Monday, 28 February 2022

AM — Putin eyes the nuclear button as West stands firm against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine



Good morning, friends. The big news is once again the state of play in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Here’s what you need to know this morning:

  • Kyiv, the capital, is still holding out against Russian troops, who have taken or are advancing toward several sizable Ukrainian cities. The country’s second largest city, Kharkiv, is under fire, as are strategic ports in the south, the Associated Press reports. (If you're struggling to understand the geography of the conflict, head to Reuters' map for key updates.)
  • Vladimir Putin has put his strategic nuclear forces on alert. Russia has some 1.5k nuclear warheads deployed and a large stockpile of smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons, the latter being of the type that could (theoretically) be deployed on the battlefield.
  • The international backlash against Russia is growing, with more sanctions and a rare UN General Assembly meeting likely to happen today.
  • Ukraine has agreed to talks with Russia on the border with Belarus, though few pundits expect anything to come from them.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Norges bank, Norway’s massive (USD 1.3 tn) sovereign wealth fund, is getting out of Russia, saying it would freeze the shares it holds there and then start working on a divestment plan, the Financial Times reports. The news comes as oil major BP said it would exit its 20% stake in Russian producer Rosneft. The move will see the British company take a USD 25 bn charge and slash both its production and reserves.

TWO BIG THINGS that matter greatly to Egypt here (beyond concern over the human toll) amid this clash between two nations with whom we’ve been friends for a long time:

1- State wheat importer GASC could be forced today to call off its wheat tender as the global grain market looks increasingly in disarray. Ukraine and Russia together account for 60-80% of our grain imports at any given time.

2- Thousands of Ukrainian holidaymakers are stranded in Egypt. At least 16k Ukrainian tourists are currently in Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Marsa Alam, Ahram Online reports Ukrainian Chargé d’Affaires in Egypt Ruslan Nechai as saying. With their country’s airspace closed, the tourists are unable to fly back home but could resort to returning through Ukraine’s borders via “friendly” countries, Nechai said. The Madbouly government has directed Egyptian hotels to extend stays of Ukrainian tourists stranded here.

MEANWHILE- Borders are open to Egyptians leaving Ukraine: Ukrainian border guards were given orders to allow Egyptians to leave the country through borders with Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, according to a statement by our embassy in Kyiv.

^^ We have more detail in this morning’s War Watch, below. It’s a hell of a note on which to end the month of February.


The Senate is set to continue debate of the unified ins. act after giving the bill preliminary approval yesterday, Ahram Online reports. The bill. which has been at least three years in the making, will make the Financial Regulatory Authority the primary regulator for the sector and make ins. compulsory for SMEs and freelancers, among other things.

It’s your last day to apply for the incubator and accelerator program for digital transformation-focused startups from the Information Technology Industry Development Agency and US-based VC firm Plug and Play, in partnership with our friends at USAID. The “Smart Cities” innovation hub will select 20-30 Egypt-based companies for its inaugural three-month program, which starts in March.

The Future of Data Centers Summit takes place today and tomorrow at the InterContinental CityStars.


The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) will increase tolls by up to 10% for laden and ballast vessels, starting 1 March, Reuters reported yesterday. The decision comes in line with “the significant growth in global trade,” along with “the Suez Canal waterway’s development and transit service enhancement,” Hapi Journal reported the SCA as saying, citing authority circulars.

Back-to-back hikes: The authority at the start of February hiked transit fees by 6% for most ships, excluding LNG carriers and cruise ships, as it works to wind down pandemic-era incentives and reductions.

IT’S ALSO A BIG WEEK for folks who care about the Fed, oil, and US politics.

1- Let’s start with a look at the Fed’s thinking in light of Russia’s war. Market watchers hope for hints from US Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell on how the Russia-Ukraine conflict is set to impact the central bank’s plans to hike interest rates when he appears before Congress on Wednesday and Thursday, Bloomberg reports. Powell, who is seeking a second term as Fed boss, is expected to downplay the impact of war in Ukraine (and the ensuing sanctions against Russia) on plans to start hiking interest rates from March. Pundits now seem to think Powell wills signal a more gradual series of quarter-point hikes over the year rather than starting with a half-point jump..

