In Focus – Daily News Egypt https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 11 Dec 2019 19:46:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Al-Hattaba’s Al-Shurafa mausoleum: A heritage site with tourist potentials uncovered  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/09/al-hattabas-al-shurafa-mausoleum-a-heritage-site-with-tourist-potentials-uncovered/ Mon, 09 Dec 2019 08:30:19 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=716035  Al-Hattaba residents have been living here since the neighbourhood was built. Their history is part of the history of Al-Hattaba

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 Al-Shurafa mausoleum, a heritage site next to the Citadel in Al-Hattaba Historic Cairo, has been newly discovered by Cairo-based Athar Lina initiative and the Built Environment Collective – Megawra, under the supervision of Ministry of Antiquities and with the support of the American Research Centre in Egypt.

 

 On 30 November, dozens of people including the residents of Al-Hattaba gathered to celebrate the beginning of the conservation work in Al-Shurafa mausoleum in the context of the initiative’s research project (Citizen Participation in Historic Cairo).

 

 Al-Shurafa mausoleum is believed to belong to the Mamluk period, given to its architectural elements, according to the Athar Lina initiative which conducted research and studies to look into the history of the Mausoleum. 

 Athar Lina is keen on protecting and developing historic sites to make them touristic, without ignoring the people and their role in protecting those places and enrich tourism with their historical crafts with a message of “heritage means people, there is no history without humans.” 

 

 The celebration ceremony also included the announcement of a second heritage programme called “Women Quilt for al-Hattaba.” It is a programme that is meant to showcase and enhance the talents of the women working in khiyamiyya (patchwork) in Al-Hattaba neighbourhood.

Other heritage awareness activities for the children were also conducted. “We are working with governmental bodies in a historic neighbourhood and we are keen to establish modalities of citizen participation in heritage conservation based on a vision on heritage as a resource, not a burden,” May Al-Ibrashy, director of both Athar Lina initiative and the Built Environment Collective – Megawra told Daily News Egypt. 

On Al-Hattaba neighbourhood and Al-Shurafa mausoleum, Al-Ibrashy revealed that after deep research and detailed studies of the region, they concluded that it has a great potential to be a tourist siteparticularly due to its proximity to the Citadel and given to the historic crafts that are still in practice after all these years. 

Al-Ibrashy remarked that the initiative held meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Antiquities, Informal Settlements Development Fund, and the Cairo Governorate office in which they agreed to host a six-day workshop to address the legal situation and the potentials of the neighbourhood. 

“We reached a vision to develop the neighbourhood and the Al-Shurafa mausoleum as a heritage and tourist site, but with maintaining its residents in their houses and upgrading their skills to be a part of the developing process,” Al-Ibrashy added. 

Al-Ibrashy highlighted that the initiative still has long discussions with the Cairo governate office on the Al-Hattaba as it is categorised as informal housing with a second degree of risk. “The area needs developing and rehabilitation, this is very clear and we do not oppose this, but it is not slums. It is a historical and cultural site but with bad conditions which only needs development.” 

“The people of Al-Hattaba has been living here since the neighbourhood was built. Their history is part of the history of Al-Hattaba. They do activities that are very important to enrich tourism such as

Khiyamiyya and Sadaf crafts,” Al-Ibrashy. 

On Al-Shurafa mausoleum, Al-Ibrashy explained that the building’s huge stone blocks (up to 50 cm high, 100 cm thick and 230 cm long) indicate that it is part of a larger building complex relating to the Citadel. “When we looked in history, we found that this place could be a “sabil building (an ancient Egyptian building with a public fountain), a courthouse or guesthouse.” 

Al-Shurafa mausoleum consists of an open-air courtyard leading to a vaulted shrine chamber and a domed ‘sabil room’. 

 

 

The mausoleum is next to the residents’ houses, who circulated a story over the reason for naming the place as Al-Shurafa.

Saeed Khalifa, a 70-year-old resident from Al-Hattaba told DNE that his father was born in the neighbourhood. “It is our place and here are our roots. Here is my life, I tried to move and live in another area but I could not.” 

Saeed noted that they used to hear that seven decent girls were burnt inside the mausoleum, therefore the place is believed to be named “Al-Shurafa”, in reference to the girls. 

 Women of Al-Hattaba weave their history 

 

 The project “Women of Al-Hattaba weave their history”, is a programme prepared by Athar Lina to enhance their skills in khiyamiyya.

 

 The programme consists of a participatory workshop and two public events where the women of Al-Hattaba neighbourhood join a designer to work on a khiyamiyya that tells the history of Al-Hattaba from their perspective, according to the initiative. 

The artisans’ khiyamiyya will be hanged in Al-Shurafa Mausoleum after the completion of Athar Lina’s conservation project by the end of 2020. 

Heba Negm, an urban researcher at Megawra said that they discovered many crafts in Al-Hattaba, which is characterised by khiyamiyya and sadaf crafts. 

The project offers women the chance to enhance their skills and contribute to the development of the Al-Shurafa Mausoleum, Negm added. 

Doaa (asked to be presented with her first name only), a 30-year old mother, is a resident of the neighbourhood. She told DNE that they have never expected that their neighbourhood, Al-Hattaba would ever be developed. 

 

 “We all here do khiyamiyya that’s used in weddings and funerals. But with the new project, they teach us a new kind of khiyamiyya. We are very glad that someone is taking care of us and is looking to enhance our skills.” 

“This will have a great benefit for us and our children. We wish they could also develop the roads and the whole neighbourhood, not only the mausoleum. Any chance to improve our living conditions and our income will be appreciated.”

“I hope my children will be raised in Al-Hattaba to keep their history in their hearts, but I also wish the neighbourhood could improve for their future so they don’t need to leave their home. We hope someone looks into our problems and solves them,” Doaa added.   

Meanwhile, Salwa, a 39-year-old woman from the neighbourhood (asked to be presented with her first name only) told DNE that this is the first time she worked in khiyamiyya. “I work at a garment factory. I am glad I am going to learn a new craft; this will benefit the women here.” 

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Fyonka: Egypt’s first only-women ride-hailing service, ten months into the market https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/12/04/fyonka-egypts-first-only-women-ride-hailing-service-ten-months-into-the-market/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 14:41:53 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715694  ‘It not only about providing female commuters with safer rides, but to make women a part of the ride-hailing industry as partners,’ says founder 

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Aiming to empower Egyptian females through decent and safer means of transport and providing job opportunities, three Egyptian school friends came together to launch the first ever all-female ride hailing application.

 In February this year, Abdallah Hussein, Mostafa El-Kholy, and Omar Shaaban, all 26 years old, founded Fyonka app in limited areas in Cairo and Giza including, Heliopolis, Nasr City, Maadi, Zamalek, Mohandessin the Fifth Settlement, and, most recently, Haram. 

 

The three men studied at the Hult International Business School in the UK and then returned to Cairo in 2015. They separated into their respective fields in various jobs before they came back together to the launch the app.


As part of the company’s expansion, Fyonka is preparing to launch its scooter services in Alexandria in April 2020 since users tend to use ride-hailing services to avoid the congestions of the city roads. However, they also consider expanding scooters services in Cairo and other cities around the country in the future.

“We believe this scooter service will rapidly grow. We aim to break boundaries imposed on women. We encourage women to challenge the social culture that restricts them,” Hussein and Shaaban said. 


Despite the differences, the new service is competing with the two major ride-hailing companies operating in Egypt, the US-based Uber and UAE based Careem, as both companies are also rushing to provide their commuters, especially women with safer rides and provide females, yet on small scale, with job opportunities. 

The ride-hailing companies are providing Egyptian women with alterative transport that is described by users as better than white taxi and public transport despite complaints over high prices and drivers’ performances. Besides, women often face sexual harassments in the streets and in vehicles. According to a study by the United Nations in 2013, 99.3% of women surveyed have been subject to sexual harassment in Egypt.

Therefore, enjoying a female-only ride hailing service could eliminate any possible harassment or any sense of being unsafe as the commuter and the driver are both females.

 

Specifically designed for females 

 

“When we were in London, we were inspired by how free women are to work in whatever they want, including driving the UK underground and public buses. We think that there should not be any boundaries or restrictions on women work. Women have to play more positive roles in the society,” Hussein told Daily News Egypt. 

 

Hussein added that when they returned to Cairo, Uber and Careem were already operating in Egypt, and they observed how both companies are providing job opportunities for a wide range of Egyptian people.

 

However, Hussein added, that they noticed the number of female drivers is less than male drivers. “When you look at this job (ride-hailing services), you would feel that it was originally founded for women, due to the flexibility of working hours,” Hussien highlighted. 

 

Moreover, Hussein said that housewives could use this as a job opportunity to choose their work schedule without being committed to specific working hours. “It gives them a decent income and they could choose the time they want to work flexibly,” Hussein added. 

 

“Fyonka is not only about providing female commuters with safer rides it as also about allowing women to be a part of the ride-hailing industry as partners,” Shaaban told DNE. 

 

Shaaban added that Fyonka offers female drivers who worry about cultural restrictions of riding with males the opportunity commute normally. 

“There are women who want to break into the ride-hailing industry but they face opposition from their spouses or families. Fyonka overcomes such challenges and offers job opportunities with female commuters,” Shaaban pointed out. 

 

Since Uber launched in 2014, almost 160,000 driver-partners were working with the company, but there is no clear data on the number of female drivers.

For Careem, it also created between 60,000 and 70,000 jobs per month across more than 100 cities in 14 countries according to their website. The company now has one million captains, including a small number of female drivers in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

 

Women’s contribution in the labour force is 20.9% of the total labour force (15 years and up) compared to 79.1% for men, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) 2019 report. But the percentage of females who work permanently was 89.3% compared to 67.1% for males, the report added. 

2000 trips in November only

Fyonka only operates from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm daily, but this is temporary. Hussien said that the limited hours are due to the limited number of female captains. “Very soon we will operate until 3:00 am,” Hussein noted. 

On the other hand, Shaaban said that the company offers training for drivers and requires driving licences and drug tests among other list of requirements. There is no specific age for being a female partner for Fyonka, but she has to be above 18. 

Hussein revealed that around 100 drivers are operating daily and 300 on standby. The highest number of trips so far has been 200 trips in November.

Hussein said that recently there is an increase in ride requests. “We only meet 40% of these requests because of the number of partners and the areas we are working in.” 

Meanwhile, Shaaban said that there are always plans to expand in new areas or cities and even in the Middle East. However, they are not considering collective transport at this time. 

On competing with Uber and Careem, Shaaban said that their model is similar, but they differ in other points. “Our services are different because we are not branding ourselves as ride-hailing service but as a brand for women. It is only for females.” 

“We are not competing on the same (male) drivers, but we push women to enter the field,” Shaaban noted. 

Shaaban said that Fyonka rides begin at a flat fee of EGP15, but there are no high fares if there is traffic, Hussein noted. However, he added that the company is planning to increase its prices in 2020. 


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Banning e-cigarettes is not the answer, regulations must be based on market specific risk proportions: research fellow https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/29/banning-e-cigarettes-is-not-the-answer-regulations-must-be-based-on-market-specific-risk-proportions-research-fellow/ Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:44 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715241 It’s clear that US cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products

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Once e-cigarettes enter the market, the population will immediately drop cigarettes for vaping, and governments will lose out on a huge source of tax revenue

It’s clear that US cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products

Debates about the dangers of smoking and the rise of e-cigarettes as a substitution have been ongoing for a while. While some countries openly allow the traditional tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes have been restricted.

During the seventh annual UK E-Cigarette Summit which took place this month in London, Daily News Egypt interviewed Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D Research Fellow, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Greece, Department of Pharmacology, University of Patras, Greece, to get his insights on the issue.

There have been many debates after some e cigarette- related deaths, can you explain that?

About the US’s cases, it’s absolutely clear that it’s not because of E-cigarettes. It’s clear that these cases of acute lung injury happened because of using illegal marijuana products containing THC “tetrahydrocannabinol” in oils that is used with a battery device to be evaporated and inhaled.

These products aren’t the same as the legally regulated electronic cigarettes that have been used all over the world for 10 years. Normal electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, propylene glycol, glycol, and flavourings. These are very different products. They are just using the same type of device, a battery device, and an atomizer to be evaporated but they are not E-cigarettes. All the US’s cases are happening to people who were buying illegal products from the black market. Even in states where Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use is legal, there is a black market because it’s cheaper. You can’t have an outbreak in one country in 2019 caused by products that have been used since 2009 all over the world, without any similar cases cropping up anywhere else in the world.

It’s pretty obvious that this is because of something that was used recently only in the US.

The vaping market is increasing nowadays, how will this affect or impact traditional cigarettes?

It depends on how they are being used. The goal of the public health community is that e-cigarettes should be used as a smoking substitute.

You know the cost of treating smoking related diseases that could lead to death and loss of working hours is damaging, so you need to think over the long term. It’s not going to replace the entire tobacco market in one day. It’s going to happen gradually. From a public health perspective, there is no doubt that we need something like that. We need people to quit smoking and start using alternatives.

In your opinion, how healthier are e-cigarettes than regular ones?

There is no doubt that e-cigarettes are less harmful. We may debate the level of harm reduction, but there is absolutely no doubt that they are less harmful. It’s a fact we’ve known for many years, we know it because we know e-cigarettes contain vapour, while tobacco cigarettes are made of smoke.

Not only do E-cigarettes not contain any tobacco whatsoever, but also they do not burn.  Vapers don’t inhale harmful smoke

Why do you think the authorities and governments are now banning this kind of product?

I think that it started as a precautionary principle, out of fear and lack of knowledge years ago. They argue that we don’t know what is going happen in 30 years, but this is a very invalid argument. For any consumer or pharmaceutical product that enters the market today, no one knows its  exact fate in 30 years.  There has been plenty of robust science done over the last 10 years since e-cigarettes went on the market to say to adult smokers – if you can’t quit, please switch to vaping instead because it is far less harmful to vape than to smoke.

Governments need to regulate them based on current knowledge and only proportionate it to the risk profile of the product itself. So the higher the risk – such as with tobacco smoking – the more restrictive the regulations; the lower the risk – like for e-cigarettes – the less restrictive the regulations.

Why do you think traditional high-risk cigarettes are open for all markets, while vaping with its fewer risks is still prohibited in many countries?

There is no justification for any country to legally allow the sale of tobacco cigarettes and at the same time restrict far less harmful alternatives. It makes no sense. If you give the people the option of smoking tobacco cigarettes, it’s your obligation to have a less harmful alternative. Why? Because most smokers want to quit. 70% percent of smokers want to quit if you look at surveys, but it’s extremely difficult and many can’t do it with the normal products like pills and patches so we need additional tools.

In your own opinion, what do you think is the main challenge for e cigarettes?

The main challenge is finding the perfect balance in the regulatory framework. You need to create a balance so that these products only target existing adult smokers and should be avoided by non-smokers, that’s the key point. In adults there are no problems anywhere with e-cigarette use. In most cases, the vast majority of adults using electronic cigarettes are current or former smokers, which is fine. In youth, there has been some observable increase in e-cigarette use, but daily users are rarely found. And if they were, they show a history of smoking, either as current or former smokers.

In the US where they made such big stories about youth, the latest data contradict the hype and show that the daily use of E cigarettes among never smoking adolescents is only 0.6% – it’s in fact extremely low. We have to look rationally at these products – because at the same time the US has the lowest smoking rates in all its history, during the period that e-cigarette use has grown, smoking has declined to historically low levels, and that’s a huge achievement.

It’s possible that e-cigarettes played a role because they attracted smokers away from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. When you look at the regulation, you need to look at the whole public health landscape which includes both youths and adults.

Another advantage of these products is that these are smoking cessation aids that are self-funded by the smoker – the government pays nothing. Yet, it is also able to use funding from the vape market to fund smoking cessation efforts without using money from its own budget. In the UK, the market for vaping is predicted to reach a billion pounds over the next few years.

From a financial perspective, why are governments still restricting e-cigarettes even when they benefit from them?

You’ll have to ask them, I’m not sure what they’re thinking, but I believe they are worried that once e-cigarettes enter the market, the population will immediately drop cigarettes and start vaping, meaning that the government will lose out on a huge source of tax revenue. The transition is very gradual, and there were already decreasing rates of smoking in many countries, even before the invention of e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes have accelerated this decline. 

There has been much concern over the statistic in all markets, especially in Europe and the US, but what about other geographical areas?

When you want to create a regulation, you need to understand your own market. The problem in many regions whether its Africa, Asia, or Latin America, is that they are trying to make regulations without understanding their market. They aren’t even creating surveys to find out who it is that is vaping. The government needs to collect local data, that’s the first step before regulating. When you don’t do that, it’s a blind regulation and then you don’t know what the impact will be.

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Debate still on: Is vaping really less harmful than smoking cigarettes? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/29/debate-still-on-is-vaping-really-less-harmful-than-smoking-cigarettes/ Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:37 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=715235 We have about 40 million vapers worldwide

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Following the 7th annual E-Cigarette Summit held this month in London, Daily News Egypt interviewed John Britton, Professor of Epidemiology and Director UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at University of Nottingham to know his opinion regarding the issue. Britton is also a consultant in respiratory medicine at Nottingham City Hospital.

Why are there so many debates about e-cigarettes?

Most of these debates were caused by doctors who would prefer smokers to be treated with medicines rather than consumer solutions. The US is also very different to other countries because there is a cultural antipathy to addiction of any sort, which unfortunately stigmatises smokers rather than helping them stop smoking. They believe switching people to long-term nicotine use from tobacco is perpetuating nicotine addiction, but this is wrong. Nicotine while addictive, it is not particularly harmful. It’s the burning of tobacco that causes the majority of health problems linked to smoking, so the view in the UK by contrast is that even if people stay addicted to nicotine, it is a better option than continuing to smoke.

The vaping market is increasing, how will this affect the traditional cigarette market?

Hopefully vaping will replace smoking. It may take decades, but hopefully other products will come along that will also function to help replace cigarettes, maybe other products better than e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are already widely replacing smoking, such as in the UK where we are relatively ahead of the rest of the world in its usage. We now have about 3.5 million vapers and about 7 million smokers, whereas 10 years ago we had 10 million smokers and no vapers. Accordingly, it’s taking part of the share, we have about 40 million vapers worldwide today.

Do you think the e-cigarettes are going to be an alternative for traditional cigarettes or a channel to quit smoking?

Well, it’s both. From a health point of view, the best thing you can do if you are a smoker is to stop smoking. The best thing to stop smoking is to stop using nicotine, but the next best thing is to stop smoking, but carry on the use of nicotine if that makes a difference. So vaping is a huge health benefit potentially because smoking kills.

Most of the statistics only focus on Europe, the United States, UK, and ignore other regions like Africa, do you think vaping is as popular there?

In lower middle-income countries or where you have low rates of smoking in the first place, the role of e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking is probably less appealing to their role in a rich country where smoking rates are already falling and most smokers are looking for a way to stop anyway. Generally, if you are an established smoker wherever you are, you will be better off vaping, so it makes sense to make electronic cigarettes available to smokers wherever they are. The dynamics are different depending on the different economic settings per country.

What are the challenges facing the vaping market?

The challenges that we are dealing with are concerns over health and harms that have been coming out of the United States. The solution or the response to that should be to point out that this is caused by cannabis vaping and is not caused by regular nicotine vaping.

Whose responsibility is it to prove this?

E-cigarettes should be used to help smokers to stop smoking and the industry needs to promote that. The main challenges are dealing with proper understanding about the health risks, and dealing with inappropriate regulations. It makes no sense at all to prohibit e-cigarettes in the great majority of circumstances. I think the industry has to deal with that, because if you want to sell electronic cigarettes in India now, you can’t and that’s a mistake. India has the sixth of the world’s population. They have a lot of smokers and they should be able to offer those smokers electronic cigarettes. Another big challenge is the World Health Organization which sees e-cigarettes as a mistake instead of being an opportunity.

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GIJC19: training and networking venue for investigative journalists from 130 countries  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/25/gijc19-training-and-networking-venue-for-investigative-journalists-from-130-countries/ Mon, 25 Nov 2019 15:35:51 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714828 "GIJC was an excellent investment for me as a journalist who wants to specialise in investigative journalism," says Tunisian journalist

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As journalists around the world struggle to conduct investigations that have a significant impact on their society, many of them are still in an absolute need of training and connecting to distinguished and experienced journalists and trainers who could guide them, as well as workshops that could enhance their skills and knowledge.   

The 11th Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC) is one of these great opportunities for training. From 26 to 29 September, the conference was held in Hamburg, Germany, with the participation of 1,700 journalists from 130 countries representing different cultures, ages, nationalities, dreams, and career experiences.

The GIJC co-hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Netzwerk Recherche, and Interlink Academy.

Experienced journalists, speakers, researchers, fellows, editors, university professors were present over the days of the conference at Der Spiegel publishing house and the HafenCity University. The represented entities included BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Ethical Journalism Network, NBC news, The New York Times, University of the Witwatersrand, Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and others. 

During the conference, there were about 250 panels, workshops, special events, and sessions on various topics, such as The ABCs of Investigative Journalism, Crowdsourcing for Investigations, Data Visualizations for Investigations, Exiled Media: Collaborating with Non-Exile Media, and How To Finance Your Investigative Documentary. Other sessions included How to Do Hard Stories on Soft Issues, The Art of the Investigative Interview, Mobile Journalism, Physical Safety and Surveillance, When Autocrats Attack: Independent Media Under Fire, and Editing the Investigative Story.

Despite restrictions on free press and crackdown on journalists who struggle to do their job in some countries, journalists are still eager to learn more about their professions and to challenge authoritarian regimes. 

Ons Bougacha, a Tunisian journalist, was among the participants who attended the GIJC 2019. “The GIJC was an excellent investment for me as a journalist who wants to specialise in investigative journalism,” the 24-year-old journalist told Daily News Egypt.

“I have learned more than I expected. I am interested in environmental issues, and I have found many journalists in Hamburg who believe that global warming is the issue of the century,” Bougacha added. 

Bougacha continued that she enjoyed long discussions with journalists from all over the world, as they shared thoughts and contacts. “Other journalists offered their help and even job opportunities.” 

“I was pleased to hear the experiences (of other investigative journalists) and the stories behind the scenes of well-known investigations. I was stunned by the courage of those storytellers,” Bougacha noted. 

“I have learned also how to protect myself during my work so, I will not be the story. I also learnt more about data journalism, the storytelling of televised investigations and so much more. I have made good contacts and even good friends,” she added.

“The GIJC was a marvellous experience. I went back home with good memories, contacts, friends, and most importantly [journalism] tools that I have learned and willing to use in my work,” Bougacha said.

Bougacha, who is working now with a production company to produce her first documentary, expressed her appreciation to the team behind the conference, and to “the wonderful people that she met during the conference, who didn’t save any effort to help her.” 

