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Monday, 16 August 2021

THIS MORNING: Prepping for the 2021-2022 school year in Egypt + the fall of Afghanistan is one of those once-in-a-generation foreign affairs stories

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a surprisingly brisk morning. Mondays in mid-August are usually slow news days on par with the late-December news slowdown, but … let’s just say we live in interesting times, shall we?

Let’s start with some very welcome news: The EGX extended its gains to a sixth day yesterday, its longest upwards run since January, off the back of positive 2Q2021 earnings, Bloomberg reports. The benchmark EGX30 is now up nearly 1.7% for the year.

International schools are due back in session for the 2021-2022 academic year on 12 September, the Education Ministry said yesterday, according to Al Masry Al Youm. Public schools, meanwhile, will be back on 9 October, with their 2021-2022 academic year running through 16 June 2022.

Association-owned international schools are hitting the books this month, as are other K-12 institutions not directly regulated by the Education Ministry. CAC, BISC, NCBIS and MBIS all go back this month, with Cairo American College starting tomorrow (or today, if you’re a grade 9 student…).

The Sisi administration says it will make vaccinating university and school staff a top priority after the president directed officials yesterday to come up with a plan to jab all educators and students ahead of the start of the school year, according to an Ittihadeya statement. This comes after news earlier this month that schools and universities would be next in line for covid shots. Some universities are already making vaccination mandatory, with AUC announcing last week that only vaccinated individuals would be allowed access to its campus as of the upcoming academic year.

The news comes as the covid case count officially surpassed the 100 case per day mark for the first time since 13 July, a steady climb from daily infections in the early 30s just under three weeks ago, with the exception of a brief drop on 5 August, according to our in-house covid tracker.

The Health Ministry reported 101 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 99 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 285,385 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 4 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 16,619.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is in town for meetings with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, Al Shorouk reports, as part of a Middle East tour during which the Japanese FM is expected to discuss regional security issues and the response to the covid-19 pandemic.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble should land in Cairo in the coming days following a visit to Nairobi, Somali press reports.

Middle-income earners have until 9 September to apply to buy one of 100k fully-finished houses through subsidized 3% 30-year mortgages under the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) EGP 100 bn mortgage finance initiative launched last month, the local press reports. Applications are here.

PSA- Expect the heat and humidity to go up a notch today, with temperatures hitting 36°C in Cairo and breaching 40°C in Upper Egypt and South Sinai, according to the Egyptian Meteorological Authority. Sahel is still blessed with cooler weather, with highs of 32°C throughout the week.

THE BIG STORY INTERNATIONALLY- Kabul has fallen and Afghanistan’s president has fled the country as the Taliban poured into the capital yesterday, facing no resistance. One journalist yesterday told CNN that the streets are empty and many government and security personnel have exchanged their uniforms for the white scarf worn by members of the militant Islamist group. The Islamist group said it is calling for an “open, inclusive Islamic government.”

How is this playing in the press? Like a once-in-a-generation foreign affairs story, with plenty of comparisons to the 1975 fall of Saigon at the end of the US war in Vietnam. The Financial Times notes that this marks the “chaotic end” of a “20-year US military project.” The story leads the front page of the New York Times with a rare ALL-CAPS headline noting that the US is “scrambling to evacuate Americans” as the Taliban seize the country. The Washington Post is giving the story similar large-type coverage. The US has moved its embassy to a compound at the airport, CNBC adds, while Reuters notes that diplomats are fleeing as the world waits for the Taliban’s announcement the “type and form” of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon.

The crisis is sending a shockwave through US politics, where Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has defended policy on Afghanistan in the face of rising criticism, including from one Republican senator who branded the US withdrawal a “shameful, Saigon-like abandonment of Kabul.” (This despite Biden having clearly campaigned on a promise to end America’s involvement there.) You can read Biden’s statement on the fall of Afghanistan here on the US embassy in Egypt’s news page.

The UAE is working to facilitate the evacuation of Egyptian diplomats and other foreign consular personnel from Afghanistan through Emirati airports, according to the country’s foreign ministry, Reuters reports.

IN RATHER MORE PROSAIC NEWS- Canadians are going to the polls on 20 September after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election yesterday. The PM is “seeking to gain a majority on the strength of his Liberal government’s record in managing covid-19,” the Globe and Mail reports, “but opposition parties are casting the campaign as unnecessary and a blatant attempt at a power grab amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.”


***CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • A great day for the EGX: The EGX30 index closed yesterday’s session at 1.3% in the green, putting the benchmark index ahead 1.7% for the year.
  • Earnings season continued, with Ibnsina and Alexandria Medical posting improvements in net profit
  • Egypt receives EGP 282 mn from AMF: The money will be used to help Egypt carry out structural and economic reforms, according to an AMF statement. This is the Arab Monetary Fund’s (AMF) second tranche of a EGP 639 mn loan approved in July 2020.

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