In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Fri, 24 Jan 2020 16:11:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 World leaders gear up for Berlin conference after Moscow failure Sun, 19 Jan 2020 16:56:24 +0000 Germany says Haftar agrees to abide by ongoing Libyan ceasefire

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Eyes across the world are on the Berlin international peace conference which is set for Sunday and aims to bring an end to the conflict in Libya, as well as foreign interference in the war-torn country. The conference comes after talks in Moscow last week failed to reach any agreement.

The German foreign ministry said that the Berlin Process “aims to support the efforts of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and his Special Representative Ghassan Salamé to end the conflict.”

“The objective was, in dialogue with international actors with an influence on the parties to the conflict, to create the framework conditions for an intra-Libyan political process under the auspices of the UN.”

Representatives from the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, Italy, the UAE, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, and the Congo will attend, the ministry added.

The United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and the Arab League have also been invited, as well as, the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and his rival, the eastern commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) General Khalifa Haftar.

Meanwhile, Haftar met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Thursday in Benghazi, according to the German Foreign Ministry.

“I hope that the parties will take this opportunity to put the future of Libya back in Libyan hands. This now requires a readiness to agree on a genuine ceasefire and both parties’ participation in the dialogue formats proposed by the UN,” Maas said.

In the meantime, Maas added that “Haftar has signalled his readiness to contribute to the success of the Libya Conference in Berlin and is willing to participate. He has repeated his commitment to observe the existing ceasefire.”

Afterwards, Haftar headed to Athens on Friday to meet with Greek Minister of Foreign Defence Nikos Dendias, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The Libyan commander left Moscow last Tuesday without signing a ceasefire agreement that was brokered by Russia and Turkey. His rival, GNA Chairman of the presidential council and prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj signed the draft.

The ceasefire, which was brokered by Turkey and Russia, took effect in Libya at midnight on January 12.

Moscow was accused of supporting Haftar with private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia. Haftar is also backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter, in addition to Qatar.

Al Arabiya TV channel cited sources who said that Haftar refused to sign the agreement because “the Russian draft ignored some demands of the LAAF.” Haftar also refused any Turkish meditation and had reservations that the deals signed between Turkey and the GNA would not be paused.

On the other hand, Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte visited Algeria on Thursday to discuss the Libyan crisis. He met with the Algerian president and prime minister  as part of international efforts to peacefully maintain the ceasefire in the North African country.

Earlier, Conte visited Egypt and met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The pair agreed on intensifying efforts to reach a political settlement to restore the stability of the North African country, and support national institutions.

‘Syrian mercenaries in Libya’

British newspaper the Guardian published an exclusive report on Wednesday reporting 2,000 Syrian fighters have been deployed from Turkey to Libya in support of the GNA.

“The Syrian men are expected to coalesce into a division named after Libyan resistance leader Omar al-Mukhtar,” the report said.

A source told the Guardian that the fighters signed six-month contracts directly with the GNA rather than with the Turkish military for $2,000 a month. All men have been also promised Turkish nationality, the newspaper said.

Earlier in December, The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian mercenaries loyal to Turkey are mobilising to Tripoli to support the GNA in exchange for money. The organisation said that Turkey offered fighters between $1800 to $2000 monthly, in addition to other benefits.

These Syrian mercenaries will go head to head against Russian mercenaries who are allegedly backing the LAAF.

There are also reports of 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries who are now fighting in Libya, according to another report by the Guardian which cited leaders of two different groups of Sudanese fighters active in Libya and fighting with the LAAF.

Earlier this month, the Turkish parliament approved a bill that allowed the government to deploy troops to the war-torn country in support of the GNA.

On 27 November, Turkey, and the GNA signed two memoranda of understanding for military and security cooperation. The accords escalated fighting in Libya and triggered tension in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

In response, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital. The military campaign was launched back in April 2019.

The situation in Libya is getting more complicated as concerns rise over the North African country moving towards an all-out war between the two Libyan factions, and their international supporters.

Libya has been wracked by violence since the fall of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country has been a stronghold for Islamist militants, and a focal point for migrants who hope to reach Europe.

Amnesty International said on Friday that EU countries attending the Berlin summit “must commit to ending involvement in interception and detention of Mediterranean migrants.”

“Justice for the victims of war crimes committed by both major parties to the conflict in Libya must be the cornerstone of any peace deal that may emerge from an UN-led summit in Berlin,” the organisation said.

At least 284 civilians were killed and more than 140,000 were displaced as a result of fighting in Libya last year, according to the UN.

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Last round in Washington: an end to GERD strife or a talk going no where? Mon, 13 Jan 2020 19:27:52 +0000 While the three countries’ foreign ministers are expected to convene in Washington to solve disputes, Ethiopia seeks South Africa as mediator

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In a surprise move in disputes between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Ethiopia has sought mediation from South Africa to interfere in negotiations. This move comes a day before the three ministers of irrigation from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan are to convene in Washington on Monday for the final round of US mediated meetings.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed asked South African President Cyril Ramafusa to intervene in the long dispute with Egypt.

Ahmed, who was already visiting South Africa this past weekend, justified this call, pointing to South Africa’s upcoming presidency of the African Union in February.

“Since Ramafusa is a close friend of both Ethiopia and Egypt, and also as the new president of the African Union, he can hold talks between the two parties to resolve the issue peacefully,” Abiy told a news conference in Pretoria, the political capital of South Africa.

“Ethiopia always believes in a win-win approach with Egypt and Sudan. We will follow the same track,” Abiy said. “Without having peace we can’t realise our vision of development and growth.”

South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC reported that Ramaphosa “has agreed to assist the Ethiopian government in solving its impasse with Egypt over the massive Nile dam project.”

“There must be a way in which a solution can be found. As for ourselves, we are willing to play a role in facilitating whatever agreement that can be crafted,” said the president

Washington is already a mediator to break the stalemate of negotiations over the Dam that Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile.

In November, Washington, hosted negotiations, mediated by the World Bank and the US Treasury, between the three Nile Basin countries.

The call raised questions on whether is it possible to hire a second meditator when there is already another country supervising negotiations.

Experts have been speculating that Washington may use its power to push the three parties to make acceptable concessions in order to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone. They further expect that Washington will continue to pressure the concerned parties with the aim of maintaining a path of peaceful negotiation and not resort to force.

Other observers also point to the possibility of Washington pushing towards international arbitration institutions in order to reach a final peaceful solution to the crisis, in case of a lack of agreement on issues concerning the filling and operation of the dam, and to avoid damages and risks, BBC reported.

Commenting onEthiopia’s call for South Africa’s meditation, Diaa Al-Qousi, water expert and advisor to the former irrigation minister, said that South African interference to solve the GERD crisis will not benefit anything.

He also mentioned that any offer from the Egyptian camp during recent negotiations and discussions, cannot in anyway be rejected or contested by Addis Ababa.

The expert suggested in a televised interview on Sunday that the Ethiopian side is trying to run out the clock in order to push their own agenda, but he expects Egypt to have a backup plan to deal with that.

Egypt has repeatedly stressed the need for the Dam to be integrated into the Eastern Nile Basin as a new water source in order to combat current, and eventual, droughts, flooding, and other climate disasters.

Mohamed El Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Irrigation, previously said that during the past period, Egypt was engaged in negotiations with Ethiopia based on goodwill to reach a fair and balanced agreement that could achieve the common interests of the three countries.

Abbas Al-Sharaki, Head of the Natural Resources Department at Cairo University, said that what Addis Ababa was doing over the past 9 years of long negotiations wasted the international community’s time and efforts. He added that Egypt made all concessions to bypass environmental studies in order to reach a fair and legitimate compromise.

He also pointed out that if no real agreement is reached, Ethiopia will be the only loser seeing that the Ethiopian people only receive 10% of the electricity produced by the Dam due to a lack of proper infrastructure to properly distribute electricity. Sharaki said that the Ethiopian population is more spread out throughout the countryside and outskirts of the country, unlike Egypt where about 96% of the population stays close to the Nile.

Regarding possible solutions, he pointed out that Egypt has many solutions, including recording Ethiopia’s violation of past international agreements recognised by the United Nations, submitting a complaint to the African Union, and working to issue an international decision to stop the Dam’s work.

Four rounds fail, tensions increase

Despite all three countries agreeing to the four rounds of negotiations, there has been no real breakthrough over the GERD, and all that has really come about is more tension between Egypt and Ethiopia.

The discussions revolved around points of contentions, and Egypt, through its participation in those rounds, has tried to bridge points of views for all three sides, by presenting proposals and studies that guarantee the continued and efficient production of electricity for Ethiopia during periods of severe drought.

However, the three countries have been unable to reach a consensus over the GERD due to different hydrological conditions that the Blue Nile experiences. This has also been coupled by a lack of clear and practical procedures the dam’s operation from Ethiopia, specifically in cases of prolonged drought.

During the first rounds of talks in Addis Ababa, the three countries were able to reach a breakthrough consensus on filling the dams’s reservoir; a fair and equitable 7 year period to fill it. The filling of the dam has been one of the more severe points of tension between Egypt and Ethiopia for the past few years.

Egypt has long requested for the filling period of the dam to be 5 to 7 years due to fears of the dam significantly reducing Egypt’ and Sudan’s shares of the Nile’s water. Meanwhile, Ethiopia has been pushing for a filling period of no more than 2 to 3 years.

During the second round of discussions in Cairo on 2-3 December, the three countries addressed the technical issues concerning the GERD and its operation in coordination with Egypt and Sudan. The three nations also reviewed the outcomes of the first meeting.

Tensions started to rise at the third meeting in Khartoum in late December, when Egypt and Ethiopia failed to reach a consensus on the amount of water to be released in the case of drought. Egypt requires about 40 bn cubic metres of water to reach its territory, and Ethiopia countered with 35bn cubic metres.

Egypt proposed the alternative of maybe linking both the GERD in Addis Ababa and the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt in the interest of all three parties.

However, it was at the fourth and final meeting where negotiations reached a dead end, Ethiopia and Egypt announced that they were unable to finalise an agreement  over the filling period of the dam.

Egypt said that fourth round “did not lead to tangible progress, due to Ethiopia’s intransigence and adopting excessive stances, revealing its intention to impose the fait accompli and extending its control over the Blue Nile, and to fill and operate the Renaissance Dam without the slightest consideration of water interests of the downstream countries.”

Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation Seleshi Bekele said that the three sides failed to reach an agreement on the filling of the dam because Egypt presented a new proposal requesting the filling period to be 12-21 years, saying that “This is not acceptable. We will start the filling of the dam by July.”

Meanwhile, Egypt said that it did not specify a number of years, and that the number of years were agreed among three countries over a year ago. Under this agreement, the filling of the dam would take place in stages, depending on the Blue Nile’s yearly flow.

It further clarified that the new proposal submitted by Egypt ensures highly efficient electricity production for Ethiopia during times of drought while at the same time securing Egypt’s water interests.

Egypt further condemned the allegations of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry that Egypt seeks to monopolise the waters of the Nile, as it accused Egypt of trying to reinforce “self-claimed sole ownership of the Nile waters”.

During Washington’s meeting the three countries are suppose to solve all disputed points before 15 January, as they previously have set a target to resolve their disagreements over the filling and operation of dam.  An international mediator will be appointed to help resolve the issue in case the three sides do not reach any agreement by 15 January, according to the deal the countries reached in Washington.

Egypt has previously described the idea of a mediator as proof of good intentions, stressing that Egypt tries to cooperate and resolve all issues through its diplomatic and peaceful channels.

Kifle Horo, the general manager of the GERD project said last December Ethiopia completed about 70% of the construction of the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and the entire project is expected to be fully completed in 2023, according to the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

ENA said that members of the Permanent Committee for Natural Resources, Irrigation, and Energy in the Ethiopian parliament visited the project and listened to explanations about the construction.

Horo stated that the committee in charge of turbine units nine and ten will be generating energy before finishing the entire project. The two turbines are planned to generate 750 megawatt (MW) of electricity by 2021.

Hero said that Ethiopia spent ETB 99 bn ($31bn) on the project, which still needs an additional ETB 40 bn to be completed.

For his part, the Ethiopian Water Minister, Selce Bickle, announced that the filling of the dam will start in July 2020, and the initial operation of the dam is to be completed by 2020.

About GERD

GERD which is set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam, has already relations tensed between Egypt, and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is constructing the dam on the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region some 40 km from the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.

The dam measures 1.8 km long and 145 metres high, and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2020, and full operation by 2022.

The project started in 2011 with a cost estimated at $4bn and is expected to provide electricity for Ethiopia’s population of more than 100 million people.

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After initial denial, Iran admits ‘mistakenly’ downing Ukrainian airliner Sun, 12 Jan 2020 11:30:46 +0000 Ukrainian president expects a full admission of guilt and compensation

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Iran acknowledged that it “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed last week killing all 176 people on board, after initial denial.

The Iranian Army, known as AJA, said on Saturday that the plane flew near “a sensitive military base,” adding that the person responsible would face legal consequences.

Moreover, Iran President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter, “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

An internal investigation by the military “concluded that missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane and the death of 176 innocent people,” Rouhani added. Investigations are underway “to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.”

Iran initially denied downing the Ukrainian plane, saying “a mechanical error caused the crash.”

Last week, Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said that they advise the US government to wait for the investigation results, instead of “spreading lies and carrying out a psychological operation.”

In the meantime, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded to Tehran’s announcement, saying “his country expects a full admission of guilt and compensation [for the victims].”

“We expect from Iran assurances of their readiness for a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, and official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Zelenskiy said.

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said his country did not want to jump to conclusions about the cause of the crash. However, Oleksiy Danylov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, considered two possible causes for the crash; a missile or terror attack.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the Ukraine plane that crashed shortly after it took off from Iran last Wednesday was ‘likely shot down by an Iranian missile.”

During a news conference at the White House, Pompeo said the US and its allies have intelligence that confirms Iran shot down the plane, and probably by mistake.

“We’re going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination. It’s important that we get to the bottom of it,” Pompeo said.

In the meantime, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last Thursday said: “Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile.”

Earlier, the US Treasury Department said that Washington plans “to issue sanction waivers to American companies who can help the investigation.”

The fatal crash happened amid tensions between Iran and the US. It happened hours after Iran launched missiles at two military bases in Iraq that host American forces. The strikes came in response to an American drone strike that killed Iran’s top military commander and the second influential man in Tehran, Qasem Soleimani.

Last Thursday, the American magazine Newsweek cited a Pentagon official, a senior US intelligence official, and an Iraqi intelligence official admitting Iran downed the Ukrainian plane.

The three officials told the magazine that the plane is “believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet.”

A video that was verified by the New York Times team appears to show the moment the Ukrainian plane was hit by a missile near Tehran.

The Boeing 737-800 took off from Imam Khomeini international airport at on Wednesday and was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and went down shortly after taking off.

Among the victims were 63 Canadian nationals, 82 from Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the United Kingdom, according to Prystaiko.

Moreover, Head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg said the Iranian air defence systems may have taken down the Ukrainian plane.

The question now arises: why Iran did not close its main international airport and airspace while it was launching ballistic missile attacks on US bases in Iraq?

The killing of Soleimani marks the most significant escalation between the US and Iran since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. Following this operation, Rouhani vowed to seek revenge.

Soleimani is a significant figure for Iran. He has been described as Iran’s spearhead in the Middle East after masterminding the Iran Shadow Wars, military actions, and state intelligence. As much as he was hated abroad, he was loved in Iran. He was viewed as a charismatic and brave commander.

Iran missile attacks in Iraq

Last Wednesday, Iran carried out ballistic missile attacks on two US bases in Erbil and Anbar that house American troops and the international coalition. Tehran authorities said the strikes were a retaliation for killing Soleimani.

The Iraqi government said Al-Assad airbase in Anbar was hit 17 times, while other missiles targeted the Erbil base.

Following the attacks, the Iranian president said the “final answer” to the US is to “kick out all US troops from Iraq,” while Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the attack was “a slap in the face for US.”

Moreover, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “we do not seek escalation or a war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

In response, US President Donald Trump said: “I am holding the Iranian regime responsible for attacks against United States personnel and interests by denying it substantial revenue that may be used to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence.”

“I have issued an executive order authorising the imposition of sanctions against any individual or entity operating in the construction, manufacturing, textiles, or mining sectors of the Iranian economy or anyone assisting those who engage in this sanctioned conduct,” Trump added.

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Economy Plus poll forecasts currency appreciation, lower interest rates, price cuts across consumer goods Tue, 07 Jan 2020 09:00:58 +0000 Appreciation of currency, lower interest rates, price cuts across consumer goods, and stability of fuel costs

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Followers of Economy Plus expect the exchange rates of the US dollar against the Egyptian pound to decrease during 2020, to trade between EGP 15.5 and EGP 16, with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) moving to reduce interest rates by up to 2% throughout the new year, while the prices of petroleum products stabilise at the same rates in the last quarter of 2019.

The first annual survey of Economy Plus on the Egyptian economy, in which the followers of Economy Plus on social media platforms and readers of its daily newsletter, showed that the majority of subscribers expects an appreciation of the national currency and lower prices of consumer goods. More than 240 respondents from business executive, analysts, and economy savvy people participated in the survey.

With a slight difference, the followers of Economy Plus favoured gold as the best investment pot in which citizens could invest their savings in 2020, while expectations varied widely about the future of real estate sales, and they were relatively nominated for activity revival, and a boom in real estate sales.

The majority of subscribers considered government regulations and red tape as the most important challenges facing businesses in Egypt, and they expected a greater share of the private sector in the Egyptian economy during the new year. They ruled out slowing production and new orders and the continued decline in the purchasing managers’ index for non-oil activities.

Economy Plus’s followers put geopolitical tensions in the Middle East at the forefront of international issues that will have the greatest impact on Egypt’s economy in 2020.

Fuel prices stabilized and consumer goods’ prices to decline in 2020

Economy Plus followers expected the stability of the prices of petroleum products in Egypt during the year 2020, supported by the expected decline in the exchange rates of the dollar against the pound. Some 59% of the respondents said that prices of petroleum products will tend to stabilise in the new year, while 27% of respondents believed that prices of petroleum products will decrease, compared to only 14% who expected prices to rise in 2020.

The expectations of the followers of Economy Plus come in conjunction with the decision of the automatic pricing committee for petroleum products, concerned with reviewing and setting the selling prices of some petroleum products on a quarterly basis. At its last meeting in December, they decided to  maintain the selling price of gasoline products in the local market at EGP 6.5 per litre of gasoline 80, and at EGP 7.75 per litre for gasoline 92, and at EGP 8.75 per litre for gasoline 95.

The committee also decided to keep the price of selling diesel at EGP 6.75 per litre and fix the selling price of fuel oil at EGP 4,250 pounds per tonne, in light of the fixed cost of selling and making those petroleum products available in the local market, due to the increased price of Brent per barrel in the global market from October to December 2019 compared to the previous quarter by 1.7%, which was offset by an increase in the value of the pound against the dollar, according to what was announced by the CBE during the same period by about 2%.

However, it appears that the escalating geopolitical tensions that the Middle East is going through will overshadow oil prices, which rose by 3% following the killing of the Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a US raid in Iraq. This attack could fuel the conflict in the region at a time when the Eastern Mediterranean region is already witnessing skirmishes and disputes that could ignite the situation in Libya, a major oil-exporting country.

On the other hand, 45% of respondents said that consumer prices will continue to decline in the new year, while 35% expected the prices of consumer goods to remain stable, and only a suggested 20% price increase in the new year. The expectations of the followers of Economy Plus for the decrease in commodity prices come in light of the efforts of the government and the CBE to keep commodity prices down and to keep the inflation rate at a single digit, and directives to raise the percentage of consumer loan installments to 50% of customers’ monthly income.

It is noteworthy that the core inflation rate, issued by the CBE decreased to 2.1% on an annual basis last November from 2.7% in October 2019, which excludes highly volatile goods such as food, while the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics announced that the annual urban inflation of consumer prices rose to 3.6% in November instead of 3.1% in October, the first rise after 6 months of declines.

Pound gains will increase and interest rates will decline in 2020

Followers of Economic Plus expected that the strength of the pound will increase during 2019, to increase its gains against the US dollar, which reached 10.5% during 2019. About 47% of the respondents said that the pound exchange rate against the dollar will fluctuate during 2020 between EGP 15.51 and EGP 16, while the expectations of 30% of the participants went to increase the pound strength during the year that started several days ago, to push the dollar exchange rate to less than EGP 15.5 pounds. Thus, the percentage of those who expected the pound exchange rate to drop below EGP 16 reached 77% of participants, while 47% said the exchange rate will be EGP 15.5-16, and 30% said it will be below EGP 15. Meanwhile, 16% of respondents expected the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar to range between EGP 16.01 and EGP 16.5 during 2020 with only 4% expecting the exchange rate of the dollar to rise against the pound between EGP 16.5 and EGP 17. A few suggested a dollar’s appreciation to more than EGP 17.

