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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Presidential elections continue to feature prominently on the airwaves

The presidential elections still featured prominently in talking heads’ discussions last night but a few other topics of interest also came up.

Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi announced her partnership with CIB to sponsor her startup competition, Hona Al Shabab, this year. This season will be run under the theme of “empowering fintech,” per the bank’s suggestion. CIB’s sponsorship reflects its support of entrepreneurs, financial inclusion, and financial technology, Chief Digital Officer Mohamed Farag told Lamees. The bank will award the winners of each episode EGP 100k, with that amount doubling for fintech projects. Winners of the competition’s grand prize will receive funding of EGP 500k. CIB’s chief data officer told Lamees that CIB sees fintech projects as a key tool in the nation’s financial inclusion drive, noting that low bank penetration has been an obstacle to economic growth (watch, runtime: 15:31).

Shifting her attention to the political scene, Lamees expressed her dismay at the small size of the opposition bloc calling for a boycott of the elections. The host said she was expecting a much larger gathering to make the opposition’s voice heard loud and clear. She made it a point, however, to clarify that she doesn’t support the notion of boycotting elections, which would only embarrass Egypt on the world stage. She urged the opposition to start putting in some legwork as of this moment to prepare a strong presidential candidate for the elections in 2022 (watch, runtime: 3:26).

Lamees also had a chat with head of the Free Egyptians Party, Essam Khalil, who agreed that a boycott aims to embarrass Egypt. The Free Egyptians had publicly announced its support for President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s reelection earlier this month (watch, runtime: 4:49).

Lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr phoned in to say that, while the current situation may not be ideal, El Sisi won the presidency in 2014 by a landslide and democracy says that the majority rules. He also slammed the calls for an election boycott as a “betrayal” that wants to convey an inaccurate image of the country to the world (watch, runtime: 4:59).

Kol Youm’s Amr Adib, meanwhile, declared that he will participate in the elections by voting to protect what he calls the country’s “quasi-democracy” (watch, runtime: 6:03).

Over on Masaa DMC, Osama Kamal sat down with Support Egypt Coalition head Mohamed Elsewedy for an extended conversation about the elections. Elsewedy reaffirmed that MPs were not obligated to sign endorsement forms for El Sisi, and that there are some MPs who have not given their signatures in support of any candidate. He also criticized the inactivity of the country’s political parties, saying that citizens are completely unaware that there are currently 110 active parties (watch, runtime: 1:25:51).

In non-election talk, Kamal also spoke to Public Enterprises Minister Khaled Badawy, who said that public pharma companies are, for the most part, enjoying healthy profits. Of the country’s 11 pharma holding companies, only three are incurring losses because they had been selling their products at pre-float prices. According to the minister, one of these companies recorded losses of as much as EGP 600 mn. He encouraged pharma companies to diversify their product range and cut off meds that are not doing well on the market (watch, runtime: 5:03).

Back on Kol Youm, Adib spoke to Morsi-era oil minister Osama Kamal about the recently-inaugurated Zohr gas field, which Kamal said is a symbol of political stability that played a key role in regaining investors’ trust in Egypt. The former minister reminded Adib that at some point, Egypt was importing up to 1.5 bcm of gas at a cost of EGP 10-15 mn dollars, and that the country will no longer be spending these sums on gas imports. He also suggested that it might be best to use surplus gas in petrochemical industries domestically, rather than seeking profits by exporting it to international markets (watch, runtime: 6:42).

Mansoura University paleontology professor Hisham Sallam, who headed the research team that uncovered a new species of dinosaur in the Western Desert, told Adib that the fossil was actually first discovered in the Western Desert in 2013. The research team has unearthed around 65% of the dinosaur’s skeleton, and the search is still on for its jaw, part of its skull, and some neck and back vertebrae (watch, runtime:12:57).

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