Wednesday, 1 December 2021

AM — Canada imposes travel restrictions, gov’t rolls out booster shot program

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to December. Our favourite month of the year is kicking off with the return of 2020-style travel restrictions abroad and new vaccine requirements here at home. Is anyone else feeling like a glitch in the matrix has turned us all into extras in some pre-apocalyptic version of Groundhog Day — or maybe Hot Tub Time Machine?

PSA #1- You can’t get into a government facility, Egypt Post branch, or notary office starting today without proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test that’s no older than 72 hours, cabinet spokesman Nader Saad told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi last night (watch, runtime: 14:56).

The exception to the rule: Unvaccinated citizens will still be able to access hospitals for treatment and police stations in case of an emergency.

People who haven’t been vaccinated WILL be able to go to the bank today. Customers can still enter bank branches without showing proof of vaccination — but will need to wear a face mask and adhering to other precautionary measures, Saad said yesterday.

Wait, wasn’t today supposed to be the first “no jab, no bank day”? Indeed it was: Local Development Ministry spokesperson Khaled Qassem made the announcement during a phone-in interview on El Hekaya.

PSA #2- At-risk Egyptians can now register to receive their booster shots: The eligible groups — the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and people with high exposure to the virus such as medical staff — who have been fully vaccinated for over six months, can now register to get their booster shots on the Health Ministry’s website (www.egcovac.mohp.gov.eg), Saad announced on Kelma Akhira.

PSA #3- Amid all of the travel restrictions, a faint ray of sunshine: Egyptian expats won’t need to pay to renew Saudi visas from now through February, Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports announced.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD-

It wasn’t a happy day in US markets yesterday after an ill-timed hawkish turn by Fed chief Jay Powell added fuel to the Omicron-fanned market volatility. Equity gauges across the world were already in the red by the time Powell spoke on Capitol Hill, driven lower by a pessimistic prediction by Moderna’s CEO, who told the Financial Times that there will be a “material drop” in the efficacy of covid vaccines against the new variant. But the sell-off was soon exacerbated by the Fed chairman, who told a Senate committee that the central bank could finish withdrawing stimulus “a few months sooner” than planned due to “high” inflationary pressures.

At close: The S&P 500 and the Dow both lost 1.9% and the Nasdaq fell 1.6%. Brent crude dropped almost 4% to new three-month lows, the greenback declined 0.4%, and US treasury yields fell.

The EGX dodged the blow yesterday, closing before Powell spoke. The benchmark EGX30 closed up just over 1.6%.

“Powell just added gasoline to the fire by finally admitting that inflation isn’t going away as fast as anyone would like,” one strategist told Bloomberg. “A faster tapering is probably coming as a result, and that has markets worried the punch bowl is leaving the party.”

Asian markets are in the green this morning and futures suggest Wall Street will open in the green and shares in Toronto will be flat at the opening bell.

The story is dominating the front pages of the global press this morning: AP | Reuters | Bloomberg | WSJ | FT | CNBC.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

It’s a new month. The key news triggers to keep your eye on at the start of December:

  • PMI: Purchasing managers’ index figures for November for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar will be released on Sunday, 5 December. Figures for the UAE, which normally come out on the same day as Egypt and Saudi, will be released two days later on Tuesday, 7 December.
  • Foreign reserves: November’s foreign reserves figures will be released during the first week of the month.
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for November will be released on Thursday, 9 December. Data for inflation typically appears on the 10th of every month, but is moved up one day if that falls on a Friday.
  • Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee will hold its final meeting for the year to review interest rates on Thursday, 16 December.

The new round of Silicon Waha’s Startup Factory will kick off on 10 December at the Assiut Technology Zone. The program will offer marketing tips and tricks for startup founders, who can apply here.