Other central banks are closely watching Ukraine: The central banks of Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Hungary — and Ukraine itself — hold their policy meetings this week. The Central Bank of Egypt next meets to discuss rates on Thursday, 24 March.

2- OPEC+ likely won’t budge on output when it meets this Wednesday: The oil cartel is expected to stick to its strategy of gradual output increases — even after the Ukraine conflict sent crude prices soaring over USD 100 per barrel at the end of last week, Bloomberg reports. The news comes despite a report that the cartel has slashed its forecast for this year’s oil market surplus by some 200k barrels per day.

3- Joe Biden faces a tough audience at tomorrow’s State of the Union address: Only 37% of Americans approve of US President Joe Biden and the work he’s doing in office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. That’s a low only reached by two other presidents in US history ahead of a State of the Union speech (and yes, Donald Trump was one of them). Biden will look to reassure Americans that he has a handle on a raft of crises, from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the ongoing pandemic.

Biden’s big issue: It’s the economy, stupid. Inflation hit a 40-year high in January. Some 75% of Americans polled say the economy is “not so good or poor,” while three times more people believe the economy has gotten worse under Biden than those who think it’s improved.


Contemporary art and culture center Darb1718 is hosting its 3031 Art Festival from 4-12 March on its premises in Fustat, Old Cairo. Unique collections of multidisciplinary art will be on display along with live music, dance, theater performances, and interactive workshops. Guest speakers Adsum Art Consultancy will be on hand to discuss investing in art. Catch a full day of activities from 1:00pm–9:30pm on weekends and weekdays from 4:00pm–10:00pm.

Consoleya is holding its second Women Meet-up this Wednesday, 2 March to discuss topics including inclusivity in investment. The agenda includes a panel discussion on gender-lens funding here in Egypt.

The Diarna Handicrafts Fair kicked off last Thursday and runs through 7 March at Cairo Festival City from 10am until 10pm daily.

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


*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: Over the past six years, the Education Ministry has been rolling out new schools that use a Japanese approach to education, as part of the ministry’s efforts to overhaul the K-12 education system. These schools, set up through a partnership with Japan, are primarily geared towards middle-income families, with the ministry targeting setting them up in governorates where classroom overcrowding is particularly problematic. Today, we look at the project, including how far we’ve come and the government’s plans for more of these schools.


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Putin eyes the nuclear option as West ramps up pressure over war in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert in what he says is in response to Western leaders stepping up sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s threat drew ire from many corners: A senior US defense official said the “escalatory” step risked a dangerous miscalculation, while declining to say whether the US had adjusted the position of its nuclear readiness in response. Nato also condemned the move, while Canada and Poland moved to request an emergency meeting of the UN’s atomic energy agency on Wednesday on Ukraine’s behalf. Meanwhile, Belarus yesterday voted in a referendum to renounce its non-nuclear status, as Russia’s friendly neighbor throws its weight behind Putin's troops.

Is Moscow seriously considering the nuclear option? Probably not — but we just don’t know. Analysts are split on whether Putin would risk an all-out nuclear conflict, though most agree that the threat alone could push the Russian president toward pariah status on the international stage — making his moves even more difficult to predict or control.

Kyiv and Moscow agree to hold talks: Negotiations “without preconditions” are set to be held at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office announced, while Reuters reported Russian state news agency TASS as saying that talks would start this morning. The Ukrainian president is "skeptical" talks with Russia would lead to a ceasefire, but is willing to give it a shot if there’s a chance it could end the war.

Also happening today: the UN Security Council will hold a rare emergency special session of the 193-member General Assembly on the invasion.

The West is throwing all its support behind Ukraine: As fighting enters its fifth day, Reuters is characterizing Western powers’ “political, strategic, economic and corporate response” as “unprecedented in its extent and coordination.” The EU is planning to send weapons to a nation at war for the first time in its history, with a source telling Reuters the bloc could send arms worth EUR 450 mn to Ukraine. The EU’s top diplomat Josef Borrel told a press conference yesterday that the aid would include fighter jets. Meanwhile, you can keep tabs on the list of sanctions against Moscow — which the EU is discussing expanding — with this handy rundown from the Financial Times. The EU has also closed its airspace to every Russian plane, including oligarchs’ private jets.