The strong expectations for a rise in the exchange rate of the pound against foreign currencies in 2020, based on the strong performance of the local currency last year, came amid a noticeable increase in Egypt’s foreign exchange resources, especially tourism and remittances from workers abroad, higher exports and lower imports, and recently increased foreign direct investments (FDIs) flows.

Moreover, the expectations of the followers of Economy Plus regarding the interest rates on the pound favoured further cuts. About 81% of respondents expected the CBE to reduce interest rates during 2020, while 18% suggested stabilising interest rates, and only 1% of respondents expected interest rates to inch up.

Expectations for cutting interest rates on the pound in the new year come in light of the global downward trend in interest rates, and the trend taken by the CBE in 2019, during which interest rates were cut by 450 basis points (4.5%).

As for the expected cuts, 34.1% of the followers expected an interest rate reduction of only 1%, while 39.7% of the respondents said CBE would cut rates by 2%, and 20.7% of respondents said that the CBE will reduce the interest rate by 3%. About 5.6% said that the CBE will cut rates by 4%.

The first meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBE will take place on January 16th, which was postponed instead of December 26, when President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decision recently to form the new board of the CBE.

CBE initiatives will revive real estate and industry in 2020

Followers of Economy Plus who participated in its first annual survey on the economy of Egypt expected markets to witness great activity in the new year, supported by the initiatives put forward by the CBE to stimulate demand for real estate, consumer borrowing, and factory activity. About 47% of the respondents said that CBE’s initiatives will achieve an average impact on the markets, while 27% said that the impact of the initiatives, which exceed EGP 200bn, will be good on the markets. About 12% expected a strong positive impact of CBE’s initiatives on the markets and the movement of money in them.

Only 12% felt that the initiatives of the government and the CBE will have a slight effect, while 2% of the followers considered that they are useless.

It is noteworthy that the CBE launched several initiatives to revitalise the Egyptian economy, following the completion of most of the steps of the economic reform programme in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the remarkable improvement in most economic indicators.

The CBE proposed an initiative worth EGP 100bn granted by banks to factories at a 10% reducing interest rate, as well as an initiative for troubled factories to pay 50% of the debt in exchange for dropping the accumulated interest of EGP 31bn. The CBE also launched an initiative to revitalise the real estate sector, with a value of EGP 50bn from banks and real estate financing companies for middle-income citizens with a 10% diminishing interest rate and repayment periods of up to 20 years.

The CBE also issued instructions to banks to raise the proportion of consumer loan premiums from 35% of income to 50% in an effort to increase the credit limits of citizens and in order to stimulate demand for consumer loans, which include personal loans and car installments.

Meanwhile, 52% of respondents to the Economy Plus survey ruled out a boom in real estate sales in the new year, while 48% of them believed real estate sales to increase in 2020, in light of the general downward trend in interest rates, which is reflected positively on the movement of real estate sales in the country, in addition to the initiative put forth by the CBE for middle-income citizens to purchase real estate at prices not exceeding EGP 2.25m under 150 square-meters with real estate financing at 10% decreasing interest rates.

Greater opportunities for the private sector in 2020, red tape is the most important challenge

Regulations and government red tape were at the forefront of the challenges facing the business sector in Egypt during 2020, according to participants in the first annual survey of Economy Plus on the Egyptian economy, as 72% of respondents put it at the forefront of their concerns.

The results of the survey, which allowed participants to select multiple choices, revealed that the lack of skilled labour, which the country lost a large percentage of it since 2011, is the second most important challenge facing business owners followed by the interest rates that received 31% of the survey’s respondents, although interest rates decreased by 4.5% last year, the respondents demanded more until the cost of investment decreased.

The inflation rate and the rise in prices came as the third most important challenge, then the pound exchange rate against the dollar.

The exchange rate of the dollar against the pound is currently about EGP 16.15 for the dollar, after declining by 10.5% in 2019, due to the significant impact of the decline in the exchange rates of the dollar and other foreign currencies against the pound in reducing the prices of intermediate goods and imported production requirements, while fuel prices tailed the challenges that face business owners in the new year, by 19%.

Participants in the Economy Plus survey expressed their optimism with a greater participation of the private sector in the economy during the new year, as 68% of them voted in favour of increased contribution of private companies in the economy compared to only 32% who excluded that and saw that the government, and its subsidiary and state agencies, to continue leading the economic scene in Egypt.

This comes amid repeated calls by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to the Egyptian private sector to participate in major projects implemented by the country, and to increase the local component in manufacturing in order to reduce the use of imported goods and decrease the cost of importation.

The CBE approved an initiative worth EGP 100bn of funds granted by banks to Egyptian factories at a 10% falling interest rates to be directed to factories whose production is destined for export and thus increase the country’s foreign exchange resources, and factories that offer alternative products for import.

In addition, 57% of respondents to the Economic Plus survey ruled out the continued slowdown in production, and new orders to the Egyptian non-oil private sector in 2020, and they expected the PMI for non-oil activities to rise above the 50-point barrier.

About Economy Plus: An economic digital media platform that aims to reach a large base of users of social media and e-mail, through a simplified economic content that uses infographics and video to communicate the information to the reader. Our daily mailing list of up to 18,000 subscribers also works to provide customers and followers with an electronic newsletter every morning, including economic events and local, regional, and global news, in a concise, focused, and intensive manner, supported by illustrative forms.

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Qassim Soleimani: the construction worker who spearheaded Iran’s Middle East ‘shadow wars’ Sun, 05 Jan 2020 15:20:23 +0000 Pentagon to deploy roughly 3,500 more troops to the Middle East after killing Quds Force commander 

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Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the second most powerful in Tehran, was killed by an overnight drone strike early on Friday near the Baghdad airport in an attack authorised by United States President Donald Trump.

The strike also killed Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units Commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a close adviser to Soleimani. 

The deputy commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, is to replace Soleimani. 


 The killing of Soleimani marks the most significant escalation in tensions between the US and Iran since Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to seek revenge for the killing of the Iranian general.

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, accused the US of “international terrorism”, adding that “the US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

As the fear of war rises in the Middle East, Trump said in a tweet on Friday that the US killed Soleimani “to stop the war.”

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump told reporters  at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida. 

In the meantime, the Pentagon said it is deploying roughly 3,500 more troops from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East. 

“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve,” the Pentagon said in a statement

On Friday, the White House said that the drone strike that killed Soleimani came at the direction of Trump. 


 “The US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,” the White House stated.

 Trump also tweeted that Soleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more but got caught.” 

Trump tweeted on Friday that “while Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country.” 

In the meantime, the Department of Defence said that “Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” 

“General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”


 The Department of Defence added that “General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad that took place this week. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Who is Soleimani?

Soleimani is the second most powerful figure in Iran. He has been described as Iran’s spearhead in the Middle East as he was the mastermind of the Iran shadow wars and military and intelligence actions in the region. As much as he was hated abroad, he was beloved in Iran, viewed as a hero and a charismatic and brave commander. 


 He was born in the city of Qom in March 1957 to a farming family and grew up in the village of Rabour. At the age of 13, he left his home in search of work. Having only a high school education, he worked as a construction worker before getting involved with the military. 

He joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in 1980 following the 1979 uprising where he had no real power in it.


 In 1998, he commanded Iran’s Quds Force, an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Quds Force is behind much of Iran’s overseas military and intelligence operations. It is classified as a terrorist group by the US and others. 


Soleimani commanded over wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. According to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), “the Quds Force operations have sparked hundreds of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Iranian-backed-group sites in Syria. Iran has also maintained small ground forces in Syria, Yemen, and sometimes Iraq.” 

In Yemen, Iran found a golden chance to “inflict damage on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and to extend Iran’s influence into the southern Red Sea. By 2019, Iran’s influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen expanded,” the IISS report said. 


 In Iraq, the Quds Force provided material and financial support to Shiite militias, which became the Popular Mobilisation Units. 


The mission of the Quds Force is to help Islamic movements and expand the Islamic Revolution in such countries as Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. 

“The Quds Force adopted a structure to enable operations in Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Iraq, Lebanon, Latin America, and the Arabian Peninsula,” the IISS said, adding that it established nearly 20 militant training camps in Iran, and 18 camps in Lebanon, with plans to construct camps in Sudan.

Meanwhile, the Quds Force provided “a safe haven, funds, terrorist training, weapons, and ideological nourishment to a broad group of international militants, including Afghan Hazaras, Balkan Muslims, Gulf militants, Palestinians, and even al-Qaeda,” the IISS noted. 

In Syria, he is credited with helping President Bashar Al-Assad and orchestrating the offensive against his opposition.

He was accused of plotting to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington.


 “Think of the role General Qassem Soleimani had in building militias and a loyalist base in Iraq besides other operatives of course. That’s the kind of role needed for Iran in Syria, but he’s gone. They won’t be able to find a similar calibre to replicate that. No chance,” Hassan Hassan, a Middle East analyst and author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror tweeted. 


 Hassan said that it’s bad timing for Iran to lose Soleimani. “If Iran has a few more years to replicate the Iraq scenario, he would have been central to this project. Assad still has key areas to recapture, Turkey increasingly assertive, and Russia wants to control Syria.”

The post Qassim Soleimani: the construction worker who spearheaded Iran’s Middle East ‘shadow wars’ appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Local Administration Committee supports local council draft law, suggests amendment Thu, 02 Jan 2020 13:28:17 +0000 Heads of several parliamentary blocs rejected the law, believing that it includes constitutional flaws

The post Local Administration Committee supports local council draft law, suggests amendment appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Despite the long wait, the local council law is still pending in parliament, leaving its future path vague, complicating the localities’ in Egypt, especially that the date of local council elections is expected to take place in February 2020.

Two weeks ago, Egypt’s parliament headed by Ali Abdel Aal rejected the draft law on local council, which was submitted by the government. Abdel Aal postponed the discussion of the law in general, justifying that the current time is not suitable.

“The local administration committee held extended sessions in discussing the draft law and listened to experts, specialists, governors, and others, noting that this committee includes associations and experts in the field of local work, who enriched these discussions,” said Abdel Aal.

He added that the law should have been discussed since the election of the parliament and after the constitution was passed, but other priorities made the parliament allocate a lot of time to discuss many legislations to complete the building of institutions in political and legislative terms.

