Interviews – Daily News Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Thu, 25 May 2017 16:03:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The state has succeeded in lifting most travel bans imposed on Egypt: Soha El Torgoman http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/25/state-succeeded-lifting-travel-bans-imposed-egypt-soha-el-torgoman/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/25/state-succeeded-lifting-travel-bans-imposed-egypt-soha-el-torgoman/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 06:00:56 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=626701 Procedures for adding the path of the holy family to the UNESCO have started, which will secure financing to develop the areas

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Soha El Torgoman, general manager of Ramses Hilton Hotel and a member of the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) and the Technical Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Tourism, said that tourism in Egypt is improving. In an interview with Daily News Egypt, she explained all aspects related to the Egyptian tourism situation.

What is your assessment of the current status of the tourism sector?

The situation has become very different now than before the crisis of the crash of a Russian airliner.

What are the differences you see?

I think that the Egyptian tourist situation is improving. All the countries that had a travel ban imposed on Egyptian destinations following the fall of the airliner have been lifted, except Russia, which is still intact due to political reasons, and Britain on Sharm El-Sheikh only.

Do you think that the tourism sector has begun recovering from the crash?

Yes, the situation began to recover. This is evident by the fact that all nationalities are coming to Egyptian destinations​ after 18 months since the crash.

Do you see a change in the inflow map?

The Egyptian tourist map has completely changed during the last period. The sector used to rely on specific nationalities and certain markets, which made it very vulnerable to changes. I think that the Egyptian tourism sector has begun to rely on new markets and adopted new types of tourism that were not included before.

What are the most important new markets?

India, China, and Ukraine, as well as Latin America, which grew by 200% in the first quarter of the current year. The tourism from the Gulf has also increased significantly.

What are the new types of tourism?

The classic or cultural tourism that was customary before 2011 relied only on floating hotels. But now, Luxor and Aswan are seeing a boom across floating and traditional hotels.

Are there new nationalities starting to appear in tourist destinations?

The Gulf tourism began to emerge in areas that were not dependent on the Arabs, such as Aswan and Luxor, in addition to their interest in Sharm El-Sheikh, which was limited previously. The North Coast region began to heavily attract Arab tourism. I expect to see rental and buying prices go up there amid the growing Arab attention that will follow Ramadan.

Has there been a significant difference in the marketing of Egyptian tourist destinations?

For the first time, the Egyptian tourism sector relies on online marketing through bloggers and international reservation sites. It has become the first method of marketing in the world and we have to rely on it without the need for paper and printed publications and advertisements. The bloggers also have a great impact on global tourism marketing.

Did the use of electronic marketing increase inflow?

Electronic marketing has helped to limit the control of travel agents and major tour operators that had a monopoly over Egyptian tourism. It enabled us to reach tourists without dealing with operators.

What other new tourist patterns has Egypt started to introduce?

The path of the Holy Family has become one of the most important tourist patterns during the recent period. It will become the forefront of tourism patterns in two years, as it will attract a large number of Copts around the world to visit Egypt.

How did Egypt start promoting and marketing the path of the Holy Family?

A year ago, the Ministry of Tourism began to pay attention to the path of the Holy Family, when the minister visited Italy and was asked to prepare for the visit of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and the Pope. The path of the Holy Family will be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

What are the advantages of adding the path of the Holy Family to UNESCO?

Once it is added, UNESCO will secure the funding necessary to develop these sites, in addition to helping the ministry promote them.

What is the number of sites within the path of the Holy Family?

The path includes 37 sites. The state is working to secure these sites and will begin with eight of them. This was presented to tour operators too.

What is your assessment of the participation of the tourism sector in international exhibitions?

The Egyptian Tourism Authority is currently working to use the help of a specialised company to prepare for the sector’s participation in international exhibitions. The authority aims to make Egypt a trademark on the world map of tourism.

Will Egypt be placed as a trademark as a whole or by placing different marks on the country’s tourism destinations?

We seek to make Egypt, as a whole, a trademark. When Russia and Britain lift the travel ban, we will begin dividing Egypt into different brands. We want to make the path of the Holy Family a brand, as it combines two types of tourism, classic and religious. This will be in parallel with the marketing of other sites.

Why did we recently start to pay attention to the path of the Holy Family at last?

Egypt needed a new tourist product to be presented to the world in light of the recent crises that the state faced.

What are the most important tools used by the ministry and the sector in increasing the inflow of tourists in the recent period?

Changing the charter flights incentive scheme to include regular flights is an important step, as many tourists come on board regular flights.

How did tour operators benefit from this scheme?

There were many complaints about the fees in Egyptian airports. The ministry is now paying these fees on behalf of the tour operators, which brings the total cost down and keeps foreign exchange available in Egypt.

As a lady who manages the Hilton Ramses Hotel, can you tell us how successful Egyptian women are in managing hotels?

I am the first Egyptian woman to manage a hotel in Egypt. I am also the first Muslim Arab woman to manage a hotel belonging to the Hilton Worldwide Group. I am currently training female experts to make them become top choices for Hilton leading positions. Egyptian women can become very successful in managing hotels in Egypt, as they have many advantages, such as patience and tolerance, which were planted in them by God.

What is the role of the Hilton Worldwide Group in empowering women to manage its hotels?

Amongst Hilton’s priorities is putting women in leading positions. There are plans to increase the number of women working at the group’s hotels to 20%, up from 10% previously.

How many women manage hotels in Egypt?

There are only two now, including me. But this is new and likely to increase more in the future.

What are the most important measures you took when you took over the Hilton Ramses Hotel?

When I was first appointed, I attended all meetings for all departments of the hotels for more than three months. This was one of the most important steps that helped me get to know all employees and learn first hand all operations. It also kept an open line of communication with them to exchange suggestions and views.

What has the development of the hotel been like since you took over the management?

I have been very interested in the way we welcome guests and the service quality at the hotel. Egyptians do not have the genes to serve others, but they have outstanding hospitality genes.

Why is the manager of the food and beverages department at hotels always not Egyptian?

Lack of interest in the technical and special study for the hospitality sector has weakened it much in the last few years, along with the poor quality of training for the sector’s employees.

Does Ramses Hilton train staff?

One of the most important activities carried out by the hotel management and the international group is training. The group provides an online university to develop the skills of the staff. There is also a specialised training manager at the hotel. We may cut allocations for training, but we never cancel them.

Are there any directives from the Supreme Council for Tourism to train workers in the tourism sector?

As a member of the Technical Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Tourism headed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, I stress that we have been tasked to train all the public servants that deal with tourists.

What are the developments in the hotel?

We have completed the first phase of development, which includes upgrading 68 rooms; 63 regular rooms and 5 suites. They will be opened for Eid Al Fitr, including a big suite called Diwan, which overlooks the Nile River. It is also a duplex with a special kids area. There is also more development in the pipeline, such as opening a hall named after the hotel, Ramses, which will include different areas to match all visitors. The second phase of development will include upgrading two floors, the pool, the reception, and restaurants. This will begin in November. After Eid Al Fitr, we will also repaint the outer walls of the hotel in cooperation with Sipes.

Is the development of the hotel related to competition with other hotels overlooking the Nile?

Yes, we are developing the hotel for competition. And we are targeting all types of guests, including the high-spending guests. The renovations will change the personality of the hotels completely.

What nationalities choose to stay at Hilton Ramses?

The Saudis and Gulf countries are at the forefront, as well as the Spanish, the Americans, and the Chinese, followed by Malaysians and Indonesians.

Have you applied the value added tax in the hotel?

Hilton Group is very committed to the implementation of all new laws adopted by the government, including the decision to apply the VAT.

What is the effect of the flotation on revenues and expenses?

The decision to float the pound hiked revenues more than costs. That decision was good for the Egyptian tourism sector, especially foreign tourism.

What is your favorite award?

I was awarded the GM Leadership Award across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). The winner of the award is chosen based on a global internal survey, through which criteria, including team engagement, trust, and leadership effectiveness, are evaluated.

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Egyptian FlyEx.aero aims at expanding in the Gulf and US http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/24/egyptian-flyex-aero-aims-expanding-gulf-us/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/24/egyptian-flyex-aero-aims-expanding-gulf-us/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 06:30:55 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=626527 We are negotiating with a number of investors to get seed investment, says El-Masry

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The founders of the FlyEx.aero application plan to attract investments of $200,000 in a first phase to cover the costs of their initial expansion plan.

Founder & CEO Osama El-Masry and Tamer Tayseer, co-founder & digital marketing director, said that the application aims to create a competitive atmosphere between airlines according to the quality of service offered to passengers and based on travelers’ feedback and ratings.

They noted that they plan to increase the number of users to 0.5 million by the end of the year, with a focus on expanding into the Gulf countries and the United States.

What is the nature of the services provided by the application?

The application that we launched provides flight booking services at the cheapest prices, through searching and comparing the prices of hundreds of airlines and websites—like most competitors. Yet what is unique is that we associate airline rankings along with prices to users which enables them not only to choose their flights based on the cheapest prices, but also considering the quality of service offered by each airline. Such a concept has been available for hotels for decades, but not for airlines so far, and this is exactly what we are trying to achieve through the FlyEx.aero app, aiming to change the flight booking industry for good. We have started working on and developing the application over the past two years to make it easy to use and meanwhile providing the best user experience.

It is well known that most airlines compete to provide the best level of service for their First and Business classes, where most of their revenue comes from, although they only account for 10% of total flight seats. Meanwhile, the rest of classes and especially the Economy class is always determined by the price, therefore a focus on comfort and quality of service are almost non-existent and are very similar across most of the airlines. Hence, we aim to change this by creating a competitive environment between airline companies across all classes through giving power to passengers to voice their opinion on the provided services and consequently considering quality as well as price in their booking decision process.

The application allows passengers to express their views in a quick and easy way towards the provided services by the airlines during their flights and their overall flight experience, which directly and immediately affect the ranking order of the airlines in our system index. This is then made available to all users during their search and booking process, which enables them to choose the best airlines to fly with in terms of both service and price.

How did you get the idea for the app?

Initially, I was working on a technological system for traffic management. I traveled to China in an attempt to implement the system there, but the experience was not successful due to the bankruptcy of the manufacturer. This forced me to begin working on a new system related to the problem of high baggage loss rates for travelers, especially during transfers; however, I faced many problems related to aviation authorities’ approvals and corresponding bureaucracy, which was difficult to overcome for a startup company.

While attending an international aviation event attended by major airlines’ executives, where I was discussing the baggage loss prevention system, the idea of generating new revenue streams for airlines through selling ancillary services and their reliance on digital solutions was heavily discussed. This helped form the idea in my head by the end of 2013, until finally the first version was released in September 2016.

What distinguishes your application from other competitors?

The service we provide is not only flight booking and ratings, but we also offer a number of other features and services, such as a flight organiser, flight status tracker, and even setting an automated assuring message to beloved family and friends once the flight departs/lands, while users focus on travel logistics.

Additionally, the application allows tracking flights so users can keep a close eye on flights of their relatives or friends. It also enables users to learn about the time difference, exchange rate, and weather conditions at their intended destination.

Founder & CEO Osama El-Masry

The application also provides information on the flights themselves, including the type of plane and the services provided on board, such as internet and USB ports. This information varies from flight to flight and travelers cannot find them usually, except after some time searching the internet across different websites. Instead, FlyEx.aero app provides them with all this information and more in one app, and even before making their final booking decision.

Furthermore, we also equipped the app with a language assistance service that includes the most important travel statements in 10 different languages to facilitate communicating with local residents, especially in non-English speaking countries, e.g. China, Hungary, Bulgaria, Japan, and Turkey, etc..

In addition to all these features, we are launching a totally new feature, which is airports’ maps for major airports in order to show users how to get around in the airports in terms of gates, lounges, restrooms, and other airport service areas. We are also working on adding mobile services offered by some airlines, such as issuing mobile check-in (mobile boarding pass), modification and cancellation of bookings, and frequent flyer programme access. This is all done from the app itself, which means that users can dispense of other apps on their mobile devices for the various airlines they travel with and rely instead on FlyEx.aero app.

What other features do you plan to add?

In the near future, we plan to add hotel booking services and other essential travel services through the application. Our main driver is to provide the largest number of travel services in one application and hence relieve the burden from the user to refer to multiple other apps/resources to get his travel tasks done.

How many airlines are currently in use?

The application has all the airlines in the world, but the ranking service is only available for 100 airlines so far.

How many downloads has the application seen until now? And what is your target?

There are now more than 5,000 downloads, but we aim to reach 0.5 million downloads by the end of 2017. This relies on our marketing plans and completing an agreement to obtain seed funding from one of the funding platforms.

What is the percentage of Egyptian customers out of the sheer number of users?

Egypt is currently ranked fourth among the number of users of the application, while India ranked first, followed by Pakistan, and then the US in third. We aim to focus on the Gulf and the US in the coming period.

What basis is used for rating airlines?

We have key sections through which the customer rates their flight experience with the airline, such as the flow of the flight, based on the smoothness of the takeoff, landing, and air turbulence management, in addition to hospitality and courtesy of the cabin crew, and of course the quality of meals and beverages offered during the flight, all the way through to the details of the plane itself, in terms of comfort, entertainment system, A/C, etc..

Where do you stand in terms of investments?

We currently communicate with a number of specialised investment funds and we reached advanced stages with one of them. Additionally, we are negotiating with a travel agency company to partner with to cooperate in the field of hotel bookings and holiday package reservations through our application.

What is your mechanism for making profits through the application?

In the first stage, we will get a small margin from the booking transactions, and then in the future, there will be a new mechanism to maximise revenues through offering business solutions to airlines and airports, but this will highly depend on the number of active users then.

What is your target size of investments?

Usually, the seed funding phase aims for $200,000, which is enough for our first phase, allowing us to reach our target of a base of 0.5 million users.

What are your target markets for expansion in the future?

We aim to expand in Europe and the United States, especially as US users are amongst the most frequent users, with a 65% retention rate, knowing that the industrial standard ranges between a 30% and 40% retention rate, which is a pretty good indicator that we are on the right track and targeting the right user profile.

Are there any current negotiations with Airline Companies?

We actually started establishing contacts with one of the Gulf airlines and are working on more approaches with number of airlines in the Middle East region. Yet, since we are an Egyptian startup, we hoped to have our first cooperation with EgyptAir or Cairo Airport Company for mutual benefit and boosting the Egyptian travel industry in such a challenging economy, but as you know, bureaucracy is our greatest enemy.

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Our investments amount to EGP 50m, says Nawara http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/23/investments-amount-egp-50m-says-nawara/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/23/investments-amount-egp-50m-says-nawara/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:27 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=626524 We contracted with Honeywell to use Bendix trademark in Egypt and North Africa, says Nawara

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Daily News Egypt interviewed Ahmed Nawara, deputy chairperson of Al-Manar Group, which works in the field of importing and manufacturing automotive oils.

Al-Manar was established in 1975 as an import company. Yet, 40 years later, the company managed to expand and own four subsidiaries working in importing, exporting, manufacturing, storage, and distribution.

The parent company now has four subsidiaries working under its umbrella: Al-Manar AMIX for import and export, which specialises in importing and exporting spare parts for European cars; Al-Manar AMCF for manufacturing car fluid; Al-Manar AMTD for distribution and trade; and Al-Manar AMSF for storage in the free zone in Alexandria.

Al-Manar imports brake pads, filters, rings, pistons, starting motors, dynamos, lights, plugs, drums, clutch cylinders, and other parts.

What is the size of the company’s investments?

Al-Manar Group invested EGP 500m, including the value of assets and the working capital, in the brake oil plant that was established in 6th of October City. The plant has the ISO 9,000 quality certificate, in addition to ISO 14,000 for environmental management, and ISO 18,000 for industrial safety. The factory’s annual production stands at approximately 3,000 tonnes, of which 2,000 tonnes is brake fluid, with the remaining 1,000 tonnes being other fluid types.

What are your target investments for 2017?

Al-Manar Group has started 2017 strongly by completing a contract with Honeywell to use the Bendix trademark in Egypt and North Africa for brake, transmission, and hydraulic oils and grease products. The agreement will be activated in July 2017. This is an important step in the expansion to foreign markets, which proves the confidence of Honeywell, being one of the Fortune 100 companies.

The agreement represents the confidence of international companies and investors in the Egyptian economy and its positive development, especially in light of the recent economic measures. Al-Manar imports raw materials and mixes and packages them in the parent company that was established in 2000 in 6th of October City.

What is the company’s market share in terms of brake oil?

Since the establishment of Al-Manar Group 40 years ago, our goal has been to provide high quality products. This gave us the confidence of the Egyptian consumers; hence, we obtained 40-45% of the market share in the commercial sector.

What is the production size of automotive fluids?

The factory’s annual production stands at approximately 3,000 tonnes, of which 2,000 tonnes is brake fluid, with the remaining 1,000 tonnes as other fluid types. We aim to boost production to 3,000 tonnes of brake fluid in 2018.

Have you finished extracting a license for the packing plant? Once operative, what would its output capacity be? 

Al-Manar Group succeeded in obtaining the license to manufacture engine, transmission, and hydraulic fluids, beside brake oils and cooling water. We expect the total production volume of the group to double.

What are your stances in the field of feeder industries during the coming period?

In line with Al-Manar Group’s plan to expand in the Egyptian market, we obtained the license to manufacture and package engine oils. We will also expand in the fields of transmission and hydraulic fluids.

Has the company entered partnerships with car companies and service centres to adopt Al-Manar Group as their official oil, like major companies do?

Since the beginning of the company’s work, we have focused on direct sales to specialised traders and service centres.

The spare parts market is seeing a problem of fraud. The group has faced a problem with fake Bendix products before. What measures did you take to protect your products?

The high rate of car accidents in Egypt is attributed to fake spare parts. This pushed us to rely on original brake fluid to help reduce the rate of annual car accidents. Maintaining the lives of citizens through reliance on genuine products has become a necessity. Al-Manar is seeking to raise awareness amongst distributors and traders about the need to check the brand and to warn against fake types. Al-Manar Group also cooperates regularly with the Ministry of Supply by reporting on cases of commercial fraud and dealing in counterfeit products.

What is the impact of the flotation on the company’s performance?

Al-Manar Group is confident in the economic reform measures taken by the state. Just like other companies, we have been impacted by the high cost of raw materials, but we know this is a temporary phase, which we have to traverse with hard work to reach foreign markets and bring hard currency to Egypt. Through the deal with Honeywell, Al-Manar Group has succeeded in becoming the licensed user of Bendix trademark in Egypt and North Africa. This provides confidence for the company and the Egyptian economy. This will also contribute to increasing dollar resources to the group and Egypt.

We have been conducting negotiations with Talaat Ghabbour, who owns a large filters factory in 10th of Ramadan City, to manufacture guard filters. This type of partnership is better than importing and looking for hard currency and will provide continuous supply.

The automotive components makers meet constantly at exhibitions. The possibility of running manufacturing themselves is always under consideration. They could agree to this exchange and trade-offs of products. This could become the new form of investment during the upcoming period. For example, I manufacture engine oils or brake fluids at my factory, while another company manufactures brake pads for me. The deal will then be based on swapping depending on quantity. For example, I give them one tonne of brake fluid in exchange for a tonne of brake pads, according to the prices, and cross-reference the price difference.

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The web can help Egyptian SMEs grow and reach more customers: Google MENA managing director http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/web-can-help-egyptian-smes-grow-reach-customers-google-mena-managing-director/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/17/web-can-help-egyptian-smes-grow-reach-customers-google-mena-managing-director/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 06:00:24 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=625682 Lino Cattaruzzi is confident in the growth opportunities provided by digital infrastructure

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The web provides a big opportunity for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt to export their services and products, according to Google’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Lino Cattaruzzi, in an interview with the Daily News Egypt.

Can you tell us about your partnership with the Ministry of Communications?

We’re in constant communication with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to discuss future plans and programmes. We recently celebrated the last graduation ceremony of the two-year Mobile Application Launchpad (MAL) programme, which was set up by Google in partnership with Udacity and the Egyptian Ministry of Information Technology to groom successful mobile app developers in Egypt through training, certification, and career guidance/job placements in the ICT field.

We are very proud of the success of this programme, and the numbers speak for themselves—more than 1,600 enrolled students and more than 1,200 successful graduates.

What led to the high success and graduation rate of the Mobile App Launchpad Program in Egypt?

Firstly, I think that the programme was very well designed. We looked at the local needs in Egypt and partnered with Udacity to offer one-on-one coaching and made sure that it is very inclusive and allowed for everyone to join. More than 65% of the students were from outside of Cairo. Secondly, the students have a high starting base with strong background. For instance, one of the students majored in Physics. Egypt has what it takes in terms of human capital for people to succeed in STEM sciences.

But this not particular to Egypt, this eagerness exists everywhere. The percentage was a little higher in Egypt, but what is striking is that the students are very ambitious and forward looking. For example, the students did not just stop at certification but they were planning what they can do with that certification.

What are your future plans to support entrepreneurs in Egypt?

At Google, we always look to nurture the entrepreneurial talent in Egypt and the MENA region. MAL was tailored specifically for Egyptian developers, and we worked with our partners to determine the best format that would deliver the strongest impact. That being said, we are always looking for new plans and programmes that support developers in Egypt, because inevitably this would lead to a stronger ecosystem. We are currently exploring what the next best steps are, but first we need to make sure we reflect and analyse what we did right and what could be done better.

