In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Thu, 25 Jul 2019 18:37:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Egyptian government’s development plans always ambitious, require international financing partnerships: Al-Rajhi Mon, 22 Jul 2019 20:28:58 +0000 Al-Rajhi said, in an interview with the Daily News Egypt, that the fund approved $270m for Egypt during the last fiscal year (FY), aimed at supporting micro-enterprises, achieving food security through the import of commodities, and financing the import of petroleum products.

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The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) secured $165m in financing for the Egyptian market from January to the end of June. Saud Al-Rajhi, a member of OPEC’s private sector finance and trade department, said the first half funds included $95m for micro enterprises, $30m to import supply commodities, and $40m to import petroleum products.

Al-Rajhi said, in an interview with the Daily News Egypt, that the fund approved $270m for Egypt during the last fiscal year (FY), aimed at supporting micro-enterprises, achieving food security through the import of commodities, and financing the import of petroleum products.

He expected the fund’s access to the Egyptian market to reach about $220m by the end of this year. He also said that this depends on the continuation of funding requests to proceed at the same pace considering the credit criteria of the fund.

The OPEC fund is an intergovernmental and development institution established in 1976, based on a decision by the heads and leaders of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in their meeting in Algeria some 40 years ago.

The objective of the fund was to support budget accounts in developing countries and to promote cooperation among OPEC member states and developing countries, according to Al Rajhi.

He explained that the activity of the fund branched out to finance basic projects in countries, then started with the private sector, and finally financing trade.

Furthermore, he added that the fund is currently worth $7bn after member states raised their capital for the fourth time in 2011, and expected to increase its capital in the coming period, especially as its founders continue to pump proceeds of the fund into new projects.

Moreover, he pointed out that the fund has been operating in Egypt since its foundation and that it cooperates with all parties in Egypt, whether governmental or institutional, making Egypt one of the first beneficiaries of the fund’s resources.

Additionally, he said that the fund participated in financing 80 projects in Egypt with an investment cost of about $16bn, which includes government projects and the private sector in addition to trade funds.

Over and above, he pointed out that the total funds injected into Egypt, since its inception, reached 10% of the total value of the projects it financed, amounting to $1.6bn, half of which was to the private sector, while the other half was funnelled to finance the private sector and trade, noting that funding accounted for 50% of the total cost of some projects.

The OPEC fund for the public sector in Egypt amounted to $749.8m, divided by $332.4m for the energy sector, $163.2m for agriculture, $160m for other sectors, $37m for health, $20m for education, $14m for the government debt sector, $14m for the transport sector, and $8.7m for the financial sector, according to the official website of the fund.

Also, according to the website, the last three funds in Egypt included the General Company for Silos and Storage worth $14m to build grain silos in Port Said, increase capacity, and reduce losses. The second was to finance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worth $95m, and the third was designated to facilitate import of petroleum products worth $637m.

In addition, he added that the fund contributes to facilitating the work of 17 working banks in Egypt and has secured letters of credits for trade valued at $200m since 2006.

What’s more, he pointed out that since 2006, which witnessed the start of the programme of financing trade at the fund, the OPEC fund adopted about $550m to finance imports to Egypt, many of them in partnership with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), and included the purchase of commodities such as petroleum and its products, wheat, and food supplies.

He pointed out that the fund works according to funding programmes spanning three years, which are revised annually. This programme is presented to ministries and government agencies to assess if they match reality before being approved by the fund’s management.

“All programmes are assessed in the first, second, and third year. If any of the programmes do not match reality, they are amended to match the changes. In the past years, the fund focused on the roads and irrigation. Most recently, it focused on electricity production. We aim to cope with the changes to support what the market requires,” he stressed.

Furthermore, he said the fund is currently focusing its funding on electricity generation, roads, and irrigation, and if the government asks for new funding for health, education or otherwise, its board will not hesitate to consider funding.

He added that the fund receives funding requests from the Egyptian government, some of which are under study. The latest request was to provide $95m to support micro enterprises through the Social Fund for Development (SFD), which was renamed the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA).

He pointed out that this financing is not the first for SMEs, and that when dealing with the fund started, it was positive and gave positive results, creating keenness on providing new support to the fund, especially since the OPEC fund’s policy focuses on funding the neediest projects.

Additionally, he said that the fund has adopted a new funding programme of $95m to cooperate with the SFD last June, and will focus on financing professions for women, small farmers, fishermen, and entrepreneurs.

In 2015, the fund had approved about $40m for the SFD under a previous programme with the Social Fund. At the end of last month, the fund approved the new funding in preparation for its disbursement after the completion of legal proceedings.

Al-Rajhi predicted that the new funding will reach between 30 and 40,000 beneficiaries, according to specific conditions determined by the SFD.

He said that the fund is always considering financing new projects in Egypt whether for the public, private or trade sectors, but not all projects are approved by the fund.

“We are always keen on consulting with all Egyptian enterprises to find projects to fund. Not more than a month passes before we speak with Egyptian institutions to study the extent to which we can fund projects,” he added.

Moreover, he said that the fund continues to consult with government agencies and the private sector to identify and work on their needs. It also cooperates regularly with the ITFC to participate in financing trade in Egypt.

He highlighted that the fund is currently studying the financing of a private sector hospital in Egypt and that it will soon announce the results of the study after reviewing its financial solvency.

Additionally, he added that the fund contributes with a funding share to the Assiut Power Plant and another share in the South Helwan Power Plant. The fund also approved the financing of six solar plants in 2016 worth $700m, which has not yet been disbursed.

On the Egyptian economic situation, Al-Rajhi said that the Egyptian government’s development plans are always ambitious and that development work in general requires partnerships. This necessitates that the international community mobilise its efforts to meet these demands.

He said, “the latest data on the Egyptian economy indicates that foreign direct flows since December 2010 until now are estimated to be $200bn, and analysts say this is thanks to some steps that were taken, including the liberalisation of the exchange rate.”

“I think those who see the figures will find that Egypt’s economic situation is better than it was in previous years. The reports of international institutions look at this improvement with an optimistic outlook. We also notice an increase in the value of foreign exchange and investments, as well as an improvement in the balance of payments. This contributes to increasing the value of the local currency,” he added.

On the participation of the fund in government the proposals programme to buy shares of the companies offered, Al-Rajhi said that the fund has already participated in the purchase of shares in financial institutions outside Egypt, and if companies within Egypt were found to fit the direction of the fund and need its support, there will be no hesitation to have shares in it, according to El-Rajhi. “As we received requests from offered companies,” he concluded.

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Minibus girl: Victim detained after stabbing her assailant Sun, 21 Jul 2019 15:46:43 +0000 “She should not be detained, not only because she is a child, but because she was defending herself,” says girl’s lawyer

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The life of an Egyptian little girl has been abruptly side-tracked after she killed a bus driver who attempted to rape her after threating her with a knife more than a week ago. This sheds light on her story and of similar cases of children and women who face various forms of sexual violence including sexual harassment and rape. 

The case of Amira, a 15-year-old student in the second grade of the preparatory school, has been trending on social media, as many users “praised her courage” in defending herself, citing her as a hero, without considering the legal and physiological consequences of her defence.

However, others blamed the girl for killing the assailant, noting that if she wanted to defend herself, she did not have to stab him several times.

Early on Tuesday, the general prosecution renewed the detention of Amira for 15 days pending investigations over charges of “intentional killing and the possession of a shiv.”

Not only did the decision of detaining her and the charges raise criticism, but also that the child has been detained with adults instead of being freed, or even detained with juveniles. This is especially since  she turned herself in to the police and was in a state of self-defence.

According to investigations, the girl was with her boyfriend at the Giza Zoo. After a while, he took her mobile and disappeared.

She thought he was joking with her and so she tried to call him with another mobile but someone else answered the phone. The person on the phone fabricated a story, in a secret agreement with the girl’s boyfriend, claiming that he found this cell phone and if she wanted to receive it, she has to come to him in Al-Ayat, according to Amira’s lawyer, Dina ElMokadem.

Amira believed him and went to meet the minibus driver, the assailant, which investigations revealed was a friend of her boyfriend. She found him, her boyfriend, and a third friend. They got into the minibus with other commuters, ElMokadem told DNE.

On the road, Amira’s boyfriend and his friend got out of the minibus, as well as other commuters, ElMokadem revealed, adding that the bus driver offered her a ride. With that, he attempted to rape her, threating her with a knife. The girl fended him off, grabbed his knife, and stabbed him 13 times, ElMokadem added.

“Amira should not be detained because it was a case of self-defence. Even if she was not a child and only a woman, she should not have to be detained,” ElMokadem asserted.

ElMokadem added, “Amira is detained with adults and was investigated by the general prosecution, while she should be investigated by the juvenile prosecution.”

Meanwhile, ElMokadem said that she will submit a petition on Sunday to release Amira. “We are waiting for the forensic report. The investigation is in favour of Amira and corresponds with her testimony.” 

In solidarity with Amira, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NNCM) pledged to provide her with all kinds of support.

Azza al-Ashmawy, secretary-general of the NCCM said that the council assigned a lawyer for the girl to follow up on investigations and provide her with legal support.

According to Article No 122 of Egypt’s Child Law No 12 of 1996, “the child court shall exclusively deal with issues concerning the child when accused of a crime or in case of his delinquency.”

“The court shall also be entitled to pass judgments regarding criminal cases outlined in Articles 113 to 116 and Article 119 of this Law.”

“The criminal court or the supreme state security court, according to each case, shall have jurisdiction over criminal cases where the accused – at the time of committing the crime – is a child above fifteen (15) years of age while the accomplice is not a child and the case necessitated bringing the criminal action against the accomplice jointly with the child.”

In this case, the article added, “the court – before passing its judgment – shall examine the circumstances of the child from all aspects and may seek the assistance of experts if it so wishes.”

Women and girls around the globe struggle with various forms of gender-based violence. The types of violence do not just include sexual violence (sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape, sexual exploitation) but also forced early marriage, domestic violence, marital rape, and trafficking.

A study by the United Nations in 2013 showed that 99.3% of Egyptian women surveyed have been subject to a form of sexual harassment.

A report issued by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in October 2017 showed that Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women. Another report by the Brazilian-based organisation ‘Instituto Promundo’ revealed that 64% of men admitted to sexually harassing women in the streets of Egypt. The forms of harassment ranged from ogling, stalking, and sometimes rape.

Regular legal procedures

“The prosecution’s decision of detention is a regular and normal legal procedure in such cases because there is a murder. But I disagree that the girl is being investigated by the general prosecution not the juvenile prosecution and that she is detained with adults,” Intesar Al-Saeed, a lawyer and the head of the Cairo Center for Development, told Daily News Egypt.

Al-Saeed noted that people on social media condemned the prosecution because it ordered the detention of the girl, but these are routine procedures, she highlighted. 

“I believe the girl’s narration of the incident and that she is a violence survivor trying to fend off an assailant. We, in the centre, are following the case with Amira’s lawyer and believe that investigations are in her favour,” Al-Saeed added.

“I hope she will be freed soon and that the forensic report will support her stance in the case,” Al-Saeed continued.

Regarding the fact that the girl stabbed the assailant 13 times, Al-Saeed pointed out that she might act this way because of the trauma, meaning she was hysterical because of shock and terror.

Physiological consequences

The young girl in this situation will probably face long-time trauma and physiological consequences which can be expected to impact her future life. This is regardless of whether she would be jailed for a while or released. 

“This child could be killed or raped if she did not fend off her rapist. Would the media and the patriarchal society be pleased with such a result?” Said Sadek, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, told DNE.

Sadek said that the media is exploiting the fact that the girl has a boyfriend to attack her. “What is the connection? Rape is something else and has nothing to do with her personal life,” Sadek said.

“This girl found herself in a dangerous situation where her body and life were threatened. She was alone with a strange guy who raised a knife and attempted to rape her. Maybe she feared that if she only hits, or pushes him or even stabbed him once, he could chase her. She was not safe and tried to defend herself,” Sadek explained.

Sadek highlighted that the girl will most likely suffer from the physiological effect of this situation and have trust issues with men in the future.

“How could she trust anyone in the future after the man she loves betrayed her and agreed with his friend to rape her? Of course, she needs long-term therapy to overcome and recover from this horrific experience,” Sadek asserted. 

Sadek added that the girl and her family will probably live in terror forever.

“The assailant’s family could seek revenge from the girl or her family members. Society and their community will not be tolerant with her because that she had a boyfriend and that a man attempted to rape her. They will confront many struggles to restore their normal lives,” Sadek concluded.

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Prices soar in Egypt, but people find ways to cope Wed, 17 Jul 2019 08:00:42 +0000 In Egypt, economic challenges since 2016 forced the people to adapt to price hikes. From an economic standpoint, the rising prices drive customer demand lower. To cope, Egyptians are struggling to cut their expenses and find alternatives to pricey commodities and services.

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Naturalist Charles Darwin once said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

In Egypt, economic challenges since 2016 forced the people to adapt to price hikes. From an economic standpoint, the rising prices drive customer demand lower. To cope, Egyptians are struggling to cut their expenses and find alternatives to pricey commodities and services.

“We did not change our lifestyle much, we only reduced our consumption to adapt to rising prices. Instead of buying two kilos of fruits, I now buy only a kilo per week. We still eat meat two times per week, but instead of taking three pieces of meat in a meal, we eat two pieces,” Eman Ali, a 45-year-old housewife, told Daily News Egypt.

In 2016, Egypt adopted an economic reform programme, backed by the International Monetary Fund, aiming at increasing economic growth and achieving economic security.

The programme included applying the added-value tax, floating the local currency, and fuel subsidy cuts which affected transportations prices, and in turn will hike prices of all commodities.

“Adapting does not mean permanent changes, it just means making small, quick adjustment,” said writer Hany Kubba. From this point, the Egyptians are good at making this small adjustment, as they are trying to figure out their own ways to reduce their expenses and save money despite the difficulties they may face. 

Ahmed Kamel, a 20-year-old student in Cairo University who lives in Beheira governorate, said, “Finding accommodation in Cairo near from my university is my only choice,” as he cannot go back and forth every day.

He added that the transportation has become unaffordable for him. He basically takes several transportations from his university in Giza to his home in Beheira, so if he returns home every day it will cost me a fortune. Therefore, he has to rent a room near the university to avoid this hustle and save every penny. It would be more convenience for him. To rent a room, he should start searching at least a month before the start of the academic year. 

For Kamel, the train is the cheapest transportation to use, as its ticket prices did not change, but still he has to take transportation from the university to the train station and also from the other station in Beheira to his home.

Egypt’s inflation rates have sky-rocketed since the floatation took place in November 2016, reaching a record high of 35% in July 2017, following the second wave of energy subsidy cuts. They have been gradually decreasing since then.

This June, Egypt’s annual inflation fell unexpectedly to its lowest rate in more than three years, reaching 8.9%, while core inflation, which measures the change in the costs of goods and services excluding food and energy, recorded 6.398%.

However, EFG Hermes forecasts that annual inflation would register between 11% and 12%, with a monthly increase of 3.5% in July and August following the fuel price hikes.

The rise in fuel prices took its toll on transportation, Samah, a greengrocer also known as Um Tarek, who comes every week from Sharqeya governorate to sell vegetables in Cairo. She said that transportation prices increased by about EGP 5, but she cannot increase the price of vegetables for not losing her customer, so she bears the difference in cost caused by the increase in fuel price.

Samy, a 33-year-old worker in a bakery, said, “The bakery’s owner will increase the price of bread, as the ingredients’ prices will increase following the last fuel price hikes, as the bakery cannot afford to bear the difference in price.”

He further explained that if the bakery increased the bread’s price, the customers at first would decrease their purchases, but then they would get accustomed to the new prices and their purchases would increase again.

However, the country has put regulations to prevent any possible overpricing of transportation fares, but some drivers increase the ride prices anyway.

Rana Atef, a 24-year-old bus commuter, said, “We had a quarrel with a bus driver as he wanted to add EGP 0.50 on the sated fare.”

“It started with me taking the bus to my home, the bus driver said the fare is EGP 6, but all the commuters yelled at him saying that the fare should be EGP 5.5. Finally, the commuters paid EGP 5.5 and the driver could not oppose as we took firm stand,” Atef shared.

I took the bus with the same driver a few days later, but the commuters didn’t argue about the fare and paid EGP 6. I think it is all about the people’s attitude towards overpricing.

Hassan Mostafa, a 43-year-old government employee, said it would be cheaper for him to take some days off from work to save the transportation fare. “Riding to the work costs me a lot, I have to take more than one transportation as my workplace is far from my home, so taking my annual leave is actually saving money.”

Mahmoud, a waiter in a kebab restaurant in Cairo’s Abbasiya district, said that the restaurant’s owner has to increase the price of served meals as the prices of ingredients increased.

“I have worked here for more than 10 years, the restaurant has to increase the price, and our customer are loyal and still come to the restaurant. However, the increasing price led some customers to come less frequently than what they used to. We are now expanding the restaurant.”

Yet, such hardships did pay off, credit rating agency Moody’s expects progress on reforms observed over the past three years and improvements in the private sector’s access to credit underpin their expectations of a return to 5.5% of the GDP growth in 2019 and further acceleration to 6% by 2021.

Also, The Economist listed Egypt at the third most accelerated economic growth globally in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019. The British magazine said that Egypt’s GDP jumped to 5.6% in Q1 of the year, following China and India, which occupied the first and second ranks by 6.4% and 5.8%, respectively.


President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has underscored the positive indicators of Egypt’s economic performance citing the Egyptian people’s support, awareness, and patience.

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Growing Ethiopian economy, yet facing political troubles, external risks Fri, 12 Jul 2019 08:00:37 +0000 Some of Ahmed’s reforms stirred-up tensions within Oromo Democratic Party, wider country 

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 Ethiopia’s economy and wealth levels have been growing strongly at 9% per annum on average for the past five years. Moody’s Investors Service published a new report on Tuesday addressing the reform efforts, political situation, and external risks in Ethiopia. 

The report highlighted the Ethiopian government’s reform efforts to increase private-sector involvement in the economy and improve infrastructure. 

The new Ethiopian government has emphasised the need for these reforms to sustain current growth rates and achieve the levels of wealth required for sustainable development. This will also help the government reduce the level of state-owned enterprises’ (SOE) debt, which continues to constitute a high proportion of the government’s debt burden. 

According to the report, these efforts are in line with the political steps which led to increasing deficiencies in the goods and services markets and easing the burden on the government balance sheet. But the report also points out that it will take time for benefits to be realised and they carry a plethora of implementation risks.


Reform main targets


The availability of reliable electricity is critical to Ethiopia’s growth and development, so the National Electrification Programme aims to achieve universal electricity access by 2025 by building new infrastructure with greater private sector involvement. 


In March 2018, the authorities revealed that efforts had supported an increase in the total electrification rate to 44% from 30% in 2017. 


Furthermore, the Ethiopian government is working hard to finalise the establishment of its largest dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which is expected to provide the country with enormous electricity production. In March 2019, Ethiopia announced signing a deal with the China Gezhouba Group to accelerate the construction of the GERD for $40.1m, and a $113m contract with Voith Hydro Shanghai to complete the project.


In the budget presented on June 13, 2019, the government passed a new law that created an independent regulator able to issue licences for new players to enter the telecoms market. The budget also confirmed plans to split the state telecoms provider, Ethio Telecom, into one entity for infrastructure and one for services.

At end June 2018, the company had 41 million mobile customers and a gross profit of ETB 27bn (approximately $1bn).

“While Ethiopia’s economy and wealth levels have been growing strongly in recent years, the new administration’s wide-ranging reform efforts have intensified underlying political tensions, which risk derailing economic activity. At the same time, volatile export earnings have intensified pressures on the country’s external position,” said Kelvin Dalrymple, Moody’s vice president – senior credit officer and lead sovereign analyst for Ethiopia.

He added that “in the short-term, support from the international community and the re-profiling of external bilateral debt of state-owned enterprises will be crucial to Ethiopia’s external and liquidity position, especially as its export earnings are volatile.”


In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was selected to be the prime minister of Ethiopia succeeding Hailemariam Desalegn who resigned in February 2018, amid political conflicts in the country.

Political environment


In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed was selected to be the prime minister of Ethiopia succeeding Hailemariam Desalegn who resigned in February 2018, amid political conflicts in the country. 

Since Ahmed’s rise to power in Ethiopia, he has released political prisoners, lifted the ban on political parties, and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights violations, but ethnic violence has erupted in many areas, including Amhara.

Moody’s report highlighted the role of the political environment in achieving the reform. But it stressed that much of the reform’s success will depend on the buy-in of the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, of which some members appear sceptical about the prime minister’s market-oriented focus.


Despite observing a broad stabilisation in the political environment in the last two years, the report noted that the attempted coup in Amhara underscores the sovereign’s underlying susceptibility to domestic political risk. 


However, some of the reforms the prime minister has pursued since being elected have stirred-up underlying tensions within his Oromia Democratic Party, the ruling coalition and the wider country. 


These tensions have materialised with at least two incidents that deemed a threat on the prime minister’s life since being elected and more recently with the attempted coup in Amhara state. These events underscore the elevated political risks in Ethiopia, which the Worldwide Governance Index indicators continue to assess as low relative to both regional and rating peers.


The Amhara region, which is north of Addis Ababa, one of nine provinces in Ethiopia and the second largest region in the country witnessed a coup attempt two weeks ago which resulted in killing the Ethiopian Military Chief of staff, General Seare Mekonnen, by his own bodyguard.


One of the major steps that were taken by Ahmed’s government to improve the political environment was the agreement with its neighbour, Eritrea, to end the 20-year conflict between the two countries.


Early on July 2018, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed the agreement to end the conflict that lasted for 20 years between the two countries since 1998. That border dispute has resulted in killing more than 80,000 people and displaced more than 350,000 people on the borders in the two countries.      

The report says that signing in the treaty with Eritrea has contributed to easing the political risks in Ethiopia over the last two years.  

Risks are unlikely to dissipate in the run-up to elections scheduled for 2020, as the government’s reform agenda risk exacerbating ethnic tensions in some parts of the country. In Ethiopia, these persistent political challenges are likely to be felt most prominently via any impact on investor perceptions, given that some sectors of the Ethiopian economy are heavily dependent on foreign direct investment, according to the report.


Sovereign’s credit profile


According to the report, prolonged domestic political uncertainty weighs most heavily on Ethiopia’s ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and ultimately economic growth.  

It said that most sectors of the Ethiopian economy depend on FDI and the impact could be material if investors continue to view Ethiopia as not stable enough to invest. The Worldwide Governance Index scores are also a key input in the assessment of institutional strength.