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

enterprise

*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, and urban development, as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: What role does infrastructure play in lessening Egypt’s food insecurity? Last week, we looked at the forces straining our food system. Today, we dive into the infrastructural issues — most of which have to do with supply chain efficiency (or lack thereof) and high levels of food waste — and what is being done to fix these problems.

enterprise

COVID WATCH

Egypt is starting to get hit with travel restrictions

Oh, Canada… Non-Canadians travelling from or through Egypt are banned from entering the Great White North if they’ve been here in the previous 14 days, the country’s transport minister said last night, as the Trudeau government tightens border restrictions in response to Omicron. Ottawa also added Malawi and Nigeria to the naughty list, making it 10 countries that are now subject to a Canadian ban of some form.

How will it work? Canadian citizens and permanent residents are still able to enter the country if they’ve visited Egypt in the past 14 days, but will need to present a negative PCR test before flying and will be subject to further testing and quarantine after landing. Anyone else who has been through Egypt in the past 14 days will be denied entry.

Wait, it gets better: Citizens and folks with PR need to “obtain, within 72 hours of departure, a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test in a third country before continuing their journey to Canada” if they’ve been in Egypt within the past 14 days. Hit this link for all of the details.

Canada’s health minister hit us with a bit of shade, according to the Globe and Mail, which paraphrases him as having said that Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi “have been added to a list … where the variant has been detected” and noting that Egypt and the other countries “have difficulty measuring what is happening within their borders. But he explained that the decision has more to do with travellers who transit through them, not the citizens of those countries.” And you thought we were exaggerating the other day when we said the state of panic abroad was starting to feel a bit like spring 2020?

Ecuador did the same earlier in the day: Travellers from Egypt, along with seven countries in southern Africa, are now unable to enter the South American nation. A few hours later, Brazil became the first country on the continent to report a case of Omicron.

Is the US next? The US disease prevention body may tighten travel restrictions in the coming days in anticipation of Omicron reaching the country’s shores, Bloomberg reports. Washington last week introduced restrictions that prevent foreign travellers from eight countries in southern Africa from entering the country.

Meanwhile: It seems we probably had NOTHING to do with Belgium’s patient zero: A World Health Organization official has said that there has been no evidence that Belgium’s first case of Omicron was contracted in Egypt, telling the National that “it’s unlikely” that the infection originated here. Earlier this week when the Omicron panic was just starting, a traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt was said to have tested positive for Omicron 11 days after returning home, sparking rumors that she contracted the virus here in Egypt.

And it’s starting to look like Omicron may not be the Andromeda strain —thought it’s admittedly still early. Here’s the state of the science:

  • Omicron is more transmissible than past variants — and also seems (so far) to have slightly milder symptoms.
  • It may infect jabbed people more easily than did previous variants, according to the chief of BioNTech;
  • There will likely be a “material drop” in efficacy of vaccines against Omicron, according to mRNA jab-maker Moderna;
  • But existing vaccines will still provide a lot of protection, Oxford University scientists say…
  • …and it seems both BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna could roll out updated jabs within the next 100 days — if necessary

MEANWHILE-

We’re getting another 1.8 mn Johnson & Johnson shots: The Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC is giving Egypt 1.8 mn Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, according to a statement. Under the initiative, the Mastercard Foundation is purchasing vaccines for over 65 mn African people.

Egypt has dropped five spots in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking to #42 among the 53 countries included. We were #37 in October and #36 in September. The UAE came on top of this month’s ranking, dethroning Ireland due to its high vaccination rates, few covid cases and low death rate.

The Health Ministry reported 949 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 911 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 358,578 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 62 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 20,474.

REAL ESTATE

Under a watchful eye

Real estate developers may soon be coming under closer scrutiny after the Madbouly cabinet yesterday greenlit new regulations designed to protect consumers and reduce market risk, it said in a statement following its weekly meeting.

Don’t read the statement expecting clarity: Cabinet provided zero details on the regulations that may soon be imposed on developers, saying only that they will introduce “binding standards” governing contract enforcement, marketing, and “maintenance and operation” work. “The controls aim to protect the real estate market and preserve the rights of buyers,” the statement said.