The long-awaited 156-article is one of the most important legislations expected to be issued by the parliament preparing for holding local council elections, which were suspended for 12 years, as the last elections were held in 2008.

Members expressed their rejection for articles related to administrative distribution, the vote of Egyptians abroad in local elections, calling for the alignment of the law with the Constitution, and the proposed electoral system.

Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of the Local Administration Committee, said that around 70 meetings were held to discuss the law that aims to consolidate establishing administrative, financial, and economic decentralisation, and applying governance.


Regarding the new draft, Al-Sigini explained that it was outdated and did not  keep pace with modern technological developments and changes.

He said that there were objections from several heads of political and parliamentary blocs in the matter of accepting the draft law, illustrating that the committee still did not received any official request from the government to amend the law.

However, he said that he learned that the government had feedback for the local administration law.

Several members of the parliament were divided over the draft law.

Parliamentary blocs of Nation’s Future, Free Egyptian, and Al-Wafd rejected it, while members of local administration committee supported the law that took two years of discussion.

Ayman Abu El-Ela, head of the parliamentary bloc of the Free Egyptians Party, was among those who rejected the law, saying  it is not possible to hold local elections under Article 180 of the Constitution. According to him, the law legitimises discrimination through representing women by just 25%, a percentage that cannot be guaranteed in individual elections (the law requires 75% of the absolute list and 25% of the individual). In addition, he stated that 50% of workers and peasants demanded an amendment.

Accordingly, the new law stipulates that elections are 100% based on the list system.

Abu El-Ela also refereed to another obstacle in implementing the law, related to the participation of Egyptians abroad in voting in the local council elections, explaining that it is not possible to send the papers of 40,000 committees to each Egyptian embassy and consulate in the world, noting that his party’s approval of the law is conditional on these amendments.

For this part, Abdel Aal commented that the law already excluded some communities, noting that the constitutional text related to  people’s representation in the council needs to be amended, saying  that he warned people about these articles several times.

Abu El-Ela said that approval of the law was conditional to returning it  to the local administration committee to amend some articles.

He stated that the new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers such as withdrawing confidence or interrogating people.

Member of Parliament (MP) Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future National Party, said he rejected the bill, elaborating that his party was keen on issuing the law, but the draft law had constitutional problems, such as the way of implementing the decentralisation of the government in light of the current of situation of the localities.    

He also pointed that there is a political split in the law, with the ability of parties to contest local councils and the parliament elections within one year, as he considered a difficult experience for parties to run both in one year.

Soliman Wahdan, undersecretary of parliament stressed on the need to return the law to the committee to address a number of problems, which include the administrative part which comprises many overlaps, emphasising that this law does not keep pace with the solution of the problems prevalent in the localities.

“We still need urban planning, separating the large overlaps between local centres and units, and also demarcating the borders between the provinces, as everyone should benefit from state’s wealth,” he said.

He also highlighted the necessity of having a thorough preparation for local elections by political parties through preparing good cadres and then working to discuss the law during the coming period.


On the other hand, a member of the Local Administration Committee, Mohamed Attiya Al-Fayoumi, affirmed that the draft law presented aligns with the constitution.  “There are no constitutional violations in the law,” he said, noting that the law has received its right in discussion in the committee.

He also said that committee worked on the law in the presence of some advisers of the State Council and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

Besides, Al-Fayoumi said that delaying the law is against the constitution.

“Some people do not want the law to come to light at the present time so that local elections could not be held before the elections for the parliament, which will have a negative impact on some representatives in their constituencies, because they promised people to support them in the localities. ”

Secretary of the Local Administration Committee Mona Gaballah said that the draft law was constitutional, excluding  the flaws of the previous law, noting that former ministers and consultants from the State Council and senior legal figures attended the committee meetings.

Gaballah said that the law is supposed to be returned to the committee again to discuss some of the amendments demanded by the members.

She added the committee would not accept the cancellation of the law that it worked on for around two years, saying that if the parliament will discuss new draft, they will request making amendments to the basic law prepared by the committee instead.

“It is not possible to cancel a law that took from this committee all this effort, especially since the committee came out with the draft law after discussions and proposals from four laws that were submitted by the members, in addition to the government project,” she said.

The discussion came after several years of delay, and while there was already a report prepared by a joint committee over the law.

The report was drafted on 17 December after several meetings of the committee.

According to the report, a government-drafted law aimed at regulating the performance and election of Egypt’s local councils was referred to parliament in November 2016. It also provided a system to be followed in holding the local councils elections.

The committee said in the report that the local administration law organises elections for local councils for its urgent importance to monitor the executive bodies in the governorates. It also pinpointed its role in combating and reducing corruption, along with regulating administrative and financial affairs in local units.

The new law, which is expected to be the first for local administration, provides for a transition to a decentralised system, which if properly implemented, will be a gateway to achieving a comprehensive development in the provinces and maximising their own resources, according to the report.

The new law is divided into several chapters: the basic components of the local administration system in Egypt, the local councils, and the financial resources.

The new draft included many advantages that were not available in the current old law No. 43 of 1979, which is outdated and does not keep pace with modern technological developments and changes. The new draft law gives governors wide terms of reference and powers, as well as providing local councils with tools and oversight powers that lead to withdrawal of confidence and interrogation.

It also targets the application of financial and administrative decentralisation as stipulated in the constitution. It will also install a timetable for the governance of local administration in Egypt and the achievement of positive visions towards the elimination of bureaucracy and corruption.

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Concerns arise as ‘foreign mercenaries’ mobilise to  Libyan battlefield Sun, 29 Dec 2019 18:31:19 +0000 ‘GNA's need is immediate, Ankara deploys Syrian rebels without a troop authorisation from Turkey's parliament,’ says fellow

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Turkey is moving toward possible military intervention in Libya as part of its two accords with the Tripoli-based UN-backed government, as Ankara struggle to rally support from Mediterranean nations ahead of Berlin conference expected early 2020.  

In the meantime, the leaders of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece are planning to meet in Athens on the second of January to sign an agreement for the construction of EastMed pipeline.

The project, which will be completed in 2025, aims to export gas from Israel to Europe and is expected to satisfy about 10% of the natural gas needs of the European Union.

Afterwards, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and France are gathering in a summit in Cairo on the fourth or fifth of January. The details of the summit are not released yet, but it is expected to address Turkey’s activities in the region, in particular, the maritime border accord with the Government of National Accord (GNA).


The situation in Libya is getting more complicated as concerns rise that the North African country moved towards an out of hand war between the two Libyan factions in Tripoli, Benghazi, and their international supporters. 


The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian mercenaries loyal to Turkey are mobilising to Tripoli to support the GNA in exchange for money. The organisation said on Friday that Turkey offered from $1800 to $2000 monthly for every fighter in addition to other benefits.

These Syrian mercenaries will be face to face against Russian mercenaries who allegedly backed the eastern-based Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), headed by Khalifa Haftar.

There are also reports of 3,000 Sudanese mercenaries who are now fighting in Libya, according to a report by the Guardian which cited leaders of two different groups of Sudanese fighters active in Libya and fighting with the LAAF.


Two weeks ago, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital which was launched in April this year. However, since he launched the offensive, the forces failed to control the capital as they confront GNA allied militias, especially the groups in Misrata.


Haftar is backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, and allegedly by private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter.


“Currently, there is a race to put boots on the ground to gain a troop-size advantage. Towards this goal, Sudanese mercenaries are flooding into Libya to bolster the forces of Haftar’s LAAF,” Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow for the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) remarked the Daily News Egypt.  


Tanchum said, “Turkey needs to insert sufficient forces to prevent a LAAF victory. Using Turkish-allied jihadist fighters from Syria, in addition to regular forces from the Turkish army could be an expedient measure for Turkey to fill the gap.” 


“The GNA’s need is immediate and Ankara deploys the Syrian rebels without a troop authorisation from Turkey’s parliament, which will not resume until January 7, 2020. With the parliament’s authorisation of a Turkish troop deployment possible no earlier than January 8, Haftar’s forces have about a 10-day window from December 28 through January 7 to advance their campaign against Tripoli,” Tanchum said.

Meanwhile, Tanchum pointed out that Turkey’s objective is to halt the fight with Haftar’s forces to a stalemate and thereby protect the GNA from being toppled. 


“Having done so, Turkey could then engage Russia as a partner in the management of Libya as it has done in Syria,” he noted. 


On November 27, Turkey signed its mormaerdoms of understanding (MoUs) for military and security cooperation and on the maritime border with GNA. Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece condemned the accord. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador for failing to send the content of the GNA and Turkey maritime and military agreements.


Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the GNA already resorted to Turkey, his main backer, to fend off Haftar’s military offensive. According to the UN, Ankara has previously provided Al-Sarraj’s government with military equipment, including armoured vehicles and drones, but it would be a major escalation if it sends ground troops to defend Tripoli under its new deals with the GNA. 


For the UAE, it also provided Haftar with drones, according to the UN. The UN has already denounced the UAE and Turkey and accused the two governments of violating the arms embargo imposed on the parties to the conflict in Libya.

Tunisia surprise talks


Earlier on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that lawmakers will vote on the eighth or ninth of January on a measure to send troops to Libya in support of the GNA.


A report by Reuters also cited an official from Tripoli who said that GNA officially requested an air, ground, and maritime military from Turkey.  


As part of Turkey efforts to rally support from Mediterranean nations, Erdogan made on Wednesday a surprise visit to Tunisia to hold talks with Tunisian President Kais Saied. 


During his visit, Erdogan said that he called on Germany and Russia to make Tunisia, Algeria, and Qatar take part in Berlin peace conference on Libya which is expected early in 2020. He also noted that he supports resolving the Libyan crisis through “internal negotiations between Libyan factions.”

The Turkish president also talked about an agreement with Tunisia to support the GNA, without giving details on the nature of the deal. 


However, the Tunisian Presidency rapidly said in a statement that it will not accept to be a part of any coalition with any party in the conflict of Libya. It also said that the issue of the GNA-Turkey accords has not been raised during talks between the two leaders. 


The Interior Minister of Libya’s GNA Fathi Bashagha said in a press conference in Tunisia that there is a coalition between Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, and the GNA “for economic cooperation and political and security stability,” in Libya.

“Erdogan’s surprise visit to Tunisia to meet the president needs to be seen in this light. While sympathetic to Turkey, the Tunisian government cannot afford to alienate France and Italy, Tunisia’s top two export markets. Turkey ranks only as Tunisia’s 14th largest export market,” Tanchum said. 


