Interviews – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Fri, 10 Jul 2020 22:06:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Like father, like son: Ahmed Khaled Saleh acting star in the making Tue, 07 Jul 2020 18:18:10 +0000 It was great honour to partake in Al Ekhteyar TV series, I’m optimistic for second season

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Some may say he has inherited the acting talent from his father, besides his distinctive face and great performances that are proven in one role after another. He is none other than Ahmed Khaled Saleh, the son of late actor Khaled Saleh, who has starred recently in several successful TV series and films.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Saleh to learn more on his distinguished start in the acting world, and his successful roles in Al Fetewa (“The Chivalrous”) and Al Ekhteyar (“The Choice”) TV series, both released in Ramadan 2020.

You participated in Al Ekhteyar last Ramadan, Can you give us some insights into this experience?

I was happy with the series since I first learned about it. I phoned director Peter Mimi and congratulated him on the success of the show, being a very important drama for the industry and for future generations as well. I was very happy when I was informed by Mimi and the production agency that I was selected to play a role in the series.

I feel proud to be part of that work. It is a kiss on the forehead of every woman who lost a son or husband in the war [against terrorism] and every child of brave military personnel. I am optimistic for the second season of the series next year.

How did you prepare for the role you played in Al Ekhteyar, and did you face any difficulties?

Thank God I did not find any difficulty in playing the persona of Captain Youssef. He is a survivor. I met him before shooting the series, and it helped me grasp the features and dimensions of his personality. It is very important to understand the character of a military figure. However, the role did not have much space in the series, and that requires further work.

You also starred in Al Fetewa. What attracted you to play the character of Sheikh Mabrouk?

I was very excited about that role. Before I read the script, I heard about the role from the screenwriter Hani Sarhan. I was excited, because it was different from any role I played before. When I read the script, I became more excited about the work. As the character was an Azhar clerk in 1800, I had to read about this period in Egypt.

Do you remember the most difficult scene in the series?

The first scene was challenging for me, as it was with actress Hanadi Mehanna, who is also my fiancée.

How did you receive the reactions of the series’ audience about the character?

I was very happy and excited about this character, but I did not expect that it will attract the attention of people like this.

How was the work with Al Fetewa’s lead actor Yasser Galal?

Working with Yasser Galal was extremely enjoyable, because he was like a big brother to me before being a big star. I am a fan of his work, and when I started working with him, I was astonished by his love and integrity towards his work, along with the morals of art and humanity.

Yasser Galal agreed to star in upcoming series Khaled Bin Al Waleed. Will you be involved?

I do not know a lot about the new series. I was excited when I heard about it last year as there is nothing more thrilling than presenting artwork with a religious theme. I expect this series to be successful.

You posted a photo of you with your father online, captioned “My School”. What did you learn from him?

My father taught me a lot, not just art, but also respecting and loving people, having good relations with others, and accepting different opinions. Moreover, he taught me dedication and mastering performance a character.

What is your next step?

There are negotiations on several TV series, but we are awaiting the end of the novel coronavirus crisis and the series will be announced later. I have, however, started shooting the film 30 March, by director Ahmed Khaled Moussa. The film stars Khaled El-Sawy, Sabry Fawaz, Dina El Sherbiny, and Ahmed El-Fishawy. I’m very excited to work with El-Fishawy.

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Challenges and prospects for Egypt-US economic ties amid coronavirus Sat, 04 Jul 2020 14:45:00 +0000 On America’s Independence Day, how far will Cairo-Washington trade grow under pandemic effects?

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The United States celebrated on Saturday the 4th of July holiday, also known as Independence Day. It is a federal holiday in the country, commemorating the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

On the occasion, Daily News Egypt sheds light on Egyptian-US trade and investment relations, and how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected these relations. We will also look into the two countries’ efforts to increase this cooperation.

Daily News Egypt also takes a look into the trade agreements between the two countries, in addition to reviewing the efforts to increase Egyptian exports to the US.

Egypt-US economic relations  

The most recent data from the US Department of Commerce showed that Egypt was the second-largest recipient of US direct investment in Africa after Mauritius in 2017. It was also the fourth in the Middle East after Israel, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham). 

According to the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) latest data, US foreign direct investments (FDI) in Egypt reached $279.4m during the second quarter (Q2) of fiscal year (FY) 2019/20.  

The trade exchange between the US and Egypt recorded $2984.9m during the first two quarters of the recently ended FY 2019/20. Egypt’s exports to the US amounted to $1368.8m during the period from July to December 2019, while Egypt’s imports from the US reached $1616.1m, according to the CBE.

Alaa Ezz, Secretary-General of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC), told Daily News Egypt that the majority of Egyptian exports to the US are value-added manufactured goods. On the other hand, the majority of US exports to Egypt are industrial and agricultural inputs, as well as machinery and equipment, which contributes significantly to job creation on both sides.

He said that Egyptian exports to the US went up 35.7% to $2,489m in the period from January to September 2019, compared to only $1,834m in the same period in 2018.

Ezz revealed that Egyptian non-oil exports to the US went up 24.7% to $1,551m from January to September 2019. This compared to only $1,243m in the same period in 2018, showing an increase of $308m, representing 62.4% of total exports.

He added that Egyptian oil exports to the US also went up 58.5% to $938m during the first nine months of 2019, compared to the $591m recorded in the same period in 2018, representing 37.6% of total exports.

“The main Egyptian export items to the US, worth $854.1m equivalent to 34.3% of total exports, are readymade garments during the period from January to September 2019,” said Ezz. 

Other Egyptian exports to the US include artworks and handicrafts, petrochemicals and plastics, salt and sulphur, iron and steel, fertilisers, aluminium and its products, meat and fish, vegetables, glass and its products, oilseeds, and fruits.

Ezz noted that US exports to Egypt went up 11.3% to $4,304m in the first nine months of 2019, compared to $3,866m in the equivalent period in 2018, an increase of $438m.

Main US exports to Egypt include transport equipment and spare parts, oilseeds, petroleum and its products, machinery and equipment, cars and its components, petrochemicals, cereals, and electric equipment.

“Egypt’s trade deficit with the US went down by 10.6% reaching $1,815m during the first nine months of 2019, compared to $2,032m during the same period in 2018,” according to Ezz.  

Expectations amid COVID-19

Alaa Arafa, Chairperson of Arafa Holding, said the global industrial sector has been affected by the coronavirus, and that as long as there is no demand, there will be no supply. 

He explained that markets worldwide have closed down on the back of the pandemic, and subsequently factories are not working with the same capacity, so the exports globally are affected.  

“As the global clothing industry shrank due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt was also affected, as clothing make up about a third of Egyptian exports to the US,” Ezz said. “However, the decline in 2020 might be offset by an increase in other export items, bouncing into supply chains of American multinationals. Accordingly, Egypt’s non-oil exports might increase by end of 2020.”

Responding to DNE’s question about methods of increasing Egypt’s exports to the US, especially amid the coronavirus, Ezz said that Egyptian companies should work fast on filling part of the gap created by the supply chain disruption in the past three months.

This could take place either by exporting such products or networking with technology and brand owners for local subcontracting. This will be win-win cooperation as such locally manufactured items could be exported not only to the US, but also free trade areas of over 2.7bn consumers in the EU, Africa, the Arab world, and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

QIZ Egypt launches “Why should you shift your sourcing to Egypt” webinar

While digging into Egyptian exports to the US, the Qualified Industrial Zones Protocol (QIZ) must be highlighted. According to AmCham Egypt, QIZ exports made up 35% of Egypt’s total exports to the US and 53% of non-oil exports in 2018.

The economic recession in the US and the loss of 40m jobs has led to a 14% decline in imports to the country. Subsequently, Egypt’s exports to the US through QIZ has decreased by about 15.9%, during the period from January until April 2020, according to Ashraf El Rabiey, Head of the QIZ unit at Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

During the first four months of 2020, Egyptian exports to the US under QIZ recorded $277.1m, down from $329.4m during the same period last year, he explained.

El Rabiey said that the ready-made garments, textiles, and furnishings accounted for 97% of the total value of Egyptian exports under the QIZ.

This decline is attributed to the closure of retail companies or brands in the US for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused financial problems. This, in turn, has negatively affected the ability of companies to pay their obligations to Egyptian companies.

Therefore, several companies or brands have either significantly reduced their imports from the Egyptian market or cancelled their orders.

Regarding expectations for Egyptian exports through QIZ to the US during the coming period, El Rabiey expects a decline. He added that the percentage of this decline depends on the American companies’ policies and US stock levels.

“I don’t expect any growth in the Egyptian QIZ exports to the US this year, but we are trying as much as possible to avoid a significant rate of decline,” he said.

Moreover, El Rabiey said that about 1,000 companies are registered within the QIZ agreement, adding that only 200 companies out of the 1,000 are considered active.

He pointed out that the QIZ unit is about to liquidate and write off the inactive companies from the list of companies operating under the QIZ agreement.

Regarding efforts to push Egyptian exports to the US under QIZ, he mentioned that on 17 June, the QIZ unit in Egypt and the US Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) organised a webinar, entitled “Why you should shift your sourcing to Egypt”. Representatives from 70 American companies and several Egyptian exporters attended the webinar.

During the webinar, speakers from the Egyptian and Israeli government and private sectors shed light on the QIZ protocol, and explained how US buyers can benefit from importing duty-free garments from Egypt.

According to El Rabeiy, the virtual meeting aimed to create publicity for the ready-made garments and textiles industries in Egypt. It encouraged US companies to reconsider Egypt’s industrial potential, especially in light of the current ongoing tensions between the US and China.

During the webinar, the industrial potentials for Egypt were reviewed, whilst presenting that Egyptian-made products have a competitive edge in.

El Rabiey said that Egyptian exports to the US through QIZ represent a higher percentage of the country’s total exports to the latter, evidencing that in 2019 Egyptian exports to the US through the QIZ recorded over $1bn.

According to CBE data, Egypt’s total exports to the US in 2019 recorded about $2.9bn.

Why is Egypt not exporting all its products to the US through GSP?

When exporting through QIZ, there are two main aspects to focus on, namely exporting a product that has high tariffs in the US, and that is highly in demand, El Rabiey said.

He explained that Egypt has many options for exporting its products to the US, including the QIZ and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

The GSP provides preferential duty-free treatment for over 3,500 products from a wide range of designated beneficiary developing countries (BDCs), including many least-developed beneficiary developing countries (LDBDCs). An additional 1,500 products are GSP-eligible only when imported from LDBDCs.

According to Ezz, QIZ exports to the US went up by 14.4% reaching $760.6 m during the first nine months of 2019, compared to $664.7m during the same period in 2018. This means that QIZ comprised around 31% of Egypt’s total exports to US.

GSP exports to the US went up by 124.7% reaching $148.3m during the period from January to September 2019, compared to only $66.3m in 2018. This means that the GSP comprised about 6% of Egypt’s total exports to US.

Regarding the major differences between GSP and QIZ, the QIZ unit Head explained that products that are exported through the GSP are completely Egyptian, without any Israeli component.

The QIZ agreement was signed by Egypt, the US and Israel in 2004, according to which Egyptian products and goods are exported to the US without customs. This is provided that Egyptian factories joining the agreement import a percentage of production inputs from Israel.

When the QIZ agreement was launched in 2005, the percentage of Israeli components stood at about 11.5% of the final product, before it was reduced to 10.5% in 2007. The Egyptian government seeks to reduce the Israeli component percentage to 8% through negotiations between the two sides.

Responding to our inquiry about why Egypt is not exporting all its products to the US through the GSP, El Rabiey explained that not all the exported products are included under the GSP list of products.

He added that the ready-made garments, textiles, and furnishings that are Egypt’s most exported products to the US, and are not included in the list of products for the GSP. Shoemaking products are also not included in the GSP list.

He said that the QIZ encouraged and supported establishing the first integrated factory for sports shoes in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

The factory will be specialised in producing shoe materials and final products, which is set to start production within the next two months, according to El Rabiey.

Hany Qesses, Managing Director of Misr for Industry and Trade (Mintra) the company which owns the factory, told Daily News Egypt that the building has been under construction since April 2018.

“The first phase will be inaugurated with investments worth EGP 1bn as paid-up capital, on an area of 75,000 sqm at the free zone in Nasr City,” Qesses said in late 2018

Finally, Egypt and the US have for years been keen to sign a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). This agreement, if signed, will benefit the both sides. In late January, US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said on the sidelines of a conference at the AmCham in Cairo, that Egypt and the US will re-enter negotiations over a bilateral trade agreement next year.

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ERC unlocks industrial potential to uplift communities Sat, 20 Jun 2020 20:00:16 +0000 Company provides social development programmes including partnerships with local community associations benefiting local residents

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Eyes glued to screens and flashing lights in the control room, 32-year-old Mohamed Said Amer, an operations field engineer at the Egyptian Refining Company (ERC), reflects on the path that led him to achieve his professional and personal goals.

“I have witnessed this impressive industrial project being built from the ground up. I have seen the ERC come to life and I’ve been fortunate enough to hold positions with Petrojet, the subcontractor for the project, Korea’s GS Engineering & Construction Corporation, the construction company on the project, and finally with EPROM, the operating company that runs the refinery,” he said.

Amer has done all this since graduating from Assiut University’s Faculty of Engineering in 2012.

ERC, which is a greenfield petroleum refinery company and a subsidiary of Qalaa Holdings, runs a refinery that stands on 350,000 sqm in Mostorod, in Qaliubyia governorate. The refinery, which is located 40km outside central Cairo, operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

The ERC was born from a desire to ease Egypt’s reliance on imports and to produce cleaner fuels, a cornerstone of the country’s energy security policy. Today it is one of the largest industrial units of its kind in Africa.

“I can truly say that every day at ERC, I have learned something new. The knowledge transfer that we received working alongside Dutch, Korean, French, Serbian and American engineers and technicians during the different phases of the project lifecycle has helped me to learn and translate my academic skills into practical knowledge, and I in turn have passed those skills on to others,” said Amer, who sees no need to emigrate in order to achieve his dreams.

With an annual production capacity of 4.7 million tonnes of refined products and high-quality oil derivatives, the refinery has helped reduce both Egypt’s imports and its balance of payments deficit.

With nearly $222m in funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the project meets Egypt’s growing demand for refined petroleum products.

“From the outset, we knew that we would need to call not just on our own financial resources, but on a deep network of international investors, banks and guarantors to transform a $4.4bn megaproject into a reality,” said Ahmed Heikal, Chairperson and founder of Qalaa Holdings, adding, “From day one they were able to see that this project, which has been 12 years in the making, was going to have a transformative effect on Egypt’s economy.”

The ERC today enables the conversion of the lowest-value fuel into medium and light distillates that meet domestic consumption needs. It also eliminates 186,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 96,000 tonnes of sulphur annually, whilst also improving the quality of Egypt’s petrol supply. It has created more than 15,000 jobs at peak construction, and 1,000 permanent local job opportunities.

The ERC also provides social development programmes, including Takaful, a partnership with local community associations that has benefited many local residents. Ahmed Mahmoud, who is deaf, is one of them.

“I not only perform in local theatre productions with my peers, I am also creating and producing my own shows for the community,” Mahmoud said.

Takaful has sponsored three childcare centres, serving more than 2,000 children, and provided assistance to over 5,400 individuals with special needs.

The refinery also works to boost the local economy. Through Tamkeen, a women’s economic empowerment programme financed by the ERC, young entrepreneur Amal Mohsen has launched her own business.

Tamkeen has sponsored hundreds of small projects for local women, and set up four employment centres to link 30,000 local youths to the job market. 

“Tamkeen helped me to open my own beauty salon, and as a result I have been able to financially support myself and my family,” said Amal, who has since married and had children. Her business now employs two people.

From the start, the project has made a difference, said Aliaa Heikal, Deputy Chief Financial Officer at the ERC.

“We have been planning, working, and talking about the transformative nature of this project for years,” Heikal said, “Since the start of operations in early 2019, the ERC has effectively reduced imports, made a positive environmental impact and created thousands of jobs.”

She added, “We are also proud that our initiatives in education, economic empowerment, youth capacity building and special needs programmes have been making a positive social impact on the surrounding community in Mostorod.”

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Egypt launches comprehensive response to contain COVID-19 economic fallout: IMF Egypt Mission Chief Mon, 15 Jun 2020 18:14:01 +0000 Policy space, also called buffers, built over past several years has left Egypt in strong position to weather health crisis

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Like other countries worldwide, the Egyptian government has had to take significant steps to ensure that the country faces up to the economic impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Egypt Mission Chief, Uma Ramakrishnan, evaluates the measures taken by the government of Egypt to face the pandemic’s impacts on the country.

The challenge is to ensure these measures are transparent, targeted, and temporary such that they address critical areas of social and economic need, and can be rolled back as conditions normalise, says Ramakrishnan

How do you assess Egypt’s handling of the pandemic’s economic impact?

The Egyptian authorities launched a comprehensive response to contain the economic impact of the shock. Fiscal, monetary, and financial measures were announced to increase health sector allocations, cushion the directly impacted sectors, and expand support to the poor and vulnerable. The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) initiated measures to ease pressures in domestic liquidity and credit conditions. The challenge is to ensure that these measures are transparent, targeted, and temporary such that they address critical areas of social and economic need, and can be rolled back as conditions normalise.

Do you think Egypt needs further monetary easing? 

The CBE takes a data-driven to monetary policy, based on anchoring inflation expectations to maintain inflation with the target range of 9% (±3%). The scope for further monetary easing will depend on the extent to which inflation expectations remain well-anchored in this target range, taking into account economic and financial conditions that will have an impact on expected future inflation.

Can fiscal stimuli cushion the impact of the coronavirus in Egypt, the region, and globally?

The shock from COVID-19 has had a significant impact on lives and livelihoods around the world, and Egypt has not been spared in that respect. The policy space, or what we call buffers, built over the past several years has left Egypt in a strong position to weather the crisis, but the sudden disruption to economic activity from the pandemic has been significant. Fiscal stimulus in Egypt has been designed to forcefully tackle the immediate health crisis and provide targeted support to the most-affected sectors, and the most vulnerable parts of society. This should help to cushion the disruption and—in combination with a strong policy framework—should leave Egypt well-positioned for a robust recovery as conditions normalise.

Does Egypt need further reforms?

Egypt’s bold and home-grown economic reform programme during 2016-2019 made significant progress in achieving macroeconomic stabilisation. The next wave of structural reforms – the seeds for which have been already laid – will help sustain strong and inclusive private sector-led growth and job creation while further reducing poverty. Deepening and broadening reforms that were begun in 2016 by the authorities, and supported by the IMFs’ Extended Fund Facility (EFF), to enhance governance and transparency of state-owned enterprises, improve competition, and facilitate trade are critical for enabling private sector participation.

How do you view Egypt’s debt-to-GDP levels, especially after the recent loans?

High levels of public debt and large financing needs create vulnerabilities relative to changes in global financial conditions. This is an important topic that is also being discussed by the G20.

Let me also take a step back to explain a bit more. Prior to the pandemic, the authorities had made significant progress in reducing public debt – it fell from 103% of GDP in June 2017 to 84% in June 2019. But with COVID-19, like in other emerging markets, considerable stress has been put on public finances. Tax revenues are lower and spending is higher, particularly to support essential medical and social spending and impacted sectors. Thus, borrowing has increased in Egypt, which means that debt is likely to rise to about 93% of GDP by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2020/21. As conditions begin to normalise, it will be essential to put public debt back on a downward path.

Does the latest IMF’s financial facility need Egypt to adopt new economic or structural reforms?

The Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) aims to maintain macroeconomic stabilisation while continuing to advance structural reforms to safeguard the gains achieved over the past three years and put Egypt in a strong footing for sustained recovery after the crisis. Policies underlying the SBA will support achieving these objectives, including by supporting the necessary health spending, social programmes, improving governance and transparency of state-owned enterprises, and enabling private-sector-led growth and job creation streamlining the customs law to ease doing business, and strengthening the competition law to help level the playing field for public and private market participants.

What about the payment period, the reimbursement, or the date of delivering the first tranche?

The Stand-by Arrangement is for 12 months at an amount of $5.2bn. All details related to the arrangement are pending the IMF Executive Board approval.

And what about the first loan of $2.8bn?

The Rapid Financing Instrument was a single payment, or what we call “purchase”, for $2.8bn with no conditions attached to it. The repayment period for both the RFI and the SBA is between 3.25 to 5 years.

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Paramedics are ‘unknown soldiers’ on COVID-19 frontline: syndicate chief Thu, 11 Jun 2020 07:00:45 +0000 Adjusting salaries, inclusion in medical profession allowance are top demands for ambulance workers

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused widespread panic and uncertainty, as people get to grips and adapt their lives to a virus about which we still have much to find out about. Despite being an important part of the healthcare service, paramedics are speaking out about the treatment they receive at the hands of citizens, despite the important health services they provide.

Paramedics around the world have reported facing widespread suspicion, and even that they are being physically assaulted by citizens who fear they may contribute to spreading the virus.

Wael Sarhan, Head of the Egyptian Ambulance Organization Employees’ Syndicate talked to Daily News Egypt about the conditions under which these “unknown soldiers”, as he described them, work.

How many paramedics does Egypt have?

The number of ambulance workers in Egypt is about 17,000, including 14,000 paramedics and drivers whom we call ambulance staff. The remaining workers are in administration. The total number has increased after the new appointment of about 1,600 additional workers last July.

Wael Sarhan, Head of the Egyptian Ambulance Organization Employees’ Syndicate

How do paramedics deal with the coronavirus?

We, as paramedics, are fully prepared all the time, so we are on call 24/7. The Egyptian Ambulance Organization (EAO) periodically provides training to paramedics nationwide throughout the year. Training is provided on first aid services for both paramedics and drivers. The syndicate also provides further training on infection control, occupational safety and health, and first aid for those interested in raising their skills.

When the pandemic hit, we were ready because this is normal for us. The EAO has allocated 15 ambulance cars in each governorate, but the number of which may differ from one governorate to another, as it has now reached about 25 in some governorates, with 30 in Cairo only. The number of vehicles allocated for the transport of coronavirus patients has increased.

How many ambulances are being used for coronavirus cases compared to other emergencies?

The number of ambulances operating for coronavirus patients is 3,600 vehicles out of a total of 4,000.

Have the ambulance crews suffered from any shortage of protective supplies?

I will tell you frankly, clearly, and transparently. According to what we hear from paramedics, we do have a shortage. I have nothing to do with the data issued by the EAO that says otherwise, as paramedics are suffering from a shortage of medical supplies and sometimes contract the virus. This is why I have called to include all ambulances in the coronavirus protocol.

What do you mean by that?

In other words, I have 3,600 ambulances designated for the coronavirus, and the rest are for patients not infected with the virus. The protocol for the coronavirus is applied to ambulances and paramedics who receive glasses, shoes, boots, protective suits, face masks, and face shields to protect them from contracting the virus. Paramedics not working on coronavirus cases only receive regular ambulance clothes, gloves, and face masks, which may not be enough.

How many paramedics have been infected?

