Sunday, 13 March 2022

AM — Robots are getting green incentives — and we’ve banned some food exports for the next three months

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to a new week. It’s another one of those “drinking from a fire hose” mornings here at Enterprise World Headquarters, so let’s jump right in:

Is the IMF in talks with the Madbouly government on how to cushion us from fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? “I worry for Egypt. If we have sustained high food and energy prices, how this is going to impact people in Egypt,” International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday during a media roundtable on the war in Ukraine. “We are already engaged in discussion with Egypt on how to target vulnerable populations and vulnerable businesses.”

What does that mean? Georgieva didn’t unpack the remarks, but also noted in the discussion that our tourism industry will be sharply hit by the collapse of the Ukrainian and Russian markets. She did not make clear whether the IMF could offer further financial support to Egypt and didn’t elaborate on the measures it is currently discussing with the government. Analysts at JPMorgan last week wrote that there is a “reasonable probability” we could open official talks with the IMF for more support in the event that “market conditions continue to deteriorate.”

We have worked with the lender twice in the past six years. Once in 2016 when we took out a USD 12 bn facility to back an ambitious program of economic reforms coinciding with the float of the EGP — and again after the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, when we borrowed USD 8 bn to cushion the economic impact of the outbreak.

MEANWHILE, AT THE EBRD- Maait calls on lenders for emergency support: International lenders should offer support to developing countries to help navigate the rise in food and energy prices, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait during talks with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on Friday, according a ministry statement. Maait said that economic reforms have made Egypt more resilient to turmoil in the global markets, but called for further support to help it manage the associated risks.


IT’S A BIT UGLY OUT THERE- The IMF will likely downgrade its growth outlook for the global economy due to the conflict in Ukraine when it publishes its World Economic Outlook next month, Georgieva also said on Thursday. The shock in the commodities markets and the resulting inflation is causing global trade to contract and consumer and business confidence to dip, she said, warning that central banks may respond to accelerating inflation by raising interest rates more aggressively.

The Fund has already revised downwards its 2022 growth projections once this year, cutting its forecast by 0.5 percentage points to 4.4% in January due to continued supply chain disruptions, rising inflation and tightening monetary conditions.

Analysts are starting to price in a US recession: “Over time, the three biggest factors that tend to drive the U.S. economy into a recession are an inverted yield curve, some kind of commodity price shock or Fed tightening,” one strategist told Bloomberg. “Right now, there appears to be potential for all three to happen at the same time.”

How will the Fed respond? The Federal Reserve will meet to review interest rates on Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to still go ahead with its first rate hike in almost four years despite the ongoing market turmoil. Fed watchers aren’t anticipating the central bank to go through with the half-point hike predicted prior to the conflict, suggesting instead it will raise rates by 25 bps as it tries to balance curbing inflation with tempering the increasing uncertainty in the markets.

Pressure on the Fed to act intensified last week after fresh data showed that inflation hit a new 40-year high in February. Consumer price inflation reached 7.9% last month, up from 7.5% in January, the highest level since 1982.


PSA #1- Egypt will report covid numbers weekly, instead of daily: The Health Ministry will no longer release covid data every day and will instead publish weekly updates every Saturday, it announced in a statement yesterday. The decision was made due to the declining infection and hospitalization rates, the ministry said.

We made that very same decision last week here at Enterprise HQ: We discontinued our two-year-old daily Covid Watch section after coming to the conclusion that the peak of this omicron-led wave is now well behind us. With about 50% of those eligible now vaccinated, we’re thrilled to see Egypt making progress on jabs that was unimaginable a year ago.

PSA #2- Get your coat on: It’s going to be a windy, cold week — especially early in the morning and late at night — according to the Egyptian Meteorological Authority’s latest forecast. Expect highs of 19°C and lows of 9°C over the next five days in the capital and Alexandria.

PSA #3- We have 20 days left until the start of Ramadan, ladies and gentlemen.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

The Customs Authority won’t accept paper manifests from the middle of this month: Shipping companies will no longer be able to submit paper manifests to the Customs Authority from mid-March, and will instead need to submit the documents digitally via the Nafeza customs platform, according to a circular picked up by Al Mal.

