Tuesday, 9 November 2021

AM — Shoukry, Blinken are all smiles as they kickstart first strategic dialogue in six years

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a really big news day.

It’s day two of the first “strategic dialogue” between Egypt and the United States in more than half a decade. The sea change in bilateral ties since the early days of the Biden administration was on clear display yesterday as Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed reporters at the start of talks in DC.

How it started: US President Joe Biden talked up human rights on the campaign trail, raising concerns about close ties Egypt enjoyed under Trump and vowing there would be “no more blank checks” for Cairo. Blinken had been critical about Egypt’s human rights record and Biden officials signaled during the transition that the US could cut military aid. Two former State Department officials turned members of Congress then formed an “Egypt Human Rights Committee” on the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. (Yes, we know, incoming administration ≠ House of Reps, but still…)

How it’s going: In warm remarks yesterday, Blinken referred to Shoukry as a “friend” and emphasized that the foreign minister’s visit to DC was a homecoming of sorts — a nod to Shoukry’s time as our ambassador to Washington. Blinken talked up our countries’ “100-year relationship” and suggested we’d be seeing more talks in the future. The first strategic dialogue in six years means the meetings are happening “too far apart given how many common interests and challenges” the two countries have and “we’re going to get it back on a regular cadence,” Blinken promised.

What changed? Egypt stepped in to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians (getting a visit from Blinken in return, but no overt backing of our stance on GERD), is working with the US on critical regional security issues including Libya, is playing ball on Iran, and has signalled that it’s taking US human rights concerns seriously after DC withheld a token amount of military aid.

We have chapter and verse on day one in the news well, below and expect to wrap up our coverage in tomorrow’s edition of EnterpriseAM once day two wraps today.

ALSO TODAY- TransMea 2021 and the 2021 Cairo ICT exhibition both enter their penultimate day today at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. We have more on agreements signed on the second day of the transport conference in this morning’s Speed Round, below, and we’ll take a deep dive into the details in tomorrow’s edition of Hardhat, our weekly publication on infrastructure in Egypt.


Nafeza looks like it’s having growing pains: The Cairo Chamber of Commerce’s Customs Committee will hold an urgent meeting today with the Customs Authority to discuss issues importers are facing with the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system, according to Al Mal. The newspaper gives few details about what technical problems importers are encountering, but suggests that businesses bringing goods through Nuweiba port have been unable to access their ACIDs — a unique number needed to file the documentation needed for clearance — leading the authority to exempt them from having to do this for one week.

ACI has been up and running since the beginning of October, with more than 24k importers registered on Nafeza, and nearly 53k foreign exporters signing up on CargoX, which allows shippers to Egypt to upload shipping documents, as of two weeks ago. We have an explainer on the new system here.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- What’s keeping the Fed awake at night? Chinese real estate and meme stocks — and things are getting even more complicated today in the world’s most populous country as another big real estate developer teeters on the edge of an Evergrande-style meltdown. Struggling developer Kaisa is asking investors for more “time and patience” on the same day that the Fed’s closely watched semi-annual report (pdf) signalled that a real estate meltdown in China could “strain global financial markets through a deterioration of risk sentiment, pose risks to global economic growth, and affect the United States.”

CLOSER TO HOME- The US and the African Union think there’s a narrow window in Ethiopia in which to try to broker a negotiated solution. The AU said yesterday on Twitter that it was holding talks on the situation as Tigrayan rebels march on Addis Ababa. The AU’s Olusegun Obasanjo has recently met with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael. Washington reportedly believes there’s a narrow chance of a negotiated settlement — diplomatic-speak for “don’t hold your breath.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES- The Fed isn’t wrong to be concerned about the flood of retail investors into meme stocks and other equities. Wall Street stocks “completed their longest run of closing highs since 1997” yesterday — the same day that trading app Robinhood exposed mns of customer names and emails addresses in a massive hack, the company said in a blog post.


UPDATE- BP is not among the energy companies bidding to establish hydrogen plants in Egypt. BP has not placed a bid, a company representative told us, denying a report published in the Arabic-language website Attaqa that we took note of yesterday. We have updated the story on our website to reflect this change.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Inflation: Inflation figures for October will be released tomorrow.

The two-day Africa Fintech summit kicks off next Tuesday, 16 November. The summit looks at innovation in the fintech ecosystem, venture capital and other forms of investing, and will also discuss the rise of healthtech.