Rama Aldarwish, a Syrian journalist who settled in Berlin four years ago, told Daily News Egypt that one of the benefits of the conference was meeting with journalists from around the world.   

“To reach a wider network and get access to new sources to information were the best parts. I also benefited from the workshops on data journalism which helped me in learning how to collect data, and then deliver it to readers (in an understandable way),” Aldarwish added.

Aldarwish noted that she also benefited from the workshops on investigative journalism and from the experiences of other colleagues. The young journalist is now a trainee at a local radio and TV in Berlin “ALEX Berlin”.

Tips for journalists 

During a workshop on “Editing the Investigative Story” in HafenCity Universität on Saturday 28 September, Marina Walker Guevara, ICIJ’s director of Strategic Initiatives and Network, gave journalists some tips on how to edit their investigations and how to get the best out of their reporting.

Guevara said that during the editing process, a journalist has to say yes for the right things and no for a lot of things in order to sharpen their investigative narrative and angle.

Ons Bougacha

Guevara added that a journalist has to be able to ask tough questions for the sake of their investigation. She advised journalists to work with expertise, write memos often, build timetables, and a map of what they know and what they are inferring. 

While editing, a journalist should not wait to the end to come up with a great narrative, which means that a journalist has to write many drafts. Additionally, a journalist has to know where their stories end to avoid any prolongation.

Guevara noted that everybody has to understand what the journalist is writing, which means that writing has to be clear and understandable to all people. “Your grandmother needs to understand what you are writing,” she said. 

Furthermore, Guevara pointed out that a journalist has to think: what is the angel that they are uniquely positioned to develop? And when they own it, they have to consider the editorial control and legal responsibility. 

On bullet-proofing, Guevara advised journalists to footnoting and fact-checking; “pick your risks, fair opportunity for comment, and legal review.”

Meanwhile, Musikilu Mojeed, editor-in-chief at the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times, told Daily News Egypt that a young investigative journalist has to believe that what they are doing can have an impact on society.

“You have to believe that you want to make a change in your society. Once you are committed to an idea, then you can begin to get the skills necessary to conclude your investigation, some media websites and institutions offer journalists online workshops and networks to start.”

He advised journalists to ensure they have deep knowledge of the subject being investigated. And if they are working with other reporters, Mojeed advised them to never take anything for granted when editing work by talented reporters. “Be cautious in excessively trusting reporters.” 

Mojeed also said that editors must always demand evidence for key claims and allegations. “Never clear claims by anonymous sources without proper fact checking and demand evidence from reporters.” 

Marina Walker Guevara

Meanwhile, he reminded participants that anything post-publication will sometimes receive backlash and danger. “Take all this into consideration during the working process.”

Mojeed told Journalists who struggled with restrictions or those whose ideas were refused, to pick up stories on minor issues. “It does not have to be about sophisticated or big issues, at first it could be about people and how to change their realities.” 

Global Shining Light Awards

The GIJC set the Global Shining Light Awards to honour the investigative journalists who conducted investigations inside developing or transitioning countries under threat.

Among the investigations that were awarded during the GIJC 2019 were “Murder in Manila,” on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines’ drug war by Rappler and “Gupta Leaks,” on how the Gupta family “captured” the South African state by multiple outlets.

Furthermore, the “Car Wash”/ “White Collars” by Peru’s IDL-Reporteros was also awarded. The series of investigations delved into the complex transnational corruption networked dubbed “Operation Car Wash” as well as corruption in Peru’s courts, the GIJC noted. 

Other investigative projects were also awarded with citations of excellence including “The Profiteers,” a documentary series conducted by Kenya’s Africa Uncensored about how South Sudan’s elite plundered their nation. 

“The Azerbaijani Laundromat,” a cross-border investigation into a massive money-laundering operation, was also awarded citations of excellence. It was produced by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in collaboration with many international outlets.

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Ride-hailing apps: safe haven for Egyptian women from harassment, yet they come with hefty price tag https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/17/ride-hailing-apps-women-bear-additional-financial-burdens-to-avoid-street-harassment/ Sun, 17 Nov 2019 17:05:52 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714206 'I am not looking for excellent service, but less harmful alternative to public transport,' says a female user

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Every morning, 32-year-old Content Creator Heba Hussien uses ride-hailing applications to request two rides, the first is a car ride through Uber to transport her from her house to a bus meeting point, around a 10-minute walk, and then another through Swvl bus that drops her off directly in front her workplace.

 

Hussein lives in Maadi and works in Mohandessin. This daily trip costs her about EGP 70 and it takes approximately an hour if there is no traffic jam.

“It became impossible to walk for minutes in the streets of Cairo and public transportation is also a nightmare because of people’s intolerance toward women,” she said.

At first, Hussein began to use the Uber app for long-distance destinations or when it’s late. Afterwards, it became her daily means of transportation. “As a woman, feel kind of safe in an Uber car, where the vehicle windows are locked, the driver is not a threat, so nobody is going to hurt you in anyway,” she added.

When she used public transportation, Hussein faced various forms of sexual harassments, including physical, verbal harassments, staring, and cat-calling.

If commuters did not like her appearance or outfit, they might react violently, she said “I would feel uncomfortable and threatened,” Hussein added.

Most Egyptian women have reported experiencing sexual harassment in streets, transportations, and workplaces. A study by the United Nations in 2013 showed that 99.3% of women surveyed have been subject to sexual harassment in Egypt.

Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women according to a report titled “The World’s Most Dangerous Megacities in the World 2017” issued by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in October 2017.

Uber, Careem, and Swvl apps have given an alternative to women who seek decent rides without being forced to fight over the fares or subjected to sexual harassment, Hussein pointed out.

However, after Egypt’s government increased fuel prices by as much as 50% in June 2018, as part of an IMF-backed economic reform programme, fares of transportation of all kinds increased signficantly.

“It [Uber] is not affordable all the time. The fares are sometimes illogical especially after the recent increases in fuel prices. The fare from home to work was EGP 40, but now it is EGP 90,” Hussein noted.

She said that she pays about EGP 3,500 monthly just for Uber, which is more than three-quarters of her salary.

With all of Uber’s advantages, Hussein complained that its services’ quality has declined in recent months, explaining that not all Uber drivers are professional.

“I sometimes feel as if I am taking a taxi or a public bus – when using Uber recently –, not the decent services or the peace of mind I pay most of my money for,” Hussein noted.

With ride-hailing companies expanding their services in Egypt, they are accepting more drivers that are “unqualified to work for them,” she added.

“To be honest with you, I am not looking for an excellent service, we are in Egypt at the end of the day, but at least a less harmful [compared to public transport] and decent service, ” Hussein concluded.

The US-based ride hailing app company Uber was launched in Egypt in 2014. The company keeps expanding and now operates in different cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura, Tanta, Damanhour, and Hurghada.

According to the company, more than four million people have used Uber with almost 160,000 driver-partners. However, there is no detailed data over the number of women using the app in Egypt.

The UAE-based Careem operates in more cities in Egypt than Uber, including Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Banha, Sohag, and Fayoum.

For Swvl, it is a Cairo based bus transport technology start-up launched in Egypt 2017, producing an alternative to public transportation in Cairo, Alexandria, with fixed routes rides, timings, and prices.

“We mainly focus on female users, as we are keen on establishing a safe society for women without any form of sexual harassment,” a Swvl official told Daily News Egypt.

The official added that more than 50% of the app-users are women, mainly female university students who live far away from their universities.

The official added that they always update in their apps to offer more safety measures to ensure that neither the driver nor any male commuter would harass women in anyway using the app.

However, the official noted that they did not receive a complaint that included a sexual harassment incident, as most of them are related to the timing or the driver attitudes.

The company is firm about women safety, the official clarified. If a female reports such behaviour, the staff is able to get into the details of the trip, the route, and the driver, the official said.

 

“We pay for our safety”

A 31-year-old female writer who uses Uber frequently said that she abandoned public transport and white taxis in an attempt to get a kind of “safe” transport. “We pay money for a safer ride,” Weaam Mokhtar told Daily News Egypt.

Mokhtar decided to use Uber daily after several experiences with white taxi drivers who gave her an impression that they would kidnap or rip her off.

 

“I took a white taxi from Nasr city to El-Sayeda Zainab, but after a few minutes, the driver made a ‘suspicious’ call in which he gave the other side detailed information of his route. I felt something wrong would happen, I asked him to stop to get out the car, he refused and tried to convince me to change my mind, but eventually he dropped me off,” Mokhtar narrated.

Another time, she said that a taxi driver kissed her hand when she delivered him the fare, while another told her that he “liked her breast”.

As a writer, she works sometimes as a full-timer and freelancer. Before accepting any job offer, she considers if the salary will allow her to still use Uber or not.

Mokhtar spends about EGP 2,500 monthly on Uber. “When you get older, your tolerance with what you encounter in the streets decrease, so you choose to avoid it altogether.”

For Mokhtar, her experience with Uber is better than other experiences circulated on social media, but it also has its downsides.

“I met a diver who turned back to look at my legs and others who stare at me through the mirror, but overall, Uber drivers are better than taxi drivers as eventually, you can report your complaints to someone who can take action,” she added.

“More comfortable”

Shimaa Hassan, 33-year-old is an operation officer at ‎Save the Children Egypt organisation. She first learned about Uber from her work which offered employees a business account for their field rides.

“They cover field rides, but I cover my roundtrips to and from work which is in Maadi now,” Hassan told Daily News Egypt.

Earlier in 2016, her work’s headquarters was in Ard El Lewa, and she used to ride a bus then a Tuk-tuk. But now she uses Uber and Swvl for which she pays about EGP 4,000 monthly, almost half of her salary.

Hassan said that she stopped using the Cairo Metro because it is extremely crowded. The white taxi is also problematic for her because she has to focus on the road, or fight over fares, smoking, and deal with the drivers’ curiosity.

“I have not personally gone through a dramatic situation with public transport or a taxi, but I have a friend who was robbed in a taxi,” she added.

Hassan, as a pregnant woman, said that she fears facing a situation that puts her or her child at risk.

“Sometimes I feel tired and fall asleep in the Uber car. I feel I am kind of safe since I can share my ride with my husband. If I have a complaint, I would report the driver,” she added.

“It is not safe by all means ”

Mariam Ibrahim, 27-year-old said that she uses Uber and Careem because public transport “is not safe.”

The computer engineering graduate left her hometown of Alexandria two years ago to settle in Cairo and search for a job.

“When I use the Cairo Metro I feel afraid of people and the crowds, I feel it is not safe as anyone can hurt me, even women. Two face-veiled women had cut off my female friend’s hair. It is not safe by all means,” Ibraheem said.

Ibraheem visits her hometown regularly, she normally commutes by train, where she faced unpleasant experiences, “one day, I was heading to Cairo on Alexandria’s train. When I got off the main station in Ramses, a man sexually harassed me. I slapped his face and called the station’s police,” Ibrahim narrated.

“He ruined my day, I was with my female friend to spend good time in the city, instead, we stayed for four hours to file a report against the harasser,” she concluded.

Ibrahim still uses the train but avoids crowded days and weekends. She depends mostly on Uber and Careem, in Cairo, spending around EGP 3,500 monthly. Her family helped her in the expenses because her salary was EGP 4,500.

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Clerics, intellectuals, MPs, urge state to finalise renewal of religious discourse  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/16/clerics-intellectuals-mps-urge-state-to-finalise-renewal-of-religious-discourse/ Sat, 16 Nov 2019 15:49:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=714078 Over the years,  calls for renewing religious discourse have been pressing for the Egyptian society as a result of Religious misconceptions that lead to the emergence of terrorism

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Several religious clerics stressed the necessity of finding solutions to get rid of all extremist ideas and misconceptions surrounding religion, demanding a specific map for the major issues to be discussed, and representing all different sectors of society.

 

This came directly after president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called to hold a one-week conference on correcting misconceptions of religious, fighting extremist ideas, and misusing Religion during a celebration of the Prophet’s Mohamed birthday (Mawlid al-Nabi) held last Thursday.

Osama Al-Abd, head of the Religious and Endowments Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament said the renewal of religious discourse is not an encroachment on religious principles, but is a correction to the misconceptions that are attributed to Islam and not actually from Islam, pointing out that Islam is known for justice, tolerance, moderation, and human brotherhood based on the principles of Islamic law.

 

Al-Abd revealed that he spoke with the Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, following the president’s call, and agreed to meet with the religious committee in the parliament in the presence of three religious institutions, namely Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowment), and Dar Al-Ifta in order to make reach a consensus on how to properly meet the criteria of the president’s call for religious understanding.

 

 

He added that the role of the religious committee is to link religious institutions and bring them together to correct the mistakes that have been distorting the Islamic religion

 

Al-Abd noted that the committee would hold a second meeting with stakeholders to hear their vision.

 

“Our role is to clarify the correct Islam and liquidate the Islamic Sharia from any impurity issued whether intended or not by people of Islam or others,” he said, adding that those who should speak about Islam are only those who have jurisdiction and accuracy adorned from the people of Islamic law and high Islamic authorities, which are fully aware of the conditions of l

“We are building a modern state on the true religion and to share the world in its progress and prosperity, and Islamic civilization testifies that we have served the entire world,” he added.

 

Al-Abd pointed out that this conference will be a continuation of the conference that took place under the supervision of parliament on the renewal of religious discourse.

According to Al-Abd, these seminars and conferences aim to fight extremism in thought, words, and deeds, and fights blind terrorism.

The Parliament’s committee of Endowment and Religious Affairs organised a conference on the renewal of religious discourse at the beginning of 2019. Members of other parliamentary committees, such as media, culture, education, and archaeology attended the conference, as well as members from the ministry of religious endowments, Dar Al-Ifta, and churches, in addition to political, cultural, and media institutions.

The Undersecretary of the Religious Affairs and Endowments Committee in the Parliament Shoukry El-Gendy, praised the president’s call, saying that all representations of society should be represented during the conference to voice their views and concerns.

 

He also suggested that the ministries of culture, education, and higher education must attend the conference and be aware of how they can change religious discourse in educational and cultural institutions.

 

“We must work together to get rid of all extremist ideas and misconceptions, and show the development of Egypt and fighting terrorism,” he asserted.

 

Abdel Moneim Fouad, Professor of religion and philosophy at Al-Azhar University said that such a conference will help open people’s eyes on real problems of the society and accordingly come up with solutions.

He said that however scholars, intellectuals, and all men of culture are the best to carry out this confrontation, all parts of society should participate in changing religious discourse.

 

“This is not the first instance that Al-Azhar works on his case, but has been for a long time now,” he noted, adding the challenges facing the state are intellectual challenges, which he believes “are harder and deadly than the military war.”

 

He called the state to develop a specific map of major issues, including “respect for national and religious symbols, so youth may come to them for advice”.

 

 

Discussions about the renewal of religious discourse were immensely tackled in the media during previous years, while also addressing different seminars and conferences which were also held on the issue, to combat terrorism and protect young people from joining extremist groups.

 

Despite the president’s prolonged calls over the necessity of reforming the religious discourse, top religious institutions are still unable to agree on a unified vision for the reform.

Gomaa, and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, previously showed division on several occasions over different Islamic topics that included the unifying of Friday sermon according to a state decision in 2016.

 

 

“Terrorist and extremist groups are also using some concepts of religious thought to recruit young people and distort their ideas, to become intellectual extremists, and are therefore used in terrorist acts anywhere,” he said.

 

Hassan Bassiouni, a member of the House of Representatives said, “We currently suffer that some public figures discuss {Religion} in meetings, seminars, or media, without awareness and study, which leads to distorting the image for the citizen, thus there is a need to expedite the completion of the steps to renew religious discourse and bring public affairs to this discourse.”

  

Dean of the Faculty of  Mass Communication of Cairo University Laila Abdel Majid , said that religious discourse has a social, cultural, and social dimension.

“We need to come up with a strategic vision of religious discourse that is consistent with the needs of society and our cultural and social realities,” she said. 

She pointed out that the media is a means through which religious discourse is circulated. “I hope that the church could have representatives in this conference, as they are part of the religious discourse. There must be a presence for educators to draw religious education in schools,” she added.

 

In a related context, Mohamed Morsy, professor of mass communication at Cairo University, said there is a particular mess in the field of media when it comes to the discussion of edicts, especially in  talk shows where hosts are unqualified to issue edicts and usually make mistakes that offend Islam and Muslims.

“We need to renew the religious discourse because we have become interested in appearing Religious as opposed to understanding Religion,” he said.

 

He pointed out that we need to link religion as a fundamental value of Arab people to the issues of daily life.

 

The professor added that Al-Azhar has taken steps to combat the issue through including a list of those who have the right to issue edicts on channels, and setting up a centre for preparing and training preachers.

For his part, Hassan Mekkawi, former dean of the Faculty of mass communication at Misr University for Science and Technology,  pointed out that terrorism is an intellectual rather than a security problem.

He explained that the renewal of religious discourse will eliminate terrorism, pointing out that both Islam and Christianity might be radically interpreted and hence they must focus on the importance of citizenship and non-discrimination.

He concluded that the merging of religion with politics is a mistake in society and that the media should work on becoming enlightened by exploring its negatives.

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Egypt’s press faces challenges in preserving quality journalism: Speakers of EMF’19 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/08/egypts-press-faces-challenges-in-preserving-quality-journalism-speakers-of-emf19/ Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:00:01 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=713359 The press lost its basic services after its decline in quality and the absence of press analysis and live coverages, Al-Sannawi

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“Good journalism is always a goal we all seek. The biggest issue is how to maintain good press services in light of the many challenges we face,” said Howaida Mostafa, the dean of Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University, in an opening session of the second edition of Egypt Media Forum (EMF) 2019 on Sunday.

The EMF is an annual professional event for Egyptian journalists, allowing them to see the developments of the media industry in the world, and to learn about the latest methods of producing and displaying content in the media.

The forum showcases successful experiences of Egyptian, Arab, and international content production organisations that have dealt with digital developments.

According to Mostafa, there are basic standards that will always judge the quality of the press service offered, which includes simplicity, portability of performance evolution, and appropriateness to the public.

“We should adhere to those standards as the media has a great role in the enlightenment of the community by focusing in on its vital issues in a way that is unbiased and balanced,” she continued.

The dean added that there must be depth in dealing with issues, because the public is waiting for analysis, interpretation, and field service in a stressful environment in which the journalist works, especially in the presence of a strong rival, the citizen.

She also said that social networking sites are important and influential but have standards and frameworks that people must know how to deal with, pointing out that the accuracy is a basic determinant of journalistic work, an element that social media fails to advertise.

“The quality of information and objectivity were key to survival, and diversity was a fundamental value to compel the reader to continue on the site,” she asserted.

During the first session which tackled challenges of quality journalism, veteran journalist Abdullah Al-Sannawi said Media in Egypt is not keeping pace with developments in the field, noting that they do not offer anything new and do not meet basic standards.

Along with media Professor Yasser Abdel Aziz, Editor in Chief of Ahram Ezzat Ibrahim, and Journalist Ahmed Samir, El-Sannawi discussed the quality of press in Egypt, performance of journalists, content, and qualification of the leader.

The forum also discussed good journalism that adheres to information and abstract facts and investigates accuracy and truth.

It also provided workshops on ways for journalists to develop quality, know the legal conditions of different coverages, understand the impact of photojournalism, in addition to an in-depth discussion of investigative and conflict journalism. 

EMF launched the first edition of October 2018 under the title of “the post-information era”, in the presence of more than 600 journalists and media, and came in partnership with several major Egyptian and international media, including the Masrawy news site, and several television channels.

“Newspapers now are working randomly, with no teacher, no determined journalism as before, and there is a big quality problem,” was Al-Sannawi’s answer to a question about the status of journalism and media in Egypt. 

He explained that the press lost its basic services after the decline in quality, the absence of press analysis, and live in depth coverages of events.

“There is a restriction in press freedoms, and we have become a notorious profession” he added.

The press in Egypt has nothing to do with good journalism. It no longer provides services to the reader, creating a gap between newspapers and the reader.

“The situation of the press in Egypt misses role models, newspapers no longer have a character, which is a major reason for the lack of distribution of newspapers,” he said, adding that the level of services provided by news outlets is weak due to the lack of journalists’ training.

As the forum is organised by the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI), he also said that the Egyptian and Danish press is not good at all, pointing out that both are suffering similar challenges.

He added that journalism in Egypt lost the excitement of reading, stating that he goes through various newspapers daily for 15 minutes and always finds poor coverage.

In the early seventies, the number of issues produced by Al-Ahram newspaper on Friday could only reach one million copies, which nowadays do not amount to one-third of printed issues, elaborated Al-Sannawi, justifying this with the poor quality of journalism.

He concluded that newspapers are now repeating the same information, instead of providing education or informing, leading to a systematic destruction of the profession.

Moreover, Abdel Aziz stated the solution lies in Egypt’s constitutional vision to organise the work of the press. “If we applied to the legislative aspects, all would be good, although laws are still made hastily,” he added.

According to Abdel Aziz, some of the laws do not comply with constitutional entitlements of 2014 which were prepared in a hurry.

The law regulating the press was issued and amended in a short time, and even this amendment is not applied yet despite its issuance in 2018, he continued.

“The concept of good journalism has standards, and confidence rates have dropped from 42% to 39% in the Arab press, according to a poll conducted that included 7000 people, including Egyptians in 2017 and 2018. Also, half of the Arab respondents believe that political news is wrong,” he added.

Abdel-Aziz said, “Freedom is not the only condition to ensure good press.”

Furthermore, Samir said that the majority of the public suffers from a lack of confidence in the press and the media a long time ago, stressing the need to present the views of different parties in the press to provide good content and win the trust of the recipients.

On that note, he illustrated that sometimes citizens may resort to other invalid means to get the information, which he does not consider a mistake since the reader has the right to know.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim noted that there’s now a fear of the press’s extinction in general, and not just the paper press, during the expansion of the role of social media.

He explained that this struggle is normal since social media acquired more attractiveness to advertisers.

“There is a decline in professionalism and people are exposed to more restrictions, pointing out that everyone complains about the content, but providing solutions is rare,” he added.

He stressed the need to provide more good content. “Without this, we will not develop progress, especially since the reader is looking for good content, and therefore we see higher news follow-up to sites outside Egypt,” he added.

This year, EMF’s edition focuses on how to create the right climate for access to quality journalism by discussing topics such as journalistic skills, safe practices, professional ethics, investigative journalism ethics, conflict, and emergency coverage, content innovation, how to handle social media content, paid content, public service notification, and emerging entities.