Isn’t it mid-March now? Yup, though the Customs Authority doesn’t appear to have provided a specific date on which the decision will take effect.

The Senate is set to continue debating the Unified Ins. Act today and tomorrow after a two week recess, 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.

Aramco could soon be the world’s most valuable company: Saudi Aramco is fast closing the gap with Apple to be crowned the world’s most valuable company, Bloomberg reports. Aramco’s shares have risen 15% in less than three weeks as oil prices surge to their highest in more than a decade, while the iPhone maker’s stock has sunk 9% this year on the back of a wider selloff in the tech market. Aramco — which last held the top market spot for a brief period in September 2020 — is now valued at some USD 2.2 tn, while Apple currently has a market cap of USD 2.5 tn.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

AUC will hold its annual Business Forum from tomorrow, 14 March, to Thursday, 17 March. The virtual forum will see founders, business players and policymakers from Egypt, Africa and other parts of the world discuss investing in tech startups, corporate learning and development, and the role of multi-stakeholder collaboration in fueling inclusive sustainable development, among other topics. Keynote speakers will include Planning Minister Hala El Said, and American economist and Nobel Prize Winner Abhijit Banerjee. You can register here.

Green energy forum: The German Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce is hosting the Egyptian German Green Energy Forum on Tuesday, 22 March. Planning Minister Hala El Said, Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk, and German Ambassador Frank Hartmann are among those slated to attend. The event runs 5:30-9pm CLT at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.

Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will hold its next monetary policy meeting on Thursday, 24 March.

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

enterprise

*** It’s What’s Next day: We have our weekly deep-dive into what makes and shapes pre-listed companies and startups in Egypt, the UAE and KSA, touching on investment trends, future sector insights and growth journeys.

In today’s issue: How could digital labor platforms impact Egypt’s informal sector? A new report finds that digital labor platforms could offer Egypt’s informal workers the chance to receive better working conditions — but there are also plenty of wrinkles still to be ironed out.

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COMMODITIES

Gov’t imposes ban on some food exports to conserve local supply

The Trade Ministry has banned the export of staple food commodities for three months as it looks to shore up supplies amid turmoil in the global food market caused by the conflict in Ukraine. Wheat, flour, oils and corn are all included in the export ban, along with lentils, pasta, and fava beans, the ministry announced in two separate decisions on Thursday and Saturday.

The decision comes amid spiraling global food price inflation and a global wheat supply crunch: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upending global food supplies and sending commodity prices soaring. The two countries provide around a third of the world’s wheat, and the conflict has sent global wheat prices surging by 48% over the past two week. In Egypt, the price of unsubsidized bread had already increased by up to 50% as of the start of last week. Egypt imports c. 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

Securing our reserves is a gov’t priority: The Madbouly government is ready to spend an extra EGP 15 bn to cover wheat imports after promises that the government will try to absorb the costs “as much as possible” and relieve the inflationary impact on the public.

It’s not just wheat that’s a problem: The price of poultry feed — which is largely made of corn — has risen by more than 15% since the war began, head of the Poultry Division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce Abdel Aziz El Sayed told Ahram Online. Sayed said that there is “no reason why” domestic corn prices should have risen, since Egypt has a seven-month reserve on hand and shipments yet to arrive were locked in at prior prices. Egypt imports around 75% of its corn, with 30% of imports coming from Ukraine. The government is working to secure at least 3-6 months of reserves in all basic commodities, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said last week.

What would the long-term consequences for Africa be if Ukrainian wheat supply dried up altogether? Researchers at Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy entertained that less-than-fun hypothetical in a recent report that finds that Egypt’s wheat imports would permanently decrease by over 17% and raise prices up by more than 3%.

That’s effectively where we are now after Ukraine last week banned the export of wheat and other food staples to try and prevent a humanitarian crisis in the country.

Some respite: Oil posted its first weekly loss since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, with Brent crude falling 4.6% to settle above USD 112 a barrel, after briefly trading at almost USD 140 in a volatile rally earlier in the week, Bloomberg reports.

Is the wheat panic bubble bursting? Chicago wheat closed down 8.4% for the week on Friday after peaking at all time highs earlier in the week, Bloomberg reports. The drop came as traders wait and see if fresh demand for US exports will materialize on the back of the loss of Russian and Ukrainian supply.

