In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 21 Mar 2018 21:04:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 …

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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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15 days into Turkey’s operation in Afrin Sat, 03 Feb 2018 13:31:08 +0000 Syrian Kurds targeted before Washington’s eyes

The post 15 days into Turkey’s operation in Afrin  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

As if the war in Syria could bear further complications amid repeated failure of political dialogue whether in Sochi or Geneva talks, the escalating Turkish military operation in the northern Syrian city of Afrin adds a new dimension to the crisis.

The Afrin district is part of the governorate of Aleppo, northwest of Syria, near the borders of Turkey. It is under the control of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia gathering several groups including the Women Protection Units (YPJ) and its political wing being the Kurdish opposition Democratic Union Party (PYD). The YPG is engaged in the Syrian civil war, playing a role in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS), for which it received US support, and other fundamentalist groups such as Al-Qaeda’s affiliated Al-Nusra Front.

On 20 January, the Turkish military announced its launch of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. In a statement published by Anadolu Agency, the military said the operation aims to “establish security and stability on our borders and region, to eliminate terrorists of PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and [IS], and to save our friends and brothers… from their oppression and cruelty,” claiming its self-defence right under the UN charter.

According to a local resident of Afrin quoted in The Guardian on Thursday, in a report shedding light on civilian losses and family displacements, the operation—believed by Turkey to be one of several days—will take “much, much longer than that” due to unexpected “fierce resistance.”

This comes as the General Staff of the Republic of Turkey said on Friday that Operation Olive Branch is “continuing successfully as planned,” adding in a statement reported by Hurriyet Daily News that it seized a large number of weapons, ammunition, and an SA-18 air defence missile belonging to YPG militants in Afrin, and that 823 militants from both the YPG and IS were “neutralised,” a term the Hurriyet said could mean “surrendered, or were killed, or captured.”

Turkey considers the YPG and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it classifies terrorists, allies and has slammed US support for the YPG. In July 2017, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu criticised the US saying “support for the PKK is not coming from the other ends of the world. It is not coming from Turkey or from unknown places. It is not Japan that is giving brand-new weapons to the PYD, which is a facelift version of the PKK. So, there are wrong choices,” Hurriyet reported.

The accusations had previously been made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan back in 2016, to which the US Embassy in Ankara responded in December of the same year in a published statement: “The US government has not provided weapons or explosives to the YPG or the PKK—period. We repeatedly have condemned PKK terrorist attacks and the group’s reprehensible violence in Turkey,” according to Hurriyet.

Barin Kayaoglu, an assistant professor of world history at the American University of Iraq, wrote in an analysis published in Al-Monitor on 29 December 2016 that “since the rise of IS in 2014, the Barack Obama administration has cooperated with the PYD in Syria. In the run-up to the PYD’s operation at IS’ capital, Raqqa, the US gave air support as well as logistical and intelligence backing to the PYD-led Syrian Democratic Forces. With Russia’s military intervention in Syria and Russian overtures to Kurdish groups fighting IS, Washington tried hard to keep its Syrian Kurdish partners happy.”

Meanwhile, Turkey is heavily relying on the Free Syrian Army troops in this operation, which are opposed to Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian Armed Forces, backed by Russia.

The Afrin battle poses several questions regarding US-Turkey strained relations, and the extent of Turkey’s cooperation with Russia, all amid uncertain prospects for any progress towards the end of the Syrian war, which despite the shrinking power of IS, remains subject to global powers’ interests.


The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Turkish move, considering it an attack on Syria’s sovereignty. In a statement it published on 20 January, the ministry denied any reports by Turkey that the Syrian regime was informed of the military operation in Afrin, calling on the international community to take “necessary procedures to end it.”

The YPG issued several statements against what it described as Turkey’s “aggression.” On 20 January, a statement on its official website published before the operation read: “The sudden and unjustified threats of offensive operations from Turkey into Afrin, Syria threaten to breathe new life into [IS]. Allegations that we have launched attacks across the border are false and a pretext for Turkey to bring its military forces and its extremist opposition groups onto Syrian soil.”

A second YPG statement issued after the operation was launched said: “We know that, without the permission of global forces, and mainly Russia, whose troops located in Afrin, Turkey cannot attack civilians using Afrin air space. Therefore we hold Russia as responsible as Turkey and stress that Russia is the crime partner of Turkey in massacring the civilians in the region.”

More recently, an AP report said there was growing Syrian Kurdish anger with the US, quoting a senior Kurdish politician saying “How can [the U.S.-led coalition against IS] stand by and watch? They should meet their obligations toward this force that participated with them (in the fight against terrorism). We consider their unclear and indecisive positions as a source of concern.”

Nujin Derik, the commander of the Women’s Protection Unit in Afrin, voiced the same concern in an op-ed for the New York Times in which she wrote: “Does the Trump administration now care about nothing but its immediate tactical interests?”

There has also been a wave of Kurdish protests with calls to “save Afrin” including in the UK, Sweden, France, and Germany, with the latter’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel reportedly expressing concern over the situation.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Turkey, telling Le Figaro that if the operation would take another turn other than the purpose of combatting a potential terrorist threat on the borders and is revealed to be an act of invasion, “it would be problematic for us.”

After being criticised by Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu, who considered the statement an insult, Macron took a less harsh tone, saying the minister’s reaction without doubt meant that the operation is not more than Turkey securing its borders, by which he said he felt “reassured.”


In mid-January, reports emerged that the US-led coalition to train 30,000 border security forces mainly from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), affiliated with the YPG, thus stirring Turkey’s anger.

Cavusoglu wrote an op-ed for the New York Times where he said that the US chose the “wrong partner”, “a group that the American government itself recognises as a terrorist organisation.”

With further determination to proceed with its claimed security protection operation, Erdogan said Turkey could expand military action in the city of Manbij, where there are approximately 2,000 US troops embedded with the YPG in the context of Washington’s cooperation with the umbrella SDF against IS, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based research organisation.

Yet, the implications for the relations of the two NATO allies are uncertain as reports pointed out that both sides aimed at sending each other strong messages but at the same time trying to maintain a cooperative work frame. Although the US warned Turkey against escalation, there have been no reports of direct resistance to the operation in Afrin.


On 20 January, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement expressing concern over the Afrin operation.

But with the withdrawal of a considerable portion of Russian troops from Syria, reports say Turkey staged a deal with Russia to perform its operation in northern Syria. According to experts and Kurdish sources, it would not have otherwise been possible to enter Syria’s airspace or use the SDF in the operation, leaving Idlib at risk of Russian backed pro-Assad forces.

The question is why. According to lecturer at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Leonid Issaev’s analysis in Al-Jazeera says that Turkey is one of the co-organisers of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in Sochi.

“By cooperating with Ankara on Afrin, Moscow has created an opportunity that would allow it to solve the situation in Idlib without military escalation. Russia knew that a military confrontation in Idlib would have been costly for Damascus and its allies, as it would have led to a new humanitarian catastrophe similar to the one that occurred a year ago in Aleppo. Not to mention that such a conflict would have exhausted the already weak Syrian army, forcing Russia to return to the Syrian war front,” the expert wrote.

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Motivational speakers: real influencers or swindlers? Tue, 30 Jan 2018 10:00:08 +0000 Daily News Egypt spoke to social media users on what they think about motivational speakers

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“This is your life, this is not my life; this is your life and your responsibility. Everyone sitting here has goals in their life that they want to accomplish, everyone here has responsibilities and commitments and also has family looking at them differently. Wake up, freshen up, this is your life, stop complaining about circumstances and the country. This is your life,” a motivational speaker named Islam Mohamed said, shouting, in a two-minute video.

The speaker appeared in the video published on social media while speaking at a human development session, shouting at an audience on how they should not waste their life complaining and should take action. He was mostly repeating the same sentences, yelling at the audience to convince them to be more positive.

Mohamed has a company called UNIWAY, believed to be a pyramid scheme, that sells products with the aim of “making a positive impact in the lives of people through guiding them to become successful and influential” in both their professional and personal lives.

The video stirred controversy among Facebook users, who questioned how he claims to be “the most positive man” in Egypt and the Middle East. The users further doubted the honesty of such speakers.

Mohamed is not the only young person to take up human development as a profession to gain money and fame.  The profession of motivational speakers has been growing greatly over the past few years. It began with people posting short videos on social media platforms giving advice to others about relationships and other personal topics.

After a while, those individuals reached significant fame, giving sessions in halls at fancy hotels with expensive tickets, with dozens attending these sessions. The appearance of those “activists” was odd for the public, as it was not clear how they can obtain the knowledge or the experience to be able to give human development speeches to the public.

Many youth have started to take human development workshops as a job, in which their duties are limited to responding to complaints and giving sessions about being positive.

Most of the influencers are following the path of Ibrahim El-Fekki, who is a writer and author of more than fifty books, tapes, and videos. He was also a worldwide lecturer who trained more than 1 million people over 30 years in more than 33 countries in the French, English, and Arabic languages. His publications varied among topics of humanity, self-power, success, and building personality.

Among the famous motivational speakers, who has more than 500,000 worldwide followers on social media, is Kareem Ismail. Dozens of Egyptian youth attend his sessions.

A dentist, who only wanted to be identified only as SH, said, “I know Kareem Ismail personally, he is a great person. His speeches always boost me, give hope, and change my mood. However, I never got the time to attend any of his sessions. “

Salma Nossier, 24, said that she previously attended one of these sessions, because she was really inspired by one of those speakers, but she paid EGP 70, which was really over her budget. “The only thing I regret is why I should pay this amount to hear discussions available online.”