Calling all Egyptian entrepreneurs aged 23-35: You have a little over two weeks to apply for the acceleration exchange program Meet Silicon Valley for a chance to travel 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, and the deadline for applications is 23 November.

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


enterprise

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

In today’s issue: Last week, Egypt joined 18 other countries and organizations in signing an agreement last week to phase out the use of coal in power generation by 2030. But that is unlikely to significantly change things on the ground. Today, we analyze why that is, and speak to private sector players in the cement industry on what it would take to transition away from coal.

enterprise

Enjoy yourself with family and friends in a fun and relaxed atmosphere with our new night golf experience.

DIPLOMACY

First US-Egypt strategic talks in six years start in DC

Praise and “concern” from Washington as US-Egypt strategic talks begin: US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken praised Egypt’s recent diplomatic efforts to negotiate ceasefires in Gaza and Libya but voiced “concern” over its human rights record during a joint briefing to reporters (watch, runtime: 17:00) yesterday that kicked off the first US-Egypt strategic talks in six years.

Washington is happy with the Egypt-Israel relationship: Egypt’s mediation during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in May was “vital” to achieving a ceasefire, Blinken said, after congratulating Shoukry for the warming relationship with Israel, which he said “has never been stronger” following PM Naftali Bennett’s visit in October. Blinken also lauded Egypt for its work on files including Libya (where Egypt is pushing the reunification of the central bank) and Iran.

But critically, there’s been no movement on GERD: There doesn’t seem to have been much progress on the US’ position regarding Cairo’s dispute with Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, with Blinken saying that the administration “continues to support negotiated agreement … that will address the interests of all parties.” Egypt has been keen to persuade the US to take a more assertive stance against Ethiopia, but Washington has so far been reluctant to take sides in the dispute.

Human rights a “concern”: Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s emphasis on human rights, saying that improving Egypt’s record is “essential” to the bilateral relationship. The US “very much welcomes” the launch of a new human rights strategy but there remain “other issues of concern, more areas where positive steps can be taken,” he said, without going into details. In response, Shoukry called the strategy “irrefutable evidence” that the government is committed to create a “modern democratic state.”

There was no mention of military aid to Egypt: In September, the White House announced it would withhold USD 130 mn of Egypt’s military aid until Cairo meets several conditions regarding its treatment of civil society workers, opposition activists and journalists. It’s still not totally clear what these conditions are though: State Department Ned Price declined to provide specifics when quizzed by reporters after the two foreign secretaries addressed journalists.

More cooperation on climate + the economy, but no details: Blinken announced the creation of a joint economic commission to explore ways to deepen economic and business ties, and a new US-Egypt climate working group, which will look to help Egypt transition towards renewable energy. “We’re very much looking forward to partnering with Egypt as it undertakes this transition, including by supporting a visit of US companies that want to be a part of it,” he said.

The meeting got the headline treatment on the nation’s talk shows last night, with Shoukry dropping in to Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 16:30) and Al Hayah Al Youm covering the talks (watch, runtime: 1:01).

The presser is getting coverage in the foreign press: Associated Press | Reuters.


Egypt + Israel ink Sinai security pact: Egypt has agreed to increase its border forces in Rafah following an agreement with Israeli military leaders, who travelled to the Sinai Peninsula yesterday for a rare public meeting, the IDF said on Twitter. The two sides agreed to amend the terms of a security pact allowing Egypt to increase its forces in the region.

The agreement got widespread coverage on the airwaves: Khaled Okasha, general manager of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, described the agreement as “a positive and advanced step” in an interview on Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 5:10), while another analyst told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi that Egypt’s stronger presence will help to reduce illegal immigration, terrorism and narcotics smuggling (watch, runtime: 8:33).

IN OTHER DIPLOMATIC NEWS-

El Sisi phones Macron ahead of Libya conference in Paris: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi phoned his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to discuss the international conference on Libya, which will take place in Paris on Friday, Ittihadiya said in a statement. Participants in the summit are hoping to lay the groundwork for next month’s crucial presidential elections and finally find an agreement on the departure of foreign mercenaries, which were used by both sides of the country’s recent civil war.

New development grants coming from China: International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat signed an economic and technical cooperation agreement with Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang yesterday, according to a ministry statement. The new agreement will see China providing Egypt with an undisclosed number of fresh development grants after Egypt determines its “priority areas,” the statement says.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Abu Dhabi Ports could invest USD 500 mn in Egypt

Abu Dhabi Ports (ADP) plans to invest USD 500 mn in Egypt, should it be successful in winning the contracts for two upcoming port development projects, Saif Al Mazrouei, the head of the company’s ports division, told Al Arabiya. The company will come forward with offers for the Tenth of Ramadan dry port and the Safaga port, he said, without disclosing further information.