Dalrymple said that although its gross borrowing requirements are low relative to rating peers, Ethiopia is heavily reliant on foreign currency to repay its external debt (30% of GDP). Low foreign exchange reserves (4% of GDP) and volatility in export earnings exacerbate the related credit risks. 


He noted also that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has classified Ethiopia as at high risk of external debt distress since 2017 because of its low level of export receipts relative to the present value of its stock of external debt.

“The fact that only about a quarter of its public external debt was contracted with private creditors mitigates some of the risks,” he said. 


In the longer term, Ethiopia will need to refinance its $1bn Eurobond maturing in fiscal 2025, as the country receives significant concessional loans through the World Bank Group’s concessional window IDA, loans and grants from the EU, and bilateral donors. 


The report estimates the amortisation of public external debt in fiscal 2020 to be $1.7 bn, which is equivalent to 45% of the level of reserves. This is somewhat mitigated by large FDIs. 


In May 2019, the World Bank approved a guarantee instrument in an amount of $200m to support Ethiopia’s public private partnerships (PPP) projects in the energy sector. The guarantee will temporarily supplement the country’s external position but the authorities are also seeking to re-profile some bilateral external debt of SOEs to reduce the mismatch between loan repayments and the point at which key projects start to generate revenue. 


The authorities already extended the amortisation schedule of a $2.5 bn loan tied to the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway last September to 30 years from 20 previously. We do not account for the bilateral debt re-profiling in our external debt amortisation estimate.

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Libya Tajoura attack: Migrants caught up in spiral of violence Mon, 08 Jul 2019 13:55:14 +0000 “This is another example of the suffering of migrants living in countries of crises”

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Fleeing from conflicts, wars, and poverty inside their countries, African migrants and refugees risk their lives to face more dangerous conditions in countries such as Libya.

A bloody attack on a migrant’s detention centre outside the Libyan capital last week, which killed scores including children, has shed light on the migrants’ crisis in the war-torn country and their endless suffering to reach a foothold to live peacefully and safely away from conflict zones in homelands.

On Tuesday night, two airstrikes targeted the Tajoura detention centre in the suburbs of Tripoli. One missile hit an unoccupied garage, and another hit a hanger that contained some 120 refugees and migrants, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Libya.

Meanwhile, there are also reports that following the first raid, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to flee the airstrike, the OCHA further revealed.

The migrants’ centre housed more than 600 men, women, and children.

However, Tuesday’s airstrike was not the first, as in May two people were injured in a similar airstrike on the camp, the OCHA pointed out.

The death toll from the Tuesday attacks has risen to 53 people, including six children, while more than 130 others were wounded, as per the World Health Organization (WHO).

There are around 500 refugees and migrants that are held against their will at the Tajoura detention centre, which is close to a military base, the OCHA disclosed.

Libya has become a main crossing point to Europe since 2011 after the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi. However, not all European doors are open.

Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has barred boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers from entering Italy’s ports. The country seeks to tackle its long-time headache of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to southern Italy, who have been smuggled by Libyan gangs over the past few years.

According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) 2019 report, “11,292 migrants and refugees entered Europe until 20 March, by sea through a 13% decrease from the 13,043 arriving during the same period last year.”

“Deaths on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes through just over 11 weeks of the year are at 289 individuals – or less than 60% of the total (499 deaths) recorded on the Mediterranean during the same period in 2018,” the IOM reported.

The IOM also added that, “a total of 398 migrants have arrived by sea to Italy in 2019, according to the official Ministry of Interior figures, while 930 migrants have been returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard.”

Inhumane conditions

Alongside the threat of Libya’s armed conflict, the OCHA explained that migrants and refugees face the risk of being held in detention centres which are characterised “by severe overcrowding, insufficient access to health care, food, clean water, and sanitation facilities.”

The chaos and insecurity in the war-torn state paved the way for networks of migrants’ human trafficking and smuggling to flourish in recent years.

In addition to those held at the Tajoura detent centre, “there are around 3,300 migrants and refugees that remain arbitrarily detained inside and around Tripoli in inhumane conditions,” the IOM and the UNHCR said.

The United Nations have repeatedly expressed that Libya is not a safe place for migrants as the country has become a battleground due to the increasingly ongoing conflict between rival forces.

According to the IOM and the UNHCR, the ongoing conflict in Tripoli “has forced nearly 100,000 Libyans to flee their homes.”

The UN humanitarian actors urged all parties to the conflict “to refrain from locating military assets within or near densely civilian populated areas, such as detention centres, and to evacuate civilian persons under their control, including persons in detention, from the vicinity of military objectives to a more secure place.”

They also called for taking all possible measures to ensure that the migrants’ essential needs such as shelter, hygiene, health, safety, and nutrition are met.

Strong condemnations, but no actions

The condemnations have been mounting worldwide throughout the past days. Despite calls for a probe, no actions have been seriously taken yet.

The UN called for an independent investigation into the attack “to determine how this happened and who was responsible”, affirming that it [the attack] “deserves more than condemnation.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said on Wednesday that “this attack may, depending on the precise circumstances, amount to a war crime.”

The UN denounced that the attack was carried out “despite the fact that the coordinates of this detention facility and the knowledge that it housed civilians had been communicated to the parties to the conflict.”

The European Union (EU) also joined the UN in their calls for an independent probe into what it referred to as “a horrific attack.”

Consequently, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, strongly condemned the attack, calling for an independent probe to ensure that those responsible for this “horrific crime of innocent civilians,” be brought to account. 

On the other hand, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the attack, “should press home the need for the EU to step up efforts to help end the nightmare of migrant detention in Libya, including by demanding an end to abusive detention by Libyan authorities.”

The HRW urged the EU to boost “the resettlement of asylum seekers out of Libya, including directly to EU countries, and increase search and rescue operations at sea and disembarkation in a safe place outside Libya.”

However, the UN Security Council failed on Thursday to condemn the attack after the United States did not endorse the proposed statement.

Earlier, the US condemned the attack on migrant detention. “All parties must urgently de-escalate and return to the political process,” Morgan Ortagus, the US State Department spokesperson tweeted on Wednesday.

A catastrophic situation

In a tweet, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, strongly condemned the attack.

“[Refugees] must NOT be detained; civilians must NOT be a target; Libya is NOT a safe place of return. And of course, states with influence must cooperate to end the conflict, rather than fuel it,” he wrote.

Moreover, Jeff Crisp, a research associate at the Refugees Studies Centre at the University of Oxford also tweeted, “the shocking and tragic attack on a detention centre in Tripoli is a reminder of the human cost of the conflict in Libya, as well as the dire and vulnerable situation of migrants caught up in the spiral of violence.” 

“I am outraged by reports that dozens of refugees and migrants, including women and children, have been killed and injured by airstrikes on a migrant detention centre near Tripoli, Libya. I condemn this horrendous incident and call for an independent investigation.” António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN said in the aftermath of the attack.

The International Organization for Migration’s Chief of Mission in Libya, Othman Belbeisi, wrote, “our doctors and nurses who were in Tajoura last night describe the situation as catastrophic.”

“The targeting of civilian lives is a crime and immediate action is needed. This is another example of the suffering of migrants living in countries of crises,” Belbeisi continued.

Rival forces exchange accusations

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by the UN, has blamed the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, over the attack.

However, LNA spokesperson, Ahmed Al-Mesmari, denied any responsibility for the attack on the migrants’ centre, blaming armed factions loyal to the GNA for the airstrikes.

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

In April, Haftar, whose forces control much of the east and south of Libya, launched an offensive to seize Tripoli, the base of GNA. Since the offence began, 443 people have been killed and 2,110 injured, according to the WHO.

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Warda case raises question: how the society sees sexual harassment? Tue, 02 Jul 2019 11:00:33 +0000 There are several similar cases in which the people judge females for the way they dress or live, however, when it comes to their exposure to sexual harassment, the people apply double standards.

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Women in Egypt are always judged and attacked if found wearing revealing clothes or photographed smoking or drinking alcohol. The society never shows tolerance for such issues or respects those women’s personal freedom.

The prominent actress Rania Youssef appeared in a black, see-through outfit in the closing ceremony of the 2018 Cairo International Film Festival last November. She was harshly criticised on social media platforms. Not only this, a lawsuit was filed against Youssef accusing her of committing an obscene act and inciting infidelity, immorality, and vice. The actress was interrogated by the prosecution over her dress.

Many defended Youssef, but more people though her dress is inappropriate and she should be punished for this act.

There are several similar cases in which the people judge females for the way they dress or live, however, when it comes to their exposure to sexual harassment, the people apply double standards.

A few days ago, Egyptian football player Amr Warda was excluded from the national team participating in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) over accusations of sexual harassment, but he later re-joined the team after pressure from his teammates on the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). Many defended Warda on the grounds that he is young and deserves a second chance.

Last week, some women posted screenshots of their personal online messages with Warda, which included inappropriate comments. One of those women posted a clip on Twitter featuring Warda exposing himself to her.

It began when British-Egyptian Instagram model Merhan Keller shared screenshots of her conversations with Warda which showed lewd and aggressive messages from him. More women came forward about Warda after Keller spoke out, sharing similar messages.

A few hours later, Ehab Lehita, the Egyptian football national team’s director, stated that Warda will be permanently excluded from the national team.

Despite Warda was previously involved in several harassment cases, many people, including females, supported him ignoring the fact that harassment is one of the big phenomena that have long disturbed the Egyptian society.

However, this is not new to the Egyptian society as harassment is typically tolerated among conservative social segments.

Warda case sparked a debate, especially on social networks, between those who think the player made a big mistake but would prefer to give him a second chance, and those who think Warda deserves exclusion from the national team because of his repeated faults.

It was not Warda’s first controversial case. In 2017, he was excluded from the Greek PAOK club because of his misbehaviour. He was joining the team’s camp in the Netherlands. He was then transferred to a Portuguese club where he also continued his shenanigans.

In Portugal, Warda stayed with the Portuguese club for only three days and was excluded again over accusations of harassing two of his teammates’ wives, as reported in the Portuguese press. At that time, Warda denied harassment claims, threatening anyone accusing him of harassment without evidence to prosecute him.

Before the aforementioned cases, Warda was accused of harassing a French girl in Tunisia during the Egyptian Olympic team’s camp in 2013. It was the first time in which he faces such allegations in the media. The French girl called security after Warda reportedly stormed her room in a hotel, and the team’s officials intervened to contain the situation, and sent Warda home.

Egyptian football team backs Warda

Ahmed Elmohamady, the captain of the Egyptian national team, expressed his solidarity with Warda in his recent case. Elmohamady’s stance provoked argument on social media platforms between opponents, who urged that he should not have backed the player, and supporters, who thought that his act reflects the good spirit among the team members.

Celebrating his goal in the team’s match against DR Congo in AFCON, Elmohamady made a “22” sign with his fingers, in reference to the number of Warda’s shirt, showing his support to the player.

Also, Egypt’s football star Mohamed Salah called for giving Warda a second chance, though he affirmed the necessity of respecting women.

“Women should be treated with the utmost respect,” Salah said on Twitter in an implicit reference to Warda’s crisis. “No means No. Those things must remain sacred.”

“I also believe that many who make mistakes can change for the better, and should not be sent straight to the guillotine, which is the easiest way out,” Salah added, urging that “We need to believe in second chances… we need to guide and educate. Shunning is not the answer.”

The situation caused a sharp split between Salah’s fans. Some accused him of applying double standards as he always praises women’s roles in society and calls for respecting women, but he is now defending someone accused of sexual harassment. In an April interview with Time magazine, Salah called for a change in the way women are treated in the Muslim world.

While debates are still ongoing on social media, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Mahran filed a complaint to the Egyptian General Prosecutor Nabil Sadek against Warda for “harassing girls on social networks.”

Notably, the decision to exclude the player from the Egyptian team came hours before Egypt’s match against DR Congo in AFCON.

Afterwards, Warda posted a video apologising for the Egyptian fans and teammates for his mistakes, and he promised not to repeat such acts again. “I apologise for anyone I have upset.”

Later, the Egyptian national team players met with the EFA’s President Hany Abu Reida, as they feel that Warda has been subjected to injustice which will affect his career. As a result, Warda’s punishment was reduced and was allowed to returned to the national team starting from the AFCON’s last 16 stage.

How did the people react to Warda’s return?

Following the EFA’s decision, hashtags went viral on social media criticising the full team, particularly Salah, of supporting harassment. Some Egyptian supporters are even considering to boycott the national team.

Warda’s case is part of a problem that is plaguing the Egyptian society, as activists and associations have exerted in the last years significant efforts to raise awareness and limit the spread of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, public figures and normal citizens are questioning and rejecting the return of Warda after being allegedly accused of sexual harassment, there are others who believe that the player’s apology is enough and should return to the team, rationalising that all human beings make mistakes.

Women’s rights lawyer Azza Soliman said in a press statement that the idea of tolerance for harassers is always present in Egypt, as they are not viewed as criminals. She also criticised the fact that there is no comment from the government on the case.

Soliman pointed out that she was “shocked” by Salah and other player’s support of Warda, saying, “he is a role model for the community and by this way he is spreading tolerance for harassment.”

Meanwhile, MP Saeed Hassassin requested the Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal to contact the minister of youth and sports over the EFA’s decision to allow Warda to re-join the national team.

“The ethics are more important than the tournament, and everyone should have complied with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s instructions to adhere to ethics and show Egypt’s civilised image to the whole world,” Hassassin said.

He wondered in the parliament: “Why the minister of youth and sports did not address such acts that harm the Egyptian youth and sports?”

A sports reporter Tarek Talaat commented: “The players have the right to support Warda, but the EFA should have been stronger and not overturned its decision to punish the player.”

Warda’s return “created a division between the public and the national team,” and this is a “disaster for the community” because those players have a big guidance role, especially among young people.

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Can homeschooling replace formal education in Egypt? Sun, 30 Jun 2019 11:44:21 +0000 Collection of testimonies and experiences of parents as well as educators on homeschooling

The post Can homeschooling replace formal education in Egypt? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Alternatives to formal education are on the rise, homeschooling became one of the alternatives available to parents, allowing them a chance to offer a richer, more personalised educational experience than any of traditional school curriculum can.

Nouha Hafez, one of the parents –currently working in an academy offering homeschooling option– who decided tread on that path. She believes that homeschooling her son Ali, allowed him to be less stressed, and unleash his talents.

Another parent, Nesma share a similar view, Nesma felt the long hours her children spent at school with a poor curriculum and a lack of activities were of no benefit to them, and that now her daughter became more eager to study.

However, Egypt doesn’t recognise homeschooling, and the children has to be enrolled in a school, the only option available for them to be homeschooled, is to be enrolled in a school that allow them to enroll without attendance, they only need to go take the exams in such school.
According to Kamel Mogheith, an educational expert, modern technology made homeschooling more efficient, as social media allowed better communication between homeschooled students and their tutors.

Furthermore, Moustafa Farouk who currently is the head of an academy that offer homeschooling option to the parent, said that the idea started when he faced problems with the schools where her kids are enrolled at. So he decided to look for alternative options, and review the experience from different countries.

Another parent, says that his daughter personalty has changed, as she became more interested in learning, not out of fear of punishment, but instead she became eager to learn.

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Discounting weight of crystal stones when returning jewellery disrupts Egyptian gold market Fri, 21 Jun 2019 23:38:56 +0000 Issue opens the way for fraud, stealing citizens' gold savings, turning them into glass

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Gold is considered one of the best saving tools. It is the safest and quickest transfer of funds. Consumers resort to securing their savings in times of economic crisis and high inflation. Women prefer gold jewellery because they combine decoration and savings.

In recent years, some companies have gone on to expand and introduce gold jewellery decorated with crystal stones and zircon by 10-25% of the total weight but calculate the price on the total weight when selling while promising to return the entire price of jewellery when consumers resell them without discounting the weight of the stones.

The weight of stones is a debt on companies to the consumer that must be refunded. What happens in the market destroys the savings of Egyptians when companies evade accepting the jewellery without removing the stones and include their weight when consumers resell them.

Some companies consider it as a way to profit and collect the greatest amount of money from consumers by selling glass with the value of gold and changing policies and evasion, whether by changing activity or changing the brand to a new one.

Managing Director of New Egypt Gold, Khaled Khalil, said the company’s policy is clear in re-buying the consumer’s products without discounting stones.

He added that the company highly notes through the various media and official pages on social networking sites and through its agents that its policy is clear, and does not retreat from it: stones are a debt on the company and it can repay it whenever necessary.

Head of the Gold Division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FCC), Wassfy Amin, said that the weight of stones are not profits as some factories believe but rather a debt that must be kept.

“The division has put forward several initiatives to solve this crisis but to no avail, and Egypt is the only market that follows this system,” he added.

Amin explained that the factories expanded the use of stones by between 17 and 25% of the weight of the piece.

He called on the factories to introduce pure goldsmiths without stones or to use stones in their place and by not more than 3% ؜of the weight of the piece.

He added that the excessive use of stones is a way to manipulate the weights for illegal gains, especially as companies avoid including the price when consumers resell the jewellery and instead discount the weight of the stones.

Head of the Jewellery Division in the Federation of Gold Industries, Rafik Abbasy, said that selling jewellery with stones and calculating the weight of glass is a debt and a promise from the company to repay this money to consumers.

He added that the gold division cannot oblige companies to receive the jewellery without discounting the weight of the stones, with an executive force.

Furthermore, Abbasy advised gold traders and citizens to take legal action toward companies that do not meet their commitment in the sale contract and change of policy they declared, because it is “a legalised fraud on merchants and citizens.”

He referred to the need to adhere to the consumer to guarantee his rights and write a pledge on the invoice which obliges the trader to receive the stones at rebuying, making the bill a legal document that should be submitted to the Consumer Protection Authority and the general prosecution.

Meanwhile, some gold traders are considering a proposal to establish a joint stock company for the production of gold jewellery and list it on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) to raise capital in an attempt to face the problem of discounting stones weight while giving priority to founding partners and selling the remaining production on the market.

Former Gold Merchants Syndicate Head, Rafik Ibrahim, said that an old lady bought a bracelet and asked to stamp the bill and write a pledge from the store to buy it again without discounting the price of the stones as this money will go toward her burial.

“Since then I have a desire to tell the story to all owners of factories and workshops to take a sermon. And those who think of evading the receipt of stones reconsider and give people their rights,” he added.

He noted that evading the price of stones is a fraud and a theft of consumers’ money.

Moreover, Ibrahim pointed out that the crisis lies in the refusal of companies to receive embedded jewellery, then traders discount the weight of the stones by removing the stones and only accounting for the weight of the gold.


Regulators intervention, companies comply to pressure

The crisis has increased during the past few days after a company refused to accept jewellery with stones without discounting the weight of the stones from gold shops, which forced companies to think about a way to find a solution to preserve their rights and maintain their reputations with the public, he added.

Moreover, he referred to other proposals, including requiring companies to separate the weight of the stones from the weight of the jewellery and writing the details on each piece like foreign markets do. “We may ensure the commitment of the factory owners, but we cannot guarantee their children after them,” he said.

Additionally, he explained that when companies refuse to accept the jewellery without discounting the price of the stone, its pushes consumers away from gold.

Furthermore, Ibrahim shared that the consumer believes that discounting the value of craftsmanship at sale is a loss and discounting the weight of the stones will force citizens to reconsider investing in gold and find other means due to losing when selling.

He explained that retailers are more understanding of the nature of the consumer and that using stones is a manipulation scheme and a fraud. “We should encourage consumers to invest in gold instead of making losses worse,” he said.

Ibrahim referred to the need of gold factories to offer non-studded jewellery or reduce the proportion of stones in gold works.

The pressure and threats of gold traders and retailers of boycotting these companies led to the submission of some of them. Lazurde Egypt has been a target of the campaign, which forced it to change its policy in retrieving jewellery without discounting the weight of the stones in May 2016.

This is the result of the demand of citizens to sell what they own as a result of the rise in prices of gold then to unprecedented levels, which represents a crisis for companies that receive jewellery without discounting the weight of stones, meaning that if it received a tonne of gold from the market, 10% of it will be stones, or, it will pay for 100 kg of gold at the new prices.

Lazurde said it did not refuse to accept the jewellery but postponed it, as it used to receiving some 50 kg from traders per day and received 10 kg per week and postponed the rest, which caused problems to retailers due to a cash shortage and forced many of them to refuse taking Lazurde jewellery from the public.

During a meeting held at the Marriott in Zamalek between the company’s officials and representatives of the gold division and major merchants, Lazurde revised its decision and announced during the meeting that it would not change its policy regarding the recovery of the gold works that contain stones.

The CEO of Lazurde, Seddik El Mahdy, said that the company did not change its policy.

He pointed out that the sales department postponed the receipt from some traders for a certain period during that crisis, given the problems experienced by the market and the lack of liquidity.

In addition, he highlighted that distributors and retailers play a pivotal role in the development of the gold market. The company meets annually with its merchants to support them, discuss their problems, and find solutions.

Over and above, El Mahdy added that the company discussed the problem of importing gold jewellery with stones and stressed its commitment to its policy in the recovery of gold works without discounting the weight of stones.

Head of the Gold Division at the Chamber of Commerce in Sharqeya, Wadea Antoine, said that companies are evading their promises and changing their policies by committing to restore inlaid gold without discounting the weight of the stones, as a means of profit and fraud.

Companies do not adhere to their commitments which puts a load on gold shops, and they have the choice either to bear the value of the weight of gold, or distort their gold traders’ reputation because they are the ones who deal directly with consumers, Antoine added.

Additionally, he called for a decision to oblige companies to separate the weights of gold from the weight of stones, similar to what is applied in Arab markets, in order to determine a fair price and put a sticker on each piece showing its information, in order to protect consumers from purchase manipulation.

Antoine referred to the need to activate the role of government controls through laws that impose sanctions on the violating companies and shops.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the agent of Tiba Company in Egypt sold gold works over several years and refused to receive pieces without discounting the weight of stones, causing severe losses to companies. Reports and lawsuits were filed against that company.

Traders should deal with reputable companies that stick to their promises because they are ultimately responsible for the trader. The consumer should also deal with an honest trader who has a clear policy of retrieving the items bought before without discounting the weight of the stones, Antoine added.


Traders caught in the crosshairs

Mohammed Aggag, a gold trader, said that 95% of gold pieces in the market are inlaid with stones, representing 10-15% of their weight.

He added that the policy of committing to recover these pieces without discounting the weight of stones is something that the concerned factory and company should do, and the role of shops is only limited to the implementation of this policy.

Aggag pointed out the need to guide consumers and making it clear that this is not the responsibility of gold traders. He said, “This decision leaves traders in a less critical situation when companies fail to meet their commitments”.

Furthermore, he pointed out that this trend will encourage consumers to turn to gold pieces without any stone, and this might push factories to manufacture only certain amounts since they would be harder to sell.