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Can desalination limit GERD’s impacts on Egypt’s water security? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/07/can-desalination-limit-gerds-impacts-on-egypts-water-security/ Thu, 07 Nov 2019 17:43:41 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=713281 Desalination plants in Egypt will provide clean water for drinking use, not agriculture, says former water resources minister

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With the negative impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Egypt in mind, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi affirmed that Egypt has launched a plan since 2014 to address the water shortage crisis, warning that the per capita water use in the country is already below the international water poverty rate.

Al-Sisi said the plan includes the establishment of water treatment and desalination plants at a total cost of EGP 200bn, to address the crisis.

Daily News Egypt is trying through this report to know whether these solutions are effective and can contribute to solving the crisis.

In 2011, Ethiopia announced establishing the $4bn GERD on the Blue Nile River. It was designed to be the cornerstone of Ethiopia’s drive to become Africa’s largest energy exporter by generating 6,450MW annually.

In March 2015, the leaders of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia signed an agreement committing them to reach consensus on the operation of the dam.

Since then, Egypt has been in continuous talks with Sudan and Ethiopia over the operation and filling of the dam’s reservoir to limit its effects on the downstream states, but they have not yet reached an agreement.

However, Ethiopia keeps saying that the GERD aims to produce 6,000MW of power, not to store water or harm downstream countries.

In October, Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation announced that the trilateral talks reached “a dead end.”

“The negotiations reached a dead end as the Ethiopian side is rejecting all the proposals that take into account the interests of Egypt’s water and avoid causing serious harm to the downstream states,” the ministry said in a statement, calling for international mediation, which Ethiopia rejected initially. However, all sides agreed to hold a meeting in Washington DC, after the US President Donald Trump invited all parties, along with the World Bank.

Egypt’s share of the Nile, the world’s longest river, reaches 55.5bn cubic metres annually.

Egypt relies on the River Nile to secure more than 95% of its water needs for drinking and irrigation. The state affirmed that it has “historic rights” to the river under the 1929 and 1959 agreements that gave Egypt 87% of the Nile’s water and assured the right of upstream countries to launch irrigation projects.

Regardless the GERD, Egypt suffers from water scarcity. “The amount of water we currently have is not enough anymore,” said Al-Sisi. “By international standards, according to the United Nations, we have entered the water poverty,” he added.

Egypt’s former minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Nasr El-Din Allam, told Daily News Egypt that according to the international definition, the country enters water poverty when the per capita becomes less than 1,000 cubic metres per year.

He explained that Egypt is suffering from water deficit of 30bn cubic metres, while desalination stations can only provide 500m cubic metres.

“The population of Egypt reached about 100 million people, so the country needs about 100bn cubic metres, while it only has 80bn cubic metres from Nile, groundwater, rain, and desalination,” Allam said.

“We have a water deficit of 30bn cubic metres now, and in 2030, it will reach 80bn cubic metres, if the water resource stabilises. If the Egyptian population reached 125 million people, we will need an additional 5bn cubic metres of water for agriculture,” he added.

Al-Sisi said during an educational symposium organised by the Egyptian army, “we have been working on an integrated plan since 2014.”

“This plan will cost about EGP 200bn, of which EGP 70-100bn to be spent next year to deal with the water shortage,” the president added.

Al-Sisi pointed out that Egypt will address the water crisis through the massive construction of desalination plants.

He added that a number of stations have already been established in the areas of Al Alamein, Galala Mountain, East Port Said, Sokhna, Hurghada, Matrouh, North and South Sinai, noting that they produce 150,000 cubic metres of desalinated water per day.

Al-Sisi said the plants in Egypt currently produce at least 1.5m cubic metres of water.

“Desalination of sea water will require a lot of money,” according to Al-Sisi. “By 2037, Egypt will spend on the water crisis solutions about EGP 900bn.”

President Al-Sisi said the state has finalised a plan to stop the Nile water supply from the North Coast and the Red Sea, and to start relying on desalination in these areas.

“It is important to highlight that desalinated water can be used for drinking only, not agriculture,” Allam explained.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Energy, Tefira Bin, said in a media statement, “Egypt proposed to release 40bn cubic metres of water annually, and even more when the water level of Aswan Dam’s reservoir is less than 165 metres above sea level. It also invited a fourth party to mediate in the talks.”

He announced that Ethiopia rejected the proposal because the construction of the dam is a matter of survival and national sovereignty.

Moreover, desalination plants are considered the hope of life for the border governorates, which suffer from many problems of water transport, whether through water vehicles or the implementation of new networks, which have many negative damages.

The deadlock of negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia on GERD made Egyptians living in a state of anxiety over the future of their water share of the Nile, especially after official statements came out to confirm that the construction of the dam will indeed affect Egypt’s share.

Al-Sisi said recently on the sidelines of the UN general assembly held in New York that the Renaissance Dam will not be operated by imposing a fait accompli, because Egypt has no other source of water except the Nile River, pointing out that 95% of Egypt’s area is desert and any damage to water leave negative effect.

“We are responsible for the water security of our citizens,” he said.

Egypt fears that the Ethiopian dam will damage its limited share of the Nile’s water, estimated at 55.5bn cubic metres, which depends on it by more than 90% in drinking, agriculture, and industry. Cairo says Ethiopia has rejected its proposals for filling and operating the dam.

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From Lebanon to Iraq: government leaders forced to resign following mass protests  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/04/from-lebanon-to-iraq-government-leaders-forced-to-resign-following-mass-protests/ Mon, 04 Nov 2019 08:00:40 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=712909 Unlike Lebanon, Iraq protesters were faced by extreme violence

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Within just a few days, two prime ministers of Arab countries have been forced to resign following mass protests that erupted against corruption, poor governance, unemployment, and poor public services in these countries. 

During October, protesters in Iraq and Lebanon, suffering from similar grievances, shared the same chant that emerged earlier during the uprisings in other Arab in 2011; “The people want to topple the regime.” 

Unlike Lebanon, protests in Iraq have been faced by extreme violence, as hundreds were killed, while thousands of demonstrators were wounded over two waves of protesting during the month.

Both countries’ peoples demanded better living conditions, economic reforms, and more job opportunities. They called for overhauling their political regimes which share sectarian characteristics.  

Lebanon developments

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri finally has acquiesced to the demands of his people,
announcing last Tuesday that he would step down following more than two weeks of unprecedented mass protests that defy deep sectarian divides. 

Al-Hariri said in a televised speech that he tried to find a way out, but things reached “a dead end.” He accused Iran of “sowing the strife, devastation, and destruction” not just in Lebanon, but also in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen with aims to “destroy the Arab nations and control them.”

However, Al-Hariri’s resignation was not expected to satisfy the protesters who have been very clear regarding their demands. The demonstrators reacted to the prime minister’s resignation with a new chant “All of them means all of them,” affirming their desire to change the whole power elite. However, this did not prevent them from celebrating the news, chanting: “Revolution, Revolution.” 

Meanwhile, Iran-backed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah announced twice he is rejecting Al-Hariri’s resignation. Last Friday, Nasrallah accused some protesters of “receiving funding from foreign bodies,” for the second time since the start of the movement. 

Nasrallah accused some parties, that he did not specify, of planning to spread chaos and “civil war,” but Lebanese people have avoided that scenario, he added.  

Before the Lebanese PM’s resignation, mobs loyal to Hezbollah and Amal groups attacked protesters. Photos and videos were circulated on social media showing a mob wielding sticks and pipes to attack terrified protesters, including women, on the streets of the capital Beirut. The mob chanted “Shia, Shia,” while cursing protesters who clashed with them, as the video showed.   

On the other hand, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Lebanon’s political leaders last Wednesday on Twitter “to urgently facilitate the formation of a new government that can build a stable, prosperous, and secure Lebanon that is responsive to the needs of its citizens and free of endemic corruption.” 


More than two weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lebanese cities calling for the toppling of Al-Hariri, President Michel Aoun, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The furious protests were first sparked following a governmental decree to tax voice calls made through the Facebook-owned app WhatsApp, which the government withdrew, but it escalated to be against the country’s weak economic conditions.

The country of six million people, belonging to various religious communities, has been suffering from a weak economy and has been in a crucial need for reforms and investment.

Following the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990, the country expanded in borrowing which worsened the economic conditions and increased socioeconomic inequalities

Lebanon relies on a sectarian political system which is based on a power-sharing agreement. The president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker a Shia. Protesters demand the end of this political system, and to replace it with a secular regime.

Iraq protests 

Last Friday, Tens of thousands of protesters massed at the Tahrir Square, Baghdad in the second wave of the October protests that swept the capital and other Iraqi cities, including Basra and Karbala in Iraq’s Shia southern region.

Demonstrations have erupted against government corruption, high unemployment, and the shortage of basic services, such as clean water and electricity. Protesters demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a 77-year-old Shia Muslim politician who came to power through 2018 elections.

Earlier, Iraqi President Barham Salih announced last Thursday that Abdul-Mahdi agreed to step down if the political blocs agree on “an acceptable replacement to prevent a vacuum.” Salih added that after a new electoral law passed, he would call for early elections. 

Also, Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr, who leads the largest political block in parliament, called upon Abdul-Mahdi to call for early elections.

Protesters welcomed the decision, but still, call for a widespread overhaul of the regime, as protests continued.

But protests have been bloody in Iraq. Security forces and Iran-backed militias fired tear gas and live ammunition against the civilians. Over 264 people have been killed this month since the protests erupted. Around 12,000 others have been wounded, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq. 

Security forces in Baghdad were accused of the use of “two previously-unseen military-style tear gas grenades which have killed at least five protesters in five days, as well as causing horrific injuries to others,” Amnesty International said on Thursday. 

“Witnesses have told Amnesty about how the Iraqi anti-riot police switched from using standard hand-thrown tear gas canisters from around 25 October, to using this new type of grenade which has led to a subsequent spike in deaths and injuries,” the rights group said. 

“All the evidence points to Iraqi security forces deploying these military-grade grenades against protesters in Baghdad, apparently aiming for their heads or bodies at point-blank range. This has had devastating results, in multiple cases piercing the victims’ skulls, resulting in gruesome wounds and death after the grenades embed inside their heads,” the rights group continued.

Iraq maintains to score among the worst countries on corruption and governance indicators, since the US’s overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to Transparency International.

According to the International Labour Organisation, unemployment was about 13% in 2017. 

Since the US invasion in 2003, Iraq has struggled to restore stability and security. In 2014, ISIS proclaimed its “Islamic caliphate”, but the Iraqi government formally declared victory over the terrorist group in July 2017. 

In Iraq, under informal Muhasasa Ta’ifia system (sectarian apportionment system), the president is a Kurd, the prime minister a Shia, and the parliament speaker a Sunni.

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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed under scrutiny over Oromia clashes https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/11/01/ethiopian-pm-abiy-ahmed-under-scrutiny-over-oromia-clashes/ Fri, 01 Nov 2019 15:00:15 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=712676 Violence erupted in Addis Ababa and the outlying Oromia on Wednesday after local activist accused security forces of trying to attack him

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Only a few weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won Nobel Prize for his achievements in regional peace making, violence erupted in his country, challenging him to retain his popularity in Ethiopia’s ethnically based federal system without being biased to a particular group.

A rally was called for to protest governance issues in Addis Ababa, but was cancelled after the authorities declared it illegal.

Last Wednesday, violence erupted in the Ethiopian capital and the outlying Oromia region after prominent activist and media entrepreneur Jawar Mohammed accused security forces of trying to attack him. However, the police denied his statements.

Quickly turning into ethnic clashes, the total casualties in Oromia reached 67, of whom 55 were killed as a result of the conflict between civilians and security forces, and five of the dead were police officers, said Kefyalew Tefera, the regional police chief in Oromia.

Until Sunday, Ahmed did not comment directly on the protests, but expressed frustration with media owners who seem to be promoting ethnic agendas ahead of Ethiopian unity.

“The crisis we are experiencing may increase, if the Ethiopians do not unite to confront those trying to provoke ethnic and religious crises in the country,” Ahmed said in a Sunday statement.

“We will work tirelessly to ensure justice and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” he added.

He stated that those protests began to take an ethnic and religious dimension. “Because of these events, houses, shops, and places of worship were destroyed, causing the displacement of a large number of Ethiopians,” he stated.

In an interview with AFP on Friday, Mohammed accused Ahmed of taking Ethiopia back to the old ways of authoritarian rule, raising the possibility of challenging Ahmed at the polls, though he also said he could end up backing Ahmed if he changes course. 

“[Ahmed] has resorted to the early signs of dictatorship, of trying to intimidate people, even his very close allies who helped him come to power who happen to disagree with some of the policies and positions and ideologies he’s advocating,” Mohamed said. “intimidation is the start of authoritarian rule,” he added.

His remarks were the strongest criticism of Ahmed, who appeared frequently with him in pictures last year, right after Ahmed’s comments in parliament on Tuesday.

“Owners of the media outlets who do not have Ethiopian passports are manipulating the two sides,” the prime minister said, without naming them. The remarks were widely seen as a reference to Mohammed, who was born in Ethiopia but holds a US passport and returned from exile.

Mohammed has dismissed accusations that his rhetoric has contributed to violence, saying the government is responsible.

The relations between Mohammed and Ahmed have recently deteriorated after the former criticised a number of the prime minister’s reforms. 

Mohammed is widely credited for promoting the protests that installed Ahmed to power last year, but he has recently become critical of some of the premier’s policies.

Both Ahmed and Mohammed are from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest. Their feud highlights divisions within Ahmed’s Oromo support base that could complicate his bid for a five-year term when Ethiopia votes in the elections currently planned for May 2020.

Reactions to the current situation

Ahmed was awarded with several accomplishments, including lifting of the country’s state of emergency, releasing of thousands of political prisoners,  easing the media censorship, the legalisation of outlawed opposition groups, tackling corruption, and promoting women in politics.

While many Ethiopians bask in the international recognition of Abiy’s achievements after just 18 months in power, others are less celebratory and more concerned about their country

Despite In one of the recent comments on his performance, Dessalegn Channie, chair of the opposition National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) said, “People are getting frustrated that he is a showman as he only, focuses on acts that have a public relationship impact.”

“For a prime minister whose popular legitimacy depends on his openness, the recent protests in Oromia can represent political suicide,” said Mehari Taddele Maru, a political analyst in Addis Ababa. “It points to a significant loss of a popular power base that has brought him to power,” he added.

According to Maru, if elections next year are held fairly, as Ahmed promised, it will be a test of how the young prime minister can rally his fractured country of more than 100 million people behind him and continue opening up its state-controlled economy.

Ethiopia’s influential Orthodox church on Sunday criticised Prime Minister Ahmed’s response to ethnic and religious clashes that have left nearly 67 people dead, accusing him of failing to protect its members.

Churchgoer Esubalew Yimam called the government’s response and particularly Ahmed’s statement “disappointing”.

“The duty of the government is to protect its citizens, more than development and other things. Currently we’re not seeing that happening,” he said.

Esubalew also accused Ahmed of failing to stand up to the activist whose allegations against the security forces kicked off last week’s unrest.

“While the people who incite violence are known publicly, the government is turning a deaf ear to these people. Unless the silence is broken it will be a troubling time,” he added.

“People are dying and questions are being raised if the government even exists. The people are losing all hope,” Father Markos Gebre-Egziabher, a leader in the Orthodox Tewahedo Church told AFP, following a memorial service at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.

Church leaders met with Defence Minister Lemma Megersa and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported Saturday, though it was unclear what came of the meeting.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front was behind the overthrow of the Marxist military regime in 1991 and since then the Revolutionary Front of the Ethiopian People has dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition until 2018 when demonstrations led by the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo, defeated the front.

Ahmed is not only facing ethnic challenges in his country, but he has to continue efforts to fully implement peace deal with Ethiopia. Ahmed has played a crucial role in mediating disputes in the region – from Sudan’s transition government, to meditate between Kenya and Somalia. He also initiated peace deal with Eritrea which turned later into a point against him.  Borders between two countries closed after it was opened as celebration of reconciliation.

The criticism comes only few weeks after some Ethiopians were celebrating Ahmed’s winning of the Noble Prize, and took to social media to change their profile pictures to the prime minister.

Hallelujah Lulie, programme director at the Addis Ababa-based Amani Africa think-tank, said in media statement following announcement: “Abiy’s rhetoric has resonated with a lot of Ethiopians who want peace, reconciliation, unity, and prosperity in this country.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said peace efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea had inspired hopes of regional “security and stability” and that the prime minister’s leadership had “set a wonderful example for others in and beyond Africa looking to overcome resistance from the past and put people first.”

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GERD talks: Egypt, Ethiopia resume coordination, Russia ready to mediate  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/27/gerd-talks-egypt-ethiopia-resume-coordination-russia-ready-to-mediate/ Sun, 27 Oct 2019 15:00:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=712195 ‘I believe Egypt has shown good faith more than it should, as its stance was very wise,’ says professor Noha Bakr

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During their meeting in Russia, the leaders of African nations Egypt and Ethiopia have agreed on resuming their negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), after it reached a deadlock earlier this month over disagreement on its filling and operation period. 

 

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the GERD’s technical committee will convene and put forward how to operate the dam, Egyptian presidency stated last Thursday. 

 

The announcement came during a meeting held on the sidelines of the first Russia-Africa forum held in the city of Sochi on 23-24 October.

 

During the Thursday meeting, Al-Sisi said that Egypt upholds its historical rights in the Nile, affirming that Ethiopian efforts to the development should not be achieved at the expense of the Egypt’s and Sudan’s interests. 

 

Al-Sisi and Ahmed announced that the GERD technical committee will convene and put forward how to operate the dam

Meanwhile, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is ready to mediate talks between Egypt and Ethiopia on the $4bn dam, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters during the forum. However, Peskov did not mention if both sides accepted the Russian mediation initiative.

 

Egypt has been already calling for international mediation to resolve the dispute, but Ethiopia refused saying that “there is no need for it.” 

 

Tensions escalated between Cairo and Addis Ababa in recent days after the Ethiopian Prime Minister said that his country is ready to “mobilise millions” if there is a need to go for war with Egypt over the GERD, but only negotiations would resolve the dispute.

 

Egypt criticised the controversial statement, describing it as “unacceptable,” and violates the values of the African Union.

 

However, the Ethiopian leader said last Thursday that his remarks to go for a war over the dam “were taken out of context.” 

 

Earlier this month, Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced that negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia reached a “deadlock.” 

 

The ministry said that Egypt summited a “fair and balanced” proposal on the filling and operating the dam that takes into account the interests of the three countries, while Ethiopia submitted a proposal that the ministry said did not “offer assurances over the minimum annual release from the GERD and the dealing with future drought years.”

Ethiopia rejects the Egyptian proposal saying it is “biased” and disrupts its economic development. Water, Irrigation, and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele said that “Egypt forwarded unfair proposal on the filling and operation of the dam.”

Bekele added, “Cairo requested that Ethiopia guarantees a water level of 165 meters above mean sea level for the Aswan High Dam by releasing water from the GERD and demanded to establish a permanent office at the dam with its own personnel,” the Ethiopian news agency reported.

 

Egypt depends on the Nile River for about 90% of its water, in drinking water, industry, and agriculture. Egypt is concerned that the GERD will shrink its share of Nile water and cause “harms” to its people. 

 

Egypt’s water share of the Nile is about 55 bn cubic meters (cm), while the water needs reach 59 bn cm, according to the Ministry of Irrigation.

 

Putin is ready to mediate talks between Egypt and Ethiopia on the $4 bn dam, Kremlin spokesperson said

The latest in the dispute

 

The dispute between the two countries is on the period of filling and operating the GERD’s reservoir. Egypt suggested the period to be within seven years, while Ethiopia wants it to be only within three years, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram. 

Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said that Egypt requires a minimum release of 40 bn cm of water from the GERD every year, while Ethiopia wants it to be 35 bn cm, according to Reuters.  

 

Al-Sisi has been stressing that the Nile water is a matter of life and death for Egypt. He brought the issue during his address at the UN General Assembly in New York this September. 

 

In the same context, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has called the international community to mediate between Cairo and Addis Ababa to reach a final fair agreement on the process of filling and operating the dam. 

 

In addition to Russian mediation, Egypt revealed that it has received an invitation from the United States administration for a meeting with Sudan and Ethiopia’s foreign ministers in Washington to discuss the dispute over the GERD talks. The date of the upcoming meeting has not been specified yet. 

 

Egypt called for international mediation based on the principle No 10 in the 2015 Declaration of Principles Agreement that Cairo, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa signed and pledged to equitably share water resources and cooperate over the GERD.

“If the Parties are unable to resolve the dispute through consultation or negotiation, they may jointly request for conciliation, mediation, or refer the matter for the consideration of the Heads of State/Head of Government,” the principle read.

 

The GERD on the Blue Nile River “is for power generation, to contribute to economic development, promotion of transboundary cooperation, and regional integration through the generation of sustainable and reliable clean energy supply,” the agreement read. 

 

However, Ethiopia previously announced that it refuses to involve an international party, arguing that it defends its right to development, saying it will never harm the interests of Egypt or Sudan. 

 

Egypt is the main passage for GERD’s electricity to Europe

Mohamed Nasr Eldin Allam, a former Egyptian irrigation minister, told Daily News Egypt that the continuation of negotiations was expected, but he stated that the round of talks should not exceed a month to reach a final fair agreement that achieves the development for Ethiopia and not cause harm to Egypt.

 

Allam said that Ethiopia refused to involve any international experts or parties because it is certain of the “major damages” that the dam will cause for Egypt. 

 

However, Allam pointed out that Ethiopia’s rejection has negative and positive sides. The positive side is that Egypt could achieve a lot through negotiations which will ensure real peace and good relations with Ethiopia and avoid any escalation in the future. While the involvement of an international mediation could result in “unfavourable results,” Allam added. 

 

The former minister highlighted that Egypt still has significant negotiations tools that include the international resolutions and agreements as well as boycotting the electricity that will be generated by the GERD. 

 

Allam noted that Egypt will be the main importer to the electricity generated by the dam and will also be the main passage for it to Europe. If Egypt refused to import this electricity, the establishment of the dam will be suspended, Allam suggested. 

 

Allam also said that Egypt could resort to the UN Security Council to halt the establishment of the dam, if the talks failed this time too. 

 

Through the GERD, Ethiopia seeks to be the largest hydropower project in Africa. The dam, which 70% of have already completed, is expected to generate more than 6,000 megawatts (MW) by 2021. 

 

On the other hand, Allam suggested that Egypt has to improve its relations with Sudan as both countries have to unite their voices to avoid any expected harms to their countries and peoples in the future because of the dam. 

 

The former minister said that Sudan will be harmed more than Egypt because its water share will be decreased and if the dam collapsed, it could result in a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

“For the sake of Sudan and Egypt, both countries have to team up to protect their water interests,” Allam added. 

 

Egypt State Information Service said that Cairo maintains several international agreements and treaties governing the use of Nile River waters.