Competition for the Tenth of Ramadan port contract is high: As of mid-October, the government had received technical bids from six consortia competing for the PPP contract to construct the 250-feddan dry dock. The closing deadline for bids is unknown.

ADP isn’t the only UAE-based company that has its sights set on the contract: A consortium led by Dubai’s DP World has been eyeing the tender since February. Other potential bidders include a consortium led by China International Marine Containers (CIMC) Group, and another comprising Elsewedy Electric and DB Schenker, among others.

The Safaga port: Its new cargo terminal was one of nine proposed PPP infrastructure projects that were given preliminary approval by the cabinet in June but we’re still waiting for the ministers to give the final go-ahead.

This would be the company’s first venture into Egypt: ADP’s port and logistics operations remain largely focused on the UAE and the company hasn’t acquired a large global footprint like its country rival DP World, which operates terminals in 40 countries around the world.

One of those countries is Egypt: DP World has invested USD 1.6 bn in Egypt, most recently committing more than USD 500 mn to expanding the Ain Sokhna seaport. The port operator is also collaborating with the British government’s development finance arm CDC to channel more funding to the port via their joint USD 1.7 bn investment platform announced last month.

IN OTHER INVESTMENT NEWS-

Three Arab investors are eyeing acquisitions of Egyptian pharma players via SPAC mergers, according to Al Borsa. The unnamed investors are reportedly waiting for the Financial Regulatory Authority to release the regulations governing SPACs, which could be ready before the end of November. Some pharma companies are also considering registering blank-check firms that could allow them to list on the bourse, the newspaper says, citing unnamed sources. The interest comes on the back of the FRA greenlighting a plan spearheaded by EGX boss Mohamed Farid to allow SPACs in Egypt, which invited plenty of interest from investors (Egyptian and foreign alike) days after it was announced.

TRANSPORT

Alstom lands EUR 876 mn rolling stock contract for Cairo Metro Line 1

French train manufacturer Alstom has signed a EUR 876 mn contract with the National Authority for Tunnels to provide new rolling stock for Cairo Metro Line 1, the company announced in a statement. The agreement, signed during the TransMea transport conference yesterday, will see the French company provide 55 new subway trains to Cairo’s oldest underground line. Alstom will also supply spare parts and provide maintenance for eight years.

The work will be funded by the French government and is part of a raft of financing agreements signed by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in June that will see Paris lend EUR 2.8 bn for the development of metro lines 1 and 6. Cabinet had given the NAT the green light to contract Alstom last week.

The contract was among 13 signed by the Transport Ministry on the second day of the TransMEA conference. We’ll have a full rundown on the other agreements and what they mean for our transportation infrastructure in tomorrow’s edition of Hardhat, our weekly vertical on infrastructure.

Eight more agreements coming: The ministry is set to sign another eight agreements at the TransMEA conference tomorrow, according to a press invitation sent out from the minister’s press office.

Background: The contract comes as part of a larger rehabilitation program for the line, which is considered the backbone of the metro system. Alstom has also recently completed two signaling upgrade projects (here and here) for the Beni Suef-Assiut railway line, and is currently working on manufacturing trains for Egypt’s first monorail.

AUTO

Car dealers could face EGP 2 mn fines for price gouging

Car dealers that don’t comply with new rules to the government says will prevent price gouging will be slapped with fines of up to EGP 2 mn, according to a decision by the Consumer Protection Authority printed in the Official Gazette. Starting 15 November, dealers will be required to clearly display the full price of the vehicle (including tax) with a sticker on the windshield, a requirement being introduced by the watchdog to prevent them from overcharging customers. Failing to do so will result in a fine equivalent to double the value of the vehicle in question up to a maximum of EGP 2 mn.

COMMODITIES

Russia hikes wheat prices on high Egyptian demand

Egypt’s wheat binge is putting further pressure on food prices abroad: Prices of Russian wheat notched new highs last week amid increased demand from Egypt, one of its biggest customers and the world’s biggest wheat importer, Reuters reports.

Egypt has been on a buying-spree: State commodities buyer GASC bought 180k tonnes of Russian wheat at an average price of USD 332.30 a tonne last week, only a week after purchasing 360k tonnes from Russia, Romania and Ukraine.

