In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Tue, 22 May 2018 13:08:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Slight changes in Ramadan goods prices compared to last year Tue, 22 May 2018 13:00:55 +0000 Unlike every year, yamesh sections face moderate turnout due to price hikes 

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A few months ahead of the holy month of Ramadan every year, supermarkets and spices shops start to devote large sections to be filled with yamesh, nuts, and other types of dry fruits, as part of Egyptian tradition during the holy month. 

Egyptians are always keen to buy these products as a main custom during every Ramadan, to be used for making special juices and desserts that can only be seen on food tables during Ramadan, but for the past two years, the situation of the products’ prices prompted some to back off of buying them. Price hikes also sometimes lead them to save expenses for more important items.

A few days before the beginning of Ramadan, Egyptian families begin to dedicate a certain budget for buying all food products that will be consumed during the month, at sufficient quantities for the 30 days.

Because during the fasting hours, no food or drink is consumed, for iftar, people prepare a variety of dishes of oriental food every day throughout the month, which requires them to buy large quantities of vegetables, meat, chicken, and other products. In Ramadan particularly, people tend to send out more invitations to family members and friends, so they can all have iftar together.

Throughout 2017, it was common for the majority of Egyptians to complain of how the monthly budget dedicated for the supermarket became insufficient for them to secure all their needs.

For the second constructive year, prices of yamesh and nuts have continued to be unaffordable for many families.

Egypt’s monthly inflation rate rose by 1.5% in April 2018 compared to March 2018, while the annual inflation rate declined from 13.1% to 12.9% during the same period, according to Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Egypt’s annual inflation peaked in July 2017 when it neared 35%, but it gradually declined over the following months until it reached 12.9% in April 2018.

The general consumer price index for Egypt reached 273.9 during the month of April 2018, registering a rise of 1.5% compared to March 2018, the CAPMAS said, adding that the increase was due to the rise in the prices of vegetables by 6.2%, meats by 2.7%, cereals and bread by 1.6%, fish and seafood by 0.8%, coffee and tea by 1.4%, oils by 0.3%, and sugar and sugary foods by 0.5%. The prices of dairy, cheese, and eggs, though, declined by 0.4% in April from the prior month.

Since the Egyptian pound’s flotation in November 2016, retailers have raised the prices of different products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as electricity services, making life more difficult for Egyptians. Products that also faced great price hikes were those imported from foreign countries, which increased due to the rise in the US dollar value against the pound. Prices are expected to face extra increases after the expected further slashing of fuel subsidies this summer. The planned move is a continuation of measures taken to reform Egypt’s economy through a programme backed by the International Monetary Fund, tied to a $12bn loan agreement.

Sales of local Ramadan delicacies have decreased, as unlike every year, the section devoted to these products in shops witnessed moderate turnout.

So far in Ramadan 2018, the markets of yamesh have experienced a recession because of the low demand by citizens to buy, which caused some traders to reduce prices out of fear that their goods would expire and hence their inability to sell them if stored for the next season.

Overview of Ramadan goods prices

In April, the spices division of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce said that the prices of yamesh, dates, and nuts will see an increase of 15-20% this year compared to last year.

Since yamesh and other Ramadan delicacies are not categorised as essential goods, they are therefore subjected to the increasing of their prices.

The chamber also said that other Ramadan goods will see an increase this year, such as raisins, which will cost EGP 85-90 per kilogram compared to EGP 60-65 last year. Pistachios will cost EGP 280-300 per kilogram, and cashew nuts will cost EGP 300 per kilogram. 

Amr Asfour, secretary general of the food division of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said that the prices of raisins and almonds have also risen, while the prices of hazelnuts and apricots have stabilised during the season compared to last season

Asfour said the price of raisins rose from EGP 86 per kilogram last year to EGP 100 this year, and almonds rose to EGP 230 per kilogram instead of EGP 200 last year.

What is the state doing?

Members of the Egyptian Parliament unanimously stressed the importance of the government tightening its control over the markets to adjust prices and prevent monopolistic practices during the month of Ramadan. They raised a number of requests for briefings to Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, demanding that the concerned ministers properly follow-up on the issue.

Member of the Nation’s Future Party parliamentary bloc Badawy El-Nawashy said, in press statements to privately-owned newspaper Al-Shorouk, that monitoring the situation of markets and the adequacy of goods in meeting the needs of citizens is important. He suggested that if necessary, the parliamentarian himself would visit the markets to ensure the readiness of the government and its procedures to monitor the markets.

He also said that there is coordination among lawmakers, government agencies, and regulatory bodies, which are closely related to the markets and commodities, such as the Consumer Protection Agency and supply centres, to prevent the monopolisation of goods and control of markets, and deal with those exploiting citizens with deterrent measures. Otherwise, parliamentarians can use their authority to hold individuals accountable, he said.

Regarding the briefing, parliament member Saeed Hassanein submitted an inquest to Abdel Aal to inquire about the government’s clear steps to ensure the needs of citizens during the month of Ramadan, saying that the procedures relevant to the tight control of markets should be clear and visible to all.

Hassanein said in his request that the availability of basic commodities in Ramadan and their accessibility to citizens, without increasing their prices, is an essential task of the government, and that parliament is required to implement a  supervisory role to ensure the completion of all these steps.

Moreover, member of parliament’s economic committee Abdel Hamid Mohamed stressed on the importance of the successive meeting of the government with members of parliament in the coming period in order to follow the efforts that should be made to control prices and monitor the markets.

Economic experts have previously suggested implementing a recent ministerial decision to oblige retailers and producers to write prices of products on their packages and that they should be commensurate to the prices originally bought at. as The measure is meant to solve the issue of various retailers pricing the same products differently in the same area.

For Ramadan 2018, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Ali Meselhy formulated a plan to provide all products to citizens throughout the holy month through establishing “Ahlan Ramadan” exhibitions in various governorates, so commercial chains and major producers can present their products at reasonable prices.

Regarding the availability of food commodities in other areas, the minister agreed with representatives of food production companies to not increase food prices by more than 15%. He further ordered sales to be at wholesale price and the increases of supply of commodities, meat products, and poultry throughout the holy month at their pre-Ramadan prices, as the Food Industries Holding Company will bear the difference in the cost of meat and poultry to ease the burden on citizens.

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Cost of tying the knot: How much do weddings cost globally? Tue, 22 May 2018 12:00:15 +0000 Average cost of British wedding has risen to £27,000

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We all saw the British royal wedding take place a few days ago. Prince Harry, the younger son of the late Princess Diana, has married Rachel Meghan Markle, a former American actress—now the Duchess of Sussex. Needless to say, the wedding was extravagant and luxurious, fit for the royal family, with heavy security placed around St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the UK. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged their vows in front of 600 guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and more than 30 royals and celebrity faces. The royal wedding cost nearly $42.8m, according to CNBC. The bride’s dress, flowers, and a glass marquee for the reception all cost about $2.7m, or 73 times the cost of the average wedding in the UK.

While the royal wedding is deemed exaggeratedly expensive, it may not, after all, be the only costly wedding across the UK or elsewhere. British weddings are still rather expensive, even though more than half the married Brits say they regret spending so much on their weddings, according to The Independent.

“Nowadays, the average cost of a wedding has risen to £27,000, so it’s not hard to see why so many Brits are grumbling. The data collected by the free wedding planning website Hitched shows how ridiculously expensive nuptials are becoming, with the biggest elements on average being venue hire (£4,354), honeymoon (£3,630), and the food (£3,353),” The Independent said.

In the US, the amount of money spent on weddings is not that different. The average cost of a wedding day in 2016 reached $35,329, an increase of $2,688 compared to the 2015 average of $32,641, according to Fortune Magazine.

Noticeably, the most expensive element in these weddings is also the venue, costing the married couple an average of $16,107.

According to Global News, Canadians say that a realistic price of a wedding in Canada would be $8,937, which is a number very far from the actual number that Canadians said they spend on their weddings, which is estimated to be $30,717 in a 2015 poll.

While these exaggerated amounts are already deemed excessive, The Independent has reported that the average wedding in the UK will hit an all-time high in 2028, according to new research.

The previously mentioned costs are only likely to increase, according to, which analysed data from the past 80 years, showing that the average cost of a wedding will skyrocket to £32,064 in the next decade, compared to just £18,733 in 2006. This means that there will be a 60% increase in wedding ceremony expenses in a period of just 22 years.

“By 2028, the data predicts a 17% increase in the total cost of getting married to a huge £29,8389. This is almost £3,000 more than the average current UK salary of £27,5005 in 2017,” The Independent reported.

Spending on weddings also took a toll on married couples’ budgets in other regions across the world, as statistics show that the average cost of a wedding in Spain in 2016, including the average cost of the ceremony, dress, jewellery, photographer, and decorations, amounted to approximately €20,000, according to Statista.   

In Australia, statistics show the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was approximately AUD 41,520. On average, Australian weddings now cost AUD 90,126.

In Mexico, as of February 2016, the average wedding cost around MXN 172,000, with the venue also being the largest wedding expense, followed by the honeymoon, which came second as the most expensive element married couples spent money on.

The cost of weddings worldwide is a concern for many young couples who want to get married and celebrate their union, but it only seems to be increasing, making the first 24 hours with your spouse probably the most expensive. While good memories are worth making on such a special occasion to be remembered later in life, are they really worth spending savings on them and exhausting parents’ bank accounts for them?

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Could historic Arab struggle for Palestinian cause still has an impact? Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:46 +0000 League of Arab Nations convened Thursday to discuss Israeli aggressions, condemns US embassy’s move

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In the past years within the Arab world, activists and intellectuals have been sceptical of their leaders’ willingness to take action against the Israeli occupation.

Analysts and op-ed writers often mention that the Palestinian cause is no longer of a priority for Arab countries in face of growing interests with the US, Israel’s strongest ally, and recently, Israel itself.

“Palestine is being lost and the Arabs going out of history. Israel is occupying the Arab will,” Lebanese journalist Talal Salman wrote in April, in a series of articles on the topic published in the Egyptian Al-Shorouk newspaper.

The region is bursting with conflicts, which added to Arabs division. It is overwhelmed with the Syrian civil war, amid political turmoil also in Libya and Yemen. Moreover, the Gulf countries are in dispute with Qatar. The scene is complicated with Saudi Arabia’s quest for influence against feared Iranian expansion.

The Palestinian cause, which has drawn solidarity from Arab neighbours over the past decades, almost no longer exist in that historic sense. Egypt, one of the oldest allies, has maintained diplomatic and economic ties with Israel.

Protests which used to take place in Cairo in solidarity with the Palestinian people during important events have been quite since the Great March of Return demonstrations.

On Thursday, the League of Arab Nations convened for an extra-ordinary session called for by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in light of weeks of increased Israeli aggression and internationally condemned killings of Palestinian protesters demanding their historic right to return to their land, a right recognised by the UN.

Nevertheless, both Israel and the US have been throwing away UN resolutions regarding the conflict. The US, which has repeatedly used its veto to block UN condemnations of its decisions and the practices of Israel, added fuel to the fire by moving its embassy to the disputed Jerusalem City, thus in the eyes of Arabs and the international community, taking a strong bias towards Israel.

The UN resolutions have clearly rejected any practices by Israel, seeking to alter the character and status of Jerusalem. Resolution 478 adopted in 1980 called on member states that have “established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City.” The resolution was voted for by 14 states, except for the US.

Yet, the league did not conclude with firm action to oppose the US embassy move, despite several statements condemning the move and stress upon East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

To understand where the criticism came from one must look at the history of Arab countries’ stances and their development over the course of decades. Previously, united Arab decisions pushed in favour of the Palestinian cause.

The first Arab summit kicked off in 1945 in Egypt, expressing concern over Jewish migration and deciding to boycott their manufactured goods.

1960s: Arab summit gives PLO legitimacy

In 1964, the Arab summit held in Alexandria recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a legal representative of the people and the cause.

The following summit in Morocco adopted the Arab Solidarity Charter, which called for unity in the Palestinian conflict.

Ten years later, the summit would accept the PLO as the only legal representative of Palestine, which would gradually acquire international recognition and in the UN.

1970s: Firm stances towards Egypt-Israel peace agreement

In 1979, after signing peace accords with Israel, Egypt was suspended from the Arab League and its headquarters moved from Cairo, expressing its rejection of the Camp David accords. Egypt would only be readmitted in 1989.

1980s: Arabs threaten to cut oil supplies over any Jerusalem embassy move

In 1980, during the Iraq-Iran war, the 11th Arab Summit was held in in Amman with the aim of joining Arab efforts. A few months earlier, Israel had announced Jerusalem as its capital, including East Jerusalem, which it occupied during the 1967 war, which the UN Security Council opposed through resolution 478.

It remained a quite a divisive summit, attended only by 15 Arab leaders.

“The absence of the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front—Syria, Algeria, Libya, South Yemen, and the PLO, joined this time by Lebanon—made any real discussion of the planned united Arab political strategy for confronting Israel all but meaningless,” The Washington Post reported at the time.

The gap between Egypt and Arab allies has been widening as former President Anwar Sadat signed Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978.

Nevertheless, the summit adopted a decision to boycott any state that would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Iraq threatened to cut oil supplies and freeze all economic agreements. Thirteen countries moved their embassies to Tel Aviv instead.

Could there still be an Arab action with an impact?

In the aftermath of Trump’s announcement, Hazem Hussanein, researcher at Cairo-based El-Badil Centre for Planning and Strategic Studies, tried to answer that question by analysing the tools that Arabs possess.

Economically, Hussanein supports boycotting or threats to do so, such as withdrawing investments from the US, banning them from using navigation paths such as the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, reducing oil production to drive up international prices and cutting financial ties with Israel. Most importantly, he calls for an economic backup of Palestine.

On the political level, Hussanein stresses on the importance of united positions among Arab countries. He points out to the reduction of diplomatic representation in the US and lobbying for an international coalition to face Trump, announcing the non-recognition of the state of Israel and banning its diplomats.

Arabs must also consider reducing the US military presence in their territories, establish a media rhetoric hostile to the US and Israel, the researcher added.

The League of Arab Nations has constantly reminded the world of the Palestinian conflict, demanded respect for the international law and UN resolutions. Despite a united position against the US President Trump’s decision to move the embassy, there has been insignificantArab impact on reversing it or on preventing Israeli abuse.

At the same time, each country is adopting a different strategy to the cause, with Egypt currently leading the reconciliation between Palestinian factions. The PA has considered the US no longer a party in the negotiations, but the question remains if whether it would receive Arab support.

In his statement before the Arab League, Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Soukry said there were three urgent tasks to complete, including joining international efforts to stop Israel’s use of violence against peaceful protesters and launch investigations into previous assaults.

Secondly, to reiterate the non-recognition of the US embassy move to Jerusalem and maintain East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

However, the third action according to Shoukry is to revive peace negotiations.

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Once an ally, Iran becomes top target of Saudi-Israeli bloc Sun, 13 May 2018 11:00:39 +0000 European countries attempt to save Iran nuclear deal after US pulls out

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On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump declared he is pulling his country out of the nuclear deal with Iran in a move that was anticipated for several weeks.

Under the deal brokered in July 2015, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and allow observers to monitor its commitment—which it largely did—in exchange for lifting sanctions. The parties of the agreement included the US, the UK, Russia, France, Germany, China, and the European Union.

One leader was not celebrating the breakthrough. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a “historic mistake.”

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump declared he is pulling his country out of the nuclear deal with Iran in a move that was anticipated for several weeks.

Trump called it a “horrible, one-sided deal.” The UK, Germany, and France rejected the US withdrawal and said they would remain committed. For his part, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, requested guarantees from the European countries that trade relations be preserved, or else threatened to end his country’s commitment and restart its enrichment programme.

For an Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia, the US position comes amid escalation against Iran on grounds of the Islamic republic’s growing regional interference. Saudi Arabia, which is also leading an alliance of Arab forces fighting the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, has repeatedly accused Iran of being behind ballistic missile attacks on the kingdom.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt announced their boycotting of Qatar, citing terrorism funding and ties with Iran. The Arab League adopted a similar rhetoric that Iran is meddling with regional affairs and destabilising Arab countries, eventually aligning with Trump’s vision that the nuclear deal should be revised as it did not address other problems caused by Iran.

Iran’s presence in Syria has been a particular headache for the Saudis, which disliked the US desire to withdraw from Syria.

Once an ally of Saudi Arabia and a good friend of Israel, Iran has become the mutual threat bringing together the US-Israel force with the Saudi-led coalition. Iran’s relations in the Middle East have been shifting in line with regional changes, with its growing influence manifested through supporters in different countries.

Iranian influence in the Middle East

In 2014, Iranian MP Ali Reza Zakani, who is reportedly close to Supreme Leader Khamenei, made a statement in which he bragged that three Arab capitals were in the hands of Iran and belonged to the Islamic Iranian revolution, noting that the fourth was on its way to joining.

He was referring to Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad, noting, “the revolution of the Houthis in Yemen is an extension of the Khomeini revolution,” referring to the 1979 revolution led by Khamenei’s predecessor and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, according to media reports.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is Iran’s strongest foothold in the region. Founded in 1982 by a group of Shiite clerics, it was inspired by Khomeini, who led the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Iranian monarchy. The party’s quest has been to fight Israel and end its invasion of Lebanon.

Hezbollah has been a strategic arm of Iran and has been involved in the Syrian civil war through the National Defence Forces fighting against rebels and assisted by Iran.

In November, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri announced a controversial resignation, citing objections to Iran and Hezbollah policies in Lebanon and the region. The surprise move is believed to have been forced upon him by Saudi Arabia, which he was visiting the capital of. Al-Hariri revoked his resignation once he returned to Lebanon.

In Iraq, Iran played a significant role in fighting against the Islamic State group through the Popular Mobilisation Forces, also providing assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Iran has been backing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran’s allies Russia, Turkey, and Qatar are also in conflict with the US, as well as European and Arab countries. As it stands, Saudi Arabia and Israel continue to lobby against Iran and gather their allies. Last week, Morocco cut diplomatic ties with Iran, accusing it of assisting the Polisario Front, a group seeking to establish the independence of Western Sahara, a region claimed and partially occupied by Morocco.

In an op-ed published on Saturday, the editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Emad El-Din Hussein, said Arabs ought to sit and negotiate with Iran just as they did with the Israelis. According to him, Iran could take the initiative to cease support for the Houthis and stop interfering in Iraq and Lebanon, while leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE should announce they are willing to visit Iran and lend it Arab support.

On the other hand, Israel has been escalating tensions against Iran, mainly by attacking their targets in Syria, to which Iran’s response has been limited. Just ahead of Trump’s decision, Israeli PM Netanyahu said he had proof that Iran was lying about its nuclear programme. The US has warned Iran against any harm to Israel.

Amid a chaotic scene that is continuously and rapidly changing, Europe is trying to maintain the nuclear deal with Iran as the rest of Arab countries hold their breath in fear of another outbreak of violence that has shaken the region in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Egypt-Iran relations

Marked by ideological and political differences, relations between Egypt and Iran vacillated between hostility and approval for decades, depending on who ruled each country and which regional interests were prioritised during the time period.

Egypt has long accused Iran of supporting its largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. During the 18-day revolution which toppled Mubarak, more public blame was directed at the Iran-backed groups Hamas and Hezbollah over supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and plotting to release Islamists, including the eventual president Mohamed Morsi.

Mubarak considered Iranian influence through Hezbollah and Hamas a growing threat, especially the latter, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, across the Egyptian border.


Egypt-Iran relations timeline

1939 – Princess Fawzia, daughter of Egyptian King Fouad, married Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who would later become the last shah of Iran

1952-1953Gamal Abdel Nasser led a revolution creating Egypt’s republican system, promoted Arab nationalism, and allied with the Soviet Union. Pahlavi’s monarchy was restored in Iran, backed by the UK and US

1960 – Diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran ruptured, amid a political and ideological conflict. Iran perceived pan-Arabism as a threat. The shah enjoyed good relations with Israel, with whom Egypt was at war

1962 – Yemen’s civil war: Egypt sent military forces to Yemen to support revolutionary republicans, supported by the Soviets. On the royalist side stood Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, and the UK

1970 – Egypt and Iran restored diplomatic relations, one month before Nasser’s death in September

1971 – Egypt’s then-president Anwar Al-Sadat met with the shah of Iran. Distance further shrunk due to a mutual desire to cooperate with the Soviet Union

1973 – Iran provided different types of aid to Egypt during its war against Israel

1979 – An Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the shah, and the new Iranian leadership declared hostility towards the West

Al-Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel and granted the overthrown shah asylum in Egypt

1980-1988 – Egypt supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war against Iran, intensifying Egypt-Iran conflicts

1981 – Al-Sadat was assassinated and Iran named a street after the perpetrator, Islamist militant Khaled Al-Islamboli, which Egypt would maintain as a main obstacle to restoring good relations

2008 – Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak met in Cairo with Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel. A year earlier, Ali Larjani, at the time secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, visited Cairo

2011 – Iran appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time in 30 years, nearly two months after Hosni Mubarak was toppled during the 25 January 2011 revolution

2012 – Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi visited Iran to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement

2013 – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian president to visit Egypt since 1979 for a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

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Al-Qaeda restores ideological dominance as IS threat diminishes Mon, 07 May 2018 09:00:13 +0000 As the Islamic State group (IS) suffers a downfall after its defeat in Syria and Iraq, a new challenge is rising: a revived Al-Qaeda, and its affiliates, which has started to regain its previous status as the world’s top terrorist threat. While the world focused on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as it dominated the headlines …

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As the Islamic State group (IS) suffers a downfall after its defeat in Syria and Iraq, a new challenge is rising: a revived Al-Qaeda, and its affiliates, which has started to regain its previous status as the world’s top terrorist threat.