 

In 1993, Egypt and Ethiopia signed an agreement that prevents any of both countries from implementing water projects that harm the interests of the other. 

 

There is also an agreement between Egypt and Sudan signed in 1959 that allows Egypt the right to an annual share of 55.5 bn cm of Nile water and Sudan 18.5 bn cm every year. 

 

Noha Bakr, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo, told Daily News Egypt the previous rounds of talks cannot be described as negotiations because the Ethiopian side “was inflexible toward Egypt legitimate rights regarding the filling and operating of the GERD.”

 

Bakr said that if the future talks will be similar to the previous ones, she could not be optimistic regarding its results.

 

She warned that if the GERD is mismanaged, it will result in not only water or environmental threats, but also in threats on the infrastructure. 

 

Bakr noted that Egypt showed “good faith” more than it should, adding that the Ethiopian PM has to act in a manner that consists of his winning to the Noble Peace Prize. 

 

Bakr also highlighted that Egypt stance has been “very wise” in dealing with the dam issue, suggesting that Egypt could turn to the World Bank, the UN Security Council, and even the African Union to mediate talks and to resolve the dispute. 

 

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First Afro-Russian Forum: turning point in relations between Africa and Russia https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/23/first-afro-russian-forum-turning-point-in-relations-between-africa-and-russia/ Wed, 23 Oct 2019 12:07:20 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711930 Past five years already have seen remarkable growth in activities of Russian companies in a number of African countries

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A new phase of the strategic partnership between Africa and Russia is expected to kick off through a first-of-its-kind Afro-Russian Economic Forum which will be held in Russia’s Sochi city on 23-24 October. The Forum will be co-chaired by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The forum will be a turning point in the path of cooperation between the African continent and Russia and is expected to enhance economic and trade relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the idea of holding an African-Russian summit for the first time since his participation in the BRICS summit – which includes Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa – in Johannesburg on July 2018. The decision to create the forum came after a long 10-year negotiation process.

Al-Sisi said Saturday upcoming first-ever Russia–Africa Summit reflects a historic friendship between the African countries and the Russian Federation.

In a message to participants in the forum, Al-Sisi said that African countries and Russia have common positions in their international actions based on the principles of respect for international law, equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and a commitment to multilateral actions in accordance with the two sides’ similar vision of how to confront new international challenges.

“African countries have enormous potential and opportunities that will enable them to join the world’s developing economic powers after optimisation,” Al-Sisi, who is the current chair of the African Union (AU), stated.

Africa has made good progress in terms of its growth rates over the past decade, with the economy expanding by 3.55% in 2018, he mentioned

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) took effect at the AU summit in Niger in July 2019 and offers a range of new instruments for growth.

AfCFTA was officially launched at the African summit in Niger’s capital, Niamey, in July, which is the largest global summit since the founding of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The zone is comprised of about 2.1 billion people, domestically, and has a GDP of about $3.4 trillion.

AfCFTA will contribute to increasing intra-African trade volume from 17% to 60% by 2022, mainly reducing imported goods, building manufacturing and production capacity, strengthening infrastructure projects in the African continent, creating a single continental market for goods and services, and facilitating the movement of investors and businesspeople.

The president pointed out that this success “opens up broad prospects for cooperation between African countries and the Russian Federation” and confirms the commitment of the governments of African countries and their peoples to cooperate with different partners to establish mutually beneficial relations.

President Al-Sisi hopes that the Africa-Russia Summit would serve to establish constructive strategic relations based on cooperation between the two sides in various fields, which will help realise the hopes and aspirations of the African people and the friendly Russian people.

Experts foresee stronger Russia-African cooperation

Ambassador Ehab Nasr pointed out that Egypt’s presidency of the African Union and the leadership of President ِAl-Sisi of the African continent in 2019 and its relationship with Russia played a key role in the success of the forum’s preparation. 

Nasr stressed that “Egypt is Russia’s first partner from the African continent and the volume of trade between Cairo and Moscow makes up 40% of the trade volume between Russia and the whole of Africa.”

Nasr said that “Egypt is the starting point for Afro-Russian cooperation, soon to be experienced by other African nations, in light of many projects which we hope within the next period to be implemented, led by Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.”

The forum will focus on a large number of issues of mutual interest and regional and international issues, ways to enhance cooperation between the two sides’ political, economic, and cultural relations, strengthen the sustainable development of the African continent. Furthermore, it hopes to find ways to take advantage of investment opportunities available to both sides, fight against terrorism and cross-border crime, as well as cooperating for other challenges and risks to regional and global security.

The leaders of Russia and Africa will issue a joint statement at the end of the forum, speaking about the results of discussions and recommendations on strengthening relations between the two sides in all fields in the coming years.

The forum will be held in light of successive regional and international changes, with increasing interests of major countries including the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, and India to strengthen economic and trade partnership with Africa as a whole.

Hussein Haridi, former assistant foreign minister, said Russia wants to follow China, Japan, and India, which preceded it in establishing cooperation with African countries by establishing similar forums.

The former assistant foreign minister said during a televised phone interview that the forum will try to make up for what has been lost and restore relations that Moscow had with African countries during the former Soviet Union.

He pointed out that the Sochi Summit meetings went over very ambitious topics and the reflection of Russia’s desire to have strong and sustainable access to the African continent, pointing out that there are agreements over several topics to be signed in the forefront of the fight against terrorism, in addition to cooperation in energy, road transportation, railways, industry, and human resources training.

 

In the same context, leaders from Russia and Africa, representatives of Russian, African and international trading companies, public sector institutions, and major trade blocs of the African continent will participate in the economic forum on the sidelines of the Sochi summit.

The Russian-African Forum focuses on three main themes: “Developing Economic Relations”, “Creating Joint Projects” and “Cooperation in Humanitarian and Social Fields”.

The forum will also go over developing bilateral cooperation in scientific research and education. Leading companies, ministers and international experts on ways to strengthen the partnership between Russia and Africa in all fields, including the applications of peaceful nuclear technology in development.

The forum will include a panel discussion entitled “Eurasian Economic Union – Africa: Trends and Prospects for the Development of Integration and Cooperation Processes” with the participation of the Chairperson of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Tigran Sarkissian and the Secretary-General of the East African Community (EAC) Liberat Mfumukeko.

An exhibition of trade partners and their exhibits will be organised on the sidelines of the Afro-Russian Economic Forum to introduce the economic, scientific, environmental and cultural capabilities and innovations of the countries participating in the forum. The participants will showcase several projects and advanced technologies in some sectors including mining, chemistry, machinery, energy, agriculture, transport, and public health.

Different players eye Africa as an economic partner

Major countries, including Russia, see Africa as an important player in the economic arena and for international relations thanks to its natural and human resources and huge economic potential, where the business environment has witnessed a marked improvement in a number of African countries, which contributed to the increase of foreign direct investment in the continent, in addition to the rapid growth of a number of economic sectors in Africa such as trade and energy.

Favourable areas of cooperation between Russia and Africa include agriculture, energy, technology transfer, science and education, innovations, infrastructure and mining, nuclear technology, and transportation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry recently stressed that Africa is an important partner for Russia and relations with the African continent are independent and unaffected by fluctuations in the international community. The Russian side believes that advanced agricultural and technical projects, medicine, energy-saving technologies, logistics and infrastructure projects open broad prospects for strengthening economic cooperation between Moscow and Africa.

On the other hand, many African countries look forward to diversifying their partnership with the Russian side based on mutual interests and full respect for national sovereignty.

Statistics show that the volume of trade exchange between Russia and African countries increased by more than 17% last year, exceeding $20bn, and between 2010 to 2017, the total volume of Russian exports to Africa increased by three times from $5bn to about $15bn.

The past five years have seen remarkable growth in the activities of Russian companies in several African countries including Zimbabwe, Angola, Gabon, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa in many fields including mining, energy, and oil.

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Egypt’s current account deficit to reach 2.5%of GDP in FY20,inflation to continue downward path : Fitch Solutions https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/23/egypts-current-account-deficit-to-reach-2-5of-gdp-in-fy20inflation-to-continue-downward-path-fitch-solutions/ Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:58:23 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711920 Fitch forecasts Egypt's GDP growth to average 4.5% y-o-y to 2028, from 3.6% in 2009-2018 period

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Egypt’s current account deficit will widen marginally over the coming quarters, hitting 2.5% of GDP in fiscal year (FY) 2019/20, from an estimated 2.4% in FY2018/19, Fitch solutions said in a report.

“While this would mark the third consecutive fiscal year of widening in the current account deficit, we note that the deficit still compares relatively favourably to its 10-year historical average of 4.0%,” it added.

It explained that the widening trade deficit will drag most on the current account, driven by a rise in non-oil imports.

Fitch Solutions forecasted in its report Egypt Country Risk Report Q4 2019 that tourism revenue and remittances will keep the deficit from widening more significantly.

“ With foreign direct investment flows still small, Egypt will continue to rely on the issuance of external debt to fund its current account deficits, but we note that its foreign reserves buffer has grown in recent years,” according to Fitch Solutions.

Egypt outperforms MENA in GDP growth

On a bright side, Fitch Solutions foresees that Egypt will see an uptick in growth rates over the next decade, in part due to base effects from five years of political turmoil, but also because of ongoing reforms and the inherent advantages in the Egyptian economy – namely a large, growing population, vast hydrocarbon resources and a strategic geographical location.

“In the short-to-medium term, investment into hydrocarbons and government projects will be a key driver of growth; however, in the longer term, we expect the non-hydrocarbon private sector to take on an increasingly dominant role,” it further forecasts.

Overall, Fitch Solutions forecasts Egypt’s real GDP growth to average 4.5% y-o-y out to 2028, compared with 3.6% in the 2009-2018 period.

It revealed that the growth in the next decade will compare quite favourably to the weighted Middle East and North Africa (MENA) average (excluding Israel) of 3.0% and nearby competitor Morocco’s 3.7%.

Moreover, Fitch Solutions expects that real GDP growth in Egypt will remain robust shortly, hitting 5.5% inFY2019/20, only slightly below the 5.6% recorded in FY2018/2019.

“We note that this rate of expansion would be well above the 3.6% average recorded over the past decade and that it would also make Egypt a clear regional outperformer, given that our forecast for MENA’s weighted average growth stands at only 1.8% in 2019-2020,” Fitch Solutions added.

Fitch Solutions expects growth in the Egyptian economy to pick up steam in the coming years with fixed investment becoming an important contributor.

It expected that investment will contribute most to growth this fiscal year, driven by fast-rising public spending on capital projects.

Fitch declared that according to its Key Projects Database, Egypt currently has some $31bn worth of projects under construction, driven by the energy and transport sectors as well as residential, industrial and commercial projects in new cities.

“Moreover, the projects currently in planning stages are valued at a staggering $157bn, equivalent to 51.4% of GDP, both the highest rates in the MENA region,” Fitch Solutions revealed.

It added that the economy will continue to be dominated by private consumption, though the fixed investment will see the fastest growth rates in the short-to-medium term.

“We also expect private consumption growth to remain on a slow uptrend owing to wage increases and falling inflation,” Fitch Solutions stated.

In terms of government consumption as a share of GDP, Fitch stated that it will likely decline over the long term.

Egypt’s government has shown a strong commitment to reducing the fiscal deficit and looks likely to remain in power for the foreseeable future, the report said. It added that although the intensity of reform will most likely ease now that the 2016-2019 IMF loan deal has concluded, the government’s high debt load will still necessitate continued reductions in expenditure.

“We also believe that the authorities will be keen to shift resources away from consumption onto capital spending,” it explained.

It mentioned that deteriorating global financial conditions could negatively impact Egypt’s access to foreign capital and dent economic growth.

Inflation to continue downward path, albeit price growth will remain high on a global comparison

On the other hand, Fitch solutions predicated that headline inflation in Egypt will trend lower over the coming years as fiscal consolidation eases, forecasting price growth to average 7.9% y-o-y over the coming decade compared with a peak of 29.6% in 2017and 14.4% in 2018.

“That said, despite our view for somewhat lower inflation than in previous years, it must be stressed that price growth will remain high on a global comparison. This is due to factors such as the robust real GDP growth that we forecast in Egypt throughout the next decade, creating demand-pull pressures, as well as our Oil & Gas team’s expectation for oil prices to trend upwards, at least until the mid-2020s,” Fitch Solutions stated.

Regarding Egypt’s budget deficit as a share of GDP, Fitch Solutions expected that it will continue to narrow in this fiscal year, marking its fourth consecutive fiscal year of narrowing.

“We expect the deficit to come in at 7.1% of GDP in FY2019/20, down from an estimated 8.2% in FY19 and 9.5% in the year before that. This would represent the smallest budget shortfall in over a decade,” according to Fitch Solutions.

It also showed out that Fuel price hikes will lower subsidy spending, although higher wage and investment spending will still keep overall expenditure growth in line with the FY2018/19 level.

Fitch solutions stated that revenue growth will likely remain robust owing to efforts to widen the tax base coupled with strong real GDP growth.

It continued that with narrowing fiscal deficits and high levels of economic growth, Egypt’s debt load will continue to gradually shrink, albeit from a high base.

“Egypt’s total public debt-to-GDP ratio has risen sharply over the last decade, and the impact of the 2016exchange rate devaluation served to push the ratio to over 110%. The government aims to lower the debt ratio to 88% of GDP by June 2020 and further to 80% by June 2022. Our forecasts are largely in line with these targets, although we reiterate the downside risk to policy implementation,” it predicts.

On the business environment side, Fitch Solutions stated that there is also much room for improvement, as illustrated by Egypt’s still-low ranking in their Operational Risk Index (96th out of 201 states globally).

It explained further that although Egypt’s government has undertaken major regulatory reforms in the last couple of years, however, more is needed to bring investment, business operations and labour market frameworks in line with international standards.

“Similarly, while the government is investing heavily in capital projects, Egypt’s infrastructure deficit will take time to close,” it asserted.

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Lebanon on fire: nationwide protests against regime reach its third day  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/22/lebanon-on-fire-nationwide-protests-against-regime-reach-its-third-day/ Tue, 22 Oct 2019 17:53:44 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711722 PM sets deadline to contain outrage, Hezbollah dismisses government resign calls 

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“The people want to topple the regime,” tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters from different sects have been chanting against the government since Thursday night across the capital city of Beirut and other cities, calling for the government of Prime Minister (PM) Saad Al-Hariri, President Michel Aoun, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to step down. 

 

The nationwide protests have reached its third day on Saturday amid heavy security force presence and reports of more than 300 protesters apprehended by authorities. However, according to security forces in Lebanon, about 70 people were arrested, and about 50 police officers were wounded. 

 

Across Lebanon, police clashed with protesters and fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Friday. Protesters burnt tires, blocked major roads, and threw stones, shoes, and water bottles at security forces. 

 

Videos circulated via Twitter showing thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Beirut’s Riad Al-Solh square on Thursday. They were seen singing, dancing, and waving flags while chanting, “the people want to topple the regime,” “Revolution!” and “Thieves!”

 

 Schools and banks have shut their doors as protests continue. 

Photos and videos circulated on social media showing wounded protesters and others chained down with captions denouncing the Lebanese security forces’ acts and calling for their release. However, the photos could not be verified. 

 

The furious protests, the largest since 2015, were sparked following a governmental decree to tax voice calls made through the Facebook-owned software WhatsApp, and erupted against the country’s  economic conditions. After the backlash, the government immediately withdrew its decision. 

Among the videos that went viral, was one featuring a Lebanese woman kicking an armed man on Thursday, as many users praised her courage. 

Internet connection was also reported to be weak on Friday according to Twitter users. Hashtags like “It is time to settle (matters) up,” “Lebanon is rising up,” have been trending since Thursday. 

 

 On resignation calls, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the movement does not agree with the calls of government resignation. 

Earlier on Friday, PM Al-Hariri gave a televised speech on Friday and said that Lebanon is passing through difficult times which he has been trying to tackle and find real solutions for in the past three years.

Al-Hariri said that Thursday’s protests revealed the “pain of Lebanese citizens,” which he said he admits and understands very well, adding that he is backing any peaceful movement to express it. “What matters most now is how we will tackle it, and this is our responsibility,” Hariri added. 

Al-Hariri said that he agreed with his political partners to implement a series of reforms to increase the national income, explaining that reforms do not mean taxes, but to the overall change, which includes the amending of laws the country inherited from the 1950s-1960s. 

 

 “The talks about foreign interference against Lebanon’s stability do not deny the authenticity of the people’s anger. Whoever believes that he has a solution for the crisis, he is welcome to take the reins of power,” said Al-Hariri. 

 

Eventually, Al-Hariri gave himself and his political partners 72 hours to provide satisfactory solutions for both Lebanese protesters and international partners. 

Earlier, Al-Hariri cancelled a government meeting scheduled on Friday to discuss the draft fiscal year 2020 budget over the nationwide protests. 

 

 Calls for Hariri to Step down

Firas Maksad, adjunct professor at George Washington’s Elliott School of International Affairs, commented on Al-Hariri’s speech saying, “he is just buying time,” predicting that the anger will grow in the upcoming days. 

“Lebanon protests are unprecedented in nature, with people of all sects taking on the established political order in their community. I am repeating my earlier prediction that the Beirut government will fall,” Maksad tweeted on Friday. 

Meanwhile, Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces Party urged Hariri and his government to step down over their fiasco in solving the country’s economic troubles and improve the people’s living conditions. 

Geagea tweeted on Friday that the best thing Hariri can do in this critical time is to step down to give the lead for a new and different government capable of improving the economy. 

President of the Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanon Walid Joumblatt urged his supporters to take part in a “peaceful movement” against the current government and President, calling for a mass government resignation. 

Maksad wrote that the possible resignation would be followed by a prolonged period of political haggling and unrest amidst rapidly deteriorating living conditions as the economy and currency decline.

Earlier this month, Al-Hariri went under intensive criticism over a New York Times report that suggested that he gave a South African bikini model nearly $16m in 2013 and had a romantic relationship with her. 

The report sparked a controversy on social media, as many criticized their PM and described it as a scandal. While others wrote it as a personal matter. The net worth of Al-Hariri is $1.5 bn according to Forbes. 

Hariri, a leading Sunni Muslim political figure, turned Lebanon Prime Minister on November 2016, has previously served as prime minister between 2009 and 2011.

 

Lebanon’s sectarian political system is based on a power-sharing agreement. The president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the parliament speaker a Shi’ite.

Weak economic conditions 

The recent wave of protests was not the first in recent years in Lebanon. In 2015, the country witnessed large demonstrations over the government’s failure to find solutions to the garbage crisis where the government allowed for trash to accumulate on the street, which resulted in the open burning of trash.

 

 The trash crisis sparked daily protests against corruption and economic conditions. 

The country of six million people who belong to various religious communities, has been suffering from a weak economy and has been in a crucial need of reforms and investment.

Lebanon is among the most indebted countries in the world, with public debt estimated to exceed $86bn as the public debt-to-GDP ratio is 150%, according to the International Monetary Fund and Trading Economics.

 

 Meanwhile, the GDP growth in Lebanon in 2018 is estimated to have only grown by an estimated 0.2% compared to 0.6% in 2010, according to the World Bank (WB). 

On May this year, the Washington-based Institute of International Finance said that Lebanon’s economy is at a critical stage. The institute projected that if the government failed in taking measures to boost revenues alongside steps to reduce spending, then the public debt-to-GDP ratio will rise further to 180% by 2023. 

Following the end of the civil war in 1990, Lebanon began rapidly expanding its public debt which worsened the economic conditions and increased socioeconomic inequalities. 

 

The growth rate of tourism, one of Lebanon’s largest sources of income and foreign exchange, fell by half in 2018. The increase in tourist arrivals was only 5.8% in 2018.

 

One of the key issues affecting Lebanon’s economy is the Syrian population that found refuge in the country since Syria’s uprising in March 2011. the Syrian population in Lebanon currently stands at 1.5 million, about a quarter of the Lebanese population, the WB said in a 2019 report. 

“The (Syrian) crisis is expected to worsen poverty incidence among Lebanese citizens as well as widen income inequality. In particular, it is estimated that as a result of the Syrian crisis, some 200,000 additional Lebanese have been pushed into poverty, adding to the erstwhile 1 million poor,” the WB said in 2019. 

 “An additional 250,000 to 300,000 Lebanese citizens are estimated to have become unemployed, most of them unskilled youth,” the WB added. 

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Abiy Ahmed: wide reforms, but some sceptic over unsettled issues https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/18/abiy-ahmed-wide-reforms-but-some-sceptic-over-unsettled-issues/ Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:00:02 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711277 Despite all his achievements in Ethiopia, the GERD dispute is still unsettled

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For his efforts to establish peace with Eritrea, the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected last Friday the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to receive the Nobel Peace Prize 2019.

The Ethiopian leader was honoured for ending years of hostility and border conflict between the two countries. He was among more than 300 candidates, including individuals and institutions, who competed for the award this year.

Many found Ahmed’s winning of the Nobel Prize surprising and wondered why it was not awarded to the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, being Ahmed’s partner in the peace talks.

Washington Post quoted foreign analysts on the situation between two countries, saying that despite the 2018 agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia to end the conflict between the two nations, the agreement remains largely unimplemented, and there have been a few visible benefits for the Eritreans.

Nobel Prize

The prize is worth KR 9m (about $0.9m). The award ceremony will take place in the Norwegian capital Oslo on 10 December and he is scheduled to give a speech ahead of receiving the prize.

The Nobel Committee said that it awarded the prize to Ahmed for “his decisive initiative to resolve the border dispute with neighbouring Eritrea.”

The prize appreciates the efforts of “all parties working for peace in Ethiopia, East and North-East Africa,” the committee said.

Ahmed commented on his victory saying, “I am so humbled and thrilled. Thank you very much. It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia. I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on peace building process in our continent.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed’s office said, “The award is a proof of the values of unity, cooperation, and coexistence that the prime minister has consistently promoted.”

Ethiopia and Eritrea

Ethiopia and Eritrea restored relations in July 2018 after years of hostility and after a 1998-2000 border war. Ahmed headed to the Eritrean capital of Asmara in July in his first historic visit.

In another unprecedented scene, thousands of Eritreans took to the streets to welcome Ahmed, holding flags of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Asmara was also decorated with flags of both countries celebrating the special occasion.

On 9 July 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea officially signed the Declaration of Reconciliation and Friendship, upon which embassies of the two countries were opened, ports and flights resumed, in tangible signs of a rapprochement that ended a two-decade feud.

The declaration ended one of Africa’s long-running military confrontations, which destabilised the region and forced the two governments to pour large sums of money from their budgets to spend on security and armed forces.

“After the discussion, we agreed to reopen our embassies,” Ahmed said in remarks broadcasted on state televisions of both countries.