Motivational speakers promoting illusions?

Daily News Egypt spoke to a number of social media users on what they think about motivational speakers, if they are really positively impacting the public, or if they are just exploiting the “profession” to become rich and famous.

Opinions of people varied between those supporting their speeches, explaining that people really need to be reminded every now and then that they have to follow certain steps to be successful and have to be surrounded by positive individuals. Meanwhile, others saw that such speakers are not real influencers, but are promoting illusions and are giving speeches that have no long term impact and are fraudulent.

Teaching assistant at a private university Mohamed Hossam, 27, said, “I believe motivational speakers are exploiting the pain and frustrations of people by giving speeches that can stir their feelings and attract them. We can tell that some are qualified in helping people who are suffering serious issues, but in general, why should I go to hear someone telling me ‘work hard or focus in your life,’ these are basics, and most of those speakers are tackling these normal topics.”


Nariman El-Gabry, 22, a marketing officer, said, “I don’t think they are exactly swindlers, but their influence is so instantaneous that after one leaves the hall, they return back to their normal, disappointing state. So, I strongly believe that being a motivational speaker is, frankly, a useless job, which is something that should not be a job in the first place.”

Yasmine Amer, 20, agreed with El-Gabry saying, “I don’t believe they are real influencers, as once you end the video or exit the hall, you will be influenced for a few minutes that you should change your life by achieving more, but that will last for a day at most, because the real change comes form within persons themselves.”

On the other hand, Ali Fakhry, believes that tt differs from one speaker to another, as well as from one listener to another.

“My own humble view is that TEDx speakers are mainly the best out there, with real messages of change. However, on other platforms, there are also good ones and bad bad ones. It is also important to mind the fact that what we view as disturbing and ‘conmen’ could have a very positive influence on others. So generally, I am not against them,” he said.

Robeen Fayed, a graphic designer, said, “all they do is talk about their personal experiences. Personally, I’ve never felt like I want to listen to any of them. If I want to get motivated, I would find other ways to do that such as read books, watch movies, meet new people, travel, do anything else rather then hearing those people. I don’t find it motivating to hear a person speak for hours about their experiences or people they know.”

Moreover, a 28-year-old who only wanted to be identified as MA, said, “it’s just business. I knew friends who took courses and trainings and then became trainers themselves. I do not know if people can benefit from or need this type of life coaching, but I feel it’s just a way to earn a living.”

Nada Gaber, a real state employee, said, “I never understood what are the characteristics that make so-called motivational speakers and allow them to give advice to people. Also, all they say is commonly known. I feel like they are just repeating quotes published on Google about being positive. This not art or a proper profession to pay for. I strongly believe that this is a form of fraud.”


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Concerns over voter turnout after candidates vanish from presidential race Sun, 28 Jan 2018 07:00:08 +0000 Election situation reflects poor political administration, inabilities of political powers, experts say

The post Concerns over voter turnout after candidates vanish from presidential race appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Seven years after the January revolution which toppled long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak and called for political and civil rights, democracy is still struggling. Yet, previous elections, including one with Mubarak in 2005, saw more plurality than the upcoming one.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, whose election to a second term faces no real threat, maintained that he was keen on respecting people’s free choice regardless of what it would be, provided they participate in the election. At the same time, he said he would not let “a corrupt person near the presidency.”

Much of the current electoral dilemma stems from that approach: the regime desires to keep Al-Sisi in power, through a free and transparent election between several candidates.

But while a week ago plurality seemed promising, it seems that the state is now on a quest for more candidates—not voters.

This was caused, in a nutshell, after the state eliminated former military men rivals to the president, including Ahmed Shafiq, Sami Anan, and Ahmed Konsowa, with at least two of them believed to have had strong potential to gain significant votes. On the other hand, politicians representing civil forces—Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat and Khaled Ali—decided to withdraw, citing the destinies of their fellow candidates and having themselves previously experienced persecution from the regime. The latest is that negotiations are ongoing with Al-Wafd Party to present a candidate.

With no significant presence of political parties or groups in Egypt, here are the main challenges now facing the election, at the top of which come political plurality and voter turnout.

Political plurality, competitiveness

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.

Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science at Cairo University, believes that the current electoral scene reflects the non-development of the political situation over the past few years, especially in the inability of political parties to produce any candidates. He refuted claims that this was the result of a regime that is not willing to allow other candidates to compete against Al-Sisi.

“Although given a chance to rise after the 2011 revolution, political parties failed to work on building visions and programmes, or even practice politics through parliament,” Fahmy opined to Daily News Egypt.

According to him, a political stronghold would have survived in the face of security pressures and interference with politics.

Commenting on arguments made by candidates who withdrew, such as Khaled Ali and Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat saying they were intimidated, Fahmy said those were risks involved as part of the process.

Moreover, he criticised candidates with military backgrounds, Shafiq and Anan, for failing to present themselves properly to the public, unlike Ali for instance, whose political programme and stances were known to the public.

Yet, Fahmy mostly blamed the lack of plurality on the absence of new blood, a result of political parties’ failure, according to him.

On the other hand, political professor and commentator Said Sadek blamed the regime for “violently” dealing with presidential candidates, especially by jailing some.

Additionally, Sadek opined that it would be “a shame” for Al-Wafd Party to present a candidate to compete against Al-Sisi at this point. “The party will lose its credibility after previously announcing its endorsement for Al-Sisi,” he told Daily News Egypt.

This comes as writer and political analyst Abdullah Al-Sinawy described the coming election as “the strangest of all,” telling Daily News Egypt that the current scene is “unprecedented in the history of Egyptian politics.”

According to Al-Sinawy, Al-Wafd’s candidate—expected to be its head Al-Sayed Al-Badawi—seems like an attempt to “fill a gap”, while reality is that it does not help the current situation, especially since the party already supported Al-Sisi, and it seems like the state will be in charge of finding this rival candidate a way into the election.

“This move will kill the party and it will lose its public respect,” he said.

Writer and political researcher Ammar Ali Hassan raised another point of view where he asked in a tweet last week why Al-Sisi was removing his rivals from the race and why he would not put his popularity to a real test through an open election.

Voter turnout

The National Electoral Commission said there were so far over 1 million endorsement forms by citizens, according to state media on Friday. Each presidential candidate needs a minimum of 25,000 of those forms to be eligible for election.

But whether high voter turnout should be expected remains uncertain, amid an election for which the result is already expected.

“It will be challenging,” said Fahmy. “The media will have much responsibility in mobilising the reluctant voting bloc,” he added.

Al-Sisi called on people to cast their votes, regardless of whom they would choose.

Meanwhile, Sadek expects low turnout in the election, which according to him, is a concern for the regime that this becomes a measurement of Al-Sisi’s popularity.

Likewise, Al-Sinawy argued that there will be no high turnout in the election, explaining that mobilisation alone is not enough to push voters to ballot boxes in an unhealthy political environment.

“People are interested in voting when there are different candidates and programmes to compare and evaluate in a transparent race. I believe even Al-Sisi’s supporters will not be keen on participating, because the result are predicted,” he stated.

Insight on previous presidential elections

(Official government statistics)

Number of candidates Voter turnout
2005 10 23%
2012 – 1st round 13 47%
2012 – 2nd round 2 54%
2014 2 47%


“Your voice is a message to Egypt and to the world” is the slogan of the National Electoral Commission’s televised advertisement, which reflects the state’s interest in international opinion about the election.

Moreover, the State Information Service issued on Thursday a statement criticising the electoral coverage of foreign media, especially in the case of Sami Anan. The statement highlighted what it described as “professional violations” which included using the “same batch” of sources, ignoring official sources, disregarding relevant facts, “of which the most significant is the legal characterisation of the status of [Anan].”

Meanwhile, Egypt was outraged by a statement by US Senator John McCain on 23 January on the occasion of the revolution’s anniversary, in which he slammed the status of human rights and freedoms. Most seriously, the Arizona senator cited “a repressive climate and fear of retribution” on the part of presidential candidates who have either been arrested or “forced to withdraw.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the statement, saying it “included unfounded accusations, fallacies, and misinformation about the situation in Egypt and its political trajectory.”

To Al-Sinawy, the “faked” election damaged Al-Sisi’s image internally and externally. “It looks like the president was afraid his popularity would be at risk in front of competitors, but actually ballot boxes are not the only measurement and he surely would have won over his rivals if there was real competitiveness,” he argued.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Speaking to two representatives of former presidential candidates on separate occasions, popular television host Lamees Al-Hadeedy asked them how they felt about being supported by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, insisting to ask “whether they felt bothered or not” that they would receive votes from “those with blood on their hands.”

In response, Amr Abdelrahman, a spokesperson for Khaled Ali’s campaign denied any coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood as a group but said all citizens were welcome to cast their votes in favour of his candidate.

Likewise, Hazem Hosni, spokesperson for Sami Anan, defended the right of registered voters to elect whoever they choose, adding that if anyone was involved in violence and should be banned from voting, that would be the responsibility of the National Electoral Commission.

But Al-Sinawy does not believe the Muslim Brotherhood would have any significant role in Egyptian politics in general. “They became a burden on any democratic change. People are angry and bored with them, their problem is with the people, which would disable them from making any gains even if the president’s popularity declined,” he said.

Democratic process

According to Sadek, the “mismanagement” of the 2018 election reflects the struggle of the country’s path towards democracy. “We are still an emerging democracy, a process which needs education, awareness, and training,” he argued.