Consumers must carry the responsibility for their choices, and gold shops are not responsible for implementing the recovery policy of stone weights. “Traders are intermediates and companies should be the ones to carry that responsibility,” he added.

“It is difficult for traders to trust factories regardless of their reputations and commitment, and traders are the ones who have to directly deal with consumers,” he said.

Moreover, a solution to this problem includes companies launching gold pieces without any stones so that they gradually occupy a large portion of the market, he added.

Aggag explained that the issue is serious as part of the capital of the gold Egyptians have is actually glass, while we are seeing the capital of companies maximise as glass passing as gold in calculating the value of a gold piece.

Additionally, he added that the solution also includes applying the old market policy which stipulates that there should be no returned stone debts, and that simpler pieces should be made available in the market. “The aim of this is to overcome the crises of the market and reserve the rights of consumers and traders,” he added.

He demanded gold traders to document legally receiving stones at the Land Registry, and distribute them on retail shops in order to reassure traders and consumers.

Ashraf Othman, a gold trader, said that the weight of stones is a debt borne by companies to consumers, and many of them cannot even stick to their promises to receive once more these gold pieces while discounting the prices of stones.

Othman added that the wave of refusing to recover the pieces increases as prices increase, as these companies change their logos as a kind of evasion.

In addition, he went on to say that the high price of gold costs companies a higher value than the returned gram. Some items were bought by consumers at the price of EGP 300 per gram, and the consumer wants to recover the value of the item when the price of the gram has changed to EGP 600.

Companies rely on compensating consumers for the loss of craftsmanship and cracked stones with the increase in the price of  a gold gram, Othman pointed out.

He added that it is difficult for companies to identify the weight of stones on each piece in advance due to different measures, and “companies will not agree on that” according to him.

Furthermore, he explained the need to issue a written agreement from the company with each piece, in which the company would pledge to recover the items without discounting the weight of stones.

Moreover, the loss of the “compliance paper” deprives consumers of their rights to recover the items without deducting the weight of the stones, he added.

Ayman Al-Azazi, a gold trader, said the solution to the crisis is companies writing the weight of stones on each piece and not considering the stone weight part of the overall weight of the gold item.

Al-Azazi added that it is also necessary for gold traders to refrain from receiving inlaid items without receiving information on the weight of stones, which prompts manufacturers to write weights on each piece, or produce items without any stones. He added “Consumer bears the weight of glass and pay a high cost for craftsmanship, and when it comes to reselling the gold item, the stones are broken and their price is deducted and this is fraud.”

Some companies launch large quantities of gold jewellery inlaid with glass stones, and then change their names and refuse to receive the items again, he added.

Some companies added 50kg of glass to their balance, then shut down and changed their names and opened a new company instead, and so on.

Ashraf Gomaa, a gold trader said that the policy of retrieving the items without discounting the weight of the stones is fraud and harms retail traders. Many companies fail to fulfil their promises and refuse to accept the inlaid items.

He added that traders are the ones whose reputations get harmed. He wondered about the role of the gold division and the Gold Traders Syndicate to reserve the rights of gold traders.

Saudi Arabia and certain Gulf markets have become aware of the problem of stones and have set strict rules for it. The Saudi Ministry of Commerce’s regulations stipulate that if the gold pieces contain “fake” stones of no value representing over 5% of the weight of the item, their price will be deducted from the item, however, if the stone is of a value, its price would not be deducted.

There is no legal documentation of the debts for the stones on returned items within companies, nor is there any legal monitoring of the behaviour of companies in these funds.

Head of Assay and Weights Administration, Abdullah Montasser, said that the size of the inlaid gold items represents about 95% of the gold traded in the market.

The laws of assaying gold items do not distinguish between the inlaid and plain items. The weight of the stones cannot be separated from the weight of the gold item itself, and the value of the item is calculated based on the overall weight of the piece, he added.

Montasser continued that the consumer must have his right reserved by writing a formal agreement on the invoice with the trader’s commitment to withdraw the items without discounting the weight of the stones. “Otherwise, the law does not protect fools,” he said.

“The new system, which will be implemented by the beginning of next July, will include taking pictures of the final product, in addition to barcodes for each piece. The consumer has the right to sell it again to the trader with the same specifications without breaking the stones, otherwise it is a punishable offense.” Montasser concluded.

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Drop in US dollar exchange rate cuts auto prices by 3% Fri, 21 Jun 2019 12:19:34 +0000 Mostafa excludes impact of car sales on dollar

The post Drop in US dollar exchange rate cuts auto prices by 3% appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptian banks witnessed a decline in the exchange rate of the US dollar during the last few days giving a glimmer of hope to the Egyptian street, which was plagued by financial crises, especially since the liberalisation of the dollar exchange rate about two years ago.

Rumours have recently spread that the decline in car sales was one of the main reasons for the decline and stabilisation of the dollar exchange rate. Meanwhile, the public is watching car price reductions that are supposed to track the decline in the dollar.

Recently, several companies announced newly priced cars due to dollar cuts, the most prominent of which was Mansour. They announced earlier this week that they would cut automobiles prices, followed by other companies such as Ghabbour Auto.

Several other companies are set to follow suit in the coming days by offering promotions or discounts.

In this regard, Hussein Mostafa, an expert in cars, said that with the decline in the price of the dollar by about 5%, this will cut auto prices by 3%. He also said that if the exchange rate lowers again to EGP 16, car prices will also follow.

The exchange rate impacts the price of imported cars or cars assembled locally from several aspects, either from importing the car itself or through importing its components. Moreover, the dollar affects the value of cars in the Egyptian currency. This is because of custom tariff payments in the case of imports, value added tax, stamp tax, or development fees in case the car is assembled locally.

This will be seen evidently in cars that have been using the new exchange rate, either in the manufacturing or import cycle, which will complete its cycle in August. Older models, that are available in the market, were bought three to five months ago at the old exchange rate.

Mostafa said that most companies are currently offering promotions on cars to accelerate sales, stressing that the market must see a decline in the prices of all goods following the cut in the exchange rate.

He completely ruled out that the decline in car sales was a reason behind pushing down the exchange rate, given that imported cars increased compared to the locally assembled models in the first few months of 2019 against 2018 by almost double.

He stressed that the main reasons for the decline in the dollar exchange rate are the economic reforms in Egypt, as well as the increase in the proportion of domestic products compared to imported products. However, he also expressed optimism about the economic situation and the impact on the automotive sector and sales.

Ahmed Khalil, a car sales expert, attributed the current offers and discounts as an attempt to push the market forward with more sales. There is a constant attempt aimed at acquiring market sales and also a current need to make room for the 2020 models that are expected to start showing in about two months.

Khalil expects that these cuts will contribute to stopping the movement of sales, contrary to what everyone expects. He said that there is a public fear that car prices could drop again and so, a majority are boycotting the sale until prices stabilise.

He also denied that there was another wave of cuts in the coming period due to the bottleneck of the auto market and paralysis of the final quarter of 2018 sales.

Khalil believes that with the introduction of Mansour’s offers earlier this week, several companies introduced their new prices, including Ghabbour, on Tuesday. Khalil also added that both these companies are the two main competitors and the main drivers of the car market.

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On Al-Zarqawi’s 13th death anniversary, ISIS crumbles, yet still poses threat Sun, 09 Jun 2019 10:42:32 +0000 'If anything, ISIS is better poised for a comeback than it was a decade ago,' says author

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Thirteen years ago, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian founder of Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq and the spiritual leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist movement, was killed in a United States airstrike on his safehouse in Hibhib village, northern Iraq, following more than three years of actively attempting to capture him.

Al-Zarqawi’s 13th death anniversary, on 7 June, coincides with the ongoing defeats of “Islamic caliphate”, which was proclaimed in June 2014 by its current leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri several days after capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city.

Al-Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh, was the founder of the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq, or, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). He was born in 1966 in Zarqa, Jordan, to a middle-eastern family. He was particularly religious; however, he was a street fighter, alcohol drinker, and obsessed with tattoos.



However, his path was suddenly radically shifted. In her attempts to modify his behaviour, Zarqawi’s mother put him in a mosque where he, unfortunately, instead of being rectified, received his first jihad lessons at the hands of one of most radical clercs in Jordan, according to an interview with Jean-Charles Brisard, author of Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda.



In 1989, Zarqawi travelled to Afghanistan to join other foreign jihadists against the Soviet Union, however, it was too late, as the war, which began in 1979, was over when he arrived. He then returned to Jordan where he was jailed with his mentor Abu Mohammed Al-Maqdessi for five years over their involvement in terrorist plots, but they were released as per a presidential pardon in 1999.

Once he got out of prison, he went back to Afghanistan and managed to reinitiate contact with Al-Qaeda commanders and eventually, he established his own camp in Herat, according to the US government. At his training camp, Zarqawi trained jihadists, ran terrorist cells, and facilitated transport of foreign fighters.

Subsequently, he travelled to Iraq in late 2002, according to the US government. Zarqawi exploited the chaos following the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Over several years, Al-Zarqawi shocked the world with his deadly car bombs, beheadings, and brutal terrorist attacks targeting Shia Muslims and their places of worship. Those attacks often were broadcast over the internet. With his barbaric acts, he attracted thousands of followers around the world. He benefitted from sectarian tensions and lawlessness to strengthen his terrorist AQI network and carried numerous terrorist attacks in Iraq and even in his homeland Jordan.

After his death, Zarqawi’s successor Abu Ayyub Al-Masri dissolved the AQI and founded the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. Years after the killing of Al-Masri, Zarqawi’s children and followers managed to spring forth with the Syrian uprising in 2011. In 2013, they were ready to begin again, headed by the Iraqi jihadist Al-Baghdadi, who declared a newly merged group that called the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham.

A real end?

By capturing vast territories in Iraq and Syria including Al-Mosul and Raqqa, receiving large amounts of money, and having thousands of foreign fighters as well as control over oil wells, ISIS strengthened its foothold.

However, ISIS began to relativity retreat in 2016. In October of the same year, Iraqi forces, Sunni Arab tribesmen, Shi’ite and Kurdish fighters launched a nine-month comprehensive offensive supported by the US-led coalition to recapture Al-Mosul from ISIS fighters. In July 2017, the Iraqi government formally declared victory over the terrorist group.

Three months later, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) recaptured the Syrian city and the IS capital Raqqa, after months of battle. In March 2019, the SDF declared that ISIS lost its final stronghold in Syria, Baghuz, bringing an end to the terrorist brutal caliphate.

Despite the significant leadership and territorial losses, ISIS still “commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world,” according to the 2019 report of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” published by the US intelligence community.

ISIS will seek to “exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term,” the report stated.

Moreover, ISIS “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States,” the report added.



Charismatic leader

“Zarqawi was an original, someone who redefined what it means to be a jihadist,” Joby Warrick, American journalist and the author of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, told Daily News Egypt.

“While he lacked theological sophistication, he possessed a personal charisma and boldness of action and also brutality that appealed to a certain demographic of young Muslims who feel aggrieved and powerless and are looking for a hero,” Warrick added.

Throughout his book, Warrick followed the life of Zarqawi and traced the rise of ISIS.

“Although uneducated, Zarqawi was media-savvy and brand-conscious. He deliberately set out to cultivate an image and a brand that was different from that of familiar jihadist leaders such as Osama bin Laden,” Warrick highlighted.

The differences between Bin Laden and Zarqawi were remarkably sustainable. “Bin Laden was the grey-bearded sheikh reading a long sermon from a paper script, while Zarqawi was a man of action, dressed as a ninja, committing acts of violence on video, and firing a machine gun from the hip,” Warrick clarified.

Warrick moved on to say, “to his followers, this was exciting, and even more so since they did not have to understand theology or go through special training in order to be part of the Zarqawi ‘gang’ ISIS operates the same way, and this partly explains the group’s continued, wide-reaching appeal.”

JV of terrorism

On the other hand, Max Abrahms, the author of Rules for Rebels, and a professor of political science at Northeastern University believes that Al Qaeda has a superior strategy than ISIS.

“President Obama was criticised for once saying that ISIS was the JV (junior varsity) of terrorism. But in many ways, he was right. Compared to ISIS, Al Qaeda and its associated groups control more territory, have more members, and both local and international support,” Abrahms told DNE.

By acting more moderately, Abrahms said, Al Qaeda “has outmatched ISIS in terms of gaining territory, members, and supporters both locally and internationally.”

“The media fixated on ISIS. Pundits, for years, touted its strategy of extremism as strategic. But this is not how militant groups thrive in terms of achieving either political or organisational goals,” Abrahms demonstrated.

Moreover, Abrahms highlighted, “compare, for example, the towns of Raqqa to Idlib. The former is basically ISIS-free whereas the latter is controlled by an Al Qaeda associated group: Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).

“The same dynamics are playing out in Afghanistan where the Taliban is outclassing ISIS in nearly every metric precisely because of its relative restraint. Indiscriminate violence against civilians captures headlines. But it does not pay,” Abrahms pointed out.

A possible comeback?

Warrick highlighted that there are some similarities between the situation of Zarqawi’s movement in the time following his death and the time subsequent to the declaration of the end of caliphate in 2019.

“I see remarkable similarities between the situation of ISIS in the 2008/10 timeframe and what we’re seeing today. If anything, ISIS is better poised for a comeback than it was a decade ago,” Warrick revealed.

“At the time of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2010, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) had been ‘operationally defeated,’ according to intelligence experts at the time. The ISI had been reduced to a few hundred disorganised members scattered about Iraq in small underground cells. And yet, the group was able to quickly regain strength by exploiting sectarian tensions and a lax security environment in Iraq as well as in neighbouring Syria, which was in a state of civil war,” Warrick clarified.

Furthermore, Warrick added that ISIS has an advantage today. “They can call on a network of regional affiliates—ISIS chapters in places like Afghanistan, the Sahel and West Africa—for logistical and financial support.”

“ISIS’s followers’ number is in the thousands, including well-trained and battle-hardened fighters. Just as before, they are again able to draw strength by exploiting sectarian tension in the permissive security environment. I have little doubt that we will be seeing much more from ISIS in the years to come,” Warrick concluded.

The post On Al-Zarqawi’s 13th death anniversary, ISIS crumbles, yet still poses threat appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Number of 13 banks score EGP 8.48bn in net profits in 1Q19 Sun, 09 Jun 2019 04:28:29 +0000 CIB ranks 1st with profits of EGP 2.64bn, QNB AlAhli follows, Faisal Islamic Bank in 3rd

The post Number of 13 banks score EGP 8.48bn in net profits in 1Q19 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A total of 13 private banks operating in the Egyptian market achieved net profits of EGP 8.48bn during the first quarter (Q1) of 2019.

According to a survey conducted by Daily News Egypt on the banks that revealed their financial statements until the end of March 2019. The Commercial International Bank-Egypt (CIB) ranked first among these banks with a profit of about EGP 2.64bn, while QNB AlAhli came in second place with profits of EGP 1.91bn, followed by Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt in third place with profits of EGP 850.8m.

Credit Agricole Egypt came in fourth with a profit of EGP 701.6bn, while the Housing and Development Bank (HDB) came in fifth despite the decline of profits in Q1 this year to EGP 603.01m, down 4.7% compared to Q1 of 2018.

This came at a time when the financial statements of SAIB Bank showed the bank turning back to profits after a period of losses, where the bank achieved profits of $785,000 (EGP 13.6m) recovering from losses of $290,000 (EGP 5m) in Q1 of 2018.


The bank achieved a net profit of EGP 2.64bn during Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 2.02bn in Q1 of 2018, a growth of 30.69%.

The bank’s net revenue in that period increased by 51.52% to EGP 4.94bn, compared to EGP 3.26bn in Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s financial statements revealed a rise in the loan portfolio during Q1 of 2019 by 5.59% to reach EGP 112.25bn, compared to EGP 106.31bn in Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s deposit portfolio increased by 2.82% to reach EGP 293.35bn, up from EGP 285.3bn.

Total assets increased during Q1 of 2019 by 2.69% to EGP 351.68bn, compared to EGP 342.46bn in Q1 of 2018.

According to the bank’s financial statements, its capital adequacy ratio stood at 21.49% at the end of Q1 of 2019.

The bank formed provisions of EGP 521m during Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 320m in Q1 of 2018.



QNB AlAhli

QNB AlAhli posted a net profit of EGP 1.912bn at the end of Q1 of 2019, an increase of 27%, compared to Q1 of 2018. Its consolidated net profit increased to EGP 2.023bn, a growth of 26%.

The bank’s loan portfolio, after deducting the provision, reached EGP 137bn at the end of March 2019. Deposits amounted to EGP 201bn and the bank’s loan-to-deposit ratio stood at 72%.

According to the bank’s financial statements, the percentage of facilities granted to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was 23% of total facilities at the end of March 2019.

Also, according to the bank, the ratio of provisions for non-performing loans (NPLs) was 175%, and the capital adequacy ratio was 17.73%, in view of the optimal application of credit policies, with the bank’s investment portfolio free from any risk assets.

It pointed out that the total consolidated assets of the bank amounted to EGP 250bn at the end of March 2019.



Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt

The independent financial indicators of the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt during Q1 of 2019 showed an increase of 9.3% year-over-year (y-o-y).

The bank said in a statement to the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) that it achieved a profit of EGP 850.8m during the three months ended in March 2019, compared to profits of EGP 777.9m in Q1 of 2018.

The bank attributed the growth to the increase in saving vessels by about EGP 2bn during the period, which positively affected the increase in investments and thus increased the net profit.

Furthermore, the bank’s revenues for Q1 of 2019 amounted to EGP 2.5bn, compared to EGP 2.08bn in Q1 of 2018.



Credit Agricole Egypt

Credit Agricole Egypt’s net profit reached EGP 701.6m during Q1 of this year, compared to EGP 605.7m in Q1 of 2018, a growth of 15.8%.

The bank said in a statement to the EGX that it had achieved a pre-tax profit of EGP 875.2m, compared to EGP 759.3m, with a growth of 15.3%.

The bank’s customer deposits declined by 4% during Q1 of 2019, from EGP 43.9bn in December 2018 to EGP 42.2bn at the end of March 2019. Loans and credit facilities increased by 6.8% to EGP 23.1bn, compared to EGP 21.6bn.

According to the Managing Director of Crédit Agricole Egypt, Pierre Venas, the bank is making strides in implementing its growth strategy in the Egyptian market, which is based on innovation, and aims toward sustainability, enhancing the bank’s presence, increasing customer and employee satisfaction, whilst preserving the environment and helping the community.


Housing and Development Bank

The HDB recorded a net profit of EGP 603.01m during Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 632.52m in Q1 of 2018, a decrease of 4.7%.

The bank attributed the decline in its profits to the exclusion of the value of the dividends of subsidiaries and associate companies worth EGP 121.2m, against EGP 67.5m, up by 78.5%.

The net income of the bank fell to EGP 731.1m at the end of March 2019, compared to EGP 972.9m at the end of March 2018. Net income from fees and commissions decreased to EGP 65.97m, compared to EGP 76.38m.


National Bank of Kuwait-Egypt

The National Bank of Kuwait-Egypt (NBK_ reported a net profit of EGP 510m for Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 497m in Q1 of 2018, an increase of 2.6% y-o-y.

The bank’s total assets grew by 18.25% to EGP 70.37bn at the end of March 2019, compared to EGP 59.51bn in March 2018.

Total customer deposits during the period increased by 20.56% to EGP 53.07bn, compared to EGP 44.02bn.

Net customer loans and facilities rose 5.34% to EGP 37.68bn, compared to EGP 35.77bn.

The bank’s branch in Egypt contributes about one third of the profits of the group’s foreign branches, said Issam Jasem Al-Sager, Group CEO and chairperson of the NBK.

Al-Sager added that most of NBK-Egypt’s profits come from credit operations with the corporate sector. The bank’s credit portfolio includes a wide variety of companies dealing with it, reflecting the diversification of the Egyptian economy.



Bank Audi Egypt

The results of Bank Audi Egypt’s operations during Q1 of 2019 revealed a net profit of EGP 326m, an increase of 24% compared to Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s financial indicators showed that its total assets rose to EGP 70bn, and its equity increased to EGP 6bn at the end of March 2019. The bank’s capital adequacy ratio was 19%.

According to the Acting CEO and Managing Director of the bank, Mohamed Bedair, the strong financial results achieved by the bank during Q1 of 2019 are the start of a non-traditional performance of the bank in the coming period.

He pointed out that the volume of allocations made by the bank to cope with NPLs reached EGP 1.1bn, one of the highest coverage rates in the Egyptian banking sector.

Bedair added that the bank’s customer deposits portfolio reached EGP 61bn, an increase of EGP 2bn in three months.

According to Bedair, the bank maintained its market share in corporate and retail credit with a credit portfolio of EGP 31bn. The portfolio is considered one of the strongest in the Egyptian banking sector. The ratio of NPLs is only 2.5%, which is one of the best in the Egyptian banking sector, after the bank has implemented the IFRS 9 starting 2019.




Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank-Egypt

The Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank-Egypt (ADIB) posted a net profit growth of 78% in Q1 of 2019 to reach EGP 279.44m, compared to EGP 156.78m during Q1 of 2018.

The bank said in a statement to the EGX that net income from the same period rose to EGP 706.97m compared to EGP 566.76m.

The bank attributed this increase to a rise in the margin from the financing portfolio by EGP 276.9m, 39% over the same period in 2018.

Murabaha profits, participations, speculations, and similar revenues at the bank rose to EGP 1.59bn during Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 1.25bn during Q1 of 2018.

At the independent business level, the bank posted a net profit of EGP 250.11m during Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 151.48m in Q1 of 2018.

Net income from revenue in the same period rose to EGP 716.88m against EGP 571.61m.

The bank attributed this rise to an increase in the margin from the financing portfolio by EGP 282m, or 39%, over the same period in 2018.



Al Baraka Bank-Egypt

Al Baraka Bank-Egypt achieved a net profit of EGP 266.28m during Q1 of this year, compared to a net profit of EGP 197.49m during Q1 of last year, a growth of 34.83%.

Net income from fees and commissions during Q1 of 2019 rose to EGP 75.7m compared to EGP 69.93m in Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s financial statements showed that the deposit portfolio increased during Q1 of 2019 to EGP 56.44bn, compared to EGP 54.54bn during Q1 of 2018, a growth of 3.49%.

Total assets rose during Q1 of 2019 to reach EGP 63.83bn, compared with EGP 62.52bn during Q1 of 2018.

According to the bank, investments with banks during the same period increased to EGP 3.49bn, compared with EGP 3.48bn during the same period last year.



EG Bank

The net profit of the EG Bank increased by EGP 9.25m during Q1 of this year to reach EGP 145.78m, compared to EGP 136.53m in Q1 of 2018, up by 7%.