“Turkey ultimately would like to station troops on Tunisia’s border with Libya – opening a two-front war with Haftar. Ankara will probably attempt to draw Tunisia gradually into Libya with smaller measures. One of these may be the use of Tunisian port for Turkey’s naval and resupply vessels,” Tanchum pointed out, saying “Turkey also is seeking Tunisia’s participation in the upcoming Berlin conference on Libya to be held in early 2020 so as not to be completely isolated in the negotiations.” 


“Although Turkey has become a major player in Libya, its isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean is only likely to deepen,” Tanchum said. 


Turkey has been condemned over its unauthorised drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Greece denounced Ankara’s accords with the GNA and emphasised its sovereignty over its maritime zones, which are also European maritime zones under international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Last week, Israel Foreign Minister Israel Katz officially opposed the accords between Turkey and GNA. However, he said that the deals will not lead to a confrontation between the two countries. 


Early this year, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Jordan, and Italy founded the East Mediterranean Gas Forum to establish a gas market in order to export to Europe. Turkey opposed any agreement of exploitation of gas resources by Cyprus without its participation. 

Ankara’s accords with the GNA were viewed as an attempt to break its strategic isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the deals rattle the region and escalate tension in Libya.
“Turkey’s agreement with the Tripoli government on the delimitation of maritime zones stands only as long as the Tripoli government does,” Tanchum said. 

He added, “Turkey lacks a land border with Libya, Russia may be less inclined to accede to Turkey’s strategic ambitions. Egypt, a close Russian partner, is committed to preventing such an outcome.”  

Meanwhile, Tanchum said that if Turkey succeeds in stymieing the advance of Haftar’s forces, it “will become the security guarantor for the Tripoli government.”

 “Turkey will become one of the primary players in the upcoming 2020 Berlin conference on Libya. And it would also likely construct a base in Libya, enhancing its power in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Maghreb, and in the wider Middle East,” Tanchum concluded. 

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The age of streaming: global service providers fight for profit Sun, 29 Dec 2019 18:20:38 +0000 Streaming as an idea started when its predecessor, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system Napster, was created in 2001, followed by Apple’s iTunes a couple of years later. Spotify, in an attempt to combat music piracy, was founded in 2006 by Swedish duo Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

The post The age of streaming: global service providers fight for profit appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

In this day and age, the popularity of music streaming services is on the rise with hordes of different service providers competing for users. In definition, music streaming platforms are web-based services that allow users to listen to high-definition music without having to download and store large files. Global Web Index, market research company, examines the popularity of streaming services, exploring how streaming behaviour differs by age group and region.

Streaming as an idea started when its predecessor, a peer-to-peer file-sharing system Napster, was created in 2001, followed by Apple’s iTunes a couple of years later. Spotify, in an attempt to combat music piracy, was founded in 2006 by Swedish duo Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

Now, 68% of adults use a music streaming service of some kind. According to Global Web Index, Generation Z leads the way with the highest average streaming times, accessing their favourite tracks across multiple platforms.

The streaming battle has also arrived in the Middle East and North Africa, where Spotify has entered the market in 2018, competing with MENA based Anghami which launched in November 2012.

Since its arrival, Spotify attracted millions of active users within the Arab world, broadening the music market with free Arabic and international music, which has limited piracy and has introduced the entire world to Arab music and artists.

How streaming providers profit?

There are currently 33 active streaming platforms available, with a range of different features and characteristics available. Spotify and Apple Music, the largest of the streaming giants, rely on almost identical models to generate revenue.

The first option is through paid subscriptions, which allow you to listen to music without interruption of advertising, for a monthly fee ranging from $3 to $15 depending on your region. The second option is through advertising, as advertisers pay for exposure, with ads played every 15 minutes for 30 seconds, and can also include sponsored playlists and homepage takeovers.

For both Spotify and Apple Music, 70% of the revenue generated from paid subscriptions and advertising goes towards paying music labels and artists.

Both platforms use the pro-rata model, which pays based on the total share of streams each artist has. For example, if $100m is generated in revenue, and an artist accounts for 1% of all streams, then they would receive $1m in royalties.

However, artists advocate for a fairer, more user-centric model that would pay artists based on who each user listens to the most, using their subscription fee. Smaller platforms like Deezer are moving towards a user-centric model and pressuring more established platforms to do the same.


It is a music streaming giant with more than 248 million users, including 113 million subscribers across 79 markets.

Spotify achieved revenues of almost $6bn in 2018, 91% of the company’s revenue comes from its 100 million paid subscriptions—double that of Apple Music—while the other 9% comes from advertising.

Apple Music

Apple’s streaming service commands a larger user-base than Spotify in the Asia Pacific, Middle Eastern, and African regions. Revenues from Apple Music has not proven profitable for the company, but the streaming platform bolsters Apple’s ecosystem of services—encouraging a more loyal consumer base.


Deezer is expected to achieve $400m in revenues in 2019 according to its CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht. The provider has around seven million subscribers, while another seven million opt for the no-fee, ad-laden version of the service, for a total of 14 million listeners.

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The return of  the Information Ministry will not impact the three media supervising bodies: experts Sat, 28 Dec 2019 14:34:50 +0000 Media figures believe the ministry will have limited roles as all responsibilities are provided to three state bodies in accordance to the constitution

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After five years of abolishment, the Ministry of Information was brought back during Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle, raising questions about its responsibilities with the presence of other media supervising bodies in Egypt.

Currently referred to as the Ministry of State for Media Affairs, Egypt’s Parliament approved the ministry’s return, with former head of parliament media and culture Osama Heikal as its minister. 

State officials said that decision came in response to calls to regulate the scene of media and its condition.

The Supreme Media Council, National Press Authority, and the National Media Authority are currently the three bodies that regulate the workflow of the press and media in Egypt.

The creation of the three bodies was approved by the parliament in December 2016 and signed into law by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in April 2017.

Each body has a separate supervisory role: the Media National Authority is responsible for supervising radio and broadcast media outlets; the National Press Authority is in charge of supervising state-owned newspapers; and the Supreme Council for Media Regulation is responsible for overseeing the functions of the two authorities.

The Ministry of Information was abolished in 2014 under the government of Engineer Ibrahim Mahleb. The last information minister was Doraya Sharaf Al-Din who held the post from July 2013 until June 2014, after Al-Sisi took office.

Heikal, held the same position from July 2011 to December of the same year and was the first minister of information following the 2011 revolution.

Mass Communication professor at Cairo University Mohamed Al-Morsy previously said he did not support the return of the ministry as he believes any minister selected for this position will be there to serve the government and put the profession under control.

The professor continued that after looking at all the existing conditions and issues in Egyptian media, he found that the existence of the ministry is very needed, as the medium needs more organisation, control, and development.

Al-Morsi said that the minister of information will just be an executive minister in a government affiliated to a higher authority, explaining that the concept of the Minister of State for Information is a “minister without a ministry,” meaning that he only develops strategies.


Speaking about the role of press and media authorities, he said that it has an administrative and developmental role, while the supreme media Council has an organisational role. Accordingly, the ministry’s role is to oversee them.

Al-Morsy added that the ministry coordinates between the bodies that make up public awareness of the Egyptian citizen, while its second mission will be setting Egypt’s media policy, and to define its identity. It should set how the media looks, and what it should present and how. It’s also in charge of regulating different media outlets.

The third task, according to the professor, is solving problems facing the media system by contacting the executive channels in the authority directly and quickly.


Al-Morsi affirmed the necessity of having a minister at the present time, with the possibility of cancelling the ministry later after controlling the scene and handling all of the issues’ treatment, explaining that the press and media authorities and the supreme council are the basis.

On that note, Media expert Yasser Abdel Aziz said, “there is a mistaken and very dangerous belief among officials, parliamentarians, and some experts and professionals, that the problem of the media in Egypt can be solved by appointing a minister of information, as they believe that the presence of this minister will solve the problem and control the scene. ”

While the 2014 constitution does not prevent the appointment of a minister of information. In the event of having a minister for information, the constitution gives it very limited powers as opposed to the other supervisory bodies.

The new minister

“The constitution did not prevent the existence of a ministry of information, and this is the vision of the President and the head of government,” Heikal said.

He confirmed that there is no contradiction with the Supreme Media Council, saying, “In the past, the minister could organise the media, but currently a minister will come with new roles in the presence of media institutions that are already organising the work.

“The Minister of Information must set a media policy with a new vision and inform a new concept that sets a media policy for the state,” Heikal said.

Heads of the media and press bodies

The Head of the Supreme Council of Media Regulation Makram Mohammed said until now the new decision has not clarified the tasks of the ministry, nor its relationship with the three bodies, noting that the constitution already confirmed the presence and duties of the council and the two authorities.

“It is very important to understand the role of the ministry and the cooperation between all bodies, so things can work smoothly,” he added.

Karam Gabr, head of the National Press Authority, denied any inconsistency between the position of the minister and the three media bodies.

He explained that the return of the ministry places a heavy burden on the minister and the media, explaining that there must be media plans that develop the general policy of the profession during the coming period, and this is the responsibility of the ministry.

“I expect new plans to be implemented in 2020 to develop newspapers under the presence of the new ministry,” Gabr also said.

He suggested that the return of the ministry would further create opportunities for cooperation between agencies to find solutions to crises and devise various strategies.

Gabr believes that the aim of appointing a minister is to help control the scene, especially since Heikal is a great candidate and highly experienced.

Tarek Saada, chairperson of the founding committee of the media syndicate, said the role of the new minister is “coordination”. It is to help control the scene, by setting various media policies, confirming that the presence of bodies in law does not contradict the presence of ministry, as long as its duties don’t interfere with the regulatory bodies.


“I think its role is very important, to coordinate between these bodies and draw up media policies, in addition to improving journalistic and media content,” Saada said.


Gamal Abdel Rahim, Press Syndicate’s secretary general, said the ministry will not have any competences in accordance with the constitutional texts no 211-212-213, and the laws regulating the press and media 178-179-180 of 2018.

He continued in a press statement that the media and press organisations are competent in all matters of the press and media, adding that they are independent bodies in accordance with the constitution, and therefore the minister has no right to interfere in its work.

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Egypt’s giant natural gas discoveries are key for Egyptian industrial players Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:39:57 +0000 Strengthening EGP could result in further margin pressure

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Beltone financial investment bank said in its latest Mena Macro Strategy, that the key sector for Egyptian industrial players has been Egypt’s giant natural gas discoveries in the Zohr Gas field, which triggered a turnaround in the industrial sector.