Up to this moment, I have counted 60 COVID-19 cases of paramedics and two fatalities: Shaaban Abdel Aal Mohamed, an ambulance driver in Giza, and Saleh Mohamed El Sadek, who was a storekeeper for medical supplies in Luxor and dealt with paramedics periodically.

Have paramedics ever been assaulted by citizens while on duty?

Whether for the coronavirus or before the pandemic, paramedics deal with patients before anyone else, so citizens take their anger out on them, and we come under attack on a daily basis. During the pandemic, some paramedics have also been bullied.

What measures has the syndicate taken for the families of the two fatalities?

Mohamed El Sadek only passed away two days ago, so we still have not done anything yet. For Shaaban, he died at a quarantine hospital, and his family was honoured by the Beni Suef Governor. The EAO head has also visited his family and the organisation is now proceeding with the compensation and the insurance policy plan.

Are paramedics included in the presidential decree to consider healthcare staff deaths of coronavirus as army and police casualties?

It is supposed to apply, but until now we have not witnessed anything but talk. On paper, there is nothing. This was said by the Prime Minister [Mostafa Madbouly] when he met with the Doctors’ Syndicate head, but we have not been informed. We will be addressing the Prime Minister with the personal data of the two deaths and wait for further instructions.

Do you have tips for citizens in dealing with paramedics?

The most important thing is citizen awareness and their understanding of the nature of paramedics’ work, as this is a very important factor to limit the spread of infection. The ambulance worker is under psychological and physical pressure, and he cannot eat or drink in the protective suit that he wears most of the time.

It is a suit that traps the heat, which makes things very difficult for paramedics considering the current heat waves and during Ramadan. They have to wear the suit throughout their working hours that extend up to 24 hours so they are always exhausted.

We have to ask citizens to be understanding of this pressure and the nature of the work. Paramedics only have to transport patients to hospitals where they will be treated while following certain guidelines and protocols, so if they have complaints, tell them quietly without yelling. Paramedics are directed to cases based on the instructions of the 105 hotline, so it is not their problem that the number was busy or that they picked up late.

Can paramedic refuse to transport patients?

No, we take our precautionary measures, but declining an order is not an option. We are working in North Sinai where we sometimes work under gunfire, but we still do our job.

Do you have any demands?

We made requests to the Prime Minister to raise the salaries of the EAO employees, by obtaining a percentage of the income like other bodies, even if it would be added to our employees’ fund. We also want to be included in the allowance for medical professions that the President [Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi] said will rise to 75%. The third issue is that the EAO’s budget is very large, but its distribution in the basic items is not in the interest of its employees, so we want to change that.

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COVID-19 made death of loved ones crueller and more painful Sat, 06 Jun 2020 18:16:27 +0000 Daughter of first Egyptian doctor in Kuwait to die of virus describes her experience losing relative as expat in pandemic amid international flight suspension

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Coping with the loss of someone you love is one of life’s biggest challenges. The pain of loss normally feels overwhelming, but these feelings can be compounded during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Death is already heartbreaking, but the coronavirus made the death of loved ones crueller and more painful. I know that we all are going to die. I always knew that one day I could lose either of my parents, but I never expected that I would lose my father without a last goodbye,” said Heba Tarek Mekhaimer, an Egyptian dentist living in Germany. 

Heba is the daughter of the first Egyptian doctor, Tarek Mekhaimer, to die of the coronavirus in Kuwait last month, as he served on the frontlines of the battle against the global pandemic. Mekhaimer, 62, had worked in the Gulf country for over 20 years. Heba is the only one of her immediate family who does not live in Kuwait.

Heba was in a really difficult mental situation following her father’s death, as she had not seen him for a year due to her living abroad, far from the family, with her husband. She spoke to Daily News Egypt about the experience of her father’s death of the coronavirus. She also talked about how it feels to lose loved ones as an expat during a pandemic amid international flight suspension.

Heba said that at the beginning of the pandemic, Europe reported high rates of infections, and she was more concerned about herself and her husband’s safety. She was a little bit assured of the situation her family in Kuwait faced, as the country was one of the first worldwide to take strict preventive measures to limit the virus’ spread.

However, the situation in Kuwait did not stop her from worrying about her father, due to the nature of his work as a doctor. One of her brothers is also a trainee doctor in a Kuwaiti hospital, the 27-year-old dentist said.

“When my father died, I felt weak, I could not see my father, fly to my family, and be beside them in such a difficult situation,” Heba said, adding that distance can be a barrier when people lose any of their loved ones.

She said, “It kills me, every time I remember that he stayed for two weeks alone until his death, he did not feel our love and that he was not on his own. This was totally unfair”

First Egyptian doctor’s death in Kuwait

Heba said that the only aspect that made her family stronger and more patient, was, surprisingly, that her father is the first Egyptian doctor to die from the coronavirus in Kuwait.

“Surprisingly, my father became the first doctor to die from coronavirus in Kuwait, which was something we never expected as we were never told of the number of infected doctors. This point was out of our thoughts, because we only wanted his well-being,” Heba said.

“When the Kuwaiti Minister of Health mourned my father, this made everyone know of him and pray for him,” she said, adding, “We feel calmer as many people pray for him, especially as there was no funeral prayer.”

She mentioned that Kuwait’s Minister of Health is himself an otorhinolayngology doctor, and knew her father well. Heba also said that many doctors were affected by his death, as he held a good reputation and was loved by many.

How did the father’s infection occur?

“My father was never afraid of the virus, he was strong and faithful,” the young dentist said. “He believed that treating coronavirus patients was his duty and he never thought of leaving his work.”

Heba thinks the reason behind her father contracting the virus was that he was not wearing protective equipment, as it was unavailable to him. She noted that her father was wearing a normal face mask that was not the specialised one for doctors treating coronavirus cases. She noted that he did not even have a face shield.

She added that one of her father’s patients, who had coronavirus, was a female doctor who had sneezed while her father was treating her.

“Doctors are the most vulnerable ones when it comes to the virus, as they carry it between people,” Heba noted. “The virus is very active inside the body and is not confined to just contacts.”

Tarek Mekhaimer

“A few days before discovering his infection with the coronavirus, my father suffered normal symptoms related to the flu, but he recovered,” Heba said. “It was only later, unexpectedly, that his health started to deteriorate.”

Tarek said that her father believed that he only had flu, and doubted that it could be anything related to the coronavirus. She added that at the same time, her young brother was also feeling sick, which led her mother to insist the brother undergo a test for the virus.

Heba said that, it was only when her father was taking his son to the hospital to undergo the coronavirus test, that he suddenly experienced severe coughing. 

“At the hospital, doctors told my father that he must undergo X-ray analysis which showed bad results, and led the doctors to keep him in the hospital until the result of the PCR test appeared,” Heba said.

She noted that her father initially tested negative for the coronavirus, but was asked to stay in quarantine at home for 14 days.

“When I received this news, I broke down and lost control, I was totally afraid. Everybody tried to assure me, but I could not bear the situation,” Heba said, adding, “I was not only worried for my father, but also for my whole family as they had all been in contact with him.”

“When I found out that my father tested positive for coronavirus, I was divided between denial and pain, and trying to stay optimistic that he is going to recover soon especially as he did not have any chronic diseases,” she continued.

“He stayed in hospital for two weeks, with the first one being the hardest. He suffered dry cough and difficulty to breath which made him unable to speak or respond to any calls,” Heba said. “I spoke to him only a few times, and each call lasted less than a minute every time.” 

Heba also noted that her family had no specific doctor to contact to inquire about her father’s condition, as those doctors supervising him were always changing and almost always busy. When the family were able to speak to a doctor there, he only said that the father was not in good mental health, and that they should give him some positive vibes.

“Despite the few calls that I could make, my father was always trying to tell me in text messages that he was fine and that he would recover soon,” Heba said. “I tried to be optimistic, and, until the last minute, I never stopped praying.”

In the second week, when her father was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU), doctors attempted to change the oxygen concentrators. Multiple attempts were made, to no avail, until he passed away, Heba said.

“During that period, I suffered sleeplessness. The worst thing ever is feeling like you are unable to do anything. The last time I saw my father was a year ago. It is very difficult to lose someone that you are already missing,” she said.

After the father’s death

“The darkest moment when my father died, was that my family was not able to see him for the last time, and he also did not have the ritual washing and shrouding before burial, as he was just covered in plastic,” Heba said, adding that her brother was allowed to bury her father.

“When my brother was burying my father, he kissed his forehead that was covered with plastic. This was so painful, the way my father left us was more painful and crueller than normal death,” she also said.

“We are all heartbroken and in denial”

“I have tried to be fine. I try to support my mother. But this kills me, because I can feel all her words, but I should make her feel better in this very hard duty,” Heba said, “Sometimes, I wonder why my father died, especially as he was in good health.”

She added regretfully, “I use to worry about my mother more as she suffers from some chronic diseases. Sometimes I regret that I did not tell my father to stay at home and stop going to the hospital.”

“I am still in denial and I don’t know what will happen when I return to Kuwait and don’t see my father waiting for me at the airport like every other time,” she noted, “I don’t know what I will do when I enter my house and don’t find him there or see his stuff.”

Heba looks back on the last time she saw her father, when he came to visit her for her birthday.

“He came to visit me because he was missing me and wanted to celebrate my birthday. It was my father’s first trip ever where he had fun and enjoyed himself, and he was so happy,” she said, “I wonder when would have been the last time to see him if he hadn’t made that visit.”

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Coronavirus reshapes music streaming habits of Egyptians: Deezer Tue, 02 Jun 2020 09:00:47 +0000 Consumption of music streaming declined overall throughout Ramadan, with more people turning to religious content in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco

The post Coronavirus reshapes music streaming habits of Egyptians: Deezer appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

In the time of lockdown and social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people have been spending more of their lives online. With no film theatres or live concerts to attend, we’re changing the way we consume online entertainment, and music streaming is no exception.

CEO of music streaming service Deezer in MENA and Turkey region, Tarek Mounir, said more than 50% of the region’s population are under the age of 25, and keen to embrace the latest global trends. This youthful demographic, coupled with high smartphone penetration levels, has created ideal conditions for growth across a range of digital offerings.

Mounir said in an interview with Daily News Egypt that they noticed an increase in the streaming of mood-driven content. On a regional level, the popularity of the platform’s ”Chill at Home” playlist grew by 40%. Meanwhile, streaming figures for the “Happy Hits” playlist increased by 200%, while “Work from Home” increased by a huge 400%.

How do you see the growth opportunities of the entertainment industry in Egypt and the MENA region?

Egypt has always been home to a vibrant entertainment scene. What we are seeing today is a shift in how entertainment is being consumed. Across MENA as a whole, there is a strong appetite for both local and international offerings. More than 50% of the region’s population is under the age of 25, and keen to embrace the latest global trends. This youthful demographic, coupled with high smartphone penetration levels, has created ideal conditions for growth across a range of digital offerings.

As part of this shift towards digital entertainment, we want to establish Deezer as the home of audio streaming in the region. We aim to achieve this by offering listeners the best, most locally relevant experience. Deezer also works closely with artists and labels to help them reach more fans, further supporting the growth of the local music business. Our offering was further strengthened recently with the launch of our new ‘Shows’ feature, which places a world of international and locally produced podcasts at listeners’ fingertips. On the whole, we can see that the future looks very bright for the region’s entertainment industry.

Do you think the weak purchasing power can affect the music streaming market?

We believe that purchasing power should not be a barrier to people being able to access the music they love. This is why we operate a scalable business model with a range of entry points. When users sign up, they are given a free trial period. If they like what they hear, they can either choose the subscription package that best suits their needs or switch to our free service and enjoy an ad-sponsored experience.

Deezer is also focusing on partnerships with telecommunications providers to create more convenient payment options for customers who don’t have access to a credit card. Here in Egypt, we have teamed up with Fawry and Mondia, while in the wider region we have entered into partnerships with STC and Turkcell. It’s all part of our vision to bring the music to the people.

How did the coronavirus impact music streaming consumption?

We have seen several interesting trends among listeners, many of whom are now working from home or living under some degree of lockdown. Here in Egypt, streaming levels dropped initially, and then levelled out after the first week of lockdown. Our data indicates that people took an average of around 10 days to adapt to their new circumstances.

With less commuting, gym-going, and on-the-move listening taking place, weekday peak hours have shifted from 8:00-9:00 to around 11:00-12:00. Previously, Thursdays had the highest streaming figures of the week. However, this was no longer the case after social activities stopped. For the first time, every day began to look quite similar. We have also witnessed a significant increase in afternoon streaming on the weekend, which is definitely something new.

In addition, increasing numbers of listeners are turning to their home devices for music streaming instead of their smartphones. The use of Android TV increased by 66% across the region, and tablets and desktops also registered significant growth.

Is there a peak in a specific genre?

We have noticed an increase in the streaming of mood-driven content. On a regional level, the popularity of our ‘Chill at Home’ playlist grew by 40%. Meanwhile, streaming figures for our ‘Happy Hits’ playlist increased by 200%, while ‘Work from Home’ increased by a huge 400%.

In Egypt, the most popular genre over the past few weeks has been Arabic pop, including recent releases such as Elissa’s “Hanghani Kaman W Kaman”, Shereen Abdel Wahab’s “Mesh Ad El Hawa”, Mahmoud El Esseily’s “Tamtheleya”, and others.

We have also launched a special ‘Stay at Home’ channel. This allows listeners to find everything they need in one convenient place, whether they are working, studying, cooking, or simply wish to relax. Despite spending more time indoors, it seems that people are continuing with their exercise routines – our ‘Home Workout’ playlist has been among the most listened to in the region.

Does Deezer offer religious content? If yes, has the consumption rate of religious content changed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak?

Deezer’s library features a wide range of religious content. This has been further expanded with the recent addition of our new ‘Shows’ tab for podcasts, which includes a dedicated ‘Spirituality & Religion’ category. While demand for such content does not appear to have increased significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, things were different in Ramadan. This is a time when listening habits change markedly.

Also, in keeping with local traditions, there was less consumption of music overall throughout the holy month and more people listened to religious content. This trend can be seen in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and Egypt, but is less pronounced in countries with more diverse populations, such as the UAE.

Deezer’s revenues depend mainly on advertising and subscriptions. Will this be impacted by the economic situation caused by the coronavirus?

While the current situation is undoubtedly having a considerable impact on the global economy, I believe we are well placed to continue on our upward trajectory. Worldwide, music streaming penetration is still relatively low. Here in MENA, for instance, it currently stands under 2%. However, as discussed earlier, the region has huge potential to flourish.

When we look at the patterns observed at the beginning of the lockdown period, streaming witnessed a significant decline initially. However, numbers recovered after around a week. With people now spending more time at home, music consumption will continue to play a big part in their lives. We have every reason to be optimistic about the future, both in the region and beyond.

There is a fierce competition in the music streaming market, what is Deezer’s competitive edge?

At Deezer, our entire team shares a genuine passion for music. Everything we do is truly a labour of love. We wish to be the streaming provider of choice for discerning listeners, whether they prefer to keep their fingers on the pulse of local music or enjoy the latest global breakthrough artists.

This is where our huge content library really comes into its own. With 56m tracks to choose from, there is truly something for everyone. Deezer is also the only streaming service in the region where people can find all their favourite artists. For instance, we have an exclusive digital audio distribution arrangement with Rotana, the Arab world’s biggest label.

Our music editors in each market have an in-depth knowledge of their local music scenes. This ensures our playlists and music curation offer up-to-the-minute relevance. Their expertise is combined with listening data from each country to create the most localized music streaming experience in MENA.

We also strive to connect with listeners on a personal level. Deezer is the only streaming service with Flow, a unique feature that uses data to create an infinite, ever-changing mix of music. Flow learns and adapts in real-time based on each user’s individual listening habits. It’s a wonderful way to connect music fans with old favourites and fresh recommendations we’re sure they will love.

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COVID-19 accelerates HSBC existing transformation plans to digital services: Group General Manager Sat, 30 May 2020 13:34:44 +0000 Bank has made strong contribution to all CBE initiatives to support economy in these difficult times

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The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is a major disruptive event for the global economy. Banks and financial institutions are facing the most difficult test since the 2008 financial crisis. To mitigate the immediate impact on the real economy, extraordinary fiscal and monetary measures have been introduced from the very beginning of the crisis.

HSBC was among the banks that acted quickly to ensure providing consistent, competitive banking services to its customers, while abiding to precautionary measures to guarantee safety and health of both customers and employees.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Jacques-Emmanuel Blanchet, HSBC Group General Manager, Deputy Chairperson, and CEO HSBC Bank Egypt, to know about the bank’s efforts to deal with the current circumstances.

He stressed that 100% of HSBC branch network continue to serve customers at the same pace and capacity without any service disruptions, along with actively promoting the use of digital channels for retail banking.

Jacques-Emmanuel Blanchet, HSBC Group General Manager, Deputy Chairperson, and CEO HSBC Bank Egypt

How did you respond at the start of the pandemic to limit the virus spread and ensure operations continuity from a bank prospective?

Our top priority was to care for all our employees, so we immediately expanded our existing remote working capabilities to allow 90% of our head office staff to work from home and reorganised ourselves without compromising our usual high levels of client experience for all our customers.

Our existing infrastructure and investments in IT allowed us to roll out our plans in just a few days. We also provided laptops to all our staff with technical support to ensure they could all connect to our network safely and recreate their working environment at home.

With just a small population at our head office, we were able to create a safe environment for the 10% of our staff who needed to be at our premises to fulfil some of the bank’s critical tasks. This included ensuring proper social distancing and deep cleaning measures. In addition, and for contingency purposes, we decided to operate a split site arrangement out of our Maadi Head Office and Smart Village Building

For our staff working from home, we have focused on ensuring they are getting the required support to maintain their well-being and to stay engaged and motivated to best serve our customers. We provided guidance to all our managers to connect personally with all their team members on a daily basis and we introduced new ways of working, which included regular virtual huddles, coffee connections, staff meetings, and virtual town halls.

Our top executives and managers held a series of virtual events and have played a key role over the last few months, ensuring teams have felt engaged and connected to the bank’s priorities, while reinforcing the need for their teams to focus even more on supporting clients through this challenging period.

In parallel, we proactively reached out to corporate clients who were not yet on-boarded on our digital platforms and we introduced them to our online banking services, ensuring they were always connected to their finances and able to manage all their transactions.

Has the bank closed any of its branches during the pandemic?

For our retail customers, 100% of our branch network continued to serve our clients at the same pace and capacity without any service disruptions, despite the shortened opening hours.

We had to think carefully about how to protect the health and safety of our customers and colleagues in branches. We took a number of steps to minimise physical contact and maintain social distancing, including limiting the number of people allowed in our branches at the same time; ensuring everybody respects social distancing with line markers; increasing the frequency of deep cleaning; and making hand sanitisers, masks and gloves readily available in branches.

We have also actively promoted the use of our digital channels with our retail customers. To help with this, we appointed ‘Welcome Ambassadors’, who guide our clients through our various digital channels.

Meanwhile, by introducing Zoom video conferencing technology for our wealth and corporate relationship managers, we have been able to have more personal discussions with our clients, helping them with their individual banking requirements, which has been highly appreciated by all our clients.

All these measures were rolled out in the space of just a few days, with no negative impact on our operations or customer experience, and all the transactions of our clients have been processed on a business as usual basis.

What are your plans to support your clients to get through the COVID-19 crisis?

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty and disruption for the people, businesses, and communities we serve across all segments and sectors. We are conscious that it is affecting everyone in different ways.

Having robust levels of capital, funding, and liquidity, we are able to support our customers from a position of strength.

As an immediate response, we implemented a series of measures to help our customers and we have made a strong contribution to all the initiatives announced by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to support the economy in these difficult times.

For our retail customers, this includes payment holidays for loans as well as credit card payment deferments. We have also taken additional steps beyond the packages announced by the CBE, including the waiving of some fees and charges.

In parallel, we have made thousands of courtesy calls and Zoom video conference calls to customers with the aim of checking on their well-being and making sure they know how to get the banking help they need.

We’ve had a fantastic response from our customers, with one long-standing customer thanking us for being ‘the only bank to call and check on their well-being.’ Many others have thanked us for proactively explaining the details of the new payment rules introduced by the CBE.

Many customers have told me directly how important our support has been to them, whether it came from colleagues in HSBC branches – who are doing a fantastic job and showing outstanding resilience – or from colleagues working from home, and I know that for some of them it is a very challenging experience.

Meanwhile, we have contacted nearly all our corporate clients over the last few weeks, not just to help them protect their businesses from the economic impact of COVID-19, but to also help them prepare for the future, adjust their supply chains, and help them leverage on our digital capabilities.

Our focus has been on ensuring that we can continue to provide consistent, competitive financing and transaction banking services to our corporate banking customers, helping them manage risk and maintaining the integrity of financial markets.

Over the past few weeks, we have also held 15 Navigating Business webinars to connect and engage with our customers on topics and solutions that matter most at this time. We have many more planned for the weeks ahead. Our customers are hearing from experts on digital solutions, changing macro dynamics and wider topics such as cash flow, debt, and more.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is already significant and will continue over the coming weeks and months. HSBC has always been strong in times of crisis and this is no exception – we will continue supporting our clients during this unprecedented period of disruption.

To what extent has the outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards digital transformation?

Connectivity is more important for our customers than ever right now. We have been investing and developing our digital infrastructure even before the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that our banking services are always within their reach and that they continue to have the best possible experience of banking with us across everything from retail and commercial banking to trading and securities services.

Whether our customers are at home or in the office, we are always available through our online banking platforms, mobile apps, and phone banking.

COVID-19 has accelerated our efforts to implement digital services, and has ensured that our clients use more and more of these platforms.

In the corporate banking space, we have embarked on an ambitious programme to help customers with their business continuity efforts, enrolling hundreds of clients onto our digital platform, HSBCnet. In four days, we added as many customers to the system as we typically do in two months. Providing this digital lifeline has been crucial to company supply chains.

We witnessed an increase in transactions as an immediate response to COVID-19 as customers rerouted their business to HSBC, as using our global reach managed the risk of unforeseen disruption to payments. For example, our trade business in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey region witnessed a particular volume increase in the food and health care sectors, so we ramped up our transaction times to ensure uninterrupted flow of trade. We are currently processing most of the health care transactions and food sector transactions within 24 hours.

Across the bank, we have launched over 100 initiatives through our call centres and digital offerings, including accepting email instructions for certain transitions, which allows customers to transact remotely without the need to come to a branch.

Other operational procedures, which previously were done at branches, may now be done over the phone. For those customers that require face-to-face interaction, we have been able to do so through video calls on Zoom.

Here in Egypt, we launched last week HSBCnet mobile application, which would help our corporate customers access their accounts from the convenience of their mobile devices. The app includes ‘Mobile Device Authentication’, which removes the need to use a physical security token, helping customers access HSBCnet services while on the move. The app will also help businesses manage their trade financing by integrating key tools such as Trade Authorisation and Trade Transaction Tracker.

What role could banks play in assisting the Egyptian economy?

