13 Oct 2020


+VC Establishes $60 Mn Capital Fund to Invest in 4 Arab Countries, Including Egypt

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Co-Founders Sharif El-Badawi and Hasan Haider

Plus Venture Capital (+VC) yesterday announced the establishment of an investment capital fund worth $60 million to invest in 120 start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) amid the regional growth of digital transformation.

The fund will operate through offices in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt, according to a company press release.

The fund will focus on investing in technology-based start-ups in the most important sectors, including finance, health, and education, in addition to logistics and e-commerce.

"We think that future growth in the region will be coming from tech-enabled business; for GDP and for job creation. We saw it happen in the last two recessions," +VC co-founder Sharif El-Badawi said.

"We are excited to launch +VC with a differentiated investment thesis for the region. The aim of the firm is to invest in a broadly diversified portfolio of seed stage start-ups, targeting 120 investments over the next three years. Our five-year legacy of investing in MENA and global start-ups has helped us build deep personal networks for exceptional deal flow," said co-founder Hasan Haider.

The fund will start investing in the region before the end of the year.

El-Badawi and Haider told MENAbytes that they would be investing in start-ups that have built products and have at least three months of traction. They said that they will lead at seed-stage with an average (first) check size of $200,000-250,000, and up to $2 million in follow-on funding.

+VC will also lead the Series A rounds of its portfolio companies, in which it will make follow-on investments.


Business

RMBV Set to Launch $300 Mn Fund; Egypt to Receive Lion's Share of Its Investments

Private equity firm Riyada Managers (RMBV) intends to launch a new fund with a capital of $300 million to invest in multiple sectors in the MENA region, with 40 percent of its investments planned to be in Egypt.

RMBV Director Ahmed Badreldin told Al Mal that the new fund -- which will be investing in food, health, education, technology and online trading, among other sectors -- will start a capital-raising roadshow next year with an eye on a number of international financial institutions.  

He said that institutions that had previously contributed to the ANAF2 fund, also operated by RMBV, were interested in the new fund whose name is yet to be revealed.  

Badreldin heaped praise on the Egyptian market, saying it is one of the less affected by the pandemic with the government pushing hard against the possibility of another lockdown.

Sisi Hopes to Expand Eni's Oil Exploration in Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said he hoped to expand Italian oil company Eni's exploration and production in Egypt, during a meeting with Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi to follow up on the company's gas and petroleum exploration and production in the country.

El-Sisi said that Egypt is hoping to eventually become a regional gas hub, and encouraged the country to take full advantage of and maximize its gas and oil resources. 

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla and Alessandro Politi, head of production at Eni, also attended the meeting. 

Descalzi reviewed developments in the company’s multiple exploration and production projects in Egypt, especially in the Red Sea, Mediterranean and western regions.

Descalzi praised the Egyptian government and Eni's partnership, which has the direct support of El-Sisi, saying that it had had a positive impact on the success of the company's activities and made Egypt one of the most important countries for the company.

Eni is considered to be among the seven major oil companies globally. It is responsible for the operation of Egypt's largest gas discovery, the Zohr gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, which has helped Egypt move closer to its goal of becoming a regional energy hub. 

GAFI Discusses Boosting Bahraini Investment in Egypt

Mohamed Abd El-Wahab, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), met with Bahraini Ambassador to Cairo and Permanent Representative to the Arab League Hisham bin Mohammed Al-Jowder to discuss ways to increase Bahraini investment in Egypt.

Abd El-Wahab said that Egypt is working to facilitate its investment climate, pointing to GAFI's attempts to attract Bahraini investments to Egypt through communication with major Bahraini companies interested in relevant opportunities.

He also stressed the importance of establishing an action plan to follow up on Bahraini companies investing in Egypt, and of coordinating with the Bahrain Economic Development Board in order to inform the country's business community of the latest developments in the Egyptian economy.

Al-Jowder praised the close political and economic relations between Bahrain and Egypt, and said it was important to increase cooperation in all fields for the two countries to meet their aspirations.