In a statement to the EGX, the bank said its deposit portfolio increased by EGP 7.39bn during Q1 of 2019, reaching EGP 57.91bn, compared to EGP 50.51bn in Q1 of 2018, up by 15%.

Meanwhile, the loan portfolio decreased during Q1 of 2019 by EGP 1.42bn, reaching EGP 24.66bn, compared to EGP 26.08bn during Q1 of 2018.



Suez Canal Bank

Chairperson and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Bank, Hussein Refaey, said that the bank achieved a net profit of EGP 129m during Q1 of this year, compared to EGP 115m during Q1 of 2018, an increase of 12%.

He pointed out that this increase in profits was supported by a net profit increase of 40% and net income from fees and commissions by 36%.

Refaey added that the bank has increased the loan portfolio and customer facilities by 5% to EGP 14.2bn in March 2019, compared to EGP 13.5bn in December 2018. Customer deposits recorded EGP 38.5bn in March 2019.

Moreover, he explained that the bank’s strategy for the coming years aims to focus on expanding in investment banking services and non-bank financial services, supporting the SMEs and retail banking sectors in order to enhance the concept of financial inclusion, all while continuing to focus on supporting and financing big companies.


Union National Bank – Egypt

The Union National Bank – Egypt (UNB-E) posted a net profit of EGP 110m for Q1 of 2019, compared to EGP 60m for Q1 of 2018.

The bank said in a statement that the net revenue rose from EGP 214m in Q1 of 2018 to EGP 232m in Q1 of 2019, a growth of 9%.

The bank’s loan portfolio increased by 5% and customer deposits increased by 8%.

According to the bank, the financial position increased to EGP 34.6bn during Q1 of this year, a rise of 7%, compared to December 2018.




SAIB Bank’s financial indicators revealed that the bank has shifted from losses to profitability during Q1 of 2019.

The bank said in a statement that it recorded a net profit of about $785,000 (about EGP 13.6m) during Q1 of 2019, against losses of $290,000 (about EGP 5m) during Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s return to profitability was led to by a 23% increase in net revenues as a direct result of the lower cost of deposits and an increase in net trading income of 24% y-o-y, influenced by increased foreign exchange earnings.

Furthermore, the bank’s interest income declined during Q1 of 2019 to $120.89m, compared to $131.88m in Q1 of 2018.

The bank’s total deposits at the end of Q1 of 2019 reached $4.02bn, compared to $3.85bn during Q1of 2018.

Total loans rose to $1.55bn at the end of March 2019, from $1.51bn at the end of March 2018.



The post Number of 13 banks score EGP 8.48bn in net profits in 1Q19 appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

‘Paranormal’ loyal readers reveal expectations, fears over Netflix new series Mon, 03 Jun 2019 07:00:20 +0000 "There are characters that should stay fictional, such as Refaat Ismael,’ says reader

The post ‘Paranormal’ loyal readers reveal expectations, fears over Netflix new series appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Prominent writer Ahmed Khaled Tawfeek, was not an ordinary popular storyteller who grabbed the minds and the hearts of thousands of young Egyptian readers but he also inspired a generation by his books particularly his novel series Ma Wara Al-Tabia (Paranormal).

Consequently, when Netflix, the world’s leading online entertainment service, announced that its first Egyptian drama series will be based on ‘Paranormal,’ Tawfeek’s devoted readers or what can be called as his fans, expressed their absolute joy that the novel series that captured their affection with their twists and turns and exciting events will turn into an international TV series. However, some of them also opened up regarding their fears.

Tawfeek, who died at 55 in April 2018 in a hospital in Cairo, is best known for his books specialised in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. His funeral was astonishing and filled of thousands of young readers who used to read his books.

The new production is Netflix’s third series from the Middle East. It will be produced by director Amr Salama and film-producer Mohamed Hefzy.

Celebrating the news, the author’s son, Mohamed, expressed his enthusiasm on his Facebook account. “A dream come true,” Mohmed wrote last Monday.

Actually, the idea to reproduce the novels into a TV series is not new. In earlier statements in February 2014, director Amr Salama unveiled during a TV interview with writer Tawfeek that he was seeking to produce a series based on ‘Paranormal.’

“I promise you that I will fight to the end until the ‘Paranormal’ TV series comes to light in the best way,” Salama told the prominent writer.

Refaat Ismael is a mirror for everyone

In the same 2014 interview, Tawfeek explained that Ismael was an anti-hero in almost everything. “I decided to introduce a lead character that almost does not know how to do anything. He is diagnosed with different diseases and the only thing he has is his mind.”

Refaat Ismael is an introvert, mainly intellectual, and a single physician. What makes him very admirable for his fans is that he was not a superhero, but a person that people can regularly meet in real life.

“He is a mirror for everyone. The reader can imagine that he is Ismael but he will never imagine that he could be James Bond,” Tawfeek asserted.

Meanwhile, Tawfeek moved on to say that there was an attempt to introduce a TV series based on his best-selling ‘Paranormal,’ but the project was suspended due to production problems.

Fears of dramatic treatment

“I think what distinguishes Refaat Ismael from any other fictional characters is that he was a real person and not a superhero,” Ahmed Adel, a 27-year-old journalist told Daily News Egypt.

“He was an ordinary person, a single man who avoids socialising with people. He could be your neighbour who gets furious if you bother him,” Adel continued.

Some readers are apprehensive that the Netflix series might disappoint them and fail to meet their expectations.

“Honestly, I am a little bit concerned over the series particularly the dramatic treatment as well as Amr Salama himself. It is not easy to produce Egyptian horror or sci-fi fiction movies or series,” Adel revealed.

“However, I am pretty sure that the scriptwriters will be from Tawfeek’s readers and fans, who know the novels quite well and are aware of all the hidden details,” Adel noted.

Furthermore, Adel, who read almost 40 books of the ‘Paranormal’ novel series, suggested that the series’ makers could produce the novels based on international practices. “Each book could be produced in a separate episode, and there could be several seasons,” Adel clarified.

Adel continued that what makes ‘Paranormal’ suitable to implement as an international TV series, is that each book is an independent story–expect some books.

“I believe that either actor Sayed Ragab or Abdel Aziz Makhyoon could perfectly play the role of Ismael,” Adel concluded.

Refaat Ismael should stay fictional

Ahmed Salem, a 27-year-old accountant opened up that he is little excited over the Netflix new series, however, he shared some of his fears.

“The problem is that there are some characters that should stay fictional, such as Refaat Ismael. This kind of figure with all its features is hard to be produced in a TV series or a movie,” Salem told DNE.

However, Salem agreed with Adel that Sayed Ragab could play the role of Ismael. “I think he will be good, especially with his thin body and messy hail. Additionally, Ragab is an actor that could play a complex personality such that of Ismael.”

In contrast, Salem revealed that Abdel Aziz Makhyoon will never be a good choice. “I am concerned that the new TV series will affect the novels which have been adored by many readers.”

The young accountant was not a dedicated reader for Ahmed Khaled Tawfeek, but almost a friend. “I met him dozens of times, some of them were personal meetings. However, I could recall a time in which he revealed that he hoped that any of his books could be produced in a TV series or a movie, especially the ‘Paranormal,’” Salem expressed.

“He was a cinema lover and keen to attend Zawaya cinema shows in Tanta, but he never talked about this,” Salem concluded.

It is a hard mission

“I am totally concerned over the dramatic implementation of ‘Paranormal’ as I think it would be very different from Tawfeek’s narrative style,” Samir told DNE.

Samir argued that drama will hardly produce the sprite of the novel. “I do not mean here the events but the characters’ patterns and hidden features especially of Refaat Ismael.”

“Tawfeek was a special storyteller. He used a distinctive fictional narration, so transferring ‘Paranormal’ should not be confined to narrating events but to present the spirit of Tawfeek’s narration, which I believe will be a very hard mission,” Samir highlighted.

Meanwhile, what will make the mission harder is that Tawfeek’s characters are sarcastic and distinguished, Samir noted.

“Refaat Ismael is a sarcastic, nihilistic, and intellectual character. This will be hard to be perfectly introduced in drama,” Samir described. 

On the other hand, Samir disclosed that the reason behind ‘Paranormal’s’ popularity is that the lead character is an anti-hero, a very thin and elderly person. “He is the opposite of all other adventurous fictional characters that other writers produce such as Nabil Farouk. I think this what makes Tawfeek and Rifaat Ismael quirky,” Samir noted.

“Readers emphasised with Ismael because I believe, he was similar to the characters of their grandfather who told stories, with many people have never got the chance to meet their grandfathers alive,” Samir expressed.

Furthermore, Samir noted that Amr Salma is a good choice for the TV series as the director himself is one of Tawfeek’s biggest fans and dedicated readers.

On the other hand, Mohamed Radwan, a 31-year-old web developer revealed that he is a little bit excited to watch ‘Paranormal,’ the new TV series, however, he agreed that the mission will not be easy.

“Most readers deal with Refaat Ismael as if he is Ahmed Khaled Tawfeek, so who could introduce such a character in the best way in a drama?” Radwan opened up.

Radwan added, “Abdel Aziz Makhyoon is close to Refaat Ismael than Sayed Ragab, but still he is not  Refaat Ismael for me.”

Regarding the fears, Radwan said that the novel series is being told from the perspective of a narrator, that of Refaat Ismael. “How could this be introduced in a drama? Certainly, there will be differences between the novels and the TV series,” Radwan noted.

The post ‘Paranormal’ loyal readers reveal expectations, fears over Netflix new series appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptian banks to record strong loan growth, EGP to stabilise: Fitch Solutions Thu, 30 May 2019 07:00:55 +0000 Haftar’s Tripoli offensive could spiral out of control, yet fiscal deficit expected to narrow

The post Egyptian banks to record strong loan growth, EGP to stabilise: Fitch Solutions appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptian banks are expected to record a strong loan growth of 22.5% during 2019 as macroeconomic conditions improve and lower interest rates boost demand. Simultaneously, government’s share of total loans will remain sizeable, but decline gradually in the medium term, as its austerity drive progresses and private sector activity picks up, according to Fitch Solution “Africa Monitor, North Africa” June 2019 report issued on Tuesday.

In Libya’s case the report indicates that Libyan National Army (LNA) commander General Khalifa Haftar’s advance toward Tripoli threatens to exacerbate the country’s civil conflict and trigger further refugee outflows.

Haftar appears to be either looking to expand and consolidate his territorial control, or pressure the rival Government of National Accord in Tripoli into political concessions.

On the other hand, the report forecasts that Morocco’s current account deficit will widen to 5.1% of the GDP in 2019 from an estimated 4.0% of the GDP in 2018, while GDP growth is to record to 2.9% and 3.2% in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Daily News Egypt took a dive into the report, to understand the latest economic and political risks for the North African region.

Egypt remains on right track

Fitch believes that Egyptian banks look set to record strong loan growth over 2019, due to the witnessed improvement in macroeconomic conditions, with declining inflation easing pressures on local households and businesses, and a more competitive exchange rate boosting exports.

Regarding monetary policy, the report cites that the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has resumed its monetary easing cycle, cutting interest rates by 100 basis points (bps) at its latest policy meeting on February 14, 2019, with the aim of boosting credit expansion to promote private sector activity.

The report forecasts that CBE will pause its easing cycle around mid-2019 to allow for the inflationary impact of subsidy cuts to feed through, consequently, the agency revised their forecast for Egyptian banks’ loan growth to 22.5% in 2019 from the previous 18.1%.

This also reflects the steady acceleration in loan growth seen over the second half of 2018, from 15.3% year-over-year (y-o-y) in July to 22.8% at the latest reading in November.  “We nevertheless continue to highlight

risks of global financial volatility returning and higher oil prices, which could yet return a hawkish bias to the CBE’s policy trajectory,” the report indicates.

Over the medium term, Fitch notes that the government is looking to introduce a new tax law on sovereign debt holdings, which could weigh on banks’ interest margins unless they divert a greater share of their liquidity toward loans. This may serve to encourage loan growth in the years ahead, should demand from high-quality borrowers pick up sufficiently to facilitate such a shift.

In November 2018, several reports about a proposed change to how banks account for their income from government debt, and that the new tax method will require accounting for income from treasuries as part of taxable income, which would result in banks having to reallocate costs to match revenues.

According to the report, the government’s share of total loans will remain sizeable, but decline gradually in the years ahead. Crowding out of the private sector remains an issue as credit demand from the government, which accounted for 30.9% of total loans in November, remains strong. The growth in loans to the government averaged 36.5% in the first 11 months of 2018, as the fiscal deficit looks set to narrow only gradually.

“We expect continued expansion in this segment over the next several years – albeit at a decelerating

pace. Meanwhile, we believe private sector loan growth will pick up significantly as cost pressures ease, borrowing costs reduce, and the government continues to invest heavily in infrastructure. Credit extension to industry, trade, services, and households rose by 8.0%, 27.4%, 9.7% and 18.6% respectively in November 2018, suggesting this dynamic is already playing out,” the report adds.

Furthermore, deposits will also expand, although at a slower pace than loans. Strong economic activity and falling unemployment, coupled with lower inflation, will boost Egyptians’ real incomes and likely raise saving rates. We highlight that much of the population still remains unbanked, which means there is substantial room for organic growth in lenders’ deposit bases over the coming years.

It is estimated that around 10%-15% only of the Egyptian population are banked – though, a higher rate in the range of 30-35% is estimated when taking into account individual savings at post offices.

The CBE’s easing cycle will cap gains to some extent; however, Fitch expects the pace of cuts to be gradual, keeping real rates relatively attractive in the near-to-medium term. Overall, the agency forecasts deposit growth at 15.0% in 2019, marking a slight increase from an estimated 14.5% in 2018.

Consequently, a gradual increase in Egypt’s loan-to-deposit ratio is to be expected, however, at an estimated 45.8% in the third quarter (Q3) of 2018, and this remains among the lowest levels regionally.

Concerning banks’ asset quality, the report indicates that it has remained relatively high, despite a

challenging macroeconomic environment. Non-performing loans (NPLs) stood at 4.4% of total loans as per the CBE data from Q3 of 2018, having fallen from 11.0% in 2011 (partly the result of NPL write-offs).

In terms of foreign exchange (FX) exposure, Fitch believes that Egyptian banks have limited exposure to currency risks, with foreign assets accounting for less than 10% of the total. Meanwhile, the overall capital adequacy ratio of Egyptian banks has improved from 14.0% in December 2016 to 15.6% in June 2018.

Egyptian pound set for further stability

The report forecasts that the Egyptian pound is likely to remain fairly stable in 2019 amid robust economic growth, an improving external position, and still-attractive real interest rates.

In the short-term (three-to-six months) the report indicates that the pound appreciation against the United States dollar in recent weeks as a result of reduced global financial volatility and renewed foreign interest in Egyptian debt. We expect the unit to remain fairly stable over the next few months amid slowing global financial tightening and reduced fears of a global growth correction.

However, Fitch foresees that as the CBE has now phased out its repatriation mechanism, which previously had served to limit exchange rate volatility. Consequently, somewhat greater movement in the pound moving forward is expected.

On the long-term, the agency retains our view for relative pound stability throughout the next six-to-24 months. While the CBE’s likely resumption of its monetary easing cycle will put downside pressure on the unit, we highlight that the pace of cuts is likely to prove gradual, keeping real rates relatively attractive.

The report cites political instability as a downside risk to Egypt’s ongoing economic recovery, and by extension, the value of the pound.

“While not our core view, popular unrest could spread as a result of still-challenging conditions for Egyptian households and businesses and continued political repression. In turn, this could deter tourists from travelling to the country and also discourage the government from implementing further fiscal consolidation measures. The latter would weigh on business confidence, foreign investment, and dollar inflows, and thus cause faster-than-expected depreciation of the pound. In addition, large-scale outflows of portfolio investments remain a concern in the event of a global growth correction and resultant ‘risk-off’ sentiment,” said the report.

Libya: oil prices ease deficit, Tripoli offensive increase risks of conflict escalation

Fitch report indicates that the Libyan National Army (LNA) commander General Khalifa Haftar’s advance toward Tripoli threatens to exacerbate the country’s civil conflict and trigger further refugee outflows.

The report explains that Haftar appears to be either looking to expand and consolidate his territorial control, or pressure the rival government of national accord (GNA) in Tripoli into political concessions.

Should Haftar be aiming for sustained territorial expansion, then risks of conflict escalation would heighten dramatically – both in the capital and elsewhere, where LNA forces may now be stretched too thin to fight off rival militias.

Despite the ongoing conflict, Libya’s fiscal deficit will gradually narrow over the coming quarters supported by higher oil revenues (as recorded by the Tripoli-based authorities). The majority of Libya’s tax revenue comes from oil and there is limited scope for any non-oil revenue increases.

According to the report, Libya’s crude oil production has been climbing over the past couple of years, averaging 1.1m barrels per day (b/d) in November 2018, its highest level since 2013.  The report forecasts that Libya’s production will average 1.3m b/d in 2019 and 1.35m b/d day in 2020 –higher than the 1m b/d-level recorded in 2018.

Concurrently, oil prices are set to continue heading higher. The decision by OPEC+ to cut 1.2m b/d of supply as of January 2019 will help maintain a floor under Brent and set the stage for gains in the new year.

As such, our Fitch oil and gas team forecasts Brent to average $75 per barrel (/bbl) for 2019, implying significant gains from current spot price levels of around $60/bbl.

Morocco: account deficit to widen, Eurozone weakness to curb growth

Fitch Solutions, believe Morocco’s current account deficit will widen to 5.1% of the GDP in 2019 from an estimated 4.0% of the GDP in 2018.

According to the report, the main driver is the widening of the goods trade deficit on the back of

weak external demand and a rising import bill, which would be mitigated by tourism and remittances.

The report forecasts that investor sentiment will remain broadly positive supported by robust external

support and low short-term external debt obligations by regional standards.

Furthermore, Fitch expects Morocco’s current account deficit to grow in 2019 to 5.1% of the GDP, mostly

on the back of a widening goods trade deficit. This would be noticeably larger than our 2018 estimate of 4.0% of the GDP, but somewhat below the 10-year historical average of 5.6% of the GDP.

“We at Fitch Solutions have revised down Morocco’s 2019 and 2020 growth forecasts to 2.9% and 3.2% respectively, from 3.3% in both years, on the back of a deteriorating growth outlook for the Eurozone,” the report indicates.

Algeria: The transition question remains

On April 2019, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (82) announced his resignation after nearly two decades in power.

According to the report, the move follows over a month of widespread protests across the country, which began in response to the president’s decision to run for a fifth term in office. Protests have since evolved into a wider expression of disapproval of the ruling elite, composed of an opaque mix of military and business leaders, as well as the president’s close circle of the ruling elite.

Fitch solutions forecasts that Bouteflika’s accelerated exit may have been the result of growing pressure from the military leadership, with army chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah having repeatedly called for the president’s resignation over the past week, rather than signalling intensified rivalry between the military leadership and the executive branch of government.

Therefore, they believe the move points to continued relative cohesion within the political elite, who appears to be looking for a way to grant just enough concessions to placate protesters, while still maintaining control over the post-Bouteflika political transition.

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Sheikh El-Hara TV show continues to air while Basma Wahba steps down Wed, 29 May 2019 08:00:49 +0000 TV show criticised by numerous audiences for violating celebrities’ privacy by putting them under pressure to speak about their personal lives

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Head of the Media Syndicate, Tarek Saeda, filed on Sunday a report against Al-Qahera Wel Nas TV channel due to refraining from receiving its decision to stop TV anchor Basma Wahba from presenting the controversial “Sheikh El-Hara” TV show.

The syndicate said the channel’s stance is a violation for the media code of honour and articles 2-19 of the Syndicate Law which prohibits the practice of media activity without registering in the syndicate’s list or obtaining a permit to practice the profession.

The syndicate also decided to take criminal action against the TV anchor and the management of the channel according to the Syndicate’s Law, which stipulates imprisonment and fines for anyone who has been involved in a media activity without obtaining union membership or a license to practice the profession.

Article 89 further provides penalties to close the media channel if it allows any person to work without a permit or to engage in media activity.

The Supreme Media Council, headed by Makram Mohamed Ahmed, issued on Sunday a decree banning the broadcasting of the controversial TV show hosted by TV presenter Wahba for one month.

The decision came after the council’s complaints committee met on Sunday to investigate observed violations in several show episodes, and to review complaints sent to the council against it. The council stated that the show is violating  profession and morals ethics, as well as invading privacies, and promoting discrimination.

However, the council issued an official ban, on Sunday night, of a new show episode which has been broadcasted with political analyst Mostafa El-Fekki.

The show is aired during the month of Ramadan on TV channel Al-Qahera Wel Nas of each year, and its episodes are repeated throughout the rest of the year on the channel.

Sheikh El-Hara was criticised by some people for violating celebrities’ privacy by putting them under pressure to speak about their personal relationships, while other people support the show for being bold and critical.

Wahba hosted different celebrities in her show and asked them about controversial issues, situations in their lives, and personal matters. The show starts by narrating stories or rumours about the guests’ personal lives and the presenter asks her guest about the accuracy of these stories.

At the same time, a dispute occurred between Wahba and the TV channel, after it aired an episode without Wahba’s knowledge, for writer Yasmine Khatib on 25 May, while Wahba had requested banning the episode as it included names of several public figures which could put the show in trouble. This situation led Wahba to step down.

A huge wave of critics increased against the TV show, after an episode aired on 19 May with an Egyptian artist who narrated a story including discrimination against African people. Social media users have been blogging against the show since the beginning of the month due to several violations, stressing that it does not meet the morals of the holy month as it discusses private and personal issues of celebrities as well as their relations with other public figures.

Galal Awara, the deputy of the culture and media parliamentary committee, commented on the channel’s ignorance of the decision, elaborating that the channel did not implement the decision and this illustrates that it does not respect the law, which gives the media council the right to ban or stop any programme which violates any media values.

Also, Ahmed Salim, the secretary-general of the media council, said that the council sent its decision to the channel to stop the show.

Osama Sharshar, member of the parliamentary media committee, denounced the violations observed during the show’s episodes, noting that there is an urgent statement sent by the committee to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, to view the programme episodes and to call the media council officials and the National Media Authority to review all Egyptian programmes and series during Ramadan, in terms of using profanities, violence, or extremist ideas.

He added that the committee supports the media council in any decision in service of Egyptian national security.

“We are with freedom, but also with ethics and standards,” he said, adding “If there are media personnel who offend Egypt and people and our relations with Arab and African countries, they must be investigated, and there must be a responsibility and a political and media sense to preserve Egyptian national security.”

The Media Syndicate announced on Saturday that Wahba has been suspended from practicing any media activity until the syndicate regulates her status, after receiving a report by the media observatory of the syndicate showing excess “professional and moral violations in the show.”