The first key milestone was the Ministry of Petroleum’s announcement that Egypt has achieved natural gas self-sufficiency in October 2019, reflected in the halt in natural gas imports starting January 2019.

The government targets an industrial annual growth rate of 10.7% by 2022 from current rate of 6.3% to be achieved through a series of encouraging sector reforms. Additionally, the 2018 and 2019 interest rate cuts should encourage capex spending amid lower debt cost opportunities, which should help facilitate higher growth for industrial players according to Beltone analysts.

Industrial sector reforms have already been initiated by the government with its decision to slash natural gas prices for key industrial players in October 2019. This saw steel and ceramic manufacturers given natural gas at $ 5.5/MMBtu down from $ 7.0/ MMBtu, notably reducing production costs Ezz Steel, Al Ezz Dekheila, and Al Ezz for Ceramics & Porcelain (GEMMA) according to Beltone.

Another key favourable aspect was the government’s decision to increase concession prices from $ 3.0/MMBtu to the current range of $ 5.18-5.8/MMBtu, which has encouraged EKH to resume the development of its Offshore North Sinai (ONS) gas field. There are further talks regarding additional industry reforms to further boost the industrials and materials sectors.

It is worth highlighting that a downward revision of electricity prices for industrial players would be a game changer for companies including Egyptian Aluminium (EGAL) and Misr Chemical Industries (MICH), where electricity represents the single largest cost component. Both companies are charged EGP 1.11/kWh, which is considerably high, compared to regional and global peers, resulting in recorded losses, according to Beltone analysts.

The trade tension between the US and China has been a threat to global economic growth and supply/demand policies, dragging down prices for a wide range of commodities such as steel, urea, aluminium, coal, petrochemicals, and others. Contracting commodity prices has negatively affected domestic industrial players, including Ezz Steel and Al Ezz Dekheila, which were forced to cut their prices several times on fears of heavy cheap import flows as global prices contracted 11%.

Beltone analysts choose EK Holding (EKHO) and El Sewedy Electric (SWDY) as their top picks. EKHO’S shift in strategy has been key in the company’s turnaround, as it has followed trending investment themes in Egypt. EKHO focused its investments on Egypt after macro development. Beltone analysts expect EKHO’s bottom line to grow by 16%. While they set fair value at $2.5/share with current market price at $1.4/share.

El Sewedy Electric has passed the normalisation test with flying colours following a couple of years of exceptional cable margins given low cost inventory, and highly profitable fast track mega projects. Belton analysts set fair value at EGP 18.8/share, while market price at EGP 13.32/share.

On the other hand, EFG Hermes added in its yearbook energy deregulation is still a valid theme to play in Egypt with continuing cut backs on its energy subsidy bill. EFG analyst expect players in utilities may stand to benefit. Not only will the deregulation of Egypt’s energy space help improve pricing, but it may also lead to improve private company participation in the utilities space.

Following Egypt’s significant capex cycle in power generation, they believe investment in distribution is necessary and will likely involve private sector participation. The two privately owned players in this space are EKHO’s Nat energy and Qalaa Holdings’ Taqa Arabia.

They added that the ongoing trade war is expected to have a sizable impact on global trade routes, as well as the size of trade. Every 10% applied on $ 250bn of goods will lead to a 50bps impact on global trade growth according to discussions between EFG analysts and DPW’s management. DPW’s portfolio is more skewed to frontier and emerging markets, which should be in a relatively more defensive position, should trade disputes continue for no longer than expected.

EFG analysts think the market has penalised DPW’s valuation because of global trade issues, and the stock could potentially see re-rating, once an agreement is made between the US and China. They are in favor with EK Holding and Aramex.

Moreover, Pharos holding investment bank added that the recent reduction in gas prices to $1.5/MMBtu would result in savings by $72m for ESRS. In addition, price reduction in local rebar steel by EGP 1300/tonne since September 2019 may close the gap between local and global prices by 0.4% premium to global prices, and stronger EGP will weigh down on both steel and Aluminium margins. 

In this context, Pharos analysts hope that the imposition of a flexible tariff north of 50% on current global steel price on both rebar and flat steel could alleviate the pressure from the global trade war, and improving overall commodity outlook if the US-China global trade war softens ahead of the 2020 US presidential election.

On the other hand, Pharos analysts are fearful of the weakness in global steel prices to persist on the back of the ongoing global trade war, the gradual decline in steel tariff that could lead to lower steel prices and magnify losses going forward, and higher tariffs in key export markets. They also believe that the strengthening of the EGP could result in further margin pressure, and a higher electricity tariff in July 2020 irrespective of producer complaints, which will pressure EGAL margins further.

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Highest HIV rates are in MENA region, with 36,000 cases: UNAIDS Egypt Sat, 28 Dec 2019 11:37:59 +0000 It is important to provide psychological support for HIV patients as it is linked to behaviors that society condemns such as drugs and sex.

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With 0.02% of the population estimated to have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS), Egypt is a low-HIV-prevalence country. However, HIV prevalence rates in Egypt have increased six fold in the last few years, compared to 2000.

The percentage of new cases of HIV- positive in Egypt is increasing every year by 20%-30%. In 2019, the average number of new cases of HIV in Egypt was 2470 per year. According to UNAIDS’s 2019 statistics, there are about 13,000 people currently living with HIV in Egypt. However, unsafe behaviors among most-at-risk populations and limited condom usage among the general population place Egypt at risk of a broader epidemic.

Among officially reported cases, people between 25-49 years old are among most-at-risk groups, as sexual intercourse and intravenous drug usage are the primary mode of transmission of HIV in that age. However, recently this category has increased to include younger ages due to drug usage, according to the National AIDS Programme’s (NAP) report issued in November 2019.

Males are seven times more likely to have HIV than females. This may be the case since men conduct tests more than women, as well as the spread of drug usage amongst males.

These statistics point that there may be a concentrated HIV epidemic in Egypt among high-risk groups, but due to social stigma and lack of prevalence data, it is unacknowledged.

Nonetheless, over time, the Egyptian government has made efforts to improve the lives of people with HIV in the country. It launched several initiatives to examine and treat patients in strict secrecy, establishing 14 treatment centres. In 2020, the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population will launch a campaign to examine pregnant women in maternal and child health centres for HIV.

HIV’s patients have increased in 2019 by 28%, compared to 2010. In addition, 36,000  people are estimated to be HIV-positive in the Middle East and North Africa region, making one of the highest rates of the HIV patients in the world, said Heba Ali, UNAIDS Egypt’s country manager.

In commemoration of the World AIDS Day 2019, she called for “intensifying efforts to eliminate the social stigma of HIV patients,” explaining that UNAIDS’s main goal is leading the global efforts to end HIV by 2030, by supporting Egypt’s national AIDS programme.

As a response to the UN campaign against HIV, Egypt adopted 90-90-90 treatment plan target by 2020. The plan aims at reaching 90% of HIV patients, then 90% of those initiated in treatment, and 90% of those on treatment virally suppressed, by adhering to the treatment course.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Population, the National AIDS Programme viewed all efforts made by the ministry to combat the disease.

The National AIDS Programme Coordinator Heba El Sayed declared that the number of HIV’s patients registered in Egypt is 13,000 cases since 1986 and the number increases by an average of 20-30% each year.

In 2019, 2470 cases were diagnosed with HIV, and is expected to increase by December 2019 as the programmeme is working now on new cases. El Sayed added that the ministry has provided 14 treatment centers in 14 governorates in Egypt. However, one of the biggest challenges the programmeme faces is stigma and discrimination against patients.

The UNICEF programme in Egypt also addresses HIV by preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to children. In cooperation with the Health and Population Ministry, they launched an awareness campaign in eight governorates, which managed to target 50,000 women.

Walid Kamal, HIV programme manager at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt, declared that since 2008, the Egyptian government started to implement a plan in order to provide all HIV drugs through the Ministry of Health and Population. He added that in 2017, the government managed to support the HIV drugs by 100%.

As a goodwill ambassador of the global campaign to fight HIV, Actor Nicolas Mouawad stated during the conference that it is vital to know the symptoms of the disease and the ways to prevent it due to the large number of HIV cases. He added that awareness campaigns are still needed since people are still afraid of dealing with them.

“It is important to provide psychological support for HIV patients, because having this disease is very harsh. It is linked to behaviors that society condemns such as drugs and sex,” Mouawad stated, asserting that 90% of the infected people are afraid of declaring that they are HIV patients.

He explained that the social stigma pushes HIV patients to the point of pretending to have cancer only to gain people’s sympathy. He clarified that they are at risk of destroying their social relationships if they reveal their actual disease, stressing that everyone is responsible for providing them with both support, health, and preventive education.

According to figures issued by Ministry of Health and Population in 2015, only 4% of young women in Egypt and 7% of young men between the ages of 15 to 24 had accurate knowledge about HIV, adding to the state of disinformation, stigma, and discrimination.

According to UNAIDS’ statistics in 2018, 37.9 million people are estimated to be HIV-positive globally, clarifying that 1.7 million cases were diagnosed only last year, and 770,000  passed away in the same year form HIV-related illnesses.

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Italy, Egypt’s business relations strengthen despite political differences Mon, 23 Dec 2019 11:30:26 +0000 Regeni’s murder case still on top agenda in four high level presidential meetings in 2019

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Egyptian-Italian business relations have been developing very well, vivid through the joint business forums, delegations, and the announcement of new Italian investments into Egypt.

At the same time, student Giulio Regeni’s case is still on the top agenda of four high-level meetings between Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in 2019.

Al-Sisi met with Conte on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York in September. They also met in August on the sidelines of G7 summit meetings in France and in Osaka, Japan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in June, as well as in Beijing, China on the during the Belt and Road forum in April.

Over the joint meetings with the Italian PM, President Al-Sisi praised the role of Italian companies operating in Egypt, highlighting Egyptian national projects and the opportunities it provides for Italian investors.

Counter-terrorism and illegal immigration efforts and the developments on the Libyan political scene were main parts of the leaders’ discussions.

Daily News Egypt dug into the recent economic approach between Italy and Egypt and its impact on the political views regarding Regeni, the Italian PhD student who was killed in Egypt in January 2016, after his abduction while studying trade unions in the country.