Heliopolis Housing to Offer up to 1,764 Acres for Development in Partnership With Investors

Heliopolis Company for Housing and Development plans to offer 1,000-1,200 feddans (1038 - 1245 acres) in its Heliopark project in New Cairo City, and 500 feddans in its New Heliopolis project northeast of Cairo, to be developed in partnership with other firms as part of the company's five-year strategic development plan.

The real estate developer unveiled its 2020-2025 development plan, which rests on five tiers, in a press conference.

The five tiers are: to complete utilities and infrastructure at the New Heliopolis project and review its development plan by the first half of 2021; to conduct feasibility studies on the development of the Heliopark project; to utilize real estate assets owned by the company in Heliopolis; to restructure the company; and to secure liquidity.

Sahar Al Damati, Heliopolis Housing's managing director for financial affairs, said that the company aims to derive liquidity by securing credit facilities, forming partnerships and selling some plots in the New Heliopolis project. He added that the company had already received offers on 240 feddans (249 acres) in New Heliopolis.

Al Damati added that the company is currently in talks with around five banks to ink a credit facility in the next few days, to secure needed liquidity for the five-year development plan.

Heliopolis Housing's net profits dropped 2.9 percent year on year in the elapsed fiscal year 2019/2020 to EGP 365.6 million ($23.3 million), compared with EGP 376.4 million.

The company's revenue shrank 10.5 percent to EGP 1.1 billion ($70 million), compared with EGP 1.3 billion.

Talabat Partners With Booking.com to Offer 8% Cashback to Its Customers Wallet

Food ordering company Talabat has announced a partnership with Dutch-based online travel agency Booking.com, under which customers of the former will receive 8 percent cashback to their wallets "when arranging their accommodation reservations through Booking.com using the http://booking.com/talabat link."

Sofiène Marzouki, Managing Director of talabat Egypt, said that the partnership aims to boost domestic tourism, which has been abysmally impacted by the coronavirus.

Interview

Opening a Micro Crepe Shop Can Be More Challenging Than It Sounds

Dozens of teenagers in a working class area of Giza's Mohandiseen district can often be seen gathering around a tiny crepe shop at night, either near the counter, holding aloft their receipts to receive their large, triangular, well-stuffed delights, or rejoicing in eating the street food around the corner. 

The shop, whose owner has requested it remain unidentified, started off in 2013 as a micro business -- hiring less than ten people with a capital below EGP 50,000 (around $3,120).

The entire journey -- wrapping up prerequisites for the opening, breaking even, getting the business off the ground and maintaining a profit margin -- has been full of hurdles, according to the shop's owner.

Mohamed Hassan told Delta Digest that while seeking funding, he had initially looked to embark on a microcredit program with the state-run Social Development Bank (SDB), yet backed out of the deal, feeling that it was too rigid for market conditions.

"First off, providing checks is not practical because many won't accept them," he said. "It's not at all convenient for the dealings of such a small project. It's not like we were an actual company when we first started."

The program provides loan proceeds to the beneficiary in phases tied to the progress of the project. It also ensures that all steps towards the opening are made by the book, which means the owner would have to incur all requisite costs while setting up the business, with no chance of avoiding or postponing red tape.

"All paperwork must be 100 percent in order if you're to be operating under the program," Hassan explained. "This means you need before the [restaurant] opening to set up a commercial register and a tax account, issue a tax card and subscribe to social insurance for at least three people including the owner."

A restaurant owner committed to the microcredit program also has to be issued a license, which can be costly considering the customary under-the-table payments, according to Hassan. Licenses take up to six months to be issued, during which time the owner is also obliged to pay social insurance fees and taxes -- all before the opening. 

"The bank would help you finish up the process but it would still be such a hassle; roughly, I would have paid double the planned amount before the opening had I gone on with the program … people usually try to open such small dining places without a license and step by step start to legalize their status."

Unemployed at the time, Hassan ended up asking his aunt to take a personal EGP 50,000 (around $3,120) loan on his behalf so he could have more flexible cash and fewer restrictions. 

It took him approximately six months to see his business in the black, and two years for his brand to become known, when other challenges started to arise, including further under-the-table payments.