Energy sanctions could also be on the table, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Western policymakers have mostly left Russia’s energy sector out of the equation so far, mainly to protect their own supply, the Wall Street Journal points out. Russia provides around 40% of Europe’s natural gas.

British oil giant BP is offloading its nearly 20% ownership of Russian-state owned oil company Rosneft, ending its three-decade long operations in a move that could result in losses of up to USD 25 bn, the company said yesterday. Norway’s USD 1.3 tn oil fund is also letting go of its Russian investments.

Russian exports will face severe disruptions: Oil and commodities traders told Reuters that the country’s flows to the West will likely be disrupted, if not totally halted, for weeks until there is clarity on exemptions. Exports to Asia, especially China, will likely continue since both countries have been developing alternatives to the Swift payment system, from which Russia has been given the boot. It remains unclear what will happen to exports to MENA, with dozens of countries across the region, including Egypt, relying heavily on Russia’s supplies of wheat.

Expect pain for the RUB when markets open this morning. Russia’s currency will likely crash by c. 25% as it trades for the first time since sanctions against Russian banks and the Swift ban were introduced, according to the Guardian.

More signs sanctions are having the desired effect: Two Russian billionaires — one of whom has been slapped with targeted sanctions — have appealed for an end to the conflict.

More than 360k people have fled Ukraine so far, according to the UN. Ukraine’s interior ministry yesterday put the death toll at 352 Ukrainian citizens, including 14 children, while some 1.7k have been wounded.

An Egyptian man is among the wounded and is being treated in a Kharkiv hospital, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Meanwhile, the US called on its citizens to leave Russia while they still can, as increasing numbers of commercial flights from the country are canceled.


War in Ukraine threatens GASC’s latest tender

Traders have warned GASC of supply difficulties ahead of today’s wheat tender as conflict rages between major growers Russia and Ukraine, Bloomberg reports. Some traders have told GASC they won’t be able to offer Black Sea wheat due to the turmoil triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to anonymous sources. The two Black Sea countries together account for nearly a third of the world’s wheat supply — and around 80% of supply to Egypt.

Who are our best alternative suppliers? If Ukraine and Russia remain off the table, we could go for wheat from the US, France, Romania, Kazakhstan, or Germany, Internal Trade Development Authority head Ibrahim Ashmawy told Bloomberg Asharq, adding that these countries produce wheat that conforms to Egyptian specs.

Surging costs + sanctions will likely impact today’s tender. Some traders said they would sit out the tender altogether because of the surging cost of wheat from other countries, rising ins. and shipping costs, and “uncertainty due to the fast-moving changes on sanctions and other restrictions.” Suppliers have reportedly asked some Egyptian traders and agents to switch from Russia’s Sberbank, which has been hit by US sanctions.

Meaning GASC could be forced to cancel again: The authority is “prepared to cancel the tender again if needed,” Bloomberg cited an unidentified person as saying. GASC called off a wheat tender last Thursday after receiving only one offer for French wheat.

We have enough wheat stockpiled to last up to four months, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy told President Abdel Fattah El Sisi at a meeting yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement, as the war’s effect on our wheat supplies continues to top the government’s agenda. El Moselhy added that the local wheat production season is set to start in April and the government’s target is to reach 4 mn tons this year, which will help cover Egypt’s needs until the end of this year.

Minds are focused on making sure state coffers weather the wheat crunch: Prime Minister Mostafa Madmbouly discussed the financing needed to ensure our commodities supplies remain intact in a meeting yesterday with El Mosehly, Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait, and other officials, according to a cabinet statement.

Especially when it comes to subsidized foods: The government is paying a close eye to market prices for subsidized foods, for which the state bears the cost of any increases, Madbouly noted. It’s not yet clear whether the mayhem in the wheat market will impact the government’s plans to taper bread subsidies for the first time in decades. Details on the plan are expected to be announced by the end of next month.