Furthermore, the syndicate said that after reviewing the legal permits given to media personnel, it was found that Wahba was not registered in the syndicate and did not obtain a temporary permit to conduct any media activity.

When asked why the TV show is getting high reviews, media professor Laila Abdel Mageed said that these types of programmes, which include gossip and scandals, usually attract a large number of people, especially as it addresses one of the human instincts which is curiosity, adding that the public has a desire to know of celebrity news and their stories that are raised on social media platforms from time to time.

Commenting on the importance of the show, she asserted that these programmes have no impact on the viewer, saying, “What is the message carried to the people by Sheikh El-Hara? It is just a matter of entertainment and does not include any information that could remain in the memory of the public.”

The expert also suggested that the guests of similar programmes might have a desire to appear in the programme, to gain more fame and be in the spotlight.

Moreover, she commented on Wahba saying, “She is a good anchor woman and she has a unique personality, but I do not know what is her goal from working on such a programme.”

Film critic Andrew Mohsen said in press statements that “The public tends to like these programmes, over the past decades, as they always prefer to follow artists’ personal matters. People want to see the celebrity’s other side away from the red carpet and television cameras.”

He also said there is a relationship between the proportion of views and guest discussions in the programme of personal issues such as marriages and divorces, as people watch the programme to listen to these stories.

Mohsen agreed with Abdel Mageed that celebrities agree to appear in the programme motivated by fame, as perhaps one celebrity might not have enough artistic work to make him famous, while others are famous but do not mind speaking about personal issues to their public.

While some users and public figures have shown great support for the ban, others have rejected it believing that the show is great entertainment, and clarifies rumours for people.

Parliament member, Mohamed Farag, said that the programme is very distinctive and has a role in attracting viewers again for talk shows, and expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to stop the programme.

The member requested that the media council review its decision to suspend the programme for one month, saying that the ban came due to a violation committed by the guest who already apologised.

In a similar context, he confirmed that the media syndicate has no right to stop Wahba, as the syndicate’s general assembly has not been held yet, and accepted members so far amount to only 18.

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Egypt actively encourages private education: PwC Mon, 27 May 2019 14:00:44 +0000 Essential for government to maintain balance between public, private education to ensure equitable access to education for all, says report

The post Egypt actively encourages private education: PwC appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egypt has the largest education system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to the PwC Middle East.

Egypt has the largest education system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

PwC Middle East issued its latest report in a series entitled “Understanding Middle East Education”, focusing on Egypt’s education system. The report provides a full analysis of Egypt’s education system across its multiple stages with forecasts of seats needed till 2022/23, highlighting the growth opportunities of the private sector.

The report assured that Egypt offers an excellent opportunity for investors and education providers looking for growth in the MENA region due to favourable investment fundamentals and conditions which include a sustainable demand for education due to steady population growth in a culture that has long valued education as the means to social and economic mobility, in addition to an improving macroeconomic setting showing strong signs of recovery.

Likely, the Egyptian government began actively encouraging private sector participation and investments in the education sector to help relieve budgetary strains.

The report noted that currently the private sector constitutes only 10% of total enrolment in Egypt’s K-12 education system.

“Private schools accommodate 24% of kindergarten students, 8% of primary school students, 7% of middle school students, and 13% of secondary school students. But it is anticipated, however, that the private education will expand in Egypt.

The report mentioned the significant macroeconomic imbalances that Egypt faced since 2011, pointing to the comprehensive economic reform programme adopted by the government, that includes reduction of energy subsides, increasing utility prices, introducing the value-added tax (VAT), increasing customs tariffs, the local currency flotation, and adjusting interest rates.

On the other hand, Egypt’s economy is recovering: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts economic growth to reach 5.5% in 2019 and 6% in 2023. In May 2018, Egypt’s sovereign rating was upgraded to B from B- by S&P Global Ratings citing strengthening economic growth and rising external foreign exchange reserves. Later in August 2018, Moody’s changed the outlook on the Egyptian government long-term issuer ratings to positive from stable.

“To avoid overburdening the fiscal budget and the potential long-term negative repercussions of inflation on education provision, it is anticipated that the government will take the necessary actions to support an increase in private provision in the education sector,” the report assured.

In this context, the report added that among the favourable conditions is that the Egyptian government actively encouraging private-sector participation to help relieve budgetary strains, as well as a stable institutional setting owing to the maturity of Egypt’s education system.

Furthermore, the report assured the need for investment in bridging existing skills gaps, explaining

that education system’s poor quality, the high unemployment rates, and the clear shortage in secure white collar work suggest that Egypt’s large supply of graduates are not acquiring the skills required by employers driving this economic growth.

Egypt’s unemployment rate stood at 10% during the third quarter of 2018, down from 11.9% during the same quarter of 2017. Whereas the average unemployment rate amounted to 12% in 2017, it reached 33% for Egypt’s youth (15 to 29 years old) during the same year.

The report mentioned that according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the total enrolment at the K-12 level reached 20.6 million during 2016/17, while total enrolment at the Higher Education (HE) level amounted to 2.4 million students. Of these, 90% of K-12 students and 94% of HE students in Egypt attended public schools or universities during the 2016/17 academic year.

At this current rate of enrolment, an estimated 900,000 seats may be needed for students enrolling in higher education institutions by 2021. The increase, PwC argues, is due to an increase in tertiary aged population by 400,000 and a continual improvement in HE participation rate.

According to the CAPMAS, although private sector provision at the primary, preparatory, and secondary stages only constitutes 10% of total enrolment, enrolment in private schools is growing at a faster rate than that of public schools with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% recorded between 2013 and 2017.

Notably, the Egyptian government’s Education Strategy in Vision 2030 acknowledges that the system is yet to deliver high quality education which is essential to meet the country’s labour market needs and respond to the evolving social and political systems. The ministry of education and technical education developed an education reform programme (2018-30) with a total expected cost of $2 bn.

The report explained that Egypt has a highly subsidised public education system. In 2014, Egypt’s Constitution stretched the years of state-funded compulsory education till the end of secondary or its equivalent. This resulted in an increase in annual public expenditure on education which amounted to EGP 107bn ($6bn) in the fiscal year (FY) 2017/18, compared to EGP 81bn in FY 2013/14.

“However, public expenditure on education as a percentage of total expenditure declined to represent only 9% in FY 2017/18, down from 12% in FY 2013/14.

Concerning the higher education, the report stated that the primary provider of it in Egypt is the public sector. In FY 2016/17, 94% of total higher students were enrolled across Egypt’s public universities.

“Public universities in Egypt are the largest in the region and free of charge, leaving the institutions with vast resource limitations. The majority of the universities’ resources are allocated to current expenditure, rather than capital, which suggests that internal efficiency in higher education spending could be improved,” the report stated.

High enrolment rates in public universities along with budgetary caution on capital expenditure suggest that the government will continue to facilitate more growth in the higher education private sector’s capacity.

In this context, the report assured the there is also a need for structural transformation work to improve the performance of overburdened and operationally inefficient public universities, especially given budget limitations.

The report added that increasing private sector enrolment will help Egypt’s government to relieve the budgetary pressures of a highly subsidised public education system and an increasing fiscal deficit.

“While private sector providers enhance parent choice in terms of quality, and relieve governments of capacity pressures, it is essential for government to maintain a balance between public and private education to ensure equitable access to education for all,” it assured.

The report concluded that private investors will be encouraged to focus on the education sector if there is a stable regulatory environment that provides the right incentive structure, supports their operating models, and does not unduly impact their ability to enter the market.

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Cooking, baking: Alternative profession for working women Sun, 26 May 2019 14:00:27 +0000 Women manage to transfer kitchen from housewives’ daily routine to source of income

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In patriarchal societies, women have been occasionally urged by men to stay in the kitchen, with arguments such as that females are better in cooking and are incapable of competing with men within the labour market. Challenging such thoughts, some women chose to transfer homemade cooking from a daily routine for housewives to a real source of income amid harsh economic conditions, as an alternative profession or even at least as a hobby to please them.

In Ramadan and even throughout the year, more individuals and families prefer to order food for iftar (break of the fast) and lunch rather than staying for hours in the kitchen to cook, whether due to the efforts cooking requires, or because they are not talented enough to create perfect dishes. 

Subsequently, they choose to order food, but with the health effects of fast food and the high prices of trusted restaurants, the access to healthy and clean food and home-made dishes is not easily accessible.

However, recently, some women who are talented in cooking tried their luck in transferring this gift into a living or a second income for them in addition to their current jobs. Some of them chose to leave their main careers to start a new one: homemade cooking.

As renting a shop and running a business is not easy and indeed very costly, this business needs a talented woman or man, a social media group and page, and finally a large network which can spread the word among friends and acquaintances. However, this profession essentially needs patience and continued efforts for hours sometimes inside closed kitchens which have poor ventilation and amid high temperatures in summers. 

Some of those women are lucky enough to be offered paid jobs in restaurants, others still work from their home kitchens for bigger new online platforms which specialise in producing and delivering homemade foods.

The only thing I do right

About three years ago, Suma Hussein started her own career from home, as a talented cook who put aside the media profession and all her dreams concerning it.

“I used to cook for the people I love, but I did not think that cooking will be a profession someday,’ Hussein told Daily News Egypt.

Hussein, 33, graduated from the Faculty of Mass Communication, Cairo University, and worked for a while in the media field as a producer. She got married and then got divorced, but she has a beautiful girl named Malak.

“It was not even my idea, my friends encouraged me to try my chance as a cook, and the feedback was satisfying,” Hussein recalled.

In addition to her talent, Hussein chose this job because she did not want to leave her home or her safe place. She was tired of working outside and socialising with people, and she also went through a depression. So, cooking from home was a satisfactory choice.

With great support from her friends, she took the first step and created a Facebook Page with the name “Basta Kitchen.” Hussein’s friends helped her create a logo and started branding her project. “I kept cooking with my friends until we created a menu and then we began,” Hussein stated.

During the first months, orders were confined to friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances. Then, after three months of beginning, Hussein received her first orders from foreign customers.

“With each positive feedback, I become happy and more confident,” Hussein narrated.

Hussein excelled in various homemade dishes, particularly pasta with special recipes and vine leaves, She also cooks desserts. “When I cook, I feel I am dancing, I forget anything that upsets me, even if food orders are cancelled or I get no money. At this moment I feel really alive,” Hussein declared.

Aswan adventure

More than a year ago, Hussein moved to Aswan to work as an independent cook. She rented a house and a small shop inside a mall to sell homemade food, but she faced some difficulties. 

“I stayed there more than a year, but my project failed because of the patriarchal environment. People were gossiping about the women who left Cairo to live alone in Aswan. They said I am Christian because I do not wear a head scarf, so people stopped purchasing my food. I could not stand this so I went back home,” Hussein recalled.

But even in Cairo, she faced other challenges. “I often receive a call from a foreign customer who invites me to cook for him or for his friends. It happens most of the time and I always politely reject as I am not sure of their intentions,” Hussein said, adding that she sometimes accepts offers to cook for a gathering at ceremonies but from people who she trusts and knows well.

After three years of work, Hussein revealed that on good days she could earn from EGP 8,000 to EGP12,000. But there are many months when work was down. Yet, she kept trying.

“When my former colleagues knew that I left the media field to cook they were astonished and said “beautiful ladies do not stay in the kitchen,” Hussein noted. “But my close friends were different; they were supportive and considerate.”

“I tried to be a good wife, I am struggling to be an ideal mother but I’m very confident when I cook, I never fail or miss something. Cooking is the only thing I do right,” Hussein concluded.

Designing cakes

Shaimaa Gamaleldin, 35, an interior designer who studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts, used her talents and artistic taste in starting a small project as a dessert maker especially of tart cakes. 

After she got married, Gamaleldin left her job as an interior designer for a while as she gave birth to two girls. Then, she found herself passionate about learning how to make tart cakes. She kept watching online videos and learnt a lot, and then she discovered how talented she is at making desserts.

In 2014, she started her own work as a home-based dessert maker. She created a Facebook Page and a group to promote her cakes and desserts. Over time, she received many orders and positive feedback; however, she revealed that she prefers to do this as a hobby, not as a main business.

“I chose to reduce my work time because I returned to my previous job, so I could sometimes make two orders a month or more,” Gamaleldin told DNE.

Meanwhile, Gamaleldin noted that she received customers from parents who want to celebrate their children’s birthdays, or couples who need a special cake for their marriage anniversary and other traditional ceremonies.

“People want something that is both tasty and beautiful. I can work with that combination,” Gamaleldin said.

Her three-year-old daughter is likely to inherit her mother’s favourite passion for desserts. “She observes me and tries to learn more, and then says, ‘look mum what I did!’” Gamaleldin concluded with a smile.

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“You break our fast”: Women struggle from different kinds of harassment in Ramadan Sun, 19 May 2019 12:30:24 +0000 “I fear that some of them will eventually hurt me,” young female translator says 

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Since Ramadan has begun, the holy spiritual month in which people compete to perform good deeds, many Egyptian women reported facing different, but not new, kinds of harassment that range from insults, loudly rebukes, spitting, yelling, and sometimes beatings due to their outfits.

It is widely typical in a patriarchal society that men would try to change what they believe are sins in Ramadan, especially if they think they have the last say regarding women’s outfits–even if they don’t even personally know those women.

Consequently, walking down the streets without being modest enough according to Egyptian society’s standards or without putting on headscarves or a Abaya (full-length outer garment worn by some Muslim females) could simply lead to insults, curses, or public harsh criticisms.

Women say that those men who bother them in the streets usually repeat comments such as “O’ Allah, I am fasting (meaning he is fighting temptation), or, “you are breaking our fast (accusing her of seducing men)” and, “I ask forgiveness of Allah (apparently for her or for himself for gazing at her.)

Apart from Ramadan, women and girls face on a daily basis distinct forms of sexual violence in the streets of Egypt, in both public and private spaces, whether in transportation vehicles or in workplaces. Women are usually blamed by society for being subjected to such acts. They are accused of ‘provoking’ men via their outfits or actions.

A report issued by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in October 2017 showed that Cairo is the world’s most dangerous megacity for women.

An additional report by the Brazilian-based organisation ‘Instituto Promundo’ revealed that 64% of men admitted to sexually harassing women in the streets of Egypt. Harassment forms of ranged from ogling, stalking to even rape.

Meanwhile, an earlier study by the United Nations in 2013 showed that 99.3% of Egyptian women surveyed have been subjected to sexual harassment in the streets.

Gender violence

“It is a very complicated issue which certainly has cultural roots,” Said Sadek, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC), told Daily News Egypt.

“When a man sees a woman in the streets, he expects that she definitely would follow his standards regarding outfits. If she was not wearing hijab, then she is challenging his masculinity. This is how he thinks,” Sadek explained.

Therefore, some men tend to annoy or harass women in the streets to prove to themselves that they are still ‘the masters’ of society, Sadek added. 

He also mentioned that the reason behind men’s aggression toward women in Ramadan or at any time is because of a feeling of loss. “They feel they lost their economic and social power and dominant position over females, especially since most women are currently economically independents or active partners in society,” Sadek highlighted. 

Furthermore, Sadek noted that cursing or insulting women in the streets over their outfits in Ramadan gives men a sense of satisfaction. “They want to restore their cultural and patriarchal dominant status in society. They want to control everything to maintain their identity,” Sadek stressed.   

“I would not even call it harassment, it is gender violence that takes different shapes,” the professor concluded. 

I fear they will hurt me

Merna Maher, a 25-year old pharmacist, was sitting next to an elderly man on a bus when he frowned: “I ask forgiveness of Allah,” and glared at her.

“This often happens to me,” Maher told DNE.

“I am a Christian woman, so I do not wear the hijab (head cover). However, I was modest and wore a long sleeved jacket. But this changed nothing,” Maher noted.

Maher recalled how frustrated she felt at that moment, adding that this man kept staring at her mobile’s screen as she was texting her fiancé.

Another time, Maher remembered a teenage girl who grabbed her hair in the street and then ran to her colleagues to laugh at Maher. “I did nothing. I always cannot react in such situations,” Maher expressed.

Maher continued to elaborate that even in preparatory school, she has gone through unforgettable situations in the streets that she could has not recovered from until this moment.  “They could beat or push me or even sexually harass me. I never was able to take a reaction. This strengthened my feelings of how weak I am, who could not do anything to protect herself, not to mention the terrible feelings over the situation itself.”

Meanwhile, translator and content creator, Monica El-Taweel, 26,  revealed that she always faces this kind of aggression in the streets, hearing comments of “O’ Allah, I am fasting,” or “you are breaking our fast,” and sometimes even, “go to hell.”

“Most times, I get really scared. I fear that some of them will eventually hurt me,” El-Taweel told DNE.

In addition to insults and rebuke in the streets, El-Taweel said that she also faces harsh critique if she eats during Ramadan fasting days. “I went to a restaurant at Cairo’s downtown area to have a meal but they refused to let me in, saying they could not serve me during Ramadan days. However, I insisted to eat inside,” El-Taweel added.

He hit me in head

Randa Khaled, a marketing specialist aged 29, said that she got used to hearing “O’ Allah. I am fasting” a dozen times a day during the month of Ramadan. “A woman once kicked me off a bus to take my seat because she believes I am not fasting (Randa does wear a hijab),” she told DNE.

“Even my mother kept blaming me and urging me to put a headscarf in Ramadan to not breaking men’s fasts!” Khaled added. 

Khaled acknowledged that she always ignores such comments or actions. However, she said that those actions have no justifications. “Fasting is imposed on people who have to be responsible for their actions, not annoy women in the streets or blame them over their failure to control themselves,” Khaled said.

But things sometimes go farther than just undesirable comments. Zahwa Essam, a student at the Faculty of Arts, Kafrelsheikh University was travelling from her hometown, Alexandria, when a driver, at a bus station, hit her hard on the head.

“He yelled at me: ‘Hey slut’, this (hit) is for you to cover your hair in Ramadan,” Essam told DNE, adding that she quickly left the place because she feared that if she took an action the other drivers might gather together and hurt her.

I feel I am vulnerable

Mariam Shawki, a young pharmacist was walking with her friends in the streets, (all without hijab), a few days before Ramadan, when an elderly man yelled at them “Be modest, Ramadan is coming soon,” Shawki told DNE. 

She added, “He also said that theses ‘scantily clad outfits’ are not permitted during Ramadan.” 

However, even women with headscarves face criticisms over their outfits. Asmaa Gad, a 27-year-old pharmacist, said that people always call on her to wear an abaya or a veil during the holy month.

“A tuk-tuk driver once urged me to put on a veil because I am too beautiful to seduce men and break their fast,” Gad recalled.

Additionally, her colleagues at work in a public hospital also criticise her outfit. “I am one of those who changes their religious habits for the sake of Ramadan. I am committed to the hijab and pray whether during Ramadan or not,” Gad added.

Meanwhile, other women reported that men or boys spit on them in the streets during Ramadan.

Samiha El-Sawaf, a 30-year-old architect also faces such situations. “A man once yelled at me saying: Is this a suitable appearance for Ramadan? And you get surprised when we raped you,” El-Sawaf told DNE.

“I feel I am vulnerable as if I am undressed,” El-Sawaf added.

The post “You break our fast”: Women struggle from different kinds of harassment in Ramadan appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Al-Bashir might be tried for crimes against humanity: Amnesty International Tue, 14 May 2019 07:30:04 +0000 Despite his removal, Sudan continues to suffer from human rights violations

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Omar Al-Bashir may have been deposed as president of Sudan after three decades of deeply repressive rule, but he has not faced justice for the litany of grave human rights violations and crimes under international law he allegedly committed while in power.

Al-Bashir is one of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) longest-running fugitives. The court has issued two arrest warrants for the former Sudanese leader – the first on 4 March 2009 and the second on 12 July 2010. He stands accused of criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide following the killing, maiming, and torturing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

Darfur has been the setting of a bloody conflict that has persisted since 2003 and continues to this day, according to Amnesty International. An exact figure for the civilian death toll as a result of the conflict is unconfirmed, but some estimates have put it in excess of 500,000 people. The situation in Darfur was referred to the ICC in 2005 by the UN Security Council. The ICC charges against al-Bashir relate to events that took place between 2003 and 2008.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir on the basis that there are reasonable grounds to believe that, along with war crimes and crimes against humanity, he has committed genocide against the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. These groups were perceived to be close to the armed groups fighting the government. In all, al-Bashir faces five counts of war crimes, two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of genocide in Darfur.

The charges against al-Bashir relate to human rights violations carried out by his security forces including the Sudanese army and their allied Janjaweed militia, the police, and the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The ICC says there are reasonable grounds to believe that al-Bahir played an “essential role” in organising these groups.

During the campaign in Darfur, these forces were allegedly responsible for numerous unlawful attacks against civilians – mainly from the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa groups. These included the murder of thousands of civilians, the rape of thousands of women, the torture of countless civilians, the pillaging of towns and villages, and the forcible desplace of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The ICC says a core component of the Sudan government’s campaign against armed groups, in particular the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, was the unlawful attack on the civilian population of Darfur.

Al-Bashir is accused of being responsible for pursuing the extermination of these groups. The court found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Omar al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups.”

In 2016, an Amnesty International investigation gathered horrific evidence of the repeated use of what were believed to be chemical weapons used against civilians, including very young children, by Sudanese government forces in Jebel Marra region of Darfur. The scale and brutality of these attacks, which would also amount to war crimes rivals those previously investigated by the ICC. Amnesty International said it has documented human rights violations carried out by Sudanese forces in Darfur.

Amnesty International said in a report in April 2019 that all parties to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC are obliged under the international law to arrest al-Bashir if he sets foot in their country. The organisation said that al-Bashir, during his presidency, travelled extensively throughout Africa and beyond without ever being arrested.

South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Chad, Malawi, the Central African Republic, Egypt, and Jordan are among the countries that al-Bashir has visited without facing arrest.

“It is an international scandal that al-Bashir has continued to evade arrest, and a betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur,” Amnesty said.    

The Sudanese people have been protesting since December 2018 when they took to the streets to express their anger over rising costs of living and the decline of political freedom. Their pressure worked and on 11 April, Sudan’s military overthrew the National Congress Party (NCP) government, arresting al-Bashir and other senior party leaders.

But while al-Bashir’s 30-year rule has come to an end, the human rights situation in Sudan, which has deteriorated dramatically since the beginning of the protests, continues to worsen. Many of the protestors calling for peace, justice, rule of law, and economic reforms have paid the price of change with their lives and liberty.

The Sudanese security forces brutally suppressed the protests by unlawfully killing protestors, mercilessly beating them in the streets, and unlawfully detaining and subjecting them to torture and other ill-treatment. Security forces stormed hospitals firing live ammunition and tear gas at patients and medical staff attempting to arrest injured protestors, in an outrageous violation of international law.