The result: Russian agriculture consultancies have pegged the price of wheat at USD 326-327 per tonne FOB, up USD 2 from the week prior. Prices could still be increasing as Russia’s state export tax is expected to rise again this week to reach USD 69.9 a tonne.

A sharp 180° turn: Just two weeks before its re-entry into the market, Egypt cancelled a tender due to high prices — the fourth time it has done so this year.

GASC’s tenders are delivering the highest prices in at least five years as a multitude of factors — among them low crop yields, higher fertilizer prices and trade tariffs — cause global prices to rise to 10-year highs. The government is preparing to start reducing bread subsidies to soften the impact on the state budget, and is looking to prevent further damage with hedging contracts.

Now, it’s trying to diversify: The Agriculture Ministry yesterday approved a proposal to purchase wheat from Latvia for the first time.

MEDIA

Al Jazeera teases its comeback in Egypt

Is Al Jazeera making a comeback? Billboards advertising Qatari news organization Al Jazeera’s new app were pictured atop the Sixth of October Bridge yesterday, Al Masry Al Youm reports. Pictures circulating online show two large ads reading “Discover the new news template now” and “Al Jazeera, a fresh start,” part of a social media campaign to celebrate its 25th birthday and promote its new app.

This is the first time in more than eight years that an Al Jazeera billboard has been seen in Egypt: The Qatari channel hasn’t had a presence in Egyptian streets since end of the Ikhwani interregnum in 2013, after which security forces raided its Cairo bureau, arrested a number of its journalists and prevented it from broadcasting out of Egypt.

The tide has been turning in recent months: Relations with Doha have been warming since Cairo — alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — agreed to end its four-year blockade and restore diplomatic ties in January this year. The leaders of both countries met for talks in July, Egypt has appointed an ambassador in Doha, and discussions about developing economic ties have been had.

Al Jazeera’s coverage had been one of the main motivators of the blockade, and toning down (or switching off) the broadcaster had been one of Egypt’s key conditions to resuming diplomatic ties. Doha has signalled that it would tone down negative coverage of Egypt.

A return may have been foreshadowed in August when the channel was allowed to begin broadcasting live from Cairo for the first time since 2013.

A sticking point: Four Al Jazeera journalists remain imprisoned in Egypt.

And the website remains blacklisted: As of dispatch time, Al Jazeera’s website was still blocked inside Egypt.

EARNINGS WATCH

CIRA extends growth run in FY2020-2021: Cairo for Investment and Real Estate Development (CIRA) announced a 31% rise in its net income to EGP 350.8 mn in its 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ended on 31 August, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). The private sector education outfit’s revenues were up 28% y-o-y to EGP 1.4 bn, building on a strong showing the year before, when revenues jumped 54% to cross the EGP 1 bn mark for the first time despite the pandemic.

Top-line growth was driven by increased enrollment after CIRA opened three new faculties at Badr University in Cairo, leading to a 52% y-o-y bump in revenues for the company’s higher-ed sector. Its K-12 segment saw a 5% increase in revenues, also on the back of increased enrollment, though school revenues were held back by a drop in bus fees and construction income amid a pandemic-induced dip. CIRA now caters to almost 45K students across its educational institutions, achieving its five-year enrollment target a year early, CEO Mohamed El Kalla said.

Looking ahead: CIRA will be launching its flagship Badr University in Assiut by February 2022, according to the release. The company is also aiming to launch two of its large-scale education investments by 2023: Egypt’s first private tech university, Cairo Saxony University, in partnership with Al Ahly Capital, and New Damietta University in partnership with Elsewedy.

On new ESG requirements: CIRA has tapped a new lead for ESG reporting, the statement reads. Starting next year, EGX-listed firms and NBFS companies will be required to file mandatory annual ESG reports under new regulations from the Financial Regulatory Authority. You can read more about the reporting requirements here, and what other EGX-listed companies are doing about it here.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Last night’s talk shows were all about US-Egypt strategic talks that kicked off in DC yesterday — and an agreement signed by Egypt and Israel that will allow more Egyptian troops to be stationed in Rafah. We have the full story in this morning’s Diplomacy section, above.

Hell hath no fury like a Zamalkawy scorned: Amr Adib went in on Al Ahly for wishing retired club legend Mohamed Aboutrika a happy birthday. In a 20-minute rant, the El Hekaya host publicly called on the public prosecutor to investigate Al Ahly’s board of directors for congratulating the ex-footballer, who is on the government’s terror list for allegedly having ties to the Ikhwan. The reaction by Ahlawis on social media was swift, with a storm of tweets and memes mocking Adib sending him to the top of Twitter trending topics for much of the night. Watch the full clip here (watch, runtime: 21:33).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Egypt’s Sinai security pact with Israel is leading the conversation in the foreign press this morning, which we cover in more detail in this morning’s Diplomacy section, above. The Associated Press, Times of Israel and Sputnik News are all giving the news digital ink this morning.

