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Thursday, 12 November 2020

What we’re tracking on 12 November 2020

The big news of the morning: Pfizer’s breakthrough on Monday seems to have escalated the superpower competition for a covid-19 vaccine, with both the Russians and Chinese yesterday coming out to tout their recent successes with their respective vaccines.

First up: Russia’s Sputnik V. Russia said yesterday that phase 3 clinical trials had shown the Sputnik V vaccine to be 92% effective at preventing people from contracting the virus. The trials have so far seen 16k participants injected with the first and second doses of the vaccine and another 20k have only received the first dose. A total of 20 participants who developed covid-19 were analyzed, far lower than the 94 infections in the Pfizer trial, which was earlier this week announced to be 90% effective.

Whether Sputnik V really is the front-running candidate — or whether a Kremlin apparatchik added a couple of percentage points just to stick it to Pfizer — remains to be seen.

But one area where Sputnik definitely has a leg up on Pfizer: we wouldn’t need to set up a global super-cold distribution chain just to get people the shots. To trigger an immune response, the Pfizer vaccine uses messenger RNA technology which has to be stored at -70C° and used within five days of thawing (ProPublica has more on this). Setting up these distribution networks is going to be an uphill battle even for the richest countries, leading Bloomberg to describe it as “one for the rich.”

Russia’s vaccine, which triggers an immune response via a different method, faces none of these hurdles, and seems far more likely to be adopted in the developing world. Indeed, some 50 countries have already requested more than 1.2 bn doses of the vaccine, including Egypt, which has an agreement to distribute the vaccine, and has eyes on manufacturing it too.

Next up is China’s Sinopharm, which yesterday said that the clinical trials for its vaccine delivered “better than expected” results. What “better than expected” means exactly remains unclear as the company didn’t release any figures or data.

Egypt is getting ready to start manufacturing the vaccine at state-affiliated vaccine manufacturer Vacsera, following the conclusion of local phase 3 trials of the two vaccines, Health Minister Hala Zayed said at yesterday’s weekly cabinet meeting. Egypt has been one of three countries in the region to work with the company in trialling the vaccine, which is already being administered to frontline health workers in the Gulf and in China.

We’ve lined up 50% of our covid-19 vaccine needs from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, with the Health Ministry so far securing enough doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to cover some 20% of the population, in addition to vials of AstraZeneca’s Oxford University-developed vaccine that would account for another 30% of the population, Minister Hala Zayed said, according to Youm7.

It’s interest rate day: The Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet today to review interest rates. The consensus among analysts we polled earlier this week is that rates will remain unchanged with an eye on the second wave of covid-19 infections and an uncertain global political climate.

A World Bank delegation continues its 10-day visit to Cairo today. The delegation is in town for talks with the government, the International Cooperation Ministry said in a statement.

Renaissance Capital’s virtual conference on the 2021 outlook for emerging and frontier markets wraps tomorrow. The conference includes macro updates on key countries and regions, as well as panel discussions on sectors in specific countries. Look today for a panel discussion on Egypt’s fintech space with Fawry CEO Ashraf Sabry, Ebtikar CEO Ayman El Dessouky, Actis Partner Hossam Abou Moussa, and e-Finance subsidiary Khales CEO Moataz El Sayed. Tap / click here to stream the public sessions.

PSA: The Spanish Institute for Stock Exchange Studies’ (EIB) masters degree in financial markets will be made available to Egyptian students after it signed an agreement with the Financial Regulatory Authority’s education arm to bring the program to Egypt, according to Mubasher. The course will specialize in financial derivatives and will be taught at the Financial Services Institute’s facility at the Smart Village. Students will travel to Spain for two weeks as part of the program.

We’re not entirely clear on when this thing will get off the ground, but IEB director-general Alvaro Martinez intimated that things could begin to move forward by next March, while Egypt’s ambassador to Spain Omar Selim said that the first batch of students could travel to Madrid in 2022.

The Health Ministry reported 227 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 232 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 109,881 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 11 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,405. We now have a total of 100,662 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

EgyptAir has slashed prices on flights between Cairo, London and New York. Passengers travelling direct to London between now and the end of May can get a 40% discount on flights until 30 November, while those heading to New York between 26 November and 28 February will see their fares cut by 20%, Al Mal reports.


China is reining in its tech giants and share prices are plunging. New antitrust rules designed to curb the market power of Chinese Big Tech have caused tech stocks to shed over USD 250 bn in market value, a week after regulators halted Ant Group’s USD 37 bn IPO. In the latest sign the CCP is trying to rein in the country’s powerful fintech monopolies, a regulator promised to step up scrutiny of their activities, sending the share prices of Tencent, Xiaomi, Meituan and others plunging. The Financial Times and CNBC have the story.

EU banks are bracing for a slew of non-performing loans early next year after warnings from the Single Resolution Board, the EU agency responsible for overseeing lenders in crisis, to prepare balance sheets for covid-19 driven defaults, the FT reports. European Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovski has warned that there could be a likely rise in bad loans during the first quarter of 2021 while the European Central Bank’s top bank supervisor has called a scenario where NPLs outpace levels seen during the 2008 financial crisis “severe but plausible.”

Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who served as Bahrain's premier since the country’s founding, passed away yesterday at age 84. Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly expressed his condolences in a statement.

A bomb attack rocked a Remembrance Day ceremony in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah attended by foreign diplomats yesterday. A Greek and Saudi official were wounded, but there were no fatalities, the BBC reports. The French, Greek, Italian, British and American embassies in the Kingdom issued a joint statement condemning the “cowardly attack” while Egypt’s Foreign Ministry also issued a condemnation and wished the “speedy recovery of the injured.” The perpetrators were not immediately identified.

Libya’s warring sides have agreed to hold national elections by mid 2022 in an effort to maintain the ceasefire agreement announced last month. UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams mediated the pact on the third day of talks between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and the eastern-based Libyan National Army, Bloomberg reports.

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It’s Making It Day: Today’s guest grew a simple sports data blog into an essential service used by teams in the English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, and the MLS.

Ali El Fakharany, CEO of Arqam FC: While studying in Boston, El Fakharany was introduced to the field of sports data through an MIT Sloan conference. With no previous experience in tech, he taught himself how to code and started a blog that analyzed data from the Egyptian Premier League.

From local luxury to global essential service: In 2017, the blog became Arqam FC, a sports data company targeting the local football market. Despite not getting the business he hoped for locally, Arqam owned its own data collection center, which in 2019 prompted an acquisition by UK-based Statsbomb. The share swap agreement retained the team and ElFakharany as head of data product.

Owning the value chain: Under Statsbomb, Arqam went from a humble sports data company struggling in the local market to an essential service used by top tier European teams. This was made possible by owning the value chain of data collection and analysis, ElFakharany told us. The merger gave Statsbomb access to a low cost data collection center and talent based in Egypt, while Arqam could tap into the otherwise insular European football market through the Statsbomb network, he told us.

You already have a podcast player on your iPhone, or you can listen to the episode through our website (no download required). We’re also on Google Podcasts | Anghami | Omny. Making It is on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts.

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