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Wednesday, 24 March 2021

What we’re tracking on 24 March 2021

Good afternoon, friends. We’re long on digitalization and financial inclusion this afternoon, but the big story of the day is the ongoing operation to re-float the MV Ever Given, which ran aground and is blocking the Suez Canal. The ship’s foundering is hitting oil prices and is all over the front pages of the global business press. We have the full story in this afternoon’s Speed Round.

We’re stuck with this sand storm for much of what remains of today, but the forecast suggests tomorrow will be cooler and foggy in the Greater Cairo Area, while the North Coast has winds and the possibility of more rain to which to look forward.

MARKET WATCH- The EGX rose 2.2% at today’s close, snapping a losing streak that saw it erase all of the gains it has posed since 1 January.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD? No single story leads the world’s front pages, but every major business outlet has the MV Ever Given somewhere in the first screen. The Financial Times, meanwhile, says that a spat over sanctions threatens a trade agreement between China and the European Union, while the Wall Street Journal is giving ink to Intel’s USD 20 bn turnaround plan, which we discuss below in For Your Commute.

Meanwhile: It’s more political gridlock in our neighbors to the east after Israeli voters failed to give either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his challengers a majority in the Knesset, reports The Associated Press. It’s the fourth election to deliver a deadlock in the past two years — and could set up an unprecedented fifth election later this year.

Europe isn’t in the mood to be generous in sharing vaccines with Britain or other countries with “high inoculation rates,” Reuters reports. The move will include restricting exports by companies that have failed to meet their supply commitments, potentially including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, EU officials said.

CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from this morning’s edition of EnterpriseAM:

  • The tender for a license to establish Egypt’s second major tobacco company could face an antitrust probe after several tobacco players filed a formal complaint with the competition authority.
  • Is it a bird? A plane? The first batch of dual-fuel vehicles under the state’s scheme to swap out old, gasoline-fueled cars will hit the road within a month.
  • In the latest from the nation’s red-hot non-bank financial services sector: CIRA and Beltone are jumping into the education finance game with both feet.


The Real Gate real estate exhibition will kick off tomorrow and run until Saturday at the Egyptian International Exhibition Center.

The CIB PSA Black Ball Open 2021 men’s squash competition will wrap up tomorrow. Some 48 men have been competing for a USD 175k purse. You can stream the matches live on SquashTV or the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan). You can also snag tickets online to attend in person at the Black Ball Sporting Club in New Cairo. The women’s league saw Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini take home the grand title.


Bok, prijatelji: The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets next Wednesday, 31 March, for the first time since 2010. On the table: Giving a nudge to both trade and investment, a FEDCOC statement says. The forum will take place while Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić-Radman is in town next week. Grlić-Radman and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry are expected to attend.

Former cabinet minister Ghada Waly will address AmCham on Sunday at 3pm. Now the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Waly will talk about tackling corruption in African countries and women’s rights. Tap or click here to register for the event (Zoom event, not in person).

Head to Sharm for a startup gathering: Investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers will gather in Sharm El Sheikh for the Startup Festival on Sunday and Monday, 28-29 March. More than 80 startups will participate in the exhibition, which will feature panel discussions and workshops.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is set to open on 3 April in El Fustat. Local and international visitors alike will pay less for admission for the first two weeks to explore the museum’s central hall, according to a cabinet statement. Meanwhile, the Royal Mummies Hall will be ready for visitors starting 18 April.

The Spring Flowers Exhibit (Ma3rad El Zohoor) is currently taking place at Orman Botanical Garden in Giza. More than 200 exhibitors have set up shop to sell flowers, plants, agricultural products, and gardening equipment. The exhibit runs through 13 April.

AUC Press’ Mad March book sale will be ongoing for the rest of the month. The sale is open to the general public every day from 10am–6pm CLT at AUC Tahrir Bookstore & Garden.


Are we cozying up to Somalia and Burundi? Egypt is reportedly serious about a reset in relations with Somalia after Foreign Sameh Shoukry met the day before yesterday with Somalia’s minister of state for presidential affairs. The two countries share an interest in maritime security in the Red Sea and around the Horn of Africa. Egypt would like Somalia’s backing on the GERD file, while Somalia is looking for backing on its fight with the Shabab terror group. This piece in Al Monitor has more — and it’s doubly relevant given President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is meeting today with Burundi’s president. Evariste Ndayishimiye, the leader of the Nile Basin Initiative country, is in town for a three-day visit.

We keep inching toward covid passports. Remember how we told you about Europe planning a “green pass” that might ease travel for EU citizens within the bloc — and that China is pushing ahead with its own vaccine passport, while Canada studies the issue? Israel is in the spotlight now for how it’s using the passports domestically, writes Canada’s Globe & Mail. Its “Green Pass” system. “Green Pass holders, who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from the virus, can enter gyms, hotels, pools and other indoor facilities. The certificate, which can be downloaded through a phone app, has a barcode that can be scanned at entrances and is valid for six months, starting one week after the second dose of the vaccine.” The news comes as the travel industry is urging the Biden administration to open US borders to international visitors, CNBC reports. Yet another reason you’re going to want to register to get jabbed.