Banks such as HSBC have a key role to play in the development of Egypt’s economy. HSBC has been present in Egypt for over 38 years, supporting the economic development of the country in line with the strategic objectives of the government. Our presence in 64 markets around the world combined with our deep roots in Egypt give us a unique ability to connect Egypt to the global economy.

We were recently mandated as the Sole Financial Advisor for the monetisation of one of the largest power plants owned by the government, which is expected to support the government’s ambitions to attract foreign investment and enhance private sector participation in the economy.

We have also supported the government of Egypt by acting as a joint lead manager and joint bookrunner for Egypt’s most recent and largest-ever $5bn Eurobond issuance, for general budgetary purposes. The issuance achieved the largest ever orderbook for Egypt as well as the largest ever orderbook for an issuance by an African sovereign, with orderbooks peaking at $21.5bn which was four times oversubscribed.

In the sustainable finance space, HSBC was appointed as structuring advisor and joint lead manager for the region’s first sovereign green bond. This will see us support the Egyptian government through every step of the process, from finalising the green bond’s framework through to coordinating the syndication process, filling the order book, and attracting investors. This is a landmark transaction for Egypt and we are proud to support the government in managing the transition to a lower carbon economy.

This mandate came after helping Egypt attract investment from international debt capital markets through the sale of two $4bn bond issuances in 2018 and 2019, the latter of which attracted $21bn worth of orders from international investors.

Egypt’s green bond debut dovetails with the country’s Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, which envisions a greater role for the renewable energy sector in Egypt’s energy mix. By 2030, Egypt aims to increase solar and wind-powered electricity production to account for 30% of the total, compared to 1% currently

Egypt is a dynamic part of HSBC’s global network and our business is built on close to 40 years of on the ground experience supporting customers in a reform-minded government sector and an ambitiously entrepreneurial private sector.

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Shezlong reports 31% increase in users due to COVID-19 Thu, 21 May 2020 14:07:41 +0000 Many users are suffering from depression, anxiety and OCD due to the current circumstances,  says Alaa

The post Shezlong reports 31% increase in users due to COVID-19 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Shezlong has reported a 31% increase in the number of clients using the service, and a 27% increase in therapists on the platform due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Shezlong Managing Director Mohamed Alaa told Daily News Egypt that many people have started to suffer from depression, anxiety and OCD due to the many stresses and strains of the situation.

As families are also spending more time together, relationships issues have become an important issue of focus, along with the higher percentage of women dealing with domestic violence.

How did the coronavirus affect Shezlong’s growth?

After the spread of the coronavirus, the government needed to take extreme measurements to deal with the situation. A part of the government’s decisions dealt with announcing a curfew, which affected the operating times of clinics. Therefore, many therapists decided to use Shezlong to meet their patients online. Also, the number has increased because many people prefer not to have face-to-face meetings for the time being, to avoid any possibility of the virus spreading.

How has Shezlong’s business volume grown due to the coronavirus?

Shezlong has achieved a 31% growth in the number of clients using the service, and 27% growth in the number of therapists on the platform

Has the number of registered clients increased due to the pandemic?

Yes, of course, due to the negative physiological effects of COVID-19 many people started to suffer from depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As families are having more time together, many relationship issues have occurred along with a higher percentage of women suffering from violence.

What is your advice to tackle the psychological impact of the coronavirus?

We, at Shezlong, always advise people with the following

  • Avoid loud music, noise, and don’t watch horror films;
  • Surround yourself with things that help you feel comfortable;
  • When negative thoughts attack you, stop and write three alternative positive thoughts for each negative thought;
  • Reduce the number of times you watch the news on TV or social media to three or four times a day, up to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time;
  • Do 30 minutes of exercise a day in an open, sparsely crowded place or at home;
  • Unfollow all unreliable information sources, such as non-specialised Facebook pages and anonymous WhatsApp messages;
  • Eat healthy foods like vegetables and fruits;
  • Use your time in useful activities such as reading, watching documentaries and studying.

Has the pandemic contributed to the spread of your services at the regional level, and in which markets?

People across the Arab world are suffering from the negative effects of COVID-19. We have succeeded in expanding our services to other Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Currently, almost 50% of our customers are coming from abroad, which is actually a kind of support to the Egyptian economy as those clients are paying for the sessions in US dollars.

Tell us about Shezlong’s initiative to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The idea stemmed from our social responsibility. We often do awareness-raising campaigns in order to raise psychological awareness in society, in addition to supporting the state in times of crisis. This is not the first campaign we have launched. We had offered support before following the 2016 cathedral explosion incident. For the current initiative, since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Egypt, many people have been affected by the crisis due to quarantine and precautionary measures that have caused some psychological problems in society.

How many beneficiaries of the initiative have there been so far, and what do you project for the future?

We have undertaken some partnerships with psychological organisations, clinics, and doctors to create a campaign through which we provide psychological counselling and awareness messages on how to deal with the crisis psychologically. We provided 15,000 free sessions for those psychologically affected by the coronavirus crisis, and the number of beneficiaries so far is about 1.5 million people. We provided 2,500 free sessions on the platform and used apps like Ask.FM to answer questions on psychological counselling, in addition to the direct broadcast of doctors via social networking sites to talk about how to deal with the crisis, and short videos.

How many doctors are involved in providing support via Shezlong? Do you aim to increase that in the future?

We have about 350 doctors and psychotherapists now, and we expect the number of doctors to increase in the coming period due to several reasons. The most important of these is the fact that some doctors have had to close their clinics due to the precautionary measures, so they have more time to provide consultations and sessions through the site. Some doctors are also eager to participate in the campaign to spread psychological awareness during the crisis.

The number of views of the platform’s awareness campaigns reached 1.5 million. How many views are you targeting by the end of May?

We expect the views to rise to 3 million by the end of May, as people require such services amid the current circumstances and given the time they spend on social media.

What is the size of Shezlong’s investment, and do you have expansions planned in 2020?

The size of our investments has not been announced yet, but it is sufficient to implement our expansion plan in Egypt and the Arab countries, and to provide multiple services related to mental health, such as the psychological treatment service by writing, and offering a psychological clinic management system. Our aim is to become a leader in the mental health sector in the Arab world.

How many customers have you helped so far?

The number of Shezlong customers has now reached 70,000 clients from 75 countries globally, and we receive hundreds of cases daily. The demand has also risen recently due to the current crisis, because we provide the service safely and easily for the customer.

Are there general symptoms that Shezlong has noticed in those who want to have sessions or support during the pandemic?

The most prominent symptoms that our doctors note are the inability of people to deal with negative feelings about the crisis, fear of the future, some depression. There has also been a disturbance of relations between spouses due to the extraordinarily long period that the husband has stayed at home, which has given more room for confrontation, and psychological problems related to children.

What is the appropriate treatment for people with depression due to the quarantine?

The appropriate treatment is psychotherapy or verbal psychotherapy, and it has clear and steady steps. I advise those who suffer from depression to book through Shezlong for free or paid sessions.

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Citizens not wearing face masks will face EGP4,000 penalty, imprisonment: Radwan Thu, 21 May 2020 07:00:34 +0000 Egypt has world-class healthcare infrastructure, with many alternatives

The post Citizens not wearing face masks will face EGP4,000 penalty, imprisonment: Radwan appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Egyptian government has put in place tough measures to protect citizens as the country fights the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, whilst also curbing the spread of infections. In turn, Parliament is closely monitoring the performance of these measures, and passing the necessary legislation to help Egypt overcome the virus.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Member of Parliament (MP) Makram Radwan, who is also a member of the Health Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, talks us through the committee’s role. He also talks on how the situation is being assessed, and what Egyptians can expect in the future.

Has a law imposing penalties for not wearing face masks in public been approved?

Yes, it was passed yesterday. It gives the Minister of Health the power to issue binding decisions on citizens in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the law stipulates that whoever does not commit to wearing a face mask would be subject to a prison sentence or a fine of EGP 4,000.

Are there penalties for not committing to the precautionary measures other than face masks?

Whoever objects or prohibits the burial of a dead person for any reason would be subject to the same penalty, either imprisonment or an EGP 4,000 fine.

When will the actual application of this law start?

It will commence from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette. The approval process for it has ended and it will be sent to the Presidency and then published in the Official Gazette.

Do you think that this law could prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

The law gives the Minister of Health the authority to issue such decisions, as the penalty will be applied after the minister’s decisions are issued.

Are our hospitals at full capacity or is there still room for more patients?

No of course, Egypt has a world-class healthcare infrastructure. We have many alternatives, as there are hospitals under the Ministry of Health, university hospitals, hospitals affiliated with the armed forces, and hospitals affiliated with the Ministry of Interior.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Member of Parliament (MP) Makram Radwan, who is also a member of the Health Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, talks us through the committee’s role. He also talks on how the situation is being assessed, and what Egyptians can expect in the future.

Is it possible to include all hospitals that are not affiliated with the Ministries of Health and Higher Education into the system, or do you think the situation will not need this?

Of course, everything is possible. This decision will be taken if necessary, and when we need it. You are going step-by-step and preparing yourself, and when we feel that the capacity is nearing expiry, we may take more steps.

Have we reached the peak stage?

Yes, we are at the peak stage.

Do we need more CPR? And do you, as part of the parliament’s health committee, see this as the best way to confront the pandemic?

We adhere to global health standards. If these were the global health recommendations, we have nothing to stop us from doing so. What we need is to focus more, and get more medical team members tested.

Do you think the protocol in use with the medical team is appropriate or needs further modification?

I see medical teams need more attention and care.

What steps has the committee taken for the coming period?

The committee has amended the Law against Infectious Diseases, and has given the Minister of Health the authority to issue the decisions it deems appropriate at the appropriate time and for a suitable period to face the coronavirus pandemic. This was a very important amendment. We are now trying to solve their problem, and we are seeking coordination between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Higher Education, so that if there is an ambitious fellowship programme, the Ministry of Higher Education and the universities must be involved.

Are there efforts on your part to strike a balance between the Medical Syndicate and the Ministry of Health?

The committee has been on good terms with all parties over the past five years. The final decision, however, lacks sufficient coordination between all three parties, and we need to have more discussions. There were directives from the Speaker of Parliament to solve the problem of assigning doctors, so I went ahead with a fully integrated project for the House of Representatives Education Committee, and the issue has been studied well. Unfortunately, since everyone works on isolated islands, the Ministry of Health does not want to cooperate with the Ministry of Higher Education, and the two do not want to deal with members of the parliament (MPs), and all three do not want to deal with the Supreme Council of Universities.

There are those who recommended graduating a batch of medics early to solve the shortage of doctors due to many emigrating, as well as extending the age of pension, or converting pharmacists to doctors. Which solution do you lean toward in the committee?

We tend towards extending the pensionable age by one year for those whose health permits, and who are known for their competence, and who are loyal at work, and we feel that this is the best solution.

An MP recently contracted the coronavirus. What measures have been taken following this?

All colleagues who came into contact with the MP were isolated at home for a period of two weeks. Parliament has been disinfected three times, and everyone was ordered to wear face masks and use alcohol hand sanitizers.

Did you feel any anxiety when you learned of an infection in parliament?

Indeed, we were concerned for the dear colleague and her family. We also feel we must be more cautious and committed in our actions.

Do you think relaxing curfew measures after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday will have a good result?

I was hoping for a lockdown for five days from the end of Ramadan.

What about the treatment of medical staff who have died of the coronavirus?

I was the first to call for this. We all wrote proposals, and there are bills on this subject that will be cleared and announced soon.

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Australian companies mull Egyptian mining sector investments: Ambassador Tue, 12 May 2020 07:00:24 +0000 New investments also anticipated in Egyptian market, especially in mining and education sectors

The post Australian companies mull Egyptian mining sector investments: Ambassador appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Australian companies are considering investing in Egypt’s mining sector encouraged by local success story Centamin Egypt, according to Glenn Miles, Australia’s Ambassador to Egypt

The Egyptian government is committed to improving the investment climate, especially following its 2016 economic reform programme, Miles mentioned. He added that there is now a good foundation for Egypt’s future growth.

The authorities are encouraging private sector investments through a regulatory framework which witnessed beneficial measures and reforms, including the New Mining Law over the last year, Miles said. He anticipates that new Australian investments will enter the Egyptian market particularly in the mining and education sectors.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Miles to find out more on Egyptian-Australian relations in aspects of trade, investment, tourism, culture and development. Miles also talked on the cooperation outlook due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and beyond.

What Australian investments have been made in the local market?

We have three large Australian companies in the Egyptian market in the engineering, gas and nuclear energy sectors. The largest Australian investment in the local market is in Centamin Egypt, owner of the El Sokkary Gold Mine, which is in south-west Marsa Alam near the Red Sea.

Centamin Egypt is an Australian-Egyptian company which has had very successful operations over the last ten years. In addition, Australia has other companies operating here, but they are smaller than the aforementioned investments.

The total Australian investments in Egypt are estimated at $212m, while the Egyptian investments in Australia are only $60m. Aside from mining, Australian investments aren’t large, yet they are on solid foundation, and we’re expecting to see further investment in the Egyptian market.

The Australian Embassy is working on future plans to raise awareness among Australian companies on the market opportunities in Egypt, to encourage them to consider Egypt as a potential commercial partner. We see enormous interest from Australian companies, and the embassy will work on that interest to translate it into real plans.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Miles to find out more on Egyptian-Australian relations in aspects of trade, investment, tourism, culture and development. Miles also talked on the cooperation outlook due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and beyond.

What are your views on Egypt’s investment climate?

I believe that Egypt’s investment climate is developing well. When I was here 25 years ago, the country’s investment climate suffered from many difficulties in terms of foundation procedures for new companies.

The government now is committed to improving the investment climate especially after the 2016 economic reform programme. There is now a good foundation for the country’s future growth. The country has a positive approach to encouraging private sector investments through the regulatory framework which witnessed good measures and reforms including the New Mining Law.

We expect to see new investments flowing from Australia to Egypt, particularly in the mining sector. Centamin Egypt is a successful example of the investments in this sector, and we expect a number of Australian companies will seek to follow suit.

We also see potential for cooperation in the education sector. Australia has a very strong education sector with its high ranking in attracting international students. We have strong education programmes and universities with several universities establishing campuses outside Australia, including in the Gulf and South East Asia.

Egypt has a young population that is keen on learning new skills. We also have Egyptian students studying in Australia, and we are looking to encourage more Egyptian students to travel to Australia to study. We now have an Alumni association to bring together former students who studied in Australia.

We are also encouraging Australian universities to come to Egypt and look at forming partnerships with their Egyptian counterparts. These discussions are still in their early days, yet there are already two major Australian universities interested.

Egypt is reducing bureaucracy which is very important to attract foreign investments. We encourage Egypt’s governmental plans to continue structural reforms.

How will you raise awareness on the market opportunities in Egypt?

The embassy seeks to raise awareness on the Australian companies that are working Egypt by meeting with business groups and companies. In addition, we invite Australian companies to come to Egypt and meet with their Egyptian counterparts to discuss cooperation and look at developing opportunities.

We are working closely with the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AACCI), and we received an AACCI delegation last year. We expect another business delegation will come this year.

I also go out to Australia once a year to attend two major business promotion events. The first is “Africa Down Under”, a mining conference to promote investments in Africa, including Egypt. Last year they had a seminar on North Africa and I presented on opportunities in Egypt. The event aims at raising awareness of Australia’s interests in Africa’s mining and energy sectors.

The other annual event that I attend in Australia is the Middle East and North Africa Roadshow, which focuses on raising awareness amongst Australian companies of trade and investment in the region. 

What are you plans for the delegations in 2020?

Last year, we received an AACCI business delegation in addition to several senior official visits. This year, we hope to receive an educational delegation and an AACCI business delegation in October, yet realising these plans is still under consideration.

The Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs organised visits for young Australians with Egyptian roots as a way of encouraging them to keep in touch with their home country.  This programme will have longer term benefits.

Distance impacts the business relations. That’s why we need to encourage visits to demonstrate what each country has to offer. There are many opportunities to collaborate in mining, education, agriculture and other trade areas.

Australian companies are considering investing in Egypt’s mining sector encouraged by local success story Centamin Egypt, according to Glenn Miles, Australia’s Ambassador to Egypt

What are the 2018 and 2019 statistics for trade exchange between both countries? What do you expect for 2020?

Trade exchange is less than it should be or has been in the past. We have a $660m two-way trade, $600m for Australian exports to Egypt and $60m for the Egyptian exports to Australia.

What are the main commodities in both exports and imports?

Agricultural and food products like fava beans, wheat and meat are a significant portion of Australian exports to Egypt. Not many Egyptians know that Australian products contribute to the Egyptian traditional breakfast.

Egypt exports oranges and construction material to Australia and we have just agreed a protocol that allows Egypt to export dates to the Australian market. This matter is still under discussion, as we have our standards as Australia is an island and we are very careful about exporting new commodities, yet we expect increasing volumes of dates being imported to Australia. Egypt and Australia have different seasons, which is good for increasing the trade in agricultural products.

What do you expect in the trade exchange by the end of 2020?

It depends on the performance of our economies and the Egyptian market’s competitiveness. Trade exchange is a commercial decision, so it is difficult to predict.

How many programmes have you implemented through the direct aid programme (DAP) scheme?

We have implemented over a 100 projects over the past ten years that the DAP programme has run.


Can you elaborate on the programme’s aims, costs and local partners?


DAP projects generally focus on alleviating poverty, enhancing community health and education, developing small-scale infrastructure, supporting rural development, and raising the standard of living. This is especially among disadvantaged groups, and includes improving their access to opportunities for economic activity, decision-making, and social and cultural participation and inclusion.

More specifically, we have implemented projects that empower women economically and socially, some provide vocational training, improve health in rural communities, including for women and children, build infrastructure such as schools and clinics, support refugee communities in Egypt, enhance livelihoods of street kids and disabled kids.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receive between A$30,000 to $60,000 per project. Our partners vary from grass roots to United Nations Offices and academic institutes.


Glenn Miles, Australia’s Ambassador to Egypt

What about future programmes you will implement through the DAP scheme? What is their expected cost?

The DAP is running with a smaller budget and fewer projects this year. We are currently screening some proposals that we have received and will make selections soon.

How many Australian tourists visit Egypt annually? Are they interested in cultural tourism or beach tourism?

About 50,000 tourists visit Egypt annually. Australians tend to visit cultural sites with many taking a Nile cruise.

Do you expect Australia to change its travel advice to Egypt and other countries due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a global pandemic with rapid updates, and Australia is reviewing its travel advice to all countries regularly.

How is COVID-19 affecting Australian- Egyptian relations?

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many aspects of the relationship.  Unfortunately, bilateral tourism and trade related visits have now ceased.  However, because our two way trade is dominated by agricultural products, the impact on bilateral trade is likely to be less than in other areas, as food is always an essential commodity, even during a crisis.

More broadly, Australia and Egypt are both balancing how to contain the pandemic, while also encouraging economic activity to reduce the economic shock. It’s important that we all work with international and regional partners to minimise and respond to the threat, as the virus respects no borders.

We are also working closely with international financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Asian Development Bank to mobilise technical support and resources, to help mitigate the growing health and economic impact emerging from COVID-19.

Australia’s world-leading medical institutions are also working with international partners to fast track a COVID-19 vaccine.   

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Egyptians need to stick to social distancing for COVID-19 to decrease: Hosny Sat, 09 May 2020 11:29:48 +0000 Clinical trials featuring blood plasma from recovered cases remain ongoing, with late Hisham Al-Saket first case to trial potential treatment, says health official

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The ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been the foremost subject of discussion around the world in recent months, particularly regarding its impacts on all walks of life.

Whether it’s the effects on global health or the economy, or our psychological state arising from the pandemic’s negative impacts, the coronavirus has been hard to escape.

Hossam Hosny, Chairperson of the Scientific Committee to Combat the Coronavirus, spoke to Daily News Egypt on the current situation and the developments in treatments for the virus. He set the record straight on the many conflicting rumours on treatments and vaccines, where we currently stand with the pandemic, and what comes next.

How many cases have undergone plasma injection? How are they responding?

We collected the plasma from a certain number of patients who recovered from the coronavirus, and began injecting it into patients who had tested positive. They are in a severe rather than critical condition. There are a good number of cases who have been injected with plasma, and the results so far are very promising, as these cases no longer need a ventilator and are recovering. The final results will come out in a month.

What is your plan if the clinical trials fail?

Any experience can be a success or a failure. In the event of its success, we have a large amount of plasma that can be given to the patients. In the event of its failure, other scenarios and alternative medicines are currently also under study. If you look at the cure rate in Egypt, you will find that it hovers above 24%, despite the increasing numbers of confirmed cases. If the numbers have not risen during the last period, the cure rate would have reached 40%.

Was Hisham Al Saket injected with the plasma before his death?

Hisham Al-Saket was already in an advanced phase of the virus, and it was the first case where we injected plasma [as a treatment]. Things were not clear then, and he was on a ventilator. Since then we have taken the decision not to inject critical cases with plasma, because we will lose a drug and the results will not be good. We decided to test it only in severe cases and not on very severe or critical cases.

The UAE has announced the success of its clinical trials in treating patients with stem cells. Why has Egypt not considered this solution?

We cannot say that the stem cell has achieved high success rates at this moment, as it is a study that was carried out on only a very small number of cases.

What is the latest development with regard to Remdesivir?

The amount of Remdesivir that Egypt has reserved is about to arrive, and it will be sufficient for a very good number of patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) has borne the cost.

Hossam Hosny, Chairperson of the Scientific Committee to Combat the Coronavirus, spoke to Daily News Egypt on the current situation and the developments in treatments for the virus.

What about the Japanese Avigan, which was originally used to treat the flu?

It has already arrived, and has been tried in university hospitals. The results have not yet been announced.

What is the reality of testing vaccines and reaching treatments that replace trials and alternative medicines around the world?

There is no likelihood of vaccine for at least a year. There are certainly experiences, but there will not be a vaccine before a year has passed.

What is your analysis of Egypt’s casualty figures compared to the mortality and recovery rates of those whose results turned from positive to negative?

The numbers of cases have positive and negative sides. The positive is that citizens have started to develop awareness and carry out examinations, while the negative is that citizens do not currently maintain social distancing, especially in the days before Ramadan, which increased the number of cases. Mortality rates decreased to 6.7, which is a very good percentage globally.

You recently stated that Egypt has reached its peak of coronavirus cases, with numbers stabilising. What is the situation?

As I mentioned to you, this was a conclusion based on the possibility that this increase would be due to the lack of social distancing that occurred before Ramadan, and if it decreased in the coming days, it will be the result of social awareness. It could also continue to increase if we repeat the same ridiculousness that occurred before Ramadan.

Can we continue betting on people’s awareness in the coming period?

We have lost the bet on public awareness, and whoever bets twice on a losing team would lose. So we will not bet on a lost horse again.

Does this mean that we will see tighter measures in the coming period?

We do not demand the application of a complete curfew, but we do demand the law be applied to those who violate the curfew currently in place.  There is a difference between a ban and caution.

As for the percentage of cases who died before reaching hospital, the percentage is now 25%, having previously been 33%, which means there is some citizen awareness regarding the early healthcare stage.