Also getting attention: A piece in Open Democracy looks at what Egypt’s encroaching deserts mean for the country’s agriculture (hint: it’s not good).

COVID WATCH

Everything you need to know about covid-19 on 9 November 2021

The Health Ministry reported 929 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 903 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 338,414 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 54 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 19,130.

PLANET FINANCE

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US stocks hit new record highs: The S&P 500 closed above 4,700 for the first time yesterday as strong earnings, positive payroll data and fading covid concerns pushed the benchmark index to achieve its longest run of gains since 2017, Bloomberg says. The index closed 0.1% in the green as investors reacted to the passage of Biden’s bumper infrastructure bill by piling into materials and energy stocks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the day in the red due to the sell-off in Tesla stock (-4.9%) triggered by Elon Musk’s Twitter followers voting for him to sell a 10% in the company.

FOMO takes over: “Fear over inflation and supply chain headwinds have been replaced by fear of missing out in the record-high rally,” said one analyst. “Robust demand and economic momentum continue to drive earnings growth. Coronavirus concerns have also dissipated amid vaccine developments and widespread inoculation rates.”

BTC also surged to new all-time highs, eclipsing the USD 67k handle for the first time ever. The digital currency rose as much as 2.5% on Tuesday, pushing it to USD 67,778. The latest movements have raised the value of the crypto market to more than USD 3 tn.

Fed rate hike next year? That’s what one central bank official indicated yesterday, according to the Financial Times. The Fed last week announced it would start curtailing its stimulus programme this month and fully phase it out by June but said it would hold off on raising interest rates until reaching maximum employment — a target that the central bank’s vice chairman, Richard Clarida, thinks may be reached next year.

Down

EGX30

11497.51

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Buy 15.66

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8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

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Tadawul

11,847

+0.04% (YTD: 36.3%)

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8,182

+1% (YTD: 62.2%)

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3,104

+0.2% (YTD: 24.6%)

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S&P 500

4,702

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USD 83.43

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USD 1,827

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USD 67,626

+7.4% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.5% yesterday on turnover of EGP 674.3 mn (55.3% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 6.0% YTD.

In the green: Rameda (+4.7%), Egyptian Resorts Company (+3.8%) and Ibnsina Pharma (+3.4%).

In the red: AMOC (-6.4%), GB Auto (-2.2%) and EFG Hermes (-1.8%).

Asian markets are mixed this morning, with the Nikkei and ASX weakly in the green and the Hang Seng, Shanghai and Kospi all slipping ever-so-slightly into the red. Futures suggest the CAC 40 is the only major European benchmark set to open in the green later today — and that the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq will all start the day in the red at the opening bell this aftenroon.

AROUND THE WORLD

Lebanon could secure IMF support by the end of the month: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that the country has handed over its unified financial figures to the IMF, and that the revised financial recovery plan should be complete by the end of November, reports Reuters. Talks to secure IMF support were broken off last year over a disagreement pertaining to the scale of losses in the country’s financial sector after its collapse in late 2019. The IMF program could be Lebanon’s only shot at securing international aid and beginning to recover from a devastating economic crisis, economists say.

greenEconomy

What would it take to really wean us off of coal? A lot more than a COP26 agreement, that’s for sure: Several agreements signed last week by Egypt and at least 22 other countries and organizations at the ongoing COP26 summit in Glasgow could be the first targeted attempt at large-scale phasing out of coal-fired power plants and scrapping funding for ongoing coal projects.

How likely is it that the agreement will have an impact on the domestic use of coal? The short answer, not by much, as plans to bring back coal for power generation have been abandoned by the government due to the country’s electricity surplus, the high price tags of those projects, and the government raising its target generation capacity from renewable energy to 42% by 2030. As a matter of fact, two megaprojects, Al Nowais’ USD 4 bn, 2.65 GW “clean coal” project and the 6.6 GW Hamrawein coal plant, were both scrapped.

The COP26 agreement only really covers power generation, and sets no targets for industrial use of coal. A number of domestic industries do rely on coal, particularly the cement industry. Some 16 of its 18 cement players use coal in at least a portion of their manufacturing processes.

