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Monday, 3 September 2018

What we’re tracking on 03 September 2018

Look for Egypt to emerge from its August news coma this week. Fall conference season will nudge things in that direction: Euromoney’s Egypt event starts tomorrow, and we have a week to go before the EFG Hermes London conference, the fall’s premier gathering of investors focusing on opportunities in frontier and emerging markets. The EFG conference kicks off a week from today at Emirates Arsenal Stadium — check out the gathering’s website here or EFG’s thoughts on the macro backdrop here.

PSA #1: Glory Hallelujah. The Cairo governorate is kicking heavy trucks off the Ring Road from 6am until midnight beginning from September 15, state-run Al Ahram reports. Trucks needing to move at those hours will be required to take the new, army-built Regional Ring Road. Madbouly Cabinet spokesperson Ashraf Sultan made the rounds on the talk shows last night to explain that the move would reduce traffic in the city by 30-40% (watch, runtime: 2:27). We’ve heard (and reported on) the banning of trucks from the Ring Road in the past, so here’s hoping the Traffic Police will step up enforcement this time around.

PSA #2: The national weather service is warning of torrential downpours later this morning. Starting from 22 September, there’s a fair chance of thunderstorms and heavy rains on the northern coasts of Alexandria, with torrents expected in Upper Egypt governorates, the Red Sea and Sinai, AMAY reports. It is unclear how long the rain will last, and we remind readers that in a nation that doesn’t, strictly speaking, have ‘weather,’ long-range forecasting is something of an imperfect art.

The Fragile Five are back. That’s lazy, sell-side shorthand for emerging market economies at risk because of their over-reliance on external debt, and the Financial Times says it includes Turkey, Argentina, India, South Africa and Indonesia. Breathe a sigh of relief that Egypt isn’t yet on the list — and expect that some bored analyst will soon put us there. The term, which had fallen out of disuse for a period, is back now in the FT’s “your holiday is over, welcome back to fall 2018” piece, set against a backdrop of a strengthening greenback, rising US interest rates and fears of contagion arising from the unmitigated disasters that are Turkey and Argentina at the moment. The FT expects Turkey’s meltdown to accelerate todayamid signs of rising corporate distress and the release of data expected to show runaway inflation. Meanwhile, the bloodbath Franklin Templeton has taken in Argentina is spooking fund managers near and far.

Want a bullet-by-bullet look at how this could shape up to be a really bad week for emerging markets? Bloomberg is happy to play to your angst.

ESG. Sustainability. Impact investing. Even the old-school “socially responsible.” It’s all the rage in certain circles these days — and incredibly squishy to define. The idea is simple: “The ethical-investment industry started as a do-gooder niche that excludes so called ‘sin’ stocks, like tobacco” — we’re looking at you, Eastern Company — “and weapons companies. But it is now mostly dominated by another idea: Companies that avoid crooked management, promote diversity or insulate themselves from environmental fines will outperform companies that don’t,” notes the Wall Street Journal. The catch is that while ratings agencies seem to be in cahoots (what’s new?) on what constitutes ESG, providers of ESG indexes including MSCI, Reuters and FTSE are far from being on the same page. Go read: Why it’s so hard to be an ‘ethical’ investor.

Repeat after us: You do *NOT* want to take venture capital. You do *NOT* want… That’s the takeaway from a very on-point piece from Recode, which points out that you can build a very large, very sellable consumer-focused business with some combination of internal cashflows, comparatively small equity raises, bank debt and pure moxie — you know, the way it once was before we fetishized the cult of VC? Read: The rise of giant consumer startups that said no to investor money.

The new school year is starting. Should you consider unschooling your kids? It’s not the same thing as homeschooling: It’s a “parallel universe … where kids don’t do homework, don’t take tests and don’t worry about grades. For acolytes of unschooling, kids call the shots and direct their own learning. There’s no rigid structure, no provincially prescribed curriculum and no bell at the end of the day. An unschooled kid with a preternatural interest in the Jurassic Period, for example, might spend a few weeks learning about every single dinosaur of that era.” The Globe and Mail has a rundown on the idea and profiles of four families making it work.

We’re geeks here at Enterprise. That’s well-established. So consider the fascination of the two biologists-turned-policy-geeks on staff when we read that microwave weapons are prime suspect in what appear to be deliberate attacks on U.S. embassy workers with a mystery weapon. The NYT’s William Broad takes you on a whodunnit at the intersection of spycraft, science fiction and geopolitics, concluding that a little-discussed class of weapons has probably been used against US diplomats.

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