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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

What we’re tracking on 27 February 2019

The slow news week continues, at home and abroad. It’s not a seasonal thing, just a quirk of the news cycle: A year ago, we were busily discussing a USD 15 bn agreement to import gas from Israel and a veritable ton of M&A and investment news here at home, while internationally the news was about then-new US Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell and China abolishing term limits.

This year’s edition of the International Conference on Petroleum Mineral Resources and Development kicked off yesterday at the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute in Nasr City. With opening speeches from the oil and higher education ministers, the event is essentially a three-day expert discussion on oil and gas, renewables and resource management.

Egypt’s bid to steady its economy and restore political stability is allowing it to return to its traditional role as a regional player, according to analysis from once-high-flying intel outfit Stratfor. The geopolitical intelligence firm says that the economic benefits of the IMF-backed reform program and the newly-discovered Mediterranean gas fields, combined with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s consolidation of power, is allowing Egypt to strengthen its regional influence and balance its alliances with the US, Russia and China. As a result, Stratfor predicts that the country is likely to become increasingly assertive with other states looking to control the Nile and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Bonus: An Egypt population density map, which reminds us just how concentrated along the Nile we all are.

Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly won re-election as president of Nigeria according to the latest results from Saturday’s general election, the BBC reports. The party of challenger Atiku Abubakar has apparently “rejected the result.” Look for the results of the poll, which saw less than 35% of registered voters turn out, to be made official today.

The Donald and that chap who runs North Korea kick off a two-day summit today in Vietnam. Among the more interesting of the many, many takes on the story now circulating is Hannah Beech’s piece for the New York Times, wherein Vietnamese communists make the case that North Korea has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform “from a closed society strangled by central planners to a bustling nation full of capitalist enterprise.” Read: Cozy up to US, Vietnam tells North Korea. Look what it did for us.

And speaking of Jay Powell: The Fed chairman has a warning for us all. “Slowing growth in Europe and China and ‘elevated’ uncertainty over Brexit and trade are continuing to weigh on the Federal Reserve’s policy outlook, chairman Jay Powell said, even as he gave a broadly favourable health check to the US economy,” the Financial Times reports. CNBC and the WSJ have also taken note of his remarks, as has Bloomberg Opinion.

Is the future of the mobile phone foldable? That notion has captured the imagination of the world’s business and technology writers after Huawei and Samsung each debuted folding smartphones at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The Verge’s Vlad Savov called it, as he so often does, having predicted last weekend that when the iPhone doesn’t change, Android phones get weird. Now, the Financial Times is asking whether “foldable phones are more than just a gimmick?” and Business Insider is noting that smartphones “getting weird again … could be a sign that the industry is on the brink of another huge change.” And the Woz, naturally, wants a folding iPhone.

And while we’re at it: Don’t believe the 5G hype. At least not yet, AFP warns in a well-timed piece. 5G will make make near-instant movie downloads possible and enable new technologies including self-driving cars, but the reality is that even in developed markets, a high-speed, zero-latency internet “will only be a reality in 2023-25.” To get there, network operators need to invest bns in infrastructure and device makers need to roll out 5G handsets people will actually want to buy. Read the AFP piece or check out the list of 5G handsets announced at MWC.

In miscellany worth your attention this morning:

  • Toronto Tech: Why Canada is attracting the ‘best’ people. (Financial Times)
  • Is maple syrup the new aioli? Meet “the season’s secret ingredient.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Alien still has a hold on us after 40 years. (Are we alone in having a small preference for Aliens, not Alien?) (Financial Times)
  • Sorry, fanboys: Apple Music isn’t coming to Google Home after all. (Bloomberg)

PSA #1- Keep your dog on a leash — and don’t linger outdoors for the next little while. Officials in multiple districts of Cairo, including Maadi, have launched a crackdown on unleashed pets after high-profile talk show host Amr Adib picked up on a case in which two privately owned dogs brutally attacked a child in the suburbs.

PSA #2- Thursday and Friday could see lower temps and some rain, according to an Egypt Today report channelling the national weather service. Our favourite weather app is guiding for daytime highs of 17°C both days and a chance of rain on Thursday as well as next Monday.

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