“It comes with ups and downs and we will not be a democracy overnight,” he explained. To Sadek, the regime overkilled the process with this election by violently dealing with candidates, especially ones with military backgrounds, whose bids for the presidency could be an indicator of “different opinions existing inside the military institution.”

But he argued that the choice of the ruler of Egypt is also affected by military, economic, and regional factors, and therefore is not solely depending on people’s choice.

Moreover, “society is deeply polarised, violently judging each other based on gender and religion among other things, suffering from bureaucracy and hypocrisy, which together with the weakness of liberal powers, is unable to produce alternatives to the military ruler or extremist religious leader,” Sadek stated.

For his part, Al-Sinawy explained that a healthy political environment, more important than elections themselves, should start with people pressuring for change and opening up of the public sphere, which so far has left political parties marginalised and weakened.

Recap on what happened to candidates

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat did not bid for the presidency, announcing that he would not enter the race after facing intimidation and citing an unfavourable political environment.

Ahmed Shafiq claimed to be detained in the UAE after announcing his bid, then deported to Egypt amid news for several days that his whereabouts were not known, after which he declared withdrawing from the race, saying he was perhaps unsuitable for the position because of his five-year absence from the country.

Sami Anan was summoned for investigations after announcing his bid for presidency, according to a military statement saying he violated legal procedures, forged documents, and incited to create tensions between the military and citizens.

Khaled Ali withdrew from the race after Anan’s case, citing intimidation and unfavourable political circumstances.

Ahmed Konsowa was sentenced to six years in jail by military trial after announcing his bid, for breaching legal military procedures by getting involved in politics while in active service.

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Social media advice groups: virtual escapism or communal solidarity Tue, 23 Jan 2018 07:00:24 +0000 Advice groups increased recently on Facebook, giving users chance to tell concerns, seek medical, personal advice

The post Social media advice groups: virtual escapism or communal solidarity  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Amira, a mass communications teaching assistant, in her early twenties is busy finishing preparations for her marriage, as her wedding is expected to be held in a few months, so she was keen to be active in a Facebook Bridal Club group by posting at least one or two posts a day inquiring about places to get home furnishings or ideas for wedding decorations.

Haya Medhat, a 25-year-old who recently became a mother, said, “I wish that during my marriage preparations, one year ago, a group such as Bridal Club was present, as it’s really informative and shares good reviews about places where you can get your kitchen tools, furniture, and even clothes. It’s like a guide that gives you good tips about what you have to get for your new home and what you can skip”.

Bridal Club is a social media group that was recently founded but already has over 28,000 users, who are all mainly brides-to-be, newly weds, or even single women. The group supports brides to share all their questions and concerns about marriage preparation and life. Also, other married females post their wedding experiences, listing negative and positive reviews for their bridal hairdressers, makeup artists, wedding venues, catering, and other advice that would be beneficial for others going through weddings.

This group is one of dozens that recently appeared on Facebook to give users the chance to express their concerns, seek advice, and reviews from dozens of others with different backgrounds and nationalities. Such Facebook groups were met with large interaction and support by users.

Commonly, if ever a person sought advice about a personal issue or recommendation about a product, service or place, they resorted to directly calling an expert, relative, or friend who must have knowledge about the inquiry. But now, the power of social media has broken this norm, as within the past three years, several groups on Facebook have facilitated the process.

On Facebook, you can seek medical advice, solutions to your relationship problems, reviews about restaurants, shops, or travel destinations, and you can even look for roommates.

These groups could be positive for connecting people together and introducing them to different experiences, but in away, they are invading privacy and spreading false information, Medhat said.

A 26-year-old journalist, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “these groups are present since the establishment of Facebook, but people were still less confident in such groups and did not have enough courage to write their personal experience or anything related to their lives. But now people have become more active on social media as a result of attraction to technology.”

She continued that now our relation with social media has changed, as it is very normal to post about even private details of your life, compared to before, as there were only groups for famous singers, where fans circulated photos and praiseful posts.

As for journalists, before, we used to go through newspapers everyday, but now, every morning we log on to Facebook to know the news, as even citizens do, she said, adding that there is a group named “Qahwet El Sahafeyeen” (the journalists’ cafe), where journalists can find the numbers of sources for interviews for their work, which helped hundreds of journalists meet their deadlines.

The journalists’ cafe is a group where journalists post numbers of politicians, officials, academic professors, and others, so other reporters can access sources easily for writing news and in-depth features.

“Facebook became a source of social information, people became more dependent on it; not only in groups, but other aspects too,” the journalist concluded.

“I believe in the idea of sharing experiences regardless of place and time. What social media has created is quite helpful to know that someone else shares some of the experiences you’re going through and gives you advice without personally knowing you; this is the core of human interaction from my point of view. As for certain groups in which people anonymously share their problems, I believe that social media helped create a platform where people genuinely seek as diverse of views as possible, something that wouldn’t be achieved in the real world,” another journalist said.

“However, with regard to people seeking medical advice or professional advice, I do not think social media is playing an appropriate role in providing that, and there could be false information shared,” she added.

Social media expert Omnia El-Meligi said, “there are groups giving good reviews about products and services, which is perfect. Also, groups sharing new places and experiences are great and those connecting new neighbours in the same area are also good, but those sharing personal information are really ineffective, as I feel that it’s letting others into my life. I think people in a group are coming from different backgrounds which causes a variety of opinions, which eventually leads to confusion. For medical purposes, I can ask about doctor recommendations, but never medical tips to be honest, as this is very risky.”

Another social media expert, Ahmed Shenawy, said that technology became a “best friend” for users of different age groups, as “everybody is posting everything about their lives, even seeking personal consultations.

Posting personal problems harmful or beneficial? 

“In an angry moment, I wrote a post on a certain page about a problem between me and my husband and the days passed and I forgot about it,” 30-year-old Sanaa said, adding that after a period of time, “my husband found out about it and fought with me.”

Sanaa, like hundreds of men and women, went to social media platforms to seek answers or find solutions to her problems.

Over time, Facebook pages and other social media began to replace professional counsellors, such as doctors, relatives, acquaintances, and the elderly. Thus, questions have arisen as to whether social media users can really serve as consultants or specialists and whether this is this harmful or beneficial.

Gamal Farwiz, a psychiatrist, said that this transformation has negative results for several reasons. “First, people give most of the comments from backgrounds that are often different from the reality of the complainant, hence making the advice wrong and misplaced. Never consult an audience that is not aware of things and lacks experience,” he said.

He added that perhaps this happens a lot, but mainly, answers are very complex and come too far from the core of the complaint. “I have seen so many things like this and the answers were wrong religiously and ethically and sometimes I find racist responses,” he said.

Otherwise, this sometimes leads to many problems in families as a result of the disclosure of secrets, Farwiz added, noting that advice that can be useful is often simple, such as asking about the address of a place or car advice.

Spreading personal information in a public area to be seen by thousands of people we do not know is risky, the psychiatrist concluded, recommending that human communication should continue to be a natural face-to-face occurence. “Communication through virtual reality should be minimal. Communicate with family, friends, and neighbours because this is natural for communities,” Farwiz said.

Furthermore, Salah Hashem, a sociology professor, said that the use of social media means a double-edged sword which solved an old problem suffered by humans, which is ease of contact.

“Sharing others’ concerns, problems, questions, and sharing experiences without disclosing a name is a very comfortable idea. But at the same time, you do not know very well who your share your feelings, problems, and inquiries with, as in almost all areas of interest scattered on the pages of communication, we find that thousands have been deceived and misled,” Hesham said.

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Increasing world debt raises concerns about new global crisis Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:00:22 +0000 $233tn world debt may be warning sign of imminent financial crisis 

The post Increasing world debt raises concerns about new global crisis appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

As the world goes through a variety of changes and crises of different kinds, one prominent issue that has recently come under the spotlight and become more noticeable than ever is the growing global debt.

Following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, there was hope for a combination of economic recovery, inflation, and austerity resulting in a decrease in debts.  However, it seems that this outlook was rather optimistic. Growth has been below par, inflation subdued, and austerity self-defeating.

Global interest rates are hiking and poor countries are becoming increasingly unable to pay back the money they borrowed from banks, which warns of a potential debt crisis on the horizon.

Global debt is defined as the money owed to the international community for providing loans in the form of economic aid, mainly to developing countries, with the aim of financing these countries’ economic development programmes and loans to cover their balance of payment deficits.

A report issued by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) in early January 2018, titled Global Debt Monitor showed that the global debt “hit an all-time high of $233tn in the third quarter (Q3) [of] 2017…Total debt across the household, government, financial, and non-financial corporate sectors increased by nearly $16.5tn in the first three quarters of 2017,” the report said. It was referring to the total debt incurred by the household, government, financial, and non-financial corporate sectors. The IFF report, however, noted that robust economic growth meant debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratios were declining.

“A combination of factors including synchronised above-potential global growth, rising inflation (China, Turkey), and efforts to prevent a destabilising build-up of debt (China, Canada) have all contributed to the decline,” Bloomberg reported.

The $233tn global debt is considered rather shocking given that it is higher than the GDP of the world’s 100 largest nations.

According to the IIF, the greatest chunk, of $68tn, belongs to non-financial companies. The next bigger borrowers are governments across the world with $63 trillion, whereas financial institutions have $58tn of debt.

An important question to reckon with here is: who has the largest debt?

It seems that China, Russia, Korea, and Brazil have a heavy dollar-debt repayment schedule ahead of them in 2018. The Asian superpower’s debt is sparking fear amongst the other members of the global economic family, according to Express News.