"The municipality is the worst of them all," Hassan fumed. "Every time they show up you must pay them off, and they still fine you for whatever infringements they please to report. It's like they have a target of infringements they have to achieve. Bribes only lessen the fines they would slap you with."

"They used to confiscate my gas cylinders and when I would ask them why, they wouldn't tell me. I later realized that it's illegal to use gas cylinders in a place connected with natural gas like my shop. They wouldn't tell me the reason because they wanted to keep confiscating cylinders every time they came."

Other personnel must also be paid off periodically or have their share of freebies, including health inspectors, he said.

Hassan has recently opened another similar food business, and is now reliving the same bumpy ride all over again.

He has once again opted out of financing programs, out of belief that efforts to turn Egypt into a cashless society have yet to trickle down -- meaning he would still likely face the same problem with checks. Hassan was also keen to avoid what he describes as "draconian laws" that such a program would force him abide by.

"I just wish there was no arbitrariness, I wish the earlier steps were easier with more affordable conditions. For example, a shop whose space is less than 30 square meters cannot be licensed as a restaurant, and that was a problem with the crepe shop before I relocated to a licensed place," Hassan said, hoping that the municipality regulations -- which often change every once in a while -- would be more lenient.

"Now with the new place I just opened, I might face the same problem. A larger shop means a higher rent that an owner of a small business might not be able to afford, and thus they would opt for an unlicensed place and pay bribes to stay in business. Licenses for small shops and a temporary license until the permanent one is issued would make life much easier."

"It's extremely hard to manage a business under such circumstances, not to mention other challenges; the pandemic, the increasing utility bills, to name a few."

Micro enterprises today represent 97 percent of Egypt's 2.7 million businesses.

This year, Egypt is targeting dishing out 200,000 loans worth EGP 3 billion ($187.3 million) in total to micro businesses, according to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA) CEO Nevine Gamea.

Stock Market

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Finance Minister Mohamed Maait

No Govt IPOs on Horizon: Minister

Egypt said that no governmental initial public offerings (IPOs) will be made any time soon, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt plans for offerings on the bourse.

In exclusive statements to Hapi on Monday, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said there will be no government IPOs in the near future.

"There is a committee [on IPOs] … it continues to work. And if there is anything new [on the matter], it will be announced,” he said on the sidelines of the sixth Regional Health Insurance and Healthcare Forum held in Cairo.

Maait said the state was currently working on boosting its financial resources, maintaining financial stability and pushing the economy towards growth.

He added that the government’s plan was to mitigate the repercussions of the pandemic, including the severe hit to state revenues, which lost approximately EGP 220 billion ($14 billion) during the elapsed 2019/2020 fiscal year.

His statements come a few months after a planned IPO by state-owned Banque du Caire was ruled out this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

The $500 million IPO of the country's third largest state bank was due to start in mid-April but has been postponed due to the global pandemic.

The anticipated offering was part of a broader privatization plan involving a set of state firms that was first announced three years ago but has repeatedly stalled.

Hadisolb Approves Demerger of Its Mining Unit Ahead of IPO

Egyptian Iron and Steel Company's (Hadisolb) general assembly has approved demerging its mining unit, Minister of Public Enterprise Sector Hesham Tawfik told Masrawy yesterday.

He added that the ministry intends to list the divided entity on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) soon.

The minister said that shareholders in the company would receive free shares in the new division.

Earlier this month, Hadisolb announced a board reshuffle following the resignation of its chairman and board members.

The state-affiliated steel company posted a 42 percent year-on-year fall in net losses to EGP 887.4 million ($56.3 million) in the elapsed fiscal year 2019/2020, compared with losses of EGP 1.5 billion in the preceding fiscal year.

EGX30 Extends Gains, up 0.33%

Egypt's blue-chip index ended Monday in the green, extending gains that began last week.

The EGX30 benchmark edged up 0.33 percent to close at 11,397.65 points, amid a turnover of approximately EGP 891 million ($56.7 million).

Market bellwether Commercial International Bank (CIB) saw its share price slip 0.03 percent to EGP 67.50 ($4.30).