Intel is trying to fill the West’s chip manufacturing gap with a new USD 20 bn strategy that will see the semiconductor giant build two factories in Arizona and open its plants to outside customers, Intel’s newly-appointed CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a webinar, reports The Financial Times. Western companies — including Intel itself — have long-been lagging behind chipmakers in Asia such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung and have been relying on these companies to outsource chip production. This supply chain has failed in the past year as TSMC and Samsung struggled to cope with increased demand, putting auto and tech businesses in a crunch to secure necessary chips. Intel’s strategy directly challenges the two companies, with Gelsinger announcing plans to approach Qualcomm and Apple to manufacture their chips (previously customers of the Asian firms).

What’s the timeline? The new chip manufacturing plants — also called fabs or foundries — are expected to begin production in 2024, with construction to start as soon as this year.

How did investors take the news? Intel’s shares rose more than 7% in after hours trading, signaling investor enthusiasm for the new strategy, while TSMC’s shares fell as much as 3.9% this morning, reports Reuters, even as Taiwan’s Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua sought to downplay the impact.

Musicians are the latest to jump aboard the NFT train, snagging mns in the process as they try to offset a tough year with no live performances, reports The Wall Street Journal. In the music world, the original song creator can set the terms of the NFT, called a “smart contract,” and it allows the creator to take a cut — usually 10% to 30% in this case — of any resales. It’s important to note that owning an NFT doesn’t equate to owning the copyright to a given asset, music or otherwise, but instead makes it a collectible item only the buyer can own. Electronic music artist Justin Blau, known as 3LAU, has fetched USD 17 mn in the past month from NFTs, while artists such as Shawn Mendes, Deadmau5, Grimes, and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda are also selling NFT packs containing everything from song clips to avatar outfits.

Meanwhile, the art world is loving NFTs: Holders of fine artworks are also using NFTs to monetize a struggling business, reports Bloomberg. The buyers of fine art NFTs will get both the “trackability and traceability of information” of the new medium, Nanne Dekking, a former art dealer and the founder of Artory, explains, as well as the physical artwork itself to hang on a wall or add to a collection.

Uh, any chance this is a bubble? Observers of the NFT craze are questioning whether this is the “inevitable evolution of the collectibles market or the latest leg in a growing speculative bubble”, writes Bloomberg in a separate piece.

You can now buy a Tesla using BTC, Elon Musk announced on Twitter, adding that the crypto will be retained as BTC as opposed to being converted into a fiat currency or a government-issued currency.


Netflix’s Operation Varsity Blues is out. A mindmeld of a classic documentary and a series of reenactments, the flick sees actor Matthew Modine play admissions crook Rick Singer, whose sideline was to help the spawn of the rich and famous fake their way into top colleges and universities by making them appear to be recruits for niche sports including rowing and water polo. The scandal brought down big names including Full House actress Lori Laughlin and Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman — and brought into question the US college admissions system

Okay, but is it any good? Vogue and Rolling Stone are fans.


With the weekend approaching, there’s nothing like having something in your fridge to serve as the base of any meal you might want to make. Well, look no further than these homemade condiment jars, which ensure that even the laziest meal seems gourmet. My Jar boasts creations including chili jam, olive tapenade, and balsamic onion relish. Each jar comes freshly made. They’re the perfect addition to a cheese board, a filling side dish, or a condiment for your burgers or hot dogs. We’ve been buying their products for years and we’ve always been pleasantly surprised with consistent service and quality. A similar venture, Add Salt, boasts jars of both savory and sweet toppings and dressings. Their sweet jars include salted caramel and chocolate ganache toppings while their savory creations include roasted pepper, garlic confit, Asian vinaigrette, and green hummus with olive oil and herbs or red hummus with beetroot.


(All times in CLT)

Neo Cairo is performing at Agouza’s Cairo Jazz Club tonight featuring Issa and Assoud, while the Sheikh Zayed CJC branch is hosting Islam Chipsy and El Sawareekh at 9pm.

The Caravan Group is performing a rendition of Duncan Macmilan’s Lungs every Thursday and Saturday until 10 April at the Greek Campus Auditorium. The first showing will take place tomorrow at 8:30pm.

Coldplay tribute band Strawberry Swing are playing at the Cairo Opera House this Friday at 7:30pm.

Jordanian band Autostrad is coming to Cairo this Friday and will be performing at Sawy Culture Wheel at 2:30pm.


The newly released biography The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson plots the groundbreaking career of Jennifer Doudna. Doudna’s biochemistry lab unlocked CRISPR, a transformative genetic therapy that netted her the 2020 Nobel prize in Chemistry — and that could be the end of the human race, her critics say, if things go wrong. (And it’s done just that in one of the first attempts at editing human embryos.) In Isaacson’s first biographic portrayal of a woman, he paints a portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was told from childhood that science wasn’t for girls. The Wall Street Journal sat down with Doudna and Isaacson where the scientist explains her breakthrough research and the process of writing the book together. Isaacson is famous for writing striking biographies for names such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs — great minds who changed the course of our civilization.

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