“China, which has accounted for the lion’s share of new debt in emerging markets, saw the pace of debt accumulation slow; debt rose by 2% last year to 294% of GDP, compared to an average annual increase of 17% in the 2012-2016 period,” CNBC reported.

Interestingly, according to The Guardian, the issue of global debt nowadays is taking a rather new and different form. Global debt, at present, is private sector debt, and while as of yet, only a small group of countries are in serious trouble, the warning signs are clear. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank both know it,” according to the Guardian.

The private non-financial sector debt hit all-time highs in Canada, France, Hong Kong, South Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey.

However, a bright side remains, especially with the recent upsurge in the number of Forbes billionaires under the age of 30, in addition to a more positive picture in China and other emerging markets, according to Seeking Alpha. As 2018 continues, more aspects of the world debt issue may unravel, indicating either improved world circumstances in terms of the global debt, or worse, as the debt soars.

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Saudi women attend football matches for first time Tue, 16 Jan 2018 08:00:20 +0000 Saudi Arabia has allowed female football fans into a stadium in Jeddah, marking the first time Saudi women were able to watch a game in person. The move comes as a part of what is thought to be a wider liberalisation drive. 

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Around 300 women attended a local football match in the Saudi city of Jeddah last Friday, in a historic first for the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom. Local media reported that women entered the King Abdullah Stadium through a special gate, with female security guards wearing orange vests searching the visitors at the entrance. Many of the female fans wore face paint and colours of one of the two teams, Al-Ahly and Al-Batin. They were seated in the special family section with their male relatives, but segregated from the all-male crowd.

On social media, Saudi women welcomed the step, viewing it as a great victory for their rights. Some men praised the decree believing it is an accomplishment for mutual dignity. “A society with equal rights for men and women breeds mutual dignity,” tweeted a male student.

The kingdom, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has launched a series of reforms on women’s rights. One of the changes is to allow women to drive cars, a move which is set to take full effect in June.

The arenas set up the “family sections” already used by other venues in Saudi Arabia, but also added women-only prayer areas and restrooms.

Some women had been allowed to watch Saudi National Day festivities at the Riyadh stadium in September last year. Although authorities had made rare exceptions to allow foreign women to watch football games, no such exceptions had been made for Saudi citizens.

In September 2017, a royal decree was issued which promised to give women their right to drive came amid a series of gradual steps undertaken by Saudi Arabia recently, as the historic decision came a few days after opening a sports stadium to women for the first time to take part in the kingdom’s national day festivities.

Analysts forecast that the lifting of the driving ban would also be beneficial to the country’s economy. According to CNN Money, women driving would, at the very least, save money paid to drivers, but also increase women’s presence in the workforce.

For a while now, Saudi Arabia has been pushing for reforms in women’s status issues, including their right to participate in local elections and Olympics.

This also came with the appointment of Fatimah Baeshen as the first female spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington DC.

The driving revolution comes after much struggle and calls by activists, including the persecution of women who took to the wheel.

Women in the country were not allowed to drive and must have a written approval from a designated guardian—a father, husband, brother, or son—to leave the country or work. While there is no written law that specifically bans women from driving, Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued license while in the country. Such licenses are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive.

A strong US ally, Saudi Arabia is also an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of dissent and applies an austere version of Sunni Islam in which religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women.

The last en masse protest against the ban was held in November 1990 when a group of women stunned Saudi men by driving around Riyadh in 15 cars before being arrested.

The women were provoked at the time by the sight of US female soldiers who were taking part in the first Gulf War, driving military vehicles freely in their own country while they are banned.

The 47 women who took part in that protest were severely punished, with authorities suspending many from public sector jobs and reprimanding their male guardians.

Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia: a timeline

2001: ID cards for women

At the start of the 21st century, Saudi women could get personal ID cards for the first time. The cards are the only way for them to prove who they are, for example in disputes relating to inheritance or property issues. IDs were only issued with the permission of a woman’s guardian though, and to the guardian instead of directly to the woman. Only in 2006 were women able to get IDs without permission.

2005: End of forced marriages

Saudi Arabia banned forced marriage in 2005, but marriage contracts continue to be hammered out between the husband-to-be and the father of the bride, not the bride herself.

2012: First female Olympic athletes

Saudi Arabia agreed to allow female athletes to compete on the country’s national team for the Olympics for the first time. One of them was Sarah Attar, who ran the women’s 800-metre race at the 2012 Olympics in London wearing a headscarf. Before the games, there was speculation that the Saudi Arabian team might be banned for gender discrimination if they did not allow women to participate.

2013: First women in the Consultative Assembly

In February 2013, King Abdullah swore in the first 30 women to the Shura Council (Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia). This allowed women to be appointed in those positions and soon after, they were allowed to actually run for office.

2015: Women vote and compete elections

In Saudi Arabia’s 2015 municipal elections, women were able to vote and run for office for the first time. By contrast, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote, in 1893. Germany did so in 1919. In the 2015 Saudi elections, 20 women were elected to municipal roles under the absolute monarchy.

2018: Women will be allowed to drive and are allowed in stadiums

On September 26, 2017, Saudi Arabia announced that women would soon be allowed to drive. Starting June 2018, they will no longer need permission from their male guardian to get a driver’s license and will not need their guardian in the car when they drive.

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Egypt’s food industry achieved $22.5bn revenues in 2017: USDA Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:00:00 +0000 Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East with a population of around 100 million; the country’s population grows by about 2.5% annually. This also makes Egypt one of the world’s fastest growing markets for food and agricultural products. However, in the last decade, Egypt has been struggling with …

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Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East with a population of around 100 million; the country’s population grows by about 2.5% annually. This also makes Egypt one of the world’s fastest growing markets for food and agricultural products. However, in the last decade, Egypt has been struggling with economic challenges, government austerity measures, soaring youth unemployment, and double-digit inflation. The Egyptian food industries sector has been growing in recent years, accounting for about 4.7% of the total GDP in 2016.

Info graph by Daily News Egypt

Egypt’s GDP in 2017 has an estimated value of about $193bn and is forecasted to reach around $251bn in 2018. The country has seen real GDP grow of 4.2% in 2017, yet millions of low and middle income Egyptian consumers have seen their living standards deteriorate due to soaring inflation—which has just started to decrease—as well as stagnant incomes and high unemployment.

Consequently, the increase witnessed in retail prices of nearly all goods and services took its toll on consumer behaviour. This is limiting disposable income, which was already low. Food prices soared 40% in June 2017 compared to the same period of 2016, while food inflation reportedly reached 44% in April 2017.

On the other hand, the currency floatation that took place in November 2016. which was the main driver behind inflationary pressures, is also pressuring importers to raise the prices charged for imported products. However, as the saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain; these events provided the optimum opportunity for Egypt’s food industry sector to prosper, according to the annual report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Egypt’s processed food industry

The growth of Egypt’s food processing and manufacturing sector is associated with the market being
price sensitive. The main driver behind the sector growth has been the shift to increased production for domestic consumption and exports. The average Egyptian consumer’s consumption of processed and manufactured foods has grown to reach $45bn in 2017, up from $32bn in 2008, reflecting around a 40% increase in less than a decade.

The USDA report indicates that Egypt’s central location in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region acted as an edge for Egyptian food processors and manufacturers, allowing them to increase exports to nearby regional markets.

In almost every Arab and African country, Egyptian processed and manufactured food products are import duty exempt. Consequently, the sector’s exports reached around $2.6bn through November 2017, of which about $1.1bn were to regional markets such as Saudi Arabia ($289m), Libya ($144m), and Jordan ($123m). Top exports were edible oils ($397m), processed cheese ($152m), and sugar and confectioneries ($143m), the report mentions.

Egypt is estimated to have 5,200 food companies, which reportedly generated a turnover of $22.5bn in the calendar year (CY) 2017 (January-August), increasing by 55% compared to the same period of 2016. This makes the sector’s share of Egypt’s GDP stand at approximately 4.7%. The report indicates that the new registration requirements for food products in 2018 may generate greater clarity, supposedly facilitating a more accurate account of the number of players and actual turnover.

Furthermore, the USDA’s foreign agriculture service (FAS), believes that there are opportunities for US manufactures to supply Egypt’s food processing and manufacturing sectors, which grew with a compound annual growth rate of almost 15% from 2011-2016. Product groups offering the highest potential in 2017 were baked goods, rice, pasta and noodles, dairy, as well as processed meats, seafood, edible oils, sauces, dressings, and condiments. US food and agricultural product exports to Egypt in CY 2016 accounted for $775m, making Egypt the 32nd largest export market for these products.

Egypt has numerous trade agreements with different parties, such as the European Union (EU); Egypt signed an Association Agreement with the EU which entered into force on June 1, 2004. The agreement allows immediate duty-free access for Egyptian products into EU markets, while duty-free access for EU products was phased in over a twelve-year period. In 2010, Egypt and the EU completed an agricultural annex to their Free Trade Agreement (FTA), liberalising trade for over 90% of agricultural goods.

Moreover, Egypt’s trade agreements and operating conventions for facilitating trade include The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Egyptian-European Mediterranean Partnership Agreement, The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Pan-Arab Free Trade Area (PAFTA), Turkey-Egypt Free Trade Agreement, Egypt-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement (effective June 22, 2017), and several bilateral agreements with Arab countries such as Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Syria.

However, despite low entry barriers, US food ingredients face a distance and tariff disadvantage for countries that have trade arrangements with Egypt. Yet, US food ingredients are widely recognised as being innovative, high quality, and readily available.