The index's top performing stocks included Export Development Bank of Egypt (EDBE), which rose 5.57 percent to EGP 12.98 ($0.83), Heliopolis Housing, up 3.6 percent to EGP 6.99 over a new five-year development plan, and Cairo for Investment and Real Estate Development, up 2.74 percent to EGP 14.

Other stocks ending the day in gains included Elsewedy Electric, which gained 2.69 percent to EGP 7.58 ($0.48), Beltone Financial Holding, up 2.68 percent to EGP 3, and Emaar Misr for Development, which rose 2.33 percent to EGP 2.57.

The worst performing stocks included Egyptian Iron and Steel, down 3.63 percent to EGP 3.68 ($0.23), Madinet Nasr Housing, which fell 3.08 percent to EGP 3.98, and Edita Food Industries, which dropped 1.90 percent to EGP 9.35.

The broader EGX70 EWI index fell 0.75 percent to close at 2,006.62 points, while the EGX100 EWI dropped 0.45 percent, closing at 2,947.6 points.

Foreign and Arab investors were net buyers to the tune of EGP 33.8 million ($2.1 million) and EGP 23.9 million, respectively, while sales by Egyptian investors amounted to EGP 57.8 million.

Refinitiv, Arab Federation of Exchanges Launch Low Carbon Select Index in MENA

Refinitiv and the Arab Federation of Exchanges (AFE) yesterday launched the Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to a statement by Refinitiv.

"Environmental, social and governance (ESG) data and analytics is becoming of critical importance for MENA financial markets. The new index represents an ESG benchmark, offering investors the opportunity to commit capital to companies that actively promote and invest in low carbon activities across their business operations in MENA," read the statement.

Saudi Arabia is the most heavily weighted country in the index with 39.5 percent, followed by Kuwait with 22.3 percent, the UAE with 16.6 percent, Qatar with 13.4 percent, Egypt with 4.5 percent and other MENA markets with 3.8 percent.

"The launch of this index will pave the way for the creation of investible products in MENA including equity traded funds. The index will also contribute to attracting asset managers and investment into MENA markets," said AFE Secretary-General Rami El-Dokany.

"Our objective is to promote smarter products and companies from the region in global markets. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional ESG portfolio showed promising potential for Arab companies," he added.

In 2019, the annual return for the Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index stood at 19.75 percent, compared to the 12.52 percent recorded by the Refinitiv MENA Index.

The annualized return of the Refinitiv AFE Low Carbon Select Index earned 5.1 percent over a five-year period, outperforming the Refinitiv free float index for eight MENA markets, which earned 3 percent over the same period. 

"The index will pave the way for further integration amongst Arab markets. The project is an outcome of the collective efforts led by the AFE members to endorse and roll out ESG practices, principles and disclosures," said AFE Chairman and Egyptian Exchange (EGX) Executive Chairman Mohamed Farid Saleh.

Shirley Barrow, head of indices and benchmarks at Refinitiv, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the Arab Federation of Exchanges and create a new, unique ESG index for the MENA region. Through the launch of this index, companies with an environmental focus on reducing carbon emissions are recognized, and it provides the market with a new solution for sustainable investing.” 

Economics

Egypt Ranks 4th Among Arab Countries in HORIZON'S COVID Economic Recovery Index

Egypt ranked fourth among Arab countries in the COVID Economic Recovery Index issued by global think tank HORIZON Group.

The index assesses how 122 countries have handled the economic impact of the pandemic and their recovery from the crisis, using three pillars: absorption capacity, economic resilience and health resilience.

Egypt ranked fourth among Arab countries and 70th globally, with an index score of 51.23.

The UAE ranked first among Arab countries weathering the impact of the pandemic and 37th globally, with a score of 60.27, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with scores of 56.3 and 54.9, respectively.

Jordan came fifth among Arab countries and 79th globally, followed by Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon and Tunisia.

Investment in Natural Gas in MENA to Increase by 2024 Despite Pandemic: APICORP

Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) has announced that investment in natural gas projects across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will increase by 2024 despite the pandemic, which led to a decline in fuel demand, according to media reports.