While the world focused on the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as it dominated the headlines and preoccupied national security officials for the past four years, Al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding. The group announced another affiliate dedicated to the “liberation” of Kashmir last summer, coupled with the resurrection of its presence in Afghanistan and the solidification of its influence in Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, according to Bruce Hoffman, visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who studies terrorism and insurgencies.

Hoffman indicates that although Al-Qaeda’s rebuilding and reorganisation predates the 2011 so-called Arab Spring, the security vacuum that followed allowed the movement to revive itself. As the masses longed for democracy and economic reform, Al-Qaeda discerned new and inviting opportunities.

The group faced a series of losses in the ranks of prominent figures in its organisational hierarchy, after the successive killings in 2011 and 2012 of Osama bin Laden; Anwar al-Awlaki, the group’s chief propagandist; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, its second-in-command. The string of deaths lent new weight to the optimists’ predictions that Al-Qaeda was a spent force.

However, it appears that Al-Qaeda was among the regional forces that benefited most from the turmoil that accompanied the Arab Spring. With the emergence of Ayman Al-Zawahiri as a powerful leader, forces loyal to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates now number in the tens of thousands, with a capacity to disrupt local and regional stability, as well as launch attacks against their declared enemies in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Russia.

According to Hoffman, Al-Qaeda has knit together a global movement of more than two dozen franchises, with around 20,000 men under arms in Syria alone, and it has perhaps another 4,000 in Yemen and about 7,000 in Somalia.

Rising from the Arab Spring ashes

In the period from 2012-13, thousands of hardened Al-Qaeda fighters were freed from Egyptian prisons by Islamist then-president Mohamed Morsi. Those fighters acted as the movement’s kiss of life, when instability reigned and a handful of men well-versed in terrorism and subversion could plunge a country or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syria, or Yemen, their arrival was providential in terms of advancing Al-Qaeda’s interests or increasing its influence.

The ousting of Morsi afterwards was used as part of Al-Zawahiri’s propaganda to feed Al-Qaeda’s narrative to disbelieve Western promises about either the fruits of democracy or the sanctity of free and fair elections.

But Syria was the movement’s most prominent playground, as one of Al-Zawahiri’s first official acts after succeeding bin Laden as emir was to order a Syrian veteran of the Iraqi insurgency, named Abu Mohammad al-Julani, to return home and establish the Al-Qaeda franchise that would eventually become the Nusra Front.

At the start of the Syrian civil war, the Nusra Front was the product of a joint initiative with Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, which had rebranded itself as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). However, as Nusra grew in both strength and influence, tensions and disputes started to erupt between ISI and Al-Qaeda over control of the group.

Later on, in a bold power grab, ISI’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, announced the forcible amalgamation of Nusra with ISI in a new organisation to be called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), without Al-Zawahiri’s approval. Consequently, al-Julani refused to accede to the unilateral merger and appealed to Al-Zawahri. The quarrel intensified, and after Al-Zawahri’s attempts to mediate collapsed, he expelled ISIS from the Al-Qaeda network.

Since its emergence, ISIS—which later on rebranded itself as the Islamic State (IS)— become the world’s main attention-getter. While the world focused on IS, Al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding its strength, and fortifying its various branches.

Al-Qaeda’s new strategy was to protect its remaining senior leadership, through scattering them to Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and Yemen, with only a hard-core remnant of top commanders remaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Syria: The cornerstone of Al-Qaeda’s resurrection

The importance that the group attaches to Syria can be seen through the high inflows of top Al-Qaeda leaders sent to the country in the last seven years. Among them was Muhsin al-Fadhli, a bin Laden intimate who, until his death in a 2015 US airstrike, commanded the movement’s elite forward-based operational arm in that country, known as the Khorasan Group. Haydar Kirkan, a Turkish national and long-standing senior operative, was sent by bin Laden himself to Turkey in 2010 to lay the groundwork for the movement’s expansion into the Levant, before the Arab Spring created precisely that opportunity. Kirkan was also responsible for facilitating the movement of other senior Al-Qaeda personnel from Pakistan to Syria to escape the escalating drone strike campaign ordered by former US president Barack Obama. He was killed in 2016 in a US bombing raid.

Moreover, in 2016, Saif al-Adl, who is arguably the movement’s most battle-hardened commander arrived in Syria. Al-Adl is a former Egyptian Army commando whose terrorist pedigree, dating to the late 1970s, includes assassination plots against former Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat, the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and Al-Qaeda’s post-9/11 terrorist campaigns in Saudi Arabia and South Asia.

Later on, Hamza, bin Laden’s youngest son, reportedly appeared in Syria in 2017, adding more evidence to the fact that Syria has become the most popular venue to wage holy war since the seminal Afghan jihad of the 1980s.

According to Hoffman, Al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria is far more pernicious than that of IS. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the latest name adopted by Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, is now the largest rebel group in the country, having extended its control last year over all of Idlib Province along the Syrian-Turkish border.

Throughout the seven years of the Syrian civil war, Nusra and Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated brigades have essentially functioned as a coalition in the fight against the Syrian government, with FSA commanders often referring to fighters from Nusra as members of the FSA itself. In many cases, FSA offensives against Syrian government military bases or check points have begun with suicide or truck bombings carried out by Nusra militants. Nusra and FSA-affiliated brigades have established joint committees to divide weapons captured from the Syrian army in rebel offensives. FSA commanders often sell US and Gulf-supplied weapons to Nusra.

In a lengthy study analysing the Nusra Front’s strategy, Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) concluded that “JN (Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat al-Nusra) serves as a force multiplier for other rebel groups. JN leverages small units of highly skilled fighters to contribute an essential special forces-like capability to rebel military offensives. JN provides highly effective capabilities such as the deployment of suicide bombers to produce asymmetric effects against the regime.”

Filling the ISIS Vacuum

According to Hoffman brief, IS can no longer compete with Al-Qaeda in terms of influence, reach, manpower, or cohesion. In only two domains is IS currently stronger than its rival: the power of its brand and its presumed ability to mount spectacular terrorist strikes in Europe.

However, Hoffman believes that the latter is a product of Al-Zawahri’s strategic decision to prohibit external operations in the West so that Al-Qaeda’s rebuilding can continue without interference. The handful of exceptions to this policy—such as the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the 2017 Saint Petersburg Metro bombing in Russia—provide compelling evidence that Al-Qaeda’s external operations capabilities can easily be reanimated.   

Moreover, Al-Qaeda’s success in resurrecting its global network is the result of three strategic moves made by Al-Zawahri. The first was to strengthen the decentralised franchise approach that has facilitated the movement’s survival. Over the years, the leaders and deputies of Al-Qaeda’s far-flung franchises have been integrated into the movement’s deliberative and consultative processes. Today, Al-Qaeda is truly “glocal,” having effectively incorporated local grievances and concerns into a global narrative that forms the foundation of an all-encompassing grand strategy Hoffman explained in his policy brief.

The second major move was the order issued by Al-Zawahri in 2013 to avoid mass casualty operations, especially those that might kill Muslim civilians. Al-Qaeda has thus been able to present itself through social media, paradoxically, as “moderate extremists,” ostensibly more palatable than IS.

This development reflects Al-Zawahri’s third strategic decision, letting IS absorb all the blows from the coalition arrayed against it while Al-Qaeda unobtrusively rebuilds its military strength.

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Terrorism remains key threat in Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa Wed, 02 May 2018 12:00:45 +0000 Businesses, especially tourism-related, remain vulnerable to terrorism risk

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As in previous years, in 2017, the highest terrorism and political violence risk ratings continued to be clustered in the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies’ report “African Militant Islamist Groups Again on the Rise”, violent and terrorist events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa over the past year increased by 38% to account for 2,933 events compared to 2,117 in 2016.

The recent map and highlights released by the centre states that this is a continuation of the upward trend observed in 2017, after a brief decline in 2016.

However, the report indicates that there is not a single factor that can be pinpointed as the reason behind the surge in activity. Rather, it reflects increases associated with all major militant Islamist groups on the continent, including al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Islamic State group (IS), and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Most of the reported attacks in Africa were conducted by al-Shabab. The group was linked to almost 58% of all reported violent events by militant Islamist groups in Africa (1,749 out of 2,933) in 2017. Al-Shabab was also responsible for the most bloodshed in Africa, as it was linked with the greatest number of reported fatalities (4,834 out of 10,535), amounting to 46% of the total fatalities across the continent.

Moreover, the overall reported fatalities linked to militant Islamist activity in Africa witnessed a 9% increase in 2017, ending the downward trend observed since 2015. Nevertheless, on the bright side, the 10,535 reported fatalities over the previous 12-month period still remain substantially lower than the peak of 18,728 reported fatalities in 2015.

Furthermore, according to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, the reported violent events linked to AQIM and its affiliates have significantly increased—from 79 in 2017 to 212 in 2018. That jump largely reflects the efforts of the coalition Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), which was formed in March 2017, and operates in the Maghreb and West Africa regions.

With regard to IS, the group remains most active in Egypt, with 305 out of the 426 reported events associated with IS in Africa taking place in Egypt over the last year. Similarly, 77% of all reported fatalities linked to IS in Africa were in Egypt during that timeframe (1,340 out of 1,734).

However, according to the “Terrorism & Political Violence Risk Map 2018” report issued by the Risk Advisory Group and Aon in April, the threat posed by IS has stopped increasing—but it has not yet receded.

According to the Risk Advisory and Aon data, IS members and sympathisers mounted terrorist attacks in 29 countries on five continents in 2017, the same number of countries as in 2016 and up from 19 countries in 2015.

However, the report forecast that the global reach of IS seems to have peaked, and following its loss of almost all of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq, it appears likely that the number of countries where it is able to mount attacks, or inspire others to do so, will fall in 2018.

Yet, while their activity has increased, the major militant groups each continue to be geographically concentrated (ie, Somalia, Lake Chad Basin, and central Mali), which highlights the distinct local factors associated with each context as opposed to a single monolithic threat.

Egypt’s fight against militancy

Since 2013, state security forces, represented by both the military and the police, have been engaged in violent clashes with “Sinai Province”, known previously as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis. In 2014, the group declared its affiliation with the Islamic State group (IS) and has repeatedly launched deadly attacks on army and police checkpoints.

Over the course of the last five years, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched counterattacks against militants across the Sinai Peninsula, where the group is based, particularly in the cities of Sheikh Zuweid, Rafah, and Al-Arish.

The armed forces launched three phases of Operation Martyr’s Right, which included mass military strikes, arrests, and creation of a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

In November 2017, Al-Sisi vowed to restore stability by eradicating terrorism, tasking the military and police to do so within a period of three months. This had followed a massive first-of-its-kind terror attack on a mosque in the city of Al-Arish, killing at least 305 citizens.

Hence, the military launched the Sinai 2018 operation, where the military leadership and the Ministry of Interior were assigned the mission of full confrontation of terrorism and other criminal acts.

Terrorism takes its toll on business and tourism

According to the Terrorism & Political Violence Risk Map 2018 report, almost 8% of all terrorist incidents taking place globally in 2017 targeted businesses. Roughly 75% of these targeted oil and gas, mining, transport, construction, and critical infrastructure. The rest were directed at retail, media, finance and tourism businesses.

The tourism industry, in particular, is one of the most vulnerable sectors to security and terrorism threats. Any major attack can have an immediate and significant impact on leisure travel patterns and almost guarantees international publicity.

Moreover, the report indicates that even if the attacks were not directly targeted against the tourism sector, they still can have a substantial indirect impact on tourism revenue, especially in mass-casualty incidents targeting civilians.

Such factors make the sector a highly attractive target for some terrorist organisations. Consequently, the tourism industry takes adequate measures to assess, mitigate, and transfer the risk of losses arising

from attacks.

In 2017, there were at least 44 attacks worldwide that directly targeted public transport

in major cities as well as commercial sectors that are critical components of the tourism industry.

Furthermore, Risk Advisory and Aon Terrorism Tracker data indicates that more than 80% of all terrorism-related fatalities in Western countries in 2017 occurred in locations where tourists are likely to gather—including hotels, airports, public spaces, and entertainment venues.

Such events lead to lower traveller confidence and directly alter consumer behaviour.  The report cites the Barcelona mass casualty vehicle-impact attack at a busy promenade in August 2017, as an example of this effect.

According to Barcelona’s tourism authority, 20% of travellers with imminent plans to visit the city cancelled their trips following the attack. And still, a few months after the attack in Barcelona, the head of MGM Resorts said that cancellations at its Las Vegas properties “surged” in the days after a gunman opened fire on concertgoers in the city in October 2017.

In Egypt’s case, the downing of the Russian Metrojet airliner has had a significant impact on the tourism industry, which is the cornerstone of the Egyptian economy, accounting for almost 11.4% of GDP, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council on Egypt.

Since the onset of the insurgency by the IS-affiliated group Sinai Province in the peninsula, the numbers of tourists visiting Egypt dropped dramatically to 9.3 million in 2015, compared to 14 million in 2010. This dropped again by almost 40% after the downing of the Russian aircraft.

The Risk Advisory and Aon report concludes that the companies in the tourism industry are, and will remain, highly susceptible to revenue fluctuations caused by terrorism. This is ultimately because the purpose of terrorism is to instil fear, and leisure travellers tend to be risk-averse, and are always free to seek alternative destinations or stay at home.

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End of Korean Peninsula tensions could ease Sawiris’ problems Sun, 29 Apr 2018 10:00:04 +0000 The Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom Telecom and Media Technology (OTMT) is the main reason behind the rise of mobile phone usage in hermetically sealed North Korea in recent years. OTMT secured a 75% stake in Koryolink, a joint venture with North Korea’s Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation in 2008. It is estimated that as many …

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The Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom Telecom and Media Technology (OTMT) is the main reason behind the rise of mobile phone usage in hermetically sealed North Korea in recent years.

OTMT secured a 75% stake in Koryolink, a joint venture with North Korea’s Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation in 2008. It is estimated that as many as 3 million North Koreans have signed up for Koryolink cell phone services.

Prior to Koryolink, many North Koreans did not have access to landlines, let alone mobile services, or any modern way to contact each other.

The devices have enabled North Koreans to communicate more easily with people in other parts of the country—a big change in a place where travel is highly restricted. They have been particularly helpful in the nascent market economy, with traders reportedly using information about incoming shipments of rice to set prices at stalls around the country.

“I believe I have extended a good service to the innocent people of North Korea who are deprived of seeing their parents who live miles away or cannot call their children when they come back from school,” Naguib Sawiris, executive chairperson of OTMT, said during an interview with CNBC in December 2017. He added that it is only a simple service that everybody should have and that it has nothing to do with politics.

Orascom is considered the largest foreign investor in North Korea. Other than Koryolink, OTMT also offered to fix up the Ryugyong Hotel. One of Pyongyang ’s landmarks, the famous pyramid-shaped hotel had been looming incomplete for years.

The building’s exterior was completed in 2011 with a $30m injection of funds from Orascom, and in 2012, the company said that it expects the partial completion of the Ryugyong’s 360,000 sqm of floor space, which would include apartments and offices along with hotel facilities, by the end of the year.

Sawiris told CNBC that his investments in North Korea registered at $250m, but that they have nothing to do with politics and that Egyptian businesses have a long history of relations with North Korea.

However, North Korea has reportedly prevented Orascom from repatriating its profits, as authorities refused to convert its earnings at the official exchange rate and wanted the company to use the black market rate, which would have put Orascom’s profits at about $30m compared to $658m, according to a 2016 report by Foreign Policy.

Moreover, OTMT’s troubles did not end there; the company deconsolidated its stake in the joint venture, losing control of the service in the process, despite having a majority stake. In addition to that, North Korean authorities started a competing operator company named Byol.

International sanctions played a major role in the company’s problems, as they limit its ability to impose control over the joint venture, convert earnings, and repatriate dividends.

In December 2017, Sawiris reaffirmed that he obeys all UN resolutions concerning North Korea, making sure that his company does not violate any sanctions on the country.

OTMT’s exemption request that was filed with the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea to avoid violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375, which since 10 January requires all companies to cease joint venture operations in North Korea, has not received any approvals to this day. Yet, the recent developments on the peninsula, and the hopes of denuclearisation could be the end of OTMT’s problems.

Sawiris was met with great respect by the authorities during his visit to the country in 2011, as the official Korean Central News Agency published a photo of Sawiris standing hand-in-hand with then-leader Kim Jong-il.

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Korean conflict: History of violence, failed reunification hoped to be changed by celebrated summit Sun, 29 Apr 2018 09:00:02 +0000 Trump expresses support for Korean peace

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Hopes and scepticism have been sparked by the historical summit gathering the leaders of North and South Korea.

The two signed a declaration on Friday after the leaders of the two countries pledged to work on the denuclearisation of the peninsula and ending the Korean war.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday: “Korean war to end. The US, and all of its great people should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea.”

In a grand ceremony on Thursday night, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, literally crossing over the border between the two countries into the Korean demilitarised zone.

“South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air, and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict,” a reported copy of the declaration said.

The two sides further agreed to first convene military talks between their generals in May.

The agreements had already been described by South Korean officials as necessary to move forward with inter-Korean relations.

The South Korean ambassador to Egypt said the situation had been tense for North Korea’s neighbours, as well as the US, which has been pushing for a commitment to denuclearisation from North Korea.

Concerns mostly stem from a history of failed agreements between North Korea and other parties on the possession of nuclear weapons, mainly the US, as the former has also long asserted it has the right to possess nuclear weapons.

Despite North Korea’s thus far claimed commitment to denuclearisation, the country already announced, a few months ago, that it has completed its nuclear programme.

Last year witnessed diplomatic escalation between North Korean leader Kim and Trump, accompanied by a war of words, which the international community warned could turn into a real war. Tweets by Trump were considered by North Korea “a declaration of war,” a charge the US denied.

The two leaders are expected to hold a meeting While no specific schedule or location has yet been announced, the highly anticipated summit, which would be the first between a US and North Korean leader, is expected to be held in May or June. On Saturday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his country has received no formal requests to host the meeting from either side.

Stalled political manoeuvres have marked the conflict over the years. Back in the 2000s, the US set pre-conditions for negotiations, while North Korea has also long sought guarantees in exchange for its compliance with international community demands, including the lifting of imposed sanctions.


  • 1945 – Second world war ends with surrender of Japan, leaving formerly annexed Korea divided. The 38th parallel is the line chosen by the US to demarcate the border between the north and the south
  • 15 August 1948 –The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is established, followed by the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
  • 25 June 1950 – North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union and China, invades South Korea. The UN authorises military support for South Korea, in which the US is the main participant. At least 2.5 million deaths were recorded
  • 27 July 1953 – The war ends though the signing of an armistice by US, UN, North Korean, and Chinese representatives, but not South Korea. A demilitarised zone is created; the pre-war border along the 38th parallel.
  • 1954 – A conference is held in Geneva, but no progress was made on a peace treaty
  • January 1958 – Citing protection against aggression from North Korea, Russia, and China, the US begins deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea, breaching the armistice agreement. The US would continue to do so throughout the Cold War as North Korea starts seeking countermeasures, including pursuing nuclear development.
  • 21 January 1968 – Assassination attempt on South Korean president Park Chung-hee at his residence, known as the Blue House Raid, by North Korean commandos
  • 4 July 1972 – The Republic of Korea and DPRK sign a joint statement agreeing not to possess, produce, or use nuclear weapons and prohibiting uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing
  • 15 August 1974 – Another assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee is executed as he gave a speech, which resulted in the death of his wife. The suspect is identified as a Japanese national who was a North Korea sympathiser
  • 1991 – North and South Korea become members of the UN
  • June 2000 – First inter-Korean summit since the war is held in Pyongyang. North-South Joint Declaration is signed, aiming at working towards Korean reunification
  • 2003 – North Korea is no longer part of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
  • 9 October 2006 – North Korea conducts first underground nuclear test. In the next two years, it agrees to shut down its main reactor, but prevents inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency
  • October 2007 – Second inter-Korean summit is held in Pyongyang
  • 25 May 2009 – North Korea implements second nuclear test along with a short-range missile test. The same year, the UN adopts Resolution 1874 imposing economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea
  • 6 January 2016 – North Korean government announces hydrogen bomb tests after reports of earthquake
  • February 2017 – China, the main trade partner of North Korea, halts coal imports from the latter

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Graphic facilitation revives ‘carving’ of ancient Egyptians Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:30:58 +0000 Five graphic facilitators follow ancestors’ steps in unpopular type of business in Egypt

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“Ancient Egyptians started engraving on walls thousands of years ago to produce a visual brief about something; this is what we do,” said Maiy El-wakeel, a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Arts in Alexandria University. Five artists who all graduated from the same faculty knocked on the door of an unpopular business in the country called “graphic recording.” 

Graphic recording, or facilitation, is a very common profession in the world, used in various processes such as meetings, workshops, seminars, and conferences. Graphic recorders, usually artists, visually represent information communicated orally through creating visual summaries of conference speakers’ presentations and discussions with attendees.

In November 2015, El-Wakeel, Hany Mansy, Dina Elsayed Saleh, Alaa Ebied, and Nermeen A Elreheem launched a project named “Wasalet” for graphic facilitation. Only three of them participated in the Alexandria Media Forum, which was held from 15-17 April at the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology, as graphic facilitators. They attended all sessions of the forum to “facilitate the process of delivering information given by speakers to attendees.”

“We work to connect people,” said El-wakeel, illustrating at a session on news verification and search engine tools. “Our main mission is to ‘record’ what we hear and see, then turn it into a clear brief,” adding that they “facilitate the process of delivering information to people,” adding that they produce an effective way of communication between speakers and attendees.”

During the three days of the forum, the three graphic facilitators worked for entire days, sometimes standing or sitting in a chair next to the speakers, to do their job.