Ramadan reserves: El Sisi also reviewed the status of our strategic commodity reserves and preparations for the approaching month of Ramadan, during which consumption typically spikes. As of this morning, there are 33 days left until the start of the holy month.


FinMin looks to rollout B2B e-invoicing for Cairo by June, fully digitize tax system by December

All B2B invoices issued by businesses based in the Greater Cairo Area will be automated by June, director of taxpayer services at the Tax Authority Mohsen El Gayar told Enterprise.

B2C invoices across the country will be fully automated by December, as will B2B invoices from firms in the Delta, Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, El Gayar said. Since fewer companies operate in these governorates, automating their invoices will be less time-consuming, he explained.

This is sooner than expected: The ministry started its tax automation process for B2B invoices two years ago, originally saying it would have all companies using the B2B e-invoicing system by April 2023.

The system kicked off in 2020: The first phase of the Tax Authority’s e-invoicing system was up and running in November 2020 with a selected 134 companies who were chosen to kick off the system by logging their invoices electronically to the Finance Ministry’s platform. The system is designed to clamp down on tax evasion and compel companies that have not registered with the Tax Authority to do so.

How does it work? Businesses must obtain an e-signature using the steps outlined here and register their products and services to an account on the Tax Authority’s platform. Using the account, they log all of their invoices on the platform. The authority will then be able to track each transaction back through the customer’s regular tax filings, which will include the invoice.

Our digital customs system will also be in full implementation by June, El Gayar said, confirming the timeline previously suggested to us by Khaled Nassef, technology advisor for the Egyptian Company for E-commerce Technology. FinMin’s Nafeza system went live for maritime importers in October and the ministry is looking to extend the system to air freight soon.


Plenty of interest in desalination projects

Eleven companies are reportedly planning to bid on desalination projects worth a combined USD 2.8 bn, Al Borsa reports, citing government sources it says have knowledge of the matter. The projects would be part of the government’s plan to raise Egypt’s desalinated water production capacity to 2.9 mn cubic meters per day within the next five years, the sources say.

Among the companies signaling their interest: The familiar faces of Metito Holdings, ACWA Power, Al Nowais, Schneider Electric, and Orascom Construction. The companies seeking funding from the International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, German development agency GIZ, Export-Import Bank of China, and Credit Agricole, among others.

We’ve heard of a portion of this before: Metito Africa Managing Director Karim Madwar said earlier this month that the UAE-based company’s consortium with Scatec Solar and Orascom Construction is currently in talks with the government to build a USD 1.5 bn water desalination plant that would be powered entirely using renewables.

What will debottleneck the investments? The companies are reportedly waiting on the government to issue regulations on investments in desalination projects, which will reportedly include a map of the available land plots for the facilities, regulations on how land will be allocated, and the tariff for the water produced from the plants. The regulations are also expected to require that any desalination plant be operated entirely on renewable energy and use reverse osmosis technology.


Car sales up 13% in January

Passenger car sales were up 13% y-o-y in January, according to industry figures released yesterday. Data from the Automotive Information Council (AMIC) showed that nearly 16.9k cars were sold during the month, up from 14.9k in January 2020.

January saw car sales extend a strong run of growth from last year, despite industry insiders telling us they expect a supply crunch, including potential price hikes and local production cuts. Last year saw the sector shrug off the global chip shortage as strong demand pushed sales to their highest levels since the EGP float in 2016.

But buses and trucks are not doing so well: Around 1.3k buses were sold during the month, down 33.5% y-o-y. Truck sales also fell 22% y-o-y to just under 3k units. Overall, the auto industry sold nearly 21.2 k vehicles in January, inching up 2.2% from the same month last year.

AMIC data is self-reported by member distributors, who include the majority of (but not all) industry participants.


FreshSource secures seven-figure USD in seed round + Kouncel raises EUR 1.2 mn in a pre-seed round led by AfDB

Online B2B fruit and veg platform FreshSource has bagged an undisclosed seven-figure USD seed round led by 4DX Ventures and Wamda, the company announced in a statement (pdf). The agri-supply chain startup plans to use the funds raised to expand across the country, invest in its tech platform, and grow its team, “while also keeping an eye on future expansion in the region.”