Some of the measures floated so far would really step up regulation of the industry: Officials have been considering rules that would make it a legal requirement for auditors to monitor each developer and file quarterly reports on their projects and activities. At one time, there was a suggestion that companies would be required to create separate financials and / or accounts for each of their projects, allowing auditors to monitor their finances — a logistical and accounting nightmare, we think.

What’s the “consumer protection” angle? Policymakers have been discussing whether to require developers to purchase ins. policies that pay out if they break contractual terms with their customers. Under a presidential decree In August, real estate developers are not allowed to begin selling units until at least 30% of the project is completed.

Then there’s the idea for a new state-regulated industry lobby / quasi-regulator: A separate bill currently in the House would set up a new real estate federation that would be in charge of issuing licenses, monitoring companies’ performances, handing out fines, and managing company-client disputes.

What’s next? The rules will now head to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi for sign-off before being made official through a cabinet decree.

CAPITAL MARKETS

ESG, social, gender, and sustainable development bonds come to Egypt

Egypt’s bond menu now includes everything from ESG to women’s empowerment: Companies in Egypt will soon be able to list social, ESG, gender equity and women’s empowerment, and sustainable development bonds on the EGX after the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) approved (pdf) yesterday amendments to the executive regulations of the Capital Markets Act.

Incentives to sweeten the terms for investors: Private equity funds, hedgies, and charity organizations will get a 50% markdown service fees charged by the FRA for examining investment certificates if they choose to invest in these bonds.

The FRA has not yet specified the criteria for bonds’ inclusion under these categories. Generally, social bonds are used to raise funds for new and existing projects with positive social outcomes (such as affordable housing) while ESG bonds take into account projects that impact environmental, social and governance principles (such as workplace diversity initiatives or, say, greening your production process). Gender bonds would help finance projects or initiatives that support women’s empowerment such as a program to provide financing to women-led SMEs, while sustainable development bonds can help finance a wide range of projects from sectors including education, health, and sustainable transportation projects.

The rollout comes a year after Egypt first introduced green bonds as part of a debt diversification strategy and a way to support the transition to a green economy. Egypt held the region’s first-ever issuance of sovereign green bonds last year, while our friends at CIB took to market the country’s maiden corporate green bond issuance, completing a USD 100 mn sale in July. A fresh offering of corporate green bonds is reportedly in the works, with unnamed private sector players planning to issue USD 120-200 mn-worth of the climate-friendly securities.

Other types of debt instruments in the works include Egypt’s maiden sovereign sukuk offering that could go to market in early 2022, as well as new “floating rate” bonds being considered by the government.

STARTUP WATCH

Six Egyptian startups eye raising a combined USD 250 mn next year

You think it’s been a crazy-hot year for startups raising funds in 2021? Just wait until next year… Six Egyptian startups — Trella, Bosta, Mozare3, Brimore, Teegara, and Koinz — are looking to raise a combined USD 250 mn in 2022, Bloomberg Asharq reports. It’s unclear how much each company plans to raise, but all of them plan to put the funding towards expansion, whether it’s growing their footprint locally or tapping new markets in the region.

Regional expansion plans: Digital trucking platform Trella is looking to grow its presence in the Gulf, as well as enter sub-Saharan African countries, co-founder and CFO Hatem Sabry told the news website. The platform closed one of Egypt’s biggest series A rounds this year in June, and currently operates in Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Also eyeing the GCC is courier startup Bosta, which is looking to finalize its planned launch in the UAE and Saudi Arabia this month or in 1Q2022, said CEO and co-founder Mohamed Ezzat. Meanwhile, social commerce platform Brimore is heading to Kenya, a big market with advanced payment methods, according to co-founder Ahmed Sheikha. The platform, which connects independent sellers with SME manufacturers to help suppliers streamline distribution, aims to operate with 400 factories by the end of 2022.