In terms of general import inspection procedures and regulations, Egypt requires that every component of a product be inspected, regardless of the compliance history of the product, country of origin, exporter, or the importer. No imported product can be sold in Egypt without first proving that it conforms to Egyptian standards. In the case that there are no Egyptian standards in place for the imported product, an international standard can be applied such as the Codex Alimentarius (Codex).

According to the USDA report, the Egyptian market structure is fairly straightforward. Importers can be food processors, manufacturers, or agents and distributors. Large companies prefer to source their food ingredients or products directly from abroad. They do this in order to obtain reasonable pricing, guaranteed continuous product flow, and for quality assurance purposes.

In the Egyptian market, agents and distributors play a critical role, since Egypt’s food processing and manufacturing sectors are highly fragmented with many small and medium enterprises depending exclusively on these agents for their imported ingredients, due to different reasons. First, they only purchase small quantities. Second, they seek to refrain from the risks associated with importing products directly. Third is the fact that they pay for their purchases in local currency, and finally, because they do not maintain large inventories.

Egypt’s food processing and manufacturing sector in 2012-16 grew with a compound annual growth rate of about 12%, slightly above the longer 2011-16 interval’s growth of almost 15%. The main driver behind this was the 2016 currency floatation. Sources indicate that total sales reached EGP 104bn (or about $11.7bn based on the pre-November 3, 2016 exchange rate).

According to the report, product groups that have experienced the greatest growth during the 2011-16 period include milk, savoury snacks, and yoghurt and sour milk. Processed fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, rice, and pasta and noodles experienced growth of between 13-14% during this period.
The report forecasts that the sector will grow during the 2017-21 period in Egyptian pounds terms, albeit at a slower 5%. Some estimates, prior to the 2016 currency floatation, were forecasting total sales to reach about EGP 140bn by 2021.

The witnessed sector growth can be attributed to Egypt’s time-starved middle class consumers adopting a more westernised lifestyle. Adopting a faster and more hectic pace of life is leading a growing number of consumers to turn increasingly to ready-to-eat frozen meals and instant noodles. Egyptians are also becoming more aware of the availability and convenience of packaged food products, the report indicates.

Moreover, another factor driving the sector’s growth has been the pound’s depreciation against the dollar. Which has impacted all segments of Egyptian society, leading them to turn to less costly local brands that feature greater amounts of local content and are sold largely through hyper- and supermarkets. It is very noticeable that such brands are increasingly being picked up by middle class consumers who are pinching piastres. On the other hand, low income consumers continue to purchase mainly at traditional grocery stores; this explains why traditional grocery stores remain the strongest distribution channel despite hyper- and supermarket expansions.

Egypt has a large middle class consumer segment, which accounted for roughly 40% of the population prior to the pound’s November 2016 floatation, or about 38 million people. However, currently, according to the data released by importers of consumer-oriented foodstuffs deriving indications based on their own sales, the middle class is actually shrinking due to high unemployment, double-digit inflation, and the halving of income and purchasing power.

The average Egyptian middle class household has four people and, reportedly, food and groceries purchases use up to 50% of household incomes. The middle class pre-floatation reportedly accounted for 45% of total consumption in the Egyptian economy. Some estimates currently place the Egyptian middle class today at less than 20% of the population (or roughly 19.4 million consumers), according to the report.

The report forecasts that Egyptian processed and manufactured foods export sales will increase in the
2017-21 period, by around 4%. Exports previously grew with a compound annual growth rate of around 2% in the period from 2012 to 2016, registering $1.6bn in 2016. Egypt’s top export destinations in 2016 were its Arab neighbours, Russia, and the Arab Gulf states. Saudi Arabia was the largest destination ($614m), then Russia ($229m), Kuwait ($212m), and Libya ($205m). The country’s main exports were processed vegetables ($520m), dairy products ($317m), and snack foods ($185m).


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Paath paved for Al-Sisi’s second term? Sun, 14 Jan 2018 09:00:20 +0000 Incumbent president yet to submit list of accomplishments as promised, complex situations face presidential hopefuls

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Forecasting that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will rule for a second term would not be a speculative argument: across different sectors, institutions and campaigns have expressed their support for him to continue serving and endorsement forms were collected on his behalf.

Al-Sisi has not yet officially announced his re-election bid for the presidency, instead delaying the declaration, saying he would run for the election if it is the will of the people, an approach he also adopted in the 2014 election.

However, on more than one occasion in 2017, the president vowed to present a list of accomplishments for his first term in office.
While it has yet to be presented, mobilisation for his election kicked off in the past weeks. It has been reported in local media that thousands of endorsement forms in support of Al-Sisi have been signed by citizens.

“`Alashan Nebniha” (so we can build it), is one of the largest campaigns calling on Al-Sisi to run for a second presidential term, launched by Future of a Nation Party. On 24 December, it announced obtaining signatures from 12 million citizens.

At the same time, there is a weak presence and representation of competitors. As the election is set to take place in nearly two months, by mid-March, it remains difficult to determine who the final candidates will be.

Mobilising to support the president

The media

The media is currently under the tightest control in the years that followed the 2011 toppling of Hosni Mubarak and it continues to play a major role in mobilising support for Al-Sisi for the election.

Media ownership is in the hands of the state, supporting businesspersons, or former officials, widely believed to be linked to intelligence services.
Eagle Capital for Financial Investments, headed by former investment minister Dalia Khorshid, recently acquired the Egyptian Media Group which encompasses news websites, advertising agencies, and television networks. Other major networks are owned by state-allied businesspersons, while several independent news websites have been blocked.

Several opinion writers have been questioning the seriousness and possibility of other candidates that could compete with Al-Sisi, adding that despite the fact that political plurality is beneficial to the democratic process, none of them stand a real chance of obtaining public support.
TV narratives have been more or less sending the same message. On Tuesday, TV host Amr Adeeb said there was no presidential competition that would require the media to pave the way for Al-Sisi in the first place.

Adeeb even said that it was time to move to the next level and start discussing what would be required from the president in his second term.

The parliament

With more than 500 members, the parliament is the largest civil institution supporting the regime, the army, and Al-Sisi, as the majority of its members announced their endorsement.

The 25-30 Alliance, which represents a minority opposition bloc inside parliament, said it would wait for the final official list of candidates before stating its stance.

Candidates and complicated bids
Most of those who presented themselves as candidates do not align with the current regime and are in turn unwelcome, despite that some enjoy public support to different extents.


Leftist tendencies and a former presidential candidate, Khaled Ali (Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)
Leftist tendencies and a presidential candidate, Khaled Ali
(Photo by Mahmoud Fekry)

Khaled Ali

To date, lawyer Khaled Ali is the only candidate in the presidential race, in terms of having officially announced his intention to run for the election and continued to be in the scene.

Ali held his third press conference since announcing his candidacy on Thursday where he claimed that he is “resisting dictatorship,” calling on his supporters to collect 25,000 endorsement forms—required for his candidacy by 25 January.

This does not mean that his candidacy is not threatened.

Ali, who led a long battle against the government over the maritime border agreement with Saudi Arabia and succeeded in obtaining a State Council verdict rejecting the transfer of Egypt’s sovereignty over the Red Sea islands Tiran and Sanafir, is facing a court case which—if it ends in his conviction—would make him no longer eligible as a presidential candidate, according to the law.

In September, Ali was sentenced by a misdemeanours court to three months in prison for indecent behaviour, as he was accused of displaying a gesture, described by critics as obscene, in a public gathering outside the court after the verdict in his favour in the islands case. His appeals case is scheduled for 7 March, in the middle the election timetable.

Ali first declared in a press conference on 6 November his decision to launch an electoral campaign. His statement focused on “crises” Egypt is facing and described his vision as a “collective social struggle” based on upholding values of democracy, citizenship, social justice, and human rights.

The outline of his declared programme included the evaluation of the impact of national mega projects, currently under execution, on the economy, raising the minimum wage in the public sector to EGP 2,000, a tax reform system, the end of privatisation policies, improvement of the health insurance bill currently under discussion in parliament, supporting agriculture, restoring the Nubian people to their lands as per the constitution, integrating Sinai residents into development, releasing detainees whose temporary custody exceeded legal periods, the issuance of presidential pardons for prisoners of protest charges, unblocking websites, and stopping the maritime border agreement.

Ali, a former candidate in the 2012 election, has become an enemy in the eyes of the current president’s supporters. He has been repeatedly slammed by pro-state media. In return, Ali accused the regime of implementing different means aimed at pressuring him to withdraw from the race, including the “fabrication” of a court case.


The Prosecutor General Tala’at Abdallah announced on Tuesday that he has asked the Office of International Cooperation to prepare a memorandum asking Interpol to arrest former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. (AFP/File, Mohammed Abed)
Former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq has agreed to stay on as National Movement Party chief
(AFP/File, Mohammed Abed)

Ahmed Shafiq

As the rival candidate who closest to president-elect Mohamed Morsi in 2012, the Mubarak-era former aviation minister, prime minsiter, and military pilot Ahmed Shafiq enjoyed a large presence on the political scene.

Although unofficially declared, media reports indicated that Shafiq’s return to Egypt from the UAE, to which he fled escaping legal prosecution over corruption charges after the 2011 revolution, was unwelcome by the current regime which saw him as a potential threat.
On 29 November, the rivalry became official: Shafiq decided to challenge Al-Sisi and announced his bid for presidency, in exclusive statements to Reuters.

In a video he published on YouTube, Shafiq said he believed he would be able to overcome existing problems through the immediate implementation of democracy and human rights principles.

Confusing events quickly followed.

The next day, Al-Jazeera published a video statement where Shafiq claimed he was barred from leaving the UAE as he planned a tour to reach out to Egyptian communities abroad before returning to Egypt.