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Ridesharing applications’ cost, prevalence Tue, 14 May 2019 07:00:36 +0000 Sometimes using the underground to commute to your full-time job is not convenient, while waiting for the bus is difficult or unbearable, and because some companies know this, ridesharing applications had to come into the picture. A few years ago, the transportations sector welcomed ridesharing applications. What is not to like about them? They are …

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Sometimes using the underground to commute to your full-time job is not convenient, while waiting for the bus is difficult or unbearable, and because some companies know this, ridesharing applications had to come into the picture. A few years ago, the transportations sector welcomed ridesharing applications. What is not to like about them? They are fast, efficient, and safer than regular public transportation means. Ever since these smartphone applications became part of the transportation system in many countries around the world, the economics of passengers and their spending on transportation have changed – perhaps to the worst.

These easily-accessible applications make it easy to overspend. Millennials in America specifically are spending over $100 a month to use ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft, according to Business Insider. Both Uber and Lyft are the two top car hailing applications in the United States.

“Money-managing app ‘Empower’ compiled user data to calculate exactly how much money Millennials spend on Uber and Lyft per month. The platform helps users build budgets and monitor spending and encourages users to link their main payment account to track their transactions.

Empower identified users who used Uber or Lyft at least once in the three months prior to the day the app surveyed the data. The data was grouped by location with a minimum of 50 ridesharing users in top metropolitan cities. The data reflects raw transactions pulled from 50,000 users across the US,” Business Insider reported.

According to Business of Apps, Uber is available in over 600 cities across 65 countries. Spread across these are 75 million Uber passengers, who are served by a total of 3.9 million drivers.

“We don’t have a breakdown of how many are based in the US, and how many in the rest of the world. It has been estimated around a quarter of the driver base are domestic.

Uber’s biggest market is the US (with 41.8 million users in March 2018), though it is a truly global enterprise – with the exception of certain regions in which local business has been sold to regional operators. Read more about these regional rivals in the section below on Uber competitors. The second-biggest Uber market is Brazil, in which 17 million were using the app in March 2018. London, UK is the biggest European Uber market, with 3.5 million users. In India, there were reportedly over 5 million weekly active riders as of August 2017,” Business of Apps said. The average cost of taking an Uber for business travellers in the US is $25.19, it added. says that users of ridesharing apps can easily spend a massive amount of money without noticing, as after all, spending $20 for a ride home on Uber or Lyft or any other ridesharing application does not seem like a lot. “For the average 20-something, the 25-year cost of those Uber rides is an eye-popping $323,190, according to a new analysis by investment platform Betterment. In other words, if you just skipped the Uber or Lyft ride and invested that money instead, you’d be well on your way to a decent retirement stash.

Americans who use ride-sharing apps spend just over $4,000 a year on them, Credit Karma estimates, based on an average Lyft and Uber ride charge of about $22 and assuming three to four trips per week—an assumption based on data from the US Department of Transportation’s National Household Travel Survey and American Automobile Association’s American Driving Survey,” reported.

According to Business of Apps, the four most widely-used ridesharing applications worldwide include Uber, Lyft, Grab, and Didi. Uber operates in 600 cities in 65 countries worldwide. It is headquartered in San Francisco, serving 75 million users who take 14m rides per day. Lyft operates in 300 US cities and two Canadian cities. It is headquartered in San Franciso as well, serving 23 million users who take 1.4m rides per day. Grab operates in Southeast Asia and is headquartered in Singapore, serving 36 million users who take 4m rides per day. Finally, Didi, that operates in 400 Chinese cities, in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, is headquartered in Beijing, China, serving 550 million users who take 30m rides per day.

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Bin Laden’s 8th death anniversary: Al-Qaeda improving Sun, 12 May 2019 11:00:29 +0000 “Al-Qaeda managed to achieve important political gains precisely because it has learned strategic benefits of civilian restraint,” says analyst

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After the death of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda’ founder and mastermind of the deadliest 11 September 2001 attacks eight years ago, the terrorist group have been overshadowed by its extremist rival Islamic State (ISIS) which has dominated for several years the jihadist scene, and attracted global attention by beheading and slaughtering civilians.

However, with the fading of ISIS and its significant territory losses in Syria and Iraq, Al-Qaeda has a chance to re-emerge and rebuild its alliances with regional groups as well as funding resources.

Al-Qaeda has been most active in the Middle East, but now its focus has turned toward Africa. “Between 2015 and 2017, 69% of terror-related deaths caused by the group occurred in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the Global Terrorism Index 2018 report.

The report explained that under the leadership of the Egyptian physician, co-founder of Al-Qaeda, and the current uncharismatic leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, “the group’s affiliates have gained traction throughout Africa, most notably in the Maghreb and Sahel regions and at the Horn of Africa.”

On 2 May 2011, the same year witnessed what become known as the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, former United States president, Barack Obama, announced that the most wanted terrorist was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan.

“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al-Qaeda’s leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and our allies,” Obama declared in a televised address.

Al-Zawahiri has taken the lead of Al-Qaeda. The group has largely weakened following the killing of its leader, while at the same time, a new brutal brand of jihadism has been emerging in Iraq and Syria.   

Leaders are strengthening the network

According to the 2019 report of the US national intelligence, “Al-Qaeda senior leaders are strengthening the network’s global command structure and continuing to encourage attacks against the west, including the US, although most Al-Qaeda affiliates’ attacks to date have been small scale and limited to their regional areas.” 

All al-Qaeda affiliates “are involved in insurgencies and maintain safe havens, resources, and the intent to strike local and regional US interests in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia,” the report added.

Meanwhile, the report revealed that Al-Qaeda affiliates in east and north Africa, the Sahel, and Yemen remain the largest and “most capable terrorist groups” in their regions, adding that all have maintained “a high pace of operations.”

In Syria, “Al-Qaeda elements continue to undermine efforts to resolve that conflict, while the network’s affiliate in South Asia provides support to the Taliban,” the report continued.

Who is Bin Laden?

Bin Laden was born in 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is a son of construction millionaire businessman father, Muhammad Awad bin Laden. Bin laden was one of 50 children from the same father.

Bin Laden, who studied public administration and economics at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, would have little chance to take advantage of his degree. After graduation in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Bin Laden headed there to join the jihad, among other jihadists, against the Soviet Union.

In 1988, Bin Laden founded Al-Qaeda (the Base in Arabic) with his accomplice Al-Zawahiri, bringing together Arab Islamists to join a “holy war” not against the Soviet Union, but against the US, Israel, and their allies from Muslim governments.

The Saudi Jihadist was expelled from his homeland in 1991, and moved to Sudan with his followers. He strengthened his terrorist network which was supported by assets that reached around $20m. Five years later, he was expelled from Sudan and went to Afghanistan with his three wives and children.

Bin Laden ran military training camps for thousands of foreign jihadists, and under his leadership, the group was further enhanced and began orchestrating global attacks worldwide.

Al Qaeda is politically improving

“People generally evaluate the success of militant groups in terms of the amount of carnage that they inflict. My research shows, however, that militant groups are more likely to achieve their political goals when they exercise restraint toward civilians,” Max Abrahms, the author of Rules for Rebels, and a professor of political science at Northeastern University told Daily News Egypt.

“Al Qaeda is generally underestimated because the group commits less violence against civilians than it has historically and certainly compared to the IS group which was notorious for beheading, caging, roof-chucking, and raping civilians,” Abrahms added. 

Meanwhile, Abrahms opined that Al-Qaeda has managed to achieve important political gains precisely because it has learned the strategic benefits of civilian restraint. “By contrast, groups that focus their violence on civilians suffer politically,” Abrahms highlighted.

“An illustrative case is in Syria. The Al-Qaeda-related group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) currently controls Idlib in Syria, whereas Raqqa and other areas of the country are largely ISIS-free,” Abrahms illustrated.

Abrahms suggested that the media made the mistake of fixating on civilian violence and failing to realise it has historically doomed militant groups at least from achieving their political platforms.

“I would say that Al-Qaeda is doing better politically than many people realise. Al-Qaeda has outperformed ISIS politically because the former has a superior strategy to the latter,” Abrahms concluded.

New face for the terror group

US officials believe that Hamza, one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, is emerging recently as the future leader of Al-Qaeda.

Since at least August 2015, Hamza has occasionally released audio and video messages, urging his followers to launch attacks against the US and its western allies, the US Department said earlier in February this year.

The US believes that Hamza is seeking revenge for the killing of his father. The young jihadist, thought to be in his early 30s, is believed to be married to the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The US said that it found letters and documents in the compound of Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was killed. Those notes indicate that Bin Laden had prepared his son for the group’s leadership.

Washington allocated $1m for any information on his whereabouts for his capture. It also named Hamza as a “specially designated global terrorist” in January 2017. The award put for the young expected future leader was less than that which was set for his father’s head–$25m.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia declared earlier this year, that it stripped Hamza from his citizenship.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS 

The ISIS caliphate officially declared by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in July 2014 in Al-Mosul, Iraq, could be in ruins after the significant leadership and territorial losses, but this does not mean that ISIS is completely gone.

According to the US national intelligence report this year, “ISIS still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world.”

ISIS will seek to “exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term,” the report suggested.

In February 2014, Al-Qaeda broke with Islamic State in Iraq, the movement which was formed by the followers of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq. He was killed by a US airstrike in June 2006.

The dispute between Al-Qaeda and its branch in Iraq emerged in the era of Al-Zarqawi, over of the Jordanian terrorist’s obsession of killing Shi’ites and beheading civilians as well as forcing the whole world to watch those slaughters in videos on the internet.

In several letters, Al-Qaeda leaders urged Al-Zarqawi to stop the bloodshed against the Shi’ites and keep the focus on the Americans. However, Al-Zarqawi ignored them.

After Al-Baghdadi declared in April 2013 the newly merged organisation called Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), Al-Zawahiri became angered. He publicly rebuked Al-Baghdadi for taking such a decision without consulting Al-Qaeda’s main leadership. 

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MPs insist on their old rent draft, Parliament to discuss government’s bill Tue, 07 May 2019 09:00:50 +0000 Government bill focuses on non-residential units, while MPs’ bill includes both cases

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The fourth legislative term of Egypt’s Parliament is expected to end in July, and the parliament is expected to reduce its session during the holy month of Ramadan, as the first ordinary plenary session will be held in the middle of the month, which would impact the main goal of parliament to conclude several bills before the end of the term.

Reducing the sessions will delay discussions of some bills of other laws that have been long awaited, including the old rent bill which concerns millions of citizens.

While some members of the housing committee are debating with the parliament’s administration to start discussing the law, unexpectedly the head of the housing committee, Alaa Wally, announced that the committee will begin discussing the old rents bill as soon as it receives the draft from the government.

This comes after the government sent the draft law of old rents on non-residential units and shops to the parliament, and the housing committee is expecting to receive the bill from parliament speaker, Ali Abdel Aal, and will directly start discussions in the coming days.

The government’s bill focuses only on non-residential purposes including commercial, administrative, or service rental for normal citizens.

Wally said in a press statement that the government’s draft law granted a period of four years for people who will rent non-residential units in order to reconcile with the old owner according to the new law, with an annual increase of 15%.

He also said that the rental value of non-residential units and shops will be calculated at five times of the current value. For example, “Whoever currently pays a rent of EGP 100 will pay EGP 500,” Wally clarified.

This would be implemented after the completion of the four year period, he noted.

Member of the housing committee, Ismail Nasr Al-Din, and member of the legislative and constitutional affairs committee, Abdel-Monem Al-Oleimi, are the ones who have previously attempted to amend the current old Rent Law, urging that the legislative relationship between the owner and the tenant is not regulated in the current law, along with 60 other members.

Both members have submitted a bill suggesting the regulation of the relationship between the property owner and the tenant, but none of their committees have approved discussing their drafts.

The members said that ignoring their committees’ bill violates internal parliament bylaws.

However, Al-Oleimi said that he is committed to the draft law on the old rent which he had submitted to the committee, as it includes regulating the relationship of owners and tenants on residential and non-residential units.

“Laws regulating the landlord-tenant relationship in Egypt have been a gross injustice to landlords since the mid-1960s,” said Al-Oleimi

“My draft amendment of the law proposes an annual 25% rise in rents for four years, after which the relationship will be governed by the civil code. This goes both in line with the constitution and helps landlords and tenants reach common ground at last,” said Al-Oleimi.

The member had submitted on Saturday a request to the general secretariat of the council to discuss the draft law, pointing out that the bill submitted by the government does not belong to the member, and he upholds his draft’s right to be discussed.

Moreover, Nasr Al-Din said that the draft law, which he has already submitted, aims to eliminate the dispute between the owner and the tenant, through the realisation of the rule of ‘no harm or damage,’ and suggested that it be applied in three stages, the first phase would be units concerning illegal entities, the second would be non-residential units commercial units, and finally the third would be residential units.

He said his draft not include expelling anyone case from his residential unit, stressing on the need to consider the law in general to be based on no harm or damage as the prevailing rule, and to work according to it.


In October, the parliament conducted several sessions to discuss the draft law of old rents in attendance of all concerned bodies during the past few days, where some media reports circulated that the bill is witnessing final discussions, however Wally denied these rumours.

During the sessions, the committee listened to opinions of tenants, property owners, and housing experts concerning the issue, as well as parliament members. The sessions aimed to address viewpoints of both sides to reach a suitable solution for all parties.

Some members submitted a number of proposals for draft laws on old rents, all of which were discussed, and some were found controversial and unsatisfactory.

The committee prepared a report on the outcome of the sessions and was expected to start drafting a new law in order to be ready for general discussions soon.

The current parliament is the first to discuss the law of old rents to regulate the relationship between owners and tenants which has witnessed several complications for long years under the current law. 

Property owners and tenants are always in tense relations due to the constant value of the rent which has been determined for protracted years, even before issuing the new rent laws, which cannot be changed, as according to the current law, the old rent contracts cannot be changed or terminated.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics said that there are 3m apartments under the old rent system, of which 1.2m are inhabited across the nation.

Landlords have long demanded that the law – originally issued in 1964 to regulate the relationship between tenants and landlords – be amended to change its articles which complicates rents.

The old Rent Law is considered one of the severe defects in the renting law in Egypt. Property owners complain about losing a lot of money as a result of being unable to change the rent value which was agreed and signed between owners and tenants many years ago and before issuing the new renting laws. As real estate prices hiked significantly, property owners claim that the old rent is no longer compatible with the current value of the rented property. 

In 1996, the Egyptian government amended the law to state that rent in new buildings will not be frozen; however, the rule does not apply to buildings constructed prior to the amendments.

On May 5, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court nullified a provision in a 1981 law concerning the relationship between landlords and their tenants. The abolished provision stated, “The landlord may not demand the tenant to vacate the leased premises even after the expiry of the term of the lease agreement.” The new ruling allows landlords to end old lease agreements that have persisted long past their initial contract periods.

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Young Arabs call on their governments for reforms Tue, 07 May 2019 08:00:49 +0000 The 2019 ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey disclosed its results on Sunday, providing governments, the private sector, and civil society with insights into the concerns, hopes, and aspirations of Arab youth. This year survey is the 11th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, namely “A Call for Reform,” giving an overview of the Arab youth …

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The 2019 ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey disclosed its results on Sunday, providing governments, the private sector, and civil society with insights into the concerns, hopes, and aspirations of Arab youth.

This year survey is the 11th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, namely “A Call for Reform,” giving an overview of the Arab youth opinions on 10 topics.

The 10 topics that the survey dug into include religion; the government’s role; education; foreign relations; conflicts; model nations; drug use; mental health; e-commerce, and media consumption.

The ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey was launched in 2008, and is considered as the largest survey of its kind of the Middle East.

This year’s survey included youth from 15 Arab countries, which are Bahrain; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia; the UAE; Algeria; Egypt; Libya; Morocco; Tunisia; Jordan; Iraq; Lebanon; the Palestinian Territories, and Yemen.

Daily News Egypt investigated further into the results of the survey and classified them into points.

Young Arabs think religious institutions need to be reformed

Regarding religion, the survey found out that 79% of young Arabs believe that the Arab world needs to reform its religious institutions, meanwhile 66% think that religion plays too big of a role in the Middle East.

“Half of young Arabs say religious values are holding the region back,” according to the results of the Arab Youth survey.

At the same time, many say religion is losing its influence, particularly outside the GCC countries.

As the region faces economic concerns, Arab youth feel entitled to government support

The rising cost of living, unemployment, and the threat of terrorism are, for the third year in row, considered the top three concerns facing the youth in the Middle East, according to 2019 Arab Youth Survey.

The survey results explained that in 2019, 56% of young Arabs believe that the biggest obstacle is the rising cost of living, while 45% think that the largest obstacle is the unemployment rate, with 26% of youth believing that the threat of terrorism is the vital concern facing youth in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the survey found that two in three of the young Arabs say their countries are not doing enough to help young families.

Likewise, the majority of Arab youth become more aware that it is the government’s responsibility to provide safety, education, healthcare, energy subsidies, jobs, and housing to all citizens.

Three in four young Arabs are unhappy with the quality of education in their country

Talking in depth about the education file, unfortunately the findings of the survey let on that 78% of young Arabs across the region are concerned about the quality of education they receive in their countries.

Unfortunately, 49% of Arab youth in the MENA region feel their country’s education system does not prepare them for future jobs.

Regrettably, merely one in three young Arabs would prefer to pursue higher education in their own country, with 53% wanting to attend college or university in the West and only 32% prefer to continue their higher education in their countries.

Death of Jamal Khashoggi will have no long-term negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad

Concerning foreign relations, the survey discovered that 37% of Arab youth think that Saudi Arabia is increasing its influence on the Arab world more than any other Arab country, and 27% think the UAE is the most influential Arab country, while 11% believe Egypt to be the most influential country among Arab countries.

This led the survey to ask the youth about the impact of the death of Jamal Khashoggi on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, where it discovered that the majority of young Arabs think that the death will have no long-term negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s foreign image.

In that context, the survey explained how Saudi Arabia is perceived internationally, explaining that 16% think that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has no real negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, while 44% believe that it has a temporary negative impact, at the same time 35% believe that it has a long-term negative impact.

Furthermore, the survey results discussed how Saudi Arabia is perceived in the Arab world, stating that 20% think that murder of Jamal Khashoggi has no real negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad, while 40% believe that it has a temporary negative impact, at the same time 35% believe that it has a long-term negative impact.

It is time to put an end to regional conflicts

Young Arabs view ongoing geopolitical conflicts within the region among the top obstacles facing the Middle East, as according to the results of the survey 35% of young Arabs believe that the lack of Arab unity is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East, while 28% think that Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the biggest obstacle, and 28% think thank the civil war in Syria is the top obstacle, while 26% think that the biggest obstacle is the threat of terrorism.

73% of young Arabs think Syria civil war should end

The survey talked in depth about the Syrian civil war and took the opinions of young Arabs on the most likely scenarios, revealing that 73% say that the war should end regardless of whether Bashar Al-Assad stays in power or not, while 26% of them think that the war should not end until the Syrian people can freely elect their leaders.

Two in five young Arabs would like to live in the UAE

Concerning model nations, the Arab youth’s top country to live in and to emulate continued for the eighth year running to be the UAE, in which 44% of young Arabs said that they prefer to live in, while 22% preferred Canada, and 21% said that they preferred to live in United States.

The survey findings uncovered that young Arabs are drawn to the UAE by job opportunities and salary packages, as well as safety and security.

A majority of young Arabs say drug use is on the rise

Digging further into the topic of drug use, unfortunately, the findings disclosed that 57% of young Arabs said that drugs are easy to get in their countries, and drug use is on the rise.

By asking young Arabs about the reasons why young people start using drugs, the results of the survey revealed that Arab youth view peer pressure as the top driver of drug use; many also point to stress relief and boredom.

Regarding the best ways to combat drug use, young Arabs thought that stricter laws, better law enforcement, and education are viewed as the best results.

Mental health illness is a sigma

Concerning mental health, the survey results stated that mental health issues impact many young Arabs, yet access to quality medical care is scarce.

It further showed that one-third of young Arabs stated that they know someone suffering from mental health issues.

Regrettably, 54% complained about that the quality medical care for mental health issues and that it is difficult to access in their country.

Shamefully, half of Arab youth say there is a stigma around seeking medical care for mental health issues.

The biggest sources of stress in the Arab youths’ daily lives, according to the survey, disclosed that personal relationships and difficult financial situations are the top sources of stress in the North Africa.

Young Arabs are driving the region’s e-commerce boom

The findings of the survey imparted that young Arabs are driving the region’s e-commerce boom.

The results unveiled that the number of young Arabs shopping online has significantly spiked over the past year, stating that in 2019 ,71% of youth stated that they shop online, up from only 53% in 2018.

“Clothing, meals, and electronics are the key drivers of e-commerce among young Arabs,” according to the survey results.

When shopping online, 35% of Arab youth in North Africa stated that they prefer to use Credit/debit/pre-paid cards.

Social media is more trustworthy than traditional media

The survey results found out that among Arab youth, social media is more popular and seen as more trustworthy than traditional media.

Over the past five years, social media has become the dominant source for news among Arab youth, while online news portals are now on par with TV.

The findings uncovered the development of the usage and trust of social media throughout the past five years, noting that 80% of young Arabs stated that they get their news from social media in 2019 compared to only 25% in 2015.

Meanwhile, 66% of young Arabs get their news from television, up from 60% in 2015, also 61% of Arab youth stated that they get their news from online news sources in 2019, up from 40% in 2015.

Unfortunately, in 2019, 42% of youth get their news from their friends and family, compared to only 29% on 2015.

In terms of the newspapers, 27% of youth get their news from them in 2019, up from 22% in 2015.

Furthermore, in terms of radios, 19% of young Arabs get their news from them, versus 10% in 2015.

Concerning magazines, 9% of youth get their news from them, compared to 8% in 2015.

The survey findings stated that more young Arabs get their daily news from Facebook or online portals rather than TV news channels.

“34% of Arab youth get their daily news from TV news channels, 50% of them get their daily news from Facebook, while 39% get their daily news from online portals, with only 4% getting their daily news from newspapers,” the results of the survey further explained.

“Nine in ten young Arabs use at least one of the major social media channels daily,” according to the survey results.

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Fake bullion coins spread in Egypt’s gold market Mon, 06 May 2019 11:30:27 +0000 90% of gold bullion coins traded in Egypt are not incompatible with specifications

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Purchasing gold bullion coins is one of the traditional and common tools of savings as they preserve the value of money at the time of inflation. George V Sovereign coin is the most famous bullion coin in the world and the Arab region. However, what is traded now in the market is different than the original one in shape, weight, and karat.