If it is not possible to rely on public awareness, so how will you implement tighter measures?

That is why I stated that during the coming period, firm measures must be applied. For example, a fine should be imposed on those who do not adhere to the curfew and those who do not adhere to wearing the mask. There must be a package of different decisions from the state to implement caution in society.

Can the curfew be lifted after Ramadan if the numbers stabilise?

This is a political decision, but of course, whoever says that we are heading towards living with corona? On the contrary, we will eliminate the coronavirus.

How is the virus affecting different age groups? And what is the mortality rate among youth?

The largest rates of infection were between the ages of 30 and 39, with the largest death rates among those aged between 60 and 70.

Youth have also died from the virus. The ratio has reached less than 10% for the age group between 30 and 39 years, with the death rate not exceeding 8% for the 20 to 30 age group. The rest does not exceed 1%, with no fatalities among children and infants. 

The WHO has previously stated that injury rates in medical teams reached 13%. What are the latest figures?

In Egypt, the percentage of injuries among medical teams in May so far is 11%. There are injuries among medical teams, part of which relates to their extreme enthusiasm. When a severe case appears during a doctor’s shift, some of them go quickly to deal with the matter without taking adequate precautions as they are have to decide whether to wear protective clothing and saving a patient’s life.

What is the truth about the state’s tendency to isolate infections in houses instead of hospitals?

This is not in our plan at all during this stage, but we may resort to if the number of confirmed cases increases. It will be citizens who press the state to resort to such a solution as a result of their lack of commitment to social caution.

Have quarantine hospitals reached full capacity?

There are hospitals that already reached full capacity but, on the other hand, there are other hospitals that are being opened.

Have there been cases of Kawasaki disease in children recovering from the coronavirus?

They are just speculations and fantasies, for which no scientific evidence has yet been proven.

Does the virus return to those recovering from it?

No, as the results for those who have shown symptoms of the virus returning show up as false positive. There is no evidence that it returns, nor evidence that it strengthens immunity, just as there is no case that was positive and infected again.

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BAT working on potential covid-19 vaccine through US bio-tech subsidiary Tue, 05 May 2020 17:40:28 +0000 Candidate vaccine is not commercial; we are willing to work with any third party to get it developed quickly, says Liban Ahmed

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In time of crisis such as the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, leading brands around the world are expected to play critical role in supporting the international community and introducing innovative solutions to the emergency situation.

The leading tobacco and nicotine producer British American Tobacco (BAT) has committed its laboratory technology and scientific research capabilities to developing a potential vaccine for Covid-19.

Liban Ahmed, General Manager of Med Red Cluster at BAT, told Daily News Egypt that his company would start clinical trials of the potential vaccine in June. They are hopeful to manufacture about 1-3m doses of the potential vaccine per week, beginning in June.

Would you please explain the preclinical trials that BAT is currently conducting? How long it should take? What should be expected results to approve the clinical trials or cancel the research?

Through its US bio-tech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), BAT is currently working on developing a potential vaccine for Covid-19 using new, fast-growing tobacco plant technology. Tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared to conventional methods– 6 weeks in tobacco plants versus several months using conventional methods. The vaccine formulation KBP is developing remains stable at room temperature, unlike conventional vaccines which often require refrigeration and it has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.

The potential vaccine is now undergoing pre-clinical testing. We will be ready to start clinical trials in June and will start manufacturing in parallel. It is impossible to say when it will be available, and this will become clearer when we know what testing governments will require.

If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, about 1-3m doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June.

When would we expect to have the first approved covid-19 vaccine?

Currently, this is a potential vaccine, not a vaccine or a cure, being in early stages of the development process. Vaccine development is challenging and complex work, but we believe we have made a significant breakthrough with our tobacco plant technology platform and stand ready to work with governments and all stakeholders to help win the war against Covid-19. We fully align with the United Nations plea, for a whole of society approach to combat global problems.

For how long would the potential vaccine be effective?

Tobacco plants offer the potential for faster and safer vaccine development compared to conventional methods. It is potentially safer given that tobacco plants can’t host pathogens which cause human disease and it also has the potential to deliver an effective immune response in a single dose.

There are different preclinical and clinical trials on vaccines, are you willing to cooperate with different labs to develop the potential vaccine?

We are willing to work with any third party to get a vaccine developed quickly, even if another pharmaceutical company developed a different Covid-19 vaccine to ours, we’d be happy for them just to use out tobacco plant technology to get it developed quicker than conventional methods. This is non-competitive and BAT is open to collaborate with other vaccine producers and share technology.

How do you appraise the clinical research on the various drugs? How far the approval of the drugs would help in speeding the recovery rates and reducing mortality?

We have initiated the in-life portion of two separate studies to measure antibody titre response in mice. We are also prepared to initiate challenge studies as soon as we are able, to identify a site capable of conducting such work. While the TAP Platform has not yet been tested in humans, we have completed two TMV bio distribution studies and two tox studies.

BAT is looking for help from governments to accelerate clinical trials to demonstrate the candidate vaccine is safe and effective. We are engaged with the US Food and Drug Administration and are seeking guidance on next steps. We have also engaged with the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care, and BARDA in the US, to offer our support and access to our research with the aim of trying to expedite the development of a vaccine for Covid-19. But it’s still early days.

Will you be seeking to make profit from the candidate vaccine?

No, this is not a commercial opportunity for BAT and will be carried out on a not-for-profit basis. This is about trying to solve one of the biggest crises society has faced in decades.

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Metito’s Al-Arish desalination plant operational by 2021 end Sun, 03 May 2020 11:21:29 +0000 Al-Arish desalination plant is expected to process 100,000 cbm/day of seawater, with total first phase investments exceeding EGP 60m, says Madwar

The post Metito’s Al-Arish desalination plant operational by 2021 end appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Metito provides customised, comprehensive and advanced solutions from desalination and re-using water, industrial solutions, investing in water and wastewater assets, and structuring Greenfield and Brownfield schemes under project finance structures.

One of rhe water management solutions company’s most recent projects is a joint venture with Hassan Allam Construction. It saw the completion of the Al-Mahsamma agricultural drainage treatment, recycling, and reuse plant in Ismailia governorate, inaugurated by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Daily News Egypt sat down with Karim Madwar, Managing Director for Metito Africa, to learn more on the company’s business and expansion strategy in water management solutions.

Can you tell us about Metito’s businesses in Egypt?

Metito is the leading provider of choice for total intelligent water management solutions in the emerging markets, with operations covering three business areas: design and build, chemicals, and utilities.

Our most recent project is a Metito-Hassan Allam Construction joint-venture of the Al Mahsamma agricultural drainage treatment, recycling, and reuse plant in Ismailia governorate, which was inaugurated by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The plant, which was under the supervision of the Armed Forces, is one of the largest of its kind, with a capacity of 1m cbm/day and was built over an area of 42,000 sqm.

The plant is considered unique globally, as it contributes to water preservation through the reuse of 1 million m3 of irrigation wastewater that was otherwise disposed of in Al Temsah Lake, west of the Suez Canal, in previous years. The plant will also contribute to conserving the natural ecology and fish production of Al Temsah Lake, as the drainage wastewater will be treated and not discarded untreated in the lake as was previously the case.

Metito also recently announced the completion of three wastewater treatment plants in the governorates of Kafr El-Sheikh, Gharbeya, and Assiut using Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) and Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) technologies. It is part of the framework of implementing the Egyptian government’s plan to provide and enhance sanitation services in rural areas across different governorates.

Work is currently ongoing at the seawater desalination plant in North Sinai’s Al-Arish City, with operations at the plant expected to begin by the end of 2021. Al-Arish seawater desalination plant is expected to desalinate 100,000 cbm/day of seawater, with total investments in the first phase exceeding USD 100m.

Metito aims to continue its effective role in promoting big-budget large-scale infrastructure plans, set by the Egyptian government, through the application of advanced sustainable technologies that can further preserve our national water resources and protect the surrounding environment for a more sustainable future.

Who are your partners in Egypt and in which projects?

We have a wide client base, including in the private and public sectors. We are strong advocates of private-public partnership, and so many of our projects are with the public sector across different sectors including tourism, housing, and the like.

We have successfully pioneered the Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) Model in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East, and this has proven to be a win-win to all involved. By definition, the BOOT model places the point of responsibility for the entire project on a single entity and since it is a long-term contract, it provides a full life-cycle vision. The developer is naturally incentivised to come up with the best long-term solution.

What other Metito projects are being implemented in other countries today?

Metito is very active in Africa and Asia in general. In Africa, Metito is developing the first Bulk Surface Water Supply project in Sub Saharan Africa under a concession model in Kigali – Rwanda. This is landmark project by all standards that will provide over 40% of the potable water requirements for Rwanda in the most sustainable manner.

In Asia and Middle East, most recently Metito was awarded some of the most prestigious projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, namely The King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) seawater treatment and desalination plant partially powered by solar energy is worth around SAR 220m with a capacity of 30,000 cbm/day, and a design capacity of 60,000 cbm/day. 

A consortium led by Metito Group, which comprises Saudi Arabia’s Mowah and Egypt’s EPC contractor Orascom Construction, has been awarded and begun construction on the first independent Sewage Treatment Plant Project (ISTP) in Saudi Arabia, in Dammam West, with a capacity of 350,000 cubic metres per day.

Could you share any updates on New Alamein City’s wastewater treatment plants and networks, scheduled to open in February 2021?

The project is under construction now. The plant will treat the waste water for New Alamein City which is now being built on the Mediterranean coast. The plant utilises the conventional process for sewage treatment and includes tertiary treatment. The effluent water shall be used for landscape irrigation.

What is the value of Metito’s businesses in Egypt and Africa?

Metito has a healthy record of over 3,000 successful projects in more than 46 countries around the world, and more than 3,000 experienced and skilled employees across locations. Metito Africa has a healthy backlog of projects worth in excess of $300m. 

Are you in negotiations with the Egyptian government to operate additional drainage plants in the future? 

Metito has recently signed a few projects with the public and private sectors, and there are a few more we expect to finalise soon. We will announce these projects in due course.

What safety measures have you implemented to protect your workers at sites?

As a global corporate citizen, Metito is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic situation very closely, and has assigned a cross-organisational business continuity task force and an active response team with two core mandates. These are to safeguard the health and safety of our employees, consistent with conservative guidelines and based on the information constantly relayed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the distinct local governments across the countries where we operate.

We are also looking into managing any business implications and/or disruptive scenarios resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak to minimise the impact on our operations and our ability to serve our clients.

In Egypt, we have secured needed resources to maintain personal hygiene at all offices and project sites, including face masks and hand sanitisers. There are also daily temperature checks at all sites to ensure that any suspicions are assessed and handled as per set protocols and Quality, Health, Safety, and Environment Management measures. We are also conducting site sanitisation and disinfection at short intervals, and securing more shifts for transporting employees on company buses to ensure fewer passengers per ride and that social distancing guidelines are enforced.

Did you reduce employment due to the Covid-19 outbreak?

Metito remains to be unique, and we continue to grow from strength to strength. In fact, we are presently hiring new seniors to deliver on our record-breaking backlog. This sharp difference can only be attributed to our long-term strategic management vision and many years of successful retention of our devoted employees. 

Complementing this is our commitment to continue growing our local talents and protecting our people at such challenging times and as per the directives of President Al-Sisi pertaining to avoiding layoffs and the like.

How does the company ensure the efficiency of water and its suitability for irrigation?

In Al Mahsamma, we make use of the latest technologies for the treatment of agricultural drainage to produce suitable water for irrigation and land reclamation, following the highest quality standard and specs set by the Egyptian government.

In all Metito’s projects, we are committed to utilise state-of-the-art technology and systems across projects and in the various stages of water treatment. The IT systems we use aims to monitor the effectiveness of the site operations and to ensure the quality of water remains compliant with industry standard and client specifications. Moreover, all Metito project sites are equipped with laboratories for on-site water analysis and quality testing round the clock supervised by dedicated experts.

Do you think Egypt has opportunities through water desalination and treatment to overcome issues on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)?

Sea water desalination utilising reverse osmosis technology has been proven to be the most appropriate and economical solution for coastal areas. Furthermore, waste water reuse maximizes water utilisation.

Do you have any concerns over the argument that the coronavirus can spread and survive in drain water?

We are fully committed to the highest standards of health, safety and quality specifications across our projects and the full array of solutions that we offer.

As of today, there is no evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted through water sanitation systems and networks or through wastewater treatment plants. Nevertheless, Metito is keen on maintaining a healthy level of chlorine to eliminate any possible microbes in water purification and treatment processes and water distribution networks. This is done adequately and in accordance with the Egyptian standard specifications. It is scientifically proven that the presence of chlorine – in adequate and safe quantities – guarantees a high level of water purification more effectively and for longer durations.

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EIB part of far-reaching discussions to support Egypt through COVID-19: Dario Scannapieco Wed, 29 Apr 2020 07:00:49 +0000 EIB offers additional funding for medical supplies, equipment needed according to Egypt’s crisis response

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The European Investment Bank (EIB) has recently announced a comprehensive response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outside the EU that will provide up to €5.2bn in the coming months.

The financing is an immediate fast-tracked support package designed to help sustain jobs and livelihoods in the sectors most threatened by the economic and social impact of the coronavirus. Daily News Egypt interviewed EIB Vice President Dario Scannapiecoo to better understand the how the Mediterranean region – particularly Egypt – will benefit from this finance.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, how will the EIB help Mediterranean countries?

The EIB is a key player in “Team Europe” led by the European Commission (EC) to provide and coordinate EU support to countries outside the union. Our approach to the COVID-19 response is based on two pillars: to strengthen health preparedness and resilience; and to support the real economy and the liquidity of public entities; banks; corporates; and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to ensure the resilience of investments, businesses, and populations.

The countries of the Southern Neighbourhood vary in terms of their economic situation and requirements. We are in continuous discussions with our counterparts in the Mashreq and Maghreb to assess their needs and prepare tailor-made responses. EIB’s overall new financing in support of the  COVID-19 response in the Southern Neighbourhood is expected to reach up to €2bn in 2020, of which at least €1.5bn would be dedicated to support small and medium enterprises, and €0.5bn to the public sector. In addition, the EIB is making all efforts to accelerate disbursements on existing operations where possible.

What impact does the COVID-19 have on the Mediterranean region?

The Covid-19 pandemic is a truly unprecedented shock to the world economy in terms of its unexpected magnitude, global spread, and interlinked demand and supply effects. Its epicentre has moved from China to Europe and the US. The virus’ tragic human and economic toll will also impact the EU’s Southern Mediterranean and Partner Countries as in the EU.

Economic activity will slow down because of lockdowns, travel restrictions and border closures, as well as higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Demand is plunging, production is being disrupted and investment plans are being put on hold. Lockdowns are hurting labour-intense service sectors, and affecting in particular countries where unemployment is already high. In addition, a number of economies will be hit by a decline in tourism and a reduction in remittances.

How should governments intervene to face these challenges?

There have been prompt responses to COVID-19 economic impact in the region. A number of countries have cut interest rates, and a number of central banks are providing payment holidays on facilities to commercial banks, introducing new liquidity facilities, or extending eligibility for existing facilities to critical sectors, such as healthcare. Some are mandating or “requesting” commercial banks to provide payment holidays to their clients, particularly the poor and MSMEs.

Despite these interventions, for many of these countries the trade-off between containment measures to stop the virus from spreading and the economic contraction that these measures will bring, poses a daunting challenge in light of already high public debt levels, and will require as much support as possible from the international community.

Countries have to cope with three main challenges related to COVID-19: an urgent need for medical and protective equipment and other relevant supplies, a medium to long-term need to reinforce their healthcare systems including hospital infrastructure, and an overall economic downturn limiting already narrow fiscal space and slowing future growth.

How about Egypt’s Covid-19 response?

The Egyptian government has enacted a prompt response to COVID-19 and introduced together with the Central Bank of Egypt a number of measures to respond to the COVID-19 economic impact.

The EIB is part of a wide discussion led by the Ministry of International Cooperation with other international financial institutions, UN agencies, and development partners to establish how best the bank can support Egypt with new financing and existing credit lines, both in public and private sectors.

In the public sector, the EIB has for example offered additional funding for medical supplies and equipment needed according to the national crisis response plans. In addition, the bank continues to work on important public sector transport, energy, and water/wastewater projects, which remain crucial to ensure economic recovery and employment after the crisis.

In the private sector, the intervention of the EIB is focused on supporting corporates, in particular MSMEs whereby the bank’s long-standing and successful partnership with the local banking sector will be built on to maximum effect. Funding and risk-sharing instruments are designed to enable the banks to continue and adapt their lending to the needs of the MSMEs in these times of crisis.

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Private sector can turn crisis into investment opportunity: Samir Mon, 27 Apr 2020 12:34:29 +0000 Coronavirus pandemic may be opportunity to turn to local producers instead of importers

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Shady Samir, President of SELECT International Group, believes the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a positive local market level impact. It presents an opportunity to start using local products instead of turning to imported, with the potential economic benefit coming in light of the interrupted supply chains from China.

Talking to Daily News Egypt, Samir said that the private sector should continue with its work and production outputs to turn the current crisis into an investment opportunity.

Shady Samir, President of SELECT International Group

What are your initial evaluations of the economic consequences due to the coronavirus outbreak on both the local and global levels?

COVID-19 is a tragic global crisis that is spreading at an extremely high rate, hitting the largest economic power, the US, which has become one of the biggest break out points of the virus pandemic today.

For the first time in many years, the whole world is being tested in how it manages the same crisis at the same time. And it’s one of the biggest challenges that has happened in years.

It is true that the Egyptian economy will be affected, but the government has still managed to pull off some distinguished decrees aimed at refreshing the status of investment, and restoring the confidence of investors in the economy. This has led to a better performance of the EGX (Egyptian Exchange) and that is an indicator of the performance of the economy at the moment.

With the recent economic developments that have taken place through the reform plan, the economy is showing great flexibility handling the crisis and withstanding its hits. It has enabled the government to support businesses and citizens by reliving part of the taxes for the upcoming six months, which has ensured the sustainability of companies, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises that have a bigger chance now, more than ever, to grow due to their low operational costs.

In the long run, Egypt has opportunities that can contribute to an even stronger comeback by endorsing the exports of the country, and at the same time, exporting powers such as China might withdraw a bit. This will pave the way for Egyptian exports to gain more solid ground and the confidence of more importing countries

To what extent do you see the government decrees serving the current situation? Do you think these decrees are sufficient?

The announced governmental decisions are ‘unprecedented’ ones, that showed the ability and power of the state in dealing with crisis in times when other developed countries have failed. All the decisions have placed the Egyptian citizen and his health at the forefront of the state’s concerns, considering the citizen’s health and safety a national security issue.

On top of the historic announcements during this phase, is the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) postponement of loan instalments and credit liabilities for six months. This is in addition to cancelling fees and commissions applied on withdrawal and deposit processes from ATMs for the same period and providing the credit limits to fund working capital. This exceptional bundle of the CBE’s decisions proved its power and effective multiple roles, including economic, financial, banking and even social, to reduce the subsequent burdens on the shoulders of the citizen.

What economic mechanisms should be followed to revive the economy following this crisis?

The Egyptian government has a strategic plan to fight this global crisis with minimal local losses, which is reflected on the strategic decisions announced over the past few weeks. However, a bundle of economic decisions should follow to set a defined plan for the economy’s revival, ensuring protection of economic and financial relations between workers and business entities, financial institutions and their stakeholders, as well as suppliers and end customers.

As for the private sector, it has always been the strategic partner of the government, thus different corporations in various sectors should join forces to overcome this economic crisis and support the national economy. This can be done by pursuing business commitments and regular production to transform the crisis into investments opportunities.

The CBE has allocated EGO 20bn to support the Egyptian stock market. In your opinion, to what extent will this decision impact the economy?

The decision by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to pump EGP 20bn through the CBE to support the Egyptian stock exchange came about to affirm the stability of businesses. It reflects on the performance of the stock exchange that thrives due to the confidence of investors in the market indicators. Furthermore, the approach of alleviating stock exchange pressures is rather an effective one as it will encourage share purchases, thus contributing to supporting the economy.

Among the other positive results is the recovery of the market capitalisation of shares of companies listed on the stock market. This is estimated by EGP 19.6bn from the total losses since the beginning of March and the increase of the main index of the market ‘EGX 30’ by 5.92% which is equivalent to 545 points, to reach 9750 points. This is in addition to the transaction exchanges that reached EGP 793m through dealing with almost 251.6 million securities that took place through the implementation of about 25,600 purchases and sales transactions

Do you think the government should postpone its public offerings? Or do you think that this is good timing with a positive long-term economic effect?

Rising opinions on the world economic crisis show that the situation now is more challenging than ever. Egypt is still performing very well compared to other nations and would remain in this position by scrutinising and analysing the situation further. The issue of the public offerings on the stock exchange has been one of the priorities of the government, but it has been subject to meticulous study for a long time now and it would be wise to wait until the current status is clearer. Therefore, I think the government should postpone its EGX offerings until the second half of this year to have time to study the country’s internal conditions and the market status after the changes caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus. And it is actually an expected decision by the committee in charge of the government’s offerings that will look for stability after the consequences that left negative repercussions on markets’ economies. However, the government has still applied a number of effective initiatives in the banking sector, like lowering interest rate, decreasing energy costs and abolishing the stock exchange tax. All of these are seen as bold and effective measures that contribute to relieving the economic burden off the shoulders of both the market and the citizens and paving the way to an even stronger comeback following the crisis.

Do you advise investors to direct their investments to gold?

No doubt that that investment area has become a concern nowadays, as some investors seek buying real estate, others prefer gold and a few resort to hoard currencies.

Gold is always a safe option as it protects money from inflation factors of other commodities like the changing price of oil, the dollar etc, and therefore it is considered the most stable investment area, especially when its price declines at a certain time of the year, it flourishes again in the long run.

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AUC leads Egypt’s universities as coronavirus-prompted digital learning flourishes Thu, 23 Apr 2020 07:00:27 +0000 Regardless of ongoing crisis, students cannot function in global economy without fluent digital literacy, says Aziza Ellozy 

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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic remains present, the world has shifted to digital platforms on an unprecedented scale. Many employees around the world are now, by dint of the circumstances, forced to work from home, with huge conferences also forced to be held virtually. 

The situation is no different for schools and universities, which have also sent their students home to continue their studies online. Unfortunately, there is also uncertainty about when the schools or universities will reopen.

Some think that digital learning is simply using digital tools in the classroom, whereas others argue that digital learning aims to enhance the education system itself. The American University in Cairo (AUC) is just one example of a university in Egypt that has taken a leadership role in digital learning. The AUC believes that digital learning is not just a digital means of finding out information, but it is also a way to enhance the education system itself.

Aziza Ellozy, Professor of Practice at the AUC and Associate Provost for Transformative Learning and Teaching, spoke to Daily News Egypt about what digital learning means and how the AUC is implementing it. She is also the Founding Director of the AUC’s Center for Learning and Teaching.