The video sparked controversy in Egypt, especially amid hostility towards the Qatari network and official denial by the UAE of the accusations. On 2 December, Shafiq was deported to Egypt amid further unclear circumstances, where it was reported that he was put under house arrest and concerns around his whereabouts were voiced by his lawyer and family, while Shafiq publicly denied his movements were restricted.

Regardless of assertions of proceeding with his candidacy put forward by him and the political party of which he is president—The National Movement Party—Shafiq eventually withdrew from the race.

On 7 January, Shafiq issued a statement through his official page on Facebook stating that he would not participate in the electoral race. He explained that he had been unable to see the “developments and achievements on the ground” being away from the country for five years. His post stirred a mix of supporting and ironic reactions by social media users.

In statements to Dream TV, Shafiq said he was not and could not be pressured to drop out, saying he calculated the benefits and losses and concluded that “a more suitable man could continue the journey.”

Shafiq had spoken about the islands case in statements to Dream TV in June, where he asserted Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands despite him claiming the opposite in 2016. Programme host Wael Al-Ibrashy did not appear on TV for months despite denials by the channel that he had been suspended.


Ahmed Konsowa

Ahmed Konsowa

The short-lived story of military officer Ahmed Konsowa’s bid for presidency took an unexpected turn of events. A couple of weeks after he announced his intention to run, Konsowa is now serving a six-year prison sentence issued by a military court.

Through his Facebook account—now deactivated—Konsowa presented himself as “the alternative” and launched a hashtag called “Egypt hope.” His announcement came around the same time of Shafiq’s.

He confirmed his respect for the constitution and the goals of “the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.” Konsowa claimed he had been subject to autocratic measures by the state since he first tried to resign from the military in March 2014 but maintained his pride of belonging to the institution.
In an eloquent speech given in Arabic and English, Konsowa appeared in his military uniform saying: “I proudly declare that I have decided to unlock the current political deadlock…it is no secret that I’ve spent more than three years and a half in courts suing the government in 11 lawsuits…to obtain [the] constitutional right of political participation to run for various elections.”

Konsowa added that he did not belong to any party or faction on the scene and that he would implement an “ambitious roadmap” as opposed to “counterproductive and outdated policies” which “fuel extremism and discontent.”

A few weeks later, Konsowa was charged with violating military laws for engaging in political discourse while still in service.

According to several media reports, Konsowa took a stance against the maritime border agreement and challenged laws banning army or police officers from participating in parliamentary elections.

A detailed December report published by “Ida2at” website traced the content of previously little-known Konsowa’s Facebook account in the past eight years, concluding he supported “the initiative to change” brought by former vice president Mohamed Baradei, opposed the Muslim Brotherhood, encouraged 30 June, and respected political activists including Wael Ghoneim, Alaa Abdel Fattah, and April 6 Youth Movement.


Mohamed Anwar Sadat
(DNE Photo)

Mohamed Anwar Sadat

A former member of the current parliament, Sadat was expelled earlier this year with a majority of votes. He had gradually become a political dissident. In an interview with Daily News Egypt in May 2016, Sadat complained about supporters of the president discrediting and distrusting people of differing opinions.

Sadat’s experience in parliament was short-lived. After serving for one year as the head of the Human Rights Committee, he was pressured to resign.
Following several critiques Sadat made of parliament, he faced backlash from Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal who accused him of distorting the image of the parliament before foreign entities, after which he was internally investigated and lost his membership.

Sadat’s tone became more and more critical of government performance and regime policies and he remains in dispute with the speaker.
A Reuters report had pointed out in October that Sadat intended to run in the election, after the “current leadership has stifled freedom of expression so tightly, the only way to criticize the government and address the country’s ills is to run for president.”

Sadat said in TV statements that he would make his announcement on Monday, but he already sent out a request issued by his electoral campaign to Abdel Aal in order to meet with MPs to collect endorsement signatures.

Moreover, in a letter sent to the National Electoral Commission in December, Sadat accused the national security apparatus of blocking his reservation of a conference room in a hotel.

Last but not least, conflicting news recently surfaced about the possibility that former chief of staff Sami Anan may join the race. His candidacy was previously floated during the 2014 election, which he eventually did not run for.

Election timetable

20-29 January: Candidates submit applications
31 January: Preliminary list to be published
1-2 February: Electoral commission receives objections to candidacies
6 February: Commission notifies excluded candidates, noring reasons. Candidates’ appeals will follow
22 February: Deadline to withdraw candidacy
24 February-13 March: Electoral campaigns
14-15 March: Silence period
16-18 March: Egyptians abroad vote
26-28 March: Egyptians in Egypt vote
2 April: First round results announced
If needed, a second round would start in mid-April.

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Wheat in focus as fierce competition, oversupply weigh on prices Mon, 08 Jan 2018 11:00:05 +0000 World consumption and trade expected to decrease slightly in 2018

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Analysts expect wheat prices to come under pressure in 2018, hit by fierce competition among top exporters and oversupply with the US Department of Agriculture’s latest USDA increasing its estimate for 2017-18 global wheat production to 755m metric tonnes—a new record high.

According to the report, 2018 would be the fifth consecutive year of increased global wheat production.

Wheat’s future prices for March delivery is hovering around their lowest level in two years, standing at $428 per tonne.

Analysts polled by Daily News Egypt said that the prices of wheat are expected to extend their downward trajectory in 2018 amid ample supplies and fierce competition among major producers, including Russia, Canada, Ukraine, France, and the United States.

A recent report issued by USDA said that wheat projected 2017/18 US ending stocks are raised this month by 25m bushels on reduced exports.

This reduction is primarily attributed to heightened Canadian competition expected from increased exportable supplies.

Canada and the United States compete in several of the same markets in Latin America and East Asia.

Global 2017/18 wheat supplies are increased, primarily on higher production forecasts for Canada and the European Union, more than offsetting production declines in Brazil, South Africa, and Yemen.

Canadian wheat production has risen 3.0 million tonnes to 30.0 million, largely on increased yields in the Prairie Provinces as reported in Statistics Canada’s Production of Principal Field Crops report, released on 6 December.

Meanwhile, the report said that EU wheat production is raised 1.0 million tonnes to 152.5 million, mainly on higher production in Romania, Poland, Latvia, and Bulgaria.

World 2017/18 trade is greater exports from Canada, Russia, and Ukraine, more than offset reduced US exports.

Projected imports are increased for Indonesia, China, and Brazil. Indonesia’s imports are raised 1.0 million tonnes to 11.5 million, primarily on higher expected feed wheat usage.

Total world consumption is projected 2.1 million tonnes higher, primarily on greater usage from Indonesia, Canada, and the EU.

Projected global ending stocks are 0.9m tonnes higher at 268.4m, which is a new record.

Bearish market outlook looms

With wheat global supply on the rise, a bearish market outlook is expected to hit prices in the mid-term, analysts said.

“We don’t expect wheat prices to improve too much in 2018, but there will be short-term rallies that will certainly prove profitable due to bad weather in the United States particularly,” said Garrett Baldwin, a senior commodity analyst at Farmlead Consultancy.

“This means selling into strength and making incremental sales as the price goes up,” he added.

Prices of the wheat future received a boost this week, rising to a two-week high level on bad weather conditions in the United States.

“Ever since the bumper crop of 2013, the market has slowly been working its way through stocks of higher quality wheat coming out of Canada. More specifically, Canada ended 2013/14 with almost 8.7m tonnes of wheat (or at least that wheat which was not durum). The stocks-to-use ratio that year in Canada was 33%,” Baldwin added.

The harvested area of US spring wheat was much lower than 2016. With 10.16m acres of US spring wheat combined, that was 16% below the five-year average and nearly 10% below last year’s total, according to a recent report.

From a production standpoint in the US, drier conditions in major spring wheat production areas meant lower yields.

More specifically, American spring wheat yields dropped 13% year-over-year to 41 bushels in 2017/18.

Russia, the fierce competitor, is another drag

The world’s top shipper is proving a fierce competitor as this year’s bumper crop drives even more exports.

As it makes inroads into the European Union’s traditional markets, Russia’s selling point is simple: good quality wheat at prices that many rivals just can’t beat.

“Everyone is watching Russia right now,” said Miroslaw Marciniak, a director at InfoGrain, a Warsaw-based adviser.

“In the past few years, Russia has been more and more aggressively fighting for new markets. The EU right now has one big problem—what to do with its grains surplus.”

In a world overflowing with grains, low-cost emerging markets from Russia to Latin America are challenging well-established suppliers such as the US and the EU. Russia, once home to a failing Soviet farm industry dependent on imports, has in recent years emerged as a wheat superpower.

That helped depress global wheat prices, with benchmark futures in Chicago down 11% in the past two years.

Russia surpassed the EU as the No. 2 exporter last season and is forecast to take the top spot in 2017-18.

Its booming agricultural output has helped expand its presence in markets around the world from Asia to Africa.

Russia’s export gains are bad news for the EU, and especially its top producer, France, which is trying to regain its market position following an abysmal harvest last year.

Russia took advantage of France’s stumble to gain a foothold with some of its most faithful customers.

Nations including Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, and Senegal all expanded purchases of Russian wheat last season and are coming back for more this year, according to consultant Strategie Grains.

“Last year opened the door to Russian wheat, and now we don’t know when this door will close,” said a recent research note by Strategie Grains in France.

Russia is also dominating imports by top wheat buyer Egypt, accounting for three-quarters of the country’s purchases so far this season.

The EU, represented by Romania and France, sold a combined 18%, according to official data.