“Graphic facilitation is very common across the world. We first learned about it when we were trained by the Value Web,” she said, adding, “the Value Web is an international network of artists, designers, facilitators, educators, researchers, technologists, writers, social activists, and entrepreneurs who work to use design and facilitation to tackle the most pressing challenges in our time.”

According to El-wekeel, 14 Egyptian participants joined the workshop that the network conducted for a week in Egypt in 2015 while it was organising a conference, noting that only five of them launched Wasalet. “The network was in need of Arab graphic recorders. When they did not find anyone, they decided to train some people to assist them in the conference they organised,” explained El-wekeel.

However, when the five young people started their own business, they faced difficulties in a field that does not recognise or understand what they are doing. “Most organisations we worked for were not Egyptian. We tried to communicate with local bodies, but we were unwelcomed, as they do not acknowledge the importance of what we do,” said El-wekeel.

However, they received great attention while working at the Alexandria Media Forum, as most speakers and participants were aware of what they do and took photos of boards full of creative symbols and caricatures. Meanwhile, the forum announced that they rewarded Wasalet’s members by issuing a handbook consisting of all their works during the sessions. That kind of appreciation, according to El-wakeel, is very supporting and encouraging to the path they chose three years ago. 

She noted that their project is self-funded, with almost no profits thus far. “The reason is that institutions still do not consider our work as a significant part of any conference, meeting, or workshop,” said El-wekeel.

Meanwhile, Hany Mansy, a jewellery designer, member of the project, and also El-wekeel’s husband, said that the job is not just for artists, but of course, having painting and illustration skills is a great advantage.

Talking about the circumstances of working in Egypt, he said, “unfortunately, conferences just happen in Egypt via the same traditional organising way and offer little chance for other creative assistances such as graphics facilitation,” noted Mansy. 

He added that they have to pay for the expenses of all materials they use, as they sometimes participate as volunteers for the chance to let people acknowledge what they do. “We have to focus on every word said at a conference and stand the whole day, as our work requires major physical and mental effort,” he said.

Furthermore, he added that sometimes they receive offers they do not feel comfortable with. “They bring us only for the purposes of innovation, but actually, we offer an important kind of work, which has to be respected,” Mansy said, adding, “we are not coming to amuse audiences. Organisers should treat graphic facilitators as they deal with speakers.”

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Fake news is ‘game’ powerful countries use to sway public opinion: Alexandria Media Forum speakers Tue, 24 Apr 2018 10:30:38 +0000 Censorship fuels fake news as it blocks credible media outlets, leading to more limits on freedom of speech, speakers at Alexandria Media Forum say

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Fact-checking has been always a cornerstone of every journalist in the world’s work, as their main role is to investigate information and data they gather, to provide society with accurate news, trying to curb the spread of fake news as much as possible. In the era of social media and the ease of creating and posting fake photos, videos, even in so-called trusted media, that mission is getting harder.

In order to counter fake news, Alexandria Media Forum launched its sixth edition from 15 to 17 April, titled Technology, Media, and Post-Truth, with a wide attendance of Egyptian and foreign speakers, as well as attendees from various Arab countries at the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology in Borg El-Arab, Alexandria.

Ahmed Esmat, founder and CEO of the forum.

“If you cannot publish the whole truth, at least reveal some of it,” said Ihab Zelaky, executive editor-in-chief at Al-Masry Al-Youm, who added, “journalism is a dangerous profession, which means that it can’t tell the whole truth under any circumstances.”

He noted, “[journalists] try so hard to tell what we could reveal of the truth without falsifying it. If journalists find themselves in a situation where they will fake the truth while covering sensitive issues, then it’s better not to write about these issues at all.”

Zelaky discussed in a panel on the first day of the forum the “fine line between fake news and censorship,” along with Anna Hedenmo, a Swedish journalist and television presenter. He discussed the consequences of media restrictions and censorship in Egypt in the past months that led to the blocking of more than 450 media websites, according to a recent report from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

“It’s an endless conflict between journalists and authorities. Sometimes regimes succeed in limiting freedom of speech and press, however journalists can find another medium,” noted Zelaky, adding, “censorship fuels fake news.”

Meanwhile, he explained, “censorship is definitely increasing fake news because it leads to blocking credible media outlets, which leads to the entrapment of real journalism as well as free access to information.”

Zelaky also said, “in countries where there is no press freedom, states usually justify their actions by citing political turmoil and what they define as ‘critical situations.’” Some of these situations, Zelaky explained, can be due to “wars on terrorism. However, no media outlet can work under such circumstances.” 

“Although we, journalists, believe that our role is to serve the public good,” Zelaky noted, “nothing is more important than our lives and safety.”

Ihab Zelaky, executive editor-in- chief at Al-Masry Al-Youm

Facing difficulties when working is not a new element in the profession, according to Zelaky, saying that journalists are often prevented from accessing information. Furthermore, the real problem is “the public is opposing, more and more, freedom of press and expression,” he explained.

“They don’t accept anything that is contrary to official statements on any issue,” he said.

On countering fake news, he said, “there are countries, regimes, or bodies around the world that take advantage of the fake news game, using it to sway public opinion amid floods of false information and illusions to keep eyes away from significant ongoing issues. Human minds, when things are just repeated, believe it without questioning whether they are true or not.”

Over three days, several speakers conducted sessions on the issues of fake news, media ethics, media in the age of algorithms, as well as fact-checking and news verification.

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief at the France 24 Observers said, “fact-checking helps to correct specific instances of fake news, and this serves the public good because people can be fooled by what is fake.”

The France 24 Observers is a collaborative site presented in four languages (French, English, Arabic, and Farsi) and a TV show on France 24 (with a weekly and monthly edition). It covers international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts, hence the name “observers.”

“The most important impact of our work is educating the public about the dangers of fake news,” Thomson noted, adding that it can be “impossible for journalists to investigate every piece of fake news quickly before it gets shared on social media.”

“However, we can give ordinary people some tools and tricks to be aware of fake news, so they can think before share anything,” he explained.

Anna Hedenmo, a Swedish journalist and television presenter.

Thomson pointed out that every news organisation has to build its own credibility with its readers and then maintain this credibility by not taking risks with the truth and never trying to manipulate the public.

“If media outlets are consistently accurate and give fact-based, deep reporting, then they will win audience trust,” he said. The most significant principle which Observers relies on, according to Thomson, is to verify everything before sharing or passing it on.

“The issue of fake news is getting worse because we are still in a period of transition moving from traditional media to social media, but I am optimistic for the future, that people will be able to use more tools to know if information is accurate or fake,” he noted.

Meanwhile, on the tools that have become more available than before, Ahmed El-Shamy, a veteran Egyptian journalist specialised in investigative journalism and new digital media tools, led two sessions on how to verify every photo and video shared on social media, or even on news websites, by using Google Earth, Google Maps, InVID, Dual Maps, SunCalc, and others. 

“Each journalist can evaluate exactly what they need. When they cannot reach a place or official information, they should rely on eyewitnesses and their own technological tools to confirm the information,” said El-Shamy.

Whilst such tools become extremely vital for each reporter, El-Shamy noted that news organisations should take into consideration the ongoing changes in digital media, and should train their journalists to use such tools and develop their methods of reporting.

“When a door closes, others open. Sometimes it’s better to search for information or data online, and verify it without calling sources that may refuse to give you accurate information,” he noted.

Ahmed El-Shamy, an Egyptian journalist specialised in investigative journalism

As journalists around the world have chosen a dangerous job, Hedenmo, the Swedish journalist, believes that such gatherings, such as media forums or conferences, are very useful, as a way to help and support struggling journalists around the world.

“I know it can be dangerous to tell the truth in some countries, which have low levels of freedom of speech,” she said, adding that journalists should stand in solidarity with each other.

Hedenmo also added that Alexandria Media Forum gave her “hope for the future of journalism,” expressing her pleasure at the wide participation of women.

On the other hand, she believes “fake news has always been around, but it has now gotten a name from US President Donald Trump.” She added that there are always lies in the news, especially in dictatorships and during warfare, but she said journalists should avoid mistruths in such situations.

“Maybe you can’t tell it all, but don’t ever lie,” she noted.

The Alexandria Media Forum had received 1,209 applications, but accepted only 200 participants from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. “This is the biggest number of participants we have ever had in the forum,” said Ahmed Esmat, founder and CEO of the forum.   

He added, “this is only a step to prevent fake news, and we believe that raising awareness will counter false information,” which he asserts has been “politically used to harm societies on economic and humanitarian terms.”

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The Blue Whale game: Attempt to end lives of confused teenagers Tue, 17 Apr 2018 11:00:10 +0000 Video games have become widespread in today’s world; they are popular among children, pre-teens, and adults. There are various types of these games that could be educational, extreme, or entertaining, all possible having a strong impact on people’s lives. Usually, people prefer games where they can kill zombies or drive cars at unruly speeds. In …

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Video games have become widespread in today’s world; they are popular among children, pre-teens, and adults. There are various types of these games that could be educational, extreme, or entertaining, all possible having a strong impact on people’s lives. Usually, people prefer games where they can kill zombies or drive cars at unruly speeds.

In several studies conducted to test what types of games young people prefer to play, violent video games never lost their superior power in the gaming industry. No doubt that there are a number of violent games that have strongly impacted the behaviours and attitudes of youth. Another negative aspect of video games is the fact that children are spending too much time playing them rather than physically playing outside.

Throughout the past few days, warnings of playing a deadly game application, The Blue Whale, also commonly known as The Blue Whale Challenge, were the focus of most media outlets and social media platforms, as there were several reported incidents of suicide to complete the challenges of the game.

Egypt has already witnessed two cases of suicide and one of attempted suicide in the past few days. The first case was Khaled El-Fakharani, the son of the former member of parliament Hamdi El-Fakharani, who was found to have hung himself in his bedroom closet, and followed by a 15-year-old girl in Alexandria who had attempted to commit suicide with a toxic substance, and was found with strange marks resembling a tattoo on her left leg. During a medical examination, she told the doctor that she was playing The Blue Whale game, and that a part of its challenges was to give herself a tattoo on her left leg and to consume an insecticide. The third case was a 24-year-old young man who had committed suicide by throwing himself in the Ismailia Canal to execute the instructions of the game.

Following reports on these cases, parents started to inspect their childrens’, particularly sons’, smartphones to check that the game application is not downloaded on their handsets. On social media, there were different posts urging parents to check all the types of video games played by their children, for their own safety and to make sure that they are not playing games that will have negative impacts on their personalities. Also, TV presenters dedicated long segments of their shows to host several professors to raise awareness about why people tend to play violent games more than any other type, such games’ risks, and how to prevent children from accessing them, incorporating parental advice.

The Egyptian Parliament submitted an urgent request to the minister of communication and information technology to take action against the recent spread of “dangerous electronic games.” Meanwhile, Egypt’s religious and governmental body Dar Al-Iftaa posted a video on YouTube and shared it on their official page, declaring The Blue Whale video game as forbidden in Islam and saying that it has many elements that classify it as religiously forbidden.

The Blue Whale game application was created by a Russian former psychology student named Philipp Budeikin, who aimed to target youth under 20 years of age, by ordering them to perform tasks selected by administrators over a period of 50 days. The Blue Whale game is also known by other names, such as A Silent House, A Sea of Whales, and Wake me up at 4:20 am.

Initially, the game requires its players to perform simple tasks and then, gradually, it asks them to induce self-harm. At the end of the period, users are instructed to kill themselves or a member of their families.

The game further asks players to wake up at dawn to listen to loud music or watch horror movies, and it also assigns them to perform other violent acts, such as to insult someone they know for no reason.

In 2017, Budeikin, then 21, was arrested on the accusation of inciting children to commit suicide. Since the creation of the game, many cases of suicide have been discovered across the world due to young people playing the game. When he was arrested, Budeikin defended himself, saying that he considers his victims “biological waste” and claiming that they were “happy to die.” He further said that he was “cleansing society.”

One an individual begins the challenge, they are not allowed to withdraw from the game. If a user attempts to do so, the officials in charge of the game threaten the person who is about to withdraw and take advantage of the information he they given them to try to use it as blackmail. The game’s creators may even threaten to kill the participants’ family members.

After the person signs up for the game, it asks him to engrave the code “F57” or the “blue whale” on their arm with a sharp tool, and then send an image to the administrator to make sure that the person has actually entered the game.

F57 refers to a group on social media, specifically on, a popular social media site in Russia and its surrounding countries. They promoted suicide ideas and published many sadistic and violent images. However, the group was later closed, according to the Daily Mail.

In the middle of the missions, the person has to talk to one of the game’s administrators to gain their confidence and turn into a “Blue Whale.” After gaining the administrators’ confidence, users are asked not to speak with anyone after that point and continue to cause themselves injuries while watching horror movies, until the 50th day, when they are instructed to commit suicide either by jumping out of a window or stabbing themselves with a blade.

Blue whales are known to be suicidal; they swim in groups or individually to the beach, remain there, and die if they are not aided by someone back into the water.

Psychiatrist Gamal Farwiz said that the game resembles the death of a blue whale when it becomes depressed and heads for a coast to commit suicide, hence this is the same thing the game is luring people to do; whenever they feel depressed, they would commit suicide.

“The game targets those who have depression, issues at home, or any psychological issues that can allow them to follow the game,” he said, adding that at the beginning of the game, there is a psychological test that can show to the game administrators whether the player can be easily manipulated or not, as this test determines whether a subscriber suffers from some form of mental illness or not.

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Globalisation: Pros, cons, impact on economic growth Tue, 17 Apr 2018 09:00:27 +0000 About 60% of all goods, services produced globally are shipped across country borders as result of economic globalisation

The post Globalisation: Pros, cons, impact on economic growth appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Living in an open, interdependent globe, the population of today’s world has seen globalisation in several aspects of their lives. In the field of medicine, we see medications that were available only in some countries but are becoming available in others thanks to globalisation. Some vaccines and antibiotics used across the globe to eliminate the spread of some diseases and fatal infections are developed in specific countries and can be seen used on a wide scale across the entire globe, for example.

Political and cultural globalisation are no exception, as the exchange of cultural ideas, meanings, and values around the world creates richness in the cultures of various countries of the world, although some critics would argue that globalisation harms the diversity of cultures, as dominating countries may affect the cultures of smaller ones. The arguments surrounding globalisation clearly show that it has some pros and cons, and certainly leaves an impact, whether positive or negative, especially on a very important aspect: economic growth across the globe.

Economic globalisation is the increasing economic interdependence of national economies across the world through a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, services, technology, and capital, according to Oxford University Press.

Exploring the impact of globalisation on economic growth and development, Our World in Data said that globalisation has certainly been a key driver of unprecedented economic growth, leading to a world with much less poverty.

The importance of foreign trade was rather modest until the beginning of the 19th century, as total global exports and imports never exceeded 10% of global output before year 1800. However, near 1820, the “first wave of globalisation” came into the picture, followed by the second wave, which continues until this very day. “About 60% of all goods and services produced in the world are shipped across country borders,” Our World in Data said. “Regarding extreme poverty, the available evidence shows that up until 1800, the vast majority of people around the world lived in extreme deprivation, with only a tiny elite enjoying higher standards of living. In the 19th century, we began making progress and the share of people living in extreme poverty started to slowly decline. This trend is shown in the chart below. As we can see today, two hundred years later, the share of people living in extreme poverty is less than 10%. This is an achievement that would have been unthinkable to our ancestors,” it added.

According to The Balance, globalisation greatly benefits world economies. Some of the benefits globalisation creates for economies include the increase in foreign direct investments (FDI), helping boost technology transfer, industrial restructuring, and the growth of global companies. Additionally, the increased competition resulting from globalisation helps push new technological development, especially with the growth in FDI, which eventually helps improve economic output.

“Globalisation of the financial sector has become the most rapidly developing and most influential aspect of economic globalisation. International finance came into being to serve the needs of international trade and investment activities. However, along with the development of economic globalisation, it has become more and more independent. Compared with commodity and labour markets, the financial market is the only one that has realised globalisation in the true sense of ‘globalisation’. Since the 1970s, cross-border flow of capital has been rapidly expanding. In 1980, the total volume of cross-border transactions of stocks and bonds of major developed countries was still less than 10% of their GDP. However, this figure had far surpassed 100% in 1995,” said a UN report on economic and social affairs, titled Economic Globalisation: Trends, Risks, and Risk Prevention.

Addressing the cons of globalisation and its potential negative impacts on economies, the report said that economic globalisation puts developing countries at risk of being constantly susceptible to trembling under unfavourable external factors. “Under open economic conditions, the conflict between the realisation of external economic equilibrium and that of internal economic equilibrium is a great constraint on the macroeconomic policies of developing countries, weakening their capacity of macroeconomic control and regulation,” the report said.

The risks of globalisation on the economy also include the interdependence-causing regional instabilities if local economic fluctuations affect a large number of countries that rely on them. Moreover, multinational or global companies may be seen as a threat to sovereignty, which could result in some world leaders becoming nationalistic or xenophobic. Globalisation may also cause greater inequality among nations, leading to possible conflict nationally and internationally.

Globalisation has certainly affected several aspects of the modern world. It has both its drawbacks and positive aspects. The one thing there is no argument about is that globalisation remains fairly unstoppable. Beneficial or not, globalisation will continue to inevitably change the world in both the short and long run.

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Palestinians to escalate calls for rights despite Israeli excessive force Wed, 11 Apr 2018 06:00:15 +0000 Demonstrators revive calls for right to return to lands from which forcibly displaced; Israel’s excessive violence condemned but unpunished

The post Palestinians to escalate calls for rights despite Israeli excessive force appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A death toll exceeding 30 Palestinians and hundreds of others injured were the result of Israeli fire during a week of protests which reached a peak on Friday, amid anticipated fears of bloodshed and threats by Israel ahead of the Great Return March.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry on Friday, more than 2,500 people were wounded since last week in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including dozens of women and children.

On Saturday, hundreds also mourned Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, shot while filming the border protest between Gaza and Israel and reportedly wearing a press-identifying jacket.

Since the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 6 December 2017, 64 Palestinians have been killed and more than 10,000 injured, according to the ministry.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority cabinet condemned Israeli violence against peaceful protesters on Friday 30 March, when at least 18 Palestinian citizens were killed and more than 1,450 injured on Land Day demonstrations which took place near the Gaza border.

“The massacre committed by the forces of occupation was premeditated, through a series of threats issued by [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and sending out snipers, artillery, and thousands of soldiers shooting at unarmed citizens, despite already being informed of the organisation of peaceful protests,” the cabinet stated.

Land Day, celebrated on 30 March, symbolises Palestinian resistance and annually commemorates events in 1976 when Israeli forces killed six unarmed citizens and wounded and arrested hundreds, in a day of general strikes and protests against Israel’s plan to confiscate Palestinian lands for settlement purposes.

The Palestinian cabinet demanded an international investigation and accountability for Israel, stating that the silence of international bodies fuels Israeli arrogance.

A UN statement said Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for a “probe into the deadly clashes, following the first wave of protests last week.”

“This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalising the peace process aiming at creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side peacefully and in security,” the statement said.

The UN Security Council held an emergency session simultaneously, where the deputy UN political affairs chief reported that Israeli forces used live ammunition on demonstrators despite them staying away from the border fence and not engaging in violence. He also voiced Israel’s claims that “militants tried to get through the fence in an attempt to plant explosives.”

For her part, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said on Saturday that “the use of live ammunition should, in particular, be part of an independent and transparent investigation.”

Israel rejected such calls and renewed its threats ahead of renewed protests plans. Last Saturday, the US blocked a draft UNSC resolution to conduct investigations, presented by Kuwait.

The Great Return March

The Palestinian refugees issue is the chore of the cause, as put by the International Coordination Committee of the Great Return March (GRM) managed by Palestinian activist Zaher Birawi.

The committee, calling for weeks of protests, states that the march “will only end with the actual return of Palestinian refugees and the sit-in may last for weeks or months.”

The group defines the march as a movement by social and political factions who organise peaceful protests aiming to call for the right of refugees to return to their homes which they were forcibly displaced from under occupation in 1948.

According to UN General Assembly Resolution 194, “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Tens of thousands were reported to be preparing for the second week of protests. At least 300,000 protesters were out during the first one.

One of the most remarkable scenes of the second protest was heavy smoke rising from Gaza, as demonstrators set fire to tyres on the border, taking advantage of the wind direction towards Israel.

Protests are scheduled to continue, especially amid planned demonstrations on Naqba Day on 14 May, the date Israel celebrates its establishment and promised by the US to be further coronated by opening its embassy in Jerusalem on that day.

Israel upholds aggression, faces condemnations

As the first protests erupted in March, Israel threatened with violence. Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson of the Israeli Prime Minister Office for the Arab media, posted to his Twitter account  a video of a Palestinian man being shot in the leg, with a caption reading: “This is the least anyone who attempts to cross the wall between Gaza and Israel would face,” using “march of chaos” as a hashtag.

The tweet echoed similar threats made by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth on 28 March that the Israeli Defence Forces had deployed 100 sharpshooters at the Gaza border, saying they had permission to fire “if lives are in jeopardy.”

Israeli officials, including Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman, have repeatedly claimed that Hamas was risking people’s lives by encouraging them to take part in the protests, telling Palestinians not to participate and warning them against nearing the borders.

Following the violence of 30 March, regarding an inquiry into the killings, Lieberman told the media that there will not be one and that Israeli soldiers deserve “a medal”. He reportedly warned of a much harsher response to protests scheduled for 6 April.

France had called on Israel to show restraint, respect its duty to protect civilians, and highlighted Palestinians’ right to peaceful demonstrations.

Rights groups did not fail to note Israeli abuses and unjustified use of excessive violence.