ECONOMY

Rising food prices push Egypt inflation rate to 31-month high in February

Headline inflation reached a 31-month high in February as rising global prices caused the cost of local food items to accelerate at a rate not seen since 2018, according to official data out Thursday. Figures released by statistics agency Capmas showed that annual urban inflation rose to 8.8% last month from 7.3% in January — its highest level since July 2019 — while monthly inflation hit a 16-month high of 1.6%.

Food price inflation hit its highest level since November 2018, reaching 17.6% y-o-y from 12.4% in January, with vegetables, oil and meat seeing particularly large increases, according to the figures. Food and beverages constitute the biggest component of the basket of goods used to measure prices.

The drivers: “Almost all food items recorded an acceleration in their annual price increases compared to January, as an expected outcome of seasonal factors, and — more importantly — the surge in global inflation pushed even higher by the flare-up between Russia and Ukraine in late February,” Al Ahly Pharos analyst Esraa Ahmed wrote in a note.

SOUND SMART- Back in 2018, inflation was supercharged by rising food prices on the back of the government’s rapid phase-out of energy subsidies.

Annual core inflation also continued to rise, hitting 7.2% from 6.3% in January, according to central bank data (pdf). Core inflation strips out volatile items such as food and fuel.

The commodity price shocks pushing February’s inflation up came before Russia’s war in Ukraine unfolded, pushing up the price of strategic goods at home and globally on the back of the conflict. Global wheat prices have surged 48% over the past two weeks, adding more than USD 100 to the price per ton, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said last week. Sugar prices have risen 7%, frozen meat by 11% and poultry by 10% over the same period, he said. Energy prices have also skyrocketed globally.

Still within the target range (just): Despite the increase, the headline rate remains within the central bank’s 7% (±2%) target range.

But don’t expect it to stay there in the coming months: Ramadan imports always fuel inflation, and it’s not like the global commodities roller-coaster will end anytime soon.

Heightened inflation is pushing down our real interest rate: Egypt’s inflation-adjusted interest rate has for many months been one of the highest in the world, attracting bns of USD of foreign portfolio flows into the EGP carry trade. The rate has fallen to around 2% following February’s inflation data, though remains higher than most emerging markets, which are deep in negative territory, Allen Sandeep, director of Naeem Brokerage, told Bloomberg on Thursday (watch, runtime: 5:04). Egypt’s policy rate currently stands at 8.25%.

This could make a rate hike this month more likely: After last month forecasting a rate hike later in 2022, Ahly Pharos now expects the central bank to act when it meets in a few weeks. “We acknowledge all the costs particularly on the fiscal side of a rate hike, but the CBE does not support maintaining a negative real interest rate. We believe the CBE might prefer to hike rates by 150bps during the coming period, likely in its upcoming meeting scheduled on 24 March, as a natural response to the adverse global events,” Ahmed wrote.

A 2022 rate hike was in the cards even before the Ukraine conflict, with several analysts telling us last month that the central bank might tighten policy as central banks around the world begin to raise rates to curb heightened inflation.

Naeem is also predicting a hike this month: “We expect a hike of about 50bps. That’s a base case until now but we don’t rule out a higher hike on the 24 March,” Sandeep told Bloomberg, adding that the central bank will likely factor in the impact of the surge in wheat prices in the coming months.

AUTOMOTIVE

A first look at the long-awaited automotive strategy + Bidding for new EV charging company management this week

The long-awaited automotive strategy is about to be unveiled: Cabinet reviewed last week the final version of a national strategy to develop the automotive industry, according to a statement. No further information was given on when exactly to expect the strategy’s launch — which were previously told would come by the end of last year — but the statement did provide a few details about what it will include.

Meet the Egyptian Automotive Industry Development Program (AIDP): The strategy will include incentives to localize the electric vehicle and automotive feeder industries under the AIDP, with the aim of enhancing the country’s existing assembly and manufacturing capabilities — and of encouraging new investment to the sector, the statement said.

The program will initially cover the assembly of passenger cars, SUVs, vans and microbuses, according to the statement, as well as R&D centers, testing labs, and automotive software development centers that feed local production and assembly. Participation is optional and comes with a number of incentives.