We have clear areas of exploration, in particular we are focused on digital skills, but the key question here is not just about what we are going to do tomorrow, but more about how we can support this new digital economy to work well for all the SMEs in Egypt and how we can make sure that we maximise the impact of new technology on the life of the average Egyptian citizen.

What are the opportunities that you see in Egypt?

We see a lot of opportunities, considering the size, talent, and potential for development in Egypt. One is in talent specifically; we see an opportunity in building on the talent of the already well-trained population to have a higher impact using technology. The second, is how Egypt can have a higher footprint in the region, the Arab world, Africa, and even globally.

The last one is how you can start your own business or enable SMEs to export and small companies to grow faster.

Egypt and the web are better together. For us, the internet is extremely important; there is a global change in the business, and Egyptians are well equipped to capture this evolution. This is what we are doing by engaging with different players here in Egypt, like the government and associations, to capture this opportunity in order to help businesses grow faster.

For instance, Egypt is filled with incredible artisans producing amazing things, and they should be able to sell them outside of Egypt, and for other people to be aware and for them to capture the value. This is not to sell them to a large company that will take most of the economic wealth, but to enable them to directly communicate with the outside world, to have an easier way of shipping goods and collecting the money directly from the service, and to make them grow their business.

They need to be known and they need to have easy ways to sell what they produce.

What does it take to become the next Google?

I think the first thing to take into consideration is innovation and creativity—creating something new and unique that adds value. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a company; it could be a network of companies or even just an idea that creates value. You need to think big, not small: at Google we call it “10x thinking”. Second, one needs to have the skills to be in the digital world; and third, there needs to be the right environment that can allow individuals and companies to be successful.

There are a number of aspects that will make a simple idea the next big thing and yet it is not just the idea; the key is turning the idea into reality.

Do you think start-ups in Egypt are getting the right funding and support?

There is an abundance of financing for start-ups on a global level; how you articulate them and make them available in Egypt is secondary. If you have the right platform, the challenge is not in the funding but how you scale success and grow it to be regional or global. One of the challenges we have is a lot of talent think that it is easier and simpler to do things in their own country and that reaching other markets means they need to relocate. There are some countries that look to attract these talents and scaling them in order to turn them into big players. Almost every single country is facing that challenge. My recommendation here is make sure that you look at people as part of an ecosystem, and not just as individuals. It’s more about thinking of them as an ecosystem—a number of people that are creating value spills over to create more value for more people. Even if some of them decide to relocate and go to other countries, you still have the ecosystem working smoothly and generating more.

When you think about Google, you need to think about Silicon Valley—there are a number of companies that make it what it is. Think of the ecosystem that provides funding, access to good connectivity and training, exposure internationally, and access to international commerce—all these things that help one grow.

Do you have any plans to invest in local start-ups?

We mainly do this in the US, where we try to acquire some technologies related to what we need as a company, but in the region we believe that it is much more impactful and powerful to invest in developing the ecosystem, because this is where we can positively impact hundreds of thousands of companies.

Google partnered with the Ministry of Tourism back in 2014. Do you have other plans to support tourism in Egypt?

We generally work with different boards of tourism around the world that ask for our support, because we believe that giving users the access and chance to discover different places around the world has amazing value.

Egypt is an icon—a place that I have long dreamt of as a child—so I am happy that our Street View feature has offered people from around the world the chance to get a glimpse of its top landmarks and heritage.

That being said, we recently haven’t been in talks with the government for anything in particular, but we are always very eager to continue this kind of work to make culture and heritage even more accessible to everybody.

Where does Egypt rank in terms of growth for Google in the region?

We generally look at the upcoming growth in terms of people going online, so Egypt ranks very high in that regard. We also focus a lot on KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and the UAE [United Arab Emirates].

Do you have any plans for supporting Education? 

I think the big question is what is the future of education and how can you match what the labour market needs with what students are trained in. Even if we make a very good definition of how that looks today, I can guarantee that in 10 years it will be completely different.

It is not about taking a snapshot and making the decision; it is about how much you can cope with this degree of change. Today education is almost everywhere, you go to YouTube and see all those videos that users create on their own about how to do something—whether that was fixing a faucet or learning mathematics. Education is being democratised with people using platforms to create content and educate others, as well as making this universally accessible to consumers. Then there are all these institutions that we partner with, such as Udacity, who we have partnered with here.

What does success look like for Google in Egypt?

We look at success in Egypt in three ways: one is enhancing the experience of internet users on the web and helping them find what they are looking for in whatever form they want, whether on Search or on YouTube.

The second thing is we want to help and equip all these people to export their businesses around the world. The quality of some things that are produced here in Egypt should be exported almost everywhere in the world.

The third is about individuals; we want to make sure that we are ahead of the curve, because things are changing rapidly and we want to help simplify the adoption of new technologies and the transformation of companies.

What is Google doing to support Arabic content on the web?

Arabic content is for a region, not just for a country. There are a number of initiatives that we are leading.

The YouTube space that we set up in Dubai will cater to the region as a whole and will focus on the creation of Arabic content through online videos.

I am learning Arabic and I can tell you it is a complex language. But it is a rich language, especially with all its dialects. With advancing technology and machine learning, the web will better understand what users around the world are searching for, including Arabic.

Another way we support Arabic content is by helping the network of publishers get funded through ads so they can keep creating more content. Around the world, we have distributed tens of millions of dollars to publishers.

How do you see the growth of digital advertising in Egypt?

I think it is a reflection of how people spend their time. We see more people moving and spending more time on their devices, particularly mobile phones. So when you see the consequence of that, just look at yourself and look at how much time you are spending on your phone, computer, or tablet; so this brings about two things.

One is that the way that content is consumed is different as opposed to the past. People are selecting where to go and what to see, and this creates a movement of revenues to the online world for publishers, platforms, creators, etc… and the Arab world is embracing this big time and it is growing very rapidly.

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Tenants negotiate to decrease rent cost after flotation: JLL country director http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/15/tenants-negotiate-decrease-rent-cost-flotation-jll-country-director/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/15/tenants-negotiate-decrease-rent-cost-flotation-jll-country-director/#respond Mon, 15 May 2017 06:00:02 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=625393 Residential supply grows at a high rate of 11%, says Sami

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Daily News Egypt interviewed Ayman Sami, JLL’s Egypt director, to talk about the real estate market and the tenants’ tendencies in light of the current economic conditions.

OLX Properties Egypt recently published its first annual property report, focusing on user behaviour trends. The report has identified that the top 5 locations searched for on OLX are Nasr City, Maadi, Sheikh Zayed, Heliopolis, and Fifth Settlement. Can you explain us the clients’ demand for these areas?

The data indicates that there is migration from central Cairo and Giza to the outskirts, such as the Fifth Settlement and Sheikh Zayed, with residential supply there growing from 113,000 to 126,000 units between 2015 and 2016. There is still demand for areas like Heliopolis, Nasr City, and Maadi, as all those districts continue to host many multinational corporations.

What does the flotation of the pound mean for the office market?

The current market supply of administrative offices stands at 1,028 million square metres of grade A with an additional 70,000 square metres expected to be delivered during the other three quarters of 2017. 60,000 square metres out of those 70,000 square metres are supplied by Cairo Festival City.

Most of the grade A administrative offices are rented with dollars, and after the liberalisation of the exchange rate, the rent has doubled. Therefore, there are negotiations between tenants and owners to decrease the rent or put a limit to rent costs.q

Ayman Sami, JLL’s Egypt director
(Photo handout to DNE)

What is the percentage of price increases for renting?

For example in central Cairo, rents per square metre decreased by 5.7%, but there were no shifts in West Cairo and New Cairo. I think the decrease is due to some attempts to stablise rent prices, such as putting limits to the dollar value, the current value, and other developers or owners decreasing the rent, as well as other ways, such as extending payment periods. However, some developers and tenants are in the stage of negotiations and the vision may be clear in the second quarter report. Due to the high value of the dollar, some tenants redirected their demand from grade A to grade B. Furthermore, some clients tended to buy buildings to equip administrative offices in these buildings.

What is the percentage of occupancy of administrative offices?

The percent of occupancy of grade A administrative offices is 73%, while it is expected to decrease in the coming period. We don’t have a 100% occupancy, which means that there is a sequential request on administrative offices and this happened in downtown and central Cairo.

What is the demand on the residential market?

The demand is still strong on residential units. The supply is 126,000 square metres with an expected 11,000 square metres to be added during 2017.

The secondary market was strong in the last period but it dropped for some time because people tended to trade in foreign currency. After that, primary sales witnessed a strong demand as clients preferred to invest their money.

What is the size of growth in the residential market?

The growth rate in residential is very high. From 2015 to 2016, the supply reached 13,000 units [113,000 square metres] with an 11% growth.

In the light of the dollar appreciation: what is the size of foreign demand on property?

After the EGP flotation, unit prices decreased by 50% if calculated in dollars​, however, local prices​ increased by 30%. This explains the increase in demand by foreigners. Currently, real estate prices decreased by 35% to 45% according to dollar value.

What is the expected increase in unit prices?

It is about 25% to 30% y-o-y.

What is the supply of retail in the Egyptian market?

The retail supply in Q1 2017 is 1.6 million square metres, the occupancy rate is about 83% grade A. The most important event is the inauguration of Mall of Egypt. Last year, there was a problem in availability of foreign currency, but this year there is a problem related to increases in costs: sales decreased and there is great competition between local products and imported products, which may affect the retail market.

After the great demand that the Cityscape exhibition witnessed in late March, do you expect an increase in supply in residential units?

I expect an increase of 10% in supply.

Which sector is benefiting from the stablisation of the pound?

The residential and the hospitality sector are the ones that benefited the most from the stability of the pound. Therefore, hotel occupancy is close to 70% in Greater Cairo. Egypt is one of the cheapest tourism destinations, as the average daily rate is $89.

What is the most attractive area for offices?

New Cairo is still the most attractive areas for administrative offices.

Is there an imminent real estate bubble?

There is no bubble because the developer always reacts to the market and always reads the market needs.

What is your opinion regarding the New Administrative Capital project?

The New Administrative Capital is the natural extension for New Cairo, as there is no availability of lands in the latter. Besides that, launching projects in El Mostakbal City, which is the area closest to the New Administrative Capital, and demand on AinSokhna revives the demand on the New Administrative Capital.

What are the areas most in demand for second homes?

North Coast is more in demand than AinSokhna because Sokhna still needs development and more services, so prices at North Coast are increasing.

In your opinion, what are possible incentives to attract other Arab and foreign investments to the sector?

Dollar value in the country is an incentive besides other factors, such as the facilities provided by the government to start businesses and how easy it is to transfer profits outside of the country. And of course risk assessment.

What is your expectation for the real estate sector?

We will see a revival in the hotel sector in Greater Cairo. Retail will be the last sector to return to its real growth percentage due to the current economic circumstances. The office market will keep stable and will then start growing again.

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Uber plans to inject more investments into Egyptian market http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/uber-plans-inject-investments-egyptian-market/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/uber-plans-inject-investments-egyptian-market/#respond Wed, 10 May 2017 08:00:40 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624915 40% of Uber drivers did not have a job before

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Emil Michael, Uber’s chief business officer, said that Egypt is one of the most important markets for Uber in the Middle East and Africa.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, he stated that the company intends to inject more investments into the Egyptian market in the coming period.

He pointed out that 50,000 drivers are working with Uber, 40% of whom did not have a job prior to joining Uber, noting that the company has helped effectively in the development of the Egyptian economy through the provision of jobs.

How do you see the growth opportunities in the Egyptian market, especially after the floatation of the pound?

The Egyptian market is the most important for Uber in the Middle East and Africa, especially after the huge investments we put into the Egyptian market. We are now working with about 50,000 drivers in Egypt. Roughly 40% of them were unemployed before they joined Uber. This highlights the role of Uber in helping Egyptians find jobs.

After the flotation of the pound, the value of the national currency depreciated, which gives our investments more value and helps them achieve more results.

In the coming period, we aim to create tens of thousands of more jobs.

What is the position of the investment plan of Uber in the Egyptian market?

We have made investments in the Egyptian market of about EGP 250m last year. We intend to inject more this year. We also opened a regional customer service centre in Egypt to serve customers of Uber in the Middle East. There are now 250 employees working there, with plans to soon increase the number even more.

How do you see the challenges in the Egyptian market?

The Egyptian market is important for Uber because it is the largest market in the region. I personally care about the Egyptian market because I am of Egyptian origin. We believe that Uber can benefit the Egyptian market through creating jobs and providing good quality services at affordable prices for transporting passengers, easing traffic problems, especially in Cairo, and reducing pollution.

The most important challenge is the absence of legislation regulating the activity. We expect the passage of a legislation soon to govern the market and encourage investments in this field, which would help us provide better service.

Some believe that Uber and similar companies cause more traffic congestion than easing them. What do you think?

This is not true. Our clients want to move from one point to another through Uber or other similar companies and even any other means of transportation. The competition is now not between Uber and other transportation services, but rather between Uber and passenger cars. The goal is to convince people to keep their cars parked and use transportation services. This provides good service and reduces traffic. Instead of moving around in private cars, an Uber driver can transport 10 people in one shift, which means 10 fewer cars on the streets.

For example, in some European countries, customers waste 25% of their time looking for parking for their private cars. This is no longer the case when using Uber.

A short time ago, the Cabinet referred a law to regulate Uber’s and similar companies’ business to parliament. What do you think about this move?

I think that moving to legalise the activity is a positive move that can enable the sector to move forward. There is still a chance to talk about several points in the law, but this is not the time for that now, since the law is only an initial draft at this point. We believe, however, that it will have positive results on the participatory economy in general, not only transportation services providers via smart phones.

It is too early to speak about the law now. It will include many details and we will continue talks with officials in the parliament’s Communication Committee or the Ministerial Committee formed to regulate the sector, to agree on legislation that can govern the market and serve all.

 

Have you started making profits from Egypt?

Egypt is the first and largest market for us in the Middle East and Africa. Cairo is one of the largest cities in the world for our business. We are now in the phase of investing and target expanding our services in more cities in Egypt. Only then we will begin making profits.

It is noteworthy that Emil Michael isited Cairo this week with Uber. During his visit, Michael had a number of meetings with key stakeholders, meeting with Sahar Nasr, the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, and Hisham Arafat, Minister of Transportation, as the ridesharing technology company works towards pushing governments’ and organisations’ transition to an on-demand economy.

RiseUp, an entrepreneur platform, hosted Emil Michael in a fireside chat, discussing his career and advice for young people in Egypt. During the talk, Michael shared his thoughts about entrepreneurship in Egypt, saying that, at Uber, they are passionately committed to their idea, their product, and their industry. “When I came here to Egypt, I saw the same passion among a lot of startups. I had a feeling that Egypt is the new Silicon Valley; it is a fertile ground for startups,” he added.

Moreover, he noted that the Egyptian entrepreneurship ecosystem is the perfect test market for many types of new products and services at the forefront of technology. And the unique combination of history, resources, and people in Egypt makes us keen to keep investing in the Egyptian market.

He also met with Egypt’s top 20 startups for dinner and discussed raising capital, building and scaling a company, and his perspective on growing a successful business in Egypt.

During his visit, Uber hosted 50 of their top performing driver partners and their families along with two Al Ahly stars, Abdallah El Said and Ahmed Fathy, at a special drivers’ assessment event. “It was great to meet the impressive men and women behind Uber’s success in Egypt. 40% of driver partners were previously unemployed, and we are committed to investing further into Egypt to create more economic opportunities across the country.”

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UTEET looking for contracts in the wind energy business http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/uteet-looking-contracts-wind-energy-business/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/10/uteet-looking-contracts-wind-energy-business/#respond Wed, 10 May 2017 06:00:59 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624906 On the occasion of the Breakbulk exhibition, Al-Borsa had a talk with the managing director of Universal Transport Egypt (UTEET), Hisham El Dahshan, to shed some light on growth opportunities in the Egyptian market and the challenges his company had to overcome when entering the Egyptian market just recently.   What does your participation at …

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On the occasion of the Breakbulk exhibition, Al-Borsa had a talk with the managing director of Universal Transport Egypt (UTEET), Hisham El Dahshan, to shed some light on growth opportunities in the Egyptian market and the challenges his company had to overcome when entering the Egyptian market just recently.

 

What does your participation at the Breakbulk exhibition mean to you and what are the benefits?

Universal Transport has been participating in the Breakbulk Europe exhibition and conference with great success for many years now. Being one of the biggest heavy haulage companies in Europe, it is important for us to be present at such an important event. This year, we will be highlighting Universal Transport Egypt’s mega project HL transports. We ask all Egyptian visitors to meet our colleagues at our booth to learn more about the Universal Transport Group.

What are the main challenges for the heavy lift transport industry in Egypt? Does the infrastructure of Egyptian ports represent an obstacle for the growth of this industry?

There are major challenges at the ports due to the lack of a sufficient number of heavy lift cranes. The roads and bridges also represent major challenges. But with our unrivalled new equipment and our highly-trained personnel, we have managed to overcome all obstacles and meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.

What are the features of this market in Egypt in terms of investment size, the number of companies operating, and competition?

Universal Transport only entered the Egyptian market recently. We saw an opportunity in the Egyptian market because of the ambitious mega projects in infrastructure, power generation, etc.  There is a lot of HL cargo movement, and we were aware that there wasn’t enough high quality equipment in the Egyptian market. We invested in brand new equipment and have a team of Egyptians and Germans operating them at the highest standards. So far our operation has been a great success, and we are very optimistic for the future.

Did the specialised heavy haulage companies benefit from Egypt’s execution of several mega projects that required the transport of equipment for new power plants, the New Suez Canal, and the development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone?

As mentioned, we benefited hugely from the mega projects, as they allowed us to enter the Egyptian market with great success. We have been transporting heavy pieces of up to 200 tonnes on our brand new axle lines for the power stations of Beni Suef and the New Administrative Capital.

What is your company’s turnover in 2016 and what were the major projects handled?

Universal Transport group’s turnover is close to €200m. The two major projects in Egypt that we participated in during 2016 and 2017 were the power plants of Beni Suef and the New Administrative Capital.

What are the targets and forecasts for 2017?

We are still busy with the existing HL transport contracts that we have in 2017. We have also been bidding on several projects in the wind energy business for our international customers. Being a neutral heavy haulage operator, we are also serving the requirements of both the big international freight forwarders and the local forwarders in the Egyptian market.

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We are studying offering shares of the company in EGX in 2018: OUD http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/studying-offering-shares-company-egx-2018-oud/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/studying-offering-shares-company-egx-2018-oud/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 09:00:42 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624800 Increasing the capital of OUD from EGP 700m to EGP 1bn next year, says owner

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Orientals for Urban Development (OUD) plans to develop five million square metres within its real estate portfolio within two years, with initial investments of EGP 4bn. It is also considering to launch its shares in the Egyptian stock exchange (EGX) over the next year.

Mohamed Farid Khamis, the owner of OUD, told Daily News Egypt that the projects planned to be implemented will be a high-end one.

Is the company considering to allow the entry of new developers?

The company is considering the entry of new developers to implement some tourist and residential projects planned to be implemented soon.

Does the company plan to offer its shares in EGX?

The company plans to offer its shares in the EGX next year. This will be preceded by an increase in issued and paid up capital from EGP 700m to EGP 1bn, through shareholders.

Offering shares in the EGX is one of the most suitable solutions for the company to finance future projects without borrowing from banks. However, the company has not yet made agreements with financial consulting companies to prepare the offering process.

What are the company’s plans to expand over the upcoming period?

The company is negotiating with the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces to allocate a land of 6,000 square metres in the business and capital neighbourhood in the New Administrative Capital to build a residential tower, in addition to allocating 50 acres to implement an integrated residential complex.

The company plans to launch a new tourist project in the North Coast next month on an area of 45 acres with initial investments of EGP 1.3bn.

The project is located on kilometre 206 on the Alexandria-Matrouh road and is developed through a partnership with the land owner.

OUD plans to achieve sales of EGP 2bn from the project within 18 months from opening the door for reservations. The implementation of the project will take 36 months and will be conducted in three phases that include 800 residential units.

What are the projects being implemented by the company and the volume of its investments?

The first phase of the Oriental Coast project in Marsa Alam was completed under the name of Las Cabanas and includes 500 luxurious tourist housing units, and the Sentido Oriental Dream Hotels & Resorts with a capacity of 350 rooms and with total investments of EGP750m. 80% of the units of the first phase of the project is sold to citizens from European countries and 20% to Egyptians.

The sale of 360 units was completed in the second phase of the oriental coast, titled Matangi, with 500 units and total sales worth EGP 750m at a construction cost of EGP 600m.

The two hotels are under construction with investments worth EGP 700m, and the construction works will be completed in 18 months.

The total area of ​​the oriental coast project is 5m square metres, with total investments of EGP 8bn, and the project is self-financed through the company’s shareholders.

The project was being implemented through five structural stages, including 8,400 units distributed on 4,200 tourist housing units and 4,200 hotel units.

The project includes 12 hotels as well as villas, tourist residences, golf courses, a downtown area, an aquapark, a conference hall, and a yacht marina.

The company is currently considering to look for shareholders to complete the development of the project stages through a partnership system as one of the financing ways to implement the project without resorting to borrowing money from banks.

The company sold 80 % of the new residential units project to Heliopolis Hills company during the first month of the beginning of reservations to customers with total sales worth EGP 420m.

Sales were distributed over the Cityscape exhibition with 60% last month, and 40% in two other exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates.