A report by Human Rights Watch said senior Israeli officials who called for the use of live ammunition bear responsibility for the killings of at least 14 protestors and the injuries of a hundred others last week.

Although Israel had warned that it would stand the in face of any action threatening its border security, it presented no evidence that this has been the case or that firearms were used by demonstrators, HRW added.

For its part, Amnesty International called “on the Israeli authorities to put an immediate end to its heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations,” in a statement on 31 March.

“The Israeli authorities are obligated to respect the right to peaceful protest and, even if violence may occur, only the minimum force necessary to address it can be used. Having consistently ignored the human rights of Palestinian refugees for 70 years, Israel must at least hear their demands and allow peaceful demonstrations and protests to take place.”

Arab reaction

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s use of excessive force against unarmed civilians demanding their “legitimate and fair rights,” pointing to the international community’s responsibility to help Palestinians secure their rights.

Egyptian social media users were also critical of some foreign media coverage of the events showing bias against the Palestinian protesters, especially American news outlets.

A number of Arab countries also voiced criticism of Israel, with some protests erupting in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

However, the timing of the events coincided with statements made by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who, in a rare occasion, stated that Israel has the right to exist and have its own land.

Talal Salman, Lebanese journalist and founder of Al-Safir newspaper, has written a series of pieces in the Egyptian privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper on how Arabs drifted away from the Palestinian cause in order to get close to Washington.

In one of his recent pieces, published on 3 April, Salman said the “Israeli atrocities” during the Land Day protests barely made the headlines of Arab news as other priorities took over, condemning the weak reaction of Arab leaders and institutions.

Salman charged that Arab countries were completely normalising relations with Tel Aviv without realising that the Palestinian cause is at the heart of shaping the future of the region.

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‘Feseekh’ business stays on track as Egyptians continue to buy despite high prices Mon, 09 Apr 2018 13:00:42 +0000 Egyptians on Sham Ennessim: We gather to enjoy eating salted fish with family, beloved ones

The post ‘Feseekh’ business stays on track as Egyptians continue to buy despite high prices appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

“It is the best shop to sell salted fish in Egypt,” answered a fruit seller sitting at the main gate to the ancient Bab Al-Louq market in the Abdeen district of Downtown, when asked about “Fasakhany el Harameen”, a very old shop named after the Two Holy Mosques, specialising in selling all kinds of slated fish, a traditional food Egyptians are used to eating with family and beloved ones to celebrate Sham Ennessim. 

People usually head to public parks and beaches to celebrate the event, by eating salted fish which is prepared in a special way
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

The national holiday, which marks the beginning of spring, is a traditional event that dates back hundreds of years in Egypt, as people usually head to public parks and beaches to celebrate the event, by eating salted fish which is prepared in a special way. The fish varieties include feseekh, herring, and sardine, as children colour eggs on the day that always falls directly after Orthodox Christian Easter.   

Down a narrow passage is the small ‘Harameen’ shop, owned by Mohamed Sayed, an imam of a mosque. “I have inherited the profession of selling and preparing salted fish from my father,” Sayed told Daily News Egypt, adding that his father started their business in 1940, in the same place, and he has followed his path to this day.

“In the 1980s and before that, Bab Al-Louq market had been a destination for people from outside Cairo, who came to buy everything including salted fish from our shop. There were like thousands of buyers, but now the situation changed,” referring to rising rent, electricity, and water fees, as well as the prices of the fish itself. “We have to raise our prices too, we do not have another option,” said Sayed.

However, he said that people used to buying from him each year still come and buy the

The price of a kg of feseekh ranges from EGP 160-170, while the price of herring ranges from EGP 50-60
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

same quantities. “People eat salted fish to enjoy the holiday with their family, so they do not mind paying extra once a year,” he said, also noting that prices depend on the neighbourhood. “I have a friend in Maadi that sells a kg of feseekh for EGP 200; here I sell it for EGP 170.”

The prices of feseekh and herring have increased over last year by nearly EGP 40, as prices of food spiked following the floating of the pound in November 2016. According to a February 2017 Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics report, fish and seafood prices increased by 40.3%.

The price of a kg of feseekh ranges from EGP 160-170, while the price of herring ranges from EGP 50-60. “Some people, after asking about prices before buying, they sometimes change their mind and buy less than they need,” Sayed said. He added that the economic situation makes people very stressed. “Look at faces of people in the streets; they are unhappy, worried, and depressed,” Sayed said. He recalled the holidays he used to have when he was child and said, “people were cheerful and enjoying their time. Now I rarely notice the same atmosphere.”

According to Sayed, what contributes to his family’s success in this business is that they are always developing their work. “I know well what my clients want to eat, so I prepare it for them as they wish. Some like the fish very salted and others only slightly, so with experience, I am more familiar with their preferences.”

The prices of feseekh and herring have increased over last year by nearly EGP 40
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

Though the Ministry of Health always warns against eating feseekh, people continue to buy it from what they consider to be trusted places, to avoid botulism poisoning that can sometimes lead to death. 

Sayed said that the Ministry of Health’s warnings have a huge impact on the business: “sometimes people fear eating salted fish, but places that have a good reputation should not worry.” 

At Shaheen for Salted Fish and Caviar, a family-run shop in Downtown Cairo, which dates to nearly 100 years ago, Shady Shaheen, one of the people who run the business, said that the Ministry of Health’s instructions to avoid eating feseekh are actually a form of positive advertising, noting, “this enhances our work because our fish is properly prepared.” He added that business volume is solid this year, as people have confidence in his business.

“We trust this shop, so we come here every year,” said Ayman Hussien, a business owner, while he was waiting for his order to be prepared. Hussien said that the high prices do not discourage him from buying salted fish as a gift for his family and relatives. “Prices increased by nearly EGP 50. It’s okay, they are not very high,” noted Hussien.

Shaheen for Salted Fish and Caviar, a family-run shop in Downtown Cairo, which dates to nearly 100 years ago
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

In contrast, Mona, a housewife who used to buy between 3 kg and 4 kg of feseekh every year for her mother and daughter, said she now buys just 2 kg because of the soaring prices. Meanwhile, another woman, Mervat, noted that she just buys the same 2 kg of herring each year, saying, “whether prices are high or not, I just buy 2 kg for my family.”

Hadyaa Abdel Aziz and her husband said they can no longer afford to buy the same quantity they used to purchase for their families and relatives. “Actually, [the quantity] becomes less and less due to high prices,” said Hadyaa, noting that she does not eat feseekh. “My husband and children like it very much.” Her Husband, Ashraf Emad, an official at the Ministry of Finance, commented on her words with a smile, saying that the holiday is a tradition that gathers people to have a good time: “we get together to enjoy eating salted fish.”

While people celebrate Sham Ennessim, Shaheen and his brothers have to work at their shop: “unfortunately we don’t celebrate like others, we have to work during the holiday.” 

‘Harameen’ shop, owned by Mohamed Sayed, an imam of a mosque
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

Shaheen insisted that prices have not increased over last year, explaining that there was a shortage of fish in the past year so the prices were raised. He also noted that prices of feseekh start at EGP 120 to EGP 160, adding that last year, prices were between EGP 80 and EGP 160.

This generation of the Shaheens, including Shady and his brothers, resort to social media to enhance their relations with clients, receiving complaints and feedback. They set up a Facebook page after the name of their shop as well as a chat group on WhatsApp. They also seek to open a new restaurant to serve healthy ready-to-eat salted fish meals.

Shaheen, who studied at a Faculty of Commerce, grew up adoring his father’s profession. He said he wants his children to recognise it too: “I hope my kids and nephews would appreciate our work. I want them to hold university degrees along with [working for] our business.” He went on to say, laughing, “they have to eat salted fish too, it is a rule in the family.”

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New Uber, Careem law might limit number of drivers Tue, 03 Apr 2018 10:00:03 +0000 Parliament approves in principle law to regulate both companies 

The post New Uber, Careem law might limit number of drivers  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

While the future of the Uber and Careem ride-hailing applications remains unclear for many Egyptians following a controversial court verdict, drivers of both services are unsatisfied with a new law that has been preliminarily approved by parliament to regulate their work in the future, after three years with no regulations for such services.

On the same day that the Administrative Court ruled on banning the operations of Uber and Careem in Egypt, the cabinet referred a draft law to parliament on regulating the work of private car owners with private companies.

A few days later, the Egyptian Parliament approved in principle a law on the regulation of transportation services which use information technology for passengers, such as Uber and Careem, as representatives of the two companies were in attendance.

Following the two contradictory decisions, confusion rose to the surface over whether the two companies will continue to operate or not.

The court said that it will halt the two companies’ activities for violating Egyptian law by using private cars for commercial use without a license and that it would delete their mobile applications.

However, Uber and Careem issued responses in statements, asserting that they will continue their services in Egypt and will appeal the court’s ruling that ordered them to suspend operations in the country. The two services have been working throughout the past year amid objections from Cairo white taxi drivers who strongly believe that the rise of such companies has had a detrimental effect on their work.

People received both services enthusiastically directly after their introduction to Egypt, due to longstanding struggles with fraud and exploitation at the hands of white taxis drivers

The court verdict came in favour of a lawsuit filed by a group of white taxies drivers in 2017 against the companies, accusing the services of violating the traffic law by using privately-owned vehicles for commercial purposes.

People received both services enthusiastically directly after their introduction to Egypt, due to longstanding struggles with fraud and exploitation at the hands of white taxis drivers. Uber and Careem, both mobile application-based taxi services, became the preferred transport choice for many Egyptian in the past several years for their usage of modern technology and the professional conduct of their drivers.

The government-drafted law aims at serving justice for drivers of white taxis, believing that Uber and Careem have enjoyed many privileges throughout the past period that impacted the work of normal taxis. Following the law’s preliminary approval, drivers expressed their outrage regarding some of its articles, which they believe will impose certain restrictions on their work.

In a televised interview, the representative of parliament’s transport and communication committee, Mohamed Zeineldin, said, “Uber and Careem have impacted the interests of the original craftspeople, as they are working without licenses or taxis, therefore, there should be legislation to create balanced justice.”

“Those companies have achieved extraordinary profits, and were working illegally, and the situation has changed and whoever wants to work in the Egyptian state should be subject to the laws of the country,” he also said, adding, “the state is currently regulating the conditions of these companies to preserve the rights of taxi drivers who have been affected by them.”

For the past three years, Uber and Careem drivers have been working freely without any regulations, sharing profits with companies. Police harassment was the only struggle that threatened their work during the past period.  Since there is no legal framework for the drivers, when traffic police can identify that a driver is working for Uber or Careem, they could be stopped and have their car and license withdrawn, on accusations of using a private vehicle for commercial purposes and will be required to pay a fine of EGP 3,000. Therefore, there were several calls for recognition.

The new law requires drivers working with Uber and Careem to place a logo on their cars and imposes a fine of EGP 5,000 in the case of any individual driving without an operating card. It further bans government employees from working for Uber or Careem in their free time.

Many of the drivers with both companies are individuals who occupy professional positions and use the applications to improve their living conditions. Therefore, they reject putting the companies’ logos on their private cars.

Since the launch of the services in Egypt, many governmental employees have joined it to improve their live conditions but will not be able to do so after the enforcement of the new law.

Also, there were a number of agents, working for both companies, whose work focused on promoting and organising Uber and Careem in Egypt through hiring drivers, convincing people to rent their cars to the companies, and, in many cases, were intermediaries between the two sides. A majority of agents who registered with Uber and Careem were initially car rental agencies.

However, the new law would upend the work of those agents, stipulating that drivers should deal directly with companies in future.

The articles of the law did not outrage only drivers, but also the applications’ users due to the presence of an article stipulating that both companies have to provide the personal information of users to authorities. Rana Qortam, policy manager at Uber, who attended discussions on the law, saw the article as an invasion of privacy.

“We have more than 4 million users and 150,000 drivers, and their data is a responsibility and we are committed to protecting them,” she also said, stressing that Uber needs a judicial order ordering the company to provide data and information to security authorities in order to disclose it.

In response to Qortam’s concerns, the head of parliament’s transportation and communication committee, Saeed Taaema, said that the issue is related to national security since the services are investing in Egypt.

Moreover, the law will impose costly operating fees, work permits, and taxes on the drivers and companies, which will lead to an increase in the services’ prices. The imposed payments of taxes and insurance are regarded as overpriced, as their maximum ranges between EGP 2,000 and EGP 3,000 in required fees, in addition to 25% in taxes. This will represent a burden on drivers, which will increase the cost of service for customer and could impact their usage.

The terms will impose a state of uncertainty over the drivers’ conditions, which will lead them to pay more money in the form of taxes and insurance to the government, impact their income received from the services, and transform them from private drivers to being treated as normal taxi drivers, a notion that many drivers have expressed displeasure at.

The drivers working for such companies have technically been working illegally for over three years so far, as they continue to await state recognition, which is expected to be granted after the bill’s enforcement.

Many passengers have decided to switch to Uber and Careem as an alternative to traditional Cairo white taxis. Taking a ride with a regular taxi driver can often be inconvenient, as many drivers turn away customers if their destination is far away, the route is busy, or even simply because it is inconvenient for them. Even though white taxis are required to have a metre, many drivers intentionally say it is broken, in an effort to extract a higher fare from customers. White taxis have long organised and protested against Uber and Careem, accusing them of unfair competition and operating illegally.

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How did more than 100 foreign diplomats get expelled over one month? Sun, 01 Apr 2018 10:00:40 +0000 Russia responds to expulsion of its diplomats in more than 20 countries over UK-led ex-spy Skripal poisoning allegations

The post How did more than 100 foreign diplomats get expelled over one month? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

At least 133 Russian diplomats in 22 countries were ordered to return to Moscow in March, amid a UK-led escalation against Russia over accusations of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, earlier this month.

On 14 March, British Prime Minister Theresa May gave 23 Russian diplomats in the UK a week to leave, identifying them as undeclared intelligence officers. She described the decision as “the single biggest expulsion over 30 years”—estimated at 40% of the Russian embassy’s staff—adding, “it is not the first time the Russian state acted against our country.”

With more sanctions sought against Russia, the move signalled a severe deterioration of relations between the two countries. The UK further pursued rallying its allies. In the past week, global action against Russia followed.

On Monday, the US announced the expulsion of 60 Russian representatives, with seven days to leave, and ordered that the consulate in Seattle be closed. More than 20 European countries, including France, Germany, and Italy, as well as Canada and Australia also expelled Russian diplomats. Austria abstained from implementing the move.

“Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since NATO’s foundation. Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions,” the NATO said in a statement on 14 March.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that he has withdrawn “the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian Mission to NATO” and will “also deny the pending accreditation request for three others.”

In what international media has called “a tit-for-tat” action, Russia is expected to expel 60 US diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Friday. The decision is also to include closing down the US Consulate in Saint Petersburg.

Cold War-style, Russia’s foreign relations with NATO countries is seriously challenged, and would wait to see whether the UK would be able to mobilise for sanctions on Russia. The Chemical Weapons Convention enforced in 1977 prohibits their use, transfer, and development.

Ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia

How it all started: Who is Skripal? 

Sergei Viktorovich Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer. In the 1990s, Skripal served in the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Reports say he was recruited by the British intelligence service (MI6) for which he began working in 1995 and provided with classified information on the Russian state, including exposing a number of undercover agents.

Skripal was arrested in 2004, convicted by Russia in 2006, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison for treason. Authorities said he began spying while stationed overseas and continued after he retired from the Russian military in 1999.

Skripal was freed in 2010 as part of a spy swap agreement with the United States. His release was pushed for by the UK as he later moved to Salisbury.

On 4 March, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a public bench and taken to hospital. Yulia is reported to be in better condition while her father remains in critical condition.

Investigators believe the pair was poisoned by nerve agents on the front door of his house in Salisbury. Yulia had arrived from Russia to visit her father. The nerve agent used is believed to be of the Novichok group.

Why did the UK accuse Russia?

The Novichok nerve agent was developed by the Soviet Union between 1971 and 1993. Novichok causes the heart to slow and the airways to restrict, leading to death by asphyxiation. Nerve agents are typically inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

It was identified by May as the nerve agent used against the Skripals, thus arguing that it was highly likely Russia was behind the attack.

“We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purpose of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in an interview on BBC.

The case has similarities to the killing of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive tea in London in 2006.

Patricia Lewis, research director for international security at Chatham House, said Novichok agents could be identified because they have distinct chemical formulae. “There could be contaminants that would give away where it has come from,” she told The Independent, adding that high-resolution trace analysis could detect pollen and other clues.

The EU said it took the British accusations seriously, refraining from reaching an immediate conclusion and demanding that Russia comply with questions and demand to provide full disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW.

Russia reaction

Moscow has handed notes of protest to the ambassadors and announced the expulsions of the same number of diplomats—on average, between one to four diplomats. They were given several days to leave the country, Russia Today reported on Friday.

Moscow denied the accusations and criticised the UK for the claims and demanded investigations to be conducted by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

In a heated debate at the UN Security Council over the matter, Russian representative Vissaly Nebenzia even suggested the UK might have plotted the attack on Skripal to tarnish Russia, especially ahead of the 2018 World Cup. More importantly, he denied that his country had ever made or even researched the Novichok nerve agent.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, “Russia has repeatedly addressed the British authorities through official channels with a proposal to establish cooperation in investigating the alleged poisoning of Russian citizens, as well as with requests to provide information on their condition and, of course, the circumstances of the incident” but received no response.

She also said they were denied contact with the Skripals despite them being Russian citizens. “We were forced to learn from the media the date and the time of the incident, the number of people involved in it, and the level of damage to their health,” she added.

Moscow is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, condemning Johnson’s suggestion that the upcoming competition is comparable to the 1936 Olympic Games under Hitler.

“Mr Johnson,” said Zakharova, “Do you not find it shameful and, as you like to say, ‘emetic’ that so many British officials attended the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympic Games? What were all those respectable British sporting functionaries and lords doing as Hitler’s guests? Tell your countrymen about this.”

A Tuesday report by the Washington Post highlighted reactions by Russian diplomats on Twitter saying the country is “very good at appearing unfazed” and “trolling.”

The Russian involvement in the matter is dismissed by some who do not believe the government would seek to murder Skripal after allowing his release, and that the Kremlin would avoid carrying out such an assassination ahead of a presidential election and other areas of tensions over Russia’s involvement in the wars in Syria and Ukraine as well as allegations of its interference with the 2016 US elections.

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Libya faces challenge of holding elections carrying hope of ending political turbulence Sun, 25 Mar 2018 09:00:31 +0000 Son of late leader Muammar Gaddafi announces presidential bid

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Since the uprising against Libya’s long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which ended in his capture and killing at the hands of angry rebels in 2011, the country has been in turmoil, divided between different powers and armed groups. Amid repeated attempts to reach political reconciliation, which would include the democratic election of a new president, one candidate is no other than the late leader’s son.

On 19 March, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s bid for Libya’s presidency was announced by his representative Aymen Bouras at a press conference held in Tunisia.

“We confirm this candidacy for the 2018 elections, if they take place as scheduled,” Bouras stated. He asserted that Gaddafi remains on Libyan soil and that he aspires to lead the reconstruction of the country, reported Tunisia-based Nessma TV. Bouras said Gaddafi, whose exact whereabouts are not revealed for security concerns, would soon address the public.

Reactions to the news are divided between support and controversy, further fuelled by another bid for the presidency: that of Aref Al-Nayed, former Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

This also comes at a time where doubts are emerging on the possibility of holding elections for which no specific dates have been set.

On Wednesday, Ghassan Salame, head of the United Nations mission to Libya, told the UN Security Council that holding elections before the end of the year is a “top priority.” Still, the UN envoy to Libya voiced concerns about the continuing presence of extremist groups such as the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.

On the same day, Human Rights Watch said the current climate does not guarantee free and fair elections. “Restrictive laws have undermined freedom of speech and association in Libya, and armed groups have intimidated, harassed, threatened, physically attacked, and arbitrarily detained journalists, political activists, and human rights defenders,” the global rights group’s statement read.

Likewise, Salame said, “armed groups, including those formally integrated into the state structures, continue to operate outside of the law, perpetrating human rights abuses.  Bodies bearing signs of torture have turned up in many locations. Libyan men, women, and children are increasingly kidnapped for profit, even in the heart of the capital. Citizens are arbitrarily arrested by shadowy security forces. People are held and abused in unofficial, official, or quasi-official detention prisons.”

He also pointed to recent clashes in the southern city of Sabha, saying, “the ongoing jostling of national political and military players, and the growing presence of foreign mercenaries, seriously complicate the solution.”

Amid such calls for a better legal environment, parties on the ground remain in dispute. A sixth army unification meeting, sponsored by Cairo, has reportedly stirred tensions.

Libya is also facing dreadful economic challenges.

Gaddafi Jr

  • Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi is the second son of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, born in Tripoli in 1972
  • He is known as his father’s “favourite heir”
  • He attained a PhD from the London School of Economics, which many suspected was paid for and plagiarised
  • He was perceived as a reformist and had an influential diplomatic presence abroad
  • In 2008, he publicly declared stepping aside from public politics
  • Captured by militias in 2011, he spent six years as a prisoner in Zintan and was released in June 2017 under an amnesty law
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him for accusations of crimes against humanity, which he denied and slammed the ICC over. His lawyer recently discredited the court’s legitimacy to act against his client
  • His comeback as a candidate is being presented as an effort to save the country, working with all local and international parties in favour of restoring Libya

Political division

To date, political power in Libya is divided between internationally-recognised and shadow governments. The UN is backing the Tripoli-based Government of National Accords (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.

A rival administration, known as the Tobruk interim government based in the eastern city of Bayda, enjoys the support of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (Skhirat agreement) recognises the GNA as Libya’s sole legitimate executive body. Yet, its authority remains challenged by the LNA, which is backed by Egypt and the UAE.