Moreover, Eritrea’s President Afwerki visited the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa twice after the agreement. In his second official visit on 14 October 2018, the two sides ended their differences and agreed on launching economic cooperation.

During the visit, Afewerki and Ahmed discussed boosting bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

However, some people were sceptical, Laetitia Bader, a researcher at Human Rights Watch told WP “I think there was a lot of hope in Eritrea, but very quickly, Eritreans saw that things were not changing on the ground.”

Also,  Vanessa Tsehaye, an Eritrean activist based in London was quoted saying that he believes that recompilation did not have a positive impact on Eritrea people, as conditions are the same as it was before the deal.

Similarly, Eritrean Human Rights activist Selam Kidane commented on the victory of Ahmed saying in a tweet “ I didn’t know one could win a peace award without achieving peace,” about the current situation between both countries after the deal.

Despite the deal, open borders were short-lived, as Eritrea has immediately closed the border again.

Women of Ethiopia

Some believe that Ahmed succeeded to make 2018 an unprecedented year for Ethiopian women, as many reached senior executive and legislative positions.

In February 2018, the Ethiopian diplomat Samia Zakaria assumed the presidency of the national election council, for the first time in the country’s history. Moreover, Sahle-Work Zewde is the current President of Ethiopia and the first woman to hold the office. She was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018. The position is largely a ceremonial one, with executive power vested in the prime minister.

Also, Muferiat Kamil was elected as the first female parliament speaker in the country, succeeding Abba Dola. She is currently the Minister of Peace and the Chairperson of the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), one of the four parties that make up the ruling coalition in the country, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The chairmanship of the House of Federation – the upper house of the Ethiopian parliament – was assigned to Keria Ibrahim. Moreover, 10 out of 20 seats in the Ethiopian government were assumed by women, including Aisha Mohammed Mussa who was the country’s Defence Minister from October 2018 until 18 April 2019.

Sudan welcomes Ahmed’s Nobel Prize win

Several Sudanese political parties welcomed Ahmed’s Nobel Prize winning, and considered it a source of pride for the Sudanese revolution – which started on 19 December 2018 – and an affirmation of the global momentum gained as it was one of the most important milestones of peace efforts led by Ahmed at the local and regional levels.

Many Sudanese political leaders highlighted Ahmed’s participation in the negotiation between Sudan’s Forces of Freedom and Change, and the Transitional Military Council, which helped in completing its path after it was halted for time. They said Ahmed was realistic and showed logical and great tendency towards peaceful solutions.

GERD

Despite all recognised achievements made by Ahmed in Ethiopia, he seems not cooperating very well with Egypt to settle the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which started in 2015. Ethiopia seeks to complete the construction of the dam, while Egypt is concerned that it will affect its share of Nile River.

Writer Adly Sadek said in an op-ed at The Arab newspaper, based in London, “All these successes of Ahmed do not mean that the man has solved all his country’s problems completely, but he still has the GERD dispute.”

The writer believes that Ahmed managed to encourage his people to “support his national projects, especially the GERD. However, he has not shown any sign to make a compromise with Egypt as it objected some technical aspects of the project.

Now it is a test for him, as he must find a suitable way out of this issue which is a major contributor to peace and development in the region, Sadek said

About Ahmed

In March last year, Ahmed was chosen to be Ethiopia’s first Muslim prime minister. He is also the first Ethiopian prime minister from the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, which makes up one-third of the population in a country suffering ethnic conflict among its 90 constituent groups.

Ahmed’s first speech in the parliament was a declaration of a new era in Ethiopia’s history, in which he announced a roadmap for long-awaited reforms, launching political freedom, fighting corruption, and developing the economy. Ahmed has fought all symbols of corruption, including leaders of the Ethiopian army.

He previously joined the Oromo Democratic Party, which fought against the Marxist Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime.

Many encouraged his election to be Ethiopia’s leader for his mixed religious background, as his father is Muslim and his mother is Christian.

After taking the office, Ahmed incorporated several reforms and expanded freedoms in his country, which had been limits in many areas. Dozens of detainees were released, and others returned from exile.

Ahmed received his PhD on local conflict resolution in the country from the Institute for Peace and Security Studies in Addis Ababa last October. According to the party members, Ahmed is an excellent speaker, preferring to make decisions based on arguments.

He has a military and intelligence background, as he established a network and information security agency that sought to monitor ordinary Ethiopians, including dissidents in Europe and North America.

Between 2008 and 2010, Ahmed oversaw the expansion of radio and television broadcast at a time when Ethiopia was known for its lack of press freedom. He served as Minister of Science and Technology in 2015.


Once in power, he focused on the country’s ethnic conflicts which displaced 2.5 million Ethiopians. Ahmed also solved some outstanding issues with neighbour countries, mainly the Oromo-Somali clashes.

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Turkish offensive: Trump defends retreat, Germany, France halt arms exports https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/15/turkish-offensive-trump-defends-retreat-germany-france-halt-arms-exports/ Tue, 15 Oct 2019 19:33:07 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=711060 'Withdrawing support from SDF is a small price to pay for getting Turkey to relieve Trump of Syria burden," says Fellow

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United States (US) President Donald Trump, who abandoned Washington’s key allies, the Kurds, last week, has defended his decision to pullback US forces from northeast Syria.

“I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can’t guard our borders at home,” Trump said in a speech to the Value Voters Summit in Washington on Saturday. 

Trump’s move to withdraw US forces, leaving behind the Kurdish fighters who helped the US defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, drew huge criticism internationally.

His decision was met by opposition from Republican lawmakers as they rebuked his move to withdraw US troops. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that such a plan is expected to bolster ISIS fighters. 

Moreover, Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said that Turkey needs to know that Congress will take a different path and it will pass “crippling sanctions in a bipartisan fashion.”

“The re-emergence of ISIS is on the way. And if you think only Europe is threatened, you (Trump) are sadly mistaken,” Graham tweeted on Friday in response to the US move. 

Trump’s sudden retreat raised huge concerns, in particular, over the fate of tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families who have been detained by the Syrian Kurdish forces in prisons and outlawed internment camps.

More than 11,000 people are estimated to be held inside that prisons, including Syrian and Iraqi fighters and others from around 50 foreign countries. 

 

Trump complained that he kept pressing on Germany, France, and other European countries, in which many ISIS fighters belong, to take them back, as the US is not able to take the cost of holding them anymore. 

 

 Seeking to get over the “Syrian burden,” Trump gave the green light to Turkey to attack Kurds and to begin a military offensive into northeast Syria when he announced that American troops would withdraw from the area around Syria’s border with Turkey. 

Trump’s move followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last Sunday. The White House announced that Turkey would move forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.

“The US will not support or be involved in the operation, and US forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” the statement read. 

 

 With such a decision, Trump cleared the way for Turkey to attack the Kurds.

Turkey began its offensive on Wednesday last week, and it is apparently making gains, amid a huge humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have been displaced, while more are threatened to be killed or displaced too. 

Now, Turkey is accused of shelling prisons holding ISIS fighters. On Wednesday, Turkey reportedly bombarded a part of Chirkin prison in the city of Qamishli, where ISIS fighters are held, according to the Kurdish-led authorities. 

Meanwhile, there are also around 100 ISIS-affiliated women and children who escaped from Ain Issa Camp, which is guarded by Kurdish forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

There are also reports that four ISIS fighters escaped from other jails in northeast Syria amid shells by Turkish troops.

International Condemnations, humanitarian crisis

 

More than 200,000 in Syria have fled since the offensive began, according to the Syrian Democratic Forced (SDF) and the United Nations. Dozens of civilians were killed, including women and children as well as Kurdish fighters. 

Video footage spread by social media users and local and international media showed women and children crying, as thousands of civilians fled the violence.

The US retreat was received by international and local condemnations as well as some actions. 

In the latest updates on the Turkish offensive, Germany and France on Saturday temporarily halted arms exports to Turkey over its military incursion. 

The Arab League also condemned Turkey’s “invasion” into Syrian territories. Arab countries Foreign Ministers held an emergency meeting to denounce Turkey’s actions, calling it an “occupation” of Arab lands. 

However, Turkey responded to the Arab League accusations. “I strongly condemn the Arab League for mischaracterising Turkey’s counter-terrorism operation in north-eastern Syria as an “invasion” in a statement issued earlier today,” Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director tweeted on Saturday. 

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the main supporter of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, has warned that the Turkish offensive of northern Syria could result in the freeing of thousands of captured ISIS fighters. 

 

 Turkey advances

 

 Turkey is attacking Kurds under the veil of fighting “fighting terrorists.” It launched an offensive dubbed “Operation Peace Spring” against the SDF led by Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, killing and injuring dozens, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the violence. 

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG  as “terrorists,” accusing them of having ties to a separatist Kurdish group in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

 Beside its “fighting terrorism goal,” Turkey intends to create a “safe zone” for the return of millions of refugees to Syria. Erdoğan stated that the “Turkey military operation” aims to bring back peace to the region and to ensure that Syrian refugees will return to their countries. 

Now there is a critical danger with the US’s withdrawal from Syria, that the ISIS fighters might escape from prisons and camps where they are held to revive the Caliphate again. 

 Turkey is making gains from its offensive, managing to capture 11 border towns up until Friday night, according to AFP and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

On Saturday, Turkey said that its forces have captured the key Syrian border town Ras Al-Ayn’s residential centre in the east of the Euphrates River. However, an SDF spokesperson refuted that. 

Facing international condemnation of the Turkey offensive, Erdogan threatened to release millions of Syrian refugees in his country to migrate to Europe if the continent’s leaders call the Turkish invasion of Syria an “occupation.”

“We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” Erdogan said on Thursday.  

 The burden of Syria 

 

“Trump does not want to pick a fight with Erdogan over Syria because the US president sees Erdogan as one of his key foreign allies. Ultimately, Trump does not want the United States to have a long presence in Syria, and he is convinced that Erdogan will take the burden of Syria off of his shoulders,” Nicholas A Heras, Middle East Security fellow at the Center for a New American Security told Daily News Egypt. 

“For the White House, withdrawing support from the SDF is a small price to pay for getting Turkey to relieve Trump of the burden of Syria,” Heras added. 

“Surprisingly, the Trump administration does not have a plan to ensure that 9,000 plus ISIS prisoners, most of them local Syrians and Iraqis, get transferred over into Turkish custody. The result of Trump’s new Syria plan is chaos which helps ISIS,” Heras concluded.  

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USAID in consultation with Egyptian partners for new projects: Mission director https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/11/usaid-in-consultation-with-egyptian-partners-for-new-projects-mission-director/ Fri, 11 Oct 2019 06:20:56 +0000 https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=710514 "Our programmes contribute to stability, prosperity for Egyptians," says Carlin

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is in close consultation with the Egyptian authorities for implementing new projects, Mission Director of the USAID in Egypt Sherry Carlin told Daily News Egypt during the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham)’s event last Thursday. 

“We have 13 ministries as partners and we will continue to implement developmental projects for the good of the Egyptian people,” Carlin added, noting that the USAID’s programmes in education, health, economic growth, and governance are contributing to the stability and prosperity for the Egyptians, through accessible, effective, and countable institutions.

USAID’s programmes are giving future generations the tools to succeed and providing opportunities for Egypt’s large youth population as they enter higher education and the workforce, she pointed out. Besides, the USAID is improving agriculture and water productivity and enhancing livelihoods in rural areas where poverty and unemployment exist, she added.

“We seek to enhance the contributions of government officials, civil society, communities, and individual to build and strengthen institutions that meet the political and economic needs of the Egyptian people,” Carlin asserted. 

USAID’s programmes in Egypt amount to over $30bn since 1978, according its recent report, “40 years of inspiring Egyptian success”, noting that it has directly and fundamentally supported gains such as a reduction in infants and maternal mortality rates, improvement of reading ability in the early grades, and an increase in marketable skills.

 

Economic growth is a key area of USAID activities

USAID works with public and private sector partners to create more and better jobs especially in the labour-intensive agriculture and tourism sector, the report stated, explaining that USAID’s programmes improve the policy and business regulatory environment, stimulate entrepreneurship, and boost enterprises which improve the employment of Egypt’s youth and provide support and financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises.

The report also referred to the USAID’s role in advancing women’s economic empowerment through facilitating increased employment opportunities and working with businesses to adopt gender-balanced policies. They also provide training and expertise to increase the exporting capacities of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to expand export markets, buyer contacts, and sales.

With regards to the tourism sector, USAID works with international and local organisations to conserve Egypt’s rich cultural and natural heritage which increase both skills and employment, the report mentioned.

 

USAID implementing three current programmes in the agriculture sector

Since 1978, the USAID has provided more than $1.4bn to Egypt’s agriculture sector, according to the USAID’s report, stating that the US government’s global initiative ‘Feed the Future’ encourages free-market competition and helps match farmers with local and international buyers to meet market needs and consumer demands.

Agriculture is a major component of the Egyptian economy, contributing 14.5% of the GDP while the sector accounts for 28% of all jobs. Over 55% of employment in Upper Egypt is agriculture-related.

Workforce development and women’s empowerment are essential to ensure the sustainability of USAID efforts in the agriculture sector, the report said, adding that the USAID is working with agricultural technical schools, universities, and research institutions to strengthen the quality of education and creating jobs.

The USAID is implementing three current programmes in Egypt’s agricultural sector, including the “Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support” programme with an estimated cost of $23m. This programme targets seven Egyptian governorates including, Assiut, Aswan, Beni Suef, Luxor, Minya, Qena, and Sohag.

This programme increases agriculture-related incomes of 14000 farmers by strengthening sustainable fruit and vegetable value chains for domestic and export markets. It also incorporates innovative technologies in small-scale cold storage infrastructure and irrigation, in addition to working with farmers on production, post-harvest process, marketing and nutrition. The program started in July 2015 and will be finished in June 2020.

The second current programme of the USAID’s agriculture portfolio is ‘Egypt rural agribusiness strengthening’ with estimated cost of $36.3m in 17 governorates including, Alexandria, Aswan, Assiut, Beheira, Beni Suef, Cairo, Dakahlia, Giza, Gharbia, Ismailia, Menoufia, Minya, Qalyoubia, Qena, Sharkia, and Sohag.

This programme, which started in August 2018 and is planned to be finished in December 2023, helps farmers in Upper Egypt and the Delta to become self-reliant and grow marketable crops that meet international standards for export. 

The third current programme of the USAID agricultural activities in Egypt is “Evaluating Impact and Building Capacity” which generates evidence that informs policy and programme design implementation. These evaluations show the direct link between agriculture, health, and nutrition.

The total cost of this five-year programme which will end on June 2020, is $5.5m, the report stated.

 

USAID promotes Egypt’s trade and investment sector through five activities

Upon the Egyptian government’s request. The USAID is strengthening public financial management and public investment planning through its “Macroeconomic Stabilisation and Reform” programme in partnership with Ministries of Finance and Planning, Monitoring, and Administrative Reform.

The USAID is providing training and capacity building to improve fiscal management, budgeting, and expenditure control as well as to promote greater budget efficiency, transparency, and accountability, the report noted.

This programme started in April 2018 and will be finalised in the same month of 2023 with a total cost of $22.66m, the report clarified.

The USAID is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Technical Education to improve technical secondary education through its programme “Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement” with a total cost of $24.6m.

This programme that started in November 2015, will be finalised by end of this month, targeting 11 governorates including, Alexandria, Aswan, Beni Suef, Damietta, Fayoum, Gharbeya, Ismailia, Menoufia, Port Said, Red Sea, and Sharqeya.

The USAID is also supporting the development of entrepreneurship among youth and promotes the growth and competitiveness of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) by improving access to high quality public and private services with a cost estimated at $22.9m, through its programme “Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development”.

The USAID is also promoting Egypt’s trade and investment sector through the “Egyptian American Enterprise Fund” which aims at promoting financial inclusion and job creation. Its total estimated cost is at $300m from March 2013 to December 2026.

Through its programme, “Enhancing the US-Egypt Commercial Trade and Investment Relationship”, the USAID is supporting legal and trade-related technical assistance to the government of Egypt, promoting private sector investments. This programme will last from December 2018 to December 2020 with a total cost of $975,000.

 

 

USAID provided over $100m in assistance to conserve Egypt’s antiquities

 

Over $100m were provided by the USAID to assist Egypt in the conservation of its antiquities, according to the report, adding that it is currently implementing three programmes in the antiquities field, including the project “Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets”.

The programme, which started in October 2016 and will be finalised in November 2019, amount to $3.1m. The second programme in the field of antiquities is establishing the temple Medinet Habu as an open-air museum, with a total cost of $3m, while the third programme is groundwater lowering, with a total cost of EGP 101.8m

 

USAID’s $3.5bn investments in water services benefit 25 million Egyptians

 

The report mentioned that 25 million Egyptians benefited from the USAID’s $3.5bn investments in Egypt’s water and sanitation sector, noting that it helped the government of Egypt establish the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater, a water regulator and a national umbrella to standardize and govern local water utility companies.

The USAID supports the Egyptian government restructure tariffs and help water companies come closer to achieving cost recovery for operations and maintenance, according to the report. It added that the USAID continues to support the Egyptian government to increase access to clean water and sanitation services in underserved rural areas where citizens suffer from unreliable and low-quality potable water and few wastewater connections.

 

 

The USAID is currently involved in three projects in Egypt’s water sector, including the project “Water Utilities Management” with $30m cost to improve access to water and sanitation services. The programme started in October 2014 and will end on September 2020, targeting four governorates; Assiut, Beni Suef, Luxor and Sohag.

The second programme is the “North Sinai Initiative” with $50m to increase access to potable water and improve sanitation for residents of Sinai. This programme started in October 2014 and will last to June 2020. By September 2019, the programme provided direct potable water access to 300,000 of the 450,000 people living in North Sinai.

The third current programme in water area is Construction Monitoring and Engineering Services Support (CMESS). This activity provides technical and oversight support to USAID’s staff in monitoring, implementing and finalising projects procured and managed by the Egyptian government. This programme will wrap up in September 2020 after beginning in July 2015 with a total cost of $1.5m.

 

Egypt is home for the largest school system in the Middle East

With more than 18 million students, Egypt is home of the largest school system in the Middle East, where boys and girls attend schools at nearly equal rates.

The USAID helped establish Egypt’s first two Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) schools in 2011 and 2012. Their success encouraged the Ministry of Education to expand its model to 12 additional schools while still maintaining their high quality.

The USAID is working to eliminate illiteracy among Egypt’s most vulnerable populations using an innovative and intergenerational literacy approach for mothers and their primary school-aged children, in community schools in some of Egypt’s most rural regions, the report stated.

 

USAID’s health programmes in Egypt place particular emphasis on poor 

For nearly 40 years, USAID has worked with the Egyptian people to improve healthy behaviours. Egypt’s health challenges disproportionately affect the rural poor and have the potential to impact the country’s economic prosperity more broadly over the long term. 

The USAID’s programmes improve health behaviours, enhance the quality of health services, and help the Egyptian government guide policy and programme design by supporting research and monitoring in key areas such as nutrition and infectious disease. 

The USAID’s health programmes in Egypt place particular emphasis on poor and underserved populations, including women and youth, in addition to geographical areas where there are health disparities. It also aims to address gender inequalities in the health sector. 

To improve health and promote a stronger workforce, key areas of intervention include; maternal, neonatal, and child health and nutrition; emerging and infectious disease detection and response; health communication; and support for research to improve information on key health topics.   

 

Governance is key for USAID’s current activities

The USAID works with key government institutions to support Egyptian-led governance and rule of law reforms. These reforms are improving the delivery of essential public services and increase citizens’ ability to participate in the national decision-making processes. 

The USAID also supports international and Egyptian organizations that raise awareness of and advocate for improved public services and increased civic participation on key rights. These projects combat gender-based violence and trafficking in persons, promote gender equality and civic participation and advocate for the rights of persons with different abilities.

“Safe Cities Free of Violence Against Women and Girls” is one of the USAID’s important projects in governance areas, initially working to combat sexual harassment in public. 

As a result of its success both at the community level and in promoting legislation to combat sexual violence, its scope has expanded to include support mechanisms for survivors of violence against women. 

This programme was implemented in cooperation with the UN Women from October 2013 for September 2019, with a total estimated cost of $7m.

“Promoting Civic Education among Youth in North Sinai” programme is also one of the USAID’s key programmes. It builds a culture of civic participation and volunteerism among youth in conflict-affected North Sinai through high-impact civic education. 

This programme helped provide youth with an alternate way to improve their communities, training 2,200 youth to exercise their political rights at the community-level through their tribal government or school elections. Besides, 2,400 grassroots community leaders participated in workshops on the importance of including youth in community decision-making. 

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Gaming in Egypt: Is It Possible? https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/10/02/gaming-in-egypt-is-it-possible/ Wed, 02 Oct 2019 11:12:26 +0000 https://eklutdvotyzsri.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=709882 If Egypt is anything, it’s a country with a rich history. Although, archeologists have made many discoveries that date to Egypt in ancient times some mysteries are still puzzling them.

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If Egypt is anything, it’s a country with a rich history. Although, archeologists have made many discoveries that date to Egypt in ancient times some mysteries are still puzzling them. The pyramids are the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the country and despite their popularity, the mystery of how they were built is yet to be solved. After being a British protectorate for some time, in 1922 it gained its independence and became the Arab Republic of Egypt a country with its laws and regulations.

Since it is a Muslim country, gaming or gambling is prohibited in Egypt. However, the national lottery is perfectly legal. So the issue with gaming is a complicated one. Gambling has been popular since ancient times so it’s hard to get rid of, especially if it’s done worldwide. A total of 3 cities have gambling facilities in Egypt, among which Cairo is the largest with 13 facilities. But there’s a twist to it.

Egyptian citizens aren’t allowed to play in casinos. The only ones allowed to do that are foreigners, namely tourists that have to show a passport to get in. The legal age for gaming is 18 and some casinos require a patron to be 21. What’s peculiar about them is that the only accepted currency is US dollars. Unlike casinos, sports betting is legal in Egypt and the most popular sport to bet on is football.

With this tough situation, casinos might look for their customers online. Since there aren’t any regulations for online gaming technically it isn’t illegal to play slots, blackjack or roulette online. There are many online casinos such as William Hill, GoodWin Casino, NetBet and others, that offer this option. They have interesting bonuses and offers for their players. Additionally, Egyptians are allowed to play their favorite games on other online casinos without a problem.

What’s problematic about casinos in Egypt is the rigorous legislation. According to the law, casinos have to pay their licensing fees and the government is entitled to 50% off their earnings. Although this is tough regulation at its finest, the government’s tax money is filled mainly with casino money. This is good because that money can be used for better purposes.

This begs the question as to why the government has such a tight grip on gaming if it brings financial gains. If the laws were changed and the fees lowered the tax money will increase and it can be put to good use in any infrastructure. However, since it’s a Muslim country those changes could take a toll and might be met with resistance. Tradition could suffer a heavy blow and reactions from the populace might be severe.