Gold bullion coins gained a bad reputation in the Egyptian market during the recent period because some workshops produced fake coins because of its low handy charges fees.

The Sovereign (English Pound) is a coin minted from 22ct gold and contains 7.32 grams of pure gold. It was first produced in 1817 and was available in large numbers until the First World War. Afterwards, the coins have been reissued on a regular basis, with varying designs. This coin has the nominal value of 1 pound Sterling, but is traded as a collector coin with a numismatic value.

Some traders tend to manipulate the karat of coins to make profits, decreasing its weight by 10 or 25 milligram.

Amir Rizk, a gold trader, said that the gold bullion coin is a common savings tool among citizens.

The English pound currently traded in the Egyptian market is minted from 21ct and weighs 8 grams.

He pointed out that the manufacturing of the gold bullion coin is more expensive than the manufacture of golden alloy, ranging between EGP 50-100.

Ahmed Habib, a goldsmith, said he examined some of the gold bullion coins traded in the local market, and found that there is a manipulation in its karat. He added that consumers stopped to buy gold coins because of this manipulation.

Sanaa Mohamed, a gold shop owner, said the handy charges fee is under EGP 3 per gram, while the consumer pays extra EGP 50 or 120 as “gratuity”.

Hani Saad Bshari, a gold trader, said that the decline of handy charges fees of bullion coins led to high demand by consumers, especially after the flotation of the pound.

He pointed out that 90% of gold bullion coins traded in Egypt are not incompatible with specifications.

Wasef Zaki, a gold trader, said he found some gold bullion coins stuffed with other metal and gold plated. He pointed out that there are organized “gangs” that manufacture fake gold bullion coins to take advantage of the high demand for them.

Mohamed Ashraf, a gold merchant in Sharqia, said he was offered a gold bullion coin from a customer and after examining it, he found it was stuffed with silver and coated with a thin layer of gold.

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Believe it or not, trading of used gold jewellery is illegal in Egypt Mon, 06 May 2019 11:00:51 +0000 Egyptians prefer used gold jewellery as savings tool instead of gold bullion, pounds of gold

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Observers believe the used gold jewellery has become an alternative savings tool for many Egyptians instead of gold bullion and pounds of gold, noting that women consider it as accessories and also investment, because its handy charges fee is low, only EGP 10, without an additional expense like stamp duty or sales tax. Moreover, traders sometimes resort to increase their handy charges fees of new gold jewellery to compensate their losses as a result of the current market recession.

Experts believe the high demand for used gold increases its investment risk, where the law provides that any change in the gold works makes them inconsistent with the specifications, therefore it would be illegal to trade them in the market, except only after examination and stamping again by the Assay and Weights Administration.

Hence, the used gold jewellery is usually traded secretly at gold shops or hidden places in El Sagha (goldsmiths) area because it is illegal.

The used gold jewellery is known as “Admoon” in the goldsmith’s market. It is a Hebrew word used by goldsmiths in different governorates to describe used jewellery before melting it to create new jewellery.

In a report published by Al-Monitor quoting Gabriel Rosenbaum, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem who specialises in the Egyptian Jews affairs and the modern Egyptian language, on the secret language the Jew jewellery merchants adopted to outsmart customers, Admoon is used to refer to used or old gold jewellery that has been fixed and polished for resale. The researcher pointed out that the origin of this word in Hebrew is Kadmon, which means ancient or old. The letter “K” is silent, so it was pronounced as Admoon.

“The countryside is the main source of used gold jewellery,” said Fouad Abdel Baqi, a jeweller in El-Sagha. “The used gold jewellery look very good if they age five years or less. Some of them need restoration, other may only need polishing.”

The law states that any change in gold jewellery makes it incompatible with specifications and is not allowed to be traded on the market, unless it is examined and stamped again at the Assay and Weights Administration, according to its head Abdullah Montaser.

He added that the law imposes a penalty of prison sentence for a period of not less than one year and a fine not less than EGP 10,000 for anyone changes or amends gold works for illegal purposes after stamping in a way that make them incompatible with specifications.

Used gold jewellery trading is not safe as it is a fertile environment for manipulation.

Montaser explained that the resale of used gold jewellery requires providing an invoice with the details and specifications of the gold jewellery, but the merchant cannot give such information to the consumer being coming from unknown source, so the consumer has to sell it only to the trader from whom he first bought the jewellery.

Laila Mohamed, a housewife, said she prefers to buy used gold jewellery a s savings tool because its handy charges fee is much less than the new ones, and its form is not much different from the new ones.

She added that her work colleagues advised her to buy used gold jewellery as the handy charges fee was only EGP 7, while new jewellery’s exceeds EGP 60.

Enas Mustafa Rashed, a public employee, said she does not like to wear used jewellery in general and gold in particular, but she bought it only as a savings tool.

She added that she sold a gold ring to one of the gold shops and discovered after a while that they cleaned and polished it and offered for sale again as if it’s new.

“There is no woman who has not made a profit from the value of her investment in gold,” said Dalia Saad, a public employee.

She added that her gold dowry was worth EGP 10,000 about eight years ago and is now worth EGP 40,000.

She explained that investment in gold is guaranteed and makes profits, even if the handy charges fee is high because gold prices are increasing.

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Lanterns still find their way to Egyptians’ lives despite economic conditions Sun, 05 May 2019 10:30:12 +0000 “It is a tradition. No one can start Ramadan without getting a new Fanoos” says merchant

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As usual, every year, Egyptian Muslims have geared up to the holy month of Ramadan by hanging up coloured lanterns (known in Arabic as Fanoos) and traditional decorations, as well as other long-established customs despite the price hike of lanterns and difficult economic conditions.

Across the country, many streets in urban and rural areas have been decorated by different shapes, sizes, and kinds of folk lanterns. However, more streets were devoid of this tradition.

Egyptians are not the only people who celebrate Ramadan with lanterns, many other Muslim countries adopt the tradition. The lantern’s origin went back to Fatimid era in Egypt, according to historical narratives.

It was first connected with Ramadan when Caliph Al-Muizz Lidinillah Fatimid arrived in Cairo during the holy month. In order to welcome him, Egyptians turned to streets holding decorated colourful lanterns to light the roads. The lanterns remained lighting the road till the month ended. Since then, it became a symbol of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Ramadan has become also a symbol of warm family and friend gatherings who usually prepare themselves for fasting for a month as well as evening prayers (Taraweeh), performed following the evening Isha prayer.

Inside Egypt, many workshops are devoted to making Ramadan lanterns. One of Cairo’s most known district of making lanterns is Al-Sayeda Zeinab folkloric neighbourhood.

Just in front of the historic mosque which gave the neighbourhood its name, there is a long street which has been long known as a main local market for those seeking different kinds, sizes, and shapes of lanterns as well as other decorations. Lantern merchants set up large vendor tents to sell their products there.

Over the years, the shape of traditional Fanoos has barely changed. lantern makers usually begin factoring the pieces almost a year before Ramadan. Men mostly dominated the business, but there are also women who are involved either in making lanterns or in selling them.

Made by Egyptians

Essam Mohamed, 44, is a lantern merchant who inherited the profession from his parents. “All lanterns have been made by Egyptians. We deal with different workshops, and we also deal directly with lanterns makers,” he told Daily News Egypt.

“It is a tradition. No one can start Ramadan without getting a new Fanoos. No way,” Mohamed argued with a smile.

Regarding the Chinese lanterns which were supposed to be banned from the Egyptian market in recent years, Mohamed said he still sells them, as they are imported now as children’s toys. “It is almost vanishing from the market anyway. People returned to buy their folkloric lanterns.”

In 2015, the ministry of trade and industry issued a decree No 232 to ban importing products and goods which have a folkloric artistic nature, called “National Folklore.” This includes products made of ceramics, jewellery, metal, and wood. Ramadan lanterns are considered one of those products. 

“There are wooden and metal lanterns as well as other kinds. The prices of the wooden lanterns start from EGP 10 to 120.”

However, the metal lantern’s price could reach EGP 160 and more, Mohamed revealed. He argued that workshops increase the prices of lanterns, not the merchants.

Despite their high prices, he affirmed he has his customers who keep buying from him every year from different social classes.

Moreover, Mohamed revealed that he passed on the passion of his profession into his daughters’ hearts, as he wishes they would continue his path afterwards.

It is my livelihood

Inside Mohamed’s vendor tent, a forty-year-old man settled down aside to finish creating a Fanoos. “I was only six years old when I started learning this craft. I inherited it from my father and grandfather,” Yasser Ahmed told DNE.

“By the time, I have fallen in love with it. I am proud of what I do because it is my livelihood,” Ahmed voiced.

Ahmed revealed that this is his only profession–manufacturing Ramadan lanterns. “We have been working all year. Thankfully, the income is moderate and satisfying.”

Ahmed shares the profession with his brother, father, and uncles. He plans to teach the craft to his son.

However, he refused to teach his daughter the profession. “I do not mind teaching her and even my wife, it will be their honour to do what I do,” Ahmed said, noting however, that he does not want them to face the profession’s struggles.

Next to Mohamed’s tent, Hamada Anwar, a thirty-year-old merchant, stands to sell lanterns to his customers. Most of them were women. “I do not make lanterns; I only sell them.”

Anwar, who has started this profession 18 years ago, revealed that workshops try every year to create new shapes of lanterns to attract more customers.

“The prices of metal lanterns range from EGP 100 to 300. However, sometimes it depends on the customers. We often reduce the prices to satisfy them,” Anwar said.

Anwar revealed that they keep selling until 27 Ramadan, noting that the two weeks ahead of the holy month are the high season. 

No difference between men and women

A cheerful 30-year-old merchant asked to be introduced by Om Essam, said that she worked with her mother- in-law. “Before I got married (16-years-old), I started working,” Om Essam told DNE.

“I do not know how to make lanterns, but I could perfectly distinguish the good one from the bad one based on my experience,” Om Essam bragged.

“There is no difference between men and women. We share financial responsibilities together. Most times women bear additional burdens,” she said.

Om Essam is a mother of four–three sons and a daughter. She would never let her daughter work in the same field, as she would only teach her boys the profession.

Income is not enough

Ramadan Qatch, a 21-year-old salesman, who is named after the holy month, works in other fields so that he can provide for his family.

Qatch started working in lantern trading more than 10 years ago. However, he said that the wage he usually receives from it has never been enough. “I might work for two weeks and get only EGP 500,” Qatch revealed.

He noted that some lanterns are so expensive to the extent that some customers could not buy them due to their harsh economic conditions. “I sometimes wish I could pay for them. Unfortunately, I cannot.” 

Qatch noted that large lantern prices could reach EGP 600. He said that unprivileged people often choose small lanterns of only EGP 35 or 65.

“If I had a tent or a shop, I would give underprivileged people lanterns without money to cheer them up, because these people do not even have enough money to feed their families nor to buy them lanterns,” Qatch concluded. 

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7th AMF: Calls for Media Literacy’s integration into schools, universities’ curriculum Sun, 21 Apr 2019 10:00:33 +0000 We totally support such proposals, waiting for suggestions to consider them in ministry's plans, says Education Ministry

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“The forum tackles this year the media information literacy and its close connection to the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). We believe that eliminating cyberbullying, fake news, obsession with online platforms are to the point,” Ahmed Esmat, founder and CEO of the Alexandria Media Forum (AMF), briefed during the opening of the forum’s seventh edition.

This edition was not held in Alexandria as usual, instead, it was held at the American University in Cairo (AUC) on 18, 19, 20 April, called ‘Media Information Literacy and Sustainable Development,’ in partnership with the Kamal Adham Center for Television and Digital Journalism.

More than 300 participants took part in the forum throughout the three days which hosted around 52 speakers, academics, and trainers from Egypt, Jordan, France, Yemen, and Sweden. It contained over 30 sessions and panels.

Meanwhile, the forum addressed three pillars: Media Information Literacy, Media Literacy and Data, Media Literacy and Content Media Literacy and Technology, and finally Media Literacy and Sustainable Development.

“We seek to integrate Media literacy into the curriculum of schools and universities,” Esmat told Daily News Egypt (DNE), adding, “We are preparing proposals with the Kamal Adham Center to be submitted to the education ministry to consider integrating them into the new curriculum.”

Furthermore, Esmat highlighted that the forum is always keen on providing journalists with training and workshops to enhance their skills and to shed light on the ever-changing challenges in the field of media. 

“We have been planning for the subject of this edition for two years. Actually, it is an extension to the criteria of the previous forum which tackled fake news, and was called ‘Technology, Media, and Post-Truth,’” Esmat added.

“I think we are dealing with a different generation. The one who was born technology-embedded. So we have to understand their thoughts and emotions to know how to help them in recognising the disadvantages and advantages of online platforms.”

Shawki welcomes the initiative

The Education Minister, Tarek Shawki, opened the AMF’s seventh edition with a speech on the need to set regulations in social media platforms, as they became a source of rumours, he noted. 

“Actually, our ministry occupies the second place regarding the number of rumours for the second year in a row,” Shawki revealed during the opening of the forum on Thursday. “We face an organised attack to undermine the ministry’s real efforts on the ground.”

Moreover, Shawki launched a massive attack against journalists, critical of their resort to the ministry to confirm or deny rumours.

“This is called abuse and it must stop. Journalists do not have to resort to us on every rumour, instead, they have to ask the real source of the ‘fake news’. We-because of such pressure-do not sleep at night,” Shawki complained.

At an event full of journalists, Shawki continued to lambaste the Egyptian media, claiming that the new media completely depends on social media as a source of news, which he said, is not a true way to ‘tell the truth’ as social media is full of fake news and rumours.

Journalists did not have the chance to comment on the minister’s criticism, as the window of questions has not been opened to them.

“Facebook administrators now are more important than editors-in-chief of newspapers and media websites in producing news and shifting public opinion, which I believe, reflects the situation we have reached,” Shawki said sarcastically.

Meanwhile, Shawki noted that fake news is popular among people because they prefer negative news more than positive news. “The journalist who writes positive news might be punished by readers and could be accused of being biased toward the state.”

Shawki hardly tackled the forum’s subject, but by the end of his speech, he voiced support to integrate media literacy into the ministry’s new curriculum. “We totally support this suggestion and we are waiting for the forum’s proposals to consider them in the ministry’s new plans.”

In a nice gesture, the forum honoured Shawki for his efforts in the ministry and in improving the educational system in Egypt. Similarly, other speakers and academics were honoured too.

Furthermore, Rasha Allam, assistant professor and associate chair at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the AUC, necessitated the significance of media literacy for school students.

“We will already start in the first semester (Fall 2019) to teach a course on media literacy. We, in the Kamal Adham Center, will also cooperate with the education ministry to draft a curriculum on media literacy for the first stages for school students,” Allam told DNE.

Furthermore, Allam clarified that the curriculum will teach children how to log in on a website, learn its history, check whether it is a credible source for information or not, how to deal with social media, and how to fact-check news, and to be aware of how to use social media platforms.

“The media field faces many challenges including fake news, the violation of people’s privacy, and cyberbullying,” Allam maintained.

Similarly, TV host Amr El-Leithy, one of the forum speakers, asserted that one of the most critical issues in media today is the abandonment of media ethics and standards.

Digital content issues

On Friday, the second day of the forum, a series of sessions have been held on ‘Media literacy and Content.’ The discussions tackled the challenges confronting Arab digital content.

Khaled El-Baramawy, Egyptian journalist and digital media specialist, said that the main source of revenues of media institution are advertisements and paid content. However, both sources face several difficulties in Egypt and in the Arab world, he noted.

“We have to produce a content that forces readers to subscribe, such as the entertaining and humanitarian content which is based on true stories,” El-Baramawy told DNE.

Moreover, El-Baramawy asserted the need for producing content that has a value and also to be unique. “Readers will never pay for something that has no value, benefit, or not enjoyable for them.”

Furthermore, El-Baramawy stated that understanding the nature of media and social media platforms and suitable content for each platform, has become a necessity to overcome ever-changing obstacles facing digital content in the Arab world.

“Journalism has a crisis related regarding probability. Therefore, it is important to think before publishing or producing content on a suitable platform,” El-Baramawy.

El-Baramawy pointed out that each media institution has to pay more effort in producing different kinds of content and recognise the best media and social media platform for them. He elaborated and stated that there is a need, “To carefully study your audience and platforms, as well as the nature of your content,” El-Baramawy concluded.

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‘Menstrual leave’: delayed right or preferential move? Mon, 15 Apr 2019 09:00:51 +0000 Debates over women’s rights for days off during their periods

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Throughout several days every month, many women around the world suffer from menstrual pain (the symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle) by varying degrees. Some turn to pain killers in order to manage their daily duties, hiding sickness during work, while others can barely leave their beds.

For the first time in Egypt, a marketing company decreed earlier this month to offer its female employees a day off every month: the first or second day of their menstruation. The move raised debates among both women and men equally over the positive and negative effects of such a decision if applied in the country’s labour market.

Critics claim that business owners would hire fewer women, viewing women as less capable of working. Some of them already prefer unmarried women or females without children to reduce the numbers of days off during their work hours, they added. 

However, supporters believe that the ‘menstrual leave’ is a much-delayed right, especially since several companies around the world have already been offering this kind of vacation to women.

In fact, the ‘menstrual leave’ already exists in several countries where women who severely suffer from menstrual pain are offered one or two days off, either paid or unpaid. Those countries include Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea. In other parts of the world, ‘menstrual leave’ policies emerged in some companies including the United Kingdom. 

In Egypt, female workers already have the right to take a paid vacation of three months after giving birth only twice throughout their work history, according to the country’s Labour Law. Female labourers are also allowed to take an unpaid vacation not exceeding two years to take care of their children, only twice throughout their work history.

Menstruation is stigmatised

Menstrual symptoms usually include psychological and physical sickness. Women feel pain in the form of stomach cramps, lower back pain, breast pain, headaches, lack of concentration as well as mood swings.

As menstruation is still stigmatised, women prefer not to mention such symptoms if they need to take a day off from work. Female workers rarely talk openly about their menstrual cycles and their need to a paid vacation as they fear they might lose their jobs or because menstruation is still a taboo subject in society. 

A 2016 research revealed that menstrual pain can be “as bad as having a heart attack,” according to John Guillebaud, professor of family planning and reproductive health at University College London. However, ‘period pain’ still is not taken seriously by many doctors.

On the other hand, women experience menstrual pain differently. A 2012 study found that 20% of women experience their periods painful enough to interfere with their daily activities.

First of its kind in Egypt

The Egyptian company which took the initiative stated that every female employee is allowed to take a paid day off from their menstruation days. If there is an urgent need for work, women could work from home, the company explained. 

“This came following an initiative launched by a number of feminist organisations and out of our keenness toward our employees being in sound mind and body,” Rania Youssef, the office and human resources manager of the company told Daily News Egypt (DNE).

“We want all female employees to feel comfortable in their workplace. If they are not ok, they have the right to leave the office and get some rest for a day,” Youssef added.

Youssef disclosed that 90% of the company’s workforce are females, with ages ranging from 23 to 28. “The decree was not faced by any kind of rejection from the male employees,” Youssef noted. 

Some detractors claim that the company, which was launched two years ago, took such a move to draw attention to itself. Yet, Youssef said that they did so for the sake of the health of the company’s female employees.

One day is not enough

Mahmoud Ragab, an art director and a team leader said that one day will not be enough for women during their menstruation. “I witness these kinds of physical pain and physiological changes with my wife, as she usually becomes very sick during her periods,” Ragab told DNE. “Therefore, I believe that the vacation could range from two or three days, as one day is really not enough.”

Meanwhile, Ragab said that he would not mind allowing a female employee within his team to take days off if she is menstruating. “I will never hesitate to allow her days off. I do not believe it is an unjust measure, as women really suffer during their periods.” 

Similarly, Eman agreed with the new measure, criticising those who accused women of being incapable in the labour market. “Every woman has the right to take a ‘menstrual leave’ if she feels sick and cannot manage her work,” Eman told DNE.

Furthermore, Eman noted that even people suffering from mental illness have the right to have days off, as this shall never undermine their abilities or skills.

Meanwhile, Fatma said that she wishes everyone, males or females, would have the right to wake up in the morning and request a day off if they are not ok, “Without needing to reveal the reason behind their request,” Fatma told DNE.

It is inequitable

Yet, other women warned that such a decision, if applied in each institution or business, would have a negative effect on the female’s participation rate in the labour market.

“I am totally against such a measure. It would lead to a remarkable decrease in women’s employment opportunities in the labour market. We already suffer from such a cut-down,” Yousra told DNE.

Meanwhile, Heba opposed the concept of the ‘menstrual leave’, explaining that such a move might make business owners prefer men over women. “Such a measure will support the notion that women should not leave their homes or work and such ridiculous ideas.”

Yet, Mariam said that companies have to be aware that some women will not be able to work during the first day of their menstruation.

“Unfortunately, there are companies which include doctors and pharmacists who are not aware how severe period pain is,” Mariam told DNE.

“Once I was very sick, and I turned to the company’s clinic and asked for a day off. I was literally crying from the pain. However, the doctor refused to authorise my request, noting that he can’t allow me a day off just because I have my period! This is not fair,” Mariam recalled.

Concurrently, Hebatullah voiced that the concept should be optional, as women who cannot work during menstruation can take a day off, while others who do not suffer much should go to work as usual. “By the way, I am from these women whose first day of menstruation is like hell. I might even faint from the severity of the pain.”

On the other hand, Karim Al-Sayed, a marketing consultant, revealed that he does not mind that his female colleagues take days off more than him. “I think they need to take a day off if they are suffering from period pain. They really need it.”

However, Al-Sayed said that in a patriarchal society, women would face ridiculous comments due to their ‘menstrual leave.’

“They are already struggling with such a sexist society, and if they reveal the reasons behind their vacation they will face more undesirable comments as the period is still a taboo subject.”    

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Spring meetings: IMF urges policymakers to prepare for slower growth through smart decisions, cooperative work Thu, 11 Apr 2019 08:00:25 +0000 Washington, DC- Thousands of delegates and officials have arrived in Washington, DC, for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, which is taking place from 8 to 14 April. The spring meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank Group and the IMF bring together central bankers, ministers of …

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Washington, DC- Thousands of delegates and officials have arrived in Washington, DC, for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, which is taking place from 8 to 14 April.

The spring meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank Group and the IMF bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organisations, and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook (WEO), poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.

The sessions include the influence of macroprudential policies on household credit and spending, export diversification, debt vulnerabilities, and development needs in low-income countries, managing capital flow, as well as curbing corruption by improving economic governance in the Middle East and Central Asia. In addition, the sessions also tackle the issue of illicit financial flows, money, and payments in the digital age, cyber-security, as well as tackling the next wave of the sovereign debt crisis.