APICORP said that gas projects planned or currently under development in MENA will require an investment value of about $211 billion by 2024.

The multilateral development bank attributed the increase to the fact that governments are promoting the use of gas to produce electricity over crude.

It added that about $22 billion of the planned investments will go to expanding production in Qatar, which is considered the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Saudi Arabia ranks first in the region for planned gas sector projects due to its gas-to-energy initiatives, followed by Iran, with its Fars heavy oil field and petrochemical exports development program, and Iraq, which is also investing in gas-to-energy projects.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are set to invest a total of almost $90 billion in planned and committed investments by 2024.

Egypt leads the region in terms of petrochemical sector projects, followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia, as a result of ongoing efforts to localize specialized chemical industries and provide alternatives to importing raw materials.

Oil Prices Continue to Decline as US, Libya, Norway Restore Output

Oil prices edged down nearly 3 percent on Monday as US producers tried to ramp up production in the wake of Hurricane Delta, force majeure was lifted from Libya’s largest oilfield and a Norwegian strike affecting production came to an end.

International benchmark Brent oil went down $1.23, or 2.9 percent, to $41.62 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was also down 2.9 percent to $1.17.

Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) on Monday said it had resumed operations at its offshore marine terminal, adding that there were no interruptions in deliveries at its Clovelly Hub.

On Sunday, French oil giant Total resumed operations at its 225,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur refinery in Texas.

Production in Libya, an OPEC member, is expected to increase to 355,000 bpd after force majeure was lifted from the Sharara oilfield on Sunday.

Prices were also affected by a jump in new COVID-19 cases, as countries imposed lockdown measures that could dampen demand for oil.

More than 37 million people have so far been infected by the pandemic.

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World Bank Praises Economic Reform in Egypt

The World Bank has praised the economic reforms implemented by Egypt, which have contributed to improving macroeconomic stability, enhancing investor confidence and increasing foreign direct investment (FDI).

The bank described Egypt as a bright spot in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in terms of FDI inflows during 2019.

Egypt's FDI flow increased by 11 percent year-on-year to reach $9 billion in 2019. 

The bank said that a large part of the FDI was directed to the oil and gas sector, while the telecommunications and consumer goods sectors also received a share of capital coming into Egypt.

FDI inflows into the MENA region as a whole witnessed a 13 percent year-on-year decline in 2019.

Egypt News

Govt Extends Electronic Vehicle Badge Installation Deadline Until Nov 21

The interior ministry has extended the deadline for installing electronic vehicle badges by a month, to November 21, to help citizens obtain electronic badges for all types of vehicles.

On July 20, the ministry asked owners of all types of vehicles with valid licenses to head to the relevant traffic units to install an electronic badge within three months, or face legal measures.

Vehicle owners were also asked to replace old metal plates with secured metal plates.

The ministry said that traffic units nationwide will remain open until 8pm to install electronic badges, in addition to the morning shift.

Traffic services will be provided electronically to those vehicles that apply within three months of the statement, after which violators will be fined up to EGP 8,000 ($509), the ministry previously announced.

The badge contains the vehicle number and its recorded data. It contributes to the swift identification and seizure of stolen cars and makes it easy to locate and handle areas of dense traffic.

This comes within the framework of the government's strategy to manage traffic online.

High-Speed Electric Alamein-Sokhna Railway to Be Implemented Within 2 Yrs: Minister

The Ministry of Transport has determined the route of the high-speed electric railway connecting El Alamein to Ain Sokhna, with the project set to be implemented within two years.

Transport Minister Kamel Al-Wazir said that the project’s first phase will extend 260 kilometers (161.6 miles), connecting the New Administrative Capital to Burj Al-Arab.

The second phase will extend the line by 88.3 kilometres (54.9 miles) from Burj Al-Arab to Alexandria, and by 90 kilometers from the New Administrative Capital to Ain Sokhna.

Al-Wazir said that the project will cover 438.3 kilometers (272.3 miles) in total and include 17 stations. Its design speed is 200 kilometers per hour, while its operational speed is 160-180 kilometers per hour.