Cutting the crop by half still not enough to boost prices

A recent report issued by Agriweb, a London-based consultancy group, said that cutting the crop by half isn’t enough to support prices at least in the mid-term, as higher production from top producers will weigh on prices in years to come.

“Demand could decline even more next year. Italy, Canada’s second-biggest buyer of wheat durum last season, is planning to introduce rules in early 2018 that may limit imports,” the report noted.

Wheat stocks will keep pressure on the market. Given that the 2017/18 marketing year world wheat harvest is nearly complete, and the 2017/18 marketing year wheat supply is known, changes in stocks won’t stampede the market.

A sign that wheat stocks are not an issue is that Australia is projected to produce 42% less wheat in 2017 than was harvested in 2016. Australia’s lower production had little impact on prices.

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Post-Saleh guerrilla conflicts leave scores of civilians dead Tue, 02 Jan 2018 09:00:43 +0000 In the past 10 days, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement that all sides in the country’s conflict are indiscriminately killing civilians. He said airstrikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition alone killed 68 noncombatants in one day. The UN last week described the civil conflict in Yemen as …

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In the past 10 days, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement that all sides in the country’s conflict are indiscriminately killing civilians. He said airstrikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition alone killed 68 noncombatants in one day.

The UN last week described the civil conflict in Yemen as an “absurd” war in which all parties, including a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, were showing a “complete disregard for human life.”


“This absurd war…has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides,” McGoldrick added.


McGoldrick cited two air raids by the Saudi-led Arab coalition on December 26 that together claimed scores of civilian lives.


The first killed 54 civilians, including eight children, at a “crowded popular market” in Taez province, and the second, in the Red Sea province of Hodeida, killed 14 people from the same family, the statement said.


On 5 December, Yemen’s former president and rebel leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was assassinated in the area of Khawlan in the capital Sanaa as he was fleeing Houthi rebels. His envoy was ambushed with an RPG rocket and he was then reportedly assassinated by gunfire. Some of his aides were killed, while others were injured.


Over the past 33 months, the situation on the ground in Yemen has witnessed many developments, other than the killing of Saleh, such as the spread of Cholera, famine, and drought. Another 41 civilians had been killed in other fighting in Yemen in the past 10 days, according to the statement.

“I remind all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition, of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to always distinguish between civilian and military objects,” McGoldrick said.

He said that the conflict in Yemen has no military solution and that negotiations are necessary to resolve it.


Yemen, which was plunged into a brutal civil war in March 2015, has reached another dark milestone. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced last Thursday that more than one million people in the Arabian Peninsula country are now affected by cholera.


In November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that almost 2,200 people had already died from the waterborne disease. The problem has been exacerbated by worsening hygiene and sanitation conditions in the country.


The Red Cross emphasised that cholera is not the only problem plaguing the county’s civilian population, adding that 80% of Yemenis lack access to food, fuel, clean drinking water, and healthcare. Although the number of cholera cases registered each week has gone down over the past three months, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said, “the epidemic is not yet over, and more concerted efforts should be deployed to ensure its control in the immediate term and the prevention of future outbreaks.”


Yemen relies heavily on food and fuel imports and the fuel is used to distribute food throughout the country and to keep electricity running. Water supply is also affected since the necessary installations to pump water and adequately treat it are out of order due to the fuel shortage, thus making waterborne diseases a major concern.

However, in parallel the coalition’s aggression against Houthi rebels, there are the ballistic missiles which continue to be fired at Saudi lands leading to more retaliation on Yemeni lands. On 19 December, a missile was fired at the Yamama Palace in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. On the same day, the Saudi-led coalition said it had intercepted the ballistic missile south of the capital. The attack was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Houthi movement, who said that a ballistic missile had targeted the royal court, where they claimed a meeting of Saudi leaders was taking place that Tuesday.


Yemen has devolved into economic instability and political turmoil since Saleh’s forced resignation in 2012, after Yemen’s Arab Spring uprising. The political crisis resulted in the house arrest of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who at the time fled to the south and rescinded his resignation. He is currently in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.

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India and China: economies that will change the world as we know it Tue, 02 Jan 2018 08:00:53 +0000 India to outperform British, French economies in 2018, China expected to outperform US economy in 15 years, with clear shift towards the Asian economy in global dominance

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The economy of the United States of America is currently the largest in the world, representing nearly a quarter of the global economy (about 24.3%), standing at a value of $18tn, according to data from the World Bank.

The second largest economy is China’s, worth $11tn, representing 14.8% of the world economy, followed by Japan at $4.4tn, which represents 6% of the total world economy.

In fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh place come the economies of Germany, the UK, France, and India respectively. The German economy stands at $3.3tn, the UK economy at $2.9tn, France at $2.4tn, and India at $2tn.

However, a big change is likely to occur throughout the upcoming years.  A report recently released by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in London has stated that China, currently the world’s second largest economy, is expected to become the world’s number one economy by 2032, replacing the US. This prediction, when you look at it, seems consistent with the changes occurring in the world’s largest economies, given the growing importance of Asia’s major economies, which is expected to continue in 2018 and throughout the years to follow, as reported by Bloomberg.

The CEBR’s annual World Economic League Table (WELT) 2018 charts a trend of a clear global economic shift to Asia. “The interesting trend emerging is that by 2032, five of the largest 10 economies in the world will be in Asia, while European economies will be falling down the ranking, and the US will lose its top spot,” said CEBR Senior Economist Oliver Kolodseike.

Previous reports had shown that China would occupy the top spot by 2031, but that has been revised as the predicted negative impact of US President Donald Trump on his country’s economy has been “less than severe”, The Daily Mail reported.

According to data from the WELT and its estimations of the world economy’s growth, in 15 years, three out of the world’s four largest economies will be Asian—including China, India, and Japan. Korea and Indonesia are also expected to be on the list of the world’s top 10 economies.

Similarly, India is likely to continue its outstanding growth in 2018. The CEBR report said that India is expected to “leapfrog” the economies of Britain and France in 2018, becoming the world’s fifth largest economy.

“Despite temporary setbacks, India’s economy has still caught up with that of France and the UK, and in 2018 it will have overtaken them both to become the world’s fifth largest economy in dollar terms,” Douglas McWilliams, CEBR deputy chairperson, told The Daily Mail.

And while the UK may be a bit behind France throughout the next two years, the impact of Brexit on the British economy will be “less than feared”, allowing the UK to overtake France again in 2020, according to the CEBR.

The Times of India has reported that the CEBR’s report shows the subcontinent will be the world’s third largest economy by 2027.

Technology and urbanisation will be two of the most important elements playing a role in the transformation and shift in the world economy over the next 15 years, according to Kolodseike.

The Indian economy’s annual growth rate was 6.7% in 2017 and will likely increase to 7.4% in 2018. The economy is expected to boom to $2.926tn in 2019.

India’s economy could reach $10tn by 2030, according to chairperson and managing director of India’s Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, as reported by the Indian Swarajya magazine.

The Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative and the Indian infrastructural project will boost construction’s share of world GDP to 15% by 2032, probably the highest share of world GDP construction has seen since the pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall of China were built, according to Yahoo News.

Interestingly, by 2032, the list of the world’s top 25 economies will include Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, and Pakistan, as Pakistan will rise from the 41st position in 2017 to the 25th position in 2032.

These anticipated changes in the world’s largest economies are likely to change the world as we know it, where the economy of the United States of America is the leading economy. 2018 will be the start of a setback for some economies, and the growth of others, but one thing that is certain is that Asian countries will be proudly leading this upcoming phase, and achieving significant growths we may not have witnessed before.


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Media regulation in 2017: role of SMC between professional monitoring, moral observing Sun, 31 Dec 2017 10:00:09 +0000 New code of conduct expected to be reinforced as some media content, presenters continue to stir controversy over ethics, professionalism

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In a case that has been repeatedly occurring, a recent TV commercial by Vodafone Egypt was banned last week through a decision from the Supreme Council for Media (SCM).

In an official statement, the SCM said the ad contained phrases and scenes that were “not suitable for public taste, defied moral values, encouraged inappropriate behaviour, and displayed public indecency and language.”

The commercial featured famous sarcastic puppet “Abla Fahita” singing about different situations where customers struggle with using internet bundles.

Scenes in the commercial depicted half-naked men, a man sitting on a toilet, and a line in the song was about a teenager trying to view a “scandalous” video.

The company issued a statement on 22 December saying that it was not notified of the suspension but announced the withdrawal of its advertisement campaign until the situation is “clarified with concerned bodies.”

Although the content of the commercial could be debated between supporters and opponents, there was other more alarming media content which prompted the SMC to take action.

The couple of following examples will look at how the SMC implemented its role in regulating the media.

Lawyer suspended for promoting rape 

On 25 November, the SMC issued a statement banning lawyer Nabih Al-Wahsh from appearing in broadcast or print media for three months.

The decision came “because he insulted women and encouraged their rape,” the SMC said.

In an October TV show, Al-Wahsh said it was a “national duty to rape women.” He argued that women wearing ripped jeans deserved to be sexually assaulted for “inviting” men to do so through their “indecent clothes.” In further press statements following public controversy, he defended his comments.

The National Council for Women Rights (NCWR) immediately filed a complaint against Al-Wahsh. An urgent trial was held and he was sentenced in December to three years in jail and a EGP 20,000 fine.

Moreover, the SMC stated in its decision that Al-Wahsh “lacks professional skills when addressing the public; often by making mistakes and unfounded value judgments, such as claiming that university campuses are becoming havens for homosexuality, the Opera House a place for gay marriage, and the NCWR an entity betraying Egypt which must be shut down.”