Whatever they decide to do it’s up to them to solve this problem. There are many variants to gaming that can be taken up and since technology is always booming new trends will take over and offer a friendlier climate. Either way, gaming online is more popular than ever around the world and will continue to be so in the coming years.

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Tunisia’s presidential runoff: anger, frustration behind ‘unforeseen’ results https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/22/tunisias-presidential-runoff-anger-frustration-behind-unforeseen-results/ Sun, 22 Sep 2019 18:43:17 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708700 "Tunisians gravitating toward people from outside system to bring them what they want, whether it is economic improvement or social dignity," says think tank fellow

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Tunisia surprised the world as usual, as two political outsiders head to presidential runoff in the country’s second free and democratic presidential elections since Jasmine Revolution in (December 2010-January 2011), in what could be seen as a “rebellion” against the political establishment.

Tunisians now have to choose between Nabil Karoui, a jailed businessperson and media mogul who is facing charges of money laundering and tax evasion, or Kais Saied, a little-known law professor. 

According to the electoral commission’s Wednesday announcement, Saied received 18.40% of the votes and Karoui took 15.58%. The date for the runoff has not yet been announced, but it could be in October, as the parliamentary election is scheduled on 6 October. 

Both long-shot candidates, one independent who flirts with Tunisia’s Islamists and the other is secularist who is running for office behind bars, surprisingly defeated a former prime minister, a defence minister, a former president, and Tunisia’s mammoth Ennahdha Party’s candidate Abdelfattah Mourou.

Adding more drama to the political scene, Tunisia’s ousted president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali died last Thursday in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia aged 83, a day after the results of the second round were announced. 

Ben Ali, who spent 23 years in office, was toppled in January 2011 following a sweeping revolution which inspired other Arab countries in the Middle East to follow Tunisians’ steps. 

Since then, nine successive governments led the country, but all failed to solve its economic, security, and political problems.

Economically, the unemployment rate reached 15.30% in 2019. For security, two suicide attacks hit the capital killing two, including a police officer, and injured several others. Earlier in October 2018, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, wounding 20 people including 10 police personnel.

In July, the Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi passed away after a severe health crisis forcing the national election to be held on 15 September instead of 17 November. 

The voter turnout was 45%, compared to 63% in the 2014 election, the Independent High Authority for Elections announced.

According to the 2014 Tunisian Constitution, the president and a government chosen by parliament share executive powers and governing, as the president has authority on foreign and defence policy.

Results reflect anger 

“The two winners, both political outsiders, reflect the anger and frustration many Tunisians feel about the political establishment,” Sarah Yerkes, fellow, Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Daily News Egypt. 

“Much like elsewhere across the globe, Tunisians are gravitating toward people from outside the system who can bring them what they want – whether it is economic improvement or social dignity,” Yerkes added.

 

She pointed out that the presence of one of the candidates, Karoui, in jail, tremendously complicates the electoral process. 

“As several observation missions have noted, the timing of Karoui’s arrest makes it impossible for him to have fair access to the voters. Should Karoui prevail in the runoff to be held in October, the judicial system will need to figure out how to handle a truly unique situation,” Yerkes continued. 

Moreover, Yerkes highlighted that Tunisia is naturally entering a new era that is quite different from 2011.

 

“The political transition has made tremendous progress and many institutions operate effectively. However, the economy has not improved, thus many voters are looking for a candidate that can bring real and positive change to their lives,” Yerkes explained, adding that both candidates will need to prove to voters how they will do that. 

“The election is another testament to the tremendous progress Tunisia has made toward consolidating its democratic transition. I witnessed enthusiastic voters and poll workers who took their jobs very seriously,” Yerkes, who observed the election, described the electoral scene in Tunisia. 

Who is running off? 

Kais Saied, a 61-year-old law professor and an expert on constitutional affairs, was endorsed and backed by Ennahda and Moncef Marzouki, former Tunisian president who was named by Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly following the 2010 Revolution. 

Saied ran as an independent candidate. He is campaigning under the slogan “The people want”. 

In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Saied asserted that he is ideologically independent, denying being the Islamists’ candidate. Saied also renewed his opposition toward granting Muslim women equal inheritance rights. 

Tunisians, especially women, fear that big leaps made regarding their civil rights by Essebsi could be revoked after his death.

Essebsi took a brave move in August 2018 to support an unprecedented draft law which grants Muslim women equal inheritance rights, as the law was based on the Islamic Shariah where females only inherit half of the inheritance given to males.

Essebsi further decreed that Muslim women can marry men outside the Islamic faith. Islam sets strict rules that prevent women from marrying non-Muslim men.

 

The second candidate is Nabil Karoui, the owner of the private Nessma TV channel and head of the Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party.

 

Karoui was arrested just weeks before the vote over charges of money laundering and tax evasion which he denies. Although he is currently jailed pending investigation, Karoui still can run for president under the Tunisian Law.

Last Wednesday, a judge refused a request to release Karoui, saying it was not in his jurisdiction, according to the candidate’s lawyer. However, Tunisian authorities agreed on Friday to allow him to take part in the presidential debates in the runoff election. The state authorities said Karoui can partake in presential debates, whether from prison or he will be allowed to go to the state TV headquarters.

In an exclusive interview with French weekly magazine Le Point, Karoui accused the head of Tunisian government, who failed to head to the second round of the presidential election, Youssef Chahed and the Ennahda movement, of being behind his apprehension. 

If he wins, Karoui pledged to be “a contemporary president” who would defend democracy and the rights of the minorities, adding that he “would wander the land to improve the living conditions of citizens.” 

Karoui also promised to fight terrorism and bolster security in the country. 

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Decline of inflation means price stability, not decrease: experts https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/21/decline-of-inflation-means-price-stability-not-decrease-experts/ Sat, 21 Sep 2019 12:06:52 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708596 Some experts suggest citizens cannot yet feel decline due to other services not included by CAPMAS

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Despite fears over facing extra price hikes after the cut to subsidies on fuel at the beginning of the current fiscal year, inflation rates fell short of everyone’s expectations in August.

The market was able to handle the increases and the new energy prices did not affect general inflation in Egypt.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced last week that Egypt’s annual consumer price inflation declined to 6.7% in August 2019, making it the lowest in over six years.

Also, in July, Egypt’s annual consumer price inflation fell to 7.8%, down from 13% in July 2018.

Egypt is approaching the end of its IMF-backed economic reform programme, which, during 2017, saw inflation rates rise to a high of 33%. The inflation number reported was lower than some analysts expected.

Core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as food, also declined, to 4.9% in August from 5.9% in July, the central bank said on Tuesday.

Inflation is a mirror for the market’s prices. It is calculated according to changes in the prices of vegetables and fruits. The reduction of inflation is one of the central bank’s objectives to improve the economy.

According to the CAPMAS, the annual inflation rate in Egypt in 2015 was about 10.4% and then increased in 2016 to 13.8% and then reached its historical peak in 2017 after the EGP’s flotation, which brought inflation rates to 29.5%. In 2018, it dropped to about 14.4%. Up until 2019, inflation has recorded 7.5%.

Also according to the CAPMAS, the term “inflation” refers to the percentage change in the prices of consumer goods. This rate is measured by 1,000 commodities and services per month from 15,000 sources nationwide. The prices of food, industrial goods, and services are collected monthly from urban and rural areas between the 1-28 of each month and the number of their sources: “10,085” for urban, and “4,337” for the countryside.

One-third of these goods and services are monitored on a weekly basis, or about 333 goods and services per week, purchased by the CAPMAS’s employees and officials. The centre keeps receipts. These goods are constantly changing in price on a weekly basis.

In recent years, the Egyptian government has taken steps toward economic reform. The most important of these steps is eliminating subsidies on some consumer goods, with fuel being the most prominent of these goods.

The ministry of petroleum and mineral resources announced in July the decision to increase the price of petroleum products and completely cut its fuel subsides.

Several economic experts explained the reasons for the decline of inflation and how citizens are affected by it and whether the decline is a positive or negative step toward improving Egypt’s economy.

The Director of the Capital Center for Economic Research and Studies (CCESR), Khaled El-Shafie, said that the recent decline in inflation was a result of the decline in prices of vegetables and fruits and a number of other commodities, explaining that this rate is a large percentage for one month.

  

In other words, Egyptian traders have yet to change the prices of their goods and services for consumers after the recent cuts in subsidies. This is what has mainly contributed to the decline in inflation rates to its lowest levels.

“There was an expectation that the decline in inflation would not last long under cuts of subsides but the market has been able to handle the increases in energy prices and it has not been affected the general inflation in Egypt, which gave an incentive to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to reduce the interest rate by 1.5%,” he added.

El-Shafie predicts that the coming period will witness a further decline in inflation, seeing that the IMF’s harsh reforms are almost completed.

He suggested that this was due to the cautious performance of the CBE when dealing with the waves of inflation experienced after floating the EGP in November 2016.

Moreover, economic expert Hossam Al-Ghaish, said that inflation means the change in the prices of basic goods that are most consumed by citizens, such as vegetables, fruit, meat, and medicines and therefore any change occurring in these groups determines how high or low inflation is.

Al-Ghaish also said that the decline in inflation does not mean prices in the markets have fallen, but that the pace of price increase has decreased, or has become stable. He cited that, “if a commodity is rising annually by one pound, and in one year it has risen by half a pound, here we mention that the rate of inflation declined.”

Inflation from the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2019 has been very high, but during the current period of the year there is near-stability in prices, and if there are rises, they are very slight, which indicates improvement in inflation rates, he said.

The expert suggested that the current decline in inflation is due to the fact that economic indicators are witnessing stability at the macroeconomic level. The decline witnessed by the dollar in the Egyptian market since the beginning of the year, which amounts to about 8%, is leading to the stability of commodity prices.

“Commodity prices became slightly lower, but the most notable decline was in the price of red meat and poultry,” he noted.

Al-Ghaish concluded that in order for citizens to feel a real decline in prices of goods on the ground, there must be two conditions achieved; the first is an increase in the production of goods and an increase in the supply markets, and the second factor is the continuous decline in foreign exchange rates and the rise of the value of the EGP.

Citizens still cannot feel inflation decline

Economist Sherif El-Demerdash said that citizens cannot feel a decline in inflation for two important reasons. The first reason is that many people do not understand the meaning of inflation itself. Meanwhile, secondly, the inflation rate measures in the rise of prices for various commodities does not concern the majority of the population.

Al-Ghaish explained that “The inflation rate is at 6.7%. This is the average and not the decline for all commodities. It is possible that the goods that affect the basic needs of citizens increase more than the average rate, especially food and drink items. ”

Therefore, what reduces the rate of inflation might be products that are not of major importance for everyday citizens, such as cars, durable goods, etc. Thus, the average citizen does not feel the low inflation rate.

And just because inflation rates of goods are decreasing does not hide the fact that prices are still high. Al-Ghaish agrees with other experts that the rate of increase is falling by 6.7%, and he also agrees that the prices of these goods have not fallen at all. Meaning that goods and commodities still end up expensive for the average consumer.

On the other hand, economist Wael El-Nahas says that government studies depend on certain commodities in calculating the inflation rate.

The decline in meat and poultry prices in the previous period is the biggest reason for the decline in inflation this month. Meanwhile, commodities such as fruits and vegetables are experiencing a steady gain in market prices, he explained.

El-Nahas concluded that the average Egyptian does not feel this improvement in prices or stability for other commodities due to other expense aspects. There are other things that he must budget for, like school, high prices of electricity, gasoline, and other goods and services, are not one of the goods that are included when calculating inflation rates.

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Fate of outlawed Islamists, Brotherhood members in post-Bashir Sudan https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/21/fate-of-outlawed-islamists-brotherhood-members-in-post-bashir-sudan/ Sat, 21 Sep 2019 12:04:16 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708598 Sudan’s transitional government seeks new era with Egypt through extraditing wanted Islamists, MB members, says political expert

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Security sources said on condition of anonymity that preparations are now underway in Sudan to extradite wanted militants to Egypt after reaching common understanding. Madin Ibrahim Hassaneen is the first one to be extradited to Egypt under this arrangement.

Madin is a leading figure at the Ansar al-Sharia Brigades and is convicted of murdering police officers in Sharqeya governorate in Egypt.

According to security sources, Madin, 59, adopts the Takfir Wal-Hijra (Excommunication and Exodus) ideology which was founded by Shukri Mustafa in the 1970s. Madin was also responsible for establishing Ansar Al-Sharia (Sharia Advocates) militant group in Sharqeya in the period that followed the Rabaa sit-in dispersal.

The Radical Islamist Takfir Wal-Hijra group, also known as Jama’at al-Muslimin (The Assemblage of Muslims), appeared in Egypt in 1971. The group’s first leader Shukri Mustafa was born in June 1942. He was executed by an Egyptian court in connection with the assassination of Egypt’s former religious endowments minister Sheikh Dahabi. It considers the modern Egyptian society as ‘infidels’ and believes that it is the Muslims’ duty to separate themselves from it until they can return in strength to conquer and Islamise the country, as Prophet Muhammad did to Mecca.

Although the group was crushed by the Egyptian security forces. It is said to have paved the way for extremists’ extensive activity in the subsequent years and decades.

Ahmed Atta, a political researcher at the Middle East Forum in London, told Daily News Egypt that Madin Hassanin Ibrahim is one of the leaders of the jihadist elements who emerged in the early 1970s and promoted the idea of Takfir Wal-Hijra.

He added that Madin participated in the jihadist project against the Soviet Union during the invasion of Afghanistan where he met with groups of jihadi leaders, including Abu Anas Al-Libi, leader of Ansar al-Sharia which blew up the United States embassy in Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, killing over 200 people.

Atta noted that the 2011 US National Security report confirmed that Ansar Al-Sharia has a branch in a number of Egyptian governorates.

Madin was arrested more than once during the rule of former president Mubarak due to the establishment of military cells affiliated with Ansar Al-Sharia.

“Madin was detained in Wadi Al-Natroun prison where he met with the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. In prison, the two were able to meet and create a plan to move the larger jihad movement towards a unified ‘Free Islamic Army’ to include all jihadist factions throughout the Arab world,” Atta said.

“Madin fled prison with Morsi during the 2011 Revolution with the help of armed factions of Hamas and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood leaders,” Atta added.

“After the Brotherhood topped the political scene in Egypt. Morsi and Madin met again in the presence of the Brotherhood leading member Khairat Al-Shater, where Madin offered to facilitate the return of the Islamist militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan to start forming the ‘Free Islamic Army’ to serve the jihadist state project,” he continued.

“Al-Shater agreed to finance the project and asked Madin to tour Turkey, Libya, Sudan, and Tunisia where he got advanced training on communication between jihadist factions by the Turkish intelligence,” according to Atta.

“Madin returned and established armed focal points in the Brotherhood sit-ins of Rabaa and Nahda, and called on all supporters across Egypt to join these militant points,” Atta claimed.

Atta clarified that after the collapse of the Brotherhood project and in the wake of the 30 June uprising, Madin travelled to Libya, then to Sudan where he settled and “formed security units for fugitive elements of the Brotherhood. This unit was fully funded by Qatar.”

Atta said that Sudan’s current transitional government is seeking a new era with Egypt through extraditing wanted extremists such as those Brotherhood affiliates, unlike the previous period of ousted Sudanese president Oma Al-Bashir.

Moreover, the UAE newspaper of Al-Ain quoted an Egyptian security source saying that Egypt has officially addressed Sudan to hand over dozens of wanted militants.

The source added that the most prominent of these names are three leaders of the Shura Council of the Brotherhood, Yasser Hassanein, Mohammed Sharif, and Helmi Al-Jazzar. The source added two leading figures, Yousef Harbi and Abdulhadi Shalabi.

Egypt demands that Sudan hand over some 70 members of the Brotherhood’s armed wing, most notably Ahmed Abdel Meguid and Mustafa Tantawi, the two main suspects in the attempted assassination of former Alexandria security chief Mostafa El-Nemr.

Many leaders of the Brotherhood recently escaped from Sudan to Turkey. The most dangerous of them is Al-Jazzar who is accused of violence incitement.

Al-Jazzar fled to Istanbul early this year and appeared a few days ago accompanied by Brotherhood preacher Youssef al-Qaradawi at his home.

Other prominent Brotherhood names, who are based in Sudan, are Mohamed Abdel Malik El-Halouji, an Egyptian Brotherhood official in Sudan; Mohamed El Behairy, head of the International Brotherhood Organisation in Africa; and other Brotherhood leaders including Mohamed Farid, Hossam El Kashef, Ahmed Awad, Tarek Seif, and Medhat Radwan

On the nature of security coordination between Egypt and neighbouring countries, an Egyptian security source told Al-Ain that Egypt worked to consolidate its relations with its neighbours and concluded agreements at the highest level to extradite fugitive elements accused of terrorism.

The source asserted that a high-profile security team is responsible for the implementation of the arrangement to arrest fugitives in Arab countries, most notably Kuwait and Sudan, praising the speed of coordination and effective cooperation.

Several Arab countries are expected to hand over several Egyptians associated with the Brotherhood soon, he added. This international cooperation is the result of multiple Egyptian requests for the extradition of these terrorist elements, as well as Egyptian delegations’ visits to those countries to follow up on the matter.

Sudan was a safe haven for Brotherhood members fleeing Egypt after the 30 June Revolution, mainly due to its proximity. The number of Brotherhood fugitives in Sudan after 2013 reportedly exceeded 3,000.

A source close to the group says that most of the Brotherhood members in Sudan are wanted in terrorism cases in Egypt. In addition, many of them do not have valid passports or personal identity due to their illegal entry into Sudan.

Although Egypt has repeatedly called on Sudan since 2014 to hand over wanted Brotherhood members, the former Bashir government has ignored the requests and supported the Brotherhood’s presence there.

During his recent visit to Cairo, head of the Sudanese Military Council, Abdel Fattah El-Burhan, promised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that he would not accept Sudan to continue as a safe haven for terrorist groups. The two sides signed an agreement to tighten security measures on borders and fight terrorism.

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Netanyahu makes last-minute push at eleventh hour of election race  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/15/netanyahu-makes-last-minute-push-at-eleventh-hour-of-election-race/ Sun, 15 Sep 2019 10:00:04 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=708014 'Prime minister is in the midst of a death match for his political career,' says analyst  

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at a tight race to win the re-lection of the general poll which will be held on 17 September, relying as usual on electoral pledges to gain more votes and trying hard to convince Israeli voters that he is the only leader capable of maintaining the security of Israel.

This time, Netanyahu vowed to annex parts of the occupied West Bank if he returned to office this week. He announced that he intends to impose the “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea”.

 

With such an announcement, Netanyahu hoped that right-wing parties would support in the election; upon which, he could eventually be able to form a coalition to lead Israel, in what appears to be one of the most difficult challenges in his political career. 

The September re-election will be held because Netanyahu failed to form a coalition. In April’s election, results showed that the right-wing bloc gained 65 seats, while the centre-left bloc only got 55. 

“Today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech last week. 

Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, is facing a strong rival in this poll, former General Benny Gantz of the opposition centrist Blue and White party. 

 Final polls suggested on Friday that Likud and Blue and White party are tied at 32 seats. Polls have predicted that the right-wing bloc could take 58-59 seats in the Knesset, and 53 seats for the centre-left. 

In Israel, Netanyahu still faces ‘dangerous’ charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three cases pending a final hearing. 

On the other hand, the premier also revealed that the United States Mideast plan or what became known as the so-called ‘Deal of the Century,’ is expected to be released following the Israeli elections, echoing Trump’s previous statements regarding the time of the release.  

Annexing the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, if applied, would determine any future for a two-state solution, as Palestinians insist to have an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 borders. 

Netanyahu also said that Israel would probably have no choice but to go to war in the Gaza Strip, amid an ongoing escalation in recent months with the Hamas movement. 

 

Strong condemnation 

 

Netanyahu’s remarks of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea sparked a regional as well as an international backlash, even from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had received the Israeli Prime Minister five days ago before the Israeli election. 

 Netanyahu made a one-day trip to Sochi in a visit that was seen as a desperate attempt to rally the Likud elder Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel. 

The European Union spokesperson also commented on Netanyahu’s plans and said the bloc “will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders” of Israel. “The policy of settlement construction and expansion is illegal under international law and its continuation, and actions taken in this context, undermine the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” the EU spokesperson said in a statement. 

The UK, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain voiced concerns regarding the prime minister’s plans. 

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials and Arab countries also condemned Netanyahu’s plans including Jordan and Saudi Arabia. 

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that “confiscating and annexing Palestinian land and building settlements is a unilateral measure we condemn.” 

 “They’ll kill prospects for peace,” Safadi tweeted. 

 

Concurrently, Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization said that the plans “would bury any chance for peace,” calling on the international community to denounce Netanyahu’s plans. 

Similarly, the Arab League (AL) Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Arab Foreign Ministers denounced Netanyahu’s promise to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. 

In a statement, the AL said that the announcement is “a dangerous update and Israeli aggression,” as it violates international law, the charter of the UN and UN Security Council Resolution 242/338. 

Furthermore, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “such steps, if implemented, would constitute a serious violation of international law.” 

“They would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace, while severely undermining the viability of the two-state solution,” Guterres added. 

 

 Trump’s support 

Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights during the War of 1967. In 1981, Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights, a move that was never internationally recognised.

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30% of the West Bank. Nearly 65,000 Palestinians and some 11,000 Israeli settlers live there, according to Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

 

Netanyahu hoped to be backed by the US President Donald Trump in his new plans to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.  

Trump already extended similar favours for his Israeli friend to strengthen his position in the general election held last April. 

In March, Trump signed an official proclamation recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, overturning US foreign policy that has been held for decades. Earlier in December 2017, Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu renewed his promise to annex all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

More than 628,000 Israeli settlers live in illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, according to Human Rights Watch.

In 2017, Israel agreed on plans to establish 10,536 housing units in its settlements in the West Bank, compared to 4,611 units between 2015-2016, according to the Peace Now non-governmental Israeli organisation. 

 

 A death match

 

“Netanyahu is in the midst of a death match for his political career and he is leaning hard onto the one issue that has always helped him defeat his political opponents: security,” Nicholas A Heras, Middle East Security fellow at the Center for a New American Security told Daily News Egypt. 

“There is no doubt that Netanyahu made his remarks concerning the Jordan River Valley to appeal to Israeli voters who are worried that the Jordanian side of the border with the West Bank could be a revolving door for terrorist groups to attack Israel,” Heras continued. 

On Russia’s visit, Heras explained that he visited Putin to show Israelis that “only he, Benjamin Netanyahu, has the personal connection and strength to deal with the Russian leader on equal terms to ensure that Israel’s northern border with Syria is not breached by Iran.” 