Aziza Ellozy, Professor of Practice at the AUC and Associate Provost for Transformative Learning and Teaching

What does digital learning mean?

Digital Learning is any type of learning that uses technology to facilitate or enhance students’ learning. At the AUC, we focus on three types of digital learning: web-enhanced, blended, and online learning. All learning is computer-assisted and most teaching and learning at the AUC occurs in a face-to-face modality that is web-enhanced. This means that instructors provide student opportunities to use the resources and activities from the web to enhance the classroom experience.

Some of our courses are designed as blended learning courses, which we have defined as an approach that integrates online with traditional face-to-face class activities, and where some of the face-to-face time is replaced by online activity. In online learning, all teaching and learning occurs online. In addition, we have developed several online courses for our non-degree programmes.

When and how did the AUC implement the idea of digital learning?

The AUC has had a long-term university-wide commitment to web-enhanced and computer-assisted learning. Since I joined the AUC in 2002, it has dedicated significant resources to a solid infrastructure, to substantial computing and educational technologies as well as to faculty development programmes through the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT). At first, most of the efforts were directed at enhancing and enriching face to face teaching with technology. With time, interest in blended and online learning increased, and recently several courses have been offered in a blended learning and online modality. Of course, with the advent of the present Covid-19 crisis, all our courses have been transformed to fully online courses.

How does the AUC approach digital learning?

There are two complimentary approaches: on the one hand, we built a solid infrastructure and invested in relevant platforms and technologies, and on the other we have invested heavily in faculty development and support.

What sort of applications do you use in the process of digital learning?

We have technologies that are used across the institutions and others that are discipline specific. To be honest, they are too many to cite. I will just mention those that are used by the majority of faculty. We have two Learning Management Systems named Blackboard and Moodle, and we also use a plagiarism prevention software named In terms of the video streaming and lecture capture software, we use Panopto, in addition we use Zoom, and Google Suite applications, and the mobile devices themselves.

Besides, I want to mention that we use adaptive technologies for special needs students, and we have a number of library databases and classroom technologies.

Do you develop these applications at the AUC or do you develop your own applications? And what was the cost?

The applications are proprietary and their licences are quite expensive.

How comfortable are the students and professors with the idea of digital learning?

In general, most faculty and students were pretty comfortable using the platforms that we had in a web-enhanced approach. What they were not prepared for is online learning. This requires special course design and preparation to study fully online.

How have faculties and students reacted to the COVID-19 situation, which required an immediate conversion from face-to-face teaching and learning to a fully online modality?

First of all, I want to mention that the administration foresaw the possibility of transitioning to online ahead of time, and we had a contingency plan for training our faculty before the closure of the campus. We managed to train almost 600 faculties on a specific set of online teaching and learning tools. We managed to continue teaching all our courses during the quarantine.

Although the transition may have been relatively less painful for the AUC than for other institutions of Higher Education in the region, it was inevitable that we experience challenges some of which we expected and others that we did not. But our faculty and students have shown great agility and flexibility which has allowed us to proceed with online teaching without any major interruption for all courses, which is a remarkable feat.

How can you ensure the commitment of the students to the digital courses?

The role of faculty is to engage students with the course and to guide their learning regardless of the teaching modality. Student performance will range within a spectrum as it usually does. I do not think that student commitment depends on the technology, although student engagement may be greater if a course is better designed and the teacher is a better teacher

What are the challenges that the AUC faced while implementing digital learning and how did it overcome them?

In general, the major challenges revolve around the time it takes for faculty to train on using technologies and the fast rate at which these technologies change. Another challenge is to get faculty to invest time in professional development for designing courses for digital learning. Using technology in and of itself is not enough – it has to accomplish certain pedagogical objectives or else it is best not using it at all.

How can you evaluate the AUC`s experience in the digital learning?

We have always tried to get feedback from students and faculty through all sorts of means: focus groups, surveys, pilots, mid-semester assessments, consultations etc. Over the years, we have been able to evaluate what works and what does not and how to address it and correct it.

Our most recent effort was during this coronavirus emergency. We have surveyed students and faculty every week since we started online teaching and learning. We have carried out surveys for the past four weeks (course by course) to address anything that needed addressing. It has been a very successful approach as we had our fingers on the pulse of both faculty and students. 

Are you planning to offer courses fully online, regardless of quarantine?

Right now, we will be offering non-degree courses that are online and some Arabic courses. We will continue to develop other online courses in the non-degree sector. We have not yet made any new decisions regarding or post-COVID-19 experience. We have however decided to offer our summer courses this year fully online given the uncertainty of when we will go back to campus.

Do you have any plans to cooperate with the Ministry of the Higher Education to transfer your experience to Egyptian universities?

Of course, the AUC is always looking forward to this kind of cooperation. All the resources we have developed are open educational resources which we are very happy to share.

From your experience, do you expect a successful implementation for the AUC`s experience in digital learning in other Egyptian universities?

Our experience can be adapted to other universities while adjusting it to the available resources and the circumstances of the students.

How can we prepare the components (teachers and students) to the implementation of digital learning?

In my view, there needs to be an entity in each university that is devoted to support the professional development of faculty. The teaching and learning landscape has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and all faculty need to get continuous faculty development opportunities as educators. The Center for Learning and Teaching at AUC, established 17 years ago, does just that and has been quite successful.

In your opinion, how can Egypt advance the digital learning in order to get results?

I think we can agree that public higher education in Egypt has not delivered on the promise to give access to quality education to the over 2.5 million students, 80% of whom attend public universities. There is a large number of excellent (digital) free Open Educational Resources (OERs) that can complement any course or curriculum.

My opinion would be to accompany any reform programme with continuous faculty development programmes (as I mentioned in the previous question), to have a strong infrastructure so that all learners have affordable access to online resources, and to possibly translate some of the OERs into Arabic as a first step to an affordable, practical digital learning model.

Will the COVID-19 crisis lead the Egyptian educational system to shift to digital learning?

I think we definitely do not have a choice, regardless of the crisis. Students cannot function properly in a global economy without digital literacy and fluency.

How can an educational facility start its new digital learning system?

I could outline tips from my experience: First the educational facility has to provide a centralised unit (like the Center for Learning and Teaching at AUC) that supports faculty development efforts. Second, the administration should make sure that this centre is staffed with experts (instructional designers).

Third, train students to help faculty with technology. For example at AUC, we have made use of our students and created a Student Technology Assistants programme. We trained students to help faculty with technology, and it has been very successful as it has been going for 17 years.

Fourth, my recommendation is to be patient. To undertake any cultural change in large institutions takes time but with the proper support faculty and students are open to innovation. However all this depends on a strong university IT infrastructure and an investment in one or two educational platforms.

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Fiscal policy key to saving lives during COVID-19 pandemic: IMF’s Mauro to DNE Wed, 15 Apr 2020 17:37:59 +0000 Policymakers should offer emergency protection lifelines through temporary, timely, and targeted fiscal measures, says IMF’s Deputy Director of Fiscal Affairs

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Governments, particularly in developing countries such as Egypt, can take steps to protect their citizens from the impact of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, says Paolo Mauro, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Mauro outlines those steps and how governments can use systems currently in place to minimise the economic damage.

What are the fiscal policies that have been put in place to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, especially in countries like Egypt?

Fiscal policy is the key to saving lives and protecting people from the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments should finance additional health/medical resources, as much as needed. Policymakers should offer emergency lifelines through timely, temporary, and targeted fiscal measures to protect people from losing jobs and incomes, and viable companies from bankruptcies.

These actions would limit permanent scarring of economies. Relief is especially needed for the most vulnerable and liquidity constrained individuals and businesses, such as daily workers and SMEs, particularly in the worst affected sectors. Authorities in developing countries could use measures such as expanded unemployment benefits, cash transfers for low income households or irregular workers, and tax relief for small firms. The challenge is often greater in emerging markets and developing economies that have more difficulty in accessing finance and, in some cases, face sharp drops in revenues from commodity market or tourism.

Global coordination can help achieve a universally low-cost vaccine and medicine, and support developing countries – especially those with limited health capacity – through aid, medical resources, and concessional emergency financing.

Which is more effective as an economic policy, business subsidies and tax relief for companies to preserve employment or direct cash transfers to households?

Right now, the objective is to save lives and livelihoods, not to stimulate demand.

As in other developing economies with less developed social safety nets, the effectiveness of fiscal support can be enhanced by linking additional transfers to existing programmes. For example, additional transfers through the Takaful and Karama benefit programmes in Egypt seem appropriate to protect people’s livelihoods.

On the revenue side, deferrals of taxes and social security contributions are common tools among countries, to help maintain the cash flow for people and firms in difficult times. Profit-based tax advantages such as tax holidays should be avoided because they are not linked to the expenditure effort and would disproportionately reward businesses with the greatest profits.

All fiscal measures should be properly assessed and disclosed. Fiscal risks should be monitored to ensure transparency, good governance, and accountability.

Another objective is to promote a swift recovery once the pandemic is under control. Support should be timely, targeted, temporary, and transparent. The choice of policies and tools will depend on the country circumstances as they should use what is readily available given the urgency. Most countries will use a mix of support to households and firms.

Support to households should be targeted to ensure access to basic goods and services. Actions include tax deferrals, cash transfers, extended unemployment benefits, and social assistance. These measures truly are emergency lifelines aimed at families that have lost jobs or sources of income.

In countries with large informal sectors, support to individuals through the social protection system should play a prominent role. If a social cash transfer system already exists, one option is to increase transfer amounts and ease eligibility criteria. If no cash transfer system exists and administrative capacity is weak, an alternative is to subsidise utility (or other basic spending items) bills. In some cases, fintech might also help. If mobile payments are well-developed, the government might use this existing infrastructure for cash transfers.

For firms, the objective is to avoid permanent scarring. Fiscal policies can help preserve employment and wages while maintaining capacity that will be crucial for recovery. That includes avoiding unnecessary bankruptcies leading to job losses and liquidation of assets. Assistance to firms can help preserveindeed can be made conditional on preserving —jobs.

It is important for all these policy tools to embed clear phasing-out mechanisms at the outset, to ensure that they facilitate rather than impede the eventual recovery.

How can central banks balance enormous fiscal efforts with preventing interest on government debt to soar and getting debt-to-GDP ratio unchecked?

In emerging markets and developing countries, ensuring that inflation expectations are anchored is particularly important, not only because higher prices reduce purchasing power, but also because higher inflation puts pressure on the exchange rate. The increase in public debt is likely to be one-off due to the temporary nature of the pandemic shock. Even so, the large cost of these fiscal measures should be embedded in a medium-term fiscal framework, and measures such as public guarantees should be transparently managed and recorded.

Monetary authorities will face a balancing act in that context. Reducing interest rates would support the economy and the fiscal effort, but this would have implications for the exchange rate, with associated effects on the burden of foreign currency debt. Selling foreign exchange to maintain orderly market conditions can on occasion help navigate that trade-off, but central banks will need to use caution to preserve scarce foreign exchange reserves.

What should developing countries, Egypt in particular, do to help their economies recover in the post-pandemic period?

The actions governments take now will determine the speed and strength of their recovery in the post-pandemic period. Policies that support households and firms in order to preserve the complex web of relationships in the economy (for example, between firms and workers, firms and banks), and the incomes of families during the pandemic, will facilitate the subsequent recovery as the pandemic recedes. As such, during this emergency, policymakers should do whatever it takes, although they should also keep the receipts. This means fully accommodating spending on health and emergency services and providing lifelines to hard-hit households and businesses. It also means deploying any measures in a temporary, transparent, and efficient way to minimise fiscal risks.

In Egypt, the government has announced a fiscal package amounting to 2% of GDP. This includes additional allocations to the health sector, an expansion of cash transfers for vulnerable households, and targeted support for workers and firms in the most severely hit sectors, such as tourism. To provide liquidity support, the authorities have also extended deadlines for income tax payments and announced a temporary real estate tax exemption. These are steps in the right direction.

Turning to developing economies more generally, where possible, the temporary deterioration of the fiscal deficits should be financed from concessional sources. In this regard, international support will be key to raise much needed health and budget financing.

Once the health crisis has waned, there will be a need for developing economies to put their fiscal position back on a sustainable path. The composition of fiscal consolidation should rely primarily on improving the tax capacity and efficiency of current spending to minimise the effects on growth, while safeguarding and expanding much needed investments in people and infrastructure to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

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South Korea doubles support for Egypt’s Covid-19 fight: Ambassador Mon, 13 Apr 2020 05:00:06 +0000 Seoul to provide Cairo with $400,000 in emergency assistance, medical equipment

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South Korea is to double its financial support for Egypt in combating the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the country’s ambassador to Egypt, Yeocheol Yoon, has announced. With this in mind, South Korea will allocate $200,000 in emergency assistance to support Egypt’s fight against the coronavirus.

“As an additional measure to follow up on our initial emergency aid, South Korea has decided to further provide important medical equipment such as CT scanners and oxygen tanks, which can help detect and treat Covid-19, equivalent to $200,000, to a local hospital in New Salhia, Sharqeya governorate, as part of our official development assistance (ODA),” the ambassador said.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Yoon on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Egypt and South Korea, celebrated on 13 April. During the interview, Yoon shed light on the diversified Egyptian-South Korean relations, and the two countries’ cooperation on Covid-19 fight.

What are the updates of Egypt-South Korean cooperation against Covid-19?

As the proverb goes “A friend in need is a friend in deed”, the Korean government is fully ready to assist its Egyptian counterpart by sharing its experiences and insights to contribute to minimising the hardships and difficulties our Egyptian friends may suffer before it gets more serious.

Realising not only the importance of stronger solidarity and coordinated actions in the global community to win against Covid-19, but also two countries’ best ever bilateral relations, the Korean government is financially supporting Egypt in its battle against the pandemic.

Can you tell us more about South Korea’s experience in combating Covid-19?

The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in South Korea was announced on 20 January, and the country soon became one of the worst-hit countries, aside from China, in the early stages of outbreak with the sharply increasing number of cases.

However, after vigorous testing, with the total number of tests reaching half a million people and meticulous tracing, the number of new daily confirmed cases peaked in late February and has steadily declined. Since mid-March, the daily recovered cases have significantly surpassed new confirmed cases, reducing the number of patients in treatment. Now, many experts and global media started to cover Korea’s successful response to Covid-19 spread, particularly its innovative and thorough testing.

Part of a past meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in

The Korean government’s efforts to contain Covid-19 are also summarised in five key elements with the acronym TRUST. This stands for Transparency, Robust screening and quarantine, Unique and Universally-applicable, Strict control, and Treatment.

My sincere wish for both the South Korean and Egyptian people is that we will overcome this crisis as early as possible, so that we can further deepen our relationships, as an old Korean saying goes “After the rain, earth gets more solid”.

How is the South Korean embassy celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Egypt?

Today, in normal circumstances, we would have celebrated the “silver jubilee” of our official relations with many events highlighting our current status of cooperation and friendship in economy and culture. We would have recognised many Egyptian friends in the government, business community, and cultural sectors, who made it possible for us to advance our relationship this far, even without a summit meeting.

Somehow God presented us with this new challenge of Covid-19, and tested how solid resolve is to fight it together upon our tradition of friendship and common prosperity forged during the last quarter century. In that sense, our anniversary provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of true friendship in our times of uncertainty and upheavals when everybody is looking after one’s own safety and survival.

I am sure the Korean and Egyptian peoples will prevail after going through this difficult period hand-in-hand, and create our bright future together, for another quarter century and beyond.

Looking back, one may wonder why it took so long for our official relations to materialise when we have many historical reasons to be close friends.

Egypt and South Korea’s historical background dates back to 100 years ago, when the Korean people expressed their strong desire for independence from the Japanese occupation with their March 1st Movement in 1919. On the other side of the globe, the Egyptians also fought for their freedom in the same year and soon achieved their independence in 1922, and both peoples were encouraged by the Principle of Self-Determination in the aftermath of World War I.

Cairo has been engraved in the hearts of the Korean people since November 1943 when the Cairo Declaration was adopted by the allied powers promising the freedom and independence of Korea from the Japanese occupation.

When World War II came to an end in less than two years, Korea was liberated from Japan on 15 August 1945 and was reborn as an independent state, the Republic of Korea three years later, fulfilling the promise of the Cairo Declaration.

Fifty years had passed since the historic milestone when official diplomatic relations finally started in 1995. The two countries, however, have witnessed rapidly growing development in various fields over the past quarter century. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi made a historic visit to Korea in March 2016, when the two countries adopted the Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership. This was followed by the summit meeting between President Moon Jae-in and President Al-Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018. In October 2019, a high-level Korean business delegation met President Al-Sisi. They were impressed by his vision for future horizons of economic cooperation to make Egypt a hub of trade and industry in the Middle East and Africa.

Many Korean companies are already investing in Egypt and joining the path for the development of Egypt’s economy. Samsung and LG, with their investments of more than $550m, have contributed to Egypt’s foreign currency reserves through exporting their “Made in Egypt” products to neighbouring countries over $700m per year.

GS Engineering & Construction has recently completed Egypt’s largest oil refinery (ERC) at Mostorod, reducing Egypt’s diesel imports by half and providing many other various products.

More than 30 Korean companies with almost 10,000 Egyptian employees are boosting the Egyptian economy in various areas.

Can you update us on the projects South Korea is supporting in Egypt?

The Korea-Egypt Technological University in Beni Suef, the Korea International Cooperation Agency’s (KOICA) $5.83m project, is providing the practical training in ICT and Mechatronics for youth in Upper Egypt. This is to equip them with useful skills and provide better job opportunities, and Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly lauded and hoped for its replication throughout Egypt.

The project of modernising the railway corridor signalling system between Luxor and Naga Hamady will greatly improve efficiency and safety of the system and, like the Technological University, contribute to creating a better economic ecosystem in Upper Egypt, in line with the Egyptian governmental policy.

Despite the geographical distance and different backgrounds in history and culture, Korean and Egyptian peoples understand each other very well and share the common values in their daily lives, which are well shown by young Egyptians’ love of Korean cultures and even their deeper understanding of K-dramas being aired on an Egyptian TV channel five days a week.

Last year, in our efforts to promote the mutual understanding between two countries, my embassy worked on a project creating a YouTube series called “Assalam Alaykcum, Cairo!” to introduce modern Egyptian life to the Korean people with the participation of Korean-speaking Egyptian students.

All things considered, I can proudly say that the two countries’ relationship has never been better.

It was at this juncture that we were working on a historic visit in mid-March by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Egypt to celebrate the 25th anniversary and meet with President Al-Sisi to build their vision for our bilateral relations for another quarter century. We even had our Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee’s visit in preparation for this summit.

Unfortunately, President Moon’s visit to Egypt had to be postponed at the last minute due to the unexpected worldwide outbreak of Covid-19. Still, the two presidents had a telephone conversation on 5 March and discussed ways to further expand our cooperation in various areas.

Can you please elaborate on both leaders’ phone conversation?

President Al-Sisi expressed Egypt’s firm solidarity with South Korea in confronting Covid-19. They also came to an agreement on joint efforts to cope with the global crisis.

As the two presidents confirmed during the phone conversation, the year 2020 will be a great opportunity to upgrade our relations from a Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership to a higher level, not only with economy and infrastructure, but also with health, medicine, and waste treatment to improve the living environment of our fellow Egyptians.

Are there any new projects the embassy works on?

The Korean embassy in Cairo has been working hard on those projects in cooperation with Egyptian colleagues from various ministries to reap mutual benefits for both our peoples.

As one of the leading pillars for our future cooperation, the two countries will embark on a joint study on the possibility of concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral trade as well as investment which will be greatly facilitated and stimulated through the FTA. The Korean Trade Minister, during her visit to Egypt last February, already had substantive discussions with her Egyptian counterpart, and they agreed on establishing a task force to make necessary studies and preparation.

Egypt being the most advanced nation in Africa, with a strategic location and young, competent population, we believe it is the right time to allow Korean companies’ repositioning of their production “Made in Egypt” for export to neighbours in the Mediterranean and Africa, making Egypt an industrial and export hub in the region.

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FRA finalises Sukuk regulations’ amendments, paving the way for promising investment Sat, 11 Apr 2020 17:58:08 +0000 several companies want to issue sukuk in 2020, including real estate investment, services, agricultural reclamation

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After the great success of the first Sukuk issuance for the Talaat Mustafa Group (TMG), Daily News Egypt met with the Financial Regulatory Authority’s (FRA) team responsible for issuing Sukuk in Egypt. The team is led by Sayed Abdel Fadeel, head of Central Department for Corporate Finance at the FRA. The success of the first Sukuk issuance can be credited to Abdel Fadeel for creating an attractive and accessible legislative climate for companies to enter this new field easily and quickly.

Participants in the interview are Abdel Fadeel along with Noha Ehab, supervisor of the Sukuk department at the FRA; Marwa Mahmoud, a researcher at a financial consulting company; and Mohamed El-Beltagy, chairperson of the Egyptian Islamic Finance Association.

How long did it take the FRA to create a appropriate legislative environment for sukuk issuance?

Sayed Abdel Fadeel: We started preparing the legislative structure for the sukuk in August 2018. We have been keen throughout this period to facilitate the procedures and make them simple, clear, and uncomplicated. The FRA prepared guiding models with all the required steps in the various stages of issuing the Sukuk. The issuer of the Sukuk is required to only fill out and complete those documents. The FRA’s work team also had a role in marketing and promoting the Sukuk product, which resulted in several companies currently wishing to issue it, including CIAF Leasing whose Sukuk issuance was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In addition, other companies from the private sector seek to issue their own Sukuk, from construction, agricultural reclamation, and service sectors, plus Sarwa Capital. We are targeting EGP 5bn worth Sukuk issuances this year.

Sayed Abdel Fadeel, head of Central Department for Corporate Finance at the FRA

How long did it take TMG to obtain the FRA approval for its Sukuk issuance?

Sayed Abdel Fadeel: TMG started the procedures on 23 March and its request was approved on 8 April. It’s a record time in light of the current conditions. Most of the time was spent in obtaining the credit rating of the issuance and preparing its feasibility study, so once TMG had completed these two steps, the next move was simple and easy, in contrary to the long period that companies usually took in IPOs.

After this experience, has the FRA felt the need to make amendments to the regulations of Sukuk issuance?

Sayed Abdel Fadeel: The executive regulations has not represented an obstacle to the issuance of the TMG’s Sukuk, however, the FRA has prepared amendments to the regulations to make them more comprehensive for all types of Sukuk in the global financial markets. The amendments included adding five new types of Sukuk: Istisna’a, investment agency, Salam, Muzaraa, and Musaqat. The current regulations include four types: Murabaha, Ijara, Musharaka, and Mudaraba. The amendments have been sent to the cabinet for approval.

What is the advantage of Sukuk over other financing instruments?

Sayed Abdel Fadeel: Sukuk has more than one competitive advantage over other financing instruments. Most notably, financing through Sukuk has the least burdensome, in addition to participating in profits, as the issuing company determines a specific return for the holders that they receive throughout the life of the Sukuk. They also share the loss if the project incurs losses, so it is a balanced financing instrument  between stocks and bonds, besides being compatible with the Islamic law, a great feature that attracts new blood and a broad segment of investors who prefer this type of investments.