In July 2017, Al-Sarraj and Haftar agreed to a nationwide ceasefire, calling for an end to the use of armed force in Libya, except in the fight against terrorist groups, following talks hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron. The event was a follow up to previous failed reconciliation attempts.

According to media reports, the UAE is seeking to expand its influence in Libya through Aref Nayed’s candidacy. An Islamic scholar who backed and engaged in the anti-Gaddafi wave in 2011, Nayed told Egypt’s Al-Youm Al-Sabea earlier this month that there has been no progress in political dialogues over the past months, which, in addition to violent clashes in the south, is propagating popular anger.

Nayed further stated that he opposes any sort of political isolation of figures of the former regime unless it is based upon court decisions with clear criminal charges. Nayed has faced criticism inside Libya for being backed by the UAE.

In a separate development, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody Tuesday over allegations of receiving millions of euros from the Libyan government of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to finance his 2007 presidential campaign.

Military division

Cairo has been hosting a series of meetings to unify Libyan factions, especially the military. The most recent encounter took place last week with representatives of the LNA and GNA attending.

A statement issued at the end of that sixth meeting only said that the parties agreed to pursue negotiations to unite the army but had no clear conclusion.

While the US Embassy in Libya praised the meeting and its efforts, coinciding with UN efforts to unify political factions, other media reports suggested discontent in Libya with Cairo’s support for Haftar.

Media reports said brigades in western Libya threatened Al-Sarraj with advancing to Tripoli if such endorsement of Haftar persisted. Others were reportedly objecting that Haftar remains the top commander of a unified army.

Haftar has been engaged in a war in the south of Libya, where he had already consolidated control in the middle of 2017.

More recently, clashes broke out in the southwestern city of Sabha. According to The Libyan Observer, “Sabha has been, for days, hit by armed clashes after the attack of armed groups that targeted the Brigade 6 Infantry of the Defence Ministry following the brigade command’s rejection of joining Khalifa Haftar’s forces.”

The same website had also reported that at least 4,500 people fled the city following civilian casualties, including children.

It was also recently revealed that mercenaries from Africa were involved in the clashes, as Haftar gave them a deadline to leave the country, which ended a few days ago.

Mohamed Chtatou, professor of education science at a university in Rabat, Morocco, argued in an analysis published by Eurasia Review, “one thing is certain: if the Libyan politicians do not care about their country and its future and do all they can to get it back on its feet, the Arabs will not bother and the West will not care as long as Libya is not a security threat to the Europeans or the Americans.”

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Egypt’s election kicks off abroad with intended message to critics Mon, 19 Mar 2018 09:30:38 +0000 Hopes, calls for high turnout in internationally observed polling

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Images and video footage flooded the internet showing Egyptians abroad casting their votes in the presidential election. The vote began on Friday and the last day to cast ballots was Sunday. People also checked in on Facebook at several Egyptian embassies, carrying flags and posters supporting President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who is expected to win a second four-year term.

Ambassadors of Egypt abroad, local officials, and the media highlighted “high turnout,” amid concerns that the election would witness low participation.

“The number of people who showed up is not bad for the first day, also given that Friday is a working day,” one Egyptian woman named Reham wrote on Facebook, as she checked into the embassy in London.

Several others posted pictures. Pro-state television host Ahmed Moussa had urged Egyptians abroad during one of his episodes to share their pictures while voting on social media to encourage their fellow voters.

The Egyptian ambassador to Australia reportedly told local media that many people were participating in the election, especially youth, who rushed to complete necessary documentation needed in order to be registered in the voters’ database.

Media also reported that the highest turnout for the first day took place in Arab Gulf countries, namely Kuwait. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is yet to announce official figures. According to state-owned media, Egyptians are voting in 118 countries.

The election comes nine years after Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak and five years after Al-Sisi led the ouster of the short-lived rule of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi amid large protests demanding he step down.

Over the past four years of Al-Sisi’s first term, he led a number of security and economic strategies aimed at rebuilding and reforming the country. However, there has been no meaningful political sphere despite the existence of dozens of political parties.

Presidential Candidate Moussa Mustafa Moussa

Egypt is struggling to face international claims of a sham election

The election was described by foreigners as “sham” and “farce”.  Critics said the current regime repressed possible rivals and opponents of Al-Sisi, referring to pressure faced by former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, who was deported from the UAE to his home country when he announced his bid for the presidency.

Furthermore, former military chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested, and remains in military custody, for declaring his intention to challenge Al-Sisi in the election. This is in addition to several civilian candidates withdrawing from the race.

In several instances, Egypt refuted the criticism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Thursday saying that it considers the recent comments by German Commissioner for Human Rights Bärbel Kofler as unacceptable interference with the country’s affairs.

Kofler called on Egyptian authorities to put an end to the crackdown on independent media and civil society, and voiced concern over the arrests that preceded the election, stating that “opportunities for a transparent and free election are not fully exploited.” Earlier in March, the ministry strongly rejected remarks by the UN human rights chief, who spoke of “a climate of intimidation,” saying his claims are unfounded.

One slogan in an official media campaign called on Egyptians to vote to show the world that people are free to choose. State-supporting television hosts have spoken in the same direction. Egyptian authorities have been monitoring foreign reports as much as they have been watching the election.

Those calling for a boycott were categorised as either pro-Muslim Brotherhood or part of a conspiracy plan. On Friday, the NEC said it tracked no violations in the media’s coverage of the election, “with the exception of some Muslim Brotherhood channels telling people not to vote, but were challenged with even greater participation,” state media reported.

In 2014, the turnout for the election was 47.5%. This was a lower turnout than in the 2012 presidential election. Moreover, the NEC had to extend the election for an additional day and pumped messages through the media to push discouraged voters to go to ballot boxes.

On Wednesday, Al-Sisi addressed the public during his visit to the Ministry of Interior, saying that he would rather see millions going to the ballot boxes to say “no” than have one-third of voters cast their ballots for him, asserting once more the need for people to express their opinions.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

No serious rival candidate

In 2014, Al-Sisi took that year’s election against his opponent Hamdeen Sabbahi in a landslide, winning 96.9% of the vote to the latter’s 3.1%. Two candidates was a low number of presidential contenders, especially in comparison to the 2012 election, which saw 13 candidates vie for the presidency in the first round of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential election.

In the current election, Mostafa Moussa Mostafa, a last-minute candidate who applied a few hours before the NEC closed its doors to presidential hopefuls’ applications, stands no chance in facing Al-Sisi.

The NEC officially allowed electoral campaigns to kick off on 24 February. Across Cairo’s Downtown and other districts, dozens of banners display support for Al-Sisi. Moussa was interviewed several times by pro-Sisi television hosts who repeatedly expressed to him they were unconvinced he could seriously compete against the sitting president.

In local newspapers, senior writers have barely mentioned him. Op-eds tackling the election mostly focused on slamming opponents to Al-Sisi and calls for boycott, or wrote about why Al-Sisi should be elected for a second term.

Moussa himself had been a strong advocate of Al-Sisi.

On the other hand, Al-Sisi has been inaugurating projects and appearing at national events broadcast on televisions nationwide, including a highly anticipated visit by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. During these events, the president shared his accomplishments, future vision, and his plans for the country.

Support for Al-Sisi

The regime fully mobilised for the support of Al-Sisi. Even the country’s religious institutions played a political role. Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, called on people to fulfil their “national and social duty.”

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning and one of the oldest higher education institutions on the globe, mobilised the entire Al-Tayeb family in his hometown in the governorate of Luxor. According to an article published by state-owned Al-Ahram in February, they organised a public conference hosted by Al-Tayeb’s brother and showed a photo of a banner supporting Al-Sisi in the family’s name.

Dozens of public rallies have been organised by supporters and hundreds working for Al-Sisi’s electoral campaign. The rhetoric used in these campaigns heavily relied on shedding light on the military-backed president, in light of a massive operation launched in North Sinai to fight terrorism.

“Egypt’s presidential election” was a trending hashtag on Twitter from Friday to Sunday, with users tweeting about both support for and opposition to Al-Sisi.

Many writers and experts in political affairs have recently highlighted the importance of political plurality for a healthy democratic system. Yet, they also voiced concerns regarding restrictions on the public sphere and bias towards Al-Sisi, whether in the media or other institutions. Equally, there were opinions supporting Al-Sisi and discussing his achievements.

The election inside Egypt will take place beginning on 26 March for three days.

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Coffee, one of Egypt’s oldest consumed beverages, strives to cope with inflation Mon, 19 Mar 2018 06:00:53 +0000 Coffee consumption has a long history in Egypt. It started with the brotherhood of Sufi Islamic mystics, who used it during prayers before it was culturally accepted. At first, religious scholars were divided between coffee supporters and opponents, the drink which came to Egypt from Yemen in the 16th century AD. In the early 18th …

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Coffee consumption has a long history in Egypt. It started with the brotherhood of Sufi Islamic mystics, who used it during prayers before it was culturally accepted. At first, religious scholars were divided between coffee supporters and opponents, the drink which came to Egypt from Yemen in the 16th century AD.

In the early 18th century, most religious scholars forbade drinking coffee. Consequently, the chief of police attacked coffee consumers and imprisoned some of them. The locals attacked some cafes, destroyed them, and attacked their visitors.

However, coffee traders ignored the religious edict to preserve their source of livelihood, which led some the era’s security forces to organise a crackdown on anyone who sold coffee or openly drank it, and that sparked several confrontations between traders and advocates of the prohibition, in which one person died.

In the end, the Ottomans were forced to appoint a new mufti in Egypt, who allowed coffee to be used to cajole the public into accepting it. This became evident in the period of Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha, who ruled Egypt from 1534-1536, with his ruling period known for coffee and coffeeshops.

The taboo surrounding coffee thus became a thing of the past, with coffee drinking since evolving into an important social practice for Egyptians, at all levels of society. In many cases, coffee house became a kind of literary circle or political club. 

According to Euromonitor International’s “Coffee in Egypt” report, one of the main challenges that face coffee’s retail growth was the rise in inflation rates, reaching an all-time high level of 33% following the November 2016 floatation of the pound and the adoption of an economic reform programme which included several other measures alongside the liberalisation of the exchange rate, such as the implementation of a value added tax (VAT) and the reduction of energy and fuel subsidies.

Nonetheless, coffee sales witnessed a double-digit increase in terms of value, despite the reduction in sales volume. Consumers switched to cheaper coffee brands to cope with their falling purchasing power, shifted completely to cheaper alternative beverages such as tea, or reduced their consumption on general.

2017 was the final year for instant coffee’s rise

According to the report, the strong year-over-year retail volume growth for instant coffee came to an end in 2017, as the category went through a modest decline, along with fresh coffee. The report indicated that such decline came as a result to the falling purchasing power of Egyptians, as many of them do not view coffee as an essential product, largely due to high inflation. However, regular instant coffee recorded a sharper decline than instant coffee mixes due to the latter’s continuing appeal to middle-income consumers.

On the other hand, fresh ground coffee and coffee pods posted positive retail volume growth due to price inelasticity, as it is an item usually consumed by members of upper-income households, who have been able to continue to afford high-priced coffee pods and pod coffee machines.

Positive growth for coffee forecasted in the near future

According to the report, coffee in Egypt is expected to go through positive retail volume growth over the near term  period (2018-2022), albeit slower than that of the review period. The report cites the limited growth as a result of several different factors, including rising prices amid tighter consumer budgets and some Egyptians switching to cheaper and healthier alternatives such as green tea. Indeed, in addition to the fact that despite the popularity of coffee as a drink, it is not considered as traditional a drink as tea, and so any trend that affects well-educated, mid- to upper-income consumers may have an impact on coffee.

The report concludes that it is forecasted that, over the longer term, as the government’s economic measures take effect, the coffee industry is expected to recover.

Volume of forecast retail sales of coffee by category from 2017-2022 (tonnes)

Value of forecast retail sales of coffee by category from 2017-2022 (in millions of EGP)

Percentage of growth in volume of forecast retail sales of coffee by category from 2017-2022

Percentage of value growth of forecast retail sales of coffee by category from 2017-2022

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Festival is gate to enhance relations between Egypt, African countries: Azza al-Husseiny Tue, 13 Mar 2018 11:30:37 +0000 Daily News Egypt say down with Azza al-Husseiny, Luxor African Film Festival executive director, to discuss the latest features of the festival. What will be the special features in this edition of the Luxor African Film Festival?  The mundane aspect of every film festival is the four main competitions: long narrative, long documentary, short narrative, …

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Daily News Egypt say down with Azza al-Husseiny, Luxor African Film Festival executive director, to discuss the latest features of the festival.

What will be the special features in this edition of the Luxor African Film Festival? 

The mundane aspect of every film festival is the four main competitions: long narrative, long documentary, short narrative, and the freedoms sections. This year, there will be a competition for films of Egyptian students, mainly graduation projects, which is being held for the first time. Also, we will host a forum which will include several figures from Africa. Under the title “Contemporary Visions for Africa’s Future,” it will discuss how cinema can be used as a tool to enhance relations between countries, which will include filmmakers, thinkers, and diplomates from eight African countries aside from Egypt. Also in attendance will be lecturers in cinema, anthropology, African literature, and comparative cultures.  The aim of the forum is to construct a theoretical framework to what is new in the African documentary filmmaking scene.

In the speeches and introductions by the festivals, it is always mentioned that the festival acts as diplomatic gate towards African countries. Can you tell us more about this? 

I am proud of this because this festival was a gate to enhancing relations between Egypt and other African countries. The festival itself started in the era when there were troubles, in 2010. However, the festival saw light in 2012. Egypt had very weak relations with Africa. We only had simple diplomatic representations, and maybe football was the only activity that connected us with the rest of the continent. The festival opened more horizons for meetings and dialogue, because it sends a message, which is: we are celebrating our African identity.

And automatically, this has reflected positively on the tourism sector, as Luxor is basically an open museum. This is also a great initiative for African youth, who might not have the chance to go on touristic trips to Luxor. And for us to have positive feedback and for some to consider the Luxor festival as one of the best festivals in Africa is a great achievement to us. Our achievements have been recognised abroad more than from the local audience.

Currently, there is an ongoing trend at festivals to support and fund the process of the scriptwriting and filmmaking? Is the Luxor festival planning to do something similar? 

We have a fund called Etesal which was founded during the second edition, and last year, we developed a new programme called Step to support the funding of long narrative films. Last year, Step faced setbacks to obtaining the necessary financial support. This year, different apparatuses from the government and civil society have decided to support the Luxor African Film Festival and the Etesal Fund, believing in the importance of supporting the production of films and the joint production between Egypt and other African countries. Hence the organisers of the festival and the fund were insistent to fulfil the promise of giving winners their deserved cash prizes.

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Artists should manage film festivals, not government employees: Sayed Fouad Tue, 13 Mar 2018 11:00:22 +0000 Diversity, increase of cultural events, state-sponsored or private, is always beneficial for society, says Luxor African Film Festival president

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The seventh edition of the Luxor African Film Festival will be held on 16 March. The festival is organised by the Independent Shabab Foundation (ISF), which was founded in 2006 and aims at developing capable film artists across Egypt.

The president of the festival, Sayed Fouad, graduated from the High Cinema Institute where he studied scriptwriting in 1993. He wrote and directed several works for cinema, theatre, and television. He is also the head of the scriptwriting department in the Cinema Professions Syndicate. He participated in the foundation of the Independent Theatre Current in Egypt in 1989 and is considered one of the founders of the Independent Culture Coalition in Egypt in 2011.

Fouad said that the coming edition of the Luxor African Film Festival will be different, as 110 films will be screened, with some of them premiering in Egypt. He also said that the festival will feature workshops and lectures.

The festival is not run by the government, but the ISF is cooperating with authorities. “The ISF started working on the festival in mid-2010 and the fruits of our efforts resulted in numerous partnerships, ranging from the Ministry of Culture in Egypt to international networks,” the festival’s website read. The first festival took place in February 2012.

Daily News Egypt sat down with Fouad to learn about the latest events that will be featured at the festival, and the challenges he and his team face in organising one of the country’s, and continent’s, prominent film festival.

You must have heard this question a million times and will hear it even more as the festival approaches. But I want to ask you, aside from the already existing programmes and prizes, what are the main events that you are personally proud of in this edition?

I am proud of the publication of the book on Samir Farid by Amal Al-Gamal. Farid was one of the founders of what we call now a cinematic culture in Egypt and in Africa. He is the only film critic and organiser who was honoured at the film festivals of Cannes, Berlin, New Delhi, and Dubai, all of which he deserved. So, this is the first book to come after the death of Farid and will be published in Arabic and French, to reach more people, as in Africa, many readers speak and read French. Also, the honouring of the Senegalese film director Moussa Touré is something I am glad is taking place. He is a splendid filmmaker. His last film La Pirogue (The Boat) was an important take on illegal migration as well as other films about slavery. Also, the honouring of prominent Egyptian actor Gamil Ratib, I think is a well-deserved step that he didn’t receive before. This man dedicated his life to art. I am also glad that we are keeping the tradition of honouring senior and youth members of the film industry, so this year we are honouring actress Ghada Adel.

Also, the newly published book Documentary Cinema in Africa, by two French writers, sheds light on the diversity of documentary films in Africa after 2000. The Luxor African Film Festival now has the rights to translate the book and it will be distributed. The book’s launch will also include a lecture by director and film critic Hisham Al-Nahas, who will be representing Egypt.

Further, in this edition, we have 110 films, 30% of which are world premieres, and 40% are African premieres. And among the events is a forum about arts and culture in Africa. We planned to organise this forum, believing that in any country, for people to live in prosperity and be able to produce and develop, they should have access to culture. The forum will be attended by African officials, critics, and artists, as well as Egyptian officials from the Foreign Ministry. The festival itself will be inaugurated at the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and its closing will take place at Luxor Temple.

It is often heard that the Luxor African Film Festival is calling upon the state to increase its support. Is this support only financial? What kind of logistical support may you need?

We get support, but we receive it after going through many troubles. We demand that it becomes a steady financial budget with annual support for the festival. Of course, we don’t want all of the budget to come from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture. We can play a role to fund and look for funders, advertisers, partners, and civil society elements. Logistically, we are provided a “youth palace” and other halls where we hold our events.

But at the end, we are an Egyptian product. We are a festival for Egypt, not for me or for intellectuals. Some people think that is this a personal project, however, it is rather a national project.

In the past few years, there has been a rise of several privately-controlled film festivals. Do you think this might negatively affect the state-sponsored festival, like for example the Luxor Film Festival and the Cairo Film Festival?

Not at all. I fear the opposite. As long as the number of civil society-engineered cultural events increase, this will be healthy and natural. I fear that there might be the time when there is no place for festivals that are run by civil society. Throughout the world, there are not festivals that are made by states. Some states and governorates support festivals, but they are run by civil society. The state does not manage or think about these events. The bureaucrat does not make the festival. The intellectual, the thinker, or the filmmaker is the one who programmes a festival. North Africa, epically Tunisia and Morocco, have several festivals, but none are run by their governments.

Here in Egypt, we are still in the era where the festivals are these shows which are made by people so they can get extra money. We are still suffering from the opinion that festivals are something that do not provide benefit, and that is not true.

Following up on the point you raised which is the public perception that film festivals are something secondary or just a group of intellectuals brainstorming about metaphysical ideas in the Cairo Opera House, do you have the vision to try to engage and perhapss alter these perceptions?

This is an everlasting discussion, and many intellectuals in Egypt have initiated several projects about this, to create cinema viewers and to build an intellectual generation. But this needs to be put on the agenda of the political leadership so that we can attract people to come and watch films, attend lectures, and buy books. This is very important and is very difficult.

Does what you said go along with the current state rhetoric of soft power and the effect of culture on the fight against extremism? For example, the last edition of the Cairo International Book Fair.

Soft power is an expression and a discourse used. I personally don’t like expression but raising consciousness and spreading tools of culture among the masses is the method which can fight terrorism and which can build an environment for development.

During the month of March are three state-sponsored film festivals: Luxor, Aswan, and Sharm El-Sheikh, which makes following and attending these events very difficult for interested people. What do you think of this? And has there been any coordination between the management of the three festivals?

This is a mismanagement caused by the high committee of festivals of the Ministry of Culture. Although the Ministry of Culture organises all these festivals and hence it should be more careful to market them to the masses, there is not an agenda. There should be one in order for these festivals to be distributed throughout the year. I think this is a very big mistake, and there should be more coordination.

And no, there has not been any coordination between the three festivals.

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Balkan Egyptians to homeland: We belong to you Mon, 12 Mar 2018 11:00:44 +0000 About 3,000 years ago, Egyptians travelled to Balkans to bring iron to Egypt

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About 3,000 years ago, Egyptians travelled to the Balkan Peninsula during the prosperity and glory of the Egyptian empire. During the iron revolution, at the time of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt, the Pharaohs Seth I (1294-1279BC) and Ramesses II (1279-1213BC) sent Egyptian slaves to bring iron from contemporary civilisations such as Anatolia, the Balkans, North of Apennine, Cyprus, and Peloponnese.

Descendants of some of those Egyptian migrants are still there, distributed across the states of the Balkan Peninsula. The ancient Hellenic tribe from Peloponnese, the Dorian, had an Egyptian origin, according to the historian Herodotus.

“Using the description in the ancient Hellenic legend for Cadmus and Harmony, we can make a lot of connections between the Balkans and Egypt, and we can make a reconstruction of the migration waves of Egyptians in the Balkans, especially for those who are in the present territory of Albania,” said Rubin Zemon, an assistant professor of anthropology and humanities  at the University of Information Science and Technology (UIST) “St Paul the Apostle” in Macedonia.