Growing in current markets: Food delivery-turned-loyalty and engagement app Koinz plans to expand its footprints in its current markets, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to double its app users to reach 2 mn, according to co-founder and CEO Hussein Mumtaz. The platform recently reported raising a USD 4.8 mn seed round led by Tinder founder and former CMO Justin Mateen. Agri-fintech startup Mozare3 plans to establish food preparation and packaging stations and expand its footprint to 15 governorates in 2022, from seven currently, according to founding partner Hussein Abou Bakr. The company, which recently landed a seven-figure pre-seed investment, has regional expansion in its 2023 plans, with an eye on Sudan and Morocco, Abou Bakr told Asharq. Meanwhile, e-commerce startup Teegara wants to grow the number of local factories it works with and nearly triple the products on its platform, according to co-founder and CEO Ahmed Kayyali. The B2B marketplace recently closed a five-figure pre-seed round led by Alexandria Angels Network, and angel investors from KSA, Egypt and the Netherlands.

ALSO FROM PLANET STARTUP- Fintech newcomer Klickit has closed (pdf) its first investment round led by EFG Hermes. It will use proceeds to enhance the platform’s tech stack, which will be integrated with EFG’s valU consumer finance arm.

COMMODITIES

Egypt may have just made its biggest-ever wheat purchase

Egypt buys the wheat dip: Egypt’s state-owned grains buyer has taken advantage of a dip in wheat prices to purchase what sources tell Agricensus could be the country’s largest-ever tender. GASC bought 600k tonnes of wheat on Monday, securing heavy discounts from traders as wheat futures fell, according to the website.

International prices have dipped this week on a strengthening USD and fears that the Omicron covid-19 variant could slow the global economy. Chicago wheat futures have fallen more than 8% since last Wednesday as investors pulled out of risk assets in anticipation of a covid-driven fall in demand.

Egypt has capitalized: Egypt agreed an average price of USD 352.37 per tonne FOB, and USD 378.33 (CFR) in Monday’s tender, securing discounts of up to USD 10.75 per tonne, according to Agricensus. GASC purchased 240k tonnes of Romanian wheat, 240k tonnes of Russian wheat and 120k tonnes of Ukrainian wheat.

This could be a record wheat purchase, overtaking a tender for 540k tonnes in 2008, which was thought to be the previous biggest tender.

Global wheat prices have soared this year, reaching a new 10-year high as a combination of poor weather, surging fertilizer prices and export tariffs squeeze supply. Egypt — the world’s biggest importer of wheat — is facing a steeper import bill as its international tenders deliver the steepest prices in at least five years. 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.

DEBT WATCH

NBE in talks for USD 600 mn facility

State-owned National Bank of Egypt (NBE) is in talks with an Asian development bank to borrow more than USD 600 mn, Al Masdar reports. The loan will be divided into two tranches, the first part of which is valued at USD 600 mn and should be finalized before the end of the year, the bank’s head of financial institutions, Hesham Elsafty, told the newspaper. The value of the second tranche has not yet been agreed but should be signed off on during 1Q2022, he said.

NBE is also negotiating with France’s development finance agency to obtain two credit facilities. The bank has already signed the contract for the first USD 100 mn facility and talks are ongoing for the second.

Big borrowing plans: NBE is looking to borrow USD 1.5 bn from international institutions in 2022, Deputy Chairman Yehia Aboul Fotouh said earlier this month.

This follows a lot of borrowing in 2021: The bank raised a three-year USD 1 bn syndicated loan from a group of banks in May. It also borrowed USD 200 mn from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the OPEC Fund to channel into infrastructure projects, and a USD 20 mn credit facility from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to on-lend to SMEs.

ENERGY

Destination: Baghdad

Egypt could be shipping electricity to Iraq by 1Q2022: The project to link Iraq’s electricity grid to Jordan and Egypt should be finished in the next four months, Iraqi Communication Minister Arkan Shahab Al Shaibani told CNBC Arabia yesterday.

This will allow Egypt to export electricity to Iraq via Jordan, which already has a link to Egypt’s electricity grid. Jordan and Egypt earlier this week agreed to double its capacity to 1 GW, which will allow Egypt to send more excess power to Jordan and later Iraq.