Heliopolis Hills is located in the Sixth District in Obour City, on an area of 18 acres with total investments worth EGP 550m and with 164 villas on areas ranging between 190-240 square metres.

The project is being implemented in four stages, and Yasser El-Beltagy Consulting Office is responsible for the engineering designs.

The company targets to achieve a sales value of EGP 240m in its Al Qurba Royal Residence project in Heliopolis, and ended with sales of 20% of the project units.

The company provided 4-year interest-free payment facilities, and the project targets the upper class of the residents of Heliopolis.

The company has completed the implementation of Al Baron City project for housing on the road to Qatameya on an area of 38 acres and the project includes 63 residential building with 3,700 units on areas ranging between 90 square metres and 200, and the price of a square metre per project ranges between EGP 2,450 and EGP 3,750.

The total investments of the project reached EGP 4bn, and it is implemented in four stages, including Al Baron commercial mall.

The American consulting office Well Gates took over the design and coordination of the site of the project.

He explained that the company has completed the delivery of the fountain park project in New Cairo on a total area of 55 acres. The project includes 130 luxurious villas with an average area of 800 square metres at investments worth EGP 600m.

The company has completed the implementation of the Palm Park residential project in El Shorouk city, which includes 232 units, while it also completed the implementation of the “palm suburb” commercial housing project, which includes El Shorouk academy.

The company delivered 5,550 units in its projects since its establishment in 1994 on a total area exceeding 2 million square metres.

Does the company plan to add new land to its real estate portfolio?

The company is currently looking for lands on areas of 50 to 100 acres in New Cairo and 6th of October City for the development of a housing project through partnership with the private sector.

Did the company raise unit prices in its projects after the flotation of the pound?

The company has increased the prices of its units in various projects after the flotation of the pound by 25% as a result of the price hike of raw materials used in construction at rates reaching 80%.

What is the company’s sales rate through social media channels?

The company depends on a marketing team to sell its projects, and sales of the company through social media channels represent 25% of total sales.

Is the company considering opening new branches?

The company will open three new branches in Port Said, Abbas Akkad, and Mohandessin in June, beside the two branches it already owns in the areas of Sheraton and Qatameya.

How do you see the Egyptian real estate market?

The Egyptian real estate market needs to implement several projects that address the middle and upper middle classes, where prices range between EGP 5,000 and EGP 8,000 per square metre, and areas between 70 and 200 square metres.

The company started implementing its first investment in Egypt through the establishment of the Jasmine residential project in 10th of Ramadan City, on an area of 40 acres including 360 villas and 160 residential units on areas between 150 and 300 square metres.

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GE seeks to participate in Egypt’s 2030 Development Vision through digital solutions http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/ge-seeks-participate-egypts-2030-development-vision-digital-solutions/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/09/ge-seeks-participate-egypts-2030-development-vision-digital-solutions/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 07:00:36 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624772 I met with some officials from the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company and Communications Ministry to review our most prominent technological solutions

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General Electric (GE) Power seeks to cooperate with the Egyptian government in the implementation of the country’s 2030 Development Vision, according to Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer of Power Digital Solutions at GE Power. Bell said in an interview with Daily News Egypt that he met with a number of officials from the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company and with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, discussing the technological solutions offered by the company to increase the productivity and efficiency of the Egyptian electricity sector and reduce expenses. He added that his meeting tackled the new digital solutions offered by GE Power, namely Predix. It is an industrial cloud-based platform that helps in the management of electricity generation operations, and the analysis of data collected from electricity generation assets, such as turbines.

Why did you visit Egypt? Is there a plan to meet with some government officials?

The reason for my visit to Egypt is to meet officials from the Ministry of Electricity in order to talk about the digital solutions for the electricity sector, which help to raise efficiency and reduce cost, as well as to explain the role that digital solutions can play to implement the vision of Egypt 2030.

We have been communicating with the Ministry of Electricity for several years regarding the means of cooperation between the two sides in digital solutions, in addition to reviewing the priorities of the ministry to find out how to provide suitable solutions for them to implement their development plan for the sector, which we will emphasise during the meetings we are set to attend during the visit.

Who did you meet? And did you sign any deals?

We have met with officials from the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company and officials from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. We have not signed any agreements related to digital solutions yet, but the main objective of these meetings is to clarify what GE’s digital solutions can add to the Egyptian energy sector.

How can the digital solutions offered by the company help improve electricity services in Egypt?

Digital solutions generally have a positive impact on sectors such as retail, leisure, travel, and others, and they play a key role in various industrial sectors.

In the beginning, we have to clarify our most prominent digital solutions. We created a platform called Predix, which is a cloud-based one that can be linked to sensors placed on all the assets involved in the production of electricity, such as turbines and nuclear reactors.

Sensors can collect and analyse data. Through the analysis of the data, the customer can understand the performance of the equipment involved in electricity production, which allows controlling the system, thus increasing productivity and saving expenses.

Statistics show that every 2% of saved fuel can provide financial savings of up to $3bn over 12 years.

Are any of these technological solutions mentioned in Egypt?

Currently, none of these solutions are implemented in Egypt, but we believe that these solutions will provide added value to the Egyptian electricity sector. Therefore, we seek to implement them in Egypt in the coming period, especially as it corresponds to the “Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt’s Vision 2030”, which aims to rely on technology information in advancing the national economy. The energy sector is one of the most important sectors that require technology to raise its efficiency and reduce costs.

In the long run, all these solutions are important and have strong economic effects, but are they expensive?

There is no significant cost to use these technological solutions. Customers who will use these solutions will receive positive results—not only in the long run, but also in the short term. For example, using these technological solutions will enable the state to avoid electricity failures and blackouts. These sensors predict the failures and send the report directly to officials to fix the problems, which saves money and effort, next to help avoiding blackouts.

The cost of obtaining this service is not only paid once, but is paid in a subscription format, making it almost inexpensive. These solutions also guarantee immediate positive results in productivity and economic savings.

Are some of these solutions applied to markets neighbouring the Egyptian one?

We have already implemented these solutions in the markets of Pakistan and Qatar, in addition to the Saudi market, which is similar to the Egyptian market in terms of production capacity of the electricity sector. The Saudi market produces 40 gigawatts of electricity per day, while the Egyptian market produces 35 gigawatts. Saudi Arabia has linked all production lines to the Predix system, which improves productivity and reduces costs.

In my opinion, it was better to use these technological solutions during the period of modernisation of the electricity system, which took place during the past two years. What do you think?

This is true, but Egypt has many opportunities to achieve growth, and there is still an opportunity. There was once an industrial revolution. Now, in Egypt, we are embarking on a technological revolution. This is why I think Egypt has a great opportunity to achieve a boom in the electricity sector depending on information technology, especially with hardware integrating with software.

What are the most prominent features of your plans for the Egyptian market during the coming period?

We see good opportunities for growth in the Egyptian market in a number of sectors such as manufacturing, electricity, energy, healthcare, and transport. In this regard, Egypt has many young talents that can be employed to serve the sector, especially that there are many young Egyptians distinguished in the software sector. We aim to make Egypt our hub in the Middle East for young experts trained on software.

In this regard, one of the competing companies announced the establishment of an engineering plant in the new technological park. Do you have similar plans?

We must first set a road map to highlight the experts we need locally prior to developing their skills. We now have a large number of employees in Egypt, but we seek to expand in investing in locally trained human resources.

Can you use technology parks that the Ministry of Communication is currently implementing?

Indeed, we can use technology parks, especially since a large part of our work depends on software developers. GE currently has more than 22,000 software developers globally, and we aim to use many Egyptian application-developers.

How much is allocated for R&D? Can Egypt become your regional centre?

In 2016, we spent about $5.5bn on research and development. As for making Egypt our regional centre, this relies on the commitment of the state to develop the sectors based on information technology. This will be followed by an increase in employees and increased investment opportunities in the sector. This could help in making our decision about setting Egypt as a regional R&D regional centre.

One study suggests that digital solutions can create 3 million jobs a year globally and help boost revenues by $1.3tn.

There are many challenges in Egypt. How do you face these challenges? How can these challenges turn into investment opportunities?

Egypt has a plan to have 20% of its energy production generated by renewable energy by 2030. This is a challenge on its own, and it cannot be achieved using the current infrastructure. This is what Predix can help with.

There are many economic changes witnessed in the Egyptian market during the last period. How do you see the impact on your company in Egypt?

We believe in Egypt’s “Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt’s Vision 2030”. We aim to be Egypt’s partner in realising this vision. We help our customers in the country, not only by providing technology solutions for energy, but by providing an integrated solution and providing the necessary financing for some of the solutions provided to our customers in Egypt.

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ARCO launches new signature project in North Coast http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/arco-launches-new-signature-project-north-coast/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/arco-launches-new-signature-project-north-coast/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 10:00:35 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624611 AUR Capital for Direct Investment will be launched during Ramadan, says chairperson and CEO

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ARCO’s total investments in the Egyptian real estate market over the next five years will reach EGP 32bn in various projects.

The company expects contractual sales of EGP 25bn over that period, reflecting the company’s confidence in the local real estate market, which depends on real demand based on the population growth enjoyed by Egypt, according to Ashraf Salman, the chairperson and CEO of AUR Capital and executive president of ARCO.

Salman added that real estate investment contributes 17% to the GDP.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Salman to talk about the company’s business and the future of the real estate market.

What is the targeted percentage of sales to Arab and foreigners?

In the next three quarters of the current year, we target EGP 3bn in sales, 60% of which will be from sales in Egypt and 40% from sales in foreign and Arab countries.

What are the main other markets the company targets?

We seek the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) open market; however, during the next five years, we will pay great attention and develop projects in the Egyptian market.

What are the new projects that the company plans to launch?

We will launch a new signature project in the North Coast. The project will have new designs. However, real estate projects in the North Coast are traditional with high prices and a short payment period. ARCO will innovate a new design of 85sqm chalets that are so close to the lagoon that they will give the image of floating on it. Each of those chalets has a garden in front of it. FC Barcelona star Neymar will lend his name to the Neymar signature homes on the lagoon at City Stars Sahel.

What is the size of investment of the project in the North Coast?

The investment does not exceed EGP 1.9bn, and the payment period will be 10 years.

The first phase will be delivered after three years, the second phase after four years, and the third after five.

What is your opinion regarding the new real estate regulation?

The new real estate regulation is good and will participate in reviving the sector once it is issued.

Does ARCO plan to partner with the government in projects?

ARCO is ready to collaborate with any partner, whether the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA), the New Administrative Capital, and also private sector developers in line with its strategy. Additionally, we are ready to collaborate with the government as long as the partnership will help reach the target where 60% of customers will consider those units their first homes, and 40% will consider them their second.

ARCO signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) protocol with NUCA to develop South Marina in El Alamein. What is the situation of the project?

We signed a MoU with NUCA in 2015 to develop South Marina in El Alamein with investments of EGP 26bn to develop 2,800 acres, but the MoU was not agreed upon so a contract was not signed. In the coming period, we may negotiate the project again, and we may also negotiate other projects.

What is the increase in the percentage of prices approximately six months after floating the Egyptian pound? Besides, shall we expect other increases?

ARCO increased the prices by 15% on its units, and, in the next period, we will offer other payment methods. The increase depends on the market.

What is your vision for the future of the real estate sector? 

I see that Egypt’s real estate sector will continue growing between 15% and 25% on average annually during the coming five years. This vision is based on three things: first is the attractiveness of prices; second, there is a demand in various housing units A, B, and C; and third, Egypt in the coming period will be an attractive destination for Arab and European countries.

Are Egyptian real estate companies ready to buy real estate projects for foreigners?

Egyptian companies are ready for that because there were outstanding projects established during the last five years. Besides, there are innovative ideas provided by some real estate developers up to international standards. What we need is to market our products to Arab and foreign markets to achieve our target sales.

What is your opinion regarding the new Administrative Capital project?

The New Administrative Capital project is very well planned, because it takes into consideration all problems that faced the new cities, such as plumbing and electricity. It will be a natural and good development for new Cairo, and we have plans to establish projects in the New Administrative Capital.

Why didn’t ARCO participate in the first phase of the New Administrative Capital? And what is your opinion regarding the first phase?

We weren’t ready for the first phase, and, at this time, AUR Capital hadn’t acquired ARCO yet. Land prices were affordable and were not overpriced, and this helped developers develop and sell their projects.

AUR Capital acquired ARCO. Please explain to us the process of acquisition.

AUR Capital is a direct investment company operating in five areas. The first is real estate investment, and the company has established AUR Misr for Real Estate Investment Company, which has acquired ARCO in February.

AUR Misr for Real Estate Investment is working on developing ARCO’s brand equity and its land bank and investment.

The second fund is the non-banking financial fund, which will be established in cooperation with the Egyptian Gulf Bank (EGBank). The third fund to be launched is the Health Fund. AUR Capital for Direct Investment and Egypt Capital for Direct Investment will be launched during Ramadan.

AUR Misr for Real Estate Investment put a new budget for ARCO, for the period between April and the end of the year. We allocated most of the budget to communicating with customers and providing services.

What about facility management?

We have a facility management department, and it will be separated soon so that it would become an independent company that will provide services to other developers.

What is the size of the gap of luxury real estate units?

There is an annual shortage in luxury housing estimated at 100,000 housing units per year, 200,000 housing units in middle-class housing, and 200,000 in economic housing.

Do you think that the Egyptian real estate market is exposed to a real estate bubble?

I think that Egypt’s real estate market is not exposed to a real estate bubble, contrary to what some experts think. The Egyptian real estate market is characterised by a large population. There is an annual demand of 500,000 housing units. This demand is higher than the supply and will continue to be so in the next five years.

Furthermore, real estate prices in Egypt are the lowest in the region. Prices per square metre in the UAE is not less than $3,000, Morocco at $2,500, and at Nigeria $3,000. In Egypt, however, the highest price per square metre does not exceed $1,000.

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Financial inclusion needs strategic vision and government support: Visa director in Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/financial-inclusion-needs-strategic-vision-government-support-visa-director-egypt/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/financial-inclusion-needs-strategic-vision-government-support-visa-director-egypt/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 07:00:58 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624587 Egyptian government is striving to spread financial inclusion and is taking concrete steps to achieve this, says Mahfouz

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Tarek Mahfouz, director of Visa in Egypt, said that financial inclusion needs a strategic vision to be achieved and government support for its implementation.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Mahfouz pointed out that the Egyptian government is striving to spread financial inclusion and is taking concrete steps to achieve this. He added that mobile phones are an effective way to spread electronic payments and activate financial inclusion, provided that adequate infrastructure and legislation are available.

He stressed that education and awareness-raising related to payroll cards are considered the pillar of the success of Egypt in its electronic payroll programme​ for government employees.

He pointed out that the technological infrastructure is one of the most important factors for the spread of financial inclusion because it enables financial institutions to absorb large sectors within the banking system and also allows citizens to deal with banking institutions using various technological means that are adapted to serve them.

Mahfouz said that the banking sector is one of the main players in the efforts to push forward financial inclusion in Egypt, but there are other parties that should support it, pointing out that Visa is currently working on the formation of committees in cooperation with major companies in the field of consumer goods and the production and distribution of medicine to expand the scope of electronic payments acceptance.

 

What role does Visa play to help Egypt achieve financial inclusion?

I would like to point out that financial inclusion means that all citizens and segments of society enjoy financial services with dignity and transparency, next to the availability of multiple options for financial services provided to consumers.

Financial inclusion needs a strategic vision to be achieved​ and government support to implement it, which we are currently seeing from the Egyptian government, which is hurrying to spread financial inclusion and is taking concrete steps to achieve this.

These include the payment of government employees’ salaries and suppliers’ entitlements through electronic payment cards.

As for the role played by Visa to help Egypt achieve financial inclusion, there is a great effort executed by the company in this regard. The most recent activity in this context was the organisation of a workshop with the Egyptian Banking Institute and Banque Misr for the representatives of government agencies who are mandated to distribute payroll cards to state employees.

The main objective of the workshop was to inform the commissioners of the basic messages of government payroll cards, including that the government payroll card can be used to pay for purchases and services, and that they are completely safe and provide convenience and smooth financial transactions.

Such activities by Visa contribute to the efforts towards financial inclusion. Awareness and the dissemination of digital payment culture are the most important mechanisms for spreading financial inclusion.

How do you see the role that electronic payment cards can play in achieving financial inclusion?

The world is moving towards paying salaries through cards, in order to save costs of managing cash and issuing checks.

In the United States, there were about 3.7 million employees who receive their salaries by cards, compared to 11.8 million employees who receive their salaries by checks. In 2015, the number of payroll cards reached 7.4 million, compared to 6.7 million employees paid by checks. It is expected that the number of payroll cards will reach 21.2 million cards in 2019, versus 2.2 million employees who will be paid by checks.

I see education and raising awareness related to salary cards as the core of the success of Egypt in the programme​ to pay the salaries of government employees by cards.

Looking at the United States, which is one of the most advanced countries in the spread of payment cards, we find that 8% of salary cardholders withdraw all their salaries from ATMs, while 59% of them withdraw only part of the salary from ATMs, while also using the card for some purchases.

Thirty-three percent of US payroll cardholders use the card only to conduct all their daily financial transactions.

Visa depends on its close partnership with the government and financial institutions. We also rely on these partnerships to implement the government payroll services.

The programme is implemented by ministries and government agencies, which requires close cooperation of all parties, including Visa, the Egyptian Banking Institute, and government agencies, as well as financial institutions issuing payroll cards, in order to ensure coordination and harmony in the process of drafting the messages received by the cardholder.

What are the main challenges for Egypt in the path for achieving tangible progress in financial inclusion?

The most important challenge is to raise awareness and digitise government payments and the government’s revenue. We are working with the Egyptian government to achieve this quickly.

The strong technological infrastructure in the Egyptian market must be exploited to spread financial inclusion.

Mobile phones are an effective means of spreading electronic payments and activating financial inclusion, provided that adequate infrastructure and legislation are available.

With the proliferation of the internet, coupled with the proliferation of smart mobile phones, we see that Egypt has a growing opportunity to achieve significant revenues from electronic commerce, which Visa has studied extensively. We provided a full study about it to the Egyptian Ministry of Communications for them to take advantage of.

The technological infrastructure is one of the most important factors for the spread of financial inclusion, because it enables financial institutions to absorb large sectors within the banking system and also allows citizens to deal with banking institutions using various technological means adapted to serve them.

A survey commissioned by Visa recently found that 53% of Egyptians are permanent internet shoppers, with one in every ten Egyptian citizens using e-commerce sites almost daily, compared to 47% who shop online every 2 – 3 weeks. This means there is a great opportunity to further expand the sector over the coming years.

Youth accounts for the largest proportion of Egyptians who shop online. Sixty-three percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 use the internet to shop at least once a week, and they spend the most. About 31% of the youth that shop online spend EGP 5,000 or more per month. The average monthly expenditure for all age groups is EGP 3,758.

I want to point out that when South Korea returned to using electronic payments in the process of collecting taxes, it succeeded in raising the tax revenue by about $30bn in four years.

In South Africa, the government used Visa cards to provide social support to its beneficiaries, including 7 million children receiving government benefits. In Moscow, 3 million Russians receive their pensions through Visa cards.

One of the main reasons for the lack of financial inclusion is the limited scope of acceptance of electronic payments, which is something we are currently tackling with the government through innovative solutions, such as mVisa, which operates on internet-linked smart phones. This expands the scope of accepting electronic payments at different merchants.

QNB Al-Ahli recently announced the launch of the service, which is a breakthrough in the field of digital payments.

The mVisa service targets the majority of merchants for its ease of operation and spread. It is an ideal tool to expand payment acceptability. Anyone who carries a mobile phone can use it to buy products and services, thus saving time, effort, and cost associated with transportation. The service can also be used to pay utility bills.

This service is used by placing an mVisa code for each merchant. The cardholder can then take a snapshot of the code through the mobile camera or enter the code manually to conduct transactions.

Because of its widespread nature and low costs, acceptance of mVisa payments is increasing. This service also lowers, or even eliminates, the risk of fraud, because the consumer is the one who enters the amount to be paid on his mobile phone without having to use the card or pass it to the point of sale. The merchant receives a message on his phone confirming the receipt of the amount from the consumer.

Moreover, the mVisa service is easy to use for all merchants everywhere, especially in remote areas. The service can become a vital financial inclusion tool in Egypt.

How do you see the role of the banking sector in achieving financial inclusion in Egypt?

The banking sector is one of the main players in the efforts to push for financial inclusion, but other parties also play a major role in achieving this, including the government agencies concerned with technological infrastructure, such as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which is making great efforts in this regard.

We are cooperating with the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce in this field. We started with the General Computer and Software Division to prepare a pilot project for the settlement of electronic payments in the retail and pharmacy sectors.

We are also working on forming committees in cooperation with leading companies in the field of consumer goods, as well as pharmaceutical production and distribution companies, in order to reach the best ways to expand the acceptance of electronic payments to ensure the payment and consolidation of financial inclusion efforts, achieve financial transparency, and save time and effort associated with cash transactions, as well as reduce the risk of cash circulation suffered by companies and traders alike.

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Lack of financial inclusion impedes economic growth: UNB-E vice chairperson http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/lack-financial-inclusion-impedes-economic-growth-unb-e-vice-chairperson/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/lack-financial-inclusion-impedes-economic-growth-unb-e-vice-chairperson/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 06:30:51 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624581 “Public and private sectors should work together based on a well-studied plan to achieve financial inclusion in Egypt”

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The lack of financial inclusion hinders economic growth and deprives citizens of better job and life opportunities, says Mohamed Nasr Abdeen, vice chairperson of the Union National Bank Egypt (UNB-E).

