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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

What we’re tracking on 18 August 2020

It’s a busy news day on this second-to-last business day of the week — and we’re really looking forward to that last long weekend of summer after Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan confirmed yesterday that the private sector will take this Thursday off to mark the Islamic New Year.

Topping the news this morning: Unemployment is up and hundreds of thousands of people have dropped out of the workforce thanks to covid-19 — but let’s wait until September and October figures come out before we start committing mass seppuku. The hope is that these are transient effects of the pandemic, although the collapse of the tourism industry will weigh on numbers for some time to come.

And the flood of investment and M&A news continues this morning — unusual for a mid-August day when many in the business community are on the beach (or still have sand in their hair as they prepare the kids for school). We’re taking this as a positive sign about sentiment in our wider community.

Speaking of school: A shout out this morning to all of the kids at Cairo American College, who are the first students in the country to go back for the 2020-2021 academic year. Be safe, kids.

And some (potentially) good news for parents of (some) graduating seniors in the UK system: The UK government has decided to abandon an algorithm that lowered students’ predicted grades after their tests were canceled due to covid-19, reports Reuters. The decision will affect IGCSE diploma students in Egypt whose grades “rely on British assessments,” the newswire notes. The algorithm came under fire for lowering the grades of at least 40% of students. Students will now be given the grade their teachers had predicted for them, without being subject to a curved grading system, the British government said on Monday.

We’re two weeks away from the month of September — and, with it, the start of budgeting season. Have you thought about what you want your company to look like in 2021?

The results of last week’s Senate elections are due tomorrow, with any runoffs set for 8-9 September. Voters will elect 200 members of the newly reconstituted upper house of parliament, with the other 100 set to be appointed by the presidency.

The Health Ministry reported 115 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 139 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 96,590 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 13 new deaths — the lowest single-day death count since 22 May — bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,173. We now have a total of 60,651 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

Isolation hospitals will continue staffing covid-19 isolation facilities at their current capacity for the next two weeks, with the cabinet’s covid-19 committee set to reassess the situation at the beginning of next month, cabinet said in a statement yesterday. The committee is also preparing plans for how to handle a potential second wave of infections, the statement said, without providing further details.

Mosques across the country could resume Friday prayers soon if a proposal from the Endowments Ministry wins Cabinet approval. The ministry will present to the cabinet’s covid-19 committee its plan to gradually allow worshippers to attend mass Friday at its next meeting, Minister Mokhtar Gomaa said, according to a statement. The statement does not clarify whether the ministry has a proposed start date for the resumption of the prayers, or what the plan would entail.

Digital healthcare platform Altibbi has received some 20k calls a day through its covid-19 hotline launched in May, the company said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. Launched through a PPP with the Supreme Council of Universities, the number has connected Egyptians to 1.1k doctors who have answered enquiries about the covid-19 outbreak.

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The kickoff of the Democratic national convention in the United States leads headlines across the pond this morning. We’ll be following a mix of the New York Times, Politico and Axios on this story. The official website for the Dems’ first-ever convention is here. The even runs through Thursday, which is when we’re looking forward to Crooked Media’s Pod Save America episode on Thursday night, live from the convention, as part of the pre-show that will ultimately include Biden’s acceptance speech and a string of speeches by party luminaries. For political junkies: The full convention schedule is here.

The FT is all over the “decoupling” of the global economy from Chinese manufacturing, with columnist Gideon Rachman writing yesterday that “business logic has been replaced by strategic rivalry” and suggesting that “countries and companies [around the world] are unlikely to be able to stay on the sidelines” as the US and China clash. Rachman was writing as a new study suggests that China’s share of global exports is falling as corporations re-think their supply chains in the wake of the pandemic — and amid the ongoing US-China trade war.

Will Bahrain and Sudan be the next regional countries to recognize Israel? That’s the suggestion from Israel’s intelligence minister, who suggested that Morocco could also be on the list and that “Oman and Saudi Arabia could potentially follow suit,” Bloomberg reports. The UAE established diplomatic ties with Israel less than a week ago and the two countries signed yesterday a second medical research and development accord yesterday, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said yesterday. Tel Aviv is also working on arranging direct flights to the Emirates, which would have to pass through Saudi airspace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to Bloomberg.

Google is threatening to charge Australians to search the internet if lawmakers pass a bill that would force tech companies to compensate media outlets for siphoned news content, according to The Associated Press.

Miss the sounds of the office during WFH? Berlin-based Kids Creative Agency created a WFH website that generates all the sounds you hear while working at the office. Think of it as a white noise generator on steroids, offering keyboards clacking, noisy printers, chatting colleagues and water coolers directly into your headphones. You can even choose how many colleagues are in your digital office to make it even more realistic. Want to know more? The Verge wrote a feature on the website.

Uber wants to be your errand-runner: The company has launched a delivery service called Connect in Egypt, the company announced in a statement (pdf). The feature enables app users to send packages to friends and family, and request drivers to pick up deliveries from nearby stores. Egypt is the first country in the MENA region to roll out the new service.

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