Combinator’s YC Continuity Fund, Abu Dhabi-based Shorooq Partners, Africa-focused 4DX Ventures and freight forwarding company Flexport. The round brings Breadfast’s total investments to date to around USD 33 mn, according to the statement, which includes a seven-figure pre-series B round last year.

How will the funds be used? Breadfast will use the liquidity to expand to eight new Egyptian cities, and new markets across Sub-Saharan Africa, the company said without elaborating. It plans to use part of the series A funding to boost its network of dark stores to bring on-demand delivery time to 20 minutes, down from one hour currently. Breadfast is also looking to scale the tech behind its delivery app and hire new staff.

What is Breadfast? Founded in 2017, the company started off delivering bread (fast) and now supplies a range of supermarket products, with fresh produce accounting for the bulk of its revenue.

The A round is one of Egypt’s biggest so far this year: The USD 26 mn round is the fifth-largest “A” round we’ve seen this year, following Trella’s USD 42 mn round in June, MaxAB’s USD 40 mn round in July, digital lender Capiter’s USD 33 mn series A round in September, and MNT-Halan’s record-breaking USD 120 mn round in September, the biggest raise of any form so far this year and the largest fintech round ever raised in MENA, we believe.

ALSO FROM PLANET STARTUP- Health tech startup Bypass has raised USD 1 mn in pre-seed investment from Egyptian and foreign VC players including Magic Fund, Acuity Ventures, Launch Africa and Plug and Play, according to a company statement (pdf). The company will use the funding to expand its customer base and the services under its HealthTag platform for storing and sharing medical records.

About Bypass: Launched in Menoufia in 2019, the startup developed a scannable card that contains compiled medical information for individuals, including prescriptions, allergies, and medical test results. The company now operates across Egypt after participating in Falak Startups’ accelerator.

(EDITOR‘S NOTE: This story was amended on 10 November to reflect that Trella’s USD 42 mn round was a Series A round, making Breadfast’s round the fifth-largest we’ve seen so far this year, not the fourth-largest as previously reported.)

KUDOS

KUDOS-

Some of our favourite people took home hardware from the Middle East Investor Relations Association’s (MEIRA) annual awards in Dubai last week. The program run by Sherif Khalil, Yasmine Hemeda and company at CIB earned the “Leading Corporate for IR — Egypt,” while Edita’s Menna Shams Eldin was named “Best IR Professional — Egypt.” You can check out the full list of award winners here (pdf). Congrats, guys. 🙂

Egypt dominated the British Global Business Outlook 2021 banking awards, with Banque Misr, Arab African International Bank, National Bank of Egypt and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Egypt snagging a total of eight awards.

Our very own Ahmed Malek has been nominated for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards for Best Lead Actor in Film. Malek is nominated for his role in the 2020 historic drama The Furnace.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Last night’s talk shows were all about the government’s move to the new capital, following yesterday’s presidential order that will see many civil servants begin packing their bags at the beginning of December. Deputy Housing Minister Khaled Abbas told Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 19:03) that the move will happen in phases, with 10% heading to the new capital during the first wave, which will see every ministry initially move 200-300 workers.

Isn’t the new capital still only half-built? The government district of the new capital is ready to begin receiving workers, according to Abbas, who said that construction of the buildings and roads has been completed. Yahduth Fi Masr (watch, runtime: 5:19) and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 0:47). also covered the story.

Tutors: The Tax Authority wants you to pay up — but that doesn’t mean it has somehow legalized the industry. The authority’s demand that the owners of tutoring center open a tax file and start paying their taxes doesn’t mean the industry has been legalized, director-general of the Tax Authority’s technical office, Talaat Abdel Salam told Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 8:33). He explained that the Tax Authority isn’t responsible for the legality of any business venture — and said that with the informal economy making up 33% of the Egyptian economy, not taxing illegal practices would mean the authority is losing out on a large sum of cash. Freelance tutors also need to pay taxes. Head of the Tax Authority’s central administration Saeed Fouad joined Yahdoth Fi Masr in a phone call and reiterated Abdel Salam’s comments (watch, runtime: 7:23).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Leading the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press this morning: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi yesterday instructed the government to start moving to the new administrative capital on 1 December, which will mark the start of a six-month trial period, Ittihadiya said without elaborating. (Associated Press | Reuters | The National)

Also making headlines:

  • Powers handed to the military by the House this week are still getting attention: (BBC | Africa Report)
  • A walking restaurant: An Egyptian carrying his “kitchen” like a backpack and selling sandwiches to passersby in Alexandria lands a spot on Reuters Oddly Enough segment (watch, runtime: 1:38).