Zemon is one of the active members in the Egyptian community, not only in his country Macedonia, but also in the entire Balkan Peninsula. He has a PhD in ethnology about the Egyptian community in the Balkans from Ethnographic Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Science in Sofia.

He added that there are many preserved temples of Isis and other Egyptian gods throughout the Balkans, but the most notable ones are the temples of Isis in Lihnidos (Ohrid) and Heraclea (Bitola), as well as others on Albanian territory in Apolonia and other regions.


Throughout the past three millenia, the Egyptian community in the Balkans lived in isolated communities with no interaction with other communities of the society in their current countries, according to Zemon.

He added that Egyptians work different jobs, particularly in smithery, agriculture, and as musicians.

They are dispersed across Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. They stopped using their ancestral language when they adopted the languages of the majority populations of their local regions. They now speak different tongues: Albanian, Greek, Serbian, Turkish, and Macedonian.

Ina Veizaj

Identity v discrimination   

Although they have a long and ancient history in the Balkan Peninsula, the Egyptian community there suffers from discrimination. With the exception of the Albanian-majority country Kosovo, and recently Albania, countries in the Balkan Peninsula do not recognise the identity of the people who call themselves Egyptians.

The discrimination they face and not finding equal opportunities for work and education, as well as the ignorance of their identity, pushed Balkan Egyptians to mobilise and to team up in movements to defend their rights and identity.

Since the 1970s, Balkan Egyptians started to demand a separate Egyptian category to be added in official census statistics in their local nations. On 24 June 1990, the first assembly of one association of Balkan Egyptians was held in Ohrid, Macedonia, advocating the preservation and protection of their ethnic identity as Egyptians.

In 2010, in memory of the 1990 assembly, the Second Congress of the Union of Balkan Egyptians decided to celebrate 24 June as the International Day of Balkan Egyptians.


Albania lies in the southwestern portion of the Balkan Peninsula. “We are spread all over Albania even in the deepest villages,” said Ina Veizaj, who is one of the Balkan Egyptians in Albania. “In the main cities, we make up the majority. Tthese cities are Shkoder, Berat, Elbasan, Tirana, Korce, Tepelene, Gjirokaster Delvine Fier Lezhe, Durres, Pogradec.” But those people face hardship in their lives due to poverty and their usually large families.

Veizaj told Daily News Egypt that the Egyptian community in Albania is known by the state as a constitutional minority and for this, “we have come up with national plans for our integration, but these plans are not applied right and with justice.”

“We are organised in political parties and we have organisations. So far we have over 10 organisations and only two parties,” said Veizaj. She illustrates that the number of the Egyptian community in Albania reaches about 400,000 people of the 3 million population of the country.

“We know we are old and early and that we belong to the Copts,” she added. The Egyptian community in Albania does not face problems related to the culture, “culture in the south of the country is owned by us,” said Veizaj.

Regarding the Egyptian culture in her homeland (Egypt), Veizaj said that the number of Balkan Egyptian intellectuals who have knowledge about the situation in Egypt is few. “We know something about history and population, also a little information about the agriculture industry. In the meantime, for the current politics we hear only from the news but we do not study about it.”

The Albanian official position is that Egyptians “do not have their own language and can speak only the Albanian language. They have been integrated completely in the Albanian population and their only difference from the other Albanians is the colour of their skin” according to the PhD dissertation of Zemon.

Last year, Albania recognised the Egyptians as a minority, and in Serbia, they have a national council which is part of the government.

Veton Berisha


You can call Egyptian living in Kosovo the luckiest Egyptians in the Balkans. Egyptians in Kosovo are recognised in the constitution of the Albanian-majority country. They have their own political parties that are represented in the country’s parliament. The first Egyptian political party in Kosovo was established in 2001, New Democratic Initiative of Kosovo, and it has been representing the Egyptian community in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo (parliament).

In 2014, Veton Berisha, an Egyptian Kosovan politician established the Egyptian Liberal Party. The party has one member in parliament, two deputy ministers, and one adviser to the prime minister of Kosovo.

The party says it has many priorities for the Egyptian community in Kosovo, such as education, employment, housing, and access to health. “But as a political party, our main international goal is to work with the Egyptian government and to realise our aspiration as a community to be recognised by Egypt,” Berisha told Daily News Egypt.

According to Berisha the biggest difficulty for the Egyptian community in Kosovo is unemployment. Based on statistics from the World Bank, unemployment in Kosovo is at 40% and the unemployment rate among Egyptians is 90%. He added that Egyptians still face discrimination and hate speech, adding that many Egyptians do not challenge these issues in court because they do not trust the justice system in Kosovo.

From the last census in 2011, official statistics show that there are 11,524 Egyptians in Kosovo. But Berisha estimates the real number at up to 23,000 Egyptians in Kosovo, in addition to around 75,000 in diaspora, who were forced to flee during and after the war.


Speaking to Daily News Egypt from Tivat, Gjafer Brahimi, one of the leaders of the Egyptian community in Montenegro, said that the official number of his community is 3000 people. He believes the real number is bigger.

He added that they have formed an Egyptian organisation with special status in the state to defend the rights of the community. He also said they will soon establish an Egyptian liberal party in Montenegro.

Brahimi further explained that they are interested in Egyptian culture, especially since Islam links them more with Egypt as most of them are Muslims.

“We ask the Egyptian governments to recognise us,” Brahimi said.


Professor Rubin Zemon told Daily News Egypt that Balkan Egyptians in Macedonia are part of the so-called “other” communities, which means not mentioned in the preamble of the constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. According to Zemon, mentioning or not mentioning of the community in the preamble of the constitution generates discrimination on an ethnic basis in the enjoyment of civil and minority rights of the members of the communities living on the territory and are citizens of the Republic of Macedonia.

He further explained that members of the communities not mentioned in the preamble of the constitution are excluded from most of the rights enjoyed by the members mentioned in the constitution of Macedonia. According to Zemon, despite the normative part of the constitution for the “other” communities not limiting any rights, but through many laws and decisions, they are excluded, such as the law on official holidays in Macedonia, which was a decision of the government and members of the State Census Commission.
Zemon explained that Balkan Egyptians in Macedonia have a lot of difficulties and obstacles in everyday life, because most of them are not well educated and are mainly poor citizens, with limited access to social welfare and participation in public life.


Balkan Egyptians demand that the Egyptian government recognise them as Egyptians and to give them its international protection.

“The most important issue internationally for us is to be recognised by the Egyptian government,” said Balkan Egyptian Dzavit Berisha. Speaking to the Daily News Egypt from Romania, Berisha added that at a domestic level, they have a lot of work to do through human rights tools. “Balkan Egyptians still face big discrimination from the majority and I am trying to establish an international NGO in Kosovo and Brussels which will have three aims: research, litigation, and advocacy.”

Egyptian Kosovan politician Veton Berisha said that since 1989, after the announcement of the Egyptian movement in the Balkans, “our main goal was to be recognised by our motherland Egypt.” He added that they did not send any requests to the Egyptian government because “we had issues to solve in the countries where Egyptian communities live.”

Berisha added that they had contacts with Egyptian embassies in the Balkans. For the first time in 1991, the Egyptian Ambassador Hussein Hassouna visited Ohrid, Macedonia and had one meeting with the Egyptian community. “In 1992 we had a meeting with the attaché of Egypt in Belgrade, Ahmed Shuhdi who came to Pristina to talk with the Egyptian leaders,” said Berisha.

Nour Al-Tamimi, responsible for the Balkan Egyptians file in the Egyptian government, told Daily News Egypt that he has been responsible for this issue since 2012. He added that he is conducting a study for the Supreme Council of Culture about the Egyptian community in the Balkans. He had several meetings with them, the last of which was held in Geneva between him and Veton Berisha.

“It is the first communication between Egypt and Balkan Egyptians since decades, and an Egyptian sovereign authority is highly interested in the issue,” said Al-Tamimi.


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Chocolate market regains its taste and looks forward to growth Thu, 08 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 A number of companies in the chocolate industry are preparing to inject new investments into the market during the coming period as the economy recovers following the crises of the last two years. Chocolate production has declined in the last two years at rates ranging from 10 to 50% across many producers. The market expects …

The post Chocolate market regains its taste and looks forward to growth appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A number of companies in the chocolate industry are preparing to inject new investments into the market during the coming period as the economy recovers following the crises of the last two years.

Chocolate production has declined in the last two years at rates ranging from 10 to 50% across many producers. The market expects a recovery of exports during the coming period as domestic alternatives that tried to benefit from the rise in the prices of imported brands recovered. Currently, two companies control about 72% of sales; namely Cadbury and Mars.

Production fell by 10-50% last year

Companies are moving towards export expansion and targeting high-income segments to save sales

Nestle sales were not impacted following the float, despite price hikes, says Shahin

Purchasing power fell 30%, production 10%, price hikes reached 92%: Mars

Corona returns to the Arab and African markets after 8 years of absence

Float was not reflected on exports because of specifications: Covertina

Chocolate factories are trying to overcome the difficulties they face in the recent period through plans to increase exports and maintain their share in the local market despite the decline in purchasing power and high production costs.

The government’s sharp reforms over the past year and a half, such as the application of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the liberalisation of the value of the pound, have left its impacts on the consumers of this commodity, which reflects on sales that went down for many producers.

Local producers are currently racing to expand overseas markets to compensate for the decline of domestic consumption, while imported brands are focused on high-income bracket customers, whose lifestyle has not been affected by the reform.

Foreign Relations Director at Mars Egypt Mohamed Fawzy said that Egypt’s chocolate production fell by 10%, while purchasing power fell by 30%.

He added that the low production capacity of factories is due to high energy prices, the application of VAT, and raising the interest on lending, which caused the final price to hike by up to 92%.

“Some companies did not benefit from the float in increasing their exports, given the high production cost and the long time that the General Organisation for Import and Export Control (GOEIC) takes to inspect the imported production input, compared to three days at most in some Arab countries,” he explained.

Some companies have tried to focus on high-income segments or to address the loyalty of consumers to offset the impact of price hikes.

Confectionery Business Executive Officer at Nestle North East African Region Mohamed Shahin said that the company’s Kitkat was not impacted much by the price hikes, as it maintained the same quality.

He added that the company’s products have a high-income consumer audience who were not much affected by the rise in prices after the liberalisation of the exchange rate.

Nestle in Egypt owns a factory in the 10th of Ramadan City which produces milk powder Nido, along with Nesquik, Kitkat chocolate, mineral water, and Nescafe.

But companies that still target lower income segments followed other strategies to save their sales, including the gradual roll-out of cost increases to consumers, but suffered nonetheless.

Marwan Shennawy, chief financial officer of Covertina, said that the float raised the prices of production inputs and wages, which contributed to lowering the company’s production capacity by 30%, falling from 150 tonnes per day to 100 tonnes.

He added that the company did not raise the prices of selling its products in the local market to maintain its market share and continue to compete.

He explained that the purchasing power of chocolate consumers decreased by 30%, as consumers turned to securing their basic needs first.

Covertina was founded in 1963. Its capital has since reached EGP 50m now. It exports 50% of its production to 45 countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, Malawi, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Algeria, Romania, Canada, and Korea. Shennawy said that the floatation did not contribute to increasing the company’s exports despite the depreciation of the pound due to the quality and specifications required abroad.

Swiza Sales Director Makram Hashim said that the company’s production halved from 80,000 tonnes in 2016 to 40,000 tonnes in 2017, following the float as production inputs costs hiked.

He added that the company was able to overcome the production costs hike to the final products to achieve sales worth EGP 12m last year, up from EGP 11m in 2016.

The company aims to raise its sales by 10% this year and to return to its full production capacity.

Hashim explained that the company supplies its entire production to hotels, considering its proximity to Alexandria, noting that the recession that hit the tourism sector reduced hotels’ share of the company’s production.

Ahmed El Fendi, chairperson of Sima Group, said that the company’s production fell by 30%, as production costs hiked by 60%.

He added that purchasing power fell by almost half over the past year to local products, while imported chocolate was not affected as they target high-income segments.

Moreover, Mohamed Magdy, marketing director at Corona, said that the company raised the prices of its products by 5% in 2016 and by 10% in 2017, then by 5% early this year.

He added that the volume of company sales fell by 20% last year, noting that the company aims to, once again, return to Arab and African markets following 8 years of hiatus, so as to offset the decline in local sales.

Magdy explained that the company sent shipments to the countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Canada, Guinea, Uganda, America, Germany, and Sudan.

There are a number of other international companies in the Egyptian market, including Cadbury, which owns Mondelez Egypt Foods, with two factories in the 10th of Ramadan City to produce chocolate, and a third plant in Alexandria for dairy products. It exports to 35 countries, including North Africa, India, China, New Zealand, Singapore, and South and North America, next to allocating 50% of production to the domestic market.

The company’s sales in the Egyptian market amounted to about EGP 1.4bn in 2016, with a market share of 40% of the chocolate market in Egypt.

Info-graph by Daily News Egypt

New investments in the local market

A number of companies involved in the production and marketing of chocolate in Egypt intend to pump new investments in the sector in the coming period, with the aim of targeting new export opportunities. Among the companies are Mars, Corona, and Sima.

Mohamed Fawzy, director of foreign relations at Mars Egypt, said that the global Mars Group intends to increase its investments in Egypt by establishing two production lines to output Galaxy and Jewels chocolate with investments of $50m and a production capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year.

He noted that the new expansions will create 1,600 direct and indirect jobs.

Mars Group owns the brands of Bounty, Twix, Galaxy, Mars, M&M, Snickers, and Moro. Locally, it produces Twix and Galaxy, with the intention of producing Jewels.

He said that the company aims to increase the proportion of exports to 90% of domestic production, up from 75% now, after the establishment of the new lines, which could boost the company’s exports from Egypt to $100m per year.

The company’s sales in the local market at the end of last year amounted to EGP 1bn, while exports scored $42m.

He added that the new lines will contribute to increasing the volume of the company’s investments in Egypt to EGP 3bn, while Mars group investments register some $40bn.

Mars investments are vital for the company in Egypt, as it faces fierce competition with Cadbury, which accounts for the largest market share at 44%, while Mars owns 28%. Both companies only account for 72% of the total local chocolate market.

The tourist sector has recently recovered with the improved attractiveness of Egyptian destinations as a result of the liberalisation of the pound, and the faded impact of terrorist operations.

World Tourism Organization said last month that the number of tourists who came to Egypt jumped by a rate of 55% last year.

Chairperson of Sima Group Ahmed El-Fendi said that the company is also considering the establishment of two production lines this year to raise the efficiency of its products and target through focusing on high-income segments to increase sales locally.

Sima Group was founded in 1961. It now owns three factories to produce chocolate, bonbon, gum, wafers, and lollipops with a capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year.

As for Mohamed Magdy, marketing director at Corona, he said that they plan to establish a new plant in the industrial district of 6th of October City this year, which will secure the company’s needs of cocoa and is expected to be inaugurated by mid-2019.

In addition to the new production lines that the current producers intend to launch, the market for new products expanded by companies, including companies that did not produce chocolate or any of their derivatives, to benefit from the variables in the market following the reforms and the price hikes.

A number of companies offered alternative products to those imported, but many of them came in significantly lower quality.


Cadbury denominates 44% of the market, Mars at 28%

Companies are introducing new products and renaming old ones to maintain market share

A recent Euromonitor report for market studies said rising prices and inflation were the hallmarks of 2017. Yet, despite these huge price leaps, companies and producers continue to offer new products and spend on marketing. They also re-introduce old products to maintain their market shares.

According to Euromonitor, Cadbury, under Mondolez Egypt, accounts for 44% of the local market in 2017.

Mars followed in second with a share of 28%, then Nestle with 8%.

The report pointed out that the chocolate market in Egypt is dominated by global brands that are manufactured domestically, pointing out that local manufacturers tried to produce high quality at low prices, but this did not change the shape of the market.

Euromonitor expected chocolate sales in Egypt to continue to slightly grow in quantity in 2018, adding that prices would increase shyly as operation and transportation costs rise. Yet, companies will expand in offering new products at lower prices to maintain sales.

A report by the US Department of Agriculture said the largest five countries in terms of sales in Egypt during 2016 were Cadbury ($177.1m), which outperformed Mars with sales of $99.6m, Nestle with $30m, Ferrero with $14.6m, and Corona with $11.7m.

Recovery of local alternatives after floatation

The problems experienced by famous chocolate brands, which have become expensive for many consumers, have revived the alternatives that local factories have tried to offer at a lower cost to take advantage of the sudden support provided by the pound float.

Food factories in Egypt have launched cocoa and chocolate products similar in shape to imported products whose prices have doubled under the weight of VAT, the liberalisation of the pound, and increased customs duties.

In a bid to restore its laurels, El Shamadan, best known for its wafers in the 1990s, introduced a new product named Pure, which was marketed as a substitute to the imported Kitkat produced by Nestle.

Another product of Nestle now racing against local companies is Nesquik. Several Egyptian companies introduced alternatives, as the original brand price soared, including Cooks and Five Minutes.

The most famous alternatives that appeared in the local market for international chocolate products was Moltobella, the Egyptian version of Ferrero’s Italian Nutella.

Ahmed El-Fendi, a member of the board of directors of the Chamber of Food Industries, said that the alternatives of chocolate produced locally either bars or creamy have been available in the market for years, but consumers only saw them when the imported versions were no longer an option from them.

The local manufacturing of chocolate and Nutella was not the main problem, but the importation of raw materials of cocoa and butter was the main challenge, he said.

Some brands such as Finta and Nutkao have also spread at prices that fit the reach of middle-income segments of the Egyptian society.

Despite the many similar products to that of Nestle, the company is not worried. Confectionery Business Executive Officer at Nestle North East African Region Mohamed Shahin said that the company was not impacted by the new Egyptian products, given the quality gap that weighs in for Nestle.

He added that the company targets high income segments who are not affected by the high prices of their products in the local market.

Egypt has made major reforms to change the course of the economy over the past two years, including the shift to the Value Added Tax, which raised the tax imposed on it from 10 to 14%.

The government also raised customs duties on a large number of imported goods, including chocolate, which is now liable to 40% customs, up from 20%, except imports from the European Union, which fall under 13% customs and 17% for Turkey.


$108m of exports in 11 months

The Food Export Council said that Egyptian exports of chocolate reached $108m in the first 11 months of last year.

It added that the value of black chocolate exports amounted to $88.9, while that of white chocolate scored $19.1m.

According to data from the Chamber of Food Industries of the Egyptian Federation of Industries, Egypt’s imports of chocolate in 2017 fell to $33.8m, down from $52.1m in 2016.

The chocolate industry, like other industries, was affected by the economic reform measures taken by the government at the end of 2016, said Mohamed Shoukry, vice president of the Chamber of Food Industries.

He added that 95% of the raw materials used in the chocolate industry are imported, including cocoa, butter, powdered milk, and sugar, in addition to the import of types of manufactured chocolate for sale in the local market.

He pointed out that the volume of production of chocolate factories in Egypt decreased by 25% after the float as raw material prices increased, which led the purchasing power to fall by 20%.

In addition, Shahat Selim, head of the chocolate division at the Chamber of Food Industries, said that Egypt is exporting chocolate to the markets of Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and some African countries within the COMESA Agreement.

He explained that it is difficult to export to European countries, due to the high customs tariff on sugar products.

He added that Egypt is facing difficulties in exporting to west African countries due to the high shipping costs and the absence of direct export lines.

Africa exports cocoa beans to European countries to be grinded for cocoa extraction. Egypt has only one factory to grind cocoa, but the high costs shrunk the factory’s production.

He added that after the Arab spring revolutions, Egyptian exports to Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen stopped, while the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, took the largest share of exports of Egyptian chocolate.

He explained that the number of companies producing chocolate in Egypt reached 238 based on the latest statistics of the chamber.


House of Cocoa to become Egypt’s first chocolate mall

In an effort to facilitate the task of searching for different types of chocolate, Bow&Ark opened the House of Cocoa mall, to become Egypt’s first chocolate mall.

Located in New Cairo’s Downtown area, House of Cocoa offers a vast variety of chocolate produced by Bow&Ark and other imported brands.

Ayten Halim, marketing manager at Bow&Ark, said that the company’s production volume was affected by the float and the inflation that followed, yet, sales remained untouched.

She added that the company imports raw chocolate from Belgium and manufactures it locally in the company’s plant in the industrial area of Abo Rawash, then adds new flavours that were previously unavailable in Egypt.

Prices of chocolate bars range from EGP 20 to EGP 50, while the price can go higher when buying in kilograms.

“The company is targeting the high-income segment,” Halim said, noting that the mall was opened in a distinctive area in New Cairo, so sales were not affected by the recent economic changes.

House of Cocoa sells different brands of chocolate, including Prestat, Lindt, Milka, De Schutter, Dolfin, Heilemann, Ritter, Fudges, and Gnaw.

Halim said that the company has branches in the areas of Maadi and Korba in Heliopolis and a branch in the Saudi German Hospital, and aims to open two new branches in the First Settlement in New Cairo and Mall of Egypt in 6th of October City this year.

“Despite the prices changing, the company did not raise selling prices, as the main reason is to offer distinctive brands of chocolate and not profit,” she stressed.

Finally, she noted that the company is facing several challenges this period, such as the high cost of imported raw materials that cannot be provided domestically.

Bow&Ark was founded in 2012. It is an Egyptian joint stock company of 50 employees, subject to increase following the new expansions.

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Egypt tightens rules amid counterterrorism strategy Sun, 04 Mar 2018 08:00:02 +0000 Stricter legal penalties, media monitoring, state bodies on alert 

The post Egypt tightens rules amid counterterrorism strategy  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

With fighting terrorism as a priority for the Egyptian government, the massive Sinai 2018 operation, initiated to face years of violence in the peninsula, accompanied by a supportive media campaign, the state is also moving to tighten legal control.