What kind of incentives will be up for grabs? AIDP will introduce a tariff system that should facilitate customs release procedures for participating firms, support new investment from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in Egypt, and encourage assemblers to switch to CKD assembly, according to the statement. CKD, or complete knocked-down assembly, is when a local assembler puts together a completely disassembled vehicle from imported parts (as opposed to CBU assembly, where completely built vehicles are imported, or SKD assembly, where partly-assembled vehicles are imported).

AIDP will also cover the EV industry: AIDP will provide cash incentives of up to EGP 50k for buyers of locally-assembled electric vehicles, the statement said. The government is working to enlist international partners to produce locally assembled electric cars in El Nasr Auto’s factory. Real estate developers will also be obliged to build a certain number of charging points at their residential and commercial projects.

BACKGROUND: The legislation for the automotive strategy has been in the works since 2016, and has gone through years of delays, revisions and overhauls. The strategy aims to grow a car manufacturing industry that can compete with EU, Moroccan and Turkish imports.

ALSO IN AUTOMOTIVE-

Want to manage the government’s EV charging station company? Companies looking to manage and operate a soon-to-be-established state company for electric vehicle charging stations have until this Thursday, 17 March to submit their bids, according to a Public Enterprises Ministry statement. The company will be set up under a public-private partnership, and will deploy around EGP 450 mn to set up 3k charging stations within 18 months in Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, Sharm El Sheikh and several highways, the statement says.

What they’re signing up for: The private sector partner selected to manage and operate the company will be locked in with a medium-term contract for its services, in exchange for a portion of the company’s net income. The company or consortium will also be required to put up 25% (c.EGP 37.5 mn) of the JV’s capital.

What’s next: The ministry will announce the qualified bids the following Thursday, 24 March.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Gov’t has incentives for green economy, AI and other priority sectors

A first look at new incentives to spur investment in emerging sectors: The Madbouly government is introducing incentives to spur investments in the green and AI sectors, according to a statement. Ministers approved the incentives last week, after they were put forward by General Authority of Investment and Freezones (GAFI) CEO Mohamed Abdel Wahab. While details are so far scant, the incentives include:

#1- Tax incentives: The government will grant tax breaks to projects for the production, storage and export of green hydrogen and green ammonia, as well as for projects to manufacture alternatives to single-use plastics.

#2- Non-tax incentives for AI, green, and manufacturing projects. GAFI will start implementing non-tax incentives laid out in the Investment Act, especially for projects in the AI, green, and manufacturing industries.

#3- Prioritizing strategic sectors: Projects in green hydrogen, green ammonia, EV manufacturing and charging, plastics alternatives, and waste management — all considered priorities for our development strategy — could be fast-tracked through the approvals process, after Cabinet approved a separate prime ministerial decision, the statement read.

#4- Faster approval process for investment proposals: Authorities must now make a decision on any approvals, licenses or permits necessary for investment projects and inform applicants of the outcome within 20 working days of receiving a request. GAFI will follow up on applications with any authorities who don’t meet the new deadline.

STARTUP WATCH

Disruptech’s final USD 25 mn close due next week + Bosta enters KSA

Fintech fund DisrupTech Ventures is expecting to reach the USD 25 mn final close of its fund next week, Managing Partner Mohamed Okasha told Enterprise, confirming a report from Al Mal. The fund has already locked in substantial unrealized gains on initial investments it has already made, he said.

DisrupTech is looking to invest 30% of the fund in eight companies during 2022, Okasha tells us. Some 25% of the fund was already deployed previously in seven startups, namely Brimore, Khazna, Fatura, Cassbana, MNT-Halan, Mozare3, and Gahez. Earlier this month, Disruptech led a pre-seed investment round in Mumerz.


Fintech startup Nexta is preparing to launch after raising USD 2.2 mn in pre-seed investment, the company said in a press release. The funding round was led by DisrupTech and featured participation from undisclosed international investors The company said the funding will allow it to debut its payment services, having already met the Central Bank of Egypt’s regulations. The funds will allow Nexta “to launch its much anticipated digital banking solutions, as well as support its effort in expanding its market and continuing its strategic partnerships,” Distruptech’s Okasha said.