In addition, the issuing party also gets the advantage of separating its financial performance and the new project funded by Sukuk. This means that the issuing company may not have a good financial performance, but the company has strong and successful feasibility studies for its issuance. The Sukuk depends only on feasibility studies and credit ratings for the issuance, not the company, in contrary to bonds and other financing instruments. So the Sukuk is very attractive for companies, especially in the public enterprise sector.

Noha Ehab, supervisor of the Sukuk department at the FRA

As for the investor, the Sukuk is safer than stocks and bonds. Stocks are known for their high risk. But the Sukuk gives its holder regular returns according to the projected cash flows from the issuance based on a feasibility study. At the same time, the Sukuk holder is considered a partner in the process [profit and loss], so it is compatible with the Islamic law.

Sukuk is also distinguished from bonds in being evaluated, monitored, and followed by more than one authority, starting with feasibility studies, credit rating, the Central Shariah Supervisory Committee and other Shariah sub-committees, the FRA, and the Egyptian Exchange.

How many companies have got Sukuk issuer licence in Egypt? Have you received new licensing requests?

Noha Ehab: Currently, there are only two companies that have obtained a Sukuk issuance licence, EFG Hermes and Sarwa Capital. There are also licensing requests from more than one company, the most prominent of which are the First Abu Dhabi Bank and Banque Misr.

When do you expect the CIAF Leasing’s Sukuk issuance?

Noha Ehab: CIAF’s sukuk issuance is in an advanced stage, and I expect it to be ready in the fourth quarter (4Q) of the year. The current flight suspension was expected to affect the issuance. However, the success of the TMG Sukuk will increase investors’ appetite for this type of financing instruments. This would stimulate the Sukuk issuance operations for companies during the coming period. In addition, the interest rate cut by 300 basis points will push the market for non-bank financial activities in general.

Would the repercussions of the coronavirus affect the Sukuk issuance?

Noha Ehab: There are four companies working on issuing Sukuk with the FRA. The 3Q 2020 will see another issuance after the coronavirus situation abates.

A booklet for individual investors is being presented in the form of Q&A to clarify all the issues related to Sukuk. The FRA issued also a Sukuk guideline to clarify the procedures for the investors and the different types of Sukuk.

Marwa Mahmoud, a researcher at a financial consulting company

What are the criteria for choosing the Sukuk type?

Marwa Mahmoud: The entity wishing to issue Sukuk shall determine the type or the appropriate formula for the issuance according to two factors: the nature of the project and which financing formula will be more appropriate with it. For example, if a project relies on buying and selling goods and speculation to make profits, then the best Sukuk type is Mudaraba. But if a project is a building that makes profits from rents, the best type is Ijara with a stable and semi-guaranteed return. The type of instrument is also determined according to the tendency of the issuing party. In many cases, the issuing party is not willing to share the project’s profits with Sukuk holders and only disburse a certain amount periodically. In this case, the most appropriate type of Sukuk is Ijara or Murabaha. In the event that the company desires to include the Sukuk holders in profit and loss, the most suitable type is Mudaraba or Musharaka, and it has the highest risk compared to other types.

Do the current Sukuk legislations need amendments?

Marwa Mahmoud: During the period of preparing Sukuk legislations, the FRA’s work team reviewed all global legislations on Sukuk issuance. This stage took a lot of time and effort that resulted in the FRA’s success in presenting appropriate legislation for the Egyptian market.

To determine if we need amendments, we have to first study TMG’s Sukuk offering, being the first in the local market. With more companies working in different fields, the FRA would make amendments to provide more types of Sukuk.

Mohamed El-Beltagy, chairperson of the Egyptian Islamic Finance Association

How did you ensure that the Sukuk complies with the Islamic law?

Mohamed El-Beltagy: Aside from the nature of the project, which must be in line with the Islamic law, it must be ensured that the accounting standards, financial foundations, revenue calculation mechanisms, and the company’s liquidation mechanisms are compatible with the Islamic law. This is ascertained before the issuance of the instrument, through its review by the Sharia supervisory committee of the company, on the one hand, and also by the Central Sharia Supervisory Committee of the FRA.

How do you see the success opportunities of Sukuk locally, especially with the increase in Islamic financing locally and globally?

Mohamed El-Beltagy: The sukuk will be a preferred financing instrument at banks, both Islamic and non-Islamic, which will be issued to exploit surplus capitals and as an alternative to treasury bills. It will be attractive to a broad segment of investors who prefer investments compatible with the Islamic law. The size of investors in banking products compatible with the Islamic law is about 3 million customers out of a total of 15 million customers in Egypt. Those 3 million customers are expected to direct their investments to Sukuk to diversify their investment portfolio.

I expect the sukuk to contribute to the growth of the Islamic transactions in Egypt. The volume of Islamic deposits in the Egyptian market reached about EGP 280bn in 2019, and constitutes 6.6% of the Egyptian banking market, an increase of EGP 42.9bn from 2018. The number of Islamic bank branches of Egyptian banks is 236 branches, which constitutes 6.2% of bank branches in Egypt.

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Egypt’s EGP 100bn coronavirus emergency fund part of 2019/20 budget: MP Hussein Eissa Mon, 23 Mar 2020 10:43:14 +0000 138 budget recommendations to be announced in two weeks

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Hussein Eissa, head of the parliament’s planning and budget committee, said the EGP 100bn emergency fund announced by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to fight coronavirus and cushion its impact on the economy is part of the current 2019/20 budget, not the next one.

Eissa stressed in an interview with Daily News Egypt, that the state’s crisis management is carried out with high efficiency.

The planning and budget committee’s role is to discuss and observe the government’s spending and evaluate it, before providing recommendations.

What is the impact of the spread of Coronavirus on the Egyptian economy?

It has economic effects in the fields of tourism and travel, and causes the cancellation of many economic events globally. Egypt’s crisis management under the supervision of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is carried out with high efficiency. The situation is being 24/7 followed. Relevant ministries take precautionary measures and hold periodic meetings to follow the latest developments and reduce the impact of the crisis on citizens.

So far, the situation is safe and under control, and death rates as well as confirmed cases are much lower than in other surrounding countries. As for the economic aspect, the crisis cast a shadow over the world, as the virus causes the cancellation of flights between some countries, including Egypt and some European countries. Stock market indexes declined, as did the tourism movement.

How does the state spend in such crises?

In the general budget, there is an item called emergency that represents 10% of the total budget, and it is approved in advance in the parliament. It also gets the surpluses of other items. The allocations in this item are spent on such crises and emergency matters. It now supports the Ministry of Health to tackle the coronavirus.

The EGP 100bn announced by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to fund the comprehensive plan and the precautionary measures is part of the current budget of 2019/20. The next budget of 2020/21 will start on 1 July, so most of the emergency package will be funded from the current budget .

How do you see the government balance sheet for 2018/19?

We finished a few days ago discussing and approving the balance sheet for the past fiscal year, and after that, we held 25 meetings to discuss the details and summoned a large number of officials from ministries and economic and service bodies. We have some positive and negative comments. Our positive comments include a decrease in the rates of expenditures, higher revenues, and lower deficit-to-GDP and debt-to-GDP ratios, which are all good. We also have negative comments that actually have extended through decades, such as economic bodies making losses and lack of accuracy in financial statements. We prepared a report of 138 recommendations that will be put out to the public in two weeks during a plenary session.

What are the most prominent laws put forward in the last round of the parliament?

We have completed some laws concerning tax disputes, developing textile industry, and public enterprise sector. We have now finished discussing the partnership law with the private sector and will be presented to the public session soon along with amendments to the law of The Sovereign Fund of Egypt and the tax law, in addition to the completion of the customs law that will be presented for discussion within a few weeks.

We are currently discussing the unified tax draft law, which will be a major shift in the tax system, and we will soon work on the Unified Planning Law, amendments to the Income Tax Law and Value-Added Tax, followed by the Public Finance and Government Accounting Law. These laws will be finalised before June and we plan to begin discussing the budget in April.

When will the parliament intervene to compel the government to put a limit for domestic and foreign borrowing?

A year ago, a committee was formed to follow the external debt under the direction of the President and the Minister of Planning. Among its goals was to set a flexible ceiling for borrowing, and I envision that we will reach good results in this file.

What is the position of the committee regarding the resumption of capital gains tax on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX)?

The capital gains tax is already in place, but its implementation has been postponed until 30 June, and there are talks between the EGX and the Ministry of Finance regarding postponing the tax again or abolishing it, and so far the planning and budget committee has not received the final result of these negotiations. Our position in this matter is clear: achieving a balance between public treasury and tax revenues, while not imposing taxes that affect the activity of the EGX, taking into account that there are other factors that affect the stock market rather than taxes.

After the emergence of “trembling hands” (indecisive leadership) in the Tax Authority following the cases of corruption in the entity, don’t you see the importance of reforming the tax system?

Of course, there is a great importance for reforming the tax system, which collects 75% of the total state revenue, which is a globally established percentage, and we aim annually to collect taxes between EGP 800-850bn and the tax apparatus is currently subject to a complete restructuring in terms of financial, administrative, organisational, digitisation, and raising the efficiency of the tax authority. We also discuss the unified tax draft law to have a legislative umbrella for the amendments that are taking place today in the Egyptian Tax Authority.

It is known that the tax system anywhere in the world is based on tax legislation, and 99% of our efforts throughout the past  focused on legislation, but now we focus on management that would increase the tax revenue if it were developed.

Some businesspeople object custodial penalties in the new Customs Law, will the committee amend this part in the law?

We have already finished discussing the law, but the final touches are left and it will be submitted to the plenary session within a few weeks. As for the custodial penalties, such penalties are only for who commits a crime.

Do you have new suggestions to activate social protection mechanisms in the next general budget?

We have not yet received the new draft budget and will begin discussing it in April, but there is no doubt that the funds allocated to social protection programmes are increasing annually, which have reached EGP 70-80bn.

Is there a possibility that the committee will amend spending items in next budget?

We make adjustments to the spending items annually and this is our right as a parliament, but in consultation with the government, so that the latter can implement these amendments. We have formed a committee to follow up on the budget committee’s recommendations.

Only 50% of the recommendations were implemented in the current budget, according to the statements of the follow-up committee. What are the reasons for not implementing the remaining recommendations?

There are two types of recommendations, the first for the balance sheet and the second for the general budget, and we annually follow up on the implementation of these recommendations. The indicators say that the rate of government response to our recommendations rises every year as a result of our follow-up.

What are the main problems that the committee examined and resolved?

Perhaps the economic reform programme is one of the most important problems that we faced, and I remember saying to former prime minister Sherif Ismail at the time, in the first budget we discussed in 2016/17 that Egypt cannot apply this type of budget for more than two years to come, given the percentage of deficit and the lack of resources and increased expenses. When the government started its reform programme in November 2016, we supported its decision and were put through great pressure.

Is spending on education and health sectors satisfactory? Are there any future plans?

The funds allocated to education and health sectors in the budget rise annually as stipulated in the Constitution, but in a way that does not contradict the allocations for other sectors, yet I still insist on finding unconventional resources of funding for these two sectors. Each segment of the society should bear part of these services’ costs depending on their financial situation. We are still unaware of the economics of service provision, which is a science, and indicates that a single service can be offered at different prices according to the capability of the service recipients, and those who do not have the ability to pay are exempted from paying the service costs, thus achieving social justice.

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saib aims to achieve 200% growth in net profit year-end: chairperson Sun, 22 Mar 2020 06:00:44 +0000 Bank has 1.31% market share of total loans, 1.47% deposit market share: El Khouly

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Société Arabe Internationale de Banque (saib) aims to achieve 200% growth in net profit by the end of the year, said Chairperson and Managing Director Tarek El Khouly.

El Khouly told Daily News Egypt that the bank’s market share of loans amounts to 1.31%, while its share of deposits stands at 1.47%.

“We aim to increase our corporate loan portfolio 25% and pump EGP 1bn into retail banking portfolio,” he added.

According to El Khouly, the bank’s medium-term strategy 2019-2022 was targeting maximising its revenues. The bank also aims to support industrial companies and exporters, as well as finance national projects.

He said the bank succeeded in taking the portfolio of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to EGP 4.5bn, equivalent to 20% of the total loan portfolio in the bank, revealing that the bank is discussing with real estate developers the revitalisation of the middle-income housing initiative. Preparations are currently underway to launch the first new and innovative real estate financing programme in the Egyptian market.

El Khouly pointed out that defaulting debt ratio fell to 3.4% in 2019, compared to 4.5% in 2018, expecting a further decrease with the implementation of the Central Band of Egypt’s (CBE) Non Performing Loans (NPL) Initiative.

The bank plans to storm digital transformation services at a steady pace with the aim of achieving financial inclusion and sustainable development.

El Khouly pointed out that the bank’s branch network reached 34, and it is expected to open 6 new branches, of which 3 outside Greater Cairo.

What are the main indicators of the bank’s performance?

We achieved unprecedented growth in business results during 2019, as the bank recorded a net profit of $12.4m, compared to losses of $19.3m in 2018.

There is no doubt that the experience and high efficiency of the bank’s 1,250 employees was a main pillar for the distinguished results.

We developed medium-term strategy (2019-2022) that aimed at maximising bank revenues and reducing cost of funds which reached its peak by the end of 2018. In 2019, the bank was able to reduce the cost 35%, which left a positive impact on the net interest margin.

The most important criteria on which the bank relied to achieve this surge in results is reclassifying the portfolio of financial investments from the date they were retained, until the maturity date, which enabled the bank to sell part of those investments and invest the proceeds of sale in higher-yielding assets, as well as achieve capital gains, and reduce the consequential tax effect.

In addition, there has been expansion in the field of retail banking, as about 25 new products were launched, including personal loans and credit cards, to all customer segments, which resulted in the bank achieving a 160% growth in the portfolio of this sector.

What are the latest developments regarding SMEs financing? How much is the portfolio of these projects so far?

The size of that portfolio is about EGP 4.5bn, representing 20% of the total loan portfolio. The bank has been involved in this initiative since 2016.

Société Arabe Internationale de Banque (saib) Chairperson and Managing Director Tarek El Khouly.

What is the bank’s role in relation to mortgage finance whether inside and outside CBE’s initiative?

In line with the state’s plan to support various groups in society to have a healthy and safe housing at the highest specifications, a protocol was signed with the Mortgage Finance Fund to finance social housing customers. The value of this financing amounted to EGP 358m in December 2019, benefiting 3,480 customers, distributed over 12 social housing projects in 6th of October, Mansoura, Suez, 10th of Ramadan, Badr, El Shorouk, Obour, and Borg El Arab cities.

The bank’s mortgage finance extended to include Upper Egypt, namely in Assiut and Luxor. In support of women, the bank allocated 22% of its mortgage finance portfolio to female customers.

The bank also participated in CBE’s initiative of financing housing projects for middle-income people. CBE allocated EGP 50bn for this initiative. The agreement was discussed with real estate developers and the Ministry of Housing to finance housing units in those projects.

Preparation is underway to launch new and innovative mortgage finance programme in the banking market, as saib is considered a leader in such programmes that follow Islamic Sharia and adhere to the mortgage finance law, such as Murabahah and Ijarah.

The bank aims to launch this programme in the second quarter of this year. We expect a growth in the mortgage finance activity as a result of the increasing property prices and demand on both local and regional levels, as Egyptian real estate is an attractive investment destination.

The real estate sector is one of the bank’s main priorities through an integrated management of real estate funding. It includes a professional team, with the target of achieving 25% growth in the real estate portfolio in 2020.

What are the most prominent features of saib’s strategy in 2020?

We will continue the growth strategy through expanding in corporate loan portfolio, especially industrial companies and exporters, as well as funding economic development projects. It will also expand retail banking to continue what it started in the last five months of last year. 

How much growth does saib target in loan portfolio and profits?

We target 25% growth in average, and net profit growth of over 200% by the end of 2020.

What is the bank’s plan for geographic expansion whether in terms of branches or ATMs? Will the plan include any electronic branches?

The bank has 34 branches in Egypt, and 6 others are expected to open, including 3 outside Greater Cairo, in conjunction with launching our new identity and brand.

Which areas does Saib plan to enter in the upcoming period?

We aim to expand outside the capital, as well as open new branches in Zagazig, Ismailia, Hurghada, Mineya, and Alexandria. Additionally, more branches will open in malls, including Concord in Sheikh Zayed, GUC, and New Administrative Capital.

saib also seeks to offer the best services possible to its existing clients as well as reach new clients and achieve financial conclusion.

What are the latest developments regarding the NPLs at saib?

NPLs dropped to 3.4% in 2019, compared to 4.5% in 2018. This percentage is expected to improve.

How much is saib’s capital and property rights currently?

Our capital is estimated at $150m, equivalent to EGP 2.355bn. The total property rights are estimated at EGP 4.8bn.

How much is the bank’s market share and its target figure?

Our credit portfolio is $1.6bn, and the deposit portfolio is $1.6bn. saib’s market share of loans is 1.31%, and 1.47% for deposits. The bank is working to increase its corporate loan portfolio 25%, as well as raise retail banking portfolio by EGP 1bn in 2020.

What is the role that the bank plays in spreading e-payments and financial technology in the Egyptian market?

saib seeks to offer a package of services and new banking products, as well as develop its existing services, including the second phase of internet banking and mobile banking which allow customers to transfer between their accounts as well as to others inside or outside the bank, in addition to paying their own bills. More services will be available to clients through the bank’s mobile application.

saib also seeks to spread 50 ATMs across the country this year. It will also launch e-payment services for bills, whether through internet banking, ATMs, or saib e-wallet.

Earlier this year, the bank launched the SMS service for clients to enable them to follow up on their accounts and the transactions on them.

What do you think about the initiative launched by CBE to support the industry and finance housing for middle-income families?

CBE’s initiative will end recession in the industrial, commercial, real estate, and consumer markets, in line with its wise monetary policy which aims to reduce unemployment and increase growth in real investment.

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Zewail City needs EGP 2.2bn to complete construction works: chairperson Fri, 20 Mar 2020 08:00:25 +0000 Donations reached EGP 1.28bn, national authorities provide annual support of EGP 130m

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Zewail City of Science and Technology – Egypt’s national project for the scientific renaissance – is based on a vision that was developed to capture the imagination of the Egyptians and to prove the power of science in building the future.

Just as the Aswan High Dam provided the energy needed to build a strong industrial base, Zewail City will provide the energy needed for minds in the era of science, as a knowledge-based economy is the only way to improve and increase a country’s national productivity.

Despite the current economic difficulties, the Egyptians decided to invest in the future. The government provided the lands and facilities needed for that national project.

The citizens inside and outside the country started to donate, from children to businesspeople.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Chairperson of Zewail City Sherif Sedky about the situation of the project and its future plans.

What are the latest developments regarding the Zewail City project?

The second phase of the city is currently under construction by the Armed Forces Engineering Authority (AFEA), which is making unremitting efforts to complete the city according to the timetable and in a manner befitting such ambitious scientific project that has the patronage of the President.

The city needs EGP 2.2bn to complete the construction works, and despite that, the AFEA did not working on the project. We spent EGP 800m on building construction and infrastructure of the city.

The biggest challenge facing the city is the financial sustainability, whether for construction or education. There are students who cannot afford tuition fees, while the city is still paying construction arrears.

However, the state and the parliament always stressed their support of the project.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Chairperson of Zewail City Sherif Sedky about the situation of the project and its future plans.

How much donations has Zewail City received?

Zewail City has received EGP 1.28bn in donations since inception. Annual grants and support from various institutions range between EGP 120-140m. Grants from banks also amount to EGP 30-32m annually. The project has not received any funding from abroad.

What are the most prominent bodies and institutions supporting the city and its students?

National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, United Bank, QNB Alahli, El Sewedy Electric, Misr El Kheir, Egyptian Refining Company, Egyptian Zakat and Charity House, Telecom Egypt, and National Bank of Kuwait.

How much are the tuition fees in Zewail City?

Last year, the tuition fees were EGP 125,000, but increased to EGP 135,000 this year. It will be EGP 145,000 next year. Fees rise annually by 7%, but the real cost is EGP 270,000.

Tuition fees this year is only 50% of the real cost, where most of the students get free grants. Students do not have to be rich to join the university.

How many did graduate from Zewail City? What did they do after graduation?

The first batch of science was graduated in June 2017, and the first engineering batch was in June 2018. They numbered about 450 graduates. The employment rate after graduation is 90%, and part of the graduates were appointed as teaching assistants in the city.

About 23% of the graduates were appointed in private sector companies, including Vodafone, KarmSolar, BMW, and Children’s Cancer Hospital. About 32% of the graduates received PhD scholarships, while others established their own companies.

How does Zewail City choose its students?

Students must be gifted and smart. High school grades should be 90% or more. We have acceptance tests that depend on the student’s understanding of basic sciences, like chemistry, physics, maths, and biology. We also conduct an interview and an English language test, and then set a date for candidates to come for assessing their financial situation to determine their tuition fees.

Who set the educational curricula in Zewail City?

All the curricula that students study are developed by Egyptians, and we try to serve future fields, such as new and renewable energy, nanotechnology, environment, biomedical research, and basic sciences such as Earth and universe physics. Late Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail developed a future vision of the city’s curricula for up to 30 years. We have departments that do not exist in other universities.

What is the main goal of the city? Do you think Dr. Zewail’s dream was fulfilled?

The main goal is to build a different generation that is able to interact with the society and help solve strategic problems and localise the industry. The measure of success is quality of alumni and their ability to interact with the society. Zewail City presents a limited number of graduates but they can be leaders.

Dr. Zewail’s personality was the main ingredient of success. He provided all the financial capabilities that allow this goal to be achieved at the highest international levels and gave me a full mandate to do this task as he dedicated his time to discuss all the details of the academic programmes and to ensure that they keep pace with the latest in global science.

We work on a firm institutional system, and therefore all regulations are certified and we do not allow exceptions. We can say that Zewail’s dream is fulfilled and the city is on the right path that he has drawn.

What are the outputs of Zewail City to society?

We always strive to find solutions to the strategic challenges facing society, graduating generations of researchers who have the ability to keep pace with the labour market, and awareness of the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution because we weave solutions through scientific research, to solve the problems of society.

We have started experimenting and manufacturing many equipment and devices through workshops to solve problems in agriculture, industry, and energy. For example, we manufactured a machine that produces tonnes of extended-effect urea fertiliser, a solar-powered robot to clean solar cells, and laboratory devices in cooperation with the Arab Organization for Industrialization.

What about the solar energy plants to be implemented in the city?

Solar power stations are among our directions, so two solar stations will be established in cooperation with the Industrial Modernisation Centre and the National Project for Solar Cell Systems at a total cost of EGP 1.6m. They are an 80 kw station in the parking area and another 50 kw in an open area.

The solar stations supply a small part of the city’s energy needs (10% or less), saving about EGP 230,000. If the city can rely 100% on solar power, it would save EGP 7-8m annually.