About the company: FreshSource is the MENA region’s first B2B agri-supply chain platform, according to the release. Launched in 2019 by siblings Omar and Farah Emara, the startup connects small farmers with businesses including restaurants, hotels, and online and traditional retailers in an attempt to streamline the agri-supply chain and reduce food waste. The company currently operates in 11 Egyptian cities, and in 2020 became Otlob’s (now rebranded as Talabat) first fresh food supplier. FreshSource was last year among four Egyptian startups selected to take part in a Google-led three-month digital accelerator program in MENA.


Online law education platform Kouncel has raised funding and support worth EUR 1.2 mn in a pre-seed round, according to a release (pdf). The round was led by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), the Entrepreneurship Development Project in Egypt (Tanmia wa Tatweer), and Zaldi Capital. EUR 250k of the funding will be disbursed in banknotes, while the remaining amount will be provided in-kind as services, company founder and CEO Ibrahim Saleh told Enterprise.

Kouncel is the first online law education platform in the MENA region to offer “modern learning” to lawyers and companies, according to the release. The platform offers online and custom-made courses for Egyptian and Gulf-based litigators in arbitration, litigation drafting, corporate law, intellectual property, and banking and non-banking finance, among other fields.



The Russia-Ukraine conflict continued to headline the talk shows last night. Egyptian Ambassador to Kyiv Ayman Gamal spoke on a call with Al Hekaya’s Amr Adib (watch, runtime: 13:32) to discuss the situation for Egyptians stuck in the war-torn country. Eastern Ukraine — where the largest number of Egyptian students reside — is particularly dangerous, he said, adding, “We’ve asked them to stay home or seek refuge in shelters.”

In a video call with Amr Adib, Russian Ambassador to Egypt Georgy Borisenko said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “crossed all red lines” when the president allegedly made statements to the effect that Ukraine wants to own nuclear weapons, which would directly threaten Russia’s national security (watch, runtime: 1:33).

FACT CHECK- Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in return for Western security pledges in the mid-1990s after the Soviet Union fell — and has made no suggestion that it wants to rebuild a stockpile. The Ukrainian president has called on Western nations to hold up their end of the post-Soviet pact by protecting his country. The New York Times calls claims that Ukraine wants to regain nuclear arms a “conspiracy theory” propagated by Putin.

There are enough nukes in circulation to “destroy the entire world,” said the former head of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority Ali Islam in a phone-in with Kelma Akheera’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 6:57), during which he outlined the dangers of resorting to nuclear weapons.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s review of the status of our strategic commodity reserves got shout outs from Masaa DMC (watch, runtime 00:44) and Kelma Akheera (watch, runtime: 1:37). More on that story in this morning’s Commodities section, above.

The Egyptian citizen who was injured in the ongoing Ukraine clashes also got significant coverage. Mohamed Zayed was injured during an airstrike in Kharkiv, but is currently in stable condition in a hospital after undergoing surgery, according to reports from Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 1:10), Al Hekaya (watch, runtime: 5:34), and Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 23:52).


The Health Ministry reported 1,521 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 1,743 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 482,248 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 48 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 24,040.


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Ethiopia launches massive investment fund: The Ethiopian government is targeting foreign investment in at least USD 150 bn-worth of state assets, as it looks to switch tack by opening up to the private sector in a bid to boost flagging growth. (Financial Times)

The US government-backed mortgage loans market could be in for some turbulence as the Fed works to reduce its USD 9 tn balance sheet, the Financial Times says. The Fed is working to reduce its holdings of both treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities to focus on a smaller, all-treasury portfolio. Fed officials have signaled the central bank could take an aggressive approach by selling the mortgage bonds instead of allowing them to mature, leading investors to worry that the market could be flooded. That would drive yields up as prices drop, “exacerbating a trend that started in November” when the US central bank began tapering its monthly debt purchases.

Saudi oil giant Aramco has made several natural gas field discoveries that could produce more than 75 mn cubic feet per day, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman. The gas fields were discovered across four separate KSA regions, and include two unconventional fields, which are harder to exploit.