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves inched up USD 24 mn in October, reaching USD 40.85 bn from USD 40.83 bn in September, according to official figures released yesterday.

An undisclosed institutional investor is looking to buy a stake of up to 5% in pharma giant Rameda. The shares belong to an individual investor, according to a bourse filing (pdf) by the company. The company’s OGM will be deciding on the matter on 25 November, as the lockup period post-IPO has not yet ended.

Cleopatra Hospital Group is purchasing a brownfield project in East Cairo from Al Marasem Development, Cleopatra’s IR Director Hassan Fikry told Enterprise. The acquisition is still pending approvals from the Health Ministry, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).

Six new licenses to manufacture steel products are now up for grabs, and the Industrial Development Authority is inviting iron ore, direct reduced iron, and iron billet makers to bid, it said in a statement (pdf). The licenses will be offered as part of a tender that will run between 7 and 18 November. They include three permits to set up billet factories with an annual production capacity of 1.1 mn tonnes each, one to manufacture 2.5 mn tonnes of direct reduced iron a year, and two to make iron ore with a capacity of 8 mn tonnes for each plant. Egypt has had in place import tariffs on iron billets and steel rebars since April 2019, with an eye to gradually tapering off the rates over a three-year period from the date of rolling out the tariffs.

Al Futtaim Group Real Estate is in talks with unnamed local banks to finance new projects in New Cairo expected to cost up to EGP 8 bn, Managing Director Ashraf Ezz El Din tells Al Mal. The new projects include two four- and five-star hotels with a total of 500 rooms, as well as an administrative building near Cairo Festival City.

PLANET FINANCE

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“Supply chain pressure” is a phrase that won’t be leaving the global headlines any time soon:

  • No light at the end of the tunnel, says Maersk: Shipping giant Maersk, which reported record earnings USD 16.6 bn in 3Q2021, has said that it’s unsure when global supply chains will normalize as ports and shippers contend with surging demand and labour shortages. (FT)
  • Rising fertilizer prices only mean one thing for farmers: Spiralling fertilizer prices are leading to increasing shortages in some parts of the world, putting further pressure on global food prices, which have surged more than 30% in the past year. (Bloomberg)
  • Furniture manufacturing giant Ikea is raising prices as supply chain disruption hurts its earnings. Net income fell 17% to EUR 1.5 bn in the year to August, setting the company up for two consecutive years of declining profits. (FT)

Up

EGX30

11,685

+0.1% (YTD: +7.7%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Down

Tadawul

11,686

-0.6% (YTD: +34.5%)

Down

ADX

7,966

-0.1% (YTD: +57.9%)

Up

DFM

3,109

+3.8% (YTD: +24.8%)

Up

S&P 500

4,661

+0.7% (YTD: +24.1%)

Down

FTSE 100

7,249

-0.4% (YTD: +12.2%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 81.99

-3.2%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 5.81

+2.5%

Up

Gold

USD 1,775

+0.6%

Up

BTC

USD 63,057

+0.1% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose less than 0.1% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.36 bn (11.2% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 7.7% YTD.

In the green: Rameda (+2.9%), CIRA (+2.6%) and GB Auto (+2.5%).

In the red: Heliopolis Housing (-6.1%), Sidi Kerir Petrochem (-5.6%) and Gadwa Industrial Development (-4.9%).

Asian markets are reacting positively to yesterday’s Fed meeting and are in the green in early trading this morning. Stock futures suggest that European and US shares will follow suit later today.

AROUND THE WORLD

Talks on restoring the Iran-US nuclear accord will resume on 29 November, Iran's top nuclear negotiator said in a tweet yesterday.Representatives from China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and Iran will meet in Vienna for a EU-chaired meeting, the Financial Times reported.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

Aly Mazhar, CEO and founder of BeFit: 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 Aly Mazhar, CEO and founder of BeFit (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Aly Mazhar and I introduce myself as an athlete — I’m someone who is passionate about sports and found the inspiration to become an entrepreneur. I launched BeFit in 2013 to add value to the community, to the people around me, and even with the ideas I have for my business. Now, I’m very passionate about entrepreneurship and turning ideas into reality.