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Fashion designer Yasmine Khattab is raising the “old is gold” slogan in her designs Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:00:49 +0000 I am the youngest fashion designer, Dolce & Gabbana is my school: Khattab

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An exceptional designer who has proven herself throughout the world of fashion, Yasmine Khattab has been bringing stylish fashion to Muslim women all over the world through her elegant and chic hijabs. Within a short time after leaving her job in media and communication to pursue fashion, Khattab became known as the Queen of Hijab.

She’s able to put a modern touch to old female fashion that dates back to the 1930s with a different style that distinguish her. Khattab is the youngest designer in the fashion world at only 30 years old.

First of all, tell us about your studies?

I am a graduate of media studies and was second in my class. I worked in the media field for a short time and then left to work in the fashion industry.

How did this decision come about?

I adore the field of designs and fashion. I used to design my clothes at the secondary stage, where I would draw the design and send it to the tailor. It caught the attention of all those around me, including family and friends and gained admiration, especially since my designs were different from the mainstream.

When did you start working in the field of fashion design?

I started about four years ago, so this is my fifth year in fashion design. I am very happy with the success I’ve achieved in such a short time.

How was it at the beginning?

I started with designing hijabs. My designs were different and new for Egypt. It was my goal to create a new line for veiled women in Egypt in a global, special and distinctive way. When the hijab design was introduced in Egypt, they were alien to society, and caused great confusion even though they were very widespread in the world, especially in countries like Turkey, UAE, and Kuwait.

But I developed the designs to be different, borrowing from older fashion styles. Well known fashion houses, like Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, and Chanel, also take their inspiration from the 1940s and 50s style.

Who was there supporting you while you were entering the fashion world?

My mother was my biggest supporter from the start. She helped me design various new and unknown outfits. My college friends also saw that my clothes were different. At the university, I wore tailored dresses, which I designed and sent to a tailor to make them. They were mostly old dresses in a modern style.

Your hijabs sparked a wave of irony on social media sites. What was your reaction?

I followed all the comments and comics on social media, and noticed that all my pictures with hijabs were taken and comics were made from them. These comics spread wildly to reach Arabs outside Egypt.

At first, it made me sad, due to the lack of experience and lack of know-how, but with time I discovered that these comments and irony were the reason for the popularity and great success of the designs and gained me fame.

And what about the criticisms?

The strange thing is that all those who criticised me are those who wear my designs. I was able to spread the idea in Egypt and people tend to wear it.

Tell us about the beginning of hijabs in Egypt?

The modern hijabs have been in Egypt for a long time, since the 1920s and 1930s. Women used to wrap them on exposed dresses. After cultural developments; hijabs were worn to cover the hair. But it’s not a veil but rather a symbol of modesty and elegance. People started modern takes when wearing it at night and during the day. It came in various shapes and varieties, but it was originally old.

Were you inspired by the old Egyptian dramas?

Of course, I watched Lialy El Hilmya and Hawanem Garden City TV series and was inspired by the Nazik Hanim El-Salhadar, but I was designing differently, so I was using other fabrics.

The media called you Queen of Hijab. What does it mean to you?

I am very happy with this title, and it made me realise that the journey I started is a success.

What distinguishes Yasmine Khattab from other designers?

What distinguishes me in design, whether my hijabs or clothes, is my focus on details, which can be very tiring. I give everything its time, including quality and design. The details are very stressful when choosing fabrics. There are big names we have in Egypt that I learn from like the international designer Hani Al-Beheiri.

What school do you follow in fashion design?

My school is very well known and famous, which is Dolce & Gabbana. I also follow a new school in the fashion world called Erdem, because they focus on the details, where each design is a painting.

What are your next projects?

My dream is to go to Dolce & Gabbana and take a training course in their fashion design, and to come out with my designs for the world as the first Egyptian veiled designer in various fashions abroad, and I have already started to take steps to establish a branch in Dubai. I also deal with different countries, like UAE, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

Many find it difficult to understand Dolce & Gabbana.  What do you think about that?

I agree. This school is known for integrating things together, like how to waive a diamond on clothes or using different colours that surprisingly match.

How much time do you spend designing a collection?

I take a long time to complete a design collection, up to several months. I have to learn and follow this year’s new designs from D&G and the new fashion trends to pick up what could fit with Arab women.

After designing hijabs, you started designing other stuff. Tell us about your experience.

At first, I was experimenting and then developed my lines, fabrics, and integrated handmade designs with new and modern fabrics.

I introduced casual and night dresses. With the release of my first dress, I found lines of women asking for my designs. Right now, I am focused on designing night dresses but don’t like being limited to it.

Are there some fabrics that do not match certain women?

Yes,of course. Not all fabrics match all body types. Some fabrics do not match oversized women. Some styles and designs could, however, match women in general.

Tell us about the most difficult design.

This would be the African line of design. I started following the different African styles and collected fabrics. The challenge here is the handmade designs, which could be difficult to follow. The fabrics are also difficult in using. I managed to introduce African designs last year and will introduce more in the upcoming summer.

Have you chosen to be a designer for a certain social class?

It depends on the budget. I work with all classes and celebrities, like Reem El Barody and Soheir El Bably but also work with normal girls.

Tell us about the new trend this summer.

The new trend is cheerful. In terms of colours, there is green, strips, and yellow with red and pink. In terms of colour, green will dominate, followed by turquoise and yellow.


The post Fashion designer Yasmine Khattab is raising the “old is gold” slogan in her designs appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Activating secondary market for non-state fixed income tools is my goal of running for Securities Union elections: El-Sawy Sun, 15 Mar 2020 15:06:14 +0000 There must be a strong representation of fixed income instruments within the union: El-Sawy

The post Activating secondary market for non-state fixed income tools is my goal of running for Securities Union elections: El-Sawy appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Ayman El-Sawy, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Sarwa Capital, was a pioneer in the launch of the first successful securitisation models in the Egyptian capital market, encouraging the entry of many new players into the market itself. Since that first launch, securitisation activity has vastly increased in terms of issuance number and size, along with the continuously growing number of bond issuers.

El-Sawy was among a prominent group of money market experts interested in the fixed income tools market. Eventually, it was this same group that established the Egyptian Association of Investors and Issuers of financing tools that had created an actual fore these fixed income tools.

During this time, El-Sawy decided to run for the Egyptian Securities Union elections, defending the need for a strong representation on fixed income tools and its importance as an investment and financing instrument within the stock market tools package, where the focus is on the problems of stock market investors.

In the beginning, what was your motive behind entering the elections for the first Egyptian securities union?

It has been customary in the Egyptian market that the stock market be the most active in terms of trading and offering, while there is another market for fixed income instruments such as bonds, sukuk, short-term financing securities, and securitisation bonds that need the same attention in order to have a secondary market for trading.

Sarwa took interest in fixed income tools since 2005 and initiated the establishment of an association of investors and issuers of fixed income tools that includes a group of main dealers in this field, including major banks such as the Commercial International Bank, Arab African International Bank, and Banque Misr, as well as MERIS Ratings and major investment banks such as Hermes Financial Group and Corplease, to introduce financing operations through fixed income tools and raise awareness of the nature of these tools. At that time, Sarwa adopted the issuance of the first securitisation bond and was a successful model to follow.

It served as a powerful marketing and promotion message to the parties of the market about the benefits and success of the securitisation system in providing liquidity to companies, and the success of securitisation. It was the best response to the criticism and doubts over the success of the process and fear of using the tool, especially for real estate developers.

Among the most prominent indications of the current attractiveness of securitisation is the New Urban Communities Authority contracting with Sarwa Capital and Banque Misr in issuing a second tranche worth EGP 4bn of securitisation bonds. In the first run, we saw the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) subscribing in companies’ bonds in Egyptian pounds for the first time.

By competing in the elections, I aim to adopt an active secondary market activation file for fixed income tools in cooperation with various entities associated with this market. I want to spread awareness of its importance by introducing investors and decision-makers to the fixed income tools market, showcasing the benefits of investing in it on the one hand and the benefits of resorting to it as a financing tool on the other. There must be someone who speaks in the name of fixed income tools and holding companies within the Board of Directors of the Securities Union, which must represent all parties to the market, and then consider maintaining the competitive advantage.

When did Sarwa issue the first securitisation bond? What is the volume of bonds it has issued to date?

Sarwa implemented the first issuance of securitisation bonds in 2005. After that, it continued to carry out many operations for real estate developers and financing companies and recently for the benefit of the New Urban Communities Authority, until the volume of securitisation operations implemented by the company reached about EGP 22bn. Those successful issues contributed to introducing new securitisation bonds companies to the market and the emergence of a clear demand by real estate developers and finance companies to issue securitisation bonds to transfer their financial rights to their clients and provide liquidity for their expansions.

What is your target plan for the fixed income instruments market in case you win the elections?

We are very late in activating a secondary market for fixed income instruments. In many countries, the size of the fixed income market is three times the size of the stock market, and we already have the ingredients that guarantee a huge trading market for fixed income instruments as the volume of the Egyptian market of securitisation bonds alone has reached EGP 47bn at the end of 2019, next to EGP 18bn of corporate bond issuances, which are huge values in need of an active trading market.

The Financial Regulatory Authority created the climate and the appropriate environment for fixed income tool issuances. But the success of this requires an active secondary market.

This is the main goal I seek to achieve through the Securities Union with the participation of different market parties.

What are the main obstacles to activating a secondary market for fixed income instruments?

The main problem that prevents the existence of an active market for fixed income instruments lies in the costs associated with trading, which represent a major obstacle to implementing any trades on non-governmental fixed income instruments. Corporate bonds in the transaction should not be equated with the shares of companies listed in the Egyptian Exchange (EGX), where trading in corporate bonds must be exempt from the stamp tax of 1.5% of the value of the process, in addition to the need to reduce the maximum limit for the services of the EGX and Misr Clearing worth EGP 5,000 per transaction to encourage the circulation of smaller transactions.

There are smaller issues that would also be facing the market, such as pricing and mechanisms for making bond prices available to investors, evaluating and pricing the bonds, and providing all information about the issues and their issuers in order to create a price mechanism for each bond separately.

What are the opportunities and ingredients for an active secondary market?

Beside what I mentioned about the high volume of securitisation and corporate bond issues, which will ensure high volumes of trading for the secondary market for fixed income instruments, the non-bank financing market has also recently begun to produce a new generation of new financial products such as bonds, securitisation bonds, and other products, which are expected to attract a new segment of investors to the Egyptian market.

The importance of an active market for trading fixed income instruments as a complement to the EGX lies in the diversification of financial instruments and the provision of several options for investors, where they with an increased ability to accept the high risks involved in investing in the stock market exists, and at the same time, there is a conservative investor who prefers to invest in the fixed income instruments market. The fall in EGX performance will make the fixed income tools market a safe haven and a good opportunity to attract liquidity.

How does low-interest rates boost the trend towards fixed-income instruments?

Non-bank financing companies, such as real estate financing, lease, consumer securitisation, and finance, are not the main beneficiaries of lower interest rates, but low-interest rates create an increase in the demand side of consumers and companies wishing to obtain financing. As for financing companies, they maintain a profit margin and move it according to the interest rates. With low-interest rates, they re-price their financing products so we find the demand on the part of companies and individuals increases significantly with the provision of those products at relatively low rates of return, and this is what actually happened where the demand for funding products of various kinds by companies and individuals rose with low-interest rates during the last period.

What are your expectations for the size of non-bank financing instruments during 2020?

There is high demand for investment in fixed income tools, and there is high financial liquidity within the market, and it is expected to increase the number of issuances and the diversity in the financial instruments issued, as well as the diversity in the nature of these tools issuers.

The post Activating secondary market for non-state fixed income tools is my goal of running for Securities Union elections: El-Sawy appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Coworking is on the rise in Egypt: country manager at Regus Tue, 10 Mar 2020 10:57:13 +0000 Egyptian government has, it seems to me, right strategy, trying to facilitate national entrepreneurship and steps for investment from abroad, says Tarek Abou-Zeinab 

The post Coworking is on the rise in Egypt: country manager at Regus appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

To have a better understanding about the coworking market in Egypt, Daily News Egypt interviewed Tarek Abou-Zeinab, country manager at Regus for Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Gabon. Regus is a multinational provider of serviced offices and coworking spaces. Abou-Zeinab spoke about his company’s renovation plans and how he saw the coworking situation in Egypt. 

Over the past seven years, Regus has opened more than 100 business centres in more than 15 countries in the Middle East and Africa. 

Abou-Zeinab was graduated from Empire State College in New York. He has 18 years of multifaceted experience across the real estate value chain, facilities management, and hospitality in the Middle East and Africa. He is an expert in marketing, sales support, customer service management, team management, and cross-functional team coordination.

Regus Egypt has recently announced the redesigning of its business lounge in Cairo located in Nile City Towers, with an area of 1,400 sqm.

Regus previously said it will support this new entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cairo by offering access to ready-to-use offices and by strengthening emulation between project leaders who share the same workspace.

Regus, a subsidiary of the International Workplace Group (IWG), was established in Egypt in 2001 and now already has 10 business centres in the country. Regus was originally founded in 1989 with the main objective of helping companies choose the most suitable way of working for their teams.

The historic brand of the IWG offers a variety of flexible working spaces including private offices, coworking spaces, meeting rooms, and business lounges for all types of businesses: from startups to global groups, with an emphasis on site accessibility and building quality.

A wide range of turnkey services are available: telephone secretarial services, mail management, meeting rooms, and essential high-speed Internet access. The teams at the IWG centres welcome customers in several languages and run the site’s various operations.

First, could you tell us how did the company start in Egypt?

We’ve been operating in the market for about 30 years, and started the coworking movement back in the UK. The company is a subsidiary of the IWG, and it exists at present in 120 countries with 3,400 sites and 2.5 million customers. Regus was established in 2001 in Egypt. Over the years, we have built a network of 10 business centres in Cairo and New Cairo to support the dynamics of Egyptian and international companies.

Could you elaborate on the company’s operation and funding?

The company is listed on the stock exchange. We continue to invest in our national networks to attract and retain an ever-greater share of the world’s workers and businesses. Workspace needs are changing for every sort of business; from major corporates to small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), startups, and individual entrepreneurs. We have the vision, the will, and the growing global infrastructure to cater for all of them.

What about the company’s renovation plans?

This renovation is designed to provide a new customer experience for our coworking members. The objective of creating these special spaces is to provide an open environment that facilitates exchanges. In Africa, we like to say “we are together”. That could perfectly sum up coworking. Coworking is a place to share and a source of emulation. Entrepreneurs meet in common workspaces to share best practices, learn from the experience of others, and develop their own business and address book. 

How much is the company’s investment in Egypt?

We are a company listed on the stock exchange, so we only provide aggregate and area data. What I can say is that we believe very strongly in the dynamism of the Egyptian market by investing to improve our services and network.

What makes Regus Egypt  special?

It goes without saying that Regus sets the standards for its success around the world: flexible, functional, and à la carte workspaces with a warm atmosphere. Of course we also adapt to local conditions, for example, when organising events. Local culture is very important. Regus’ richness lies in its members. We are the house of entrepreneurs. A customer should be able to find the same quality of service anywhere in the world. The Egyptians attach a certain importance to the comfort of the facilities. We have to be beyond reproach.

What is the company’s strategy in Egypt?

Regus’ strategy in Egypt is quite simple: first of all, it consists of delivering a satisfactory occupancy rate in our centres by making our customers satisfied. The flexibility of our spaces requires us to have an excellent quality of service to build customer loyalty. Moreover, with the good economic prospects in Egypt and its essential position, we are studying new locations. 


Do you plan for new expansions in 2020? And what are Regus’ recent accomplishments?

We are continuously upgrading our property portfolio – investing in state-of-the-art “green” buildings and closing inefficient, outdated centres. This is reducing our carbon footprint. But far more significant is our pioneering role in accelerating the growth of ‘outer-city’ locations: taking “flexspaces” to where people live, cutting pollution, reducing inner-city congestion, and boosting local economies everywhere. For 2020, we are working on different options. If they materialise, we will be happy to talk about them when the time comes.

How do you market Regus’ services in Egypt? 

Our know-how for 30 years identifies us in turnkey office market. Thus, for foreign companies wishing to set up in Africa and who know us in their local market, there is an obvious reflex. Our marketing strategy consists also of having a good referencing on the digital, organising events with the chambers of commerce and the actors of the entrepreneurship, and buying advertising spaces.

We have a battery of tools that we deploy. Finally, we have a smartphone application, My Regus, which gives information about our workspaces in real time. If you want to book a meeting room at the last minute in Cairo or New Cairo for an appointment, nothing could be simpler!

How do you see the coworking space market in Egypt? And what do you recommend for developing it?

There is a good dynamic in Egypt. Entrepreneurs, who need to have places to start up and develop, have recourse to this economical and flexible solution. The Egyptian government has, it seems to me, the right strategy, trying to facilitate national entrepreneurship and the steps for investment from abroad.

From you point of view, what are the challenges and opportunities of coworking spaces business in Egypt?

Our challenge is to find available space in the best locations, to position ourselves in the new cities that are about to blossom, to be as close as possible to our customers by going as far as the residential areas in order to avoid travel. In my opinion, flexible workspaces are on the rise and the Egyptians are increasingly using them.

Do you have any partnership plans with the government?

We are in contact with the official authorities. We are at the early stages, but we are on the right direction.

What do you think of the entrepreneurship market in Egypt? And what are the fields that need to be more focused on?

With more than 100 million inhabitants, 60% of whom are under 30 years old, the stakes around digital technology are colossal. In Egypt, we find the same features as in many African countries: a desire to undertake and create one’s own work, and access to financing for startups which must be further simplified and facilitated.

The banking rate in Egypt is 15%. That said, much progress has already been made to develop infrastructures. A startup ecosystem has emerged over time with nuggets such as Swvl and Egypt Uber Bus. I am very confident about this new generation of entrepreneurs.

The post Coworking is on the rise in Egypt: country manager at Regus appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Automating the government will greatly assist corruption fight: Judge Abdullah Qandil Tue, 10 Mar 2020 10:54:24 +0000 Administrative Prosecution balances state’s administrative apparatus

The post Automating the government will greatly assist corruption fight: Judge Abdullah Qandil appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Counsellor Abdullah Qandil, deputy head of the Administrative Prosecution Authority, has said that the authority has a large role in any development that takes place in Egypt, and that it is important to issue a law on the independence of the authority, especially with there already being a constitutional provision to that effect. Qandil, who is also head of the Authority’s Club, said that the authority is fully prepared for the upcoming parliamentarian elections, stressing his intention not to run for the Presidency of the Administrative Prosecution Club again.

What is the role of the Administrative Prosecution?

The Administrative Prosecution Authority plays a major role in the nation’s battle against corruption according to its independence and impartiality, as the authority is unique among the multiple state agencies that are specialised in fighting corruption as a judicial body and in providing fundamental guarantees to the public employee. This guarantees the impartiality and integrity of the investigation, through several legal procedures safeguarded by the law starting from investigations through the disciplinary court.

What is the difference between the role of the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) and the administrative prosecution?

The fight against corruption is carried out by supervisory bodies or judicial bodies. And the ACA performs all the procedures according to the law regarding controlling crimes and fighting corruption within the state’s administrative apparatus through investigations and obtaining information. And the role of the administrative prosecution picks up from where the administrative control ends, when it refers a report.

After the conclusion of investigations in the administrative prosecution, it refers it to the general prosecution, which, in turn, refers it to court.

What is the role of the Administrative Prosecution Club?

It is an organ that can be confined within civil society organisations. It has an important role as it encourages great sensitive national projects that benefit Egyptian society as well as participate in any tasks required by the state to preserve property and funds.

What legal amendments have brought about a boom in the administrative prosecution’s role?

At the forefront of the amendments that led to a boom in the Administrative Prosecution Authority is the introduction of a constitutional text in the 2012 constitution that establishes the nature of the work of the Administrative Prosecution Authority as a judicial body, and has been assigned expanded competences in administrative and financial irregularities in all state agencies and has given it a large share in the imposition of punishments against employees who commit legal offenses.

What are your reasons for not re-running for the Administrative Prosecution Club presidency?

I spent 10 full years in the Presidency of the Administrative Prosecution Club, including an initial six-year term then a second four-year term. The door to candidacy for the club’s presidency has been opened, and I decided not to run to move out and introduce new blood.

But why were the elections postponed and for how long?

The postponement of the elections is temporary until the club’s statute is amended. The administrative prosecution club until the moment is working under the law regulating civil society, thus under the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which has sent us a letter to adjust the situation of the club and match law 149 of 2019. The members of the prosecution will work on amending the bylaws of the club. Finally, the board has the right to set the date of the elections or postpone it.

What is the reason for the delay in the issuance of the Authority’s Independence Law despite the existence of a constitutional text?

Every constitutional text requires a law, and as for the constitutional text on the independence of the Administrative Prosecution Authority, it is likely that it will be issued, but perhaps Parliament is currently busy with more important tasks that affect the state or society. Since the authority is working in full power, there is no problem in delays. The law is expected to be issued in conjunction with the Law of the Judicial Authority.

What are the most prominent pending issues of the authority?

We have no pending laws except the law on the independence of the authority. The constitution puts the text under implementation, so we are sure it will be issued and will include the mechanism for the jurisdiction, which is to impose punishment.

What is the role of the Administrative Prosecution in the elections, especially with Parliament elections approaching?

The Administrative Prosecution Authority has been following up on elections for decades, but what is new is the absolute equality between members of the Administrative Prosecution and their counterparts in other judicial bodies. This means that we will supervise all elections, whether parliamentary, presidential, or otherwise.

What distinguishes the Administrative Judicial Authority professionally from any other judicial body?

The difference in this matter is a very important distinction, which is that the authority is directly related to the administrative apparatus of the state, which is the state’s backbone. Therefore, the authority plays a pivotal and very important role in maintaining balance and preventing any matters that would harm the state’s public interest.  For anyone undertaking work in the governmental apparatus, the administrative prosecution is responsible for determining their responsibility and evaluating their work or taking corrective actions in the event of any financial or in-kind violations within the administrative apparatus.

What do you think of the idea of automating the government and making it all e-government?

The idea of the e-government that was presented by the president at the last conference is a very impressive one as it would control the performance of the state in all facilities and services. This method will help reduce administrative corruption in the government apparatus, and eliminate red tape, queues, and crowds in all facilities.

Also, the idea of automating the government is one of the most important and most prominent idea in our time as it will shorten time and effort.

Government service that would usually take days would now be done within minutes using electronic services. It helps employees and citizens complete their tasks faster with less effort. It also helps in developing the culture of the Egyptian citizen and develop their capabilities and culture, education, and training, allowing them to perform better in their work or daily life by getting used to the system. It is very important that everything in the state be developed electronically in order to keep pace with world developments.