Abdeen told Daily News Egypt that the public and private sectors should work together based on a well-studied plan to achieve financial inclusion in Egypt, asserting the need to raise the young generation’s awareness and give them the chance to enter the banking sector.

He added that the expansion of the customer base supports the financial system and has a positive impact on the economy.

According to Abdeen, the Egyptian banks started to pay attention to electronic payment systems and benefit from modern financial services via mobile phones, and he noted that UNB-E constantly develops its products to meet the needs of customers.

How do you see the importance of financial inclusion for Egypt?

Financial inclusion has become necessary—especially after the volume of money exchanged outside the banking system has been doubled in recent years—as the absence of financial inclusion hinders economic growth and deprives citizens of better employment and life opportunities.

The expansion of the customer base in the banking sector by adding new segments of society supports the financial system. It also has a positive impact on economic activity, which leads to increased savings and investment rates and helps to achieve the optimal utilisation of human resources.

What is the role of the bank in supporting the state’s efforts to achieve financial inclusion?

UNB-E has adopted some measures to support the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) efforts to achieve financial inclusion. The bank has signed a cooperation protocol with the Dar Al Maaref to raise awareness about financial inclusion.

This protocol includes a number of initiatives to increase young people’s knowledge about financial inclusion and its importance and role in achieving economic growth and financial stability in the country.

The bank will also sponsor the publishing of a series of children’s books that will develop a culture of children’s savings. These publications are due to be distributed to school students across the country, in particular Upper Egypt, in addition to releasing them online to reach the whole society.

The bank has also participated in the Financial Inclusion Week out of its awareness of the importance of financial inclusion in supporting the Egyptian economy.

During the Financial Inclusion Week, the bank facilitated all the transaction procedures, paying attention to the poor and low-income people and raising the awareness of clients, especially those who do not benefit from financial services in the governorates of the Delta, Upper Egypt, and Suez Canal regions, in addition to other areas.

How can Egypt achieve financial inclusion from your point of view?

The country should pay attention to the young people and raise their awareness about the banking sector and the necessity of dealing​ with legal institutions.

The financial inclusion initiative basically aims to develop the banking culture of citizens, which requires the appointment of trained bankers to take care of this new segment of customers.

Since the financial inclusion initiative aims to help low-income people to benefit from financial services at a reasonable cost, the expansion of the customer base will contribute to the empowerment of society as a whole and enhance the financial independence of individuals.

The bank’s strategy also targets to raise awareness of school and university students, through media outlets and social media networks.

One of the obstacles facing the implementation of the financial inclusion initiative is that most of low-income individuals are located in remote areas, which limits their ability to benefit from available services.

We should also limit the risks of operating outside the framework of the official financial system and offer financial services and products in accordance with the rules and laws.

It is also important to encourage citizens to save and invest their money in the best way, through the preparation of programmes allocated for specific groups to promote their culture of savings and investment.

Is the technological structure of the banks operating in the Egyptian market capable of achieving financial inclusion?

Egyptian banks started to pay attention to electronic payment systems and benefit from modern financial services via mobile phones, which has a positive impact on the transfer of cash transactions into banking transactions to ensure flexibility of payments between individuals, governments, and various economic activities.

UNB-E constantly develops its products to meet the needs of customers.

One of the modern services provided by the bank is “UNB-E Utility”, which helps customers who wish to pay their utility bills through UNB-E to avoid the hassle of bill payment at various service providers. They can also conduct all bank transactions through the mobile phone (UNB-IVR) and text messaging (UNB-INSTANT) services.

The bank will also complete its project of providing banking services to customers through the internet and mobile phones, in order to cope with the developments in the Egyptian banking market and enhance the bank’s position among the local banks.

What are the major obstacles for financial inclusion in Egypt?

I believe that there are no obstacles, but it requires more cooperation between the public and private sectors based on a well-studied plan.

We should have a strategy to measure the levels of financial inclusion for citizens and assess the gap between supply and demand by conducting a comprehensive field survey.

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EAB is most capable bank for achieving financial inclusion: chairperson http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/eab-capable-bank-achieving-financial-inclusion-chairperson/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/08/eab-capable-bank-achieving-financial-inclusion-chairperson/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 06:00:46 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624579 We have 1,210 branches, equivalent to about 27% of the total number of bank branches in Egypt, and we can reach about 40-50% of the total number of citizens, says El-Kosayer

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Chairperson of the Egyptian Agriculture Bank (EAB) El-Sayed El-Kosayer said that the EAB is the most capable bank to achieve financial inclusion in Egypt.

He told Daily News Egypt that the bank has 1,210 branches, which is equivalent to about 27% of the total number of bank branches in Egypt, with access to 40-50% of Egyptians.

He added that the bank’s presence in various regions of the republic, including villages, rural areas, and low-income districts, gives it a competitive advantage over other banks operating in the Egyptian market, stressing at the same time that achieving financial inclusion in Egypt does not depend on the readiness of the banking sector and other financial institutions as much as the citizens themselves believing in its importance.

 

How do you see the importance of financial inclusion in Egypt?

Financial inclusion is a major cause of economic growth and financial stability, by integrating individuals and institutions into the formal financial sector.

It also enables financial institutions to develop their products and create a climate of competition in order to offer cheaper and easier financial products and take into account the interest of customers by obtaining transparent treatment and excellent services with ease.

The aim of the application of financial inclusion is to ensure that all segments of society have adequate opportunities to manage their money and savings in a safe and secure manner so they would not resort to non-official means, which are not subject to any supervision, and may be scams.

It is known that there are only 11 to 12 million citizens who deal with banks in Egypt, out of the 54 million citizens who are eligible to deal with banks. This means that the majority of Egyptians are outside the banking system. Banks and other financial institutions should strive to include them.

The banking sector aims to widen the circle of beneficiaries of banking and financial services. The entry of all citizens into the banking system reduces the liquid money in the society. It also allows citizens to manage their money through the official channels in a safe manner, which ultimately leads to the financial and monetary stability of the country.

Although the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is making a lot of efforts to achieve financial inclusion, through the initiatives launched from time to time, we hope that there will be the quick passage of laws that integrate the informal economy into the formal economy and provide incentives for that.

What is the role of the EAB in achieving financial inclusion?

I always stress that the EAB is the most capable bank in achieving financial inclusion in Egypt, as we can reach about 50% of all Egyptians.

The bank has a branch network of 1,210 branches spread across the country, equivalent to about 27% of the total number of bank branches over all. This gives us a spread that no other bank in Egypt has and access to places inside the villages that other banks cannot operate in.

The bank’s customer base is currently about 2 million, most of whom are farmers and peasants, as well as owners of microenterprises.

The number of farmers in Egypt amounts to 6 million, next to temporary agricultural labourers of about 4 million. This means that there are 10 million people in the agriculture sector. If every one of the 10 million provides for a family of four or five people, that means that the bank can access 40-50% of all Egyptians.

The bank also participates in the national project “Mashrouak” that aims to provide job opportunities for youth in villages, neighbourhoods, cities, and towns in all governorates; achieve sustainable development; reduce migration from villages to cities; improve quality of life in Egypt; and put the youth on the right path to form a new generation of investors.

The bank accounts for 27% of total loans granted by the six banks that are part of the project. It is only second to Banque Misr. If we hope to achieve financial inclusion in Egypt, the EAB is the way for it.

We are currently studying the provision of a range of services to suit the nature of the bank’s customers. We aim to develop the banking services system and start to provide technological services to serve the bank’s customers, who are farmers and their families.

As mentioned before, we aim to attract the 6 million farmers in Egypt to join the bank’s customer base. The “Farm Card”, which will be launched in cooperation with the ministries of agriculture, military production, finance, and planning, may help us achieve this.

Do you think that the technological structure and geographical spread of banks enable the state to achieve financial inclusion?

As I previously said, the banking sector, including the EAB, already have the ability to achieve financial inclusion.

But the road to financial inclusion does not rely only on banks, but on other financial institutions that can help, such as Egypt Post, NGOs specialised in microfinance, and the Social Fund for Development, along with e-payment companies, such as Fawry.

I would also like to point out that dealing with banks is no longer limited to dealing with branches or even ATMs and electronic payment points of sale (POS). There are a lot of transactions that are conducted through mobile phones, which are in the hands of all citizens. Some people even have more than one phone. This means that achieving financial inclusion should be an easy task, provided Egyptians believe in its importance.

This is not related to the readiness of the banking sector or other institutions to achieve financial inclusion, as it is related to the degree of conviction of the citizens themselves in the importance of conducting transactions through banks. This requires changing the culture of the people to make them understand that the banking sector is the safest place for savings and financial transactions.

I would also like to stress that the role of the media is also very important in helping the state achieve financial inclusion because it has the ability to influence public opinion and convince the citizens. Furthermore, I believe there should be an additional curriculum at schools that highlights the importance of financial inclusion.

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Egypt’s economic reforms on right track, but still plenty of room for improvement: Robert Tashima http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/07/egypts-economic-reforms-right-track-still-plenty-room-improvement-robert-tashima/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/07/egypts-economic-reforms-right-track-still-plenty-room-improvement-robert-tashima/#respond Sun, 07 May 2017 10:30:04 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624539 Providing an inclusive basis for growth and improving the lives of the average Egyptian is more important than GDP growth

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Oxford Business Group (OBG) is a global publishing, research, and consultancy firm, which publishes economic intelligence on the markets of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

To learn more about OBG’s views of Egypt’s economy, and the recently adopted economic reform programme, Daily News Egypt interviewed Robert Tashima, OBG’s Africa’s managing editor, who reviewed the economic performance of Egypt during the last period and the impact of economic reforms on the life of the average Egyptian.

How do you view Egypt’s economic reform programme?

I mean, first off, I think one thing I should make clear from the beginning is that a lot of my perspectives are going to be from OBG’s vantage point. We’ve been present in Egypt for about 14 years now, speaking with private sector stakeholders, government officials, and civil society to get a sense of what’s going on in the country, where the opportunities and what the challenges are. We communicate that to foreign investors, and we come to these sorts of issues with a very particular external view points. What we seek to do is not just to take a look at the Egyptian market in isolation, but also to take a look at how Egypt performs relative to other markets in the Middle East and North Africa, because generally, our subscribers are members of the foreign investment community whether companies or sovereign governments. These look for a place to invest their money, but they study a number of economies to seek the best return for their investment.

In terms of Egypt’s economic reforms, I would say no they’re not sufficient, but I think that every economy has room for improvement, but I think it has been noticeable over the past couple of years that the Egyptian government has made concerted efforts to listen to the needs of the private sector and make an aggressive push to the overall attractiveness of the economy.

However, by taking a look at Egypt from a different perspective, it’s very clear that the reforms and the changes have not been perfect, but I think there is a high degree of political will in terms of improving Egypt’s attractiveness to both local and foreign investors, such as the new tax exemption, and fiscal incentives, proposed over the past couple of years. You’ve also got this unified customs tax for equipment importation, and you have a new corporate tax and a value added tax.

These efforts go a long way, and, again, even if they did not achieve the intended results, I think that for the government to actually conduct them goes a long way in terms of improving investor confidence. One thing that has been really impressive from our perspective was the effort taken by the government to address the very difficult and tricky issue of subsides, which date back to the bread riots of the 1970s.The government has managed to reduce the subsidy bill, and the government has been trying to reduce this burden on the state, which can have a number of knock-on effects when you’re paying more in current expenditures for things like subsidies that reduce the amount that the government can spend on things like road maintenance or schools for example.

Consequently, I think the reforms that have been carried out over the past couple of years—whether fiscal incentives, tax regime changes, subsidy cuts, or even currency flotation—have gone a long way in terms of strengthening the attractiveness of the Egyptian economy, at least in the short term, and as we go through these programmes, they will hopefully meet the target and the long-term outlook for Egypt’s attractiveness will continue to improve. I mean, there hasn’t been any major change yet in business confidence or investor confidence surveys. The PMI for March was actually slightly down what it was in February or January, so obviously we’re not seeing that kind of turnaround, but I think it will take time.

But, you know, we in OBG just recently completed our first ever business barometer, which is a survey given to Egyptian CEOs, where we talk to top executives in the country to get a sense of what they are thinking about the economic outlook and the reforms being carried out. And we found that 80% of the top executives in the country are either positive or very positive about local business conditions, which was surprising.

In your point of view, what are the amendments and modifications that can be applied to the reform programme to increase its efficiency?

Given that Egypt is currently ranked the 122nd rank in terms of the World Bank’s “doing business ranking” report, which that shows that there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of business environment, especially in terms of dispute settlements and arbitration.

One of the things that we often hear when we’re doing our research in Egypt from the private sector is the challenges related to land transactions: how burdensome they are, how slow they are, how expensive they can be. I think that, currently, the time it takes to register property in Egypt is roughly twice that of the regional average. For example, if you’re a developer looking to build a mixed-use use project or if you’re an industrial company or a factory, the fact that you have to wait for 50 to 60 days to just register the property.

This is a huge disadvantage in terms of efficiency of your investment, so that’s certainly a challenge, and there is obviously plenty of room to address those issues. We’ve seen improvements in construction permits and investor protection. But the land act is certainly one area where there’s room for improvement, as well as the challenges faced with the new lottery system, and the revenue sharing model. There is growing concern whether those are viable options.

Moreover, I believe that another area where there’s certainly room for improvement is where you’ve seen the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the government take a lot of efforts to improve the access to finance. There has been a lot of talk about boosting not just small and medium enterprises (SMEs), but also the private sector credit. I think that this is particularly challenging for Egypt’s banking system.

Doing that is not a question of whether or not Egypt’s banks have the capacity to lend or whether they have healthy balance sheets. Egyptian banks’ non-performing loan ratio is declining, and they have a loan to deposit ratio between 40-42%, which is one of the lowest in the region.

This means that there’s a lot of capital and a lot of liquidity for banks to lend. However, I think the pressure is coming from the rapid growth of locally held government debt in the banking system. You’ve got a lot of government bonds that banks currently hold, and it has grown by 300% since 2010. As a result, the banks’ incentive and ability to lend to the private sector is reduced.

How do you view the soaring inflation rates, and how it can be controlled?

I think that a 32% inflation rate is one of the highest in a decade. This is obviously exacerbated by the currency flotation and the reliance on imported products and equipment, which means that households and smaller businesses in Egypt are very vulnerable to price increases.

The subsidy cuts also made it worse. Natural gas prices rose by around 100-150%, which was really just a crazy amount for your taxi driver or your average household to suddenly have to start dealing with. I think the inflation peak has passed and that things are beginning to stabilize, but certainly it is a big concern for the large proportion of households.

There have been proposals from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to potentially look at tightening monetary policy, by pushing up interest rates to help address that. The government is really trying to reduce unemployment and boost export revenues in order to ensure that the economy is growing in a sustainable fashion. This is also besides the fact that they are attempting to improve the level of inclusiveness and achieve a higher growth rate than they currently have, which means they need to continue to push for recovery, and tightening the monetary policy won’t help that in any way, as it will just delay the prospects for recovery.

The government is attempting to maintain a very tricky balance, where they are trying to control things like subsidies and improve the broader stability of the macro economy by floating the pound and reducing the pressure on foreign reserves, all while trying to reach higher growth rates and minimise the pain on lower-income households. In my opinion, figuring out how to balance that is really going to be the single most difficult task for the government in the next twelve months.

Can we achieve the government’s target of 7% growth rate, and what is the sufficient GDP growth rate to achieve the aspirations of the Egyptian people?

It is very clear that the current growth rate in Egypt is not close to the target. We are expecting that, by the end of this fiscal year (FY), there will be a growth of around 4%. The aim was to have it 2-3 percentage points higher. But I believe there are things that can be done to support improvement in terms of household income, employment, and, more importantly, providing a more inclusive basis for growth. One of those is education, not only by improving matriculation rates, but also ensuring that what people are being taught will improve their employability.

This can be achieved by not only improving enrolment in universities, but also by boosting technical and vocational training and providing internships and apprenticeships for people who might want to work in high-end manufacturing facilities, such as automotive plants or telecoms and IT activities.

Every year, 700,000-800,000 people enter the workforce in Egypt, so providing them with jobs is really crucial. However, it is not only a supply issue; it’s not just about creating jobs that provide employment, but also about ensuring that people who graduate from universities or high schools have the skills necessary to find quality employment—and if they didn’t find quality employment, they should have the ability to start their own business.

Consequently, even if GDP growth doesn’t reach the target, there are various ways to improve the life of the average Egyptian, one of which is to improve access to affordable housing. There’s a huge housing deficit in the country and particularly in Cairo and Alexandria. The price of formal housing is out of the average citizen’s capability. It is estimated that there are between 15 to 20 million people in Egypt that live in informal houses.

In regards to creating job opportunities, I think that SMEs can play an integral role. You’ve got a segment of the economy or a collection of businesses that could employ something like 70% of the total workforce.

Even if the GDP didn’t reach that magical 7% number over the next year or two, I think that certainly at the moment it looks like it will take longer than the next year to hit that rate, but there are, nonetheless, a number of ways to improve people’s living condition.

What is your evaluation of the Egyptian-American relationship, in the wake of the recent visit?

We can say that the US-Egyptian relations are being reset. US officials said they want to renew their relation with Egypt, but I think the discussions that they had in Washington DC focused on the joint cooperation between them in the fields of security and countering terrorism. The big question mark here is really more about the US strategy. It is very difficult to discern what the US attitude is towards Egypt, and the Middle East more broadly. It looks like the US is pulling back from foreign engagement. The White House has forecasted a 30% cut in spending on diplomacy, and this is going to be translated into a decreased level of aid. However, the uncertain or unclear foreign policy of Trump’s administration makes it very difficult to measure exactly how it’s going to play out in a concrete way.

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Heavy transportation industry benefitted greatly from Egypt’s mega projects: Dahshan http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/heavy-transportation-industry-benefitted-greatly-egypts-mega-projects-dahshan/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/heavy-transportation-industry-benefitted-greatly-egypts-mega-projects-dahshan/#respond Thu, 04 May 2017 08:00:20 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624292 2016 was a record year for KML, according to its chairperson

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With the Breakbulk exhibition kicking off, Al-Borsa sat down with Mohamed El Dahshan, chairperson of Khedivial Marine Logistics (KML), to talk about the challenges and opportunities of the heavy haulage sector in Egypt in general and his company’s future in particular.

What does your participation at the Breakbulk exhibition mean to you and what are the benefits?

The Breakbulk Europe exhibition is the most important international gathering of project freight forwarding companies, international carriers, and ship agents. It’s an opportunity to meet face to face with the top management and decision makers of participating companies to exchange knowledge and forecasts of new business opportunities all over the world. It’s all about networking and business development. We have been attending the Breakbulk expo for the last ten years, but this year we decided to participate as exhibitors with our own booth.

What are the main challenges of the heavy lift transportation industry in Egypt?  Does the infrastructure of Egyptian ports represent an obstacle to the growth of this industry?

There are major challenges at the ports due to the lack of a sufficient number of heavy lift cranes. We are dependent on using ship cranes for discharging HL pieces of our project cargo. But the challenges aren’t only limited to the ports but the roads and bridges also represent major challenges due to the strict limitations on weights.

What are the features of this market in Egypt in terms of investment size, the number of companies operating, and competition?

I have personally been in the shipping business for over 40 years, and I can honestly say that the policy of the Egyptian government with the new projects all over Egypt has had a positive impact on the Egyptian economy.  It has opened the door for local project forwarding companies to participate in these mega projects.  Our company KML succeeded to participate in a number of these projects, for example the New Suez Canal and power plants.

Did the specialized heavy haulage companies benefit from Egypt’s execution of several mega projects, which required the transport of equipment for new power plants, the New Suez Canal, and the development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone?

All major Egyptian heavy haulage companies benefited greatly from the huge amount of cargo movements. In fact, there were times when there were shortages of equipment in the market and this opened the door for new players to enter the market. I would say that all the big forwarding companies that participated in the mega projects gained excellent experience. It has been a long time since Egypt witnessed these kinds of mega projects with the big number of heavy pieces and over-dimensional cargoes, which posed great challenges in terms of their movement.

What is your company’s turnover in 2016 and what were the major projects handled?

Our company’s turnover for the year 2016 was around $20m. We have been heavily involved in the Siemens power plants of Beni Suef and the New Administrative Capital. Over and above, we have been transporting a huge number of production lines for the manufacturing industry, cement, steel and FMCGs. 2016 has been a record year for us in terms of job orders, transports of low beds, HL pieces, general cargo, containers, and other special cargoes.

What are the targets and forecasts for 2017?

For the first half of 2017, we will still be busy with the existing mega project transport contracts that we have. We have also been bidding on several projects, but none as big as what we have been transporting in 2016. However, we are optimistic that several delayed green energy projects will pick up this year. Other than power generation, the industrial sector is still going strong for us this year.

How will the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation’s decrees 488 and 800 affect the shipping business in general?

It’s self-understood that the aforementioned decrees will have a major impact on freight forwarders and shipping agents in Egypt. Owners will make their studies in which they will compare the cost of calling Egyptian ports with other competitive ports in the region (Red Sea and Mediterranean ports). It’s all a matter of cost versus benefit. Owners will always cut costs, even if it means changing the hub port. Unfortunately, we will have to wait and see the reaction of owners and the resulting impact on Egyptian ports.