Besides an unstable situation in North Sinai, where hundreds of military and police forces were killed and where the deadliest attack on civilians took place last November, there have been major operations in Cairo and other attacks across different governorates.

On Thursday, the State Council discussed two legal issues related to terrorism, one regarding an established council to combat terrorism, and the other relating to penalties for the crime of terrorism.

Declaring a state of emergency in April following a twin attack on churches during Palm Sunday celebrations, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi also announced the establishment of a counterterrorism council.

The body was named the National Council to Combat Terrorism and Extremism and was tasked with “forming a national comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism and extremism,” developing security plans, and raising social awareness to put an end to recruitment by violent groups, a presidential statement read.

This also comes amid reviewing the criminal code to include stricter punishments for crimes related to terrorism. Since the ouster of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi, dozens of trial cases on terrorism charges were put up, mostly in mass trials, where death penalties were regularly ruled. Hundreds of defendants are still on trial in similar cases.

The council to combat terrorism

National Council to Combat Terrorism and Extremism was established by a presidential decree in 2017.

The members include the heads of parliament, cabinet, Al-Azhar, and the Coptic church, in addition to the ministers of defence, endowments, youth, social solidarity, interior, foreign affairs, communications, justice, education, and higher education, as well as the heads of the General Intelligence Directorate and Administrative Control Authority.

The council further includes public figures mostly in the fields of security, media, and religious affairs.

The president is supposed to meet the council every two months at least. Al-Sisi met with the council for the first time in August.

Terrorism charges, death penalty

The State Council further reviewed amendments proposed by the cabinet with regards to the criminal code, according to local media.  Sentences can reach the death penalty or life in prison for the crimes of possessing, importing, or manufacturing explosive materials without being licensed, to serve terrorist purposes.

The death penalty was already present in the criminal code, but as the punishment for using explosives in violent operations and attacks.

The penalty is also included in the antiterrorism law adopted in 2015.

In this law, it applies to a dozen crimes, mainly founding or running a terrorist organisation, funding a terrorist organisation or person, and executing a terrorist act in conspiracy with a foreign entity, in addition to a series of other crimes defined in the law if they involve deaths, for example, assaulting properties of diplomatic missions or international organisations, if any deaths occur as a result.

Death sentences executed

Before the law was passed, criminal courts had to deal with crimes of terrorism, at first associated with the violent protests which erupted post-30 June in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Death sentences have been handed to hundreds in mass trials related to those events which often witnessed clashes with security forces and involved deaths on both sides.

Defendants were usually charged with attacking police stations, obstructing roads, spreading terror, participating in non-peaceful protests, and using weapons. One of the most famous cases was the sentencing to death of over 500 defendants by a court in Minya on charges of attacking a police station and the killing of a police officer.

Some of the death penalties, including against Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, were revoked, while others were issued in absentia with several retrials ordered.

With the increase of violence and operations claimed by different violent groups, cases of belonging and forming armed wings and terrorist cells began in courts.

In mid-February, a court postponed to April the retrial of 15 defendants previously sentenced to death in the case of storming the Kerdassa police station, where at least a dozen officers were murdered and their bodies mutilated.

On the other hand, in December, local media cited unnamed security sources confirming the execution of 15 people charged in cases of terrorism. They had reportedly engaged in operations against the police and military in Sinai.

State institutions in charge of responding to criticism

In February, the Egyptian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee issued a statement condemning a European Parliament joint motion for a resolution urging Egypt to abolish the death penalty, citing hundreds of sentences issued and dozens of penalties executed since 2014. It called on Egypt to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The committee said, in a statement, the call reflected ignorance of and interference with Egypt’s local affairs and disregarded discussions with Egyptian parliamentarians. The response was based on asserting the independence of the judicial authority, the meticulous legal procedures regarding the penalty, constitutional guarantees of fair trials, and human rights protections.

“The [Egyptian] parliament would like to bring to the attention of the European Parliament that abolishing the death penalty is not an international commitment and is not agreed upon among all states and that promoting concepts that do not correspond to social and cultural values of other societies and trying to impose them on other states through manipulative means that reinforce them as the ultimate truth is unacceptable,” the statement added.

In other situations, the Foreign Affairs ministry had been responsible for responding to foreign reports critical of the political sphere.

Meanwhile, the State Information Service (SIS) is leading a campaign to counter negative foreign media coverage of Egypt, especially on issues of terrorism and violence. On several occasions, the SIS voiced its rejection of the use of terms other than “terrorist” to refer to violent and armed groups in Egypt. It has denounced foreign media organisations by name, including Reuters, the Associated Press, and the BBC.

On 11 February, the SIS issued a report detailing its monitoring of media coverage of the Sinai 2018 operation. The report often linked information it aimed at dismissing to rumours being circulated by the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, calling them “lies that are blindly circulated by some international media outlets.”

Examples would be “claims that the developmental role undertaken by the army overshadows its defensive role,” “military interference by some regional parties in Sinai to combat terrorism,” or that there is a media blackout on Sinai, especially for foreign reporters.

Control of the media is part of a larger state strategy. Since nearly a year, hundreds of news websites have been blocked in Egypt under the pretext of promoting terrorism and incitement against the state.

Moreover, the antiterrorism law penalises the media in the case of publishing information on terrorist attacks which conflicts with official statements. Journalists are also being persecuted if they publish reports that contain information considered by authorities to be threatening public security and order.

On the international level, Egypt is keen on voicing its determination to fight terrorism, particularly mentioning the roots of funding terrorist organisations.

The country was subject to a series of attacks including three church blasts in December 2016 and April 2017 and an attack on a mosque in Sinai that left over 300 prayers dead including children.

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How are journalists coping with low salaries? Tue, 27 Feb 2018 08:00:53 +0000 Financial crises at top of challenges threatening future of journalism

The post How are journalists coping with low salaries? appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Amid the recent economic situation in Egypt, a state of uncertainty is expected for the situation of press. Journalists are quitting their profession as soon as they get better opportunities in different fields, ignoring their passion and prioritising money.

Newspapers in Egypt are already facing unstable economic conditions, perpetuated with recent economic changes, putting journalists under pressure, torn between following their passions or being realistic and quitting for extra income.

There are increasing challenges threatening the future of journalism in Egypt, with the financial situation coming at the top. It is expected that more prominent newspapers might need to downsize or suspend their print operations, just to avoid increasing losses.

Salaries of journalists on average range between EGP 900 and 3,000, though in some cases, salaries could be higher based on importance of position and experience. However, journalism remains one of the reputable professions that cannot provide a decent salary. Some newspapers are giving salaries per article and according to the magnitude of a journalist’s work. The rate of pay per word ranges from 50 piastres to 100 piastres, and per piece from EGP 100 to EGP 700 in local newspapers. Due to unstable conditions, some journalists receive monthly salaries in portions.

Speaking with a number of journalists working for Arabic- and English-language publications, the majority confirm that they are ready to leave the profession, no matter how passionate they are, so long as they can improve their living conditions.

“I have been working as a business reporter for over 12 years and all I have gained from the job is getting all of my work published. I can’t deny that I fulfilled my passion; I wrote stories that I’m proud of, but in terms of money, I gained nothing. Working in journalism did not help me buy a car or an apartment, nor to start a project; it barely helps me get through the day,” a 33-year-old, working for Arabic-language publication who asked to be identified only as SS, told Daily News Egypt.

SS continued that he works night shifts for other outlets, particularly foreign ones, as they provide better salaries, adding that he will quit the profession if he gets a better position anywhere else.

Another journalist, who asked to use the pseudonym Ahmed Hassan, working for an English-language publication, said, “what distinguishes me over other news reporters is that I have another language that allows me to freelance with international outlets to improve my income. Still, I can [improve my situation further] if I work in TV or for international agencies, if I got the opportunity.”

Throughout the past three years, economic conditions of journalists severely worsened due to the industry suffering increasing cases of newspaper closures, website blocking, and dismissals. This resulted in encouraging journalists to leave the profession, feeling that they are no longer safe, as they are not well compensated and there is a lack of opportunity to work freely and be creative, Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafeez, member of the Press Syndicate, told to Daily News Egypt in a phone interview.

He also said that the situation of journalists working for independent newspapers is more risky, as they are not getting paid on a regular basis, if at all, due to financial issues. He added that, comparatively, those working for governmental newspapers definitely get paid at the end of each month, even if few amounts.


“Advertisers don’t work with newspapers that print few issues, they prefer online platforms, where they are confident that their content will be more seen,” Abdel Hafiz said, adding that unfortunately, the reason behind printing few issues is reducing expenses.

He also cautioned that the content of newspapers is part of the issue, as the bulk of them is only dependent on traditional news pieces, not analysis or in-depth features.

Amr Badr, also a member of the board of the Press Syndicate, agreed with Abdel Hafez, saying that there are two main points to limit the problem: first, improving content and second, narrowing the themes of the newspapers.

Moreover, media analyst Yasser Abdel Aziz said, “I cannot doubt that the economic situation led journalists to leave the profession. Their newspapers’ income is declining due to reduction in advertisement and distribution. The models that newspapers are currently following are not sustainable. I think this would only improve in an unprecedented economic boom, and the possibility of such a thing is very weak.”

He also agreed with other syndicate members saying that advertisers have more confidence in publishing their products on social media or on the web. He also opined that after one decade, newspapers will cease to exist, saying that this has actually already begun as newspapers are reducing issues, making them weekly, or suspending print.

“Statistics and official statements indicate that printed newspapers are declining and electronic journalism will flourish. I believe that the success of the online experiment is in the interest of journalists, as developing online websites will attract [more] readers and advertisers and will offer good salaries,” Abdel Aziz concluded.

Newspapers’ financial issues are a result of several factors, ranging from self-funding methods, debt, and reduction in advertisements and subscriptions. In general, printing is one of the major issues threatening newspapers and impacting salaries, as newspapers face economic pressures, sometimes having to resort to decreasing the number of printed issues or suspending printing.

Similar to this, renowned journalist Ibrahim Eissa of privately-owned newspaper Al-Maqal said the publication shifted from a daily issue to a weekly one. Also, privately-owned newspaper Al Shorouk, which has long been suffering financial difficulties, decreased its printed issues.

Moreover, Al-Tahrir newspaper, established after the 25 January revolution, has witnessed different phases of uncertainty due to changing owners, resulting in the current suspension of printing, and also the sacking of journalists to avoid losses and save money for other expenses.

There are many media organisations that prefer to shy away from printing for fear of wasting funds and to maintain providing decent salaries. Online websites are accessed more and are viewed at higher volumes than printed newspapers.

The marketing manager of an independent newspaper, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, told Daily News Egypt that printed newspapers are not in demand, so online news websites and applications have become alternatives to print due to their easy access and flexibility. He also said that even subscription plans cannot continue if newspapers are not demanded or readable.

Some newspapers are relying on their subscriptions to remain operational. Hotels, embassies, and popular cafés are some of the biggest subscribers.

“We suffer to close advertisement deals, as advertisers understand well that audiences will not go to buy newspapers and are more active on social media. Still, in cases of big events, particularly economic conferences, some companies publish their ads in the newspapers distributed at the conference,” the marketing manager also said.

Recently, a number of Egyptian websites have been blocked in Egypt, which resulted in employees being terminated and salaries being reduced. Adel Sabri, editor-in-chief of Masr Al-Arabia website, said that he decided to dismiss half of his employees because of their work, by default, being halted for the past few months.

Sabri added the website had been shut down for a long while, and this negatively affected the economic conditions, thus reducing employment and reducing salaries were the solutions. He pointed out that he put the site up for sale, but there is fear of approaching and buying because of the deteriorated conditions of journalism. It was reported in local media that many of Masr Al-Arabia’s field and video journalists have also been terminated.

Moreover, Gamal Sultan, editor of Al Masryoon newspaper, said previously that the paper’s management was considering cutting costs due to the fact that the Press Syndicate did not stand behind the publication and did not respond to it in the complaint it filed, except that it referred the matter to the Superme Media Council.

Egyptian journalists have long struggled with insecure employment conditions and low salaries. The absence of permanent contracts, which provide significant legal protection against spontaneous dismissal, has been a persistent.

In a previous interview with national newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm, head of the Press Syndicate Abdel Mohsen Salama said that he agrees that journalists are receiving low salaries and that there should be a minimum wage for national newspaper employees to improve their living conditions in light of the high prices. He added that the syndicate will soon improve the income of journalists working in private newspapers because it is a big, complex problem.

According to the new contracts, the minimum wage for each journalist should be EGP 1,200 per month, which a large number of journalists do not receive at present.

The syndicate currently provides allowances to journalists to help them cope with difficult life conditions. It is the only syndicate in Egypt that issues a monthly stipend to its members. Journalists who are registered with the syndicate receive allowances of EGP 1,680, which is allocated from Ministry of Finance, and they are also provided medical insurance. There are about 11,000 journalists registered with the syndicate, which implies that the government provides about EGP 13m in allowances for journalists.

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US stubbornly proceeds with Jerusalem plan, plans to open embassy in May Sun, 25 Feb 2018 13:00:25 +0000 Announcement comes shortly after Abbas’ new proposed peace conference 

The post US stubbornly proceeds with Jerusalem plan, plans to open embassy in May appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The US will move forward with its plan regarding Jerusalem, neither affected by the international community nor facing serious rejection from the Arab and Muslim world.

On Friday, the US State Department said it will open its new embassy in Jerusalem in May, coinciding “with Israel’s 70th anniversary”. “We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to May,” the statement red. Israel welcomed the decision as President Donald Trump continued to defend it.

Back when Trump made the controversial declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, officials said the embassy move would take a couple of years—perhaps to appease angry reactions. The latest was Vice President Mike Pence speaking in the Knesset in January, who said the embassy would open in 2019.

In addition to the schedule being accelerated, the new embassy will be located in the Arnona neighbourhood as an initial location, in a modern building that now houses consular operations of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, which in turn will continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate.

In other words, it is going to be an “interim embassy” which will be expanded by the end of next year until the permanent location for the embassy is decided upon and its construction process completed.

According to a report by Fox News, while some experts see Trump’s declaration as a delivered promise to his voters, others are concerned by the impact on the decision on sparking violence and causing significant harm to the US’ credibility as a peace mediator.

For its part, Bloomberg highlighted disputes among officials of the US administration, mainly between the State Department on the one hand and Trump, Pence, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the other. “Pence and Kushner, who Trump has put in charge of the Middle East peace process, have demanded the embassy be moved quickly, while Tillerson has argued for more time to ensure the safety of US citizens,” the report said.

Bloomberg added that Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said in January, “plans to build a new embassy in Jerusalem had been abandoned because such construction would be “cost-prohibitive.” He said the existing facility would be retrofitted instead, a comment that administration officials said provoked anger from Pence and Kushner.

This comes as business magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Republican pro-Israel influencer, offered to pay for the project. “Under any circumstance, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical US practice. In the Jerusalem case, it would add yet another layer of controversy to President Trump’s politically charged decision to move the embassy, given Adelson’s longstanding affiliation with right-wing Israeli politics,” the Associated Press reported.

Abbas proposes new peace conference, US reaffirms stance

In a Tuesday United Nations Security Council session, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave a long speech before the Security Council in which he we went over the history of the suffering of the Palestinian people, denial of their rights despite international resolutions, and their commitment to peace. He also accused the Israeli side of rejecting negotiations, a claim rejected by the Israeli representative.

“We call for the convening of an international peace conference by mid-2018, predicated upon international law and the relevant UN resolutions, with broad international participation, including the two parties concerned and regional and international stakeholders, foremost among them the permanent members of the Security Council and the Quartet in the same framework as the Paris conference for peace in the Middle East and the conference to be held in Moscow in line with [UNSC Resolution] 1850 (2009),” Abbas stated.

He suggested different phases of the conference which would include the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, and the establishment of “an international multilateral mechanism that will facilitate negotiations between the two parties to resolve all permanent status issues” and the suspension of the US decision to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.

US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the US recognised the suffering of the Palestinian people and offered an “outstretched hand” to its leadership, calling for peace. Regarding her country’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, she declared, “you don’t have to like it, but that position won’t change” and emphasised that the choice at hand was between hate and resuming negotiations to improve Palestinian lives.

Two-state solution dying

In response to the US State Department statement, lead negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, said the move and choice of the date continue to destroy the two-state option, as he once more asserted that the US has become part of the problem and therefore could not be part of the solution.

During the Security Council session, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said, “the global consensus for a two-state solution could be eroding and obstacles on the ground could potentially create an irreversible one-state reality” and “there is no Plan B” in lieu of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Those concerns were echoed by Nickolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, who said, “the international community must reaffirm that sustainable peace required a two-state solution that could only be achieved through a negotiated solution,” calling for an end to Israeli settlement expansion and for policy shifts that were consistent with a transition to greater Palestinian civil authority.

Little Arab action

Since Trump’s unilateral declaration to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in a flagrant violation of international resolutions regarding the special status of the city amid an unresolved conflict, the biggest Arab action against it was Egypt moving a draft resolution to make the US reverse its decision, which although supported by a majority, remained non-binding on the US.

In the first days following the decision, the international community’s criticism of Trump did not stop his administration from defending what they said was “the right thing to do.”

In face of US escalation, Abbas has been meeting world leaders and speaking at major events, calling on countries to recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. There have been severe denunciations of Trump and demands to rescind the decision by most Arab countries’ foreign ministers and the Arab League, which despite holding several meetings, did not come up with an action plan equal to the US moves on the ground.

The Egyptian stance was in favour of the Palestinian right to sovereignty according to the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, with the country’s religious leaders participating in pressuring the US by refusing to meet with Pence during his scheduled visit to the Middle East.

Yet, the visit was only delayed for several weeks and Egypt ended up hosting Pence and asserting the US’ leading role in peace negotiations, despite the Palestinian rhetoric saying the opposite and accusing the US of taking sides in the conflict.

Moreover, Egypt fiercely denied a New York Times report suggesting it tacitly accepted the Jerusalem declaration while maintaining public denunciation.

Other media reports also indicated that Saudi Arabia tried to convince Abbas. “Palestinian officials say Riyadh has also been working for weeks behind the scenes to press them to support a nascent US peace plan,” Reuters said in December.

The report quoted Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, saying Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman asked Abbas to show support for the US peace efforts when meeting in Riyadh ahead of the declaration in November, adding, “this peace process will go ahead.”

If true, such scenes would explain why the US felt no real obstacle in going through with its plan, but on the contrary, counting on the support of its allies in the Middle East, which Abbas does not seem to be among.

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The cost of love: the economics of Valentine’s Day Wed, 14 Feb 2018 10:00:33 +0000 Nationwide spending in US on Valentine's Day expected to reach $19.6bn in 2018, US NRF says

The post The cost of love: the economics of Valentine’s Day  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Whether or not you are a lover on it, or you spend it completely alone, Valentine’s Day is an important and highly prominent day for the world economy. Couples spend billions of dollars on flowers, gifts, cards, and expensive meals everywhere across the world on 14 February of every year. Florists, gift shops, restaurants, and jewellers hotly anticipate Valentine’s Day, as it never fails to bring in easy revenues, especially as prices of the goods and services in demand double, or even triple in some cases, right before the day. In the US, Valentine’s Day is the third largest consumer holiday.

According to a report issued by the US National Retail Federation (NRF), the average American citizen is expected to spend approximately $144 on gifts in 2018. The nationwide spending in the US on Valentine’s Day is expected to reach $19.6bn, while in 2017, the spending reached $18.2, which makes the new expected value a near-record one. In 2016, Americans spent a total of $19.7bn. In the US, 55% of the population celebrating the day is expected to celebrate by purchasing jewellery. This means nearly $5bn worth of spending. As for the groups of people expected to spend on evenings out, they are likely to spend approximately $4bn, and those spending on jewellery are likely to spend $2bn, according to the report issued by the NRF.

“With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate [at] this time of year,” said NRF president and CEO, Mathew Shay. Roses and candy are the most demanded goods during the season.

Interestingly, the American flower industry has seen its production of roses fall by nearly 95%, dropping from $545m to less than $30m. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day and the week ahead of it are considered the peak season for the Colombian economy. The flower industry there shipped more than 4bn flowers to the United States last year—or about a dozen for every US citizen. The United States flower industry often depends on flowers that are produced in Ecuador and Colombia. “The Colombian industry has bloomed thanks to a US effort to expand free trade agreements—and the relentless demand by American consumers for cheap roses,” The Washington Post reported.

“It used to be an occasion for handmade cards and gifts; now, Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, especially flowers and chocolates, are a multibillion-dollar industry that props up whole economies. Cut-flower exporters like Colombia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, and some African countries make the bulk of their export sales revenues during the Valentine season,” The Inquirer reported.

In a survey conducted by GE Money a few years ago among Asian residents from eight countries, the Philippines was ranked the top country celebrating Valentine’s Day. However, the highest spending country on Valentine’s Day was Singapore, as 60% of those surveyed said that they would spend $100 to $500 for the season. Meanwhile, in Japan and Korea, women seem to be spending more on Valentine’s Day as the tradition goes that women give chocolates to men on the day.

According to a report issued by AMEInfo, the MasterCard Valentine’s Day Love Index analysed the pattern of spending in the Valentine’s season over the course of three years and showed that the Middle East region was generally found to be more likely to spend money on jewellery than any other region in the world, as about 23% of the spending for Valentine’s Day there was shown to be on jewellery.

In the UAE, jewellery made up 26% of the total spending on gifts, while flowers and cards accounted for less than 2% of spending. “Also in the UAE, 88% of MasterCard shoppers made Valentine’s Day purchases the traditional way in 2015, by physically going to a store to pick out a gift, while only 6% opted for online purchases,” according to AMEInfo.