 

“Netanyahu wants Israeli voters to associate him with the word “security,” and this effort is a major part of his re-election campaign,” Heras highlighted. 

 

 On a possible war in Gaza or with Iran-backed Hezbollah, Heras pointed out that Netanyahu is more likely to go back to war with Hamas than with Hezbollah for a simple reason. “There is a powerful voting bloc of security-focused Israelis who live close to Gaza, and their support is essential if Netanyahu wants to remain prime minister if he is re-elected.”

“Hamas is also a much weaker actor in comparison to Hezbollah, and Netanyahu is a risk-averse leader who would not want to risk a major war with Hezbollah that would bring in Iran and could lead to mass destruction within Israel,” Heras noted. “The stakes, both political and regarding the existential survival of Israel, are much, much higher for Netanyahu if there was a war with Hezbollah,” Heras concluded. 

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As US marks 18th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, what lies ahead for Al-Qaeda https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/11/as-us-marks-18th-anniversary-of-9-11-attacks-what-lies-ahead-for-al-qaeda/ Wed, 11 Sep 2019 21:20:25 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707743 The 911 attacks were conducted by the militant group of Al-Qaeda which is considered as one of the fiercest jihadi organisations in the world and includes thousands of fighters

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A total of 18 years passed after the 911 attacks that led to the death of 2, 977 individuals and the suffering of 75,000 people from psychological and physical disorders as a result of these attacks. During the last 18 years, nearly 156 people passed away after they suffered from poisoned fumes and dust from the collapse of the New York two World Trade Centre towers.

The 911 attacks were conducted by the militant group of Al-Qaeda which is considered as one of the fiercest jihadi organisations in the world and includes thousands of fighters. The group was founded by the Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden, who was killed eight years ago in a United States militant attack that targeted his residence in Pakistan.

But with the killing of its leader, and the emergence of Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda’s power and influence has been significantly weakened.

Through this report, Daily News Egypt attempts to shed light on the impact of Al-Qaeda today and the threat that this group is currently posing to global security. 

On a media scale, the IS news has dominated the media in recent years, while Al-Qaeda’s group has resorted to a reconstruction strategy that was based on forming alliances with regional groups. According to a recent report from US intelligence, a warning popped up that senior leading figures from Al Qaeda are strengthening the global leadership structure of the group and continue to encourage attacks against the west and the US.

Similarly, a UN report released earlier this year on the global threat of terrorism unveiled that the Al-Qaeda group possesses “high ambitions”, is still coherent and active in many regions, and has the ambition to present itself more on the international stage.

A new war tactic

With the rise of the ferocious drone campaigns, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the challenge of the IS, Al-Qaeda adopted a new war tactic. This tactic focused on affording support to the group’s affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and south Asia.

These affiliates are local militias, integrated into communities, and sworn to loyalty to Al-Qaeda leadership. Plus, the group is keen to engage with the local population, unlike the IS which is perceived with hostility from locals due to the violent actions that it undertook against innocent civilians.

In 2013, Al-Qaeda issued the ‘Jihad Guidelines,’ which included several reforms within the organisation.

The ‘Jihad Guidelines’ document focuses, among other things, on the community approach, and instructs its fighters to avoid any behaviour that could lead to a “revolution between people”.

Decentralisation strategy

Al-Qaeda has doubled its attacks through its affiliate branches. In 2018, it carried out 316 attacks worldwide. These branches are located in the Islamic Maghreb, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indian subcontinent, Somalia, East Africa, Egypt, and Syria.

The group appeared in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006 when an Algerian militia sided with Al-Qaeda following a crackdown by Algerian forces. The militia has moved to west Africa, while in the Indian subcontinent, the group was established in 2014 and went active in countries such as Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the group was active in 2009 in the Arabian Peninsula through the merger of local jihadists with the international jihadist network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, while in Syria the group was called the ‘Tahrir al-Sham’ entity which rose from the merger of many Jihadist militias with ties to Al-Qaeda.

In Egypt, the group’s affiliate militias appeared in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. 

Future leadership

In a 2015 speech, current Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri presented a young man as a “lion of the group.” That young man was Hamza bin Laden, son of former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and is widely seen as the future leader of Al-Qaeda.

The US considers him a global terrorist and has a warrant out for $1m for any information about his whereabouts.

Promoting him as the new leader of Al-Qaeda, several web sites loyal to Al-Qaeda present Hamza bin Laden as a rising star who will inspire the next generation of jihadists and infuse the group’s arteries. Through recent years Hamza bin Laden has issued voice and video messages urging supporters of the group to attack the US and its allies in retaliation for his father’s death.

In the same context, the observatory of “Takfiri fatwas” translated into “Extremist Views” of the Dar Al-Ifta, the highest religious institution in Egypt, recently released a report on the changing stages experienced by “Al-Qaeda” since the 911 attacks in 2001.

The observatory noted that the organisation succeeded in dealing with the variables of the stage in such a way that kept it present until now without being eliminated.

The observatory added that Al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks continued to present itself on the ground as the vanguard of extremist organisations and does not seek to establish an “Islamic Caliphate” in the short term, and therefore it adopted several methods aimed at staying as coherent as possible, by providing capabilities and channelling fighters.

The report pointed out that Al-Qaeda has divided the new followed methods into several stages. After the September 11 attacks, the organisation found it difficult to recruit fighters. Subsequently, this forced it to be dependent on the network of relations in the areas where it is deployed, in addition to relying on supporters abroad to carry out terrorist operations such as the Madrid and London attacks in 2004 and 2005.

Al-Qaida worked on a plan based on the fact that each of its groups was responsible for a particular region, ie, it followed a pattern of “decentralisation”, which indicates that the organisation has left these groups to operate individually, while maintaining the idea of “uniting Muslim society” through the destruction of current societies and the establishment of other alternative societies, which it regards as the real targeted society according to their ideas.

The report said that Al-Qaeda worked to change its speech after 2011, where it tried to put forward and use new terms that were not used in its speech like the ‘nation,’ and abandoned the superstitious speech that was communicated through its publications, whether visible or written, provided that the speech is far from enforcing its ideology. This came as Zawahiri believed that Muslims should learn “right first” according to their extremist beliefs.

The observatory’s report pointed out that the waves of change in the group’s ideas led it to focus on targeting Muslims through speech and governments via the intensification of terrorist operations against security forces and others. The people’s strategy was fully evident when Zawahiri announced it must first work to mobilise the masses.

The report added that with the rise of the IS in late 2013, this led to a partial competition between the two organisations, where Al-Qaeda focused its operations on the “near enemy,” while the IS worked to focus its operations on the “remote enemy”.

According to the report, Al-Qaeda relied on non-intensification of external operations, worked to avoid security prosecutions, and left the stage for IS and its elements to be vulnerable to security targeting, as the Al-Qaeda strategy is based on ‘intellectual deployment’ and not on the basis of geographical control.

The observatory concluded the report by noting that although Al-Qaeda has recently retreated and the terrorist scene topped the IS, especially after the strikes that rocked Al-Qaeda, such as the killing of Hamza bin Laden and the conflict between him and Zawahiri over the leadership of the organization, however the organisation may return on the ruins of the IS, in an attempt to exploit all the gaps.

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Sudan’s new transitional government sworn in, a step toward achieving revolutionary demands https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/11/sudans-new-transitional-government-sworn-in-a-step-toward-achieving-revolutionary-demands/ Wed, 11 Sep 2019 13:26:08 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707665 Sudanese cabinet include four female ministers for first time

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Sudan’s transitional government was finally sworn in, on Sunday, after multiple weeks of negotiations and delays, marking the first step toward achieving the demands of the four-month revolution.

The new cabinet is the first since the ouster of long-time president Omar Al-Bashir, who remained in power for almost 30 years.

The 18-member cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, included four women, marking unprecedented representation of women in the Sudanese government. Also, the country now has a female foreign minister for the first time.

The ministerial portfolios held by women included Asmaa Abdallah as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walaa Essam Al-Boushi as Minister of Youth and Sports, Lina Al-Sheikh as Minister of Labour and Development, and Intisar Al-Zein as Minister of Higher Education.

Asmaa Abdallah is not only the first female foreign minister in Sudan, but also the Arab world.

Women played a leading role in the months of street protests against Al-Bashir’s rule which started December 2018. Hundreds of females were detained during the uprising and many others were beaten and sexually harassed by security forces, as reported by political activists and witnesses during the revolution.

The cabinet formation came as a result of the power-sharing deal between protesters and military generals who came in power after the ouster of Al-Bashir in April. Two ministers are yet to be appointed, where Hamdok stated that he is still negotiating with the pro-democracy movement over the last two posts.

The cabinet is expected to steer the daily affairs of the country during a transition period of 39 months when general elections are scheduled to be held. The prime minister has said he was adamant that his cabinet is representative of all of Sudan’s regions, including areas which had, in the past, been routinely overlooked.

The next step is the creation of a transitional legislature in which women have been guaranteed at least 40% of its 300 seats. The chamber should sit by November at the latest. The Forces of Freedom and Change, a wide coalition of civilian and opposition forces, will select two thirds of the members, while the remainder will come from political parties outside the alliance.

Hamdok, who previously served as an economist at the United Nations, said in a press conference on Sunday that his country will begin a new phase through the new government which will work in harmony and with integrity, referring that their priorities are to end the long-running conflicts in western and southern Sudan and to establish peace.

The Sudanese prime minister explained that there is a need to reconsider the issue of the public budget, saying: “If we can sign peace agreement in a period of one to six months, this will create a good atmosphere because the war spent 70-80% of our budget, so we can then spend more on education and infrastructure and restore production through a strong and sustainable economy.”

The newly appointed Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Badawi said “We have a 200-day programme for reviving the economy in a way that could help reduce the cost of living for our people in the near term.”

“We also have a long-term plan to restructure the overall economy,” he said, adding the country is expecting new donations soon to help tackle some immediate challenges.

Economy is the biggest challenge facing the new government, as it has collapsed since the south seceded in 2011, which led to the deprivation of the north of three quarters of its oil reserves.

The new Sudanese government is required to work on the provision of foreign exchange to finance and cover the import bill for basic commodities such as fuel and flour.

The new government is also striving to negotiate the removal of Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and extremism, as well as reducing the country’s military spending, which represents up to 70% of the public budget.

Vice-President of the Egyptian Council for African Affairs, Salah Halima, said that the government will face a series of difficult challenges that require confrontation, and if the government managed to overcome them this will represent a great criterion for its success, which undoubtedly came at a difficult stage in the history of Sudan.

The government of Hamdok will have to deal with the economy file in order to improve it as well as living conditions, especially after the hike in prices.

The economic conditions were the main motive behind the protests that came out against the former Sudanese president.

He referred to the importance of dealing with armed factions in Sudan, where a dialogue should be established with the various factions in order to overcome the presence of armed groups in Sudan, deeming that this will be difficult work, but not impossible for the new Sudan.

“Among the government of Hamdok will be its tasks to work in cooperation with other Sudanese institutions, to achieve a foreign policy more in harmony with the Arab region, and to move away from axes adopted by Al-Bashir which brought to Sudan a lot of internal and external conflicts,” Halima concluded.

Moreover, Seif El-Din Soliman, a Sudanese journalist and analyst, expressed his high hopes for the new transitional government which he believes represents all the national sectors in the country and is not a partisan government as it was during the last 30 years under the rule of Al-Bashir.

The new government has many challenges, but the people have to remain united as they have been in recent months so that the government can carry out its tasks, Soliman urged, asserting that restoration of security and stability and the enforcement of law and social justice must be on the list of priorities of the new transitional government to promote the economy and restore the power of the state.

However, Al-Bashir’s rule has come to an end, as the human rights, political and economic situations in Sudan deteriorated. Many of the protestors who called for peace, justice, rule of law, and economic reforms have paid the price of change with their lives and liberty.

Sudanese Court formally indicted former Al-Bashir on corruption and holding illicit foreign currency during his third trial last week.

This came after authorities had seized €6.9m, $351,770 and 5.7m Sudanese pounds at Al-Bashir’s home which he acquired and used illegally.  Al-Bashir said he had received $ 25 million from Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, as well as funds from other sources, but he claimed that he did not use the money for his own benefit.

Al-Bashir has been detained since being ousted from power in April after months of protests.The ousted president was initially facing charges of illegally possessing foreign currency, corruption. He was also charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters, and prosecutors also want him questioned over suspected money laundering and terrorist financing. Additionally, he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Al-Bashir was one of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) longest-running fugitives. The court has issued two arrest warrants for the former Sudanese leader – the first on 4 March 2009 and the second on 12 July 2010. He stands accused of criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide following the killing, maiming, and torturing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

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Tunisia vote: meet the front-runners competing for presidency https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/08/tunisia-vote-meet-the-front-runners-competing-for-presidency/ Sun, 08 Sep 2019 11:00:08 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707342 Tunisia's Ennahda named a candidate for first time since 2011 revolution

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Tunisia is gearing up for its second free and democratic presidential election that is expected to be held on 15 September, two months earlier that its supposed date as the country’s President Beji Caid Essebsi died in July after severe health crisis. The elections were supposed to be held on 17 November.

Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections announced on 31 August that it approved the papers of 26 candidates with diverse ideologies, including two women, running for the office. More than seven million Tunisians are expected to cast their ballots in the vote.

Candidates started their campaigns on 2 September as they will last until 13 September. Initial results are to be announced on 17 September.

Essebsi came to office in December 2014, after winning the country’s first free presidential poll since the sweeping uprising which toppled long-time autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 after 23 years in office. 

Among the candidates are Nabil Karoui of the Qalb Tounes party (Heart of Tunisia), former prime minister Mehdi Jomaa, Abdel Fattah Mourou chosen by Ennahda party (Renaissance), former president Moncef Marzouki, former head of government Youssef Chahed, President of the Free Destourian Party (PDL) Abir Moussi, and former Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi. 

Tunisia is widely seen as the only successful symbol of democracy following the Arab Spring in 2011. However, the country’s nine governments which took the lead of the country, since then, have failed in tackling its economic troubles.  

Meanwhile, Tunisians, especially women, fear that big leaps made regarding their civil rights by Essibsi could be revoked after his death.

Essebsi took a brave move in August 2018 to support an unprecedented draft which aims to grant Muslim women equal inheritance rights, as the current system is based on the Islamic Shariah Law which permit daughters only half of the inheritance given to sons.

Essebsi further decreed that Muslim women can marry men outside Islamic faith. Islam sets strict rules that prevent women from marrying non-Muslim men.

“The choice between voters is going to be influenced by two opposing elements: the willingness to claim the legacy of Essebsi on specific issues, including women’s rights, versus the ability to calm citizens’ fears and meet their expectations,” Haykel Ben Mahfoudh, a senior non-resident fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East wrote in the Atlantic Council think tank.

According to the 2014 Tunisian Constitution, the president and a government chosen by parliament share executive powers and governing, as the president has authority on foreign and defence policy.

Noteworthy, Essebsi called for amending the constitution a few months before his death, amid disputes with the head of government, Youssef Chahed.

Here are the main candidates running for presidency: 

Youssef Chahed 

Chahed run the upcoming elections under the umbrella of his party Tahya Tounes (Long Live Tunisia).

He is a 43-year-old agriculture engineer chosen by Essebsi to lead the cabinet in 2016, as he was a member of the Nidaa Tounes party (Call for Tunisia), founded by Essebsi.

Earlier this year, Chahed and several MPs founded the secular party Tahya Tounes, intending to compete with moderate Islamists in the presidential race.

The move followed months of disputes between Chahed and the Nidaa Tounes amid accusations to Mohamed Essebsi, the son of the late president, of seeking to serve his interests.

During his term, Chahed was criticised over “failing” to save the country’s economy and improve the citizens’ living conditions.

Chahed said he wants to split from the old regime, and to empower the Tunisians, especially youth, and to give them hope for a better future.

During an electoral campaign rally on Friday in Kasserine, west-central Tunisia, Chahed left the scene after protests over his government performance in the past years, as people called for his departure.

Abdel Fattah Mourou

Ennahda, described as Tunisia’s largest and moderate Islamist party, also named its candidate for presidential elections for the first time since the 2011 revolution.

Mourou, a 71-year-old lawyer, is acting currently as the interim speaker of the parliament after Mohamed Ennaceur, who was sworn in as Tunisia’s interim president following Essebsi.

He is considered as one of the most prominent historical leaders and founders of the Islamist movement in Tunisia.

Mourou worked as a judge until 1977, then he became a lawyer.

He left Ennahda party after he was apprehended in 1991 and spent two years in prison. In 2012, he returned to Ennahda and the political scene after toppling Ben Ali. 

Mourou, a Beethoven fan known for his passion for music and with moderate thoughts, pledged to be the president of all Tunisians, not only a president for Ennahda supporters.

In an interview with Al-Hurra, Mourou pledged to maintain what was achieved regarding women’s rights, adding that all the laws and darts issued by the parliament are considered as “acquis of Tunisian people.”

Abdelkarim Zbidi

Zbidi, 69, was the defence minister under the government of Chahed since 2017. He submitted his candidacy papers as an independent last month. He is backed by the Nidaa Tounes and the Afek Tounes parties.

Since 1981, Zbidi, a doctor, served in several posts under the rule of Tunisian presidents Habib Bourguiba, Bin Ali, and Essebsi. 

Zbidi holds a PhD in medicine from the Claude Bernard University Lyon 1, France. Following the 2011 uprising, he was appointed as the defence minister under the government of Mohamed Ghannouchi until he quit in March 2013.

He said in a recent interview with Reuters that he intends to amend the constitution if he is elected as president, as he wants to end “the division of power between the prime minister and the head of state.”

Zbidi was seen as one of the most serious rivals to Youssef Chahed

Moncef Marzouki 

Marzouki was named by Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly to be the first president following the 2011 revolution. He was a human rights activist and was known for his opposition to Ben Ali.

 

Marzouki was born on 7 July in 1945 in Grombalia. He holds a PhD in medicine in 1973 from Strasbourg University in France and specialised in Internal Medicine and Neurology.

 

Marzouki lectured in medicine at the Medical University of Sousse until he was fired in 2000 for his political activity. In 1980, he joined the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, which he led in 1989, according to his biography on his website. 

 

He is also an author of several works on political philosophy. He is the founder of the centre-left Congress Party for the Republic (CPR). 

 

Marzouki immigrated to France and spent two decades in exile before returning to Tunisia in 2011, days after Ben Ali fled the country. 

In the 2014 elections, Marzouki lost polls with 44.32% to 55.68% for Essebsi. 

Nabil Karoui

Karoui, a businessperson and owner of the private channel Nessma TV, was arrested over charges of money laundering and tax evasion just weeks before the vote. 

The 56-year-old media mogul is one of the main candidates competing for the presidency.

Karoui’s party, Heart of Tunisia, said that the apprehension is meant to exclude him from the election race. However, the arrest has not prevented him from remaining a candidate in the polls.

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Customary marriage: unprohibited in Islam, but MP drafting law to criminalise it https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/04/customary-marriage-unprohibited-in-islam-but-mp-drafting-law-to-criminalise-it/ Wed, 04 Sep 2019 08:30:30 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=707056 Experts debated over the draft law, showing its cons and pros

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A wave of social and religious debate on the possibility of criminalising customary marriage stirred again, after the parliamentary member Amna Nosseir announced drafting a new law to criminalise it.

Nosseir said she will present the draft law to parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal by the beginning of the next parliamentary round scheduled for October.

Several experts rejected the draft law, believing that this type of marriage is needed in many cases, and that it differs than secret marriage, but its only problem is the absence of legal documentation. The experts also believed that partners of customary marriage should not be punished except in case of not documenting their marriage.

Meanwhile, Nosseir believes that customary marriage is increasingly spreading, that’s why there must be a legislation to criminalise this type of marriage, noting that customary marriage lacks the legal elements of a traditional marriage, which is declared, approved by the partner’s guardians, and documented by the authorized registrar “Ma’zoun”.

The draft law aims to protect society from the risk of customary marriage, and to educate girls, especially minors, to ensure their rights once they marry, Nossier said.

“Is it right for a girl to marry behind her family and when the young man takes what he wants from her, he abandons her without giving her right,” she said, highlighting that many girls have resorted to her to get their rights from men they have customarily married without the knowledge of their parents, seeking help to get their rights.

This was not the first time for Nossier to speak about the necessity of putting regulations to criminalise the customary marriage. In 2018, she also submitted a similar draft to the parliament, but it was not discussed.

In a press statement, Nossier said that she would seek insights and opinions of all the consultants in the concerned parties on the draft law, as well as open a broad discussion about it after referring it to the concerned parliamentary committees’ members, in addition to the possibility of offering it for community dialogue to achieve social consensus.

She continued that her move aimed at facilitating all ways of official Islamic marriage for young people, pointing out that if the draft was approved, she will add guarantees to the law to save men from punishment if he decided to turn the customary marriage into official acknowledged one according to Islamic rules and give his wife her rights.

She explained that the main features of the draft law on customary marriage will focus on ensuring the officiality of marriage through legal controls, and impose penalties on men, up to imprisonment, while only punishing women morally, saying: “moral disciplining is enough.”

Nossier explained that her draft law will punish a customarily married man with at least a year in prison. 

She added, “the law also calls on families not to exaggerate in marriage dowry as long as the basics are existing and the man is suitable for marriage, describing customary marriage as a corruption that destroys the foundations of society.”

“Customary marriage results in an unstable family and thus negatively affects the society, so criminalising it would restore security and safety in the Egyptian family and preserve the rights of women,” Nossier said. 

She stressed, “the family is the pillar of society and whenever there is a strong and cohesive family, we have a cohesive society.”

What do experts say?

Ali Sabri, a lawyer who specialises in personal status cases, said in a televised interview that the rise in customary marriage rates is a very serious indicator, as the latest statistics show that it exceeded 15% of the total marriage contracts, as the people’s culture in marriage does not really care about the legal aspects of the process.

However, it is difficult for the state to criminalise customary marriage, as Al-Azhar did not issue an official fatwa to invalidate the customary marriage, or said it is forbidden or unacceptable, he urged. 

Sabri explained that customary marriage is complete when three conditions are met; a contract, witnesses, and publicity, but the absence of documentation makes it a crime. 

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) pointed out that the customary marriages in Egypt exceeded 141,000 cases in 2018 alone, representing 15% of total marriage contracts, pointing out that this rate is a dangerous and very alarming indicator.

Moreover, the family affairs expert Manal Khedr said the customary marriage in many cases meets the conditions of traditional marriage, but it lacks documentation so that the woman can avoid suspension of her pension in case she is a widow or from her father, or her alimony once she get married, especially if the new husband is underprivileged.

In such cases, customary marriage ensures the woman a permanent financial source to spend on her children, she said.