About Nexta: Founded by Ibrahim Farag and Ahmed Hisham in 2021, Nexta is a payments company whose Visa cards “will aggregate the users’ existing payment cards, allow for easy and reliable money transfer, and a multitude of other features to come,” the company said.


Bosta has entered its first market outside Egypt: Logistics startup Bosta has opened an office in Riyadh, marking its official launch in Saudi Arabia and its first expansion outside of Egypt, the company announced in a statement (pdf).

The launch coincides with the closing of an undisclosed pre-Series B round led by Khwarizmi Ventures and Hassan Allam Holding, the company said.

More expansions to come? The Saudi office launch is part of Bosta’s expansion plans across the Middle East and “it will be followed by another launch in the region by the end of this year,” said co-founder and CEO Mohamed Ezzat. Bosta has plans to expand into the UAE as well, Ezzat had said last year, adding that the company is looking to enter seven new markets in the next five years, including Kuwait and several African countries.

CABINET WATCH

Cabinet okays harsher penalties under crackdown of building on farmland

Harsher penalties will be introduced for illegally building on agricultural land under amendments to the Agriculture Act approved by the Cabinet during its weekly meeting on Thursday, it said in a statement. Those convicted will be banned from receiving government food subsidies, and will face jail terms ranging from two to five years as well as fines between EGP 500k and EGP 10 mn. Contractors involved in illegal farmland building would also be subject to jail terms of two to five years and jail terms ranging from EGP 100k to EGP 3 mn. Almost 500 people have already had subsidies taken away from them for encroaching on agricultural land in recent weeks. The changes are part of the government’s efforts to curb agricultural land encroachment, with other construction regulations designed to downsize illegal construction applied in recent years nationwide.

SMEs will also be getting an additional one-year grace period to join the formal economy after Cabinet extended the timeline set out in the SMEs Act. The extension aims to “allow informal businesses to regulate their status to integrate in the formal economy.” The recently-ratified law includes tax and non-tax incentives to support SMEs to join the formal economy, including tax markdowns at a rate of 1% of the total growth in sales a single SME manages to achieve in a given year.

Also approved during Thursday’s meeting:

  • The executive regulations of the Clinical Research Act, which the House of Representatives approved in 2020;
  • Proposals from unnamed private companies to set up 5 MW solar power plants in Sharm El-Sheikh under a buy-own-operate (BOO) framework;
  • A South Korean grant signed in January to help finance the government’s electronic procurement system.

WAR WATCH

Russia says western arms shipments to Ukraine are legit targets; US to send more arms

Russia has warned that it could strike western arms shipments, potentially drawing Moscow and Nato closer to armed confrontation, the Financial Times reports, citing a report in Interfax. Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov described western governments’ arming of Ukraine as a “dangerous move” and one that “turns these convoys into legitimate military targets,” the news agency reported him as saying.

More US arms are heading to Ukraine: This came on the same day that the Biden administration approved another USD 200 mn in arms for Ukraine. Another batch of anti-aircraft, anti-tank and small arms will be sent to the country immediately, taking Washington’s total spend on Ukraine military aid in 2022 to USD 1.2 bn, according to Reuters.

Biden rejects no-fly zone, warns of World War III: US president Joe Biden once again faced down calls for Nato to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, writing on social media that a confrontation between the military alliance and Russia will lead to World War III.

ON THE GROUND-

Russian forces are reportedly closing in on key Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, the country’s second-largest city Kharkiv and the southern port of Mariupol, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Friday, ABC News reports. The Russians are accelerating their advance towards the capital from the east, and are “closing in” on Kharkiv, the official said. Mariupol, which has been surrounded for almost a week, is continuing to suffer heavy shelling.

Russia plans to deploy thousands of volunteer fighters from the Middle East to join its forces in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a meeting with Russia’s security council (watch, runtime: 2:08). Some 16k people from the region are ready to be deployed to the country, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

EGYPT IN THE WAR-

Some 2.6k Ukrainians stranded in Egypt have arrived in Budapest since 5 March on chartered flights organized by the Ukrainian and Egyptian embassies, a Budapest Airport spokesperson told Reuters. Some 20k Ukrainians have been stranded in Egypt since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, prompting the closure of both Ukraine and Russia’s airspaces.