The post Automating the government will greatly assist corruption fight: Judge Abdullah Qandil appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Sora Rashid: jewellery designer starts working on small desk, grows to be ‘Gold Market Lady’ in Kuwait Tue, 03 Mar 2020 15:19:16 +0000 I learned jewellery design in London, became first female pearl merchant in Kuwait, says Rashid

The post Sora Rashid: jewellery designer starts working on small desk, grows to be ‘Gold Market Lady’ in Kuwait appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Sora Rashid or “Gold Market Lady” as some people call her, is one of the first Kuwaiti women who broke into the world famous Souq Al-Mubarakiya, one of the oldest markets in Kuwait, to trade in gold and pearls. She now owns her own store in the market. Daily News Egypt interviewed Rashid to learn about her journey in gold trade and how jewellery design was always a hobby of hers, even as a child. She used to reshape her necklaces when she was young to make different and distinctive pieces out of them.

Can you give us an overview of the start of your journey with jewellery design?

It has been my hobby since childhood. I used to reshape my jewellery pieces and add new ideas to make them look different and distinctive.

What was your field of study?

I studied civil engineering and worked in the Kuwaiti government for 10 years. I resigned from the job after taking jewellery design as a profession.

What did motivate you first to make jewellery?

Even though I was a government employee with a good salary, I only found my passion when I started jewellery design.

When I headed to London in 2008 on a treatment trip for my daughter, I decided to join a London jewellery design institute as the treatment went on for a long time. I stumbled upon that institute by chance, and I studied jewellery design for a year.


What was the most prominent thing you learned about jewellery design in London?

I learned the basics of jewellery design and making. I also learned how a designer can develop his ability and tools for inspiration, such as imaginative, acoustic, and nature-inspired.

The trainer used to ask us to imagine a queen for whom we would create a special brooch to wear during one of her special occasions, provided that the design is new, modern, and unprecedented. I actually went through the experience as one of the queen’s designers and made a brooch that I later turned into a collection.

Such things help a designer develop and challenge himself.

How did you turn into a professional jewellery designer?

When I went back to Kuwait in 2009, I decided to open a small workshop for silver jewellery production, and over the course of four years, I used social media to market my business.

I put aside a share of my salary to buy a silvery alloy and designed the shapes I liked, then sent them to a workshop. These designs were sold in a youth exhibition.

In 2013, I opened a store in the Souq Al-Mubarakiya. I only had a small desk and designed jewellery in silver and gold.

One time, a woman brought up diamonds valued at about $270,000, and asked me to make her a crown of gold and diamonds.

What certificates have you obtained?

I obtained several certificates in the field of jewellery, including diploma in design from the High Institute of Jewellery in London, HRD certificate from the HRD Antwerp, and GIA certificate as a diamond and gem expert from the Gemological Institute of America.

What challenges did you face when you started your own business?

I faced many difficulties at the beginning since I don’t belong to a goldsmith or jeweller family, as is the case for most gold shop owners. Moreover, I lack experience, methods, and secrets of the profession. I did not also have enough stocks of gold and precious stones and did not even know where I can get them.

Also, I did not have a famous brand to facilitate marketing my products. I didn’t have enough capital. I started from scratch until I made a name for myself in the Kuwaiti market, but there is still a long way to go.

Being a woman, have you faced in problems working in a man-dominated market?

Being a woman in the Kuwaiti gold market, which was 100% occupied by men, has certainly been subject to many problems such as underestimating my ability to work in the profession.

However, I was able to deal with merchants. I even asked some of them to teach me, and I learned a lot from them. I was benefited from their experience which spared me many years of learning. They eventually called me the Gold Market Lady.

You are the first female Tawash (pearl merchant) in the Kuwaiti market, what does the word Tawash exactly mean?

A Tawash is a pearl merchant who deals directly with divers who collect pearls from seas and assesses what they recover.

Pearl hunting or pearling was an important profession, and it is now an identity, but it’s currently in a crisis in the Gulf and is virtually extinct. Actually, there are no shops in Kuwait that sell natural pearls.

I learned from senior Tawashes in Bahrain how to sell, buy, evaluate, and distinguish between natural and cultured pearls. I lost $9,000 as a result of buying pearls that turned out to be cultured.

What is the difference between natural and cultured pearls? Have pearl sales declined in Kuwait?

Natural pearls are no longer the focus of attention for many citizens and jewellery lovers due to their high prices compared to cheaper types of cultured pearls of similar shape and at a price not exceeding 10% of the natural ones.

Evaluating pearls needs experience, and with experience alone merchants know whether pearls are natural or cultured.

Natural pearls are distinguished by their durability, and the age of pearls depends on their surrounding conditions. For example, incense spoils them. They can also be affected by being in dark places, as they need ventilation and occasional washing. Pearls need water even after they have been formed into a necklace. They yearn for water and their colours could change if left in the dark.

A pearl necklace starts at KWD 1,000 ($3,000). Some types of pearls go up to KWD 10,000, depending to the factors of size, lustre, roundness, and colour, which determine its value.

What is the unit of weight measurement of pearls?

Pearls are measured by Chevvu measuring unit. Pearls are measured in carats then converted into chevvu. The value of a single chevvu also differs according to the purity and specifications of the pearl. Only large pearls are measured in chevvu.

Sizes of pearls vary according to the purity of the water they were recovered from. In the past, there was a large type called pebble, but it no longer exists due to pollution. Currently, there are other types like qamash, shaheenah, arterioles, and glutes.

How are pearls assessed?

The process of evaluating pearls depends on type and size. There are variations in terms of shape, colour, and apparent properties such as splendour, moisture, and texture.

Reddish pearls are of excellent quality, then whitish pearls come next, then yellowish pearls.

Pearl size is assessed by discharging the pearls in perforated bowls called “tous,” which are round copper bowls with holes of different sizes which Tawashes use to filter the pearls from a bowl to another.

Do you work on your own or have assistants?

No matter how much I love the profession and craftsmanship, I will never be as good as the professional workers. I care more about design than manufacturing jewellery as it needs more than one worker. Creating a piece of jewellery needs a long process that involve designers, jewellers, and others. In addition, those who manufacture modern pieces are different from those who manufacture folk pieces.

Each nationality has a different imprint in the implementation, as the Armenian and Lebanese works differ from the East Asian, Thai, and Italian works.

Can you tell us about the collections you have produced so far?

I have designed many collections. I made the Maharaja collection which was inspired from the Indian heritage. I read many books about the Indian civilization and arts.

I have also designed the Jasmine Drops and Flower collection and the Hammer collection, which are designed to represent contemporary and strong women, in addition to a collection named Eyous from natural pearls.

What international exhibitions have you participated in?

I have participated in many specialised local and international jewellery exhibitions in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

What are your favourite materials to use in jewellery making?

I love silver, gold, diamonds, and precious and semi-precious stones.

I prefer diamonds and precious stones, so that women can pass it down for generations to come.

You are a member of the Kuwaiti Federation of Gold and Jewelers, how do you see public work in the jewellery sector?

I wanted to deliver a message to Kuwaiti women that they can work in a man’s profession. I am the only woman in the Federation, and I am seeking the position of a general manager in the upcoming sessions. We need young people to manage the jewellery sector, using modern methods and technology to develop the Kuwaiti gold sector.

How can we better educate our youth on craftsmanship and pushing their brands forward?

Despite the obstacles I faced at the beginning. I try to encourage young people to do something for themselves in the field, and provide them with sufficient information for either entering the field or becoming professionals with their own projects.

My advice for young people is to always keep trying and to take a step without giving too much thought to future possibilities.

How do you see the global jewellery market in terms of sales in the Arab region in particular?

In the past, jewellery was essential and sales were strong, but now they are luxuries and their sales have fallen due to high prices and low purchasing power.

Designers should present products that meet the needs of customers.

What is your plan for the coming period?

I am considering opening another store for diamond jewellery only, as well as daily and traditional jewelleries and gifts.

What do you think of the Egyptian gold market?

The Egyptian market is developing well in terms of technology. Egyptian designers astonish us with their works inspired from their Pharaonic and Islamic heritage. Egyptian products are also available in the Gulf countries.

How can the jewellery industry convey Kuwaiti culture to the world?

Each designer has a mission and should not be stripped of his tribal and religious affiliation. He designs for the world not for himself.

Designing is for others. Jewellery is a philosophy; it aims to spread joy and peace and is not designed for sadness.

The jasmine flower I designed stood for peace because it grows in all Arab countries.

What advice do you give clients when they buy gold and jewelleries?

Trust and honesty are everything a designer has. The gold calibre must also be sound, conform to the specifications, and be sealed with real stamps. Diamonds must also be sold with legal certificates.


What advice would you give young designers?

Studying before entering the field of jewellery is an important factor in understanding what the designer is doing. He should have a deep understanding of design, and wide knowledge of precious stones and diamonds.

It is also important for them to understand the market needs, as each market has its needs in terms of specifications and culture, and what works for women in the Gulf may not suit those in Egypt.

A designer should also have a distinct personality and avoid imitating designs of others.

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Egyptian jewellery manufacturers need to more focus on product innovation to compete globally: designer Omama Atef Fri, 28 Feb 2020 11:59:59 +0000 I created exclusive collection of wedding jewellery for Emirati princesses, says Egyptian-Italian designer

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Jewellery design is one of human civilization’s earliest forms of decoration, starting at least 7,000 years ago. The oldest known human societies like Ancient Egypt wore jewellery. In Egypt, the wealthy wore pieces made from precious stones and metals. The poor substituted these with painted clay, stones, shells, animal teeth, and bones. Naturally, jewellery design was transmitted across Egyptian generations and we have today brilliant creators in the field. One of those is Egyptian-Italian Omama Atef who made her way through this difficult profession, producing several collections of high-quality jewelleries. Daily New Egypt interviewed Atef to learn about her career in luxury designing and painting diamond portraits.

Could you tell us about yourself, and what first led you to work in jewellery designing?

Fortunately, I was raised in an artistic family that loved arts and culture. I spent my childhood in an environment that supports creativity. My father was an architect and my grandfather was a contemporary artist. I think my DNA is artistic!
I studied business and management in Cairo University. But after the graduation, I realised that I do not have any passion about business. So, I decided to follow my dream and to be a jewellery designer, and then I studied jewellery design.

What was your academic major?

I studied jewellery design in the Istituto di Moda Burgo in Milan [a private Italian school of fashion]. I got a Master’s in jewellery consultancy, and a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America.

How did your jewellery design journey start?

After my jewellery design study, I worked as a creative designer. After five years, I became a Head Designer in one of Egypt’s largest diamond companies.
Although I have been working in jewellery design for over 16 years, it takes time to produce a collection of high-quality pieces that can compete in the market of jewellery. I believe I could make special jewels for women.

How could you change jewellery design from a hoppy into a profession?

It is not easy to be as professional designer, as you should improve your skills through hard work. I’d like to thank all my managers who believed in my talent and supported me through my career path.

Did your migration to Italy contribute to enhancing your talent?

Absolutely, moving to Italy and becoming an Italian citizen was an important phase for me and my career. It helped me have good opportunities that enhanced my career, as well as open my own business, Diamond Art Studio, in Venice city. It also helped me have direct contact with important brands in the sector that present high-end jewellery and deal with the most important art collectors in Europe.

Why did you start painting diamond portraits, and what are the stories you want to tell through your work?

Diamonds and gemstones are always my passion. They come from the nature and then are recut by human hands. I express this relationship between human and nature through my contemporary art of luxury artwork.
My paintings are magnified facets of real diamond and gemstones, inspired by abstract and symmetrical patterns of diamonds.
My artistic message is “Inside every one of us a real jewel like a diamond.”

Have you got a scholarship to study jewellery design?

No, my family believed in my talent and encouraged me from a very young age to develop my skills. They paid for my studies in jewellery design. “From that moment on, I knew that designing would be my future.” This was the greatest scholarship!

Have you worked with any international brands?

Absolutely, I have a great collaboration with Parisian high-end jewellery designers, which enhanced my design.

What are the international exhibitions you have participated in?

I’ve participated in many big exhibitions in high-end jewellery and art, including the Vicenzaoro jewellery show and the Baselworld show for watches and jewellery. For me, the best show was the Vicenza Jewelry Museum.

Can you tell us about your design style, and what makes your collections unique

In facets, my design relies on freedom in creativity with consideration that the designs should be attractive enough to meet the expectations of clients besides target costing.
For me, technical accuracy is the most important part that makes a jewellery unique.

Does wedding jewellery control the size of demand used in the design?

Actually, the emerging trend of wedding jewellery is gaining momentum in the market. It positively contributed to the market growth. Women when choosing their jewellery are focusing on the latest trends of necklaces, hairpins, and bangles. The customisation of such products is an important factor that can likely increase the market growth.

How does your typical working day look like as a jewellery designer?

The perfect working day starts early morning, as it’s the best time for designing and painting. Some days are more busy than others, but it’s never the same, which is partly why I love what I do. It’s always different and new. It is out of the routine!

What’s your favourite self-made piece of jewellery and why?

Every pieces of my jewellery are the best ones for me because I put a part of my soul and inspiration in it.

How many collections have you produced so far?

I’ve produced a lot of collections. I have abundant amounts of designs in different styles. They are my treasure.

What are the most materials you use in your design?

Combining different materials, metals, and colours are necessary for creating a good piece of jewellery. The more important thing is how can you use them in design.

What is your favourite diamond shape?

I like all the shapes of diamond. However, I prefer the trillion cut diamond because it has three equal sides.

Have you ever got an unusual design request from a customer?

I have created an exclusive collection of wedding jewellery for an Emirati princesses. The collection included a masterpiece necklace inspired from the desert snake with Burmese rubies hanging inside and around. It was legendary!

Have you seen the jewellery of Tutankhamun, or read any books about pharaonic jewelleries like Jewels of the Pharaohs by Cyril Aldred?

Of course, I have seen Tutankhamun’s collection to deepen my knowledge about the ancient Egyptian civilization. I have many books about jewellery by Egyptologists. Cyril Aldred’s book marked each treasure’s history, and discussed how each jewellery was made and who by, as well as the materials used.

How do you see the jewellery industry in the Arab world?

The Middle East and Africa region is expected to witness significant growth in this sector. The jewellery design in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is very unique and world-famous. I believe this region can contribute significantly to the market growth in the coming period due to the presence of huge gold mines and the emergence of the UAE as the largest diamond trading hub.

How do you see the jewellery market in Egypt?

Egyptian jewellery industry was hit hard after the Arab Spring. The political turmoil that followed led to a decline in the value of the country’s currency, and foreign reserves fell to record lows.
From my point of view, jewellery manufacturers need to more focus on product innovation by leveraging the demand for cross-cultural jewellery designs. Additionally, they should invest more in raising the quality of production, improving craftsmanship, and adopting new technologies.

As a designer, from where do you draw your inspiration from?

I am a visual learner, so what I see inspires me. It could be anything; pattern, building, or artwork. My last collection “The Carnival of Venice” was inspired by the Venetian Gothic Architecture.

What are the upcoming trends in jewellery design?

As the lifestyle changes, jewellery trends do. Usage of gold chains and necklaces is no longer limited to one gender. Men and women wear rings, plain gold chains, and anklets as a fashion statement. Additionally, growing acceptance of jewellery among men is another factor propelling market growth.

Who are your favourite designers?

The Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace and surrealist artist Salvador Dali. They are very inspiring.

What challenges do you face in your work?
Every one face different challenges from time to time. But if you are passionate enough about what you are doing and really pour yourself into it. You will find the chances to move forward and be successful.

What are the international awards you have received?

In 2007, I received the Award for Excellence by HRD Antwerp for “The Mask of Gold”.

What do the Arab jewellery markets lack to compete with Europe?

The global market is very competitive and fragmented due to the presence of many key manufacturers. The product innovation through new manufacturing technologies can help Arabs to compete globally.

Are Arab women different than Europeans when it comes to jewellery?

In fact, there are differences between them. The Arab women love to acquire a luxury jewellery with a rich character for their strong culture aesthetic. So, the luxurious brands are heading towards the Arab markets. They are well versed about their culture and traditions.
As for the European women, they are more fashionable and stylish. They look for the simplicity in jewellery design and a different piece with a story to tell. They like to know from where the stones came from and what inspired the design.

Do you have any expansion plans for your studio in 2020?

I plan to expand in different markets and collaborate with more brands, as well as participate in international exhibitions of high-end jewellery.

What advice would you have for young jewellery designers?

I advise them to never forget their origins, improve their skills, and follow their dreams. Do what you Love!

About 48% and 28% of potential investment and jewellery consumers, respectively, cite lack of trust as a significant barrier. That could be mistrust around fake or counterfeit bars and coins, product purity, or the trustworthiness of some retailers. The World Gold Council highlights opportunities for gold for those working in both retail investment and jewellery markets.

What advice do you give to people when buying gold and jewellery?

For consumers, be aware about authenticity of the metals and gems used in the jewellery pieces. Buy gold and jewellery from trusted brands.

The increasing global focus on sustainability in the fashion industry has also raised questions about the environmental impacts and ethics of jewellery, can you provide a guide for jewellery lovers, and how can they buy ethical jewellery?

From my point of view, the most basic aspect of ethical production that the manufacturers are not only following the authenticity standards and transparency. It is one of the most difficult to achieve because most metals and minerals come out of the poorest regions on the Earth, and pass through multiple hands on their way to the end consumer, most without any traceability.

For consumers finding jewellery made by companies that make an effort to make a difference, there’s more than the joy of wearing a beautiful thing. It is not easy, but more and more jewellery companies are creating ethical jewellery. And as long as consumers continue to ask for it, ethical jewellery options will continue to grow.

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Parliament has worked on files for all former officials deferred for years: MP Salah Hassaballah Thu, 27 Feb 2020 09:55:27 +0000 Handing investment portfolio to prime minister eliminated many problems

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Despite criticisms against the Egyptian parliament, the clear fact is that this parliament has accomplished twice as much as what has been accomplished in the previous two assemblies combined. This is how Salah Hasaballah, a member of the House of Representatives and an official parliamentary spokesperson, said, noting that parliament has worked on files which have been deferred by previous MPs, such as the new health insurance and the demarcation of maritime borders that enabled Egypt to take advantage of its wealth that was wasted in the Mediterranean. He described parliament’s supervision over the government as a “rational supervision.”

Are there ongoing investigations into the death of MP Hassan El Gendy?

The investigations are ongoing at the highest level, and not only from security services, but also from local council bodies responsible for building licences. The real problem, however, is the contractors who seek the cheapest options.

Does this incident highlight localities and building permits?

It more accurately highlights the corruption problem in localities. There is a set of control tools in Parliament that will be activated in the coming period to monitor these licences.

Why is the local councils law delayed?

At parliament’s first session, the law of localities was out priority since everyone understood the necessity of localities’ presence. MPs had many aids lined up for local council roles for the community. And more importantly it would have given MPs more breathing room to focus on legislation and supervision.

There were many bills submitted by many parties. The committee studied all the bills and issued a unified draft that will soon be discussed.

Is there conflict in the law’s provisions among MPs?

There are two opinions in parliament, one sees that the community has changed and the local councils must cope with this change, while others are pushing for the election law.

We believe there is no problem with separating the local administration law from the election law, as there are 161 articles in the localities law and only 14 in the electoral law. The electoral law can be issued quickly to hold elections.

What are the new standards in the localities law?

We are trying to apply what we have sought after for some time now, which is decentralisation. The second point is to increase the governor’s jurisdictions to give them more freedom instead of relying on ministers. The new law provides for a safe and smooth shift from a centralised government to a decentralised one.

Why do we lack investment goals for each governorate?

That’s due to shaky hands in many governorates. If you go to a governorate to establish an investment project, and you need land, the governor may be worried about corruption charges, so they would defer. Laws do not protect employees, which is why we are considering the revision of some articles to give officials more power to make decisions, which would activate development plans.

Does the new law activate the economic region concept?

There are articles in the new law related to maximising the utilisation of the governorate’s resources, as what has happened in the land issue, and we suggested that the governorates have a share of the law enforcement outcome, which would benefit the governorate. We also did this in the reconciliation law.

Regarding the Reconciliation Law on Buildings and Residential Units, what did its application come to be?

Some of the employees entrusted with the application of this law misunderstood it. They thought that reconciliation meant the entire building, and not each separate housing unit. We discovered this after nine months of its application. We knew when we were legislating that many buildings receives permits in the name of a deceased, immigrant, or anonymous person to avoid liability, so it was important to reconcile with residents.

When will parliamentary elections be held?

The tenure of the current parliament is five years and will end on 9 January 2021. Elections must be held 60 days prior to that date, which would be in November.

What about local councils and the Shura council?

This would rely on the issuance of the Shura council and local councils’ electoral laws.

Are there any changes in parliament’s elections next year?

This is likely. Some MPs are discussing the ratio between individual and list seats and we believe in activating a balance of 50/50.

How do you see the political reform?

There cannot be a strong regime without a strong political system. I stand against criticising parties as most of them were born after 2011. An infant party would require assistance. We should give them time let the number fall to only five or six parties.

Is it possible to return to President Sadat’s view of right-wing, centrists, and youth?

This is difficult because ideas have changed. There is no more socialism now.

How do you see the file of Human Rights, given international criticism?

These statements are always linked to funding. In one of the meetings with the US congress, they named someone who allegedly disappeared. We provided them with a video of him in the Sinai supporting ISIS. Many of these statements are nothing but paid advertisements. The Egyptian state stands clear: we have nothing to hide, but we believe that national security is a top priority since it is connected to our right to live. How can we not apply the emergency law on terrorists in Sinai?

We stand with human rights, but in a wider view.

Why don’t we respond to these allegations?

Becuase we don’t have time for small talk. We have more important tasks. In Turkey, there are thousands of detainees. The Turkish president arrested half of the armed forces and journalists, but we don’t have time to intervene in other countries’ business.

How do you evaluate the performance of the current government?

I admire the performance of the government, and I was very appreciative of the performance of Sherif Ismail’s government, especially after those devastating suicide bombers.

Were you against appointing an economic figure as prime minister?

I believe it’s for the best to have a deputy prime minister for economic affairs. But I also know there was something behind the scenes, which both you and me could not possibly know. I, however, look very positively at including the government’s investment portfolio to the prime minister’s list of tasks, which has removed many investment obstacles.

With the success of the economic reform, when will the real reform take place in industrial and agricultural development?

This is really important, but we must pay attention to what is happening. We are reviving the textile industry, for example. Many feeding industries will open many sectors. Reviving industries and compensating for years lost requires effort and time. You should only worry when there is no will.

How do you evaluate investment encouragement measures?

We have made amendments to the investment law and draft laws protecting investment, such as the law of protective reconciliation, and to distinguish between a serious investor and a non-serious one, and there is a law facilitating the procedures of industrial establishments. It is even more important to impose these laws, since we are building a state, which would take years.

Are there economic legislations expected to be enacted in the coming period?

I don’t think so. We have issued many legislations that have been praised by all, and we are awaiting implementation and outcome.

Are you satisfied with the size and impact of the Egyptian parliament worldwide?

The size of the Egyptian parliament’s representation in Arab, African, and international parliaments is large and honourable, and this reflects the strength of the Egyptian parliament. I am a member of the European Parliament, and I see this effect.

What about some citizens’ negative opinion about Parliament?

The parliament’s mission is to push the state through legislation, and oversee its performance. Citizens have for long thought that parliament should only offer services.

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