Al-Wazir added that the project aims to connect the New Administrative Capital and the new cities to an electric railway network.

Sisi, Iraqi FM Discuss Boosting Joint Cooperation

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein on Monday discussed ways to boost bilateral relations and regional issues of mutual interest, according to Egypt’s presidential spokesman.

Hussein arrived in Cairo on Sunday evening for an official three-day visit.

El-Sisi stressed Egypt's support of Iraq to combat terrorism and preserve the country’s stability and security.

The Iraqi foreign minister also discussed the next summit between the leaders of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, set to be held in the first quarter of next year.

Hussein delivered a message to El-Sisi from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who praised the historic relations between the two countries.

The meeting was also attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Iraqi Ambassador to Cairo Ahmed Nayef.

Shoukry said there are strong ties between the two countries, stressing Egypt's full readiness to maintain the sovereignty of Iraq in the face of foreign intervention.

Shoukry and Hussein discussed regional developments in Syria and Libya and challenges caused by regional intervention in the Arab world, as well as Iraqi efforts to eliminate terrorism.

The Egyptian foreign minister said that the Iraqi-Egyptian committee would be held in Baghdad at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Hussein is expected to hold a tripartite meeting tomorrow with his Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts to discuss the implementation of agreements reached during the last high-level trilateral summit, held in the Jordanian capital of Amman on August 25. 

Investments in Electricity Sector Worth $47 Mn: Minister

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait said that the value of investments in the electricity sector is close to EGP 750 billion ($47.7 billion).

This came during the minister's statements on the second day of the sixth Regional Health Insurance and Healthcare Forum.

Maait said that the investments include the construction of four of the world’s most modern power stations, a transmission and distribution network, and the world’s largest station to generate electricity from solar energy in Benban, Aswan governorate.

He also listed among the investments the construction of four stations to produce electricity from nuclear energy in Dabaa in Matrouh, stations to generate electricity from wind power in the Gulf of Suez, and coal-based plants.

The minister also pointed to Egypt's success in achieving self-sufficiency in natural gas, adding that Egypt now has a natural gas surplus for export.

Social Media Campaign Throws Saad Lamjarred Concert Into Doubt

Social media users have attacked the Cairo Show Theater's decision to hold a concert for Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred, who has been accused of multiple rapes.

Cairo Show Theater has removed all posters for the concert from its official social media, after a campaign led by Egyptian women objecting to the venue's platforming of the singer given the accusations of rape against him.

The theater announced on Sunday that it was organizing a concert to commemorate its second anniversary, with Lamjarred as a guest.

The announcement was highly criticized on social media, as social media users condemned the decision to host Lamjarred.

Tickets website Ticketsmarché removed reservations for the concert.

In 2010, Lamjarred was accused of physically assaulting and raping a 21-year-old woman from Brooklyn, New York.

The Moroccan singer fled the US after posting bail and was at risk of arrest if he returned, but the case was eventually dropped in 2016, when a settlement was reached.

Lamjarred was then accused of the physical assault and rape of a young French woman in a hotel in Paris. He was released on bail with an electronic tag in April 2017, to await trial.

Police arrested the singer again in Saint-Tropez, southeastern France in August 2018, after another young French woman filed a rape complaint against him.

Earlier this summer, allegations of sexual assault posted online led to the arrest of Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a former American University in Cairo (AUC) student. He was later referred to criminal court on multiple charges.

Zaki's case is one of a number of high-profile sexual assault stories, among them the Fairmont hotel incident, amid an ongoing investigation by the prosecutor-general into allegations of rape, sexual harassment and blackmail made by dozens of young women and girls.

Egypt Calls on WHO to Provide Free Coronavirus Vaccines to Low-Income Countries

Egypt on Monday called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide coronavirus vaccines, if proven effective, to low-income countries free of charge, especially in communities at greatest risk of infection. 

In a speech during the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean, held online, Health Minister Hala Zayed also called on the WHO to provide the vaccines to middle-income countries at reasonable prices. 

Zayed was unanimously elected as the head of the two-day session, held virtually for the first time with the participation of health ministers and high-level representatives of the 22 countries that make up the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region. 