THE HUMAN TOLL-

More than 2.5 mn people have fled Ukraine so far, with more than 1.5 mn of them crossing the border into Poland, according to the latest tally by UN agencies. The UN estimates that as many as 4 mn refugees may end up leaving the country, as Russian forces continue to advance deeper into the country.

SANCTIONS-

Moscow strikes back at western sanctions: Russia has retaliated against western sanctions by banning the export of more than 200 products until the end of the year, it announced Thursday. The export ban includes telecoms, medical, vehicle, agricultural, and electrical equipment as well as railway cars and locomotives, containers, and turbines.

Crucially, Russia is not (yet) restricting access to its most important exports, including energy, food commodities and other raw materials. It is also still allowing artificial sapphires — crucial components of microchips — to be exported. Russia produces 40% of the world’s synthetic sapphires and the country’s Industry and Trade Ministry has said they will only be restricted as a last resort.

Germany wants to all but end the import of oil and coal from Russia by the end of 2022, the country’s economy minister said yesterday, according to the Associated Press. This is no small feat: Germany currently gets around half of its coal and oil from Russia.

Russia will now face higher tariffs on many of its exports after G7 nations agreed to revoke its “most-favored nation” (MFN) status at the World Trade Organization, the White House announced Friday. If Russia loses this status, western governments will be able to slap whatever tariffs they choose on Russian goods without breaching WTO rules.

FINANCE IN A TIME OF WAR-

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank have all said they’re pulling back from operations in Russia, Reuters reports (here and here).

Russia’s stock market will remain closed for the next week, the central bank said. Trading on the Moscow Exchange has been closed since 25 February, Bloomberg said.

Credit rating agency Fitch has downgraded 26 Russian natural resources companies, including state gas giant Gazprom, oil producer Lukoil and miner Rusal. Fitch has warned these companies could be at risk of defaulting due to sanctions imposed on Moscow.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The fallout from the conflict in Ukraine was stil top of the agenda on the airwaves last night, where the nation’s talking heads discussed the impact of the commodities shock on the economy and the fate of the overseas students who have been forced to fly back to Egypt from Ukraine. Covid (remember that?) also got a look-in.

The economic impact: Kelma Akhira’s Lamees Hadidi dedicated a chunk of her show to covering how the conflict is impacting the Egyptian economy. She recapped some of the measures the government is taking to insulate the economy from food and energy price inflation (watch, runtime 3:17), and in a another segment talked to Alaa Ezz, secretary-general of Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (Fedcoc), who told her with a surprising degree of confidence that commodity prices have already “reached their peak” and have started to decline (watch, runtime 4:41).

The students: Overseas students who have had to return home from Ukraine will be allowed to enroll in private universities — but will not be admitted to public universities, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa in a phone-in (watch, runtime 5:04). Admission into private universities will kick off tomorrow, in coordination with the Immigration Ministry, and regulations have been put in place to ensure students are placed in classes that correspond to their academic level, Higher Education Ministry spokesperson Adel Abdel Ghaffar told El Hadidi via a phone-in (watch, runtime 3:11). Abdel Ghaffar made the remarks after she pointed out to him that Egyptians studying in Ukraine typically do not get high-enough test scores to be admitted into top-ranking Egyptian universities. Al Hayah Al Youm also had coverage (watch, runtime 7:14)

Some good news: Egypt is witnessing a sharp decline in covid case numbers, as well as hospitalization and death numbers, Hossam Hosny, head of the government’s covid committee, told Amr Adib (watch, runtime 8:34). To keep things moving in the right direction, only those who hold vaccination certificates will be allowed entry into mawa’ed rahman during Ramadan, he said.

More than half of eligible people are now fully vaccinated, according to acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, who told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa that the figure now stands at 51% (watch, runtime 3:17). Al Hayah Al Youm also had coverage (watch, runtime 8:09).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The impact of rising prices of commodities on Egypt is getting more ink in the foreign press, with Bloomberg reporting the government’s efforts to soften the impact by boosting reserves and blaming “greedy traders” and state-run media outlets urging consumers to rationalize consumption amid the rising prices.

