What we’re tracking on 23 November 2020
We have some big news to start the day: Some of the world is about to enter the post-covid era as vaccinations in the US could start on the 11 or 12 December, the head of the government’s Operation Warp Speed program said yesterday. There’s also a chance the UK might cross the finish line first, with the National Health Service hoping to start inoculating the eldery and front-line workers on 1 December and then 18-50 year-olds from January, completing the process by April, the Telegraph reported. The news comes as Pfizer and BioNTech last week asked US regulators for emergency approval for its vaccine, which the companies say is 95% effective.
Developing countries have ordered vaccine doses from AstraZeneca that would cover more than 40% of their total needs, says Bloomberg. The vaccine has so far showed a strong immune response in adults and the results of the final stage of clinical trials are due anytime now.
Egypt has been in talks to acquire mns of doses from the UK company and is one of dozens of low- and middle-income countries set to rely heavily on the vaccine. It’s likely to be less expensive and far easier to distribute than Pfizer and Moderna’s products, which need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures until just before being administered.
Poor countries may be waiting in line a bit longer — vaccine distribution was on the list of things the G20 wrung its hands about this week, but the final communique (pdf) from their meeting was silent on the issue of helping poor companies pay for the shots even as leaders promised to “spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people.” The WHO is short at least USD 4.5 bn to support the programs it needs to make that happen.
The Cairo ICT expo continues today and runs through Wednesday. This year, the fair focuses on “the big reset” of how we look at business, the economy, and life in general post-covid.
Also part of the expo: The transport tech-focused TransMea conference got underway yesterday and runs until Wednesday.
Polls open for the first of two election run-offs for the House of Representatives today and close tomorrow. Voters from Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira and Matrouh can all cast their ballots to decide the remaining 110 seats up for grabs. Today is also the final day that Egyptians abroad hailing from these governorates can vote. Thirty-two candidates won seats in the first round of voting last month.
PSA #1- We were wrong yesterday — you’re not yet in violation of the traffic law if you don’t have an electronic vehicle sticker yet. Car owners have until 31 December to stick an RFID on their windshields, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday in a statement we missed. The deadline to comply with the traffic requirement to install electronic vehicle stickers was originally on Saturday.
PSA #2- The clock is ticking for listed companies to meet regulations requiring that they appoint at least one woman to their board by the end of 2020. The Financial Regulatory Authority had issued the regulations last year, but appears to have plans to impose a 25% minimum quota for women on company boards, authority boss Mohamed Omran said last month.
PSA #3- We’re taking a publication holiday on Thursday. Enterprise will be off as we put the final touches on something new. We’ll be back in your inboxes at our customary 6am CLT on Sunday.
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The Health Ministry reported 351 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 358 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 113,027 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 13 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,548.
The Madbouly government says the health system is not facing a shortage of medical supplies. State-run hospitals are maintaining a sufficient stock of meds and are monitoring the supply on a daily basis, it said in a statement yesterday in response to claims circulating online. Meanwhile, purchases from the Unified Medical Procurement Authority should be easier now that purchase requests will be made through the authority’s online platform, the local press reports.
Med students won’t get a break as we stare down the second wave: Academic sabbaticals for graduate medical students employed by the Health Ministry have been cancelled for the next six months due to the recent increase in covid cases, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said yesterday.
Mo Salah has finally tested negative for covid-19 after twice testing positive over the past week, Youm7 reported the Health Ministry as saying.
Over in Europe, “Operation Save Christmas” is going into effect: European governments are considering whether to loosen lockdown rules ahead of the Christmas holidays as the restrictions brought in at the end of October start to suppress the virus, the Financial Times reports. The UK, France and Italy are among the countries planning to restore a semblance of normalcy in the coming weeks while still maintaining some restrictions to prevent another resurgence as we head deeper into the winter.
Bringing you the latest in delicious dining options for you and your family to enjoy, Somabay has proudly expanded its F&B outlets and welcomes aboard our latest additions. Say hello to the Burger Factory and Baladina, now open at the Marina for mouthwatering meals.
The G20 agreed to freeze debt service payments for the world’s poorest countries until mid 2021 and called on private creditors to join the initiative, a joint statement (pdf) said. The G20 debt relief initiative launched during the initial onset of the pandemic helped 46 of 73 countries defer USD 5.7 bn in debt service payments this year and focus on shoring up their economies, but the lack of private sector participation has kept results limited, Reuters says.
Saudi renewable energy giant Acwa Power is planning a USD 1 bn sukuk issuance early next year to help finance its share of an USD 8 bn acquisition of gasification and power assets in the country’s port city of Jazan, Bloomberg reports, citing unnamed sources it says are familiar with the matter. HSBC and Samba Capital will advise of the issuance. Acwa is also planning to IPO on the Saudi stock exchange next year in a move that could raise USD 1 bn, the sources said. Acwa is a significant player in Egypt’s solar industry and is looking for ways to deploy solar here to power desalination projects.
Deadline to surrender in Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given rebel forces in the northern Tigray region a 72-hour deadline to surrender their capital Mekelle before government troops advance on the city, in a statement posted on Twitter.
Egypt needs to keep a close eye on the guy being tipped to become Biden’s secretary of state: Long-term Biden foreign policy aide Anthony Blinken will likely get the top foreign policy job in the incoming administration after sources told Bloomberg, Axios and the New York Times that the president-elect will name him as the new secretary of state. Meanwhile, the Financial Times suggests he may instead serve as a national security adviser with the top job going to someone else (presumably Susan Rice). Biden could make his first cabinet announcement as early as tomorrow, Reuters says.
Egypt is already on Blinken’s radar: Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, last week spoke out against the arrest of senior staffers at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Looks like our lobbyists in DC could have their work cut out for them.
And the latest from Planet Trump: The Donald’s chances of overturning the result of the presidential election are dwindling by the day, with the president now resorting to appealing against Saturday’s ruling in Pennsylvania and requesting a third recount in Georgia as states begin to certify the results. State and local Republicans are starting to throw in the towel as Trump’s legal team continues to present no evidence to back their claims of electoral fraud. The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, FT and Bloomberg have more.
*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.
In today’s issue: With Egypt on an internationalization drive in education, we look at the franchising model that has been gaining steam and appears poised to become more popular.