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Sound and Light Company negotiates with Chinese investor to establish tourist project in Hurghada: El Shazly http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/sound-light-company-negotiates-chinese-investor-establish-tourist-project-hurghada-el-shazly/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/04/sound-light-company-negotiates-chinese-investor-establish-tourist-project-hurghada-el-shazly/#respond Thu, 04 May 2017 07:00:27 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624254 Company’s losses last year reached EGP 19m, losses expected to decline by the end of FY to EGP 13m

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The Sound and Light Company, which is affiliated to the Holding Company for Tourism, Hotels, and Cinema, is negotiating with a Chinese investor to establish a hotel and shopping malls, in addition to a food court, with total investments worth $17m, on a 42,000 sqm plot of land owned by the company in the governorate of Hurghada.

Nagwa El Shazly, acting chairperson of the company, told Daily News Egypt that a feasibility study of the project was developed, and the Chinese investor is studying the project. The investor is expected to make an offer during the upcoming few months in order to negotiate the implementation of the project.

There is a piece of land owned by the company in Hurghada. Will a study be held to utilise the land?

We are negotiating with a Chinese investor to establish a hotel, shopping malls, and a food court on a land with an area of 42,000 sqm, with approximate investments of $17m.

According to the feasibility study, the financing allocated for the project is expected to be recovered within six years from the project’s operation, especially since Hurghada is considered one of the most important tourist areas in Egypt and has 20% of Egypt’s inbound tourism annually.

The French company Prism prepared to contract on developing the sound and light shows in the Pyramids area in January 2015.

The cost of the project is $50m. The company is waiting for approval from the Ministry of Antiquities to start implementing the project, which will take 14 months to be implemented.

Prism is currently preparing blueprints of the project and is expected to start working within two months.

What about the company’s losses last year? Is there a plan to reduce them over the upcoming months?

The losses were estimated at EGP 19m. I expect the losses to decline by the end of this fiscal year, with growth in the number of inbound tourists over the past five months.

What are the ranges of the reduction in losses expected by the end of this fiscal year?

Indicators say we will reduce losses by the end of this fiscal year to EGP 13m compared to EGP 18bn last year.

This decline in losses will take place despite the increase of material prices and the inevitable prices in salaries, which represent 70% of total expenses.

This decline in losses will be done through two parallel aspects. The first depends on promoting sound and light shows to increase revenues, and the second depends on reducing expenses as much as possible, including diesel, gasoline, and lighting inside the offices of the company.

This strategy adopted by the company has already enabled it to save 30% of its expenses. A decision was made to not operate ACs before the beginning of May in order to rationalise the use of electricity and lighting. One car was also allocated for the transportation of more than one head of a department in the company instead of allocating one car for each employee separately.

How does the tourism sector see the decision of increasing ticket prices which you have recently made?

The company has decided to activate a new increase in the fees of tickets in early April from EGP 125 to EGP 150 for foreign visitors. The increase is not random, though, and does not compensate the company for losses.

The increase comes against an increase of the costs of operating materials by 300% that took place during the past months in order to keep up with the increase of costs, not to increase the company’s profitability.

The ticket was worth $10 before flotation. The increase was supposed to take the price to EGP 200 in order to equal the current dollar exchange rate.

The company has carried out the slight increase in order to test the market and tourism companies first. The company had addressed tourism companies about the increase, and they have not showed objection.

It is decided that a meeting will be held soon with tourism companies in the presence of the chairperson of the Holding Company for Tourism and Hotels, Mervat Hataba, in order to notify the tourism companies about a new increase in the ticket prices after the agreement of all involved parties.

The Sound and Light Company provides facilitations and discounts for tourism companies and their tourist groups as a kind of promotion for the sound and light shows.

Are there any other activities other than the sound and light shows?

The activities of the company are divided into three activities. The main activity is the sound and light shows that are in five regions, including the pyramids and regions in Upper Egypt. This activity depends on tourism and security.

The second activity of the company is allocated to the implementation of lighting projects for others, such as the Citadel of Salah Ed-Din and Al-Moez Street.

The third activity of the company depends on the establishment of concerts and events, both in the Pyramids area of ​​Giza and the Temple of Phila in Luxor. These concerts are supposed to pay us off, but we always meet several obstacles.

Like what?

There are many obstacles facing the organiser of the concert, such as problems related to the payment of theatre rent and lighting services, in addition to paying another amount of money to tourism and antiquities police for securing the region during the concert, as well as the Ministry of Antiquities, as the area belongs to them.

These costs represent a heavy financial burden on the organizer of the concert, as the organizer pays money to roughly six different parties. If the financial return is good, the concert is held,but if not,then the concert gets cancelled.

In commercial concerts, there is a percentage paid for taxes, as well as paying an amount of money to the Musical Profession Syndicate and arts copyrights.

The company seeks to facilitate concerts to be held in the sound and light theatre, but the other authorities are out of its hands, while the organiser of the concert requests a reduction of the amount of money they pay to those authorities.

The sound and light show capacity in the pyramids area is 3,000 seats, with a courtyard rented by the Ministry of Antiquities, worth EGP 400 per person, compared to EGP 75 previously.

The rent received by the company from the organiser of the concert for the theatre does not exceed EGP 150,000, and there will be a special discount to government agencies and ministries, and the Ministry of Antiquities may get EGP 2m from the event for renting the courtyard for 5,000 people per concert.

What about lighting projects for others that are implemented by the company?

We recently completed a lighting project for four villas in Sheikh Zayed area in 6th of October City, where we are working on the implementation of lighting projects for all sectors, both public and private.

Work is also being done on studies and special measurements for the project of lighting the Fatimid Cairo wall for the benefit of the Ministry of Antiquities.

We are targeting projects for third parties during the fiscal year 2017/2018 worth EGP 10m.

Is there an improvement in the demand of sound and light shows in the current period?

Rates are good and exceeded 50%, and we hope to reach 90% during the coming period with the improvement of inbound tourism to Egypt.

What about scheduling the dues of the company with the Ministry of Antiquities?

The Ministry of Antiquities called for a delay fine against the Sound and Light Company estimated at EGP 7m for the project of lighting in the western Luxor.

The Ministry of Antiquities submitted a complaint to the State Council against the company because of its failure to comply with the date of implementing the project of lighting in western Luxor.

We reached an agreement with Mamdouh Al-Damaty, the former Minister of Antiquities, on scheduling debts owed, with EGP 1m paid per month, and the ministry began to repay it in May 2015.

Upon activation of this agreement, we were surprised that the ministry submitted the delay complaint to the State Council, which approved it.

It was agreed that the Sound and Light Company sent all documents that confirm its commitment to implementing the project in accordance with the time period specified in the contract, which is 13 months.

The Upper Egypt Electricity Distribution Company requested a further study of the project to adjust the cable track, whereby the project implementation period was extended by an additional three months, and the ministry did not mention the reason behind the delay complaint.

How much is the delay fine on your company?

The delay fine for was estimated at EGP 7m, and the company agreed to settle it by deducting 25% of the monthly instalment value that is worth EGP 1m.

We have exerted great efforts to negotiate with the ministry in order to obtain its approval on the repayment through deducting a monthly amount of money to collect the fine, instead of collecting it in one tranche, especially in light of the lack of income of the sound and light shows over the past years.

There is always a delay in the payment of the monthly instalment by the ministry, and it is scheduled to be paid during the first week of each month, in accordance with the agreement between the two parties, due to the lack of financial resources suffered by the Ministry of Antiquities in the recent period.

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10 million customers in the region to use One Global’s services by 2020 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/10-million-customers-region-use-one-globals-services-2020/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/10-million-customers-region-use-one-globals-services-2020/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 07:30:17 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624054 We have obtained a license to cooperate with Banque Misr to offer solutions regarding electronic payment for retail merchants

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Mohamed Al-Rashidi, Chairman of One Global, said that “the company currently has 70,000 customers in the local market. It aims to increase the number over the upcoming period after signing a partnership agreement with Banque Misr to offer electronic payment services to a large group of retailers.”

Al-Rashidi told Daily News Egypt that “the company is negotiating with two companies to offer new electronic payment services, one of which is in the field of telecommunications and the other is in the field of device manufacturing.”

How does your company find the investment climate in the Egyptian market, especially after the flotation of the pound?

The flotation increases the attractiveness of the Egyptian market, giving investors larger opportunities to invest. It is a good step to encourage our companies to continue in the Egyptian market. In my opinion, there is large demand by foreign investors on the Egyptian market as a result of the decision.

Why does One Global invest in Egypt?

Egypt shows exceptional potential as a big telecommunication market due to a strong economic climate that actively encourages growth in private investment. There is no doubt the telecommunication and technology sector is one of the most competitive sectors when it comes to investment. Also, the Egyptian market will be able to solve and overcome the obstacles it is facing in the short-term.

The most significant obstacle facing the investors is the exchange rate crisis, which is expected to be resolved soon, and the Egyptian market is large and has many opportunities and high returns on investment.

There are digital services in the financial sector that require approval from the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). For example, in order to offer cash transfer services, I must have a license from the bank or a money exchange company. Moreover, according to the law, the electronic wallet is monopolised by banks, and this needs to change.

With nearly 100 million people in it, the Egyptian market is a large one. In order to drive Egyptians towards the banking sector, they must all have bank accounts, and this can happen by encouraging them to use electronic cards to receive their salaries and purchase their regular needs from stores through card payments. Legislations should also be made to offer services of the electronic wallet to any company that follows the conditions decided by the CBE, whether for security reasons or any others.

Recently, the National Council for Payments was established. How do you see the impact of this matter on the Egyptian market?

We are optimistic about the new legislations and the National Council for Payments to govern and control electronic financial services in Egypt, and we have heard that the council will work on encouraging digital transformation and establishing a patriotic technological solution for electronic payments instead of relying on the solutions of international companies. This is encouraging and may play a role in improving the climate of investment in the field of electronic payment services.

What are the most prominent investment opportunities in the Egyptian market and your future plans in Egypt?

We are a group that works in four sectors. They include mHealth, mTourism, mContent, and the mFinancial sector (Fintech). For example, we have an entire system that is based on cloud computing, which includes making reservations and payments, in addition to other services that tourism companies need. Therefore, there will be cooperation with one of the largest tourism companies to benefit from the technological solutions we offer.

With regards to the financial sector, we have a cooperation agreement with Banque Misr, and we have recently obtained a license from the CBE to provide electronic payment services. The company will provide e-payment machines at cafes, restaurants, and commercial centres soon in cooperation with Banque Misr.

For the mHealth sector, the company provides a new and advanced technology solution called “Tele-Medicine”, which is a service that allows physicians in remote villages to send medical scans and tests to major health centres for review and send them back via mobile devices.

We met with government officials and discussed how we can cooperate in this sector through our electronic solutions. Additionally, the company holds several negotiations with a number of mobile operators to activate our services.

This year will witness more cooperation between the private sector and the government, as we will launch our electronic payment services through a mobile operator and a smart phone manufacturer.

How many customers do you have in the Egyptian market?

There are about 70,000 people who use credit cards, and we aim for this number to reach 350,000 by 2020.

Do you have any expansion plans for the future?

The company offers its services in 16 countries, and we aim to increase our market share in these countries this year. We have about 2 million e-payment users, and we target to increase them up to 10 million users by 2020.

We have good experiences in implementing a number of large financial projects in some markets, such as Uganda, where we linked a local e-payment service with Visa and MasterCard, as well as telecommunication companies. We also applied this system in Kuwait and Bahrain, which allows Visa and MasterCard holders to use our system.

What are your plans in the Egyptian market, in light of the growing e-commerce sector?

About 80% of the e-commerce operations are conducted through cash on delivery system. Hence, to solve this issue, we are currently working on launching a new service, which is expected to be officially launched in Kuwait during Ramadan. We will then present it to the Egyptian market, especially as many e-commerce companies operating in Egypt have welcomed the change.

What are the main axes of your plans in Egypt?

We seek to activate our license with Banque Misr and benefit from the National Council for Payments’ decisions. We also aim to participate in current electronic connection projects in cooperation with the company of e-Finance. We have already started the implementation of a unified electronic system at Nile University.

What are the main challenges facing the company in the Egyptian market?

The cash payment is our most important challenge. We also suffer from the lack of legal legislation, so we put great hopes on the National Council for Payments.

How do you see the Egyptian market?

The Egyptian market is of great importance to our company. It is on the top of our priorities in 2017. If we managed to implement our targets for this year, Egypt would be one of our major markets; otherwise, it will be a normal market.

What is the size of the company’s spending on the research and development sector?

The company allocates 15% of its total investments to the research and development sector.

What are the main markets for your company?

We provide our services in 16 countries, including Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Uganda, and Lebanon.

We also own a 25% stake in an electronic payment company in Nigeria (HeMobile Integrated Services).

One Global is a Microsoft partner, and One Global Money (a subsidiary of One Global specialised in e-payment services) has received official authorisation and compliance certification from the Central Bank of Bahrain, Kuwait Finance House, Warba Bank in Kuwait, Banque Misr in Egypt, Tadhamon International Islamic Bank in Yemen, and many other banks across the region. It’s also PCI/DSS compliant and maintains the highest security level within the financial services industry.

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Sawiris Foundation targets 20% budget increase after flotation http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/sawiris-foundation-targets-20-budget-increase-flotation/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/sawiris-foundation-targets-20-budget-increase-flotation/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 07:00:30 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623967 SFSD plans to expand El Gouna Technical Nursing Institute through increasing the number of students to 300, says SFSD executive director

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During the third annual CSR conference, held on 10 April, the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) signed a memorandum of understanding with Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Bank of Alexandria to provide employment opportunities for 1,200 young women and men in rural areas, in addition to developing 40 NGOs in targeted areas, training 400 university students on leadership and entrepreneurship skills, and providing loans to start their projects.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Noura Selim, executive director at the SFSD, to talk about the developmental projects undertaken by the foundation.

What is the amount of money allocated for social projects in 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, we provided funding of approximately EGP 130m only for projects. We allocated about EGP 150m for projects in 2017. In our projects, we target breadwinner women and youth, and about 50-60% of the fund is allocated for women, with a concentration in Upper Egypt due to high poverty rates. In Cairo and Alexandria, we focus on projects related to slums and homeless children.

What is the size of loans provided by Sawiris Foundation?

It depends on the beneficiary. We provide grants and in-kind loans and trainings. We provide NGOs with funds for loans to be provided to beneficiaries as Sawiris Foundation doesn’t deal directly with the beneficiaries. The loan amounts range between EGP 1,000 and EGP 5,000 according to beneficiaries’ needs and NGOs capacities.

What is the ratio of loan repayment?

We can say that the ratio is 99-100% as we work with developmental organisations to handle the problems beneficiaries meet together with them. After the 25 January Revolution, there were some issues with some associations, but it was only a very small number of them. Therefore, we have very strict criteria to select the associations that our foundation grants loans to.

Has the foundation resorted to any judicial proceedings in case of non-payment of loans?

Sawiris Foundation has development goals to empower people; however, we didn’t have to resort to courts, as we didn’t have cases where people or associations refused to repay the loans.

Sawiris Foundation developed the Bedouin Village in Taba. Is the foundation looking to conduct similar projects with other villages?

In Taba, we built an integrated village with all services, with costs amounting to approximately EGP 40m. We built decent houses for citizens in Taba, a healthcare centre, a school, and playgrounds. It is the first village developed by Sawiris Foundation, but Orascom Development Holding provided services such as Harram City.

We planned to develop other villages on the same style. We keep on trying to provide job opportunities in all targeted areas besides developing schools and providing child-friendly community schools.

SFSD allocated $2.25m over 4 years, between 2013 and 2016, to ensure the most marginalised children receive a quality primary education. What is the target area and the number of schools?

We have 45 child-friendly community schools in Assiut, Sohag, and Qena in Upper Egypt. We are interested in Upper Egypt because there is a lack of schools, and children have to walk a long distance to reach the closest school, taking around 45 minutes on average.

What is the work plan for development projects and the amount of allocated money?

We allocated between EGP 100m and EGP 120m for projects in 2017. We reviewed our projects’ budget after the devaluation and flotation of the Egyptian pound. Most of the money was directed towards creating job opportunities and the rest towards to health and education services.

How many jobs were created by the foundation, and what is the target for the coming period?

So far, we created 250,000 job opportunities across Egyptian governorates. A year ago, we launched an initiative for two years to create 20,000 job opportunities for youth and women in Upper Egypt by the end of 2018.

What are the success stories in developmental projects provided by the foundation?

We are proud of our projects in the health and education sectors, and our foundation established a Technical Nursing Institute in El Gouna, Hurghada, in 2010. The institute is very important for the society as the graduates work in high-quality hospitals because they acquired all skills and qualifications needed in nursing, and Egypt suffers from a lack of these skills.

We plan to expand the Institute in El Gouna through increasing the number of students joining the institute every year.

We received offers from other agencies and universities that are interested in developing institutes like ours.

We are studying establishing other institutes in the style of El Gouna Technical Nursing Institute, but first we are keen on expanding the existing institute to reach 300 students annually through the National Coordination Office. Fresh high-school graduates from the scientific division who are nominated by the coordination office can join the institute.

Will Sawiris Foundation increase its budget in light of the currency devaluation and increases in poverty rates?

Sure, we will do. We have a strong support from the Sawiris family to support the community. We target increasing the budget by 20%.

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AXA signs shareholder agreement with IFC  http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/axa-signs-shareholder-agreement-ifc/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/03/axa-signs-shareholder-agreement-ifc/#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 06:00:39 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=624035 Al-Borsa sat down with Gilbert Chahine, CEO of AXA Egypt, to discuss the economic environment in Egypt, its recent negotiations with several partners in the regional market and its move to enter the microinsurance business in Egypt. What do you think about the economic environment in Egypt? The flotation of the Egyptian currency has been …

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Al-Borsa sat down with Gilbert Chahine, CEO of AXA Egypt, to discuss the economic environment in Egypt, its recent negotiations with several partners in the regional market and its move to enter the microinsurance business in Egypt.

What do you think about the economic environment in Egypt?

The flotation of the Egyptian currency has been a very bold, strong, and needed move from the Egyptian government. We are fully supportive of this action and the planned reforms that started and will continue taking place in the next period.

All of these measures were needed to reposition Egypt as a prime location from an investment standpoint, enhance economic growth, and solve the crisis that we were in with regards to the availability of foreign currency in the market.

We view them as positive for the Egyptian economy despite some current difficulties in particular when it comes to inflation, which has been a major concern for us and a lot of players in the market.

I believe that the Egyptian market might witness a consolidation in the medium or long term, as a natural maturity evolution that has been experienced in other markets.

What are the latest developments in the negotiations with the Kanoo and Sawiris families to contribute to AXA’s capital?

Our discussions with potential partners were to see whether we can reach an agreement on partnering with some investors here in the market.

Today, we can say that we are very proud to have signed a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) that will see the IFC entering the capital of AXA Egypt with a 10% shareholding stake.

This partnership is still pending regulatory approval to be finalised, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

What about the Kanoo and Sawiris families contributing to AXA?

Today, we are proud of the partnership that we have with the IFC and of our shareholder structure after the finalisation of the transaction with the IFC.

The economic environment in Egypt has materially changed over the past months with the flotation of the Egyptian pound which has impacted the strategy of many investors in Egypt. The Kanoo and Sawiris families will remain privileged business partners of AXA Egypt and we are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with them over time.

What about your cooperation in microinsurance in the next period?

We are discussing that with many different partners—whether in the telecommunications field or governmental institutions like the post office—in the market to make sure that we find the right operating model to reach a large portion of potential customers.

How do you see your chances of spreading to post offices and competing with local companies?

At AXA, we are very innovative and able to leverage our global knowhow in terms of tools, technology, and products in order to come up with a proposal that will be adapted and valued by our partners.

The company is working on many studies on microinsurance programs in Egypt, in collaboration with “MicroEnsure”,  and we are expecting to launch some of them during the second half of 2017.

Egypt has a great demand for microinsurance programs and AXA Egypt is committed to providing a large share of this segment with the needed solutions, services, and support.

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Natural gas surplus by 2020: El Molla http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/02/natural-gas-surplus-2020-el-molla/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/05/02/natural-gas-surplus-2020-el-molla/#respond Tue, 02 May 2017 06:00:46 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623934 Sector will sign five new deals with investments of $154m

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The petroleum sector has achieved numerous developments during the current period in natural gas production. Egypt’s total production of gas reached 5 billion cubic feet per day, following a number of new discoveries. Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth Tarek El Molla explains the developments in an interview with Daily News Egypt.

Is the ministry set to sign new petroleum agreements in the coming period?

The Ministry of Petroleum plans to sign five new oil agreements between foreign partners and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) to search for oil and gas in Egypt’s Western Desert, with minimum investments of $154m and signing grants worth $63.2m to drill 30 wells.

What are the main new discoveries? And what is the plan for linking output to production?

The fruits of the new gas discoveries in the Mediterranean are already emerging. The first output from north Alexandria gas fields were placed on the production map recently, reaching 650 million cubic feet of gas per day from the first phase of the Taurus and Libra fields.

The north Alexandria project’s output will rise gradually as we go through new phases to reach 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas per day by mid 2018.

This supports the plans of the petroleum sector to increase gas production, which will reach its peak once linking the output of Zohr field before the end of the year.

The petroleum sector is in a race against time to link the production of the first phase of the Zohr field, estimated at 1 billion cubic feet per day, to the national gas pipeline, to meet the domestic demand.