BeFit had to innovate throughout the pandemic: When covid-19 first hit, we relied largely on online services, but we have since bounced with some new ideas for our clients and our community. I think we're lucky to be working in an industry where people like to get together — it's all about human interaction and the community.

We’re working on improving access to proper fitness facilities for all Egyptians and changing the general mindset on the importance of sports and fitness in daily life. We recently opened the first gym in Shebein El Koum’s City Club, with plans to open two more branches in Kafr El Sheikh and Banha in 2021 and later on expand into more governorates in 2022.

My day-to-day job is split up between running the business and coaching: My main responsibility is making sure that our company is achieving growth for our employees, while adding value to the community and the society around us. In terms of running the business, I synchronize all the backend support functions together, including the tech, financial, marketing, and operations departments, along with business development and the growth of the organization as a whole.

I usually wake up around 6-6:30am. I have two hours for myself in the morning to set my daily tasks and what I want to achieve throughout the day. I have my breakfast and coffee and then I head to the gym to train at around 8:30-9am. I'll be done and showered by 10:30-11am to head to the office. In the evenings, I either coach or take the evening off. Whenever I have the chance in the middle, I read Enterprise.

It doesn't matter whether you incorporate your workout in your morning routine or later in the day. Working out is best whenever it is best for you. Some people have energy in the morning, some have energy in the evening, and some have energy around midday. From a purely fitness perspective, it doesn't really matter when you work out — just that you get some exercise in your day. I personally try to get my workout in early because my days are in flux a lot of the time, so I could struggle to train at any other point in the day.

I used to play football professionally but an injury meant I couldn’t continue playing. I majored in finance and shifted to investment banking for a while, but I didn’t feel passionate about my job. But even after I switched back to the sporting world, my financial background has come in handy in almost everything I do.

The external factors that could change the sports industry in Egypt definitely have to do with the macroeconomics, political environment, government policies and infrastructure, which all can provide good support for the industry. The more we develop sports facilities, the more we foster sports entrepreneurs into our equation, the more we can grow our businesses and add value to the consumers. Internally, bringing more people into the industry to develop themselves and their set of capabilities, can help the industry as a whole achieve much more, much faster.

When I’m not working or training, I either watch or play football. Sometimes I just hang out with my friends in a very cozy environment; I'm not big on social events or going out. I usually like to watch movies or shows that take me away from reality and the business world. I recently watched The Good Doctor and really recommend it. The podcasts I listen to are mainly focused on health and fitness — I don’t have any specific favorites, but I’m always open to discovering new ones about technology and sports, new ways of rehabilitation, or new technology and fitness.

The best advice I’ve ever received is to plan out my goals and split them up by timespan. So if you have a bigger picture that you want to achieve in 2-3 years, split that up into smaller stepping stones of what you want to achieve every year, and then every quarter, every month, and every week and make sure that it all adds up towards the end goal. Very often I see very clever people who have great skills getting too worked up in the details. The result is often either demotivation or burnout because they feel like they’ve worked so much, but didn't achieve what they had in mind.

I personally define success by achieving the goals that matter. I don't think there's a general definition of success, as every person has a unique set of goals. Once you define those and achieve them, you've achieved your own definition of success.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

The first phase of Mamsha Ahl Masr has been completed ahead of its opening in early 2022, according to a cabinet statement. The 1.8km walkway directly on the Nile River will extend from the Imbaba Bridge to the 15 May Bridge and will act as a destination for recreation, tourism, shopping, or just sitting down with a book. So far, the plans for the first phase include restaurants, cafes, and shops as well as a theater and three parking lots. City Edge — which is implementing the project — is currently working on the remaining three phases, but no timeline has yet been specified. Ahram Online has photos of what the completed project should look like.

CALENDAR

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

31 October – 12 November (Sunday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

3-5 November (Wednesday-Friday): Africa Early Stage Investor Summit.

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.

11 November (Thursday): Deadline for Anghami SPAC merger.

15 November (Monday): Unvaccinated public sector workers won’t be allowed into their workplaces.

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 November (Thursday): Rameda Pharma’s annual general meeting (pdf), at which it will decide on the sale of a 5% stake in the company from an individual shareholder to an unnamed foreign institutional investor.

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).

1 December (Wednesday): Unvaccinated members of the public will be banned from government buildings from this date; unvaccinated students will be prevented from accessing university campuses.

1 December (Wednesday): Government departments will begin moving to offices in the new capital.

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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