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Monday, 6 May 2019

What we’re tracking on 06 May 2019

It’s a reasonably quiet news morning in Egypt as we begin the Holy Month, but what news there is is big: Thailand has a new king, and he’d like USD 1 bn from Egypt to mark the occasion. And non-oil business activity expanded last month, snapping an eight-month losing streak.

IMF delegation in Egypt to hold first meeting with gov’t today as it completes final review: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation in town to conduct the final review of Egypt’s economic reform program will hold today its first meeting with the government, a senior official told Enterprise. The delegation will complete its review in two weeks after a series of sit-downs with the authorities focused in part on forthcoming amendments to the Investment Act and other measures to attract investment.

Also on the agenda: Incentives to encourage the growth of SMEs. The government’s drive to convince informal businesses to go legit, the CBE’s monetary policy stance, coming fuel subsidy cuts and the introduction of a new automatic fuel pricing mechanism to more oil products will also be discussed. This review will determine if we will receive by early July the sixth and final USD 2 bn tranche of the USD 12 bn facility.

We’re keeping our eyes peeled for monthly inflation figures, which are due out by the end of the week. Annual headline urban inflation eased slightly in March to 14.2%, down from 14.4% the previous month.

Google Assistant now understands (but doesn’t quite speak) Masry: Google has launched its Android- and iOS-compatible Google Assistant in Egypt and KSA — and says it can understand both colloquial dialects and respond in standard Arabic, according to an emailed press release (pdf). Armed with machine learning, the app will be “will only get better with time.”

Hani Shukrallah has died at age 69. An all-round good human being with a contagious smile, Hani was a veteran journalist, commentator and old-fashioned lefty who counted among his many accomplishments founding Ahram Online, which he led from 2010-2012 after having earlier edited Ahram Weekly. His family will hold an aza at Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square on Thursday. Ahram Online has the official obituary.


Egyptian football fans ❤️Gianni Infantino: FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s plan to expand the Qatar 2022 World Cup to 48 teams could be Egyptians’ only hope of being able to travel to the tournament. The plan would require at least two more stadiums to accommodate the expanded roster, which Qatar is unable to do. Saudi Arabia has now thrown its hat into the ring as a potential co-host — but will Qatar play ball? The Financial Times has more.

On a related note: We’re now officially “enemies”: No visas will be granted to so-called “enemies” of Qatar, thesecretary-general of the statelet’s tourism council said, according to Reuters. “The visa will not be open for our enemies,” Akbar Al Baker said, singling out Egypt during an event designed to promote Qatar as a tourist destination. A Qatari government spokesman later walked back Al Baker’s remarks, saying they “do not reflect the state’s official policy for issuing visas and that it welcomes ‘all people of the world’.”

Jumia struggles to navigate Africa’s rough landscape: Jumia, which is on an investment spree to expand in Africa, is struggling with customer skepticism of online shopping, says the Financial Times. Poor road infrastructure, traffic, and logistics challenges are also issues of major concern to the USD 1.1 bn firm, which has recently became the first Africa-focused tech company to list on a major stock exchange when it went public in New York.


Global business headlines and other news worth knowing this morning:

  • Markets are unhappy that The Donald has threatened to hike tariffs on China to 25%. The warning came ahead of make-or-break trade talks scheduled for this week, making the story the top story in the global business press this morning. Start with CNBC and Reuters and then move on to the FT and Bloomberg if you need more.
  • Fighting has intensified in Gaza in what the New York Times is calling “the worst combat since the full-blown war in 2014.” At least 22 Palestinians and four Israelis are dead. Reuters also has the story.

RANDOM NOTE: NPR and CBC were staples of our households growing up, so we’re a little verklempt that after 40 years, NPR’s Morning Edition has a new theme song. The New York Times has the rundown, including the new and old clips. Or head to your favorite podcatcher and give a full episode a listen.


Financial inclusion in the Middle East and Africa is the subject of a special package in the FT in which Egypt gets scant mention despite all that’s happening locally in the banks, at the CBE, in the non-bank finance sector and on Planet Startup. Still, the landing page is here and the headline stack includes:


What we’re tracking today, the Ramadan Edition:

This is how Canada celebrates Ramadan, via Muhammad Lila on Twitter (watch, runtime: 2:18).

A pre-iftar reading list to kill the time between your post-workout shower and the breaking of the fast:

  • For the gearheads: The fight for the right to drive. People who love to drive have “deep misgivings about the prospect of a fully autonomous, steering-wheel-less future.” Meet the funky cast of characters who want to keep things like the Cannonball Run alive. (New Yorker)
  • Life begins at 60 — the rise of the ‘Young-Old’ society: As we live longer, healthier lives, the worlds of work and leisure are on the cusp of radical change. (Financial Times)
  • Why men won’t go to the doctor, and how to change that. Many men view health complaints as a sign of weakness, so health-care providers are looking for ways around their reluctance. Think of it as part a source of inspirational business ideas, half warning to take your health seriously. (WSJ)

RAMADAN PSA #1- It’s a short working day on Planet Finance. Employees work 9am-2pm, while doors are open from 9:30am until 1:30pm for customers. Shares trade hands on the stock market from 10:00am until 1:30pm.

RAMADAN PSA #2- Need help choosing which serial to tune into? Check out lists of mosalsalat with potted plot summaries from Egypt Today (English) and El Cinema (Arabic).

RAMADAN PSA #3- Don’t feel (quite so) guilty about pigging out on konafa. Sugars in honey (like those in maple syrup and the fiber in fruits and whole grains) have been linked to improved levels of probiotics and prebiotics that make happy the “good” bacteria in our guts. The impact on our blood sugar levels is another matter… Go read How eating more of what you love can make you healthier in the Wall Street Journal.

So, when can we eat? Maghrib is at 6:35pm CLT today in Cairo. You’ll have until 3:32am tomorrow morning to caffeinate / finish your sohour.

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