“Also it gives a chance for the husband who lives unhappily with his wife and does not want to harm his family to have another chance to marry another woman while maintaining his first family,” she added, noting that this type of marriage is important and needed by society in many situations as long as the law does not prohibit it.

The exaggeration in the dowry is behind the prevalence of customary marriage among youth, and ignoring it is dangerous for society.

She stressed, “customary marriage among youth has become a phenomenon in the Egyptian society now.” She learned from the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Alexandria University, that 25% of students are married customarily.

Lawyer Amal Mostafa said she believes that marriage documentation now is a must for the benefit of women and to preserve its rights, but in case the marriage is not documented, there should be a legislation to punish the violators.

MP Khaled Hanafi, a member of the parliamentary committee on constitutional and legislative affairs, commented that the issuance of a law to criminalise customary marriage is a violation of the Egyptian law, and it is difficult to apply it. He added that as long as the conditions of marriage have been met, publicity and witnesses, there is no problem in marriage.

Also, MP Mohamed Fouad suggested the need to take the opinion of Al-Azhar in the proposal of MP Amna Naseer to criminalise customary marriage because it is the official religious body entrusted with determining the legitimacy of customary marriage or not, stressing the need to refer to it before discussing the draft law.

Sharia Law Professor Mostafa Ibrahim urged that there is a confusion between customary and secret marriage – which is behind the back of the father and the family – and hidden from members of the family or relatives, but only known by their friends, while customary marriage meets the legitimate conditions of marriage.

Ahmed Koryma, a professor at Al-Azhar University, said if we apply the penalty of imprisonment for customarily married people, a lot of people will be imprisoned. 

He continued, “customary marriage is the one that meets the conditions of the official marriage and lacks only documentation,” pointing out that marriage may not be documented for certain circumstances, as is the case in some areas like Sinai or Upper Egypt.

He pointed out that there are 15 types of customary marriage, so the draft law should determine the type of marriage to be criminalised, calling for the need to submit any laws relating to religious affairs to Al-Azhar and the Council of Senior Scholars for discussion to provide their legitimate opinion. 

Al-Azhar does not object documenting customary marriage contracts, but there are societal consequences that must be addressed first, as some may resort to customary marriage to benefit from pension, he explained, concluding that “customary marriage can be valid and invalid at the same time.” 

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Syrian refugees no longer welcome in Turkey, as authorities intensify crackdown, deportation https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/03/syrian-refugees-no-longer-welcome-in-turkey-as-authorities-intensify-crackdown-deportation/ Tue, 03 Sep 2019 18:26:10 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=706954 Hundreds of protesters gathered near Bab al-Hawa crossing, shortly before Russia announced a "unilateral ceasefire," on Saturday morning in this area of north-western Syria.

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In a step that reflects the Turkish government’s refusal of the presence of the Syrian refugees in the country, the Turkish army stationed along the border with Syria on Friday and fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration involving hundreds of Syrians on the Syrian side of the border who protested the Turkish strikes on Idlib province in north-western Syria.

Some protestors tried to break through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to an AFP reporter.

Hundreds of protesters gathered near Bab al-Hawa crossing, shortly before Russia announced a “unilateral ceasefire,” on Saturday morning in this area of north-western Syria.

Russia supports Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and hid regime. The Syrian regime forces have made significant progress in Idlib since 8 August, months after bombing the jihadist-held areas.

Turkey, known as a primary sponsor of some armed groups in Syria, has demanded a cessation of hostilities for fear of a humanitarian crisis that could cause a new influx of refugees toward its borders.

Since late April, offenses carried out by the Assad regime and his Russian ally led to the death of more than 950 civilians in Idlib, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. While more than 400,000 people have been displaced, according to UN.

Idlib, with a population of about three million people, is under the control of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militant group, a former branch of Al-Qaeda.

On Friday, Russia called leaders of militant groups to abandon provocations and join the process of peaceful settlement in the areas they control.

In response to the protests, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Syrian demonstrators stormed the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and entered the Turkish territory to demand a halt to the shelling of civilians by the Assad regime and his Russian ally.

“Developments in Idlib are unacceptable and we are taking all measures to protect our interests,” Erdogan said in a press statement after Friday prayers.

“There is a new wave of refugees from Idlib, because of the ongoing hostilities there, starting to move toward Turkey,” Erdogan added.

In the same context, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Turkish army will leave Syria when a political solution is found, pointing out that the Assad regime does not believe in the political solution at the moment.

Speaking to reporters in Oslo, Çavuşoğlu warned that ongoing attacks by Assad’s forces and their militia in Idlib could cause another wave of Syrian refugees to flee to Europe.

He noted that Russia had assured Turkey that Turkish checkpoints in north-western Syria would not be attacked by Syrian regime forces.

On Wednesday, Syrian regime raids targeted the perimeter of the Turkish observation post in Sher Maghar in the northern countryside of Hama, but there were no casualties among Turkish soldiers.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said that Turkish forces were on alert at the 12th checkpoint in northern Syria, located in Maar Hatat town near the city of Hayesh in the southern countryside of Idlib.

The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the Syrian regime forces will abide by the unilateral ceasefire in Idlib, starting from Saturday.

The Turkish authorities had announced that thousands of Syrian refugees in Istanbul, which is the largest Turkish city, had until 20 August to leave the city.

Istanbul authorities say that this decision was issued in July and gave Syrians living in Istanbul enough time to settle their situation and return to the states where they were registered upon the order of the Turkish Interior Ministry.

It justifies the decision as a step toward easing the pressure migrants are putting on the city.

However, some human rights organisations question the Turkish justification and say that some Syrians are forced to return to their country, and some have been deported to war-torn areas in Syria.

The issue of Syrians living in Turkey has become one of the most controversial issues in public opinion in Turkey in recent years.

Discussions intensified following the announcement by the Istanbul municipality of a large-scale campaign against illegal migration.

Since the outbreak of the 2011 popular uprising that later turned into an armed conflict and civil war, Syrian refugees have flocked to Turkey under temporary protection status (a special status granted to nationalities of some countries suffering from the impact of wars or natural disasters).

In July, the number of Syrian refugees registered in Turkey reached 3,649,750 people, according to a statistic from the General Directorate of Immigration at the Turkish Ministry of Interior.

They constituted the broadest category of Syrian presence in Turkey which has been steadily increasing annually since 2011.

Temporary protection status excludes Syrians in good economic standing who have been granted residence in Turkey. About 99,643 Syrian refugees, according to a statistic issued from the Turkish General Directorate of Immigration in 2018, are representing the second category of Syrians in Turkey.

The category of people living under temporary protection is considered the largest among Syrians in Turkey.

The third category of Syrians living in Turkey is the category of illegal migrants. It includes those who entered the country illegally, or violated entry laws or visa periods.

Turkish authorities require Syrians to register their names when entering to the country if they are seeking temporary protection status.

According to statistics from the Turkish General Immigration Department on 14 August, a total 21,988 illegal migrants have been arrested this year.

In 2014, the number was 24,984 people, and in 2015 it rose to 73,422 people, then in 2016 it dropped to 69,755, and to 50,217 in 2017. In 2018, Turkey had 53,344 Syrian illegal migrant detainees.

A report from the Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on “migrant workers” in Turkey claims that about 1 million Syrians work illegally in the country.

The report notes that many of these employees work in harsh conditions with very low wages in agriculture, food industries, manufacturing, and construction sectors.

The report says that one in five Syrian informal workers are children under 15.

In response to accusations addressed to Turkey on the forced deportation of Syrian refugees, the head of communication department in the Turkish presidency, Fakhruddin Altun, asserted that these allegations are “just nonsense”, and that his country rejects the accusation that Syrian refugees are facing the risk of deportation.

Altun said in an article he wrote to Foreign Policy magazine, published on Friday evening, on Turkey’s policy toward Syrians, that Turkey has adopted since 2011 the policy of “open door” for Syrians displaced from their land, and opened its doors to about 3.6 million refugees.

He stressed that during the same period, Jordan received 1.4 million people, while the United States only accepted 18,000 people, pointing out that his country granted citizenship to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, and spent $40bn on war victims.

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Fury, protests over Boris Johnson decision to prorogue UK Parliament  https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/02/fury-protests-over-boris-johnson-decision-to-prorogue-uk-parliament/ Mon, 02 Sep 2019 07:00:38 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=706715 'Johnson’s attempt is an outrage, a threat to our democracy,' says Labour leader 

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend the UK parliament has prompted an angry backlash from lawmakers and sparked furious protests across the country as well as some calls to consider legal actions against the decision.

Johnson, who has repeatedly vowed that Britain will leave the European Union (EU) with or without a deal, asked Queen Elizabeth last week to suspend the Parliament just for five weeks from 10 September to 14 October. The Queen approved his request. 

The suspension comes a few weeks before the Brexit deadline which is supposed to be on 31 October. Consequently, Johnson’s move to suspend parliament until October 14 — just two-and-a-half weeks before Brexit — has sparked a storm of criticism. Critics reject the decision because they fear it means that MPs will not have enough time to discuss the Brexit. However, the government insists that there will be time to debate the Brexit. 

 

In a tweet on Friday, Johnson affirmed: “The referendum result must be respected. We will leave the EU on the 31st of October.”

 In response, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the UK against Johnson’s move. A group called “Another Europe is Possible”, an anti-Brexit campaign, organized protests on Saturday against Johnson. “We won’t let Boris Johnson shut down democracy to push through No deal.” 

 Meanwhile, a movement named “Stop the Coup”, said that protests will take place on more than 30 cities and towns on Saturday. 

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across different cities, including Manchester, Leeds, York and Belfast. In London, Whitehall has been brought to a standstill, with protesters chanting “Boris Johnson, shame on you”.

Users on Twitter shared on Saturday videos and photos of protesters holding banners in which written “Defend Democracy. Resist The Parliament ShutDown.”

On the other hand, Brexit supporters received Johnson’s move with relief, as they aspire that the country will finally leave the EU, ending a three-year stalemate since since the leave referendum. 

 Constitutional outrage

 

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow reacted with fury to Johnson’s decision, describing it as “constitutional outrage”. 

Bercow affirmed that he was not consulted by Johnson before the suspension. He explained that it was made to prevent MPs from debating Brexit. 

“However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country,” Bercow said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, MP Philip Hammond said that “It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic.”

On the other hand, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, pledged to prevent Johnson from suspending the Parliament when the House of Commons returns next week. 

“Boris Johnson’s attempt to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of his plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit is an outrage and a threat to our democracy,” Corbyn tweeted Thursday.

Corbyn added that the Labour party “will work across Parliament to hold the government to account and prevent a disastrous No Deal.”

A joint statement was issued on Thursday from the UK Labour Party, the SNP (Scotland’s largest political party and a party of Government), the Liberal Democrats, the Independent Group for Change, and the Green Party to stop “Johnson’s smash and grab on democracy.” 

“We condemn the undemocratic actions of Boris Johnson following his suspension of parliament until 14 October,” the statement read. 

“There is no mandate from the public for a damaging no-deal Brexit. The Prime Minister is shutting down parliament with the sole aim of stopping MPs from avoiding a no-deal Brexit,” the statement added.

“This will be the longest prorogation in recent history, and one that comes at a critical moment in the history of our respective nations and the Brexit process.”

“Voters are being deprived of the opportunity to have their representatives hold the government to account, make any key decisions, and ensure there is a lawful basis for any action that is taken,” the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, a petition against the Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament has received more than a million signatures.

Moreover, former Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major announced he will join forces with anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller to oppose the decision to suspend Parliament in the courts.

 

 Johnson pledges better deal 

 

The UK was supposed to leave the EU on 29 March this year, but the date of the withdrawal was extended after the parliament rejected formed PM Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill three times.

Earlier in March, May announced in an emotional statement that she would resign as UK’s Prime Minister and stood down as leader of the Conservative party on 7 June. 

May held office in July 2016 and became the UK’s second female prime minister. May took her decision after she failed to gain support for the Brexit deal that she reached with the EU. 

Afterwards, Johnson, 55, was appointed as the new UK Prime Minister – without elections after winning the Conservative Party leadership vote. After his appointment, he pledged to get a new deal, a better deal” from the EU. He also picked a new cabinet from hard Brexit supporters.

The US President Donald Trump reacted to Johnson move of suspension the parliament, saying that it be very hard for Jeremy Corbyn “to seek a no-confidence vote against New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the UK has been looking for and will prove to be “a great one.”

Trump was one of the first leaders who congratulated Johnson on being the new British Prime Minister, affirming that “he will be great.”

What is Brexit?

The UK joined the EU in 1973 when the EU was known as “European Economic Community” (EEC). On 23 June 2016, a public referendum was held on whether the UK should leave the EU or not. Voters agreed with 52%, while 48% said no.

Then, the ‘Brexit’ word appeared, as it refers to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Since the vote, Theresa May had been struggling to reach a “divorce deal” and settlement for the future relations with the bloc following the separation. 

May suggested an agreement which covered three points, the UK financial settlement to break up with the EU, the rights of the UK citizens living in the EU countries, and the EU citizens living in the UK. The third point was how to avoid a “hard border” between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU). 

Effects on the economy

On Friday, the Bank of England (BoE) said that Brexit process has cut the productivity of British companies by between 2% and 5% since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Most of the shortfall reflects a drop in productivity within businesses as senior managers commit several hours per week to plan for Brexit, the researchers said.

“We also find evidence for smaller negative between-firm effects as more productive, internationally exposed, firms have been more negatively impacted than less productive domestic firms,” the report said.

The BoE research said that, since the EU referendum, “anticipation of Brexit has substantially reduced UK investment”, estimating the effect lowered capital spending by 11% compared with what would have happened. Real business investment has been flat since the 2016 referendum, which has been unusual at a time of high employment rates and lower than in other advanced economies.

All in all, BoE research adds to evidence that the Brexit vote has taken a toll on the UK businesses even before Britain leaves the EU, now due to take place on Oct. 31.

 

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Egypt’s growth will outperform B-rated peers, debt affordability remains weak: Moody’s https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2019/09/01/egypts-growth-will-outperform-b-rated-peers-debt-affordability-remains-weak-moodys/ Sun, 01 Sep 2019 16:46:09 +0000 https://ww.dailynewssegypt.com/?p=706720 Increase in fertility rates, securing water resources represent long-term economic challenges

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Moody’s said in its annual credit analysis report on Egypt that the country’s economy ranks in the 70th percentile among all the sovereigns Moody’s rate by GDP size, and fifth among B-rated peers, and that its GDP growth rate of 5.6% in the fiscal year (FY) 2019, reflect a ramp-up in natural gas production and a continued recovery in the tourism sector, “we expect further convergence to 6% by 2021.”

However, the credit rating agency explained that Egypt’s current credit rating (B2 stable) reflects its weak, though gradually improving, government finances and its very large government financing needs of about 30-40% of GDP annually.

“Egypt’s debt affordability as measured by interest to revenue will remain very weak and financing needs very large in the next few years,” said Elisa Parisi-Capone, a Moody’s vice president – senior analyst and the report’s co-author.

“Over the longer term, the removal of structural obstacles to a more inclusive, private sector-led growth model will be a gradual process that remains exposed to long-standing vested interests or the risk of reform reversal,” she added.

A strong economy, yet weak finances

Moody’s report indicates that Egypt’s economy is well-diversified and has high growth potential, underpinning Egypt’s significant shock absorption capacity.

Consequently, the credit rating agency assesses Egypt’s economic strength as “high,” primarily supported by the country’s large scale and economic diversification, which have offered a degree of economic resilience through difficult economic and political conditions starting in 2011.

The report indicates that Egypt’s credit strengths include its large domestic funding base and replenished foreign exchange reserves, adding that growth is broad-based and the unemployment rate at 7.5% as of June 2019 has declined to pre-2010 levels.

Moreover, the report forecasts that wide fiscal deficits and high government debt levels will decline gradually as primary surpluses will be maintained, supported by comparatively low levels of foreign currency-denominated and external government debt.

Domestic borrowing costs to gradually decline as the level effects of energy price and tariff hikes dissipate, allowing the central bank to lower interest rates, the report added.

Growth likely to remain high, backed by natural gas, tourism

The report forecasts GDP growth to hit 6% by 2021, as natural gas production increase, and tourism recovery continues, “Our growth forecast is above the median for B-rated sovereigns and in line with Egypt’s long-term trend growth.”

However, the report indicates that over the longer term, more inclusive growth will depend on a rise in the employment rate – particularly among women – to absorb a large number of new entrants to the labour market in light of Egypt’s comparatively high fertility rate and higher than average share of youth unemployment, particularly among graduates.

Egypt’s energy sector is key to the sustainability of the country’s growth potential, the report explains, adding that, as of June 2019, Egypt’s arrears to foreign oil companies had fallen to $900m from $1.2bn a year earlier.

Additionally, Moody’s believes that the gradual clearance of these arrears has resulted in renewed exploration activity, combined with Egypt’s strategic location and the availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export infrastructure support its ambition to become a regional gas hub to collect and distribute significant new gas resources that have recently been discovered in the Mediterranean, including in Cyprus and Israel.

Another growth factor cited by the report is the large infrastructure projects aimed at reducing congestion in the capital Cairo while providing development and employment opportunities in less developed regions.

Such projects include the New Administrative Capital which is intended to become Egypt’s new administrative and financial capital housing main government departments, ministries, and foreign embassies, and will also provide housing for up to 5 million people. Other large infrastructure projects include the Suez Canal Economic Zone; the National Housing Project; and a commitment to invest EGP 51bn (around 20% of GDP) in upgrading roads over the next five years.

Institutional strength does not yet reflect undertaken reforms

Moody’s “low” assessment of Egypt’s institutional strength does not reflect the country’s economic, monetary and fiscal reforms over the past three years under Egypt’s three-year IMF programme and the government’s demonstrated commitment to continued reforms.

The credit rating agency assessment is based on the Worldwide Governance Indicator (WGI) scores as a starting point, which still reflects the impact of almost three years of political turmoil (2011-14).

“Backward-looking indicators such as WGI (2017 being the latest available) are not representative of the improvement in government effectiveness that has been evident over the past three years,” the report indicates.    

Moreover, Moody’s believes that Egypt’s current monetary policy framework remains based on money targeting as the central bank moves to an inflation-targeting regime with technical assistance from the IMF, indicating that despite policy rate cuts by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) in February and in August 2019 to 14.25%, the current monetary policy stance remains restrictive, with real rates in positive territory.

However, the exchange rate remained stable after sharply depreciating in November 2016, and since early 2019, the pound has begun to appreciate slightly vis-à-vis the US dollar in light of renewed capital inflows.

“We project a gradual decline in the exchange rate in response to the monetary easing cycle that we expect to continue,” the report forecasts.

Fiscal performance outperforms target, debt affordability remains challenging

Moody’s indicates that Egypt’s budget deficit narrowed to 8.2% of GDP in FY 2019 from 9.8% in FY 2018, against an initial target of 8.4%, forecasting a fiscal deficit of 8.2% of GDP for FY 2019 and that the primary surplus expanded to 1% of GDP after recording a small deficit in FY 2018.

“We expect the primary surplus to continue to increase toward the 2% of GDP threshold in FY 2021 and that the general government deficit will decline to 7.5% in FY 2020, mostly supported by spending reductions,” said the report.

The report cites the final round of fuel subsidy cuts, increasing domestic prices by between 16-30%, and applying the price indexation mechanism is key to permanently reducing Egypt’s fiscal sensitivity to volatile international oil prices. “The government remains committed to eliminating electricity subsidies by establishing cost-efficient tariffs by the end of FY 2022.”

However, the credit rating agency foresees that Egypt’s “very low (-)” score for fiscal strength reflects large fiscal deficits and a very high, though declining, government debt burden, as well as the increased foreign-currency share of total debt at around 30% since the flotation.

“As such, very low debt affordability will remain a key feature of Egypt’s fiscal profile, indicating a heightened sensitivity to higher borrowing costs. The question of debt affordability would become one of domestic and external access to liquidity in the event of a severe shock,” the report indicates.

Yet, Moody’s expects domestic borrowing costs to begin to gradually decline in line with lower inflation expectations as the level effects of energy price hikes dissipate. However, gains from lower short-term borrowing costs will be partly neutralised by the extension to longer maturities, which are more expensive because of the term premium.

Moody’s downplays political, liquidity, and banking sector risks

The report indicates that Egypt’s “moderate (+)” assessment of political risk is driven by domestic political risk. A combination of factors, including government measures to distribute the proceeds of strong growth more effectively and higher growth to support labour market activity, has reduced the risk that reforms could be reversed over the next few years.

In the longer term, however, removing structural impediments to a shift to more inclusive, private sector-led growth will be a gradual process and one that remains exposed to long-standing vested interests or the risk of reform reversal, or eventual succession risk.

In regards to Egyptian banks, the credit rating agency describes them as a reliable and important source of domestic funding, indicating that relative to capital, Egyptian banks’ sovereign exposure ranges between 4x and 9x the capital base of individual banks, among the highest of rated banks globally.

The report indicates that although banking sector assets amounted to 110.5% of GDP as of March 2019, the potential for industry growth remains significant because of the country’s low levels of financial inclusion and efforts to increase that level through technology.

“We expect banks’ exposures to government securities to increase further because Egyptian banks will remain the government’s main source of financing. However, we also expect balance sheet growth of around 15% in FY 2019, propelled by brisk economic activity,” the report added.

In regards to the government’s gross borrowing requirements, they remain very large as a result of large fiscal deficits and the relatively short average term to maturity of the government debt stock.

The report indicates that Egypt’s gross financing needs are the third largest among the sovereigns that Moody’s rate, after Barbados and Japan, and only marginally higher than Bahrain.

Its high-interest bill of around 9% of GDP and the short average maturity of its domestic debt stock at below 3.5 years will according to Moody’s estimates result in annual gross financing needs of 30-40% of GDP over the next few years. These elevated financing requirements expose the government to shocks in borrowing costs that could rapidly contribute to adverse debt dynamics, a key source of government liquidity risk.

On the other hand, Egypt’s external vulnerability risk was assessed as “low (-)”, reflecting the shift to a positive basic balance in which net foreign direct investment inflows cover the current-account deficit of around 2.5-3.5% of GDP, the report indicates.

The report cites Egypt’s increase in fertility rates and securing water resources as long-term economic challenges, citing the country’s fertility rate which has risen to 3.5 children per woman from a low of 2.7 in 2009 following the 2011 revolution, and around 3.5 million young Egyptians are projected to join the labour force over the next five years, creating demand for employment.

On the water resources issue, the report cites the decreasing rate of annual rainwater which affected the Nile flow, accordingly Egypt is seeking to reduce its water dependency on the Nile via the installation of desalination plants and via the application of strict rules for the cultivation of water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane, among other measures.

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