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The EGX30 rose 2.6% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 541 mn (46.7% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 6.5% YTD.

In the green: Cleopatra Hospital (+10.2%), GB Auto (+7.3%) and Qalaa Holding (+6.7%).

In the red: Credit Agricole (-0.1%).


PROJECT PROFILE– Japanese schools in Egypt: Over the past six years, the Education Ministry has been rolling out Egyptian-Japanese schools across the country as part of a partnership with Japan. These schools, which are primarily geared towards children from middle-class families, are designed to provide students with a more holistic education experience, teaching life skills and encouraging character development along with academics.

How it started: In a visit to Japan in 2016, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the Egypt-Japan Education Partnership, which seeks to help improve the Egyptian school system by incorporating aspects of the Japanese whole child development model. Egyptian-Japanese schools were then integrated within the Education Ministry’s K-12 curriculum overhaul program, known as Education 2.0. Announced in 2018, the program aims to restructure schooling throughout the country and replace an education system that’s been suffering from a long-rooted culture of memorization for tests. Education 2.0 is set to be fully implemented by 2030, in line with the government’s broader development plan, Egypt Vision 2030.

What do Egyptian-Japanese schools teach? Although the schools implement a Japanese educational approach, the curriculum itself is Egyptian and the Japanese language is not among the subjects taught at these schools. The schools teach the Egyptian national curriculum in the English language, along with life skills and citizenship education courses, Connect Plus. The system aims to focus on the development of emotionally stable, socially adjusted children, by incorporating Japanese-style Tokkatsu educational activities such as cleaning and collecting garbage once a day, emphasizing the importance of personal hygiene, and developing collaboration skills through teamwork, according to the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

What is Tokkatsu? The holistic Tokkatsu model gets its name from the Japanese period called tokubetsu katsudo (or tokkatsu, for short). It believes that interpersonal skills, collaborative management, and emotional maturity are as important as traditional intellectual subjects, providing “whole child education.”

The Japanese education system ranks 7th globally, with a 100% literacy rate, according to joint research from US News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which surveys thousands of people across 78 countries. The same research ranked Egypt’s education system 39th in 2021.

Middle-class friendly: The government believes that Egyptian-Japanese schools are ideal for middle-class families, providing an option that is better than public schools, with fees that are lower than private alternatives, and are thus more accessible. The Education Ministry said it chose school locations based on areas that are suitable for “the social standards and income of the parents, in order to be able to pay the fees of the schools.”

Fees are (expectedly) steeper than public schools: School tuition fees are currently set at EGP 13.7k, while the textbooks — paid separately — cost EGP 600. School uniforms are officially sold for EGP 1.3 k, bringing the total cost for each student to EGP 15.6k. This is a significant increase from the EGP 2-4k range for total fees initially announced for students attending the schools when they started operating back in 2017. To ease the financing burden, cabinet announced in 2020 that parents whose children are enrolled at these schools can apply for eight-month loans from state-owned Banque Misr to cover up to 100% of the tuition fees.

How many Egyptian-Japanese schools are operating right now? There are currently 48 Egyptian-Japanese schools operating in 25 governorates for the 2021/2022 academic year. At least 11k students are currently enrolled, according to Malek El Refai, head of the Egyptian-Japanese Schools division at the Education Ministry. There are around 35 to 40 students in each class — that’s about half the size of public school classes.

What the enrollment process looks like: Prospective students can apply to enroll through the schools’ websites, under the supervision of the Egyptian-Japanese Schools Administration Unit at the Education Ministry. The admission process for students includes personal interviews with both the parents and the student. Once accepted, the parents must commit to volunteering at the school for at least 20 hours.

Egyptian-Japanese schools are required to follow certain infrastructure rules, such as a specific size for classrooms (8m x 8m) with both an exit and an entrance, a cap on the number of students in each class (no more than 40), with each student ensured their own desk. Each school should span no less than 6000 meters, including large green spaces.