As a matter of fact, the agreement could make coal easier to source: These agreements should hit the demand for coal worldwide, leading to a drop in prices and a chance for cement companies to translate this into savings, Arabian Cement Company CEO Sergio Alcantarilla tells us. This comes as coal prices soared to a 13-year high of almost USD 170 a tonne in August, almost triple that of their 2020 low, according to Al Arabiya. As we noted back in September, this has had an impact on margins.

Any transition is an expensive one: A study by McKinsey & Company we noted last month suggests that phasing out coal in cement production could add some USD 35 to USD 70 per tonne to the cost of producing cement.

With that in mind, we ask leaders in the cement industry what would it take them to transition from coal? They tell us that while they are seriously considering adopting alternative sources such as biofuel and renewable energy, the lack of availability of these sources would make their transition from coal challenging. Ultimately, it may take more aggressive regulation to transition industries away from coal.

Natural gas has long been touted as an alternative: In 2012, the steel and cement industry started heavily relying on coal for the factories and plants due to a natural gas supply decline. But as Egypt got on the track to become a gas hub, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) forecasted back in July that these sectors would reverse course again. With a recovered supply of natural gas and no foreseeable domestic coal production, plants and factories are likely to switch back, EIU said back then. The yearly growth of coal consumption in 2030 was expected to grow by 0.1%, with consumption going from 1.5 mn toe from 2020 to 1.6 mn toe in 2030.

Now that seems unlikely considering the recent increase in prices: For coal use to phase out, cement players can realistically expect to turn to natural gas as an alternative, but availability is currently limited, Suez Cement CEO Jose Maria Magrina told us. Last month, the government hiked gas prices for factories by up to 28%, with cement, iron and steel, petrochemicals and fertilizers producers now paying USD 5.75 / mmBtu, up from USD 4.5 / mmBtu.

That isn’t to say that they aren’t considering ‘greener’ substitutes, including biofuel: Another alternative is to use fuel generated from waste and biomass, Magrina said. Cemex CEO Carlos Gonzalez echoed Magrina, saying in statements to Enterprise that waste fuel and biomass are both valid alternatives to cement players. “I think there is an argument that most industrial companies will look into how we can reduce our dependence on coal by using other fuels, among them waste-to-energy or biomass,” he said.

But the availability of biofuels will need to be ratcheted up for it to be considered feasible. “Currently there’s not enough [biofuel] to cope with such demand,” Magrina noted.

Ditto other green tech: “There is also new technology to consider like green hydrogen or intense solar beams,” Gonzalez added. These technologies, however, are in their early stages but they could be competitive in a few years.

Ultimately, it may take regulation to phase out coal from the industry, and that appears to be happening. A decision to get cement companies to integrate at least 10% renewable energy into their mix is in the works, Waste Management Regulatory Authority (WMRA) deputy head Yasser Mahgoub tells us. The decision is aimed to get manufacturers to use refuse-derived fuel produced from waste, with an eye to reduce reliance on coal, Mahgoub says.

A slow and challenging transition: Suez Cement’s Magrina tells us that his company, and the wider sector, has already heard of the plan and is moving on it. Suez Cement, for one, has integrated more than 10% renewables into its mix since 2018. But as with biofuel sourcing enough renewable energy to replace coal will be a challenge, he notes.


Your top climate stories for the week:

  • Egypt is up for a slice of BlackRock’s new climate-focused EM infrastructure fund: Egypt is among the “attractive” emerging markets in which BlackRock could be investing through its new USD 673 mn climate-focused infrastructure fund.
  • Egypt lays out 2030 renewable energy targets: The Sisi administration wants to grow renewable energy capacity to cover 42% of the country’s electricity needs by 2030, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said at COP26.
  • We’re looking at more corporate green bonds + incentives: Egypt’s private sector is preparing to take to market USD 120-200 mn in corporate green bonds, while the government is planning “green incentives” for private companies.
  • The UN is throwing Africa a lifeline for green funding: The UN has launched a new short-term lending market for African governments — the Liquidity and Sustainability Facility — in an effort to reduce borrowing costs and channel more money into green projects on the continent.
  • An upside to climate change? Melting mountain ice caps due to higher global temperatures have in recent years exposed a wealth of previously inaccessible, well-preserved fossils that give us an insight into little known periods of human history.

CALENDAR

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.

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

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

8-9 (Monday-Tuesday): US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue kicks off in Washington, DC.

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

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

15 November (Monday): Car dealers must comply with new consumer protection rules requiring price stickers to be attached to vehicles.

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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