She stressed the necessity of joint efforts between regional committee members to face ongoing health challenges -- and in particular the coronavirus pandemic -- in countries that are witnessing internal conflicts or natural disasters. 

Zayed also said it was important to uphold humanitarianism amid the crisis by sending needed medical aid and health staff to the region's countries. 

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Egypt's official statistics body CAPMAS

98.4% of Egyptian Families Aware of Coronavirus Symptoms: CAPMAS

Egypt's official statistics body CAPMAS has said that 98.4 percent of Egyptian families are fully aware of the symptoms of the coronavirus since its outbreak in Egypt at the end of February.

The statistics show that most families, or about 97.1 percent, consider high fever one of the most important symptoms of coronavirus infection, followed by sore throat at 73.5 percent, then diarrhea at 58.3 percent.

The agency stated that the pandemic's repercussions had affected a slim majority of employees, with 54.9 percent of employees surveyed witnessing changes in their working conditions.

CAPMAS said that its data was split into three periods: from February to the end of May; June and July; and from August 1 to September 20.

In the third period, about 31.9 percent of families reported that they expected a decrease in their income over the next three months, compared with 48.3 percent in the first period -- a decrease of 16.4 percent, indicating an improvement in conditions.

Egypt Detects 132 New Coronavirus Cases, 10 Deaths

Egypt's health ministry detected 132 new coronavirus cases yesterday, to report a total infections tally of 104,648 cases since the outbreak in Egypt in February.

The ministry also reported ten new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 6,062.

It added that 55 patients had been released from isolation and quarantine hospitals, bringing total recoveries to 97,743.

Science and Technology

Govt to Launch 550 Digital Services Through Egypt Digital Platform by 2023

Minister of Communication and Information Technology (CIT) Amr Talaat said that 72 services related to civil status, housing, real estate registry, health insurance and other areas will be launched through the "Misralrakamia" (Egypt Digital Platform) by the end of 2020, while about 550 services will be made available by 2023.

About 34 services were launched through the Egypt Digital Platform in a trial phase on July 20.

The ministry aims to add 210 new services to the platform in 2021, including services for companies and financial establishments, 170 new services in 2022, and 98 services in 2023, for a total of 550 offered services.

Talaat added that the Egypt Digital Platform aims to automate workflows, create databases and connect all state agencies to expand the digital provision of government services.

This came during a cabinet meeting to review the platform in its current form.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said that the digital platform contributes to the digitalization of government services, which will gradually eliminate physical paperwork between government agencies.

Gourmet Egypt Uses Softech AI to Facilitate Deliveries

Softech, a company that provides artificial intelligence (AI) and follow-up solutions for logistics services, will plan Gourmet Egypt's operations, home delivery itineraries and inventory replenishment at Gourmet branches using AI.

Jalal Abu Ghazaleh, CEO and founder of Gourmet Egypt, said that the AI and follow-up system from Softech would offer the chance to improve delivery times, increase customer satisfaction and enhance the company’s expansion strategy with the use of advanced technology.

Abu Ghazaleh added that Gourmet provides the most advanced healthy food delivery service in the country. It delivers fresh groceries in Cairo, Alexandria and Red Sea governorates.

ECB Considers Creating Digital Euro

The European Central Bank (ECB) has been working on the possibility of creating a digital euro.

ECB President Christine Lagarde said that the coronavirus has impacted trade and payment methods, increasing the frequency of digital payments. 

Lagarde said that the virus had contributed to increased confidence in digital payments.

The ECB said that it would decide whether or not to go forward with the project by mid-2021, with its decision informed by the latest developments. 

Even if the digital euro is approved, it will not replace physical currency, according to Lagarde.

Digitizing the euro will come with cyber risks and privacy issues. 

Facebook Bans Content That Denies or Distorts Holocaust

Facebook has announced that it is updating its rules and regulations regarding hate speech, to ban content denying or distorting the Holocaust.

Two years ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he did not think Facebook should delete content that denies the Holocaust, despite personally finding it offensive. Zuckerberg said there was a dilemma between free expression and the harm caused by content that denies the Holocaust.