As Cairo transforms, Egyptians fight to save their treesis the headline atop a story by the Associated Press’ Amir-Hussein Rady that’s getting wide pickup in US media.

PLANET FINANCE

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Stocks finished the week on a low after days of wild swings on the back of contradictory developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal writes. The S&P 500 closed down 2.9% for the week on Friday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 3.5% — marking the fourth weekly loss in the past five weeks for the two major US indices. The Nasdaq has now lost 18% since the start of the year, as war in Europe and ongoing inflationary worries batter high-value stocks.

Expect more volatility this week, as the Fed meets for its March policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, the WSJ warns. Traders are overwhelmingly expecting the central bank to announce a quarter-point rate hike to kick off its tightening cycle in an attempt to curb decades-high inflation.

A quick reminder on terminology: Stocks down 10% from a recent high is a “correction.” A sustained drop of 20% or more is the marker of a bear market.

SOME RARE GOOD NEWS on the horizon for stocks? A quarter of a tn USD could flow from debt to equities by the end of March, the Financial Times writes, as big institutional investors rebalance their portfolios ahead of end-of-quarter reporting requirements. US pension funds and sovereign wealth funds are among those expected to rebuild their positions in stocks to meet long-term allocation targets, in a move that should support stock markets that have been whipsawed by the war in Ukraine.

MEANWHILE- Goldman Sachs has revised downwards its year-end target for the S&P 500 for the second time in less than a month in response to the commodities shock, Bloomberg reports.

Up

EGX30

10,454

+0.4% (YTD: -12.5%)

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

12,684

-0.4% (YTD: +12.4%)

Up

ADX

9,636

+0.3% (YTD: +13.5%)

Up

DFM

3,402

+0.6% (YTD: +6.5%)

Down

S&P 500

4,204

-1.3% (YTD: -11.8%)

Up

FTSE 100

7,116

+0.8% (YTD: -3.1%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 112.67

+3.1%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 4.72

+2.0%

Down

Gold

USD 1,985

-0.8%

Up

BTC

USD 39,093

+0.5% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 0.4% at Thursday’s close on turnover of EGP 996 mn (6.3% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 12.5% YTD.

In the green: Heliopolis Housing (+4.2%), Fawry (+2.8%) and Ezz Steel (+2.6%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-3.0%), CIRA (-2.9%) and Sidi Kerir Petrochem (-2.4%).

whatsNext

Digital labor platforms offer chances for fair work in Egypt’s informal sectors, a new report concludes — but there’s still a long way to go. Digital labor platforms represent a “unique and flexible” way for Egypt’s informal workers to earn a living — especially considering our highly informal economy — but they also have plenty of wrinkles still to be ironed out, concludes a recently-published study (pdf) conducted by Oxford University-based, GIZ-commissioned project Fairwork and AUC’s Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D).

What exactly do we mean by digital labor platforms? Digital labor platforms include both web-based platforms and location-based apps that outsource and allocate work, usually in service industries like driving, cleaning or running errands, the ILO notes. Today, these platforms form a core part of the gig economy (characterized by short-term contract or freelance work). Altogether, Egypt’s informal sector makes up an estimated 50% of GDP and 60% of the total employed population, with some 90% of SMEs belonging to the informal sector. And our digital transformation — with the internet penetration rate rising rapidly from an estimated 30% in 2010 to 57.3% as of January 2021 — has accelerated the growth of flexible, online ‘gig’ work, the report notes.

Fairwork aims to evaluate whether these platforms offer fair working conditions by examining them against its own five principles of fair work: Pay, conditions, contracts, management, and representation. Platforms are scored out of ten, with each of the five principles allocated two points.

The Fairwork-A2K4D report examines seven platforms operating in Egypt: These are home service provider FilKhedma, courier delivery companies Mrsool and Mongez, tutoring provider Orcas, ride-hailing platforms Uber and Swvl, and food delivery platform Talabat. The platforms were selected because they’re large and influential within their respective sectors, offering a snapshot of working conditions within Egypt’s digital labor environment, the report tells us.

Out of a possible ten points, FilKhedma scored the highest with five. Mrsool and Orcas followed with four, Swvl with three, and Mongez, Uber and Talabat with one.