During the current year’s meetings, the IMF expressed its concern regarding the decline of global economies’ growth, calling on policymakers to adjust their policies by making changes to conditions which may occur and constrain their countries’ economic growth.

The IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, said on 2 April in Washington that the global economy is experiencing a “delicate moment” with increasing risks to growth and an unsettled climate.

Citing trade tensions, tighter financial conditions, and geopolitical uncertainty surrounding Brexit and other events, global growth has lost momentum, she highlighted during a speech at the United States Chamber of Commerce.

“Only two years ago, 75% of the global economy experienced an upswing. So, it was a synchronised growth acceleration, and for this year we expect not 75%, but 70% of the global economy to experience a slowdown in growth, exactly the opposite of what we had,” Lagarde said.

She added: “But just to be clear we do not see a recession in the near term. In fact, we expect some pickup in growth in the second half (H2) of 2019 and into 2020. And indeed, the global economy is at a delicate moment.”

The expected rebound in global growth is precarious

The expected rebound in global growth later this year and into early 2020 is precarious because it is vulnerable to downside risks, including country related uncertainties, such as Brexit for instance, and broader uncertainties such as high debt in some sectors. In some countries, tensions around trade policy are still uncertain. And there is a sense of unease in financial markets for example. There should be a sharp unexpected tightening of financial conditions. It could create serious challenges for many governments and companies around the world in terms of refinancing and debt services, particularly those that have borrowed in non-domestic currencies, which could amplify exchange rate movements and financial market corrections. Indeed, it is a delicate moment in itself and it requires a delicate mix of policies, the WEO indicated.

Furthermore, Lagarde urged policymakers to prepare for slower growth by making smart decisions in trade and fiscal policies.

Additionally, Gita Gopinath, the IMF economic counsellor and director of the Research Department, stressed that policymakers need to work cooperatively to help ensure that policy uncertainty does not weaken investment.

“Now I don’t want to be overly dramatic because we don’t see a recession. But we believe that because it is so delicate as it is filled with in a way with self-inflicted wounds that only men and women can address. That’s why it requires this, ‘handle with care’ approach that brings together all domestic policies across-borders and international coordination,” Gopinath related.

According to the WEO, after strong growth in 2017 and early 2018, global economic activity slowed notably in H2 of last year, reflecting a confluence of factors affecting major economies. China’s growth declined following a combination of needed regulatory tightening to rein in shadow banking, and an increase in trade tensions with the US.

The euro area economy lost more momentum than expected as consumer and business confidence weakened, and car production in Germany was disrupted by the introduction of new emission standards. Investment dropped in Italy as sovereign spreads widened, and external demand, especially from emerging Asia, softened. Elsewhere, natural disasters hurt activity in Japan.

Trade tensions increasingly took a toll on business confidence and, so, financial market sentiment worsened, with financial conditions tightening for vulnerable emerging markets (EMs) in the spring of 2018, and then in advanced economies later in the year, weighing on global demand. Conditions have eased in 2019 as the US Federal Reserve (Fed) signalled a more accommodative monetary policy stance, and markets became more optimistic about a US-China trade deal, but they remain slightly more restrictive than in the fall.

As a result of these developments, the WEO projected that global growth would slow from 3.6% in 2018 to 3.3% in 2019, before returning to 3.6% in 2020. Growth for 2018 was revised down by 0.1% relative to the October 2018 WEO, reflecting weakness in the H2 of the year, and the forecasts for 2019 and 2020 are now marked down by 0.4% and 0.1%, respectively.

The current forecast envisages that global growth will level off in the H1 of 2019 and firm up after that.

“The projected pickup in the H2 of 2019 is predicated on an ongoing build-up of policy stimulus in China, recent improvements in global financial market sentiment, the waning of some temporary drags on growth in the euro area, and a gradual stabilisation of conditions in stressed EM economies, including Argentina and Turkey. Improved momentum for EM and developing economies is projected to continue into 2020, primarily reflecting developments in economies currently experiencing macroeconomic distress–a forecast subject to notable uncertainty. By contrast, activity in advanced economies is projected to continue to slow gradually as the impact of US fiscal stimulus fades, and growth tends toward the modest potential for the group,” the WEO read.

Growth across EMs projected to stabilise slightly below 5%

Growth across EMs and developing economies is projected to stabilise slightly below 5%, though with variations by region and country. The baseline outlook for emerging Asia remains favourable, with China’s growth projected to slow gradually toward sustainable levels, and convergence in frontier economies toward higher income levels. For other regions, the outlook is complicated by a combination of structural bottlenecks, slower advanced economy growth, and, in some cases, high debt and tighter financial conditions. These factors, alongside subdued commodity prices and civil strife, or conflict in some cases, contribute to subdued medium-term prospects for Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Pakistan region, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, convergence prospects are bleak for some 41 EMs and developing economies, accounting for close to 10% of the global GDP in purchasing-power-parity terms, and with total population close to 1 billion, where per capita incomes are projected to fall further behind those in advanced economies over the next five years.

Global energy prices declined by 17%

Regarding commodity prices, global energy prices declined by 17% between the reference periods for the October 2018 and the current WEO, as oil prices dropped from a four-year peak of $81 a barrel in October to $61 in February. Meanwhile supply influences dominated initially–notably a temporary waiver in US sanctions on Iranian oil exports to certain countries and record-high US crude oil production–weakening global growth added downward pressure on prices toward the end of 2018. Since the beginning of this year, oil prices have recovered somewhat thanks to production cuts by oil-exporting countries. Prices of base metals have increased by 7.6% since August, as a result of supply disruption in some metal markets, more than offsetting subdued global demand.

Following the tightening of financial conditions in late 2018, market sentiment rebounded in early 2019. Signs of slowing global growth, moderately less buoyant corporate earnings, and market concerns about the pace of the Fed policy tightening weighed on sentiment at the end of 2018.

Egypt’s inflation is expected to reach 14.5% in 2019, 12.3% in 2020

Consumer price inflation remained muted across advanced economies, given the drop in commodity prices. For most countries in this group, core inflation is well below central bank targets, despite the pickup in domestic demand in the past two years; in the US and the United Kingdom it is close to 2%. Although wage growth has been picking up across most advanced economies, notably in the US and the UK, it is still sluggish despite lower unemployment rates and diminished labour market slack.

The WEO projected that Egypt’s inflation is expected to reach 14.5% in 2019, compared to 20.9% in 2018. Additionally, the IMF forecasted that the country’s inflation will continue to drop to reach 12.3% in 2020 and 6.9% in 2024.

Global current account deficits and surpluses are estimated to have widened marginally in 2018, compared with the previous year. Higher oil prices have been the main driver of this widening: they are estimated to have boosted the current account balance of oil exporters by about 3.5% of their GDP.

Furthermore, the IMF’s projection for Egypt’s current account deficit this year is to reach 2.4% of the GDP. However, it forecasts a decrease reaching 1.7% in 2020, and 1% in 2024.

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Risk of energy price shock, unemployment top MENA risks landscape: WEF Tue, 09 Apr 2019 08:00:10 +0000 Perception of insecurity remains concern in region

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As geo-economic tensions across the globe ratcheted up during 2018, respondents to the Global Risks Perception Survey conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), said that expecting increasing risks in 2019 related to “economic confrontations between major powers” (91% of respondents) and “erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements” (88% of respondents).

According to the WEF report released, geo-economic divisions come as the rate of global growth appears to have peaked. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a gradual slowdown over the next few years. This is mainly the result of developments in advanced economies, but projections of a slowdown in China – from 6.6% growth in 2018 to 6.2% this year and 5.8% by 2022 – are a source of concern.

So, too, is the global debt burden, which is significantly higher than before the global financial crisis, at around 225% of the GDP.

In addition, a tightening of global financial conditions has placed a strain on countries that built up dollar-denominated liabilities while interest rates were low.

Furthermore, the report cites that as the global economy faces some headwinds, cross- border trade – long seen as a means of mitigating geopolitical risk by embedding powers in mutually beneficial relationships – is now frequently seen as a tool of strategic competition.

The potential costs of deepening trade tensions were highlighted in January 2019 when the IMF cited trade disputes as one reason for revising down its global growth projections for the second time in three


These developments hold risk for the MENA region, home to trade-dependent economies, where, according to the IMF, total trade-to-GDP ratio amounts to approximately 66%.

Economic and governance risks to the MENA region

The report indicates that exogenous factors, such as geo-economic division, climate change and technological threats all pose a particular risk to the MENA, but so, too, do hazards that are more regional in nature.

According to respondents in the Middle East and North Africa to the Executive Opinion Survey, the top two risks across the region for doing business are “energy price shocks” and “unemployment or underemployment”.

These risks are largely economic in nature and affected by the health of governance in the region. Similarly, the number five risk “fiscal crises”, the number seven risk “unmanageable inflation”, and the number 10 risk “failure of financial mechanism or institutions” follow the same pattern of being largely economic in nature and potentially governance-driven.

Furthermore, according to respondents’ top risk, “energy price shock”, comes at a time when some countries have taken steps towards diversification, but the region is still largely a hydrocarbon economy, heavily reliant on revenue from this sector. Oil prices increased substantially between 2017 and 2018, from around $50 to$75.

This represents a significant fillip for the fiscal position of the region’s oil producers, with the IMF estimating that each $10 increase in oil prices should feed through to an improvement on the fiscal balance of three percentage points of the GDP.

However, vulnerabilities to swings in oil prices have not disappeared and are particularly pronounced in countries where government spending is rising. This group includes Saudi Arabia, which the IMF estimated in May 2018 had seen its fiscal breakeven price for oil — that is, the price required to balance the national budget — rise to $88, 26% above the IMF’s October 2017 estimate and also higher than the country’s medium-term oil price target of $70–$80.

“It is no surprise, then, that Saudi Arabia remains one of five countries in the region that rank “energy price shock” as the top risk to doing business in our survey, along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar,” the report indicates.

The risk of an episodic energy price shock signals a broader, systemic risk for the region. Unless the MENA economies diversify, business and society will not only be hostage to oil market fluctuation in the short term but also will be ill-prepared to thrive in the global economic landscape of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As technology increasingly disrupts the business landscape, economies will place a premium on what is above ground – skills and innovation – rather than on what is below.

On the labour side, the changes brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution will create disruption to employment across industries.

According to McKinsey, by 2030, up to 375 million workers (14% of the global workforce) may need to find different occupations because of new efficiencies such as automation. Yet, already in the Middle East the labour landscape is dire.

For the past 25 years, the rate of unemployment among young people in the MENA region has been the highest in the world and in 2017, the rate was 30%. 

There are significant risks to the economies being able to absorb the labour force, particularly since 27 million young people will enter the labour market over the next five years.

Speaking in Dubai in February 2019, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, was critical of “spending kept off-budget” as well as well as high levels of borrowing. Lagarde said, “With better governance, we can replace the ‘disintegration’ of corruption with the ‘integration’ of all into the productive economy. We can replace fasad with islah – reforms to set things right, to reconcile people with one another.”

Insecurity remains a risk

“Terrorist attacks” were ranked as the third-leading risk in the Middle East and North Africa, according to respondents in the region to the Executive Opinion Survey. Similar to economic and governance issues, this risk is one that manifests from inside, rather than outside, the region.

Yet, it is notable that terrorism ranked so high in the opinion survey because it runs counter to the data on attacks. According to the Global Terrorism Database, the number of attacks in the MENA dropped by 38% in 2017 from the year before and the number of deaths fell by 44%. The most significant drops in

terms of incidents were in Turkey, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

According to the respondents, despite the fact that while the absolute numbers may be declining, the relative number is high: the MENA is home to the largest share of incidents and deaths compared to the rest of the world, 31% and 44%, respectively.

Furthermore, the report cites another possibility that “terrorism” is acting as a proxy for respondents to capture an overall sense of insecurity in the region. Some analysts point to continued, longstanding frictions as a reason to dub the area from Morocco to Iran a “band of instability”.

More specifically, Syria and Yemen are ranked as countries of “very high alert” and Iraq as “high alert”, according to the Fragile State Index, and negative developments in these states can have repercussions that manifest in other states.

Similarly, instability in other countries, such as Libya, and fractures –and even outright hostilities – between some states in the Gulf and Levant add to overall regional insecurity. This, even as some factors, like the aforementioned drop in terrorist activity and the decline of the Islamic State, are trending in the right direction.

Toward risk mitigation and resiliency

For stakeholders across the globe, risk mitigation and resiliency can be heightened through a coordinated rather than go-at-it-alone approach. Preventing the harms of climate change from being realised – or, responding to effects in an effective manner when they manifest – for instance, is only possible through cross-sector and cross-border partnerships. Similarly, strengthening economic structures and governing institutions in the MENA region can best be achieved through a multi-stakeholder approach that leverages diverse resources, including skills and expertise, and aligns actors towards a common goal.

The risks of climate change and cracks in the global response

Eighty-five percent of respondents to the Global Risks Perception Survey expect “political confrontations/frictions between major powers” to increase in 2019. These rising geopolitical divisions are making it more challenging to address the biggest global risk – climate change.

Environmental risks dominate the results of the Global Risks Perception Survey for the third year in a row. This year, climate-related issues accounted for three of the top five risks by likelihood and four by impact over the next 10years.

Extreme weather was the risk of greatest concern, but survey respondents were increasingly worried about environmental policy failure. “Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation” ranked as number two in terms of impact this year.

The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear. The year 2018 was the fourth warmest on record.

In the MENA region, Algeria had the hottest temperature –51.3oC – ever reliably recorded across the whole of Africa and Oman recorded a minimum temperature of 42.6oC. 6

Rising temperatures led the UN to warn that melting ice sheets were causing sea-level rise to accelerate. The World Bank identified 24 port cities in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa at particular risk of rising waters.

Climate change will also bring a second-order risk for the region. As countries around the world take steps to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels to stem the effects of climate change, the oil-based economies of the MENA region will feel the repercussions.

Yet, in stark contrast to the results of the Global Risks Perception Survey – respondents to which are the global stakeholder community – respondents in the Middle East and North Africa to the Executive Opinion Survey did not rank environmental issues high on the list of risks in the region. The lack of prioritising climate change points to a blind spot among stakeholders when it comes to considering the risks of the issue to the region.

Global technological threats

Technology plays a profound role in shaping the global risks landscape in the near and longer term. Concerns about data fraud and cyberattacks were prominent again in the Global Risks Perception Survey, with 82% of respondents expecting cyberattacks in the form of theft of data or money and 80% expecting it in the form of disruptions of operations or infrastructure to increase in 2019. Similarly, “data fraud or theft” and “cyberattacks” ranked as the fourth and fifth risks, respectively, in terms of likelihood over the next decade.

Indeed, there were further data breaches in 2018, new hardware weaknesses were revealed, and research pointed to the potential uses of artificial intelligence to engineer more potent cyberattacks. Last year also provided further evidence that cyberattacks pose risks to critical infrastructure, prompting countries to strengthen their screening of cross-border partnerships on national security grounds. According to Cisco, 94% of companies in the MENA said they experienced a cyberattack in the past year and almost half of attacks, 48%, resulted in damage valued at over $500,000. 

The rise in the flow of data across borders means that these types of risks are only expected to increase.

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Israel elections: Netanyahu’s win scathing impact on Middle East Mon, 08 Apr 2019 11:00:47 +0000 'Polls could give Netanyahu win, lead to Israel de facto annexation of West Bank,' says analyst

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Ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections, to be held on Tuesday 9 April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chance of winning is swelling after the United States President Donald Trump granted him the Golan Heights on a silver platter. However, the final opinion polls suggested a fall of Netanyahu’s right-wing party Likud seats in the Knesset.

During his visit to Washington, Netanyahu won what he kept pushing Trump’s administration for, the American recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied plateau, the grant expected to strengthen the Israeli leader in the polls, as he has been under intense political pressure in Israel.

However, not only the US did award Netanyahu a gift before the elections. Last week, Russia announced that its soldiers in Syria found the remains of the Israeli soldier, Zachary Baumel, who went missing during the war in Lebanon in 1982. The body was transferred from Syria to Israel, where hundreds, astonished and surprised, gathered in Jerusalem for his funeral.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu, overwhelmed by awards, still faces many pending challenges. The Israeli prime minister faces ‘dangerous’ charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three cases pending a final hearing, according to the Israeli prosecution office. Netanyahu denied them all.

Another challenge awaiting the Israeli leader is his competitor and long-time political rival, Benny Gantz. The 59-year-old former army chief who managed to gain ground in recent months, represents in a short time a serious threat to his rival, according to Israeli opinion polls.

Netanyahu’s Likud National Liberal Movement is a right-wing party established in 1973. Israel’s prime minister has been in power since 2009. He also led Israel from 1996 to 1999.

Tough competition? 

In February, Gantz formed the centrist Blue and White alliance with a promise to unite the country from the division which took place in recent years. The alliance is also led by the former minister of finance, Yair Lapid, and other top former army commanders.

Gantz, whose parents were survivors of the holocaust, pledged during his speech in the Munich Security Conference 2019 to protect the Jewish state. “The Jewish people and the Jewish state will never again put their fate in the hands of others,” Gantz said, adding, “Israelis will protect themselves by themselves and guarantee the future of their people.”

Friday’s final opinion polls showed Gantz’s Blue and White alliance advancing, with a prediction of grabbing 30 seats, more than the 26 for Netanyahu’s Likud, according to an opinion poll in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. However, the poll also predicted that the parties of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc could take around 63 seats in the Knesset. 

Meanwhile, another poll suggests that the right-wing bloc would win 66 seats, while centre-left parties might take 54, according to Israeli television. The right-wing block includes the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, the centre-right Kulanu party, the right-wing Union of Right-Wing Parties, and the right-wing Zehut party.

Huge impact on the Middle East

“The Israeli elections will have a big impact on the Israel-Palestine question if Netanyahu wins again,” Nicholas A Heras, a Middle East security fellow at the Centre for a New American Security told Daily News Egypt.

“One dynamic to watch closely is whether Netanyahu – in order to stay in power as prime minister – has to cut a deal with far right-wing Israeli parties,” Heras added.

Heras clarified that far right-wing parties want Israel to move closer to the outright annexation of the West Bank, in a manner similar to what Israel has done with the Golan Heights.

“The elections could give these Israeli parties a lot more power than they have ever had because Netanyahu needs them to be able to stay as prime minister,” Heras continued. 

Meanwhile, Heras pointed out that “Trump’s decision over the Golan Heights was an attempt to give Netanyahu a big political win right before the elections.” But, he added, that “it is already having a tough impact throughout the region, especially in Jordan.”

“Jordan is a close ally of the US, but Trump’s decision regarding the Golan is putting significant pressure on Jordan as Jordanians fear that Trump’s Golan decision is a preview of a US ‘peace plan’ that would seek to make Jordan the Palestinian state,” Heras simplified. 

Heras then continued, “Trump’s Golan decision is creating a political crisis in Jordan, which is an unwelcome development for US policy toward Israel and Palestine, because Jordan is so important for the stability of Palestine and the broader Middle East.”

Heras projected that Israel’s elections “could give Netanyahu a win, empower far-right Israeli groups, lead to the de facto annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and undermine Jordan’s stability.”

“That would be a nightmare scenario for the United States, but perhaps not for the Trump team which has been so pro-Netanyahu and pro-Likud,” Heras concluded.

Deal of the Century

As Trump’s administration is expected to make an announcement of what becomes known as ‘the Deal of Century,’ following the Israeli general election, many expectations have been raised regarding the details of the pact.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt are the officials responsible for drafting the so-called peace plan which aims to tackle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Of course, the results of the Israeli elections would affect the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian cause,” Samir Ghattas, an expert in Palestinian affairs and director of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies told DNE.

Ghattas stated that despite Gantz advance against the Likud, the right-wing bloc is expected to take around 64 seats in the Knesset, according to final polls, compared to around 56 seats for centre-left parties. Thus, it is possible that Netanyahu would form the new cabinet once more, Ghattas noted. 

“Recent polls also suggested that Arab parties, including the Arab-Israeli party Raam-Taal headed by Ahmad Tibi, will take 6 seats,” Ghatts said. He added that if Gantz and the Arab parties accept to unite together to form the new government, they would have 62 seats, which are enough to form the government, as the Knesset requires 61 seats to form the cabinet.

However, Ghattas said such alliance seems unlikely and very difficult. “But it is not impossible,” he noted.   

Regarding Netanyahu’s chance in staying in power, Ghattas voiced that the prime minister has recently received many gifts from Trump and Putin, which enhanced his standing in the elections. Those grants are the Golan Heights and the body of the Israeli soldier who died 37 years ago. However, Netanyahu still faces charges of corruption, Ghattas said. 

Ghattas noted that one of those cases is related to Egypt, referring to the German submarine deal. Seven people-Netanyahu’s allies-have been arrested over charges of bribery, tax fraud, and money laundering in deals worth over €1.5bn.

The deal was to buy Dolphin submarines and patrol corvettes from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany. Recently, the Israeli prosecution said that it is considering opening a criminal investigation against Netanyahu over profits from shares he purchased in a steel factory in Texas.

Back to Trump’s peace plan, Ghattas argued that the deal is very clear, despite the fact that its details have not yet been announced. “The deal is that Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are under Israeli sovereignty, as well as tackling the issue of Palestinian refugees through four factors,” Ghattas revealed.

The first is the cutting of the aids to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Secondly, redefining the definition of a ‘Palestinian refugee’.

Israel wants the definition to only include the refugee who was displaced in 1948. This would not include the new generations, the sons and the grandchildren, Gattas highlighted.

“Only those refugees will get compensation or have the option to return home,” Gattas noted. 

The third factor, Ghattas continued, is through putting pressure on Arab countries which host large numbers of Palestinian refugees, to either give them the nationalities or settle them in these countries, including Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, Ghattas noted. 

The fourth factor is allowing Gaza to be a Palestinian ministate under Hamas’s rule, Ghattas forecasted. He mentioned that there is an old project to expand Gaza through including parts of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Furthermore, Ghattas noted that the old project, presented in 2005, was to renounce some area of the peninsula to the strip, through giving up its sovereignty over those lands to Palestinians to establish their state.  However, new amendments were set to this plan, Ghattas said, adding that the expansion project will include 1,000 sq km in South Sinai without renouncing the Egyptian sovereignty and to be a free industrial zone as part of the megacity called Neom. 

In a recent interview with the Yisrael Hayom daily on Friday, Netanyahu voiced that he told Trump that he would never allow any Jewish settler to be evacuated from the West Bank. On the possible US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, Netanyahu avoided a direct answer and said: “Wait for the next term.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu revealed his wishes regarding the ‘Deal of the Century’, saying that he hopes it includes controlling the territory west of Jordan, and not dividing Jerusalem.

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