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Tuesday, 9 November 2021

THIS MORNING: Day 2 of US-Egypt talks in DC + Nafeza has growing pains

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a really big news day.

It’s day two of the first “strategic dialogue” between Egypt and the United States in more than half a decade. The sea change in bilateral ties since the early days of the Biden administration was on clear display yesterday as Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed reporters at the start of talks in DC.

How it started: US President Joe Biden talked up human rights on the campaign trail, raising concerns about close ties Egypt enjoyed under Trump and vowing there would be “no more blank checks” for Cairo. Blinken had been critical about Egypt’s human rights record and Biden officials signaled during the transition that the US could cut military aid. Two former State Department officials turned members of Congress then formed an “Egypt Human Rights Committee” on the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution. (Yes, we know, incoming administration ≠ House of Reps, but still…)

How it’s going: In warm remarks yesterday, Blinken referred to Shoukry as a “friend” and emphasized that the foreign minister’s visit to DC was a homecoming of sorts — a nod to Shoukry’s time as our ambassador to Washington. Blinken talked up our countries’ “100-year relationship” and suggested we’d be seeing more talks in the future. The first strategic dialogue in six years means the meetings are happening “too far apart given how many common interests and challenges” the two countries have and “we’re going to get it back on a regular cadence,” Blinken promised.

What changed? Egypt stepped in to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians (getting a visit from Blinken in return, but no overt backing of our stance on GERD), is working with the US on critical regional security issues including Libya, is playing ball on Iran, and has signalled that it’s taking US human rights concerns seriously after DC withheld a token amount of military aid.

We have chapter and verse on day one in the news well, below and expect to wrap up our coverage in tomorrow’s edition of EnterpriseAM once day two wraps today.

ALSO TODAY- TransMea 2021 and the 2021 Cairo ICT exhibition both enter their penultimate day today at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. We have more on agreements signed on the second day of the transport conference in this morning’s Speed Round, below, and we’ll take a deep dive into the details in tomorrow’s edition of Hardhat, our weekly publication on infrastructure in Egypt.


Nafeza looks like it’s having growing pains: The Cairo Chamber of Commerce’s Customs Committee will hold an urgent meeting today with the Customs Authority to discuss issues importers are facing with the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system, according to Al Mal. The newspaper gives few details about what technical problems importers are encountering, but suggests that businesses bringing goods through Nuweiba port have been unable to access their ACIDs — a unique number needed to file the documentation needed for clearance — leading the authority to exempt them from having to do this for one week.

ACI has been up and running since the beginning of October, with more than 24k importers registered on Nafeza, and nearly 53k foreign exporters signing up on CargoX, which allows shippers to Egypt to upload shipping documents, as of two weeks ago. We have an explainer on the new system here.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- What’s keeping the Fed awake at night? Chinese real estate and meme stocks — and things are getting even more complicated today in the world’s most populous country as another big real estate developer teeters on the edge of an Evergrande-style meltdown. Struggling developer Kaisa is asking investors for more “time and patience” on the same day that the Fed’s closely watched semi-annual report (pdf) signalled that a real estate meltdown in China could “strain global financial markets through a deterioration of risk sentiment, pose risks to global economic growth, and affect the United States.”

CLOSER TO HOME- The US and the African Union think there’s a narrow window in Ethiopia in which to try to broker a negotiated solution. The AU said yesterday on Twitter that it was holding talks on the situation as Tigrayan rebels march on Addis Ababa. The AU’s Olusegun Obasanjo has recently met with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael. Washington reportedly believes there’s a narrow chance of a negotiated settlement — diplomatic-speak for “don’t hold your breath.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES- The Fed isn’t wrong to be concerned about the flood of retail investors into meme stocks and other equities. Wall Street stocks “completed their longest run of closing highs since 1997” yesterday — the same day that trading app Robinhood exposed mns of customer names and emails addresses in a massive hack, the company said in a blog post.


UPDATE- BP is not among the energy companies bidding to establish hydrogen plants in Egypt. BP has not placed a bid, a company representative told us, denying a report published in the Arabic-language website Attaqa that we took note of yesterday. We have updated the story on our website to reflect this change.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Inflation: Inflation figures for October will be released tomorrow.

The two-day Africa Fintech summit kicks off next Tuesday, 16 November. The summit looks at innovation in the fintech ecosystem, venture capital and other forms of investing, and will also discuss the rise of healthtech.

Calling all Egyptian entrepreneurs aged 23-35: You have a little over two weeks to apply for the acceleration exchange program Meet Silicon Valley for a chance to travel to California for a 10-day program to meet with tech executives and investors. The program is being implemented by Injaz Egypt and TechWadi with the support of the US Embassy in Egypt, and the deadline for applications is 23 November.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.


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*** It’s Going Green day — your weekly briefing of all things green in Egypt: Enterprise’s green economy vertical focuses each Tuesday on the business of renewable energy and sustainable practices in Egypt, everything from solar and wind energy through to water, waste management, sustainable building practices and how you can make your business greener, whatever the sector.

In today’s issue: Last week, Egypt joined 18 other countries and organizations in signing an agreement last week to phase out the use of coal in power generation by 2030. But that is unlikely to significantly change things on the ground. Today, we analyze why that is, and speak to private sector players in the cement industry on what it would take to transition away from coal.

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