The World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee praised the change in Facebook's hate speech rules.

Before the end of the year, Facebook will start directing users who search for terms related to the Holocaust or its denial to credible information.

World

Nobel Prize in Economic Science Awarded to 2 Economists for Contributions to Auction Theory

American economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science for their contributions to auction theory.

They invented new formats to auction interrelated objects on behalf of sellers rather than simply achieve the highest price possible.

"Their discoveries are of great benefit to society," Peter Fredriksson, chair of the prize committee, said in a statement.

The two economists will share 10 million Swedish kroner ($1.1 million) in prize money.

A number of Nobel prizes in various categories were announced last week. On Friday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat an increase in global hunger after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, American poet Louise Glück was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for her unmistakable poetic voice that, with austere beauty, makes individual existence universal."

Two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work on the development of Crispr-Cas9, a method of genome editing.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astrophysicists on Tuesday for their work on black hole formation and the discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

On Monday, three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus, which leads to hepatitis C liver disease.

Virus Roundup: Trump Tests Negative for Coronavirus

US President Donald Trump has tested negative on consecutive days for the coronavirus, Physician to the President Sean Conley said in a memo released by the White House.

Trump is considered to be "not infectious to others," Conley said, citing test results that showed that Trump has "a lack of detectable viral replication" and guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In an unusual scene, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un shed tears as he apologized for failing to navigate the country through the coronavirus pandemic and weather the challenges posed by it, during a speech at the military parade for the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ party.

"Our people have placed trust … in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily," he said. "I am really sorry for that."

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the timespan in which the coronavirus pandemic could be brought to an end is reliant on proper employment of the right tools to combat the virus.

"If we use the tools we have at hand properly, we can end it soon," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the Financial Times’ online Africa summit, adding that the virus “could stay with us for a very long period” if the available tools are mismanaged.

The UAE will partake in late-stage trials of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which was approved by Russia in August despite not finishing all of its clinical trials.

The UAE's trial results will be added to those of Russia’s, along with other countries, for a preliminary release before the end of November, said Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

Abbott Laboratories's coronavirus antibody blood test AdviseDx has acquired an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The authorization permits the use of medical products in emergencies despite their being unapproved.

Antibody tests determine if someone was previously infected with the coronavirus.

The UK's Heathrow Airport has managed to raise £1.4 billion ($1.83 billion) after it turned to the bond market last week to back its financial position amid the pandemic.

The airport warned that it could implement measures to further cut costs.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new restrictive measures in parts of England to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including shutting pubs, casinos, gyms and leisure centers.

Parliament is set to vote on the new measures today before they are enforced from Wednesday.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has reached over 37,686,200 as of yesterday, with more than 7,792,800 cases in the US, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 1,078,600, with more than 214,900 deaths in the US.

Arab Markets
Egypt EGX30 11,397.65 +0.33%
KSA TASI 8,544.94 +0.37%
UAE ABU DHABI ADX 4,532.82 +0.89%
UAE DUBAI DFM 2,234.83 +0.51%
World Markets
US Dow Jones IA 28,837.52 +0.88%
NASDAQ-100 11,876.26 +2.56%
S&P 500 3,534.22 +1.64%
UK FTSE 100 6,001.38 -0.25%
Germany DAX 13,138.41 +0.67%
France CAC 40 4,979.29 +0.66%
Japan Nikkei 225 23,586.22 +0.12%
China HANG SENG INDEX 24,649.68 +2.20%
Currencies
US Dollar 15.64 15.74
Euro 18.47 18.59
Sterling 20.39 20.51
Saudi Riyal 4.17 4.20
UAE Dirham 4.26 4.29
Kuwaiti Dinar 51.09 51.48
Swiss Franc 17.18 17.30
Commodities
Oil Brent USD/bbl. 41.76 +0.10%
Wheat USD/bu.Mar 2020 601.00 +1.14%
Gold USD/t oz. 1,910.92 -0.62%
Gold Egypt LE/ oz. 1,910.78 -0.70%
Silver Egypt LE/ oz. 24.73 -1.67%

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