Tenders for the project to link Jordan and Iraq will be issued in the next two months, Jordan’s energy minister said earlier this week.

The interconnection project is part of a larger project to eventually link Egypt’s grid to Libya, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. The project has been in the works for years, with major parts of it already completed. It is partly funded by the Arab Fund, and its completion is one of the keys to our bid to become a regional energy hub.

MOVES

Ramy Salah Eldeen (LinkedIn) has been tapped as Alstom Egypt’s managing director, according to a company statement (pdf). Salah Eldeen is currently the company’s Egypt sales director, and replaces Mohamed Khalil (LinkedIn) who is relocating to head the company’s operations in Saudi Arabia.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Last night’s talk shows brought us many, many experts to give their two cents on Omicron: Yahduth Fi Masr had presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag El Din (watch, runtime: 5:08), Al Hayah Al Youm had medical consultant Hatem Soliman (watch, runtime: 16:13) and Ala Mas’ouleety interviewed an adviser at the World Health Organization (watch, runtime: 33:27).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Human rights once again leads the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press: The New York Times says that the relatively small fine handed to rights defender Hossam Bahgat on Monday after being found guilty of spreading “false news” was designed to keep face abroad while sending a message here at home. Meanwhile, a contributor to Forbes’ blogging platform is calling for US President Joe Biden’s democracy summit to address rights concerns in Egypt and the Middle East. The summit is set to bring together more than 100 countries in Washington on 9-10 December for talks on protecting rights and freedoms globally.

Also making headlines:

  • Mohamed Aboutrika called for Muslim players to boycott the Premier League’s LGBT campaign, ruffling feathers ahead of next year’s already-controversial World Cup in Qatar, even as beIN Sports reprimanded the former football star for his comments describing LGBT relationships as an affront to Islam. (Bloomberg)
  • Scorpions and global warming: Aswan’s mass scorpion attack in November was apparently one of several unexpected climate change side effects that experts never told us about. (Bloomberg)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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

  • Software company Red Hat is looking to set up shop in Cairo by the end of the year, said the company’s MENA regional general manager Adrian Pickering.
  • e-Finance’s digital payments arm Khales signed a cooperation protocol to provide services to Misr Ins.
  • The House also approved yesterday the text of the draft law that would regulate the fintech space, Al Shorouk reports. Parliament postponed its final vote on the bill.

PLANET FINANCE

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The nutter in Ankara has done it again… The TRY crashed to new record lows yesterday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again refused to support raising interest rates, CNBC reports. The TRY fell to 13.47 yesterday against the greenback, smashing past its record low of 13.45 set last week after Turkish press published fresh comments from the president supporting rate cuts. The central bank has cut interest rates in each of its previous three meetings, despite inflation running at almost 20% and other countries starting to tighten policy and withdraw monetary stimulus.

RIP TRY: In the past three months alone the currency has crashed more than 50% from 8.5 to the USD to more than 13 and has lost more than a third of its value in November.

UAE’s bns burned? The slide in the TRY was stopped momentarily last week by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s first visit to Turkey in years, during which the two countries inked a raft of agreements that will see the Emirate invest bns of USD in the Turkish economy.

Onward with the charm offensive: Erdogan has suggested that Ankara try to repeat the diplomatic breakthrough with the UAE, this time with Egypt and Israel, Reuters reports. “Whatever kind of step was taken with the UAE, we will also take similar ones with the others [Israel and Egypt],” he was reported as saying.

UK blocks Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy: The UK’s competition watchdog has ordered Meta / Facebook to sell Giphy, the animated images platform it agreed to acquire last year for USD 400 mn, due to concerns the purchase would hand the social media giant too much market power.

