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Monday, 25 January 2021

What we’re tracking on 25 January 2021

Ten years ago this morning, one of us turned the corner onto Road 9 in Maadi while on an early-morning coffee run and mumbled about how we could expect exactly nothing to come from demonstrations planned later in the day. An object lesson in hubris…

Twenty years ago this morning, the same now-greybeard landed in Egypt, a country that gave him the chance to create a family, make lifelong friendships, and together with partners build an awesome business. Thank you to each and everyone one of you who have helped make this possible, directly and indirectly.

Thursday will be a paid holiday for the private sector as the nation takes a day off to observe Revolution Day / Police Day, the Manpower Ministry said yesterday. The central bank has confirmed that Thursday is a bank holiday, so you can expect an announcement soon from the EGX any day now.

That sets us up for our customary winter-spring holiday drought: Our next vacation is the 25 April celebration of Sinai Liberation Day, which comes mid-Ramadan. The Holy Month is due to start on or about 13 April.

THE BIG STORY at home this morning: We’re in day two of our covid-19 vaccination campaign — and it looks like we’re about to land manufacturing rights for a jab. Taken together, it is the most positive news of the pandemic we’ve had in nearly a year. We have chapter and verse in the news well, below.

BIG STORIES internationally: The business press is still getting its bearings when it comes to coverage of the Biden administration, which dominates front pages globally. The Financial Times notes that Democrats are pushing for a USD 1.9 tn stimulus package before they start the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump in the US Senate. Republicans think the package is too large. Reuters is also leading with the story, while the Wall Street Journal reports that China has overtaken the US as the world’s leading destination for foreign direct investment.


SMART POLICY- Egypt is teaming up with the United Kingdom to push for practical measures to fight (and cope with) climate change. The initiative will be joined by the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Malawi and Saint Lucia and will push for “early warning systems for storms and investments in flood drainage and in drought-resistant crops,” Reuters adds. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the Adaptation Action Coalition today as leaders from world powers gather for the two-day, online-only Climate Adaptation Summit. The news comes just days after the Biden administration said it would rejoin the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda kicks off today and runs through Friday. The Swiss ski town of Davos, which traditionally plays host to the annual gathering, is getting a break this year as the coronavirus forces the global elite to take to Zoom. A discussion on the global economic recovery will open the conference this morning while Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to set the tone for the event when he gives the first special address in the afternoon.

An in-person WEF event is still in the cards for this year, scheduled to take place between 25-28 May in Singapore.

IN OUR BACKYARD: Turkey resumes talks with Greece today after a five year hiatus marked by conflicts over maritime disputes in the Mediterranean, migration, and the divided island of Cyprus, Reuters reports.


Ministers appearing continue to present policy priorities to MPs. The irrigation and agriculture ministers went yesterday. Today will see Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan and Emigration Minister Nabila Makram speak on unemployment and expatriate affairs today, while Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry — who is expected to discuss what the new US administration means for Egypt — and Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar Enaba will speak on Tuesday. Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem are up on Wednesday.

Also happening at the House this week: The House Planning and Budgeting Committee convenes today to discuss proposed amendments to the VAT Act and a bill to exempt government treasuries sold internationally from fees and taxes, reports Al Mal. The changes to the VAT law would apply the 14% tax to the rent and purchase of commercial and administrative properties.

The amendments would, if passed, also hike taxes on crackers and some forms of sweets by scrapping a 5% schedule tax and instead making them subject to the full 14% VAT.

Further down the House’s list of legislative priorities: The House ICT Committee expects to begin discussing the draft E-Commerce Act next month when the Madbouly Cabinet ships it back to parliament, committee head Ahmed Badawy tells the local press. The proposed law would tax the living daylights out of global tech giants for their ads and purchases made on their platforms.

Egypt has qualified to the quarter-finals of the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championships, after drawing 25-25 with Slovenia in the final group game yesterday. The Pharaohs took the lead in the second half before the eastern European side scored a late equalizer. Egypt finished the group with 7 points, a point behind group #1 Sweden.

We could be facing the world champions in the quarters: Egypt will face the team that finishes top of group two, which as things stand would be the defending world champion Denmark. The game will take place on Wednesday at 6:30 pm CLT.


Russian officials will land in Hurghada on Wednesday for the umpteenth inspection of the airport’s security measures, ahead of a possible resumption of flights between Russia and the Red Sea resort town, Al Masry Al Youm reports.

Tenders to set up three new commercial and logistics zones in Ismailia, Qalyubia, and South Sinai will be launched this month, head of the Internal Trade Development Agency Ibrahim Ashmawy told Al Mal. Each zone will reel in some EGP 1.5 bn – 5 bn in investments, Ashmawy said.

FOR THE PHOTO NERDS among us: You’re getting new cameras this week. Fujifilm will announce a (small) medium format GFX100S on Wednesday that looks set to be smaller and more affordable than the GFX100, but with the same 100MP sensor. Also look for a new compact X-E4 in the X-mount and some lenses. Sony is teasing a new camera tomorrow, but details are scant: The leader in mirrorless camera sales is promising only “The one never seen.” Whatever that means.

PSA- Businesses have until 31 January (next Sunday) to file wage tax returns for 2020 including separate filings for the first and second halves of the year. Sole traders and folks who generate income from outside of their day job will also need to file electronically for the first time.

Time is running out if you haven’t paid income, value-added, or real estate taxes and want to settle up without all the late fees. Late taxpayers are still eligible for a 50% exemption on interest fees and late penalties until 12 February under a bill passed last year.


*** 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: A centralized Tansik-style platform for private university admissions is being set up, and we’ve previously looked at what to expect from it and the reasons behind launching it. Today we examine the big concerns with the new system ― namely that it will negatively impact student choice through its electronic allocation mechanism and that universities’ bottom lines may take a hit if student target numbers aren’t reached.

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