Italy is keen on boosting joint economic, military production cooperation

The Italian ambassador to Egypt Giampaolo Cantini met with Egypt’s Minister of Military Production Mohamed Al-Assar last Friday in the presence of the embassy’s military attaché’s staff to discuss the current and the future military production cooperation, according to a ministerial statement.

Both sides highlighted their fruitful cooperation in various fields including the defence and civil industries. In addition to the collaboration in manufacturing fields, such as cooperation with Rheinmetall Defence Group and Unical AG S.p.A working in the field of boiler production and other several Italian companies.

The statement added that both sides emphasised the importance of enhancing joint defence cooperation as well as economic relations, noting that there are many indicators that reflect promising opportunities to establish a fruitful industrial partnership between the two sides.

Al-Assar pointed out that the ministry’s goal is to cooperate with various international companies and institutions in order to technologically update and develop Egyptian manufacturers. The  Italian ambassador praised the historical relation between the two countries, and the positive developments witnessed during the recent period, stressing the importance that his country attaché in developing the joint relations.

The ambassador also expressed his desire to increase Italian investments in Egypt by encouraging Italian companies to invest in the country. He recommends for various partnerships with the Ministry of Military Production due to the high technological, industrial, and technical capabilities of its subsidiaries.

He also mentioned the participation of several Italian companies in the Egypt Defence Expo  EDEX last year, noting that he will encourage other Italian companies to participate in the upcoming editions of the exhibition, especially in EDEX 2020.

Signs of recent economic approach

An Italian delegation of about 15 companies concluded a visit to Egypt last Saturday after holding several meetings with senior Egyptian officials and private sector representatives for four days.

“We had a very successful business visit to Cairo where the companies had fruitful business to business (B2B) meetings to discuss future cooperation with their Egyptian counterparts,” Giuseppe Romano, president of the Italian Confederation for Economic Development (CISE) told Daily News Egypt on the sidelines the second Italian-Egyptian economic forum, held on Wednesday, organised by the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade under the patronage of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

About nine economic agreements were signed during the visit which reassures the high potential of boosting economic cooperation, Romano noted.

“CISE includes 10,000 Italian companies and I’ve noticed their interest in investing in the Egyptian market, especially after the business climate’s improvement,” he added.

A number of Italian companies will invest in the New Administrative Capital projects, yet the names of the companies are confidential, he said, noting that the new investments will  be implemented in partnership with Egyptian partners to bring Italian innovation to new Egyptian cities.

On 15 September 2019, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Al-Moselhy kicked off the first Egypt-Italy economic forum in the Italian city of Naples, where a large number of Egyptian companies and about 200 Italian companies participated in the four-day forum.

September’s forum included the signing of an agreement between Egypt and Italy to enhance close cooperation between both countries in technical rehabilitation, exchange of expertise, and support of mutual investments.

For his part, Al-Moselhy told DNE last Wednesday that his ministry is closely studying internal market models in Italy, Spain, and France to develop local markets.

“We aim to establish real local markets upon the world’s highest standards. We will also launch the Commodity Exchange by end of December 2019 as part of our efforts to develop our markets,” Al-Moselhy noted.

Trade exchange between Egypt and Italy hit $7.2bn in 2018, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar in a statement last Wednesday.

Regeni’s case

The family of Giulio Regeni demanded that Rome withdraw its ambassador to Cairo for a second time in response to what they say is Egyptian pressure on their lawyers and efforts to prevent investigation into their son’s death, according to global media reports in June 2019.

“Enough is enough,” Paola and Claudio Regeni said in a joint statement with their lawyer, Alessandra Ballerini. “The withdrawal of the Italian ambassador from Cairo can no longer be postponed.”

Italy withdrew on 8 April 2016 its ambassador to Egypt, Maurizio Massari after the murder of Giulio Regeni, who, at the time, conducted critical academic research on Egyptian labour rights and trade unions.

Italy has returned its ambassador to Egypt after evidence proved Egypt’s good standing.

Furthermore, ambassador Hisham Badr presented his credentials to Italian President Sergio Matrella to take up his post as Egypt’s ambassador to Rome, almost a week after the Italian ambassador Giampaolo Cantini came to office in September 2017.

For his part, Rakha Ahmed, former assistant minister of foreign affairs, said that revealing more information about Regeni’s case will help Egypt to recover its historical relations with Italy.

Economic cooperation with Italy is developing very well, Ahmed asserted, noting that Italy realises Egypt’s leading role in the Middle East and North Africa and Egypt’s consultation over the Libyan political scene, which is always on the top agenda of the leaders’ discussions.

Moreover, Italian prosecutors confirmed they had requested further evidence from their Egyptian counterparts after a new witness came forward testifying that one of the five accused men was overheard discussing Regeni’s kidnapping at an African security conference in 2017, according to media reports past June.

The Rome prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco, who is leading the investigation into Regeni’s murder, said, “We have sent the authorities in Cairo an international rogatory [letter of request]. We can’t disclose its contents. But we can say that our request is related to the new witness and that we’ve had no answer since then.”

Regeni disappeared on 25 January 2016, and his body was found bearing signs of torture on an outlying Cairo desert road on 4 February that year, generating suspicions that Egyptian officials were involved in his disappearance and his death

Earlier in 2018, Rome prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone stated that he believed Regeni was killed because of his research, which focused on trade unions in Egypt. His death provoked a significant break in Italian-Egyptian relations, with Italy recalling its ambassador to Cairo between April 2016 and September last year.

A closer look at these historical relations

Egypt and Italy have long, strong relations, since the Ptolemaic Era and roman Empire.  In the modern era, the exchange of ambassadors between the two countries began in 1914. These relations ceased in between 1940 and 1945, almost through the entirety of World War II.  Then relations became positive, and Egypt and Italy have become members of the Union for the Mediterranean, according to the State Information Service (SIS).

After June 30, there were major developments in the Egyptian-Italian relationship. This  has been witnessed in their political relations, official visits, and the Italian government’s support to the Egyptian road map on 30 June.

The Italian government supports Egypt in its war against terrorism that has spread in many neighbouring countries, especially Libya.  The two countries are affected by what is happening in Libya and are working to support the efforts of rebuilding the Libyan State and preventing its fall into the hands of the terrorists.

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Turkey-GNA accord activated: Ankara ready to send troops to Libya as tensions grow Sun, 22 Dec 2019 09:00:18 +0000 ‘Turkey's most likely objective is to help GNA-allied militias battle LNA to a stalemate, then seek a bargain with Russia as done in Syria,’ says fellow 

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Fighting has been escalating recently in war-torn Libya, as the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) decreed to activate its military and security deals with Turkey.

This came in response to Khalifa Haftar, who heads the eastern-based Libyan ِArmy’s (LNA), advancement toward Tripoli.

Ahmed Al-Mismari, a spokesperson for the LNA announced on Friday that they bombed what they described as “dangerous targets in Misrata,” including sites used to store Turkish supplied weapons.

Al-Mismari pledged to confront “the Turkish invasion”. Earlier, the LNA gave “Misrata militias” 72 hours to withdraw from Misrata and Sirte which ended on Sunday.

The GNA, headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, agreed on Thursday following a high-level military meeting, to activate the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) for military and security cooperation signed with Turkey on 27 November.

Al-Sarraj called on leaders of five countries; namely the US, the UK, Italy, Turkey, and Alegria to activate the deals of security cooperation to fend off Haftar’s advancement toward the Libyan capital and to maintain security and stability of the country.

Meanwhile, extensive meetings between Al-Sarraj and Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad as well as other top officials in Doha were held last week. The officials pledged security and economic support to the GNA.

Additional meetings were also held between Al-Sarraj and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and its Defence Minister Hulusi Akar in Qatar.

Earlier last week, Haftar ordered to advance toward the centre of Tripoli as part of the “final battle” to control the capital which was launched in April this year. However, since he launched the offensive, the forces failed to control the capital, as they confront GNA allied militias, especially the groups in Misrata.

Libya has remained in chaos, divided between two governments since the fall of Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich country has been suffering from a financial crisis due to clashes between militias and forces loyal to these governments.

Haftar is backed by the UAE, Egypt, France, and allegedly by private security forces from the Wagner Group of Russia, while Turkey is the GNA’s main supporter.

According to the UN, Ankara has previously provided Al-Sarraj’s government with military equipment, including armoured vehicles and drones, but it would be a major escalation if it sends ground troops to defend Tripoli under its new deals with the GNA. The UAE also provided Haftar with drones, the UN added.

The UN has already denounced the UAE and Turkey and accused the two governments of violating the arms embargo imposed on the parties to the conflict in Libya.

Ankara-Tripoli agreement is dubious

The deals on maritime boundaries, security, and military cooperation between Turkey and GNA came to spark Mediterranean tensions and raise the fears of more escalations in the war-torn country and in the East Mediterranean region.

The accord was condemned by Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece. The deals provide that Turkish troops will be sent to Libya at the request of the GNA.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan already pledged to send his soldiers to Libya to support the GNA. He said that the deals will enable joint exploration activities in the Mediterranean. 

Erdogan showed up on Friday and said that Turkey will not be silenced “over Russian-backed mercenaries supporting Haftar in Libya.”

For Moscow, it voiced its concern over the Turkish involvement in Libya. Russia said last week that Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Turkey in January to discuss Ankara’s potential military deployment to Libya.

“The two agreements signed between Turkey and Tripoli-based administration in Libya, are an attempt by Ankara to break out of its strategic isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute of European and Security Policy (AIES) told Daily News Egypt. 

“Ankara believes it can leverage the maritime delimitation agreement with the UN-recognised administration Tripoli to contest the region’s maritime boundaries established by Greece’s bilateral agreements with Egypt and Cyprus. Athens’s bilateral agreements defined maximal boundaries for Greece and Cyprus at the expense of Turkey,” Tanchum pointed out. 

“Under the principle of equity developed in the international case law deriving from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Turkey is likely entitled to larger maritime zone because of its long shoreline,” Tanchum remarked.

The deal on maritime boundaries supports Turkey’s stance against Greece and Cyprus amid the ongoing conflict over natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean. 

Turkey has been condemned over its unauthorised drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Greece denounced Ankara MoUs with the GNA and emphasised its sovereignty over its maritime zones, which are also European maritime zones under international law, as reflected in the UNCLOS.


Greece also expelled the Libyan ambassador for failing to send the content of the GNA and Turkey maritime and military agreements.

The US voiced its concerns over Turkey’s gas explorations in the waters off Cyprus. While the EU froze most high-level contacts with Turkey and is weighing sanctions.