The production capacity of Zohr field will gradually increase to reach 2.7 billion cubic feet per day. The development of the field has become a unique model for giant gas field projects in the world, not only in terms of its size, but also in terms of the record time it took to develop.

The discovery was made only 18 months after signing the agreement. And six months after discovering the field, it translated into contracts for development. About 28 months later, the output began. This is below the worldwide average of 6-8 years for development.

We are working with our foreign partners, including the Italian ENI and the British BP, to increase production of Noras in the coming years. Earlier this year, the field output was about 1 billion cubic feet per day. In the first quarter of the coming year, the Atoll field will be linked to production.

The coming years will witness more gas field projects that will support the increase in gas production, such as the 9B phase in the deep waters west of the Delta, along with the Salamat and Baltim fields.

The latest discoveries achieved are the Katameya find by BP north of Damietta marine area. This area alone witnessed three major gas discoveries in recent years. This reflects the potential and future opportunities in Egypt in the gas sector.

How much did foreign investments amount to at the end of the current fiscal year?

We expect the size of foreign investments in oil and gas to reach $10bn at the end of the fiscal year 2016/2017. Many foreign companies are increasing their investments after the government paid them part of their arrears and assured them they will receive the remaining part.

Moreover, the sums they received are spent in Egypt to develop and expand refineries. There are a number of projects worth over $8.2bn being implemented now in that sector.

What is the ministry’s plan to provide fuel for electricity during the summer?

We completed preparing a comprehensive plan to provide the needs of power plants by 100% in the summer, in which consumption peaks.

The plan includes the provision of all kinds of fuel, whether natural gas as the main fuel or essential alternatives such as fuel oil and diesel. The plan started already in April and will be in place until the end of September.

We will also secure the needs for the new power plants that will begin commercial operation this year, including the Siemens power plants in Beni Suef, Borollos, and the New Administrative Capital.

More gas-fuelled power plants will also become operative this year. Our plan includes providing fuel for 59 power plants including 57 plants linked to the national gas pipeline.

The average daily volume of fuel that will be pumped to power plants in the summer is 142 million cubic feet of gas, fuel oil, and diesel.

The current growth in natural gas production supports our ability to secure fuel supplies for electricity after the new fields become linked to the production.

We estimate the total size of gas pumped to power plants to reach 5.75 billion cubic feet per day, including 5 billion cubic feet from domestic production and 750 million cubic feet imported through liquefied gas shipments.

We will also provide extra quantities of fuel oil and diesel for emergency backup.

The plan does not only include meeting the needs of electricity, but also that of all other consumption sectors.

The petroleum sector succeeded last summer in providing all types of fuel needed by electricity power plants, which contributed to the stability of the national grid.

What about the foreign partners dues?

The Ministry of Petroleum seeks to pay dues to the foreign oil companies operating in Egypt during the coming period, in cooperation with the Central Bank of Egypt and the Ministry of Finance, as to encourage these companies to investment more in Egypt.

The oil sector is abiding to pay regular dues to partners, including buying their shares of oil and gas for domestic consumption. We are also committed to paying accumulated arrears.

Over the past three years, in cooperation with the government, driven by political stability and economic growth, the oil sector managed to reduce the arrears from $6.3bn to $3.5bn by the end of 2016.

The political leadership and the government are keen to fulfil their obligations with their strategic partners and to find solutions to deal with one of the major challenges that have had a negative impact on the search and exploration for oil and gas development, and the delay in implementing some major projects in the sector.

This is of special importance because paying back foreign partners encourages them to inject more investments and stimulates research and exploration works, which is for the benefit of meeting the domestic needs of petroleum products and natural gas.

How much does it cost to import monthly petroleum and gas products?

The average value of importing petroleum products and gas per month is $800m. The value is also impacted by several factors, such as global oil prices, the exchange rate, the size of domestic consumption, and the size of local production of oil and gas.

Saudi Aramco secures shipments of 700,000 tonnes of fuel per month to Egypt, valued at $340m, which eases demand on foreign currency. The payment plan is also facilitated.

 

What are the measures taken by the ministry to provide the needs of the country’s petroleum products?

The domestic market depends on gaining a major part of its petroleum products from local production that is refined in Egyptian labs. We complete the remaining market needs through imports.

The ministry signed a number of commercial agreements with Arab institutions and companies to secure part of the needs to push forward the economy and meet fuel needs.

This includes the deals with Aramco and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, which also includes the importing of crude Kuwaiti oil. Additionally, we recently signed a deal with the Iraqi side to import 1 million barrels of crude oil per month from Basra. This is refined in Egyptian labs.

 

When will Egypt achieve self-sufficiency of natural gas?

The strategy of the oil sector relies on achieving self-sufficiency of natural gas by the end of 2018.

We also plan to achieve a surplus by 2020, which can contribute to achieving added value through the petrochemical industry.

 

What are the details of joint cooperation with Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean region?

We were taking steps to enhance cooperation between Egypt, Cyprus, and Greece over the past two years, with the support of the political leadership in the three countries.

Egypt is interested in developing cooperation with the two countries to maximise the use of energy and resources development, especially after the recent discoveries of natural gas in the Mediterranean, in both Egypt and Cyprus.

We agreed on the need for trilateral cooperation in the field of natural gas transfer from Egypt’s and Cyprus’ fields to Europe. There are agreements between the Egyptian and Cypriot governments in this regard.

This is in addition to the establishment of a natural gas pipeline from Cyprus to Egypt for mutual benefit  and to support strategic cooperation in the field of energy, which serves Egypt’s current orientation and strategy to become a regional trading hub for energy in the region.

What are the details of the memorandum of cooperation recently signed with Jordan?

The memorandum of cooperation between Egypt and Jordan was signed early last month during the Third International Conference on Energy in the Jordanian capital. The agreement is related to the field of energy in general and natural gas in particular.

It focuses on cooperation in the fields of training and expertise-exchange in fields of natural gas and re-exporting gas through the natural gas infrastructure in both countries, next to using gasification vessels in Ain Sokhna and Aqaba in emergency situations, and during maintenance periods to cover part of the needs of Egypt and Jordan from gas.

What are the most prominent new petrochemical projects?

The Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM) is considering the establishment of a number of new projects in the framework of the national plan for petrochemicals. The value of these projects amounts to $1bn, including projects for the production of propylene and its derivatives in Alexandria, and the project for the production of formaldehyde and its derivatives, as well as the project for the production of resins, in addition to the project for the production of ammonia and its derivatives.

The petrochemical industry in Egypt is currently witnessing a comprehensive renaissance through the implementation of a number of projects to maximise the added value of petroleum wealth, to provide petrochemical products for the domestic market, on which several complementary industries rely.

There is cooperation between the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (ECHEM) and the Scientific Research Academy to apply the results of studies and research to establish projects that help meet local market needs and using available resources. This includes projects to recycle plastic and strengthening national innovations to support small and medium-sized industries that are based on petrochemical products.

What are the latest developments in the bid for gold that was recently posed?

The Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA) received 14 offers from international mining companies in bid No. 1 for 2017 for research and exploration of gold in five areas of the Eastern Desert.

The Ministry of Petroleum and the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA) will form technical, financial, and legal committees to review the bids.

 

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Reform measures transform illusive system into a realistic one: Diab http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/30/623633/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/30/623633/#respond Sun, 30 Apr 2017 09:00:59 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623633 “Foreigners need to know how Egypt will deal with local and foreign investors”

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Daily News Egypt interviewed the prominent Egyptian businessperson Salah Diab, chairperson of the Project and Investment Consulting Company (PICO).

Diab reviewed the economic performance of Egypt during the last period, and the impact of economic measures on the Egyptian street, as well as his vision of political life in Egypt.

How do you see the recent economic reform measures?

The Egyptian economy’s recovery is on its way. The economic measures adopted by the government are like “surgery” which will develop the local economy from relying on illusive subsidies into a realistic economy.

Egypt will achieve balance in prices, imports, and exports, but it needs some time to adjust the economic conditions.

What are your expectations for the coming period?

Egyptian exports will increase sharply after the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decision to float the local exchange. For example, PICO’s agricultural exports have increased significantly, as the exports of strawberry seeds increased threefold.

Daily News Egypt interviewed the prominent Egyptian businessperson Salah Diab, chairperson of the Project and Investment Consulting Company (PICO).
(Photo by Asmaa Gamal)

What about the new investment law draft and its role in improving the investment atmosphere?

The investment law alone cannot improve the investment atmosphere and attract investors. We need to reassure investors who want to know how Egypt will deal with them.

The investors always want to achieve the highest return on investment. They prefer fixed taxes rather than tax exemption for a long period. For example, I suggest determining a fixed tax rate for 15 years, rather than the current eight-year exemption, so that the investor can calculate their profits over a long period.

The investor also cares about the stability of the country they wish to invest in. They want to make sure that this country will not attack them, prevent them from travelling, or force them to reconcile based on the government’s conditions.

The reconciliation measures in Egypt do not reassure neither local nor foreign investors.

Do you think that the state of emergency will affect foreign direct investments?

The three-month state of emergency imposed after recent terrorist attacks will not affect foreign direct investment flow. On the contrary, the state of emergency will achieve security in the country and reassure the safety of investments.

We have experienced a 30-year state of emergency under former president Hosni Mubarak; however, we achieved a growth rate of 7%. Actually, this decision shows that the state is moving seriously towards securing the citizen, foreign investors, and vital installations.

Do you think other businesspeople share the same view?

Businesspeople should be reformers, not permanent critics. They should be capable of proposing alternatives and solutions.

How do you see the state’s position of local businesspeople?

The state arrested me for no reason, and that delivers a negative image to foreign and local investors.

Have you considered moving your investments to outside Egypt?

No, all my service, commercial, and investment activities will continue operating in the Egyptian market, even if the state increased the taxes to 80%.

After the flotation of pound, some businesspeople cancelled their expansion plans due to the bad economic conditions.

What about your investments and activities?

I have a different investment vision than other businesspeople, as I always tend to expand my activities. We work effectively all the time, and everyone can see the expansions in La Poire and On the Run shops. Our expansion is not less than 20% in all activities annually.

Would you expand in media production in the coming period?

No, I just want to develop Al-Masry Al-Youm to keep up with modern journalism, and I have never thought of selling it, because I consider it as a reform project for the country, not a commercial activity. I never used Al-Masry Al-Youm to promote my commercial activities; on the contrary, I was affected negatively in the long run.

Have you considered launching a political party?

No, because the public action requires specific contributions and volunteer work without waiting for a return.

I had refused to join the National Democratic Party (NDP), which could have allowed me to work with decision-makers. However, I joined the Wafd Party, which has a liberal ideology because I believe voluntary works should not be used for achieving personal interests. Businesspeople should not establish political parties, and we have many parties now but without influence.

I have a different investment vision than other businesspeople, as I always tend to expand my activities. We work effectively all the time, and everyone can see the expansions in La Poire and On the Run shops: Salah Diab
(Photo by Asmaa Gamal)

Do you think there is a security crackdown on political parties in Egypt?

I believe all the parties had to present clear and specific programmes to change the situation, rather than criticising the government to appear as an opposition party.

I have never heard about any Egyptian political party to offer a plan, or an alternative solution, of increasing the average income of Egyptians over certain years.

If there is any restriction to political parties, it will end when the regime has confidence in its agencies.

How do you see the renewal of religious discourse?

I reject the claims that Al-Azhar hampers the renewal of religious discourse. Salafist preachers, such as Al Heweny, who call for Muslims not to greet their Christian neighbours and congratulate them in their feasts, are the ones responsible for the crisis. The state is also responsible for the emergence of such figures about 15 years ago.

So I am optimistic about the supreme council to combat terrorism and extremism, which was called for by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi recently. This council would limit those elements from spreading sedition in society.

How do you see the performance of Egyptian parliament?

I am not impressed by the performance of parliament.

Do you agree on reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Why reconcile with them? They are like a separate country inside our own, and they have their own manifestos and violent militias.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not have a religious vision that suits the future and technology and today’s requirements. They live in the past, and that is their favourite climate.

Is there any truth about your acquisition of 70% of American agencies in Egypt?

These are ignorant rumours. And if you can, name the agents I acquired. I do not own Ford, General Motors, Kentucky, and Hardee’s; I only compete with them.

The truth is that I have three agencies, and only one of them is American. They all work in the field of construction and construction equipment.

What do you think about the American Egyptian relations and the convergence between Al-Sisi and Trump?

Relations must reflect the interest of the two countries. Trump will work to stand against terrorism, and I think he will be supporting Egypt in its war against terrorism.

Do you think relations with America will be stronger compared to Obama’s era?

Most definitely.

How do you evaluate the performance of Sherif Ismail’s government?

I think he is the best thing that happened to Egypt in a long time. His government includes good elements; however, future governments must be better prepared.

What I mean is that the structure of the next government must be organised, including the number of ministerial portfolios and whether or not there will be a merging of ministries, in addition to the authority granted to ministers.

Who is supposed to handle these issues?

The presidency must assign some institution or a consulting firm. The cabinet could also have a working group to work on the upcoming government’s programmes.

Do you really expect this to happen?

If that did not happen, we will be surprised by the next government.

In the most recent cabinet reshuffle, how do you explain the cases of ministerial portfolios being dropped?

Ministers want reassurance, the same way investors do. How can we ask them to be reassured if they see the previous ministers in jail?

Have you not donated to the Tahya Misr Fund because you object to its idea?

Actually, I have given my donation directly to the president on portions, until I was able to pay it completely.

How much was the donated amount?

It is not right to disclose this information, and this applies for any kind of donations made by anyone to any charitable organisation.

And if you ask me, Mohamed El Ashmawy, the head of the fund, is one of the most competent men.

What about your relation with President Al-Sisi?

I have a very good relationship with him; I hope he continues with success.

Are you with the idea of a president having a party?

No, legally he should not have a party. At the same time, we cannot be a state without parties.

Do you think that the Egypt Support Coalition is the president’s party?

I do not know, and I refuse this. I believe the coalition is one of the elements that have led to the return of the Socialist Union Party and the National Democratic Party. I refuse that a group calls itself “Egypt Support”, because would that mean that we call others “Egypt Demolition” parties? It is just not right.

How do you assess the president’s performance over the upcoming period? Do you believe his popularity among Egyptians is diminishing after the recent economic reforms?

Quite the opposite. What Al-Sisi did is a lot. The last attempts to reform the economy were taken in 1977; however, since then, the economy has been diminishing.

How do you explain the state of anxiety and frustration Egyptians have as a result of these economic reforms?

This is all new to them. People are repulsed by any changes, positive or negative. We tend to want familiar things to last. So, of course, we will need some time.

Would you elect Al-Sisi for a new presidential term if he ran for presidency?

Yes, I would, unless, you personally, are able to suggest someone better or is able to represent us better.

Is the absence of an alternative or a competitor not a matter of concern?

It is important that there be competition. In the case of the absence of a known competitor, we raise the question of “What is your programme? How will you implement it?” I believe that in the upcoming elections, the president will have a programme.

Why have you elected the president even though he did not have a programme? 

Because there was no alternative, and we were all panicking; however, during the upcoming elections, there must be a programme. Those who have the courage and confidence will compete against him. If I choose him, it will be for his programme, not for him as a person. This is a matter of competition of programmes against each other. Trump won against Clinton because he had a good programme.

Are you concerned about the military’s control over the economic sector?

No, I am not. The only case I would be concerned is if the army was given privileges. If it entered into civil activities, it must reveal its budget, profits, losses, tax, and customs. In the absence of these standards, I will definitely be concerned.

The army’s involvement in the economy with the reluctance of some investors is necessary. I believe it will pay more attention to heavy military industries, on which civilians do not show much demand.

How do you find the state’s strategy in the 1.5 million feddans project and its management of this specific file?

I do not have an idea about this project, and I do not know if there really is groundwater and whether it would last for 80 years. I know that Egypt’s main issue is in the ways of irrigation.

Irrigation ways in Egypt have been through flooding crops since the beginning of time, and this is a problem. Rationalised drip irrigation is much better.

What do you think about the Toshka project and Al Waleed bin Talal selling it?

The project is unfortunate, and I hope the situation improves.

What is the truth about the existence of a group of businesspeople working against the president?

This is not true. There will not be lobby groups unless there was an alternative to Al-Sisi. The only alternative is the brotherhood, so of course there is no lobby.

Are you optimistic?

Yes. Life is improving, and what is coming is better. We must, however, pay attention to education. It is the basis for any correct restructuring process.

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All Inclusive packages are blamed for service quality decline: Mohsen http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/27/inclusive-packages-blamed-service-quality-decline-mohsen/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/27/inclusive-packages-blamed-service-quality-decline-mohsen/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 07:00:01 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623333 Tourists who can have all three meals and drinks at hotels will not leave their rooms, says Mohsen

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Karim Mohsen, the head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF), blamed the all-inclusive packages for the decline of service quality in Egypt recently. He said that the all-inclusive package has been first started in the Mediterranean, Europe, and Turkey, before being implemented in Egypt ten years ago. But it has been implemented randomly since then.

In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Mohsen demanded applying certain criteria on hotels that offer these packages, such as lowering their rating from five stars to four.

There is a committee formed by the Ministry of Tourism to develop a price guide of tourism services in Egypt. What is your take on this?

It is better to leave the issue of prices to the market’s supply and demand. No agency should intervene in imposing prices. This intervention was the reason behind the lack of stability in the tourism market in the past period.

Regarding the quality of service provided at tourism facilities and hotels, I believe that the government should rather put forward strong rules and oversee their implementation.

Another solution is to lower the ratings of hotels that offer all-inclusive packages. This will raise the prices of accommodation in Egypt and improve the quality of service provided, especially with the presence of controls and supervision over the quality.

People have to know that all-inclusive packages are the main reason behind the lack of development in tourism areas in the past 10 years.

Tourists who can have all three meals and drinks at hotels will not walk out of their rooms. This harms taxi drivers and other tourism facility providers. That means that the packages harm the national Egyptian economy in the end. Tourism is an economic activity that provides job opportunities and develops local community.

Did you take part in the committee that developed the indicative prices?

The Egyptian Tourism Federation did not partake in this committee. It was formed from the Egyptian Chamber of Hotels and its public assembly. This is my point of view: I believe that having a price guide in a free market will not fix the problem that the sector has been suffering from over the past few years.

There was a dispute between the Egyptian Tax Authority and the ETF regarding taxes on incentives provided for charter flights. What is the situation in that regard now?

There was a meeting with the Egyptian Tax Authority over the past few days. We agreed to leave the court to rule. I believe that the judiciary will rule in favour of the ETF.

The ETF did not receive any money from these incentives that the charter companies received. The ETF was simply a link to deliver the money to these companies, but our budget did not see one pound of these funds.

We agreed with the Egyptian Tax Authority to separate taxes from the wages of the ETF employees and the taxes related to the charter incentives, which the Egyptian Tax Authority is demanding.

In your opinion, how much are these taxes?

I stress that the ETF did not take one pound of this money, but only delivered them to the charter flights companies. According to the Egyptian Tax Authority, these funds have amounted to EGP 120m since 2010.

We are waiting for the court ruling in this regard. In the past period, based on the Central Auditing Organization’s recommendations, payment of these incentives to foreign and local charter flight companies was decided to be done by the Egyptian Tourism Authority.

Moreover, these dues are paid to the Egyptian airports and are deducted from the cost of landing and takeoff that the companies pay. This was better than the first method.

Since 1 November 2016, the file was handed over to the Egyptian Tourism Authority. The ETF does not have anything to do with that issue now.

During the recent period, the parliament passed a value-added tax law. How do you think it will impact the sector?

We agreed with the Ministry of Finance to exempt the sector from payment of the value-added tax for one season. I believe this indicates that the state supports the tourism sector.

How do you see Egyptian hotel occupancies during the recent period?

From October 2016 until the end of March, occupancy rates have increased in Luxor, Aswan, and Cairo, reaching as high as 100%. This is tangible improvement, compared to the same period last year. This contradicts the modest rates in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, which remain low due to the continued suspension of British and Russian flights.

If Russian flights to Egypt are not resumed this year, Egypt will only reach a 30% growth in tourism inflows compared to 2016, when the number of tourists reached 5.3 million.

The growth in occupancy rates was not confined to traditional hotels, but also included the floating hotels.

I believe that Egypt is able to attract tourists to its different destinations. We have various products to offer, including beach tourism, archaeological tourism, and safari trips.

Pope Francis is set to visit Egypt next week. How can that be used to promote Egyptian tourism?

The pope’s visit to Egypt is an important event that provides good marketing by itself. The Egyptian Tourism Authority is the best agency to make promote and market Egyptian tourism, supported by its potential and financial resources, as opposed to companies and tour operators whose only pursuit is their private interest.

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Restoring the Free Egyptians Party is our real battle: Al-Alaily http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/restoring-free-egyptians-party-real-battle-al-alaily/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/restoring-free-egyptians-party-real-battle-al-alaily/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:09:41 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623343 “We were wrong when we allowed former members of the National Democratic Party to join the Free Egyptians Party and represent it in parliament”

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The 3rd of April 2011 is a historical day for political life: the day the establishment of the Free Egyptians Party was announced—a party based on the principles of freedom and citizenship.

Everyone working in politics considered the party as a new liberal alternative after the 25 January Revolution.

During six years, life inside the party witnessed many turbulences that divided the party into two fronts with each claiming to be the official representation of it. The first one, headed by Essam Khalil, has taken the party’s office in Zamalek as its headquarters.