Three platforms were awarded at least a point for fair pay: FilKhedma, Orcas and Swvl all pay their workers minimum wage or above — which for 2021 was EGP 2k per month, or EGP 333 per week, according to the report. The scores factored in work related costs — like vehicle maintenance, equipment, and waiting times. For the other platforms surveyed, these extra costs mean employees don’t actually take home the minimum wage. Only Orcas and Swvl pay a fair living wage or above — assessed as EGP 3.5k per month or EGP 583 per week in 2021.

Five were given points for fair conditions, by clearly taking action to mitigate risks faced by their workers: Mongez, Mrsool, FilKhedma, Orcas, and Uber all exhibit awareness of the risks their workers face, and take some action to protect them, the report tells us. Mongez provides workers with PPE — though it’s at a reduced cost, deducted from their salary every month. Mrsool offers an accident reimbursement system, so workers are compensated for any road accidents and recovery costs. FilKhedma provides a safety manual and offers safety training to workers. Orcas has a cancellation policy that safeguards worker incomes. And Uber has ins, and other policies in place to protect its drivers.

But none provide workers with a safety net: Not having a safety net is one of the biggest risks faced by gig workers, and none of the platforms examined by the study in Egypt fully addresses this, the report notes. Mrsool is the only one to address it even partially: it once reassigned a worker unable to perform his job due to workplace injury to another department while the injury lasted.

Three get a point for their contracts having clear terms and conditions: FilKhedma, Orcas, and Swvl have clear and accessible terms and conditions, as opposed to the other four platforms, which don’t notify workers of proposed changes within a reasonable timeframe before they take effect.

But all impose at least some unfair contract terms: Each of these platforms stipulate that they don’t bear any contractual liability, which the report considers an unfair contract term.

Three score management points, because they provide due process for decisions affecting workers: FilKhedma, Mrsool and Talabat can show they provide due process for decisions that impact workers, including an avenue for appeals over disciplinary action. The other platforms either have an inadequate appeals process or workers are in some way “disadvantaged for voicing concerns.”

But only one offers anything close to equity in the management process, by taking meaningful steps to be inclusive of women: Though Egypt’s maintenance work is usually undertaken by men, FilKhedma have taken some steps to address gender bias by offering cleaning services, which tend to attract women workers, the report notes.

Still, two now appear to be taking steps to be more generally inclusive: In an encouraging move, both FilKhedma and Orcas have recently implemented anti-discrimination policies, after collaboration with the Fairwork Egypt team, the report tells us. The aim of this is to work towards greater equality and inclusion and commit to non-discrimination on the basis of characteristics including race, religion, gender, marital status and disability.

Finally, only one platform scores points for fair representation: Mrsool was “the only platform that provided evidence of meaningful collective worker voice mechanisms,” the report says. Workers can organize and show unity through regular forums and meetings, and the platform has publicly declared that it supports the establishment of a couriers trade union, with which it would willingly enter into negotiations.

In short: Digital labor platforms offer important avenues for Egyptian workers to pursue employment prospects. The platforms offer job prospects to cohorts of otherwise unemployed informal workers. And because many are early-stage, they could serve as blueprints for Egypt’s wider business sector to engage in fairer work practices, notes the report, which suggests that making them fairer is eminently possible.


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CALENDAR

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.

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.

9-18 March (Wednesday-Friday): The annual Cairo International Fair.

Mid-March: Bidding for the construction of Anchorage Investments’ petrochemical complex in the Suez Canal Economic Zone starts.

12 March: Egypt Desert Challenge Rally kicks off in Fayoum.

15 March: The first edition of Export Smart at Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski

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.

22 March (Tuesday): Egyptian German Green Energy Forum, 5:30-9:30pm CLT at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.

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

24 March (Thursday): GB Auto Extraordinary General Assembly (pdf).

24 March-1 April: Ahlan Ramadan Supermarket Expo, Cairo International Convention Center.

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).

28 March (Monday): The court hearing for a case brought by Arabia Investments Holding (AIH) against Peugeot has been postponed until 28 March.

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.

3Q2022: Ayady’s consumer financing arm, The Egyptian Company for Consumer Finance Services, to release first financing product.

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.

August: Work to extend the capacity of the Egypt-Sudan electricity interconnection to 300 MW to be completed.

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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