How much do these schools cost to build? The most recently opened Japanese school in Egypt, which was established in Benha and opened its doors in December, cost EGP 18.5 mn to build, according to the local press. The school is three storeys high, with 28 classrooms. By way of comparison, a public school being constructed in the new administrative capital cost around EGP 25 mn, with a total of 56 classrooms.

JICA is helping out with the funding: The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been providing financial and technical support for the initiative, including an EGP 18.6 bn financing agreement, ratified by El Sisi in 2018, to help fund the development of the Japanese schools in Egypt. In May 2019, the government received a EGP 7.5 mn grant from Japan for the schools, bringing the total funding to around EGP 26.1 bn, by our count.

Teaching the teachers: JICA education experts have also been providing advice and training sessions to Egyptian teachers on the knowledge needed for Japanese-style education. Thousands of teachers and school principals have traveled to Japan for an immersive experience and a first-hand look at Japanese schools since the program was launched. By 2023, JICA hopes to send over 700 teachers to Japan for on-the-ground training. JICA has also been cooperating with the Education Ministry to establish a Tokkatsu Training and Certification System (TTCS) which trains educators on incorporating Japanese-style Tokkatsu educational methods and character building in the Egyptian national curriculum. The first batch of Tokkatsu teachers graduated last December.

Where’s the plan for the Japanese schools going next? The plan is to have 100 Japanese schools in Egypt by 2025, some of which will be already-existing public schools that will be turned into the Japanese-style schools, Education Minister Tarek Shawki said recently. The ministry plans to eventually reach 500 Japanese schools across the country, Shawki said last week. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly pushed the ministry to work on setting up more of the schools in a recent cabinet meeting, instructing the ministry to focus on governorates that suffer from overcrowded classrooms.

Your top education stories for the week:

  • Private sector education outfit CIRA and the National Bank of Egypt’s investment arm, Al Ahly Capital, will together finance half of CIRA’s EGP 2.1 bn applied tech university.
  • The Education Ministry is working on tests for school teachers applying to fill the teacher shortage, as well as a strategy to begin hiring specialized teachers in new fields in a multi-phase plan.
  • Participants in the Information Technology Industry Development Agency’s Digital Egypt Builders Initiative could soon earn a master’s degree in digital cultures from Ireland’s University College Cork, after the two sides signed a cooperation agreement last week.
  • New climate change initiative for university students: The environment and higher education ministries are launching an initiative to raise awareness about climate change among university students.
  • Egypt and Jordan signed an MoU to cooperate on youth and higher education programs.


1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

1Q2022: Swvl acquisition of Viapool expected to close.

1Q2022: Waste collection startup Bekia plans to expand to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

1Q2022: Rameda Pharma will begin selling its generic version of Merck’s oral antiviral covid-19 med.

1Q2022: Pharos Energy’s sale of a 55% stake in El Fayum, Beni Suef concessions to IPR Energy Group subsidiary IPR Lake Qarun expected to close.

Early 2022: Results to be announced for the second round of the state’s gold and precious metals auction.

1H2022: Target date for IDH to close its acquisition of 50% of Islamabad Diagnostic Center.

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

1H2022: The government will respond to private companies’ bids to build desalination plants.

1H2022: Egypt’s second corporate green bond issuance expected to be announced.

1H2022: The Transport Ministry to sign a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi Ports to set up a transport route across the Nile to transport products from Al Canal’s Minya sugar factory.

January-February 2022: Construction work on the Abu Qir metro upgrade will begin.

24 February-7 March (Thursday-Monday): Diarna Handicrafts Fair. Cairo Festival City, Cairo.

End of February: Lebanon to receive gas from Egypt via a pipeline crossing Jordan and Syria.

March: Rollout of the government financial management information system (GFMIS), a suite of electronic tools to automate the government’s financial management processes (pdf) that will

replace the existing “closed” financial management system.

March: Contracts for last two phases of Egypt’s USD 4.5 bn high-speed rail line to be signed.

March: 4Q2021 earnings season.

March: Deadline for the World Health Organization’s intergovernmental negotiating body to meet to discuss binding treaty on future pandemic cooperation.

March: World Cup playoffs.