Restaurants had the largest share of transactions made on credit and debit cards at 46%, followed by hotels at 37%. Spending on travel is increasing in the whole Middle East region, as 43% of transactions are made on hotels.

“From a global perspective, the Middle East region is the only one recording an increase in Valentine’s Day card purchases, a 107% increase year-over-year (y-o-y),” AMEInfo said.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, economies of many countries, especially the countries that are often relied on for the provision of the most demanded goods, will continue to benefit from the consumerism of the population worldwide on Valentine’s Day, in a pattern that seems to be here to stay.

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Best time to drink your cup of coffee as prices fall Mon, 12 Feb 2018 07:00:15 +0000 Global coffee supplies set to see surplus as top grower looks to harvest record volumes

The post Best time to drink your cup of coffee as prices fall appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

With prices of coffee hovering around their lowest level in more than two years, this could be the best time to drink your cup of coffee amid a supply glut that is expected to last for at least two harvesting seasons.

Coffee, which is regarded as the most important export commodity after crude oil, has been in a downward trajectory since the end of 2016, with futures extending their decline touching their lowest level in almost 48 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

More than 100 million people earn their living from the production and processing of coffee and many countries in the third world depend entirely on the coffee trade.

Although there are many different varieties of coffee plant, only two species are of major economic importance.

These are Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta. Today, more than 60% of the world’s coffee output is produced from arabica beans.

The arabica bean is in considerably higher demand than Coffea robusta.

Coffea arabica originates from what is now Ethiopia, whereas the robusta bean comes from Indonesia and can be cultivated even at heights of between 200 and 600 metres above sea level.

In recent years, world production has increased further from 90m bags to 100m bags, and Coffea robusta accounts for around 40% of this.

Supply glut from top producers

In 2005, around 28.2% of the world’s harvest of green coffee beans came from Brazil, making the country the world’s largest coffee producer.

A recent survey conducted by Bloomberg found that there are expectations for top grower Brazil to harvest a record crop of 60m 60-kilogram bags, made up of 44m bags of arabica and 16m bags of robusta.

Estimates ranged from a total of 55m to 65m bags.

Brazil’s government agency Conab forecast the country will grow between 54.44m and 58.51m bags in 2018, which would be a record.

Brazil’s 2019-20 harvest was estimated at 54m bags, with 39m bags of arabica and 15m bags of robusta.

Vietnam, the world’s biggest grower of robusta, was forecast to harvest 28.5m bags of coffee in 2017-18, with estimates ranging from 27m to 30m bags.

Spot arabica coffee prices were forecast to end the first quarter of 2018 at $1.25 per pound, down 1% from the end of 2017. They were pegged finishing the calendar year at $1.344, up 6.5% from the end of 2017, with estimates ranging from $1 to $1.85.

Second-position robusta coffee futures were seen ending the first quarter at $1,750 per tonne and the year at $1,800, up from $1,718 at the end of 2017.

The most important trading venues for coffee are the London International Financial Futures Exchange, the New York Board of Trade, the Bolsa de Mercadorias & Futuros, and the Tokyo Grain Exchange.

Research houses see prices falling

ABN AMRO Bank said in a recent research paper that the price of robusta was depressed, mainly due to the good harvest in Vietnam.

“Favourable weather conditions (dry and sunny) led to an excellent harvest in the world’s second-largest coffee-producing country and exports rose as well. This pushed down the robusta price,” the ABN AMRO paper said.

“The reports from Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee producer, were less positive. Coffee exports there lagged behind expectations,” the paper continued.

“The 2017-18 season ending in June is an off-year,” the paper added. “This means lower [production], while demand is expected to continue growing.

“Prices will rise as a result, but only to a limited extent as 2018-19 will be an on-year with all the signs pointing to a record harvest in Brazil,” ABN AMRO Bank said.

For another research house called Cepea, the favourable climate for the development of the 2018-19 crop in Brazil, and it being an “on” year in the cycle of alternate higher and lower production years, should result in similar or even higher production than the 2016-17 season.

“In this scenario, domestic and external coffee prices may be pressed in 2018,” Cepea said in a research note.

“Besides the positive biennial effect, rains since October have been more generous, allowing the setting of cherries and the beginning of filling in some regions,” Cepea added.

The research note further said, “for arabica, despite initial concerns with flowering, which were hampered in September by the drier climate, the return of rain in October has favored crop development.”

“In relation to robusta, especially in Espírito Santo,” Cepea said, “the more favourable climate in the last months of 2017 allowed the recovery of the coffee plantations, which had been damaged by the drought of previous years.”

Meanwhile, Citi Bank analysts wrote in a recent research note, that they expect global production to post around 152.5m bags in 2017-18, down by 1.4m year-over-year, driven by Brazil and partly offset by gains in Vietnam and rest of the world.

“The ratio between arabica and robusta should back-up slightly from last year to about 60-40. Demand growth is expected to remain stable at 1.3-1.5% per annum evenly distributed between importers and exporters on average,” Citi said.

“As long as weather co-operates in Brazil,” Citi continued, “the world could potentially see a pause from the five-year long coffee deficit cycle and with near perfect weather, we could even potentially see global balances lifted to surplus.”

“Nevertheless, as we are still expecting a circa 3.6m-bag deficit globally in 2017-18, we still have a neutral-to-bullish outlook for 2018,” Citi said.

“Short-term, early harvest supply is expected to be slow this year in Vietnam and Colombia due to rainfall. Together with the likelihood of money manager short covering, we are expecting to see prices recover through the first quarter of 2018,” Citi predicted.

“For the full year, we set our 2018 annual price outlook for ICE coffee at 135 cents a pound… expecting stable prices in 2019,” Citi analysts said in the research note.

Commerzbank said in a recent note, “there is widespread consensus that the coffee market is likely to slide back into deficit in 2017-18, which should actually have a price-supportive effect.”

“That this is not happening is down to the fact that… attention is already turning to the prospects for the next crop in Brazil. In the case of arabica [it] will be a high-yield year in the two-year cycle. Robusta is also expected to recover after two weak years,” the Frankfurt-based Commerzbank said.

“The price is also likely to be influenced by the fact that coffee stocks in the consumer countries, above all in the US and the EU, find themselves at a high level—indeed at an eight-year high according to the International Coffee Organization,” Commerzbank added.

The banking and financial services company went on to say, “the weakness of the robusta price could continue for a while as a result of the high Vietnamese crop, while the prospect of a better 2018-19 crop in Brazil is also unlikely to justify any strong price rise for the time being.”

“Particularly the weather in Brazil is likely to strongly influence coffee price trends in the coming months, too,” Commerzbank predicted.

“We forecast an arabica coffee price of 145 cents per pound and a robusta coffee price of $1,900 per tonne in the fourth quarter of 2018,” the global Germany-based company said.

“We believe that the risk is more on the upside—namely if weak export figures and unfavourable weather reports trigger a shift in sentiment which, supported by reshuffling of positions on the part of short-term-oriented market participants, could cause a price surge,” Commerzbank said.

Goldman Sachs said that the recovery in production from the 2016-17 drought, which negatively impacted Brazil’s robusta production, has resulted in a substantial moderation in prices.

“The two main drivers behind our view are: first, stronger global growth in 2018-19, as well as continued rotation towards the consumer in key emerging markets such as China; and secondly, stabilisation of the Brazilian real exchange rate versus the US dollar and energy prices,” the American finance company said.

“We maintain our forecasts at 135, 140, 140 cents a pound over a three-month, six-month and 12-month horizon,” Goldman Sachs added.

The last research house here is Société Générale, which wrote in a recent research note that they

forecast global production of arabica coffee at 93.6m and 99.8m 60-kilogram bags in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively, and robusta coffee at 62.8m and 64.8m 60-kilogram bags respectively over the same periods.

“We estimate a robusta coffee deficit of 4.8m 60-kilogram bags and a surplus of 2.6m 60-kilogram bags of arabica coffee in 2017-18,” the French multinational said.

“We expect the robusta coffee deficit to decline to 3.4m 60-kilogram bags and the surplus in arabica coffee to increase to 6.3m 60-kilogram bags in 2018-19,” Société Générale added.

“This is the key reason for our bearishness on the arabica over robusta coffee spread in 2018. We are bearish on the arabica over robusta coffee spread moving above 50 cents a pound due to record inventories and the potential for a demand shift from arabica to robusta amid improving robusta coffee supplies,” the banking and financial services company also said.

“If our largest upside price risk (adverse weather in Brazil) prevails, we could see the arabica coffee price moving in the 135-145 cents a pound range,” the French company added.

“Should the largest downside risk (favourable weather in Brazil) prevail, we may see prices move in the 110-120 cents a pound range,” Société Générale concluded.

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Sinai 2018: Egypt mobilises for hopeful sweeping operation to end violence Sat, 10 Feb 2018 20:00:24 +0000 Operation comes amid attacks on worship houses across Egypt, shortly before presidential election

The post Sinai 2018: Egypt mobilises for hopeful sweeping operation to end violence  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

One month ahead of the presidential election settled for the victory of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for a second presidential term, the Egyptian Armed Forces launched a new operation—upon his orders—in face of the defiant presence of extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula since 2013.

In a video statement published on Friday morning titled Comprehensive Operation for Sinai 2018, military spokesperson Tamer Al-Refaai said [Al-Sisi] assigned to military leadership and the Ministry of Interior the mission of full confrontation of terrorism and other criminal acts.

According to the spokesperson, the operation plan covers central and North Sinai and extends to other Nile Delta areas, as well as desert zones west of the Nile Valley. There should also be “military drills in strategic areas,” Al-Refaai added. He further called on citizens to report suspected terrorist elements.

Two days ago, media reports had pointed out intensified security measures and military presence in Sinai.

Al-Sisi said in a Facebook post: “I am proudly following up the heroic actions of my sons from the armed forces and the police to clear the precious land of Egypt from terrorists, enemies of life…as always, long live Egypt.

In November 2017, Al-Sisi vowed to restore stability by eradicating terrorism, tasking the military and police to do so within a period of three months. This had followed a massive first-of-its-kind terror attack on a mosque in Al-Arish city, killing at least 305 citizens.

In a second statement a few hours later, the military spokesperson said air forces struck locations in Sinai linked with terrorist elements and dens used as positions from which they launch attacks, while maritime forces, border security, and police were in charge of securing other vital areas. Both videos displayed a variety of military equipment and the preparation of human forces.

The operation comes amid continuous manoeuvres, mainly in North Sinai, and is the second largest operation, following that known as Martyr’s Right which unfolded over four phases from 2015 to 2017 and was characterised by a heavy death toll on militants.

The self-proclaimed “Sinai Province”, formerly Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, is the most well-known militant group waging an anti-government insurgency and has pledged alliance to the Islamic State group (IS).

Local security experts say operation very likely to succeed

Mohamed Al-Shahawy, security expert and adviser to the military Command and Staff College, said in press and televised statements that the difference between this operation and previous ones lays in the level of cooperation between several security branches, especially air forces ,which already played a role in locating and targeting “terrorist dens.”

He said maritime forces will also be effective in cutting lines of supplies to these groups and ground forces have been scrutinising, and conducting raids on, suspected areas.

Speaking to Al-Kahera Wal Nas channel on Friday evening, Al-Shahawy claimed that more than “95% of terrorism in Sinai has been defeated” and that the remaining percentage is due to “those hiding among civilians which the military cannot hit.”

He stated that hundreds of locations used to store drugs have recently been found, in addition to more than 2,000 tonnes of explosive material ceased on borders, which have a market value of at least $400,000 per tonne.

From a different perspective, Talaat Moussa, counsellor at Nasser Military Academy, has been repeating for over a year a conspiracy theory that stipulated a plot against Egypt prepared by the intelligence services of several countries, at the forefront of which come the US, the UK, Iran, Turkey, and Qatar.

Asserting his statement once more to Extra News channel on Friday evening, Moussa said this was how “terrorist elements were able to sneak into Egypt form the borders with Libya.”

With regards to the Sinai 2018 operation, he said it comes as a message to the people that state institutions are working at full capacity for their protection and that “terrorists hiding among us should know they are sentenced to death.”

He also focused on the responsibility of citizens to support state efforts through providing information, saying the vale of their contributions should not be underestimated.

“I am not saying we should spy on each other, but odd behaviours should be reported. If a stranger is watching a building, or moves to a closed community, the police should be warned. Landlords must also keep authorities informed of the identities of renters.”

Moussa said security actions against terrorism have been prolonged due to taking into consideration humanitarian circumstances.

Religious institutions support

It is not only through security experts appearing on one channel to the next that public support for the operation is being mobilised on a wider scale than previous operations.

Religious institutions rushed to express alignment with the new state strategy. Al-Azhar issued two statements to emphasise support for security forces in addition to calling on the Egyptian people to take the same stance.

A second statement, signed by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, included a prayer for security forces.

Dar Al-Iftaa, the institution concerned with issuing official religious edicts, posted on its Facebook page a picture of a soldier holding the Egyptian flag and a praying line for the people, the country, and Muslims.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, which commemorated on Thursday the 40th day of death of the victims of the December Helwan church attack, issued a statement in the same direction, saying history will remember the sacrifices made by soldiers for the sake of the nation.

Ministry of Interior as part of the operation

The police was announced to be officially part of the confrontation plan. The military and police had been coordinating together and equally sharing losses among their personnel. While attacks on military troops were more concentrated in Sinai, police officers were targeted across different governorates in more isolated attacks.

The ministry had been leading its own war on other groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated groups and other scattered cells, militant groups such as Hasm and Lewaa Thawra, or even Al-Qaeda-linked groups, as was revealed in the Al-Wahat shootout in October where more than a dozen police officers were killed in the Western Desert.

Amid continuous operations against Hasm militants, the ministry said on Friday that the National Security Agency tracked orders issued by the group’s leading members to conduct a series of attacks on vital institutions and target police and military personnel during the upcoming election. In a security raid, 14 members were arrested in possession of arms, while three others were killed in armed clashes. The ministry said that investigations revealed their involvement in four shootings on police officers.

Foreign reports

The foreign media has been more sceptical about the achievement of security forces in containing terrorism, often reporting higher death tolls than officially announced from the military or security forces.

In 2015, two months into the military operation Martyr’s Right, The Economist said Egypt was losing control of Sinai and that despite the heavy death toll, the ranks of militants seemed to only grow. The report observed the number of attacks conducted by militants and a drop in tourism following the downed Russian plane incident.

The mosque attack of last November sparked further concerns. The Washington Post said the attack only reaffirmed the peninsula’s reputation as a terrorism hotspot. The Guardian wrote: “The campaign against the extremists in Egypt desperately needs another [campaign].”

According to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy’s report following the Radwa Mosque attack, the average rate of attacks reported per month was 11 in 2014, 34 in 2015, 57 in 2016, and 32 in the first nine months of 2017.

In the three years from December 2013 to 2016, four mass-casualty attacks were reported in which civilians were killed, including the Metrojet bombing that killed 224 aboard a Russian passenger plane. Since December 2016, there have been five such attacks. The total number of civilians killed in attacks has also increased: a total of 588 civilians were reported killed in the three years from December 2013 to 2016, and 507 civilians have been reported killed since then.

While mass-casualty civilian attacks are on the rise, other attacks reported in North Sinai have overwhelmingly targeted security forces: 76% of attacks reported in the province this year have targeted security forces. At least 396 civilians and 292 security forces were killed in terror attacks in North Sinai in 2017, surpassing last year’s fatality total, when 446 were killed in the province, the report stated.

The Egyptian state has been refuting foreign reports, often through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Information Service.

Recently, the military spokesperson denied a report by The New York Times which suggested Egypt approved Israeli operations in its territory to secure its borders.

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Retailers extend sales to activate market, get rid of stored products Tue, 06 Feb 2018 07:00:10 +0000 Shops are in sales since the beginning of January

The post Retailers extend sales to activate market, get rid of stored products appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

In one of Cairo’s largest shopping malls, a crowd of people stood in two parallel lines waiting their turn to enter a high-end brand shop to enjoy big sales of up to 50%, which came amid a high wave of unprecedented price hikes.

The majority of shops, selling different products, began offering discounts and promotions in late December 2017, continuing into February and only expected to end in April, before the scheduled increase of fuel prices.

People pushed each other, ran into corners where the red sales tickets were more clear, aspiring to find good items at affordable prices. Even when prices are much better than before the sales, people are more limited, sticking to what they see as suitable for them and their budgets.

The offers were really tempting for many of the consumers who struggled to buy any products during 2017, which witnessed a major price hike that came as result of preceding economic measures.

Winter retail sales usually kick off in February or March every year based on regulations stipulated by the Ministry of Supply. However, the current season began in December.  In 2017, the winter sales started at the end of January. However, they were not as big as the current sales season.

In November 2016, the Central Bank of Egypt floated the pound, as part of requirements set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Egypt agreed to a $12bn loan over three years. The pound floatation raised prices of different products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as electricity services, making life harder for Egyptians.

It further increased costs of all imported goods, resulting in some retailers and high-end shops not being able to provide customers with any new collection.

Since the beginning of 2018, the core inflation rates have been declining compared to 2017. Core inflation declined to 19.86% in December 2017, compared to 25.5% in November 2017, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

The current major sales wave has raised questions on why shops are extending the discounts period, while they are attempting to compensate for previous loses during 2017, and about consumers’ demand for the offers.

A brand manager at TownTeam shops told Daily News Egypt there is a decline in buy and sell movement since the price hikes. “We were supposed to start the offers in March, but this time, like other shops, we began sales early with them, all of us trying to get rid of the goods we have stored since last season,” he said.

“Our sales in 2017 were not promising at all; our consumers decreased. Even their consumption declined, with ones who use to buy three pieces now only taking one piece. Sweatshirt prices increased to EGP 600 or 700 after they were about 300. For the sale, we again returned the prices to previous averages. We are going to continue this until April,” he said.


The sales were not only applied at clothes shops, but even furniture, accessories, electronics, antiques, and cosmetics stores have discounts. In a short video report produced by the privately owned dmc channel, some owners of furniture shops in Damietta appear announcing that they have started an initiative to discount prices by up to 35% to compensate for the economic recession they have been facing throughout the past years.

“We started an imitative to decrease prices for youth who are going to marry soon. The sales are up to 35% to improve the situation for both client and trader,” said one of the owners.

Most retailers have large quantities of products in their stores, for failing to sell them during the past months, due to prices that suddenly increased while salaries remained stable. Price hikes led people skipping buying clothes and focusing on the essentials of their daily lives.

The winter season officially began in mid-January with a total of 2,180 shops applying discounts ranging from 20% to 50%, according to spokesperson of the Supply Ministry Mamdouh Ramadan.

“The number of shops that participated in the [sales season] reached 2,180 shops,” he said, adding that there are several applications from other shops requesting to participate in the sales.

Moreover, the owners of shops that seek to participate in the sales season should receive approval from the directorates of supply and internal trade of their governorates.

Hamdy Abu El-Enin, spokesperson of the garment division of the General Federation of Chambers of Commerce, clarified that the reasons behind the long period of sales is the retailers’ attempt to activate the buy and sell movement again, and to return customers to their shops. He further suggested that the discounts season might last until mid-February.

Speaking to clients, Ayla Amin, 26, said “I know that the winter season sales are supposed to start in mid-February and I have no idea why it started early this year. Discounts are good; it reminds me of the special products that used to be categorised as new collections two years ago. I totally believe that traders are trying to improve the situation, their sales declined during past months.”

“I recognised that the shops are not presenting any new collections, but the same items as those presented in the past two years, goods that they have failed to sell previously, so they are trying to get rid of them during the sale, or it seems like they are also unable to import any new products. Overall, for me, I saw no variety, weak material; even those presented in the new collection corners are not catchy at all,” Amin also said.

Medhat Mamdouh, 30, said, “I don’t feel like the prices decreased as a result of the sales, some shops have exploited the sales occasion and placed high prices, believing that people will buy anything with any prices as long as there are discounts on the goods.” He gave an example, saying that he saw a pair of shoes that used to cost EGP 1,000 before sale, but during the sale, increased to EGP 1,500.

The client comments implied that some owners wanted to hold sales to attract consumers, but at the same time, sell to clients at prices satisfying their policies.

With regard to the demand from clients on the sale offers, officials saw it as is weaker than previous years. Shops are only crowded on weekends or if there are great promotions. Despite ongoing sales, customer interest still is weak due to them lacking sufficient budgets, making people determined to buy only what they need.

Noha Mohamed, 37, a mother of three daughters, said she was not able to buy anything for her or for her husband, explaining that the sales were not that appealing for helping her to buy clothes for all her family members. “I bought seven items for my three daughters from a certain shop that I know that its prices are better than others, even without sales, and still, the prices were not sufficient for me to buy more of our needs,” she said.

Also, Salma El-Sabawaay, 25, agreed with Mohamed, saying “I think out of tens of shops, there could be four or three shops that have really applied good sales. The shops are really presenting very expensive prices, not allowing all members of a family to buy clothes at the same time, making parents comprise for their children. People became more dependent on promotions, like buy one get one free, as prices became unaffordable even during sales.”

With the constancy of salaries amid high prices in 2017, consumers seeking to buy winter clothes find it difficult, leading people to sell their old clothes at public markets and through social media platforms, in order to recceive extra money for buying new ones. In the end, many people end up not actually buying new clothes, as they head to the same places where they sold their clothes to buy other pieces, even if used.

Inflation led rich people to opt more for outlet shops and malls, and to depend on places, traditionally for the less fortunate, that they never expected to venture into. The situation is raising questions on how much worse it will be for both low- and high-income citizens if prices continue to rise during the upcoming years.

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