The second entity is represented by the party’s board of trustees and led by businessperson Naguib Sawiris, the founder of the party in 2011, which established its headquarters at the old downtown office of the party on Sheikh Rihan Street.

Both entities claim that they are the ones legally representing the party.

What happened to the Free Egyptians Party is not new to Egyptian political life: we ​​have seen many splits before the revolution of 25 January 2011 in several parties, such as the El-Ghad Party, the Al-Amal Party, and the Liberal Socialists Party. Accusations have always pointed to the ruling regime and its security services—part of its secret task of weakening the political life.

This raised my doubts and I thought that the security services are the reason behind the current situation of the Free Egyptians Party, so I confronted Mahmoud Al-Alaily—a member of the board of trustees of the party, loyal to the “Sawiris Front,” and the candidate for the party’s presidency—an election scheduled to take place on 5 May—with all my doubts during the following interview.

At the beginning, I would like to share my doubts regarding the division of the party: that it was not by chance or due to conflicts but a deliberate act of arson.

All your doubts and assumptions are correct, but what we are currently seeing does not explain all the circumstances. Besides, I am against the ideas or phrases of a great conspiracy.

So what happened?

The fact is we are facing an undisciplined political situation and with this situation come those who practise politics in an undisciplined manner—unrelated to political practice, leading to controversial situations. The beneficiaries of these conditions vary on a daily basis—what is important, however, is that we are talking about a new political situation for everyone. But, in the end, the will of the citizens is what counts.

You cannot convince me that the will of the citizen counts for representatives of the political life.

Regardless of the practice pursued by the executive and legislative powers, the will of the citizens is in the background all the time. It counts and was put into consideration in the parliamentary and presidential elections. Everyone is trying to satisfy the Egyptian citizens.

Who is trying to satisfy the Egyptians?

The executive and legislative powers, as the representatives of the latter are depending on the people’s satisfaction to keep their seats in the coming elections of the parliament, and they are working on it all the time. Let us admit that this did not exist before and that this change occurred only after 2011.

Parties failed to fulfil the aspirations after the revolutions of January and June.

The practices themselves on the level of political parties don’t match the aspirations of the Egyptian people very much unfortunately, including the Free Egyptians Party. Citizens consider the Free Egyptians Party not only as the biggest party, but also as the party that represents Egyptians with respect to the issues of citizenship and freedoms, which are of utmost importance. But this expectation has not been met by the party, so those who believed in us were disappointed.

The Free Egyptians Party practice is still largely confined to its headquarters and new parties entered political life in Egypt without achieving any real movement.

The Free Egyptians Party and any other party—in the absence of a parliament—practised politics through statements and the media. But with a parliament, the parties practice politics in the House of Representatives in order to fulfil the programmes and visions of the party. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Much rather the opposite happened, especially with everything related to citizenship and matters of freedom.

Why did you not talk with your party’s members in the House of Representatives regarding the differences?

Citizens, especially young people, were putting high hopes in the party, but a party that stands against everything related to freedoms in the parliament is very sad and shameful.

There was a discussion about the practices of members of parliament (MPs), but the dealings within the party are different from companies or executive management.

Don’t you think that the real crisis was caused by the party’s choice of its members?

Indeed, the matter started with a controversy over who represents the party in the parliament. In the beginning, the debate was about whether to enter or not to participate in the in Love of Egypt list.

We ended up joining the list and decided that the party’s representatives should have previous experience in the electoral process under the umbrella of the Free Egyptians Party and should also be free of any tendencies towards Islamist policies. They also furthermore believe in the party’s principles.

There were, of course, former members of the National Democratic Party [editor’s note: NDP—the now-dissolved party of long-time president Hosni Mubarak]. A wide discussion regarding this matter took place and there was some tolerance for these candidates. Despite the controversy surrounding this matter, we approved their participation in the election in a very short time.

What is the price you’re paying for the stability of the party now?

We are definitely paying much for that and we admit it. This is a lesson to be learned for all parties in the world: we should only choose people to represent us with regards to political, social, and economic stances. It has been proven that you cannot rely on anyone who is politically corrupt.

Which group did you support?

I once had tolerance for those former members of the NDP who wanted to join our party. I thought that the Free Egyptians Party was their only hope to return to political life, but I now regret this assumption.

Why?

Because those who got used to the monopolisation of power cannot establish a system related to the exchange of opinions, power, and influence based on political ideology, as they used to depend on their influence alone. We benefited from this lesson, and we seek now to restore our party.

Some thought that we had lost the party, but we are actually trying to restore the party for the sake of all Egyptians.

How?

If we had not prevented those practices that contradict our party’s principles, the party and the liberal current could have been destroyed. The dramatic changes experienced by Egypt helped this liberal current to restore the party.

Who oversees the party’s performance?

The board of trustees established the party and now oversees applying its principles and orientations.

Who represent the party legally?

The board of trustees has an official Supreme Council.

Can you elaborate?

On 30 December 2016, the executive management of the party, headed by the chairperson of the party, called for a general conference to amend the regulations of the party, despite the fact that the party’s main regulations stipulate that the board of trustees must approve any amendment to these regulations.

However, the amendments were put forward for voting without the approval of the board of trustees. Some members started to collect signatures to dissolve and eliminate the board of trustees. The Political Parties Affairs Committee [editor’s note: the committee is a judicial authority of the state] did not confirm any changes made by the executive management. Therefore, any action based on the voting was illegal.

What did the party do in this regard?

The board of trustees filed complaints to the Political Parties Affairs Committee, and it called for a meeting of the Supreme Council of the party to be held. It was decided in the meeting to hold internal elections on 5 May after the end of the current chairperson’s term in accordance with the party’s regulations. The Supreme Council chose the head of the election commission and the committee that assists him.

What about the recent elections held in the party’s headquarters in Zamalek?

This election was illegal because it was held while the current president’s term had not yet ended. More things will be disclosed when the executive management submits the final results of the election.

How do you view the participation of some members of the General Assembly in the election?

Unfortunately, about 600 members participated in this election. It is sad because the party once had more than 170,000 membership applications. Additionally, some of the voters were not even entitled to vote.

Does it mean that the coming elections in May will witness a high turnout?

Yes, of course.

How did the executive authorities [of the state] deal with this crisis?

The chairperson of the Political Parties Affairs Committee asserted that the committee is not involved in the party’s dispute. He called on the disputing parties to solve their problems gracefully or through a legal dispute. It was clear that the regulations from 2015 are the only regulations adopted by the committee. We took all the necessary legal procedures and wait for the judiciary ruling.

However, the legal procedures in Egypt have many loopholes which can extend any case for many years.

We have no alternative except the restoration of our party through legal measures because we will neither surrender nor allow the Free Egyptians Party to turn into a corrupted entity that harms political life in Egypt.

If you achieve your purpose and recover the party, will you lose the parliamentary bloc?

It is important to keep the real members and those who believe in the party and its concepts. However, the parliamentary bloc, with all due respect to its members, is not more important than the party returning to its natural path.

Does this mean you are fighting this one battle, which is restoring the party?

My battle is known and well defined. I will not get tangled up in skirmishes on the sidelines. My goal is to restore the party and then look into the rest of the issues successively.

What is the role of political leadership in all of this?

We do not communicate with anyone, and we do not know how the regime thinks, but we are definitely sure that the political system will not be improved without a partisan system. I believe that attention for partisan work is up to party members. The executive political management is not concerned with the issue. If it intervened, this will not be in our best interest, because I am the one who is supposed to defend my rights and interests. I am not part of the socialist union system or of a rigged democratic system.

What about the role of Sawiris in this crisis?

He is a member of the board of trustees and he chose this situation voluntarily from the beginning. If he wanted to be head of the party for life, he would have had the opportunity, but he believes that the party is a way to express the attitude of all Egyptians regarding freedoms and citizenship. It is not a way to impose authority or leadership, because the issue is a lot simpler than this. After the fascist coup [in the party], the board of trustees decided to reopen the headquarters again; and, despite that, there are still a few administrative matters under the control of the executive management. However, all matters will be resolved soon.

Why did you allow issues to worsen until it came to this clash?

The board of trustees has offered observations and remarks. Procrastination and false promises were the dominant traits of every discussion. The problem is that the chairperson of the party, who is responsible for the executive authority, does not believe in the party’s principles, including freedom, citizenship, democracy, and human rights. I believe this is the largest lesson to learn from this crisis.

Are there parliament members representing the party who take the side of the board of trustees?

Yes, a number of MPs are supporting the demands of the party’s board of trustees to restore the party, but there are others in electoral districts and committees within the council who view the issue differently. The case is we have 20 MPs who believe in the principles of the party, which is better than having 500 MPs who do not believe in these principles.

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Discovery Education deploys technology in the Egyptian Knowledge Bank http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/discovery-education-deploys-technology-egyptian-knowledge-bank/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/discovery-education-deploys-technology-egyptian-knowledge-bank/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:00:17 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623201 Company provides WebEdTV as online educational TV for students, parents, and teachers

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As the leading provider of primary, preparatory, and secondary content for the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, Discovery Education has been working closely with the Ministry of Education on products and services being provided as part of the Egyptian Knowledge Bank project. The company, which specialises in providing technological education solutions, will introduce the online digital content such as WebEdTV, an online educational TV for students, parents, and teachers, and Curriculum Connect, which connects the Egyptian curriculum to engaging digital content.

Vice president of the International Discovery Education, Robin Headlee, told Daily News Egypt in an interview that the company also recently launched Discovery Education Network (DEN) Arabia, which is an online platform that connects education communities with their most valuable resources: each other.

How do you see investment opportunities in the application of technology in education?

I think there is a great opportunity to deploy technology in education in Egypt, as evidenced by the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB), and in which Discovery Education is the leading provider for primary, preparatory, and secondary students.

Discovery Education works in 53 countries across all continents and is currently serving over 50 million students and 4.5 million educators worldwide. Our extensive experience globally means that we can learn from our experiences in other countries and apply the relevant best practices in Egypt that are found in other countries.

In the countries in which we operate, Discovery Education has conducted numerous studies over the years and has strong evidence to support the idea that when educators use Discovery Education content on technology platforms, there were signs of greater student engagement and increased student performance on end-of-course exams, compared to when educators incorporate traditional instructional approaches.

We have also found that using our content is particularly effective in improving student achievement when it is used by teachers that have a pedagogical foundation.

We at Discovery Education help build this pedagogical foundation through our online tools and resources as well as through our professional development programmes.

Furthermore, we encourage the dissemination of best practices by helping teachers spread their learning from our professional development programmes to other teachers that have not had the benefit of our in-person training through the Discovery Education Network (DEN). The DEN connects education communities to each other and acts as a technology platform to enable the dissemination of best practices worldwide.

Because Discovery Education continues to witness the results of applying technology to education, it is our belief that the deployment of technology in education is a great enabler for the advancement of education.

What is your vision for the development of education?

Discovery Education builds on the success that the company has achieved in other countries and adapts those strategies to specifically address the Egyptian market. This includes providing engaging content both in and outside the classroom; delivering powerful teacher training through our professional development programme, STEM Now; engaging with teacher and parent communities via DEN Arabia; and interacting with students and the wider community via events such as STEM clubs, STEM camps, parent trainings and charitable events, such as the Family Day we held in February at 57357 Hospital for Children’s Cancer.

Although it is still early, the results we have seen so far are very encouraging. We have found that teachers, parents, and students are all receiving great benefits from our programme.

For teachers in our professional development programme, teaching practices are moving away from pure memorisation to techniques that require the students to understand the content.

Students are much more engaged in the classroom and are exhibiting critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills.

Parents are feeling more empowered over their children’s education. They find Curriculum Connect particularly useful because they can now find and use tools and content directly mapped to the lessons their children are learning in the classroom. Parents now have the resources to seamlessly extended learning from the classroom into the home through the use of videos, images, text articles, audio recordings, and interactive material, such as virtual labs.

As a result, Discovery Education’s vision is to embrace and build upon the early successes achieved thus far in Egypt through engaging content, teacher training, teacher and parent community collaboration, and both online and offline community events.

Egypt plans to automate all of the services, including education. Do you have a vision regarding this part? Is there cooperation with government agencies in this regard?

As the leading provider of primary, preparatory, and secondary content for the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, we have been working closely with the Ministry of Education on products and services being provided as part of the EKB.

The online digital content we provide in Egypt includes WebEdTV, online educational TV for students, parents, and teachers, and Curriculum Connect, which connects the Egyptian curriculum to engaging digital content. We also recently launched DEN Arabia, an online platform that connects education communities with their most valuable resources: each other. These resources can be found at discoveryeducation.ekb.eg.

We are receiving fantastic feedback on the impact of our efforts thus far and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the government to achieve superior results in education through the various initiatives.

Is there any cooperation with private entities for the use of your advanced solutions?

We work in 53 countries across all continents. We work extensively with governments and private entities worldwide. In Egypt, we are working predominately with the government, whereas in some other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Qatar, we work more extensively with private schools. We believe that the fact that the Egyptian government has launched some initiatives that have been reserved for private schools in other countries in the region is a real testament to the government’s commitment to education in Egypt.

In your opinion, what are the mechanisms for educational content development?

We believe in providing engaging content that inspires students to think critically, be creative, enquire, and be motivated to learn. In developing the content for Egypt, we drew on the vast collection of educational content in Discovery Education’s library, screened it for cultural relevance, and dubbed it into Arabic. Not only are we the first of the western providers of Arabic-dubbed content, we have also now partnered with three Egyptian production companies to produce video content in Cairo, with Arabic as the first language and then dubbed into English. We look forward to showcasing the collection in the next couple of months.

What are the main products and solutions you are providing during the current period?

We work on a range of different programmes in Egypt focused on improving students’ educational experience both inside and outside the classroom.

The first programme is WebEdTV, an online educational TV at its best, broadcasted five days a week for three hours a day. It offers teachers, parents, and students a compilation of the most engaging and informative programmes from Discovery Education’s world-class video collection. Programmes are carefully created, topic-aligned to five STEM-focused areas, and include customised intro videos, instructional strategies, and learning guides.

The second programme is Curriculum Connect, which connects the national curriculum to engaging digital content. Hand-selected videos, images, text articles, interactive components, and audio files are reviewed and aligned to all science and math units and lessons for all grade ranges in primary, preparatory, and secondary education.

Professional development is the third programme, where we provide extensive training on STEM’s best practices with the use of digital resources for principals and teachers over a two-year period, recognising schools as STEM Excellence Centres at the end of the programme.

The fourth programme, which we launched only a few weeks ago, is DEN Arabia, which connects education communities. Regardless of their role in education, participants receive a supportive learning environment to help them improve their practice, provide valuable networking opportunities, foster the sharing of great ideas, and focus on the joy of teaching and learning.

I am going to broadly classify the fifth programme as educational events. These include STEM clubs, which are afterschool events launched earlier this year that engage students to explore STEM topics through hands-on activities and experiments. They also include STEM camps, which are day-long student gatherings, which we will be launching this summer. Other events include charitable causes, such as the Family Day at 57357 Hospital for Children’s Cancer that we held in February, and ongoing training sessions for Egyptian parents on how to best use the resources at home with their children. These are just a few examples of the many events we are currently holding and/or plan to host in the future.

What are the features of your strategic plans for the current year?

Our plan for the current year is to be able to increase awareness and usage of all five features of our programmes: WebEdTV, Curriculum Connect, Professional Development, DEN Arabia, and the various events.

A big area of focus will be on reaching as many of the more than 20 million students and the more than 1.2 million teachers across the 50,000+ schools in Egypt as soon as possible. We see two new major routes to achieve this in the short term.

The first is DEN Arabia. When we say “education communities”, we actually mean the whole of society. We believe that everyone in society, including teachers, parents, and students, can have a positive impact on the shape of education in Egypt. Thus, we launched “DEN Arabia for Educators” in February as a platform for teachers to share best practices. Just a week ago, we held our first training session for parents and out of that came “DEN Arabia for Parents”, which is a platform for parents to access resources and ideas for extending learning from the classroom to the home.

The second route to reaching the masses in the short-term is through TV. We are working on a couple of very exciting TV formats that we hope to share more about later this year. The goal is to make Discovery Education content accessible by everyone.

How can your technological solutions be implemented in public schools?

When developing our solutions for the Egyptian market, we took into account that the technological infrastructure in Egypt varies greatly across the country. As such, we continue to work on providing the greatest access possible to the more than 20 million students and more than 1.2 million teachers across Egypt. One such initiative is Curriculum Connect, which can be accessed via QR codes scanned by a smartphone. Another initiative, which we hope to be available in May, is to enable the downloading and use of content offline. And, as previously mentioned, we are working on some educational TV programmes that we hope to have later this year.

However, it is equally important to recognise that many of our instructional strategies and hands-on activities do not require any use of technology and are effective in building critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills in students.

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Pharmaceutical cooperation among Arab countries nowhere to be found: Hassouna http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/pharmaceutical-cooperation-among-arab-countries-nowhere-found-hassouna/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/26/pharmaceutical-cooperation-among-arab-countries-nowhere-found-hassouna/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 06:00:40 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=623145 “There must be a strong system that starts from production and leads all the way to the consumer”

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Arab pharmacists face many challenges in the current times, the most important of which is the need for modern legislation regulating their work so that they can keep abreast of the ongoing changes in the pharmaceutical market, especially as those are successive and rapid.

Ahmed Rabie Hassouna, former chairperson of the Arab Pharmacists Union, said that there are about 350,000 pharmacists in the Arab countries, including about 220,000 in Egypt alone.

How do you view the challenges for the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab world?

The biggest challenge faced by Arab pharmacists was Egypt leaving the union for 15 consecutive years. We succeeded in convincing the Egyptian Pharmacists Syndicate to return again, and Egypt is now leading the union.

Egypt’s return to the union will be a strong point for the development of the institutional work within the union in the coming period, as it has the qualified personnel for this task.

Why did Egypt suspend its membership in the union for 15 years?

I do not want to go into the reasons that led the various parties to take that decision, but the union is happy with the return of Egypt.

What was the volume of pharmaceutical trade between the Arab countries during the past year, and how do you expect the figure to increase in the coming period?

Unfortunately, the union does not have any figures for the pharmaceutical trade. I know that this is unacceptable. This is shortcoming from our side.

I say that the union needs more work from all its members during the current period. During the past session, we worked to reunite the Arab pharmacists in the union, which was why Egypt returned.

But the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab countries is based on individual efforts. We need to have well thought out plans and clear strategies so that the gap in the imports of pharmaceuticals in Arab countries can be bridged.

A strategy for the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab countries will deepen the industry, which would attract a large amount of capital, especially as there are more than 350 million people living in Arab countries. There is a big, promising market.

The deepening of the industry in Arab countries will provide centres of research for the development of human cadres working in the sector, which will enable us to deal with the giant pharmaceutical companies as competitors.

What does the Arab pharmaceutical market require?

The Arab pharmaceutical market requires successive legislation. We need a revolution. A pharmacist is the first line of defence in the society in the resistance to diseases.

We also need training centres and we have to modernise the curricula of the faculties of pharmacy in Arab universities.

The current situation cannot go on longer. Currently, pharmacists are only sellers of medicine. There must be a strong system that starts from production through to the consumer, in which a pharmacist can play a bigger role.

If we create this system, I can tell you that the problem of fake and expired medicines will end.

The reality is that everyone working in pharmacies are not pharmacists. This is also a big problem. We must have a role in directing the patients towards medicine through special records, according to their illnesses.

I do not want to talk as if the pharmacists are struggling to get their pay. These are obvious things. Workers in the pharmaceutical industry must all access their rights, regardless of the prices of pharmaceutical supplies that are moving up and down as the price of raw materials are in US dollars.

How do you see the integration of Arab countries in the pharmaceutical industry currently?

The integration of pharmaceutical companies among Arab countries is almost nowhere to be found. I believe that if there is integration, all countries will achieve significant economic benefits, as financial resources may allow for investment in production, the establishment of factories, or increasing the scientific capacity in some other countries.

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ARDIC negotiates with SCZone to develop 2,000 acres http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/24/ardic-negotiates-sczone-develop-2000-acres/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/24/ardic-negotiates-sczone-develop-2000-acres/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 06:00:44 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622916 EGP 1.7bn is the volume of contracts of ARDIC’s projects, says managing director

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Daily News Egypt interviewed Ashraf Dowidar, the managing director of ARDIC for Real Estate Development, to talk about the company’s projects and expansion plans.

What is the target of Qeema Company that was established by ARDIC?

Qeema is a facility management company that started its work in April with managing two ARDIC projects: Zizinia Gardens in New Cairo and Zizinia Flowers in El Shorouk. Besides, Qeema will manage the mall we are establishing in Haram Street.

Furthermore, we started communicating with some companies and developers about managing their compounds and administrative offices.

We think that the company is important, as we see that the real estate wealth is either wasted or collapsing as residents or tenants (many of whom have no experience in the sector) have become their own facility managers to their units. With time, problems surface.

The developers see that there is a problem because there are no competencies in this field, and we have agreed with the American University in Cairo to develop a diploma in facility management.

We held a press conference and gathered real estate developers and tenants unions, and the attendance was great, which was proof that there is a need for facility management. We conducted a course for 30 people. In less than two months, about 24 individuals have received an experience certificate from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

We selected 10 of the members for a course that will train them to teach the diploma, which will be held by the American University in Cairo on behalf of ARDIC.

Thus, we have contracted with a facility management company in Lebanon that is specialised in green area cultivation, security, cleanness and maintenance, pest control, carwash, and Activation organization.