As tensions escalated in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean, Turkey deployed armed drones to northern Cyprus last week.

“The Ankara-Tripoli agreement is dubious on two different grounds. According to the Skhirat agreement through which the GNA government in Tripoli derives its international authority, it cannot make such agreements without the approval of Libya’s House of Representatives (HOR), which now sits in Tobruk. The HOR has officially rejected both agreements with Turkey and declared them invalid,” Tanchum noted.

“Second, the maritime zones defined in the agreement ignore Greece’s island of Crete in direct violation of UNCLOS article 121, under which Crete possesses continental shelf and an exclusive economic zone,” Tanchum said.

“Because of other geopolitical drivers and domestic politics, the parties have been reluctant to take their case to an international tribunal. Instead, Libya and the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean are facing an escalation spiral centred on the battle for Tripoli,” Tanchum said.

He added, “Turkey’s most likely objective is to help the GNA-allied militias battle Haftar’s LNA forces to a stalemate and then seek to strike a bargain with Russia as Turkey has done in Syria.”

“It is unclear Russia would be interested in such a bargain. Further, this scenario assumes that Haftar fails in conquering Tripoli,” he noted.

“That outcome will not only depend on Haftar’s forces but also on the willingness of Russia, Egypt, the UAE, and France, his principal international supporters, to provide the weapons and assistance to ensure the LNA captures Tripoli,” Tanchum concluded.

Aguila Saleh Issa, speaker of the Libya’s House of Representatives visited Cairo almost two weeks ago and urged the Arab Parliament and Egypt to push for withdrawing the GNA’s international recognition which was formed in 2015.

A major escalation 

Tarek Fahmy, professor of Political Science at Cairo University told Daily News Egypt that the scenarios of conflict are potentially more than the scenarios of negotiations.


Fahmy said that Turkey is trying to change the game rules, especially that Ankara has no maritime boundaries with Libya. 


He explained that Turkey only owns 12 nautical miles under the 1982 Agreement on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Convention, and its annexes governing the positions of riparian states. But with its new accord with Libya, it plans to have 200 nautical miles with the Libyan side. 

None of the condemnations or rejection that were expressed over the Turkey-GNA deals has stopped Turkey from moving on in its plans, he said. 

“Sending Turkish troops to the GNA will be a major escalation in Libya and would fuel the conflict between the GNA and Haftar,” Fahmy noted.

“An explosion will take place in the region at any time as tensions escalated,” he pointed out. 

Fahmy hailed the Egyptian stance regarding the GNA-Turkey accord, explaining that turkey activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Region enjoyed a “hidden acceptance from the US.”

Cairo pledges support to LNA

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi warned against attempts “to control Libya”, emphasising that Libya’s security is essential to Egypt security.

Al-Sisi said last week during Egypt’s annual World Youth Forum at Sharm El Sheikh that Egypt “will never abandon its support to the LNA.”

Meantime, Al-Sisi called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday to put an end to “illegitimate external intervention in the Libyan issue.”

Al-Sisi voiced in a phone call Egypt’s support to the unity and security of Libya, as well as efforts to counter terrorism and extremist militias, which not only threaten Libya but also the security and stability of the Middle East and Mediterranean region, he said.

Germany is already working with the UN and preparing a Libyan peace conference in Berlin in the new year, aiming to achieve a ceasefire and to ensure that all parts of conflicts commit to the arms embargo.  

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Total of 65% of citizens in six Middle East countries think corruption increased: TI Sun, 15 Dec 2019 10:00:28 +0000 According to the research, 44% of people think most or all parliamentarians and government officials are corrupt,

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Over the past 12 months, citizens of many countries across the Middle East and North Africa have turned to streets against corruption, unfair distribution of wealth and declining economic conditions, demanding the toppling of their governments and aspiring for better living conditions.


Countries such as Lebanon and Sudan have voiced their anger against their regimes that allowed a handful of people to control the country’s resources over the years, and stripped their citizens off their rights in a decent life. 


The recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have come in the footsteps of the Arab Spring revolutions that were led by Tunisia and had a domino effect across the Arab region.

Fighting corruption is among the main demands of every time protesters across the world.  Each year, the world marks the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, viewing corruption as “a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies.”


For this event, Berlin-based global movement Transparency International (TI) issued the 10th edition of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – the Middle East and North Africa. The report surveyed more than 6,600 people and a set of public opinion data on citizens’ views on corruption and direct experiences of bribery in six countries across the region: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, and Tunisia. 


The report showed that “most citizens think corruption is increasing and that their governments are not doing enough to tackle the problem”. It also showed that “the police is still the institution most likely to take bribes.”


Moreover, the research disclosed that people offered bribes in exchange for votes in national, regional, or local elections.

It also found that “an alarming number of citizens are coerced to provide sexual favours in exchange for public services, such as health and education, in a practice known as sexual extortion or “sextortion” in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. 


“Evidence indicates a gender bias that particularly affects women. Some women are coerced into providing sexual favours to receive public services, including health care and education,” the research noted.


The highest sextortion rate is in Lebanon, where 23% of people experience sextortion or know someone who has, followed by Palestine at 21% and Jordan at 13%.


Meanwhile, people in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine also “experience vote-buying and threats of retaliation if they do not vote a certain way and spread fake news.” 


Yet, vote-buying is highest in Lebanon, as 47% of citizens are bribed in return for their vote, while 28% receive threats if they do not comply. 


“In Jordan, 59% of citizens believe that fake news spreads frequently to influence election outcomes, while many in Lebanon and Palestine believe the same (58% and 39% respectively).” 


Moreover, 66% of people surveyed think that their government is performing badly, while only 28% think their government is doing a good job regarding fighting corruption. 


Meanwhile, 44% of people think most or all parliamentarians and government officials are corrupt. 


The research also showed that “one in five citizens who accessed public services, such as health care and education, paid a bribe in the previous year.” More than a third in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine used their personal connections, which is known as “wasta” to get the services they needed.

Despite these rates, people across the region are still hopeful and 50% believe that ordinary people can make a difference to fight corruption, the research showed.

Corruption on the rise

 According to the research, 65% of citizens across the countries surveyed think corruption increased in their country in the previous 12 months, while 16% think it decreased. In Sudan, 82% think corruption increased, which is the highest in the region, followed by Lebanon 68% and Tunisia 67%. 

Meanwhile, 44% of citizens think that most or all members of parliament and government officials are involved in corruption. In Lebanon, 68% think that most or all government officials are involved in corruption. 

 On the satisfaction with the level of democracy, 52% of citizens said that they are not satisfied. In Lebanon, 65% are not satisfied with how well their democracy works, followed by Sudan (60%), Palestine (56%) and Tunisia (51%). In addition, 47% of Moroccans are not satisfied with the level of democracy in their country. 


However, Jordan was the only country where the majority reported being satisfied with how democracy functions in their country, with 65%.

A total of 83% of citizens think government corruption is a big problem, while only 16% think corruption is no problem or a small problem. 


On citizens’ trust in their government, the majority of Lebanese citizens have little or no trust in the government (80%), the courts (72%), or the police (59%). 


However, the Jordanian government, the police, and the courts enjoy relatively high levels of trust, with 60% of citizens having trust in the government, 70% in the courts, and 87% in the police.

 Effect of corruption 


Of all citizens surveyed, 78% said they had contacts with at least one public service including, the police, the courts, health care, schools in the previous 12 months. Of these, more than 22% paid a bribe for basic services such as health care or education. 


The research found that Lebanon has the highest overall bribery rate with 41%, followed by Morocco with 31%, and Sudan with 24%. However, Jordan maintains the lowest overall bribery rate (4%), followed by Palestine (17%), and Tunisia (18%). 


According to the research, the police have the highest bribery rate with 22%, making the public service most likely to demand and receive bribes. 


It also showed that courts and public utilities, such as water and electricity, are the public services for which citizens are most likely to use their personal connections.  

GCB recommendations 


The GCB published seven recommendations for governments of the six countries surveyed and others to fight corruption and regain their citizens’ trust. 

It advised governments to ensure elections are held periodically in a competitive, fair, and transparent environment, as well as enforce sanctions against vote-buying. 


Governments should engage civil society and protect activists, whistle-blowers, and journalists in monitoring and exposing corruption, the GCB noted, adding that the current crackdown on political dissent, free speech, and press must end.


Furthermore, governments must enforce a system that eliminates and criminalises the use of personal connections (wasta) to ensure equal access to the services. It also recommended raising awareness about (wasta) as a form of corruption to combat current social norms. 


It added that governments must deliver and publicly report on their anti-corruption commitments, including the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). 


Meanwhile, the governments must ensure the separation of powers and a democratic system of checks and balances, as well as an independent judiciary.


Governments also must recognise sextortion as a form of corruption and adopt gender-inclusive anti-corruption laws and accountability measures, the GCB highlighted. 


Finally, governments must make information public to help tackle fake news and support fact-based journalism. 


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Al-Hattaba’s Al-Shurafa mausoleum: A heritage site with tourist potentials uncovered Mon, 09 Dec 2019 08:30:19 +0000  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 Wed, 04 Dec 2019 14:41:53 +0000  ‘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 Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:44 +0000 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? Fri, 29 Nov 2019 08:45:37 +0000 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 Mon, 25 Nov 2019 15:35:51 +0000 "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 Sun, 17 Nov 2019 17:05:52 +0000 '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 Sat, 16 Nov 2019 15:49:56 +0000 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 Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:00:01 +0000 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? Thu, 07 Nov 2019 17:43:41 +0000 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 Mon, 04 Nov 2019 08:00:40 +0000 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.

The post From Lebanon to Iraq: government leaders forced to resign following mass protests  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed under scrutiny over Oromia clashes Fri, 01 Nov 2019 15:00:15 +0000 Violence erupted in Addis Ababa and the outlying Oromia on Wednesday after local activist accused security forces of trying to attack him

The post Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed under scrutiny over Oromia clashes appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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 Sun, 27 Oct 2019 15:00:56 +0000 ‘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 Wed, 23 Oct 2019 12:07:20 +0000 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 Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:58:23 +0000 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 Tue, 22 Oct 2019 17:53:44 +0000 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. 

The post Lebanon on fire: nationwide protests against regime reach its third day  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Abiy Ahmed: wide reforms, but some sceptic over unsettled issues Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:00:02 +0000 Despite all his achievements in Ethiopia, the GERD dispute is still unsettled

The post Abiy Ahmed: wide reforms, but some sceptic over unsettled issues appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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.


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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