A surprise drop in the USD is threatening to unwind the USD-JPY carry trade, a popular trade that has wiped out entire hedge funds in past decades, the Wall Street Journal reports. Carry traders were blindsided when the JPY, EUR and GBP all rose sharply against the USD on Omicron news, which goes against the conventional wisdom of markets selling off broadly and investors running towards the safety of the USD. Some of the USD’s declines partially reversed on Monday with more Omicron details emerging, but resumed again Tuesday. The carry trade sees investors borrowing in low-yielding currencies, including the JPY, to buy currencies where they expect rates to rise, such as the USD, pocketing the difference in the process.

Up

EGX30

11,212

+1.6% (YTD: +5.1%)

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

10,761

-0.5% (YTD: +23.9%)

Up

ADX

8,547

+0.8% (YTD: +69.4%)

Up

DFM

3,073

+0.4% (YTD: +23.3%)

Down

S&P 500

4,567

-1.9% (YTD: +21.6%)

Down

FTSE 100

7,059

-0.7% (YTD: +9.3%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 70.57

-3.9%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 4.57

-5.9%

Down

Gold

USD 1,777

-0.5%

Down

BTC

USD 57,178

-2.0% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 1.6% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.81 bn (20.9% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net sellers. The index is up 5.1% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+7.4%), Heliopolis Housing (+6.7%) and EFG Hermes (+5.2%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-2.2%), Egypt Kuwait Holding-EGP (-2.0%) and Telecom Egypt (-1.4%).

AROUND THE WORLD

Tensions between Russia and Nato rise over Ukraine: Russian president Vladimir Putin has vowed a strong response should Nato deploy missile systems and troops in Ukraine, further raising tensions in the region, Reuters reports. This came in response to the US and Nato, which yesterday warned of “serious consequences” should Russia invade the ex-Soviet state. A buildup of Russian military forces on Ukraine’s border has fuelled speculation in Western capitals that Moscow is planning to invade the country.

Day one of the Iran nuclear talks went pretty well, with EU, Iranian and Russian diplomats all voicing optimism, Bloomberg reports.

hardhat

What infrastructure upgrades does Egypt need to address its food security challenges? With the triple threat of climate change, resource scarcity and the loss of arable land squeezing our ability to produce sufficient amounts of nutrient-rich food at affordable prices, patching up holes in our domestic food system will become crucial in the coming years to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. In addition to creating a heavier burden on state coffers to cover our food needs through imports, the lack of food security is also undermining child nutrition. The Sisi administration recently launched a EGP 7.7 bn initiative to improve food security for children, which will set up a state-owned complex, Silo Egypt for Food Industries, for the sole provision of school meals, among other measures. Separately, the Sisi administration also launched an initiative to screen mns of school children for early signs of anemia, obesity and dwarfism. The campaign, launched last month, claimed to have so far screened some 6 mn children from its 15 mn children target.

The infrastructure issues primarily come down to either structural inefficiencies or water and food waste. Last week, we looked at the forces straining our food system. Today, we dive into the infrastructural issues — most of which have to do with supply chain efficiency (or lack thereof) and high levels of food waste — and what is being done to fix these problems.

Infrastructure issues start with arable land: The country lost at least 90k feddans from its already-scarce fertile soil area in the last decade due to encroachment alone. As a result, the government estimates it needs some EGP 19 bn to add newly-reclaimed feddans in the desert, with each reclaimed feddan estimated to cost EGP 150-200k. Remaining arable land, which the Agriculture Ministry puts at some 10 mn feddans, is barely enough for basic food needs, and forces imports of basic commodities including wheat.

Costly desert reclamation: The government recently launched a national project to reclaim 4 mn acres of agricultural land across the country that comes within a wider medium-term USD 454 mn joint project (pdf) with the World Food Program (WFP). The Sisi administration’s 1.5 mn feddans megaproject, which is part of the 4 mn-feddan goal, has been touted as a sure-fire solution for years — albeit producing mixed results — but it remains a sign that authorities see dwindling arable land as a primary threat to food security. Meanwhile, another initiative underway looks to use water from the recently-opened Bahr Al Baqr wastewater treatment plant to contribute to the reclamation of 467k feddans in the sand-covered North Sinai.