By the end of the year, we are also targeting the management of two commercial buildings and another mall.

What is the number of phases of Zizinia El Mostakbal and the size of its investments?

The project consists of three residential phases and a fourth commercial one with a total investment value of EGP 2.5bn. We started implementing the first phase in El Mostakbal City, close to the New Administrative Capital, and it is supposed to be delivered by mid-2020. The first phase will end in 2018, the second in 2019, and the third in 2020.

The contract for the first phase was worth EGP 1bn, and EGP 400m have already been paid.

What is the total value of the company’s contracts ?

About EGP 1.7bn is the volume of contracts of ARDIC’s projects.

What is the company’s expansion plan?

We are negotiating with the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) for 300 acres in New Minya to carry out a project with a full range of projects, which includes residential, commercial, and administrative buildings, as well as a hospital, hotel, and school.

As for housing units, they will be divided into apartments and villas with a special nature to suit the Upper Egyptian citizen.

Will the company carry out a small-scale residential project in Minya?

Small units in a distant place, such as New Minya or New Assiut, do not fit well with the mentality and culture of the Upper Egypt citizen, because those spaces are available in the city, and they do not have to live far away to get an apartment of that size. Besides, rich people will neither prefer small or large units; therefore, the design of our project’s units will be different.

When are you expecting to implement the project?

NUCA is supposed to offer the plot of land in a tender. There was a problem with the height of buildings, so NUCA got a verbal approval from the army on the allowed height of buildings in that area. A written approval is pending. The land will then be offered in the tender at the price that will be determined by NUCA. The initial value of the project is estimated at EGP 7bn.

Are there other places where the company is negotiating for lands?

Yes, we are seeking a plot of land in the Suez Canal axis of about 2,000 acres, and we are currently negotiating with the Suez Canal Economic Authority. We seek to establish an industrial project, where it will include both a residential and commercial industrial complex, as well as a school. Some questions and points will be agreed upon, because obtaining lands in the axis is conducted through an usufruct system and therefore an agreement must be reached with the authority regarding the residential part of the project.

Does the company worry about increasing the investment tax in the economic zone estimated at 22%?

We don’t worry as much as we do about the whole investment opportunity, such as the value of the land and the new usufruct system and its application under the construction of a residential project. We expect them to reach an agreement before the end of the current year.

Are there loans or agreements with banks to finance the company’s projects?

For the implementation of El Mostakbal project, an investment of EGP 2.5bn will be put to place—we contracted with the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) for a loan of only EGP 220m to finance the project, which proves that the financial situation of the company is good.

What is your opinion on the proposed real estate developer law?

We have attended the first dialogue on a draft law to organise the real estate development sector in the parliament’s Housing Committee, but there is a long debate between developers, members of the parliament, and the Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities. One of the points of dispute is regarding determining the developers through determining the size of lands to be developed. Thus, the parliament specified 250 sqm, but a small area like this will allow a lot of people to be part of the law and named as developers, and the operation will be very wide, which maybe needs to be reconsidered and modified to reach a more effective regulation.

It is important to develop a federation of real estate developers like the Egyptian Federation Construction and Building Contractors in order to open a link between developers and the Ministry of Housing to organize the work of the real estate developers.

We will send the proposals to the parliament, the ministry will comment on these proposals and suggestions, and the discussions will be conducted by the parliament.

After the success of the Cityscape Exhibition held in March, what is the expected percent of the sales?

We sold 40% of the project. We plan to reach 60% of the project by the end of this year.

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Russian tourists will not return to Sharm El-Sheikh before 2018: Hisham Ali http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/20/russian-tourists-will-not-return-sharm-el-sheikh-2018-hisham-ali/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/20/russian-tourists-will-not-return-sharm-el-sheikh-2018-hisham-ali/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 10:51:21 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622600 The Egyptian government has taken great measures to review security procedures at Egyptian airports, but political matters meddled with the resumption of flights

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The head of the Tourism Investors Association in South Sinai, Hisham Ali, does not see a glimmer of hope that indicates the return of Russian and English tourists to Sharm El-Sheikh before mid-2018.

He said that the Egyptian government has exerted great efforts to review the security at various Egyptian airports in order to resume Russian flights to Egypt, yet Russian authorities still put more roadblocks in the way.

He noted that there are political matters that meddled in the resumption of flights.

Do you see a glimmer of hope in the resumption of Russian flights during the current period?

Russian tourism represented more than a third of the incoming tourism to Egypt until 2015, when Russian flights to Egypt were suspended as a result of the Metro Jet airliner crash at the end of October 2015.

The Egyptian government has taken great measures, whether through the security authorities or the ministries of tourism and foreign affairs, to review the security procedures at the various Egyptian airports, but political matters meddled with the situation.

Tourism has no longer become limited to tourism, but is rather full of political issues. This has recently become clear. Many Russian officials that visited Cairo talked about resuming flights soon.

Yet, the situation looks far from being solved. I do not expect Russian tourism to return to Egypt before the middle of 2018.

Does this mean that the seven lean years on the sector will extend to the mid of next year?

Yes, the sector has suffered a decline since the beginning of 2011 until now. The situation hit rock bottom in 2016, before it turned a corner in the first quarter of the current year.

What is the average occupancy in Sharm El-Sheikh at the moment?

As of last Tuesday, the occupations ranged from 50% to 60%, which would drop by half after Egyptian families return to their work when the holidays end.

Recently, there has been an influx of German, Ukrainian, and Eastern European tourists specifically to visit resorts in Sharm el-Sheikh.

I say with confidence that the region is safe. The authorities, with all agencies, are cooperating in the fight against terrorism. Egypt is also not the only country in the world suffering from terrorism; all countries now see bombings every now and then.

Have you noticed any decline in bookings following the bombings in Tanta and Alexandria?

There has not been a drop in incoming bookings for Sharm El-Sheikh resorts. As I mentioned, there has even been an improvement in the influx of tourists from central and Eastern European countries.

Over the past few days, Ukrainians have exported tourists to the region, followed by Germans, Italians, Lebanese, and various Arab nationalities.

Is there a difference in the average prices in Sharm El-Sheikh resorts during the current period?

Of course, there has been a big change since the government’s decision to float the pound. This made Egypt an excellent destination for foreigners. As for Egyptians, it is different because there is a rise in prices compared to the pre-flotation period.

It was a wise decision by the government to float the pound. Tourism is an export commodity eventually consumed by foreigners living on Egyptian soil.

International tourism experts believe that Egypt may cut off a good part of European tourism to Spain and Greece as a result of raising prices and because of the tensions between the EU and Turkey. How do you see that?

These expectations are based on the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt again. I see this differently; those who cannot afford prices in Spain or Greece will visit other destinations, but not Egypt.

This comes despite the average price of a room in Sharm El-Sheikh ranging between $50 and $60, which is very suitable for all segments of tourists.

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Flotation will allow Egypt to be competitive tourist destination once again: Samih Sawiris http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/20/622545/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/20/622545/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 07:00:48 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622545 Tourism promotion campaigns will make a difference if done with the participation of sector’s experts

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In the wake of the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s economy has been suffering as a result of the political instability, in addition to the regional security concerns, which especially took a toll on the tourism sector that is a cornerstone of the Egyptian economy and a critical source of hard currency.

Prior to the 2011 revolution and the 2013 unrest, more than 14 million tourists visited Egypt annually, which dramatically dropped to 9.3 million in 2015. After the cessation of flights between Russia and Egypt following the Russian Metrojet crash in Sinai in October 2015, tourist arrivals dropped by an additional 40%. Around 3 million Russian tourists previously visited Egypt annually, which dropped by 75% following the cessation of flights.

In an effort to help revive tourism, El Gouna is again hosting El Gouna International Squash Open for men this year, in addition to hosting the Orascom Development PSA Women’s World Championship. The organisers hope that the tournament is a successful step among the continuous efforts to restore the tourism industry to its previous glory, which at its peak in 2010 was one of the main sources of foreign currency and revenues for the Egyptian economy, providing annual revenues of nearly $12.5bn and accounting for more than 11% of the GDP and 14.4% of foreign currency reserves, while employing more than 12% of Egypt’s workforce.

To learn more about how the private sector currently views the Egyptian economy and the tourism sector, Daily News Egypt sat down with the founder and the chairperson of Orascom Development, Samih Sawiris, to talk about potential Orascom Development projects in Egypt and abroad, and how Egypt can revive tourism.

Do you believe that tourism is going to increase in the short term?

I believe that with the rise of terrorism everywhere in the world, especially in Europe with the recent attack in Sweden—proof that it isn’t only an Egyptian problem—will change the way prospective visitors view the country, as well as foreign governments who used to impose travel bans whenever a terrorism-related incident took place. This phenomenon might have a positive effect on the inflows of tourists to Egypt in the near term, if coupled with efficient campaigns to promote tourism.

How do you view the government’s efforts to promote tourism?

I believe that the budget allocated for promoting tourism should be spent more efficiently. The government should benefit from the expertise of people who have already been working in the sector for 20 years or even 30 years. The government should consult with them before the promotional campaigns start, as the authorities lack the experience and the presence in the foreign market needed to launch an effective campaign. There is a huge amount of money being spent for this purpose, and if used wisely, it could really make a difference.

Can you tell us about Orascom Development projects? Are there any new ones in the pipeline?

We are working on the completion of current projects, but we don’t have any plans for new projects in the near term. As a company, we are committed to finish and complete all the phases of our existing projects in general—especially the four projects that we have in Oman, such “Al Sodah” island,  “Hawana Salalah”, and “City Walk Muscat”,  as we have a very good level of understanding and trust with the authorities over there.

From your point of view, was the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decision to free float the currency successful?

I believe that it was a very difficult decision to take, but in the end, it was the right thing to do, as it will allow us to increase our products and services that are being exported abroad, such as tourism, which is an exported service. Before the flotation, the tourism sector wasn’t able to offer the best prices in order to compete with other countries like Turkey, as we have a higher initial cost than them; however, following the CBE’s decision to free float the Egyptian pound, our costs were reduced, as we pay them in Egyptian pounds while we get paid in US dollars, allowing us to get back in the competition and increase our occupancy rates. Gradually, we can increase the prices a little bit and further increase our revenues.

Does the government need to provide further incentives to the tourism sector?

I believe the authorities have already done everything needed and more. The only thing that sometimes has a negative impact on the sector is that some government bodies try to increase their revenues through the tourism sector, without consulting the parties interested or even the tourism minister. One such example was the decision that every tourist should apply for a visa individually in the Egyptian embassy in his country, which was cancelled after two months, but after already causing harm to the Egyptian tourism sector for a whole season. Another example is the decision to increase the price of the entry visa to Egypt, which was cancelled as well [Editor’s note: the decision was so far only postponed, not cancelled]; such a decision hurt the sector and the economy at a very critical time for the country.

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Bassem Darwish on the “one of a kind” music experience in Egypt with Souad Massi http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/622428/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/622428/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:30:26 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622428 Music is not just about stage performance, it is an entire drama with a message, says Bassem Darwish

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On Thursday night, on the hills overlooking the pyramids of Egypt, Souad Massi and the Cairo Steps band will come together for a performance that will combine folk music with a touch of classical music and jazz. The upcoming experience, described by the project creators as “one of a kind”, combines a variety of artists coming from different countries and with different musical backgrounds.

On this occasion, Daily News Egypt met with iconic Algerian singer, musician, and songwriter Souad Massi and Cairo Steps’ Egyptian-German band leader and oud (lute) player, Bassem Darwish. Two days before the concert, it was a chance to grab a better perspective of the new project, the circumstances both international artists work under, and to discover more about their future plans.

Massi is excited about having a new genre added to her popular songs in the project titled “The Best of Souad Massi.” The Algerian singer will be performing some of her masterpieces, including “Gheir Enta”, “Rawy”, “Khalouni”, and other songs that have built memories for a whole generation.

Darwish is enjoying the Egyptian-Algerian-German combination and the first collaboration with accordion player Wael El-Sayed, amid plans to launch the project from Egypt to the world. Deeply attached to Egypt, Darwish will focus on having an Egyptian theme reflected well in this new project.

How did this project come to live and why did you choose Souad Massi and her music?  

Souad Massi is popular, and her work made me feel that we can produce something with an Egyptian flavour, combining classic and jazz music with her old songs.

The project had started a year ago and was initially called “Nostalgia”. It was supposed to be launched at the Cairo Opera House, at the main theatre. However, Massi had a few health problems, which was why it was postponed until February 2018. In between, we got an opportunity to do it sooner, but privately, not through the Egyptian government.

What is your story behind Cairo Steps?

I studied Egyptology and ethnology, and, as a student, I was already involved in music. I travelled to Germany in 1988 and became closer to jazz music. I had a particular interest in Nubian and Sudanese music and started working on that. I always found roots of our songs in their songs—something which I didn’t know about before, so I came to Egypt to explore more.

I remember that Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir assigned me to trace back the origins of a song called “So ya So”—before it became a hit. I went to Upper Egypt and found it.

Then, I met well-known German pianist Matthias Frey and we composed together. We reached sounds that were plausible to both his German and my Egyptian ears, so we concluded that we were on the right track.

We worked on soundtracks and succeeded in cinema. Step by step, we grew bigger. Today, we are a total of 15 members consisting of Egyptians and Germans. The band has a complete team, which includes sound and light engineers. I believe performing music is not just about getting on a stage; it is an entire drama.

How does the Souad Massi project differ from previous ones you did, such as “Mouled Al-Milad” and “Arabiscan”?

I did Mouled Al-Milad with the belief that it was about time we started saving what can be saved in this society, because I think that, over the past 20 years, we have lost our values and tolerance towards each other. This isn’t the Egypt I knew. I was encouraged by big names in the field to produce something, where each of us respects the other’s belief, finds common ground, and concentrates on the human and social message.

I found that I succeed when I can bring in an audience, where they all deal with one another as humans regardless of religious differences. Mouled Al-Milad is a long-term project which I agreed to have annually with the Opera House.

“Arabiscan” was born under different circumstances, as I was depressed after the 25 January Revolution and the takeover of the Muslim Brotherhood. I wanted Arabiscan to sound like “Afghanistan”, believing that my country was going down a dark path. Currently, I see little hope.

What about upcoming projects?

Firstly, I am hoping to work more with blind musicians in my next project and to include more of them in my band. The participation of Wael El-Sayed in the Souad Massi project is a first step.

Secondly, I would like to have a project that targets children in Upper Egypt, to whom I can take musical instruments for them to carry instead of one day carrying weapons.

How is your experience dealing with the Egyptian government and the Cairo Opera House, especially since you are responsible for bringing a lot of musicians from abroad?

The Cairo Opera House administration and media people are professionals. I have been dealing with the house for 20 years, so we now know each other, and they have always provided me with whatever I needed. On my part, I also try to have a concert for free when I am scheduled for three.

If you mean routine and bureaucracy, well I know that, and I deal with it by adapting. It would be naïve to try to use a European system in Egypt.

However I find some laws catastrophic to art. One of them would be a sort of a tender system where the state would go for the “cheapest artist.” This is really bad. There are further complicated procedures when it comes to paying insurance and collecting your profits. Moreover, there are expensive fees to be paid to the Musicians Syndicate. All of this drives many famous artists to go to other Arab countries.

Since I know the system, I always keep part of the money from concerts in Germany so that it would be allocated to the budget of my concerts in Egypt.

I hope that we don’t continue to kill opportunities we might have because of these complications. I think it is extremely important to host international artists and have that kind of cultural exchange.

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Souad Massi on her career and her cooperation with Cairo Steps in Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/souad-massi-career-cooperation-cairo-steps-egypt/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/souad-massi-career-cooperation-cairo-steps-egypt/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:30:32 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622415 Freedom is to be able to think differently, says Souad Massi

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On Thursday night, on the hills overlooking the pyramids of Egypt, Souad Massi and the Cairo Steps band will come together for a performance that will combine folk music with a touch of classical music and jazz. The upcoming experience, described by the project creators as “one of a kind”, combines a variety of artists coming from different countries and with different musical backgrounds.

On this occasion, Daily News Egypt met with iconic Algerian singer, musician, and songwriter Souad Massi and Cairo Steps’ Egyptian-German band leader and oud (lute) player, Bassem Darwish. Two days before the concert, it was a chance to grab a better perspective of the new project, the circumstances both international artists work under, and to discover more about their future plans.

Massi is excited about having a new genre added to her popular songs in the project titled “The Best of Souad Massi.” The Algerian singer will be performing some of her masterpieces, including “Gheir Enta”, “Rawy”, “Khalouni”, and other songs that have built memories for a whole generation.

Darwish is enjoying the Egyptian-Algerian-German combination and the first collaboration with accordion player Wael El-Sayed, amid plans to launch the project from Egypt to the world. Deeply attached to Egypt, Darwish will focus on having an Egyptian theme reflected well in this new project.

How did you get to meet Bassem Darwish?

I was introduced to Bassem Darwish through producer Mahmoud Youssef, who brought me to Egypt several times. They had talked about me working with Darwish on a classical genre.

What were the circumstances under which you left Algeria as a young female singer, to participate in the “Festival des Femmes Algériennes” in France?

I was 25 years old when I left Algeria. I didn’t really plan to; it was a coincidence that I was invited by a French-Algerian organisation to participate in the festival. I remember very much the exact date I went to France: 9 January 1999.

The festival was beautiful. The idea was that even though we suffered, we, Algerian female artists, were presenting artwork about our country. There were different types of arts, such as theatre, music, writing, dancing, etc. There were more than 2,000 people at the festival.

The situation in Algeria back then was difficult during the civil war. It was tough for artists, especially women, and concerts were impossible to have. We wanted to send a message of hope amid all the sadness of the war. I believe this is one of our roles as artists.

You have repeatedly spoken about difficulties for you as a woman, ever since you were a child. What are some of those difficulties? 

I remember that it was not possible for me to walk in the street carrying my guitar. I would have been insulted with everything you can imagine. I was lucky that my two brothers were really supportive and helped me a lot. They used to come with me to the Faculty of Arts and carry my guitar for me. It was my only solution at the time.

How do you view the status of Algerian women today?

Much has improved. Women were given opportunities and they are now holding leading positions in various fields. Even if I wouldn’t say we are living in the best conditions, I see progress. People’s mentalities have changed. A female artist used to be regarded as a woman with a bad reputation, but this has developed.

How did you think of and produce your successful album “Al-Motakalemoun” (Masters of the Word) in literary Arabic?

I received some criticism for bad pronunciation. I try to correct myself each time, and I received help from people from all around the world. I appreciated their initiatives, and I like to learn.

I was inspired while working on a project called “Aswat Cordoba” (The Voices of Cordoba), where I worked on Andalusian poetry. The idea of taking the words and turning them into music came to me. I made my selection according to verses I remembered from school, like Al-Mutanabbi, Elia Abu Madi, Ahmed Matar, and others.

Your song “Houria” (Liberty) was extremely inspiring to people. What does freedom mean to you?

I was inspired by the great poet Ahmed Matar. He was brave and was not afraid of the tyranny of Arab regimes, so that people would be able to one day live in freedom. I liked his words. I used to read them and imagine how it was happening: a teacher writing the word freedom on the board but which no student was able to understand. I liked it.

To me, freedom is to be able to think differently. This is something we didn’t grow up with in the Arab world, because we were told it was dangerous and forbidden. Freedom is expression and thought. I read poetry and philosophy, and I was surprised that people like Ibn Khaldoun or Ibn Roshd were free to think centuries ago, while nowadays we create more barriers for ourselves.

Did you predict the Arab Spring in that song, released in 2010?

I don’t really know, but I must have felt something because I was surprised at the degree of awareness of the youth in different countries I visited. But it was unexpected and nearly impossible to imagine that the Arab world would change in the way it did, but not everything that happened was positive. I think we need more awareness and education to be able to demand our rights.

How did the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic hate speech that followed the recent waves of terrorist attacks affect you while you were in France?

I was shocked and saddened. I mean people going to the theatre, in their own country… if someone has a problem with the living style of the country, why did they come? They can simply leave, but why kill innocent people?

On the other hand, the incidents came as my album was being released, and it affected its promotion negatively because I heard things in the media such as “we don’t want to give attention to the Arab or Muslim culture,” so many doors were closed.

You have an increasing fanbase all over Europe. How do you see your popularity in the Arab world, and how was your experience participating in the large production of “Bokra” operetta?

I am happy where I am. I have beautiful fans with beautiful minds. I am honoured to have fans who look like me in their minds. Most of them are students. I just don’t have a particular plan to grow here or there.

The operetta was a distinguished work. Are you kidding? Quincy Jones called me. I was so excited!

The aim of the operetta was to build schools for children. It was a great opportunity to meet with Arab singers I didn’t know.

How was your acting experience in “Eyes of Thieves”, and would you act again?

Before “Eyes of Thieves”, I received nearly ten film offers, but I never could commit because of the tours. This one was directed by my friend Najwa Najjar. She chose me, and I agreed.

Overall, it was a very difficult experience. I stayed one month in Nablus, a city under siege, which means that you become isolated from the world. You hear bullets all night. There are places you cannot go to in the city, and there are soldiers everywhere.

The acting world itself is also tough, even though I learned a bunch of things including shooting techniques, lighting, etc. I would do it again if I personally feel close to the character I am asked to play.

Have you thought about the next album already?

Yes, it will be similar to my first album, “Rawy”. Most songs will be in Algerian, one of which may be in classical Arabic, and I will improve my pronunciation.

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