March: The government hopes to sign a final contract between El Nasr Automotive and a new partner for the local production of electric cars.

March: Target date for Saudi tech firm Brmaja to IPO on the EGX.

March: Egypt to host World Tourism Organization Middle East committee meeting.

March: The Salam – new administrative capital – 10th of Ramadan Light Rail Train (LRT) line will start operating.

March: The new multi-purpose station at Dekheila Port and the revamped Ain Sokhna Port will start operating.

March: General Authority for Land and Dry Ports to issue the condition booklets for the operations of the Tenth of Ramadan dry port.

3 March (Thursday): Fawry’s extraordinary general assembly (pdf) to vote on EGP 800 mn capital increase.

9-18 March (Wednesday-Friday): The 55th edition of the Cairo International Fair.

15-16 March (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

20 March (Sunday): Applications close for Visa’s global startup competition, the Visa Everywhere Initiative.

24 March (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

25 March (Friday): Egypt will host Senegal in the first leg of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers' playoff (TBC).

26 March (Saturday): Egypt-EU World Trade Organization dispute settlement consultations end.

28-29 March (Monday-Tuesday): The Egypt International Mining Show (EIMS 2022) will take place virtually.

28 March (Monday): The second leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers' playoff between Egypt and Senegal (TBC).

31 March (Thursday): Deadline for submitting tax returns for individual taxpayers.

31 March (Thursday): Vodacom purchase of Vodafone Group’s stake in Vodafone Egypt expected to be completed by this date.

31 March (Thursday): Supply Ministry expected to take final decision on bread subsidies by this date.

April: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

April: Ghazl El Mahalla shares will begin trading on the EGX.

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

3 April (Sunday): Bidding begins on the Industrial Development Authority’s license to manufacture tobacco products.

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

14 April (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

Mid-April: Trading on the Egyptian Commodity Exchange to start.

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

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

25 April (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

28 April (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

30 April (Saturday): Deadline for submitting corporate tax returns for companies whose financial year ends 31 December.

Late April – 15 May: 1Q2022 earnings season

May: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

1 May (Sunday): Labor Day.

3-4 May (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

4 May (Wednesday): 3 February (Thursday): Deadline to send in applications for Cultural Property Agreement Implementation projects to the US Embassy in Cairo.

5 May (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Labor Day.

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

19 May (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

5-7 June (Sunday-Tuesday): Africa Health ExCon, Al Manara International Conference Center, Egypt International Exhibitions Center, and the St. Regis Almasa Hotel, New Administrative Capital.

9 June (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

14-15 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

15-18 June (Wednesday-Saturday): St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), St. Petersburg.

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

23 June (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

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

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

End of 2Q2022: The Financial Regulatory Authority’s new Ins. Act should be approved.

End of 1H2022: Emirati industrial company M Glory Holding and the Military Production Ministry will begin the mass production of dual fuel pickup trucks that can run on natural gas.

2H2022: The inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum.

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

2H2022: The government will have vaccinated 70% of the population.

July: A law governing ins. for seasonal contractors will come into effect.

July: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

1 July (Friday): FY 2022-2023 begins.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

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

21 July (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

26-27 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

Late July – 14 August: 2Q2022 earnings season.

18 August (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

September: Egypt will display its first naval exhibition with the title Naval Power.

September: Central Bank of Egypt’s Innovation and Financial Technology Center to launch incubator for 25 fintech startups.

8 September (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

20-21 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve Finterest rate meeting.

22 September (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

October: World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Washington, DC

October: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

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

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

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

27 October (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

Late October – 14 November: 3Q2022 earnings season.

November: Cairo Water Week 2022.

1-2 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

3 November (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

7-18 November (Monday-Friday): Egypt will host COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

21 November-18 December (Monday-Sunday): 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar.

13-14 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

15 December (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

22 December (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

End of 2022: e-Aswaaq’s tourism platform will complete the roll out of its ticketing and online booking portal across Egypt.

January 2023: EGX-listed companies and non-bank lenders will submit ESG reports for the first time.

January: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

**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 above between the actual holiday and its observance.

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