Efforts to curb agricultural land encroachment are underway, with the recently-enacted construction regulations designed to downsize illegal construction now applied across all cities in Egypt. The Unified Building Code, a long-awaited piece of legislation that will clamp down on illegal construction (especially for building on agricultural land) is also on the legislative agenda.

Antiquated irrigation systems: The current state of irrigation systems nationwide lends itself to inefficiency, which — alongside the growing threat of water shortages from GERD, climate change, population growth, and data showing that some 80% of Nile water goes toward farming — has Egypt prioritizing water resources projects. The government budget for FY2021-2022 earmarks some EGP 21 bn to projects covering water-saving, seawater desalination, and canal lining.

Enter a 10-year irrigation infrastructure spending plan: To address the challenges of water shortages and outdated irrigation systems, the government plans to spend EGP 312 bn this decade on extending and replacing outdated water pipelines. This is part of a wider plan to shell out USD 50 bn to combat water scarcity by encouraging the use of modern irrigation methods and equipment and establishing dozens of desalination plants

The Central Bank of Egypt threw its weight behind irrigation, announcing last week a multi-bn EGP program to help farmers switch to modern, more water-efficient methods. The central bank will channel EGP 55.5 bn to farmers and agribusinesses to purchase new equipment and install new irrigation systems, which will be deployed as soft loans through state-owned institutions National Bank of Egypt and the Agricultural Bank of Egypt.

Then there’s the food waste problem: Estimates from the FAO suggest that up to 45-55% of the region’s production of fruits and vegetables are wasted every year. Throughout Egypt and the wider region, food is regularly wasted by both restaurants and households, making it the single largest component of landfill, the FAO report says. Among the unsung heroes of food security is the Egyptian Food Bank, a key aim of which is to collect surplus food from establishments all over the country.

Making matters worse is underinvestment in storage facilities, which could leave harvests prone to a loss in quality and pests and disease attacks. Since Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, with the staple providing one third of its calories and 45% of its protein, a key challenge has traditionally been adding storage capacity.

More grain silos: The government is working on upping the capacity of the country’s grain silos, in addition to equipping silos with automation technology to improve supply chain efficiency. Most recently on the grain storage front came Orascom, Samcrete and Hassan Allam’s award to establish four warehouses in Sharqia, Suez, Fayoum and Luxor earlier this month.

CBE backs storage, refrigeration: To improve food processing and packaging, the CBE last year allowed agriculture companies to benefit from its EGP 100 bn subsidized loans initiative. At the time, the bank singled out more packaging facilities and refrigerated silos as among the key aims of opening up funding to this part of the economy, Egyptian Businessmen Association boss Aly Eissa said then.

A stronger internal trade network: In a bid to cut spoilage from farm to table, the Supply Ministry unveiled back in 2017 a logistics-focused internal trade strategy designed to streamline the agricultural supply chain and cut food waste. The government has also been on-boarding development institutions and European governments to help set up food retail chains and wholesale markets to tendering out dozens of logistics centers. Most recently, the Agriculture Ministry also started allowing small dairy farmers to band together and set up milk collection centers through 5%-interest subsidized loans.

Better roads: Improved food transport can increase “market connectivity,” improve freshness and market quality and boost access to seeds and farming equipment, while bridging agricultural and non-agricultural communities, according to a study cited by a recent International Institute for Sustainable Development report (pdf). In Egypt, the “Decent Life” initiative aims, in part, to address a wide range of infrastructure gaps in underserved areas. This, alongside the government’s focus on revamping the roads network nationwide, will help agricultural productivity, efficiency and internal trade.


Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • Upping our electricity link with Jordan: Egypt and Jordan will double the capacity of the electricity link between the two countries to 1 GW, which will allow excess Egyptian power to be exported to countries beyond Jordan.
  • New form of securitization could spur infrastructure spending: The Madbouly Cabinet greenlit amendments to the Capital Markets Act to allow utilities and other companies to raise capital by securitizing future cashflows.
  • More Ain Sokhna Port investments: Emirati port operator DP World will invest USD 25-35 mn in Ain Sokhna seaport over the next 2-3 years, DP World Sokhna CEO Gerard van den Heuvel said, less than a week after DP World completed its USD 520 mn expansion in the port.
  • Food security: The Suez Canal Economic Zone is working to establish a logistics area for grains in East Port Said, which will have an area of ​​267k square meters at an expected investment cost of EGP 2.2 bn.
  • Gas export plans get a boost: Egypt could import more natural gas from Israel and increase shipments to Greece under MoUs signed at a meeting of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo.

CALENDAR

24 November-7 December (Wednesday-Tuesday): Designated period for SODIC shareholders to subscribe to Aldar Properties and ADQ’s mandatory tender offer (pdf).

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

28 November-1 December (Sunday-Wednesday): Creative Industry Summit, Nile Ritz-Carlton.

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

1 December (Wednesday): Members of the public will need to show proof of vaccination / a negative PCR test to access post offices and government facilities; unvaccinated students will be prevented from accessing university campuses.

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

2 December (Thursday): The 23rd OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting.

5 December (Sunday): Purchasing managers’ index figures for November for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar will be released.

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

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

9-10 December (Thursday-Friday): The US Summit for Democracy. Egypt is not among the invitees.

9-12 December (Thursday-Sunday): The 6th Edition of Cairo Woodshow, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt.

10 December (Friday): Capmas will release November inflation figures.

10 December (Friday): Silicon Waha’s Startup Factory program kicks off in Assiut Technology Zone.

12 December (Sunday): Raya Holding’s Ordinary General Assembly meeting.

12 December (Sunday): Deadline to apply to the McKinsey Forward program for young professionals.

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 December (Tuesday): Inquiry session for the Industrial Development Authority’s licenses to manufacture steel products.

14 December (Tuesday): CDC event to announce the details of its 2022-2026 strategy period.

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.

15 December (Wednesday): Target date for snackmaker Edita to wrap up due diligence on its acquisition of the Ole brand owner Egyptian Belgian Company.

15 December (Wednesday): The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will give its final approval for a USD 100 mn facility to state-owned Banque Misr to finance local SMEs working on green projects.

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

End of 4Q2021: EdVentures plans to have closed at least one more edtech investment round.

End of 4Q2021: Fawry plans to have launched its MyFawry card.

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

1H2022:: e-Aswaaq’s tourism platform will roll out its ticketing and online booking portal across Egypt.

1H2022: e-Finance’s digital healthcare service platform, eHealth, will launch its services.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

1Q2022: Swvl acquisition of Viapool expected to close.

Second Half of January: Egypt will host the Egyptian-Bahraini Joint Committee.

The end of January: The Egyptian-Romanian business forum will take place with the aim of strengthening joint investment relations.

1 January 2022 (Saturday): Capital gains tax comes into effect on the EGX for local investors.

1-15 January 2022 (Saturday-Saturday): Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) Joint Committee.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

10-13 January 2022 (Monday-Thursday): World Youth Forum, Sharm El Sheikh.

15 January (Saturday): Target date for the finalization of snackfood giant Edita’s acquisition of the Egyptian Belgian Company, owner of the Ole brand.

17-19 January 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi.

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

11 February 2022 (Friday): Deadline for Anghami SPAC merger.

11-13 February (Friday-Sunday) FIBA Intercontinental Cup, Cairo.

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

15 February 2022 (Tuesday): The Industrial Development Authority’s deadline for receiving offers from companies for licenses to manufacture steel products.

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

March 2022: 4Q2021 earnings season.

March 2022: World Cup playoffs.

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

4 April 2022 (Monday): CDC Group will formally change its name to British International Investment.

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.

Late April – 15 May 2022: 1Q2022 earnings season

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 2022 (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July 2022 (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July 2022 (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

Late July – 14 August 2022: 2Q2022 earnings season.

6 October 2022 (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October 2022 (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

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

Late October – 14 November 2022: 3Q2022 earnings season.

**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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