TV host penalised for sniffing on air

In July, Shimaa Gamal, who hosts a show called “The Troublemaker” on LTC channel, was tackling addiction to heroin.

She brought a small bag of white powder, saying it is heroin. She put some on her hand and sniffed it during the show. Then, she put it on a cookie which she ate to assure the audience it was an act.

The SMC decided to ban the programme for two episodes and refer the presenter to the Media Syndicate for investigations, after which it was decided that she would be suspended for three months.

Gamal had publicly apologised. However, she also objected to the syndicate’s measures. In statements to the local Masrawy website on 24 October, she accused the syndicate of discriminating between her and famous TV host Ahmed Moussa.

According to her, the syndicate failed to penalise Moussa for committing a professional mistake but suspended her because they saw her as the “weakest link.”

The non-suspension of Ahmed Moussa

Pro-regime—particularly the security apparatus—TV host Moussa is a controversial figure, as he often incites and insults political opponents, activists, supporters of the 2011 revolution, and so on.

In October, Moussa published an audio clip, claiming to have obtained it from an eyewitness to one of the largest anti-security operations known as Al-Wahat shootout. However, security officials denied its authenticity.

The Media Syndicate objected and said Moussa violated professional laws stating that media content should not interfere with national and security interests. Syndicate officials told the media that he would be suspended until investigations take place.

The next day, Moussa appeared on his daily show and apologised, while the SMC’s reaction was to blame the syndicate on grounds that it was not authorised to suspend him.


Ramadan is the top season for TV drama series and commercials. In July 2017, the SMC’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee issued a report with the following observations, based on professional and “moral” standards:

  • Drama series were artistically creative, discussed issues related to the country and society and revived the work of senior writers while also introducing a promising new generation of artists
  • The committee suggested that a letter of appreciation be sent to DMC network for removing offensive scenes and language
  • There was an absence of drama tackling the “heroism of the country’s martyrs” despite that they constituted great human stories sacrificing their lives for their country
  • Some content included insults and offensive language, but they were “individual mistakes” as, generally speaking, the SMC succeeded in banning the broadcast of insults—unless necessary in the context of the drama
  • The image of women was undermined because there was more representation of the “flirting woman” type, rather than the struggling woman who’s loyal to her family, in addition to unjustified scenes of violence and insults against women
  • There was a widespread portrayal of smoking and drug consumption in a way that would be seducing for teenagers

As for advertisements, the SMC said there were increasing complaints about their length and raised some state-affiliated institutions advertisement for “dressing the conscience of the citizens.”

Regulating and reforming media content

The SMC, chaired by Makram Mohamed Ahmed, was established under Law No. 92 of 2016, which defined the SMC’s role: to guarantee free independent media, based on international standards, but also in accordance with the Egyptian culture and identity.

When taking action against those committing violations, the SMC also addressed the outlets in which they appeared.

In the case of Al-Wahsh, two channels were warned for hosting “unqualified, non-authorised people to issue fatwas and aberrant ideas.” The same thing happened in the case of Gamal, which pushed the channel to issue an apology.

Despite the SMC’s sanctions, distorted media content is yet to be prevented, especially that several of the denounced hosts have long been controversial such as Al-Wahsh or Moussa.

The latter was convicted several times in court for professional violations such as leaking private phone recordings and slander. The list of TV presenters with similar characteristics is long.

Moreover, it is unclear if the role of the SMC is to be a “moral monitor” or law enforcement entity with regards to professional media rules.

Experts have significantly voiced concerns regarding a chaotic media scene in the years that followed the 2011 revolution, despite that they had expected the post-Mubarak Egypt to take new shape.

“More than three years after the revolution, Egypt continues to struggle with an authoritarian media sector and constraints on freedom of expression. Post-revolution regimes have not capitalised on opportunities to reform state and private media, and critical voices have been harassed and marginalised by state and non-state actors. As long as Egypt continues to be governed by rulers who believe controlling the media is in their best interest, reform will only come about through the few dissident voices in the media backed up by support from civil society and the masses.”

This came in a research published by Carnegie Endowment in July 2014 by Rasha Abdulla, an associate professor and former chair of the journalism and mass communication department at the American University in Cairo. Abdulla called for media reform.

Meanwhile, in research for the Polis think tank of the London School of Economics’s Media and Communications Department, also published in 2014, Research Fellow Fatima El-Issawi interviewed journalists and media professionals in Egypt.

They opined that “the Egyptian media post-revolution transformed into a free-for-all: a platform for freedom of expression of any and all opinions.” Yet, El-Issawi pointed out that “this model of chaotic expression of opinions is not new for the Egyptian media which has seen it expressed in the sensational tabloid media.” Moreover, political developments “made the debate on professional standards a secondary issue for journalists and their editors.”

Code of conduct

In December 2017, the Egyptian state gazette published the media code of professional conduct prepared by the Media Syndicate. Its main principles are:

  • Media is a message based on responsible freedom
  • Media should respect divine religions, social values, and professional ethics
  • Respect for national heritage, identity, language, cultural diversity, and acceptance of the culture of the other
  • The role of the media should be emphasised in the protection of national unity and national cohesion
  • The media’s responsibility is to advance sustainable development efforts
  • Respect for human dignity and non-abuse of any segment of society
  • Media is a profession that requires qualification, training, and continuous development
  • Respect for the rights of the audience, listeners, and viewers

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2017: yet another year of journalists’ targeting Sun, 24 Dec 2017 09:30:15 +0000 More international pressure on news organisations, authorities to take more measures to secure journalists

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Killings, detentions, hostage situations, and disappearances are among some of the threats journalists face. An annual round-up recently published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) touched upon those threats in different countries around the globe, showing how much is at risk for the sake of pursuing a single story.

“A total of 65 journalists (including professional journalists, citizen journalists, and media workers) were killed worldwide in 2017. Twenty-six of them were killed in the course of their work, the collateral victims of a deadly situation such as an air strike, an artillery bombardment, or a suicide bombing. The other 39 were murdered, and deliberately targeted because their reporting threatened political, economic, or criminal interests. As in 2016, most of the deaths were targeted (60%). The aim in each case was to silence them,” RSF stated.

Nonetheless, this death toll is considered the lowest in 14 years. RSF explained that the trend is due to journalists abandoning countries that have become too dangerous and partly due to efforts by international organisations to provide journalists with more protection.

What were the deadliest countries in 2017?

Syria continues to top the list as the war there extends into its seventh year. In March, RSF said the number of journalists killed reached 211 since the beginning of the conflict.

In 2016, the website Syria Deeply reported that the number of journalists kidnapped there was “unprecedented, reaching its peak in 2013 with almost one journalist kidnapped every week.” In a report, it quoted a senior associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) saying that there were “simply less journalists left in the country to be killed or kidnapped.”

Although not a conflict zone, Mexico remained second on RSF’s list from last year. Organised crime prevails and journalists covering drug trafficking are violently repressed. The killing of investigative journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was one of many examples.

“Cárdenas knew his life was on the line every minute of every day as he wrote of the horrific crimes of his country’s powerful and heavily-armed drug barons. Two gatilleros (hit men), presumed to have been hired by the drug lords, finally silenced him on Monday, riddling the 50-year-old with 12 bullets in broad daylight as he left his newspaper office in his hometown of Culiacán in the north-western state of Sinaloa,” The Independent reported on 17 May.

Meanwhile, RSF described Iraq and Afghanistan in its 2017 report as “predator countries” and the Philippines as “Asia’s deadliest country.”

If not killed, what other alarming risks do journalists face?

RSF established that there are currently 54 journalists held hostage, which means two more journalists compared to last year.

The numbers are concentrated in the following countries: Syria (29), Yemen (12), Iraq (11), and Ukraine (2). Extremist groups or militias holding journalists in the Middle East include the Islamic State group (IS), the Houthis, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and separatists in Ukraine.

There were also two missing journalists at the time of RSF’s report. Pakistani blogger Samar Abbas, based in Karachi, has not reappeared since he was abducted in January 2017 with colleagues who have since returned.

In the meantime, journalist Utpal Das has just returned to his family, The Dhaka Tribune reported Wednesday. Das was reportedly kidnapped in October and was dropped off by several unidentified persons. His alleged kidnappers had reportedly asked for ransom but the parents refused to pay it until they made sure their son was alive and well.

As for detained journalists, the number stood at 326 worldwide as of 1 December 2017, as RSF asserted their detention was in connection to their provision of news and information. Top countries jailing journalists included China (52), Turkey (43), Syria (24), Iran (23), and Vietnam (19).

To which extent should journalists’ lives be at risk?

Journalists would rarely refuse a job because of safety concerns.

“What I can say is that it is a professional and moral obligation that news outlets do what they can to mitigate the risks, especially when they’re relying on freelancers to cover the most dangerous stories,” CPJ’s Senior MENA Research Associate Jason Stern told Syria Deeply in August 2016.

Freelance journalists have been the subject of concern for press defenders and human rights advocates because they are often deprived of rights as opposed to professionals, such as medical insurance, safety equipment and training, and decent payment.

“Resentment toward media conglomerate indifference to freelancer safety is escalating,” pointed out a 2015 report by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE).

In 2015, the ACOS Alliance (A Culture Of Safety) was launched as a coalition of media organisations with the aim of taking practical steps to improve the safety of freelance journalists. It outlines different press principles, including tips for journalists on dangerous assignments and news organisations making assignments in dangerous places.

Threat against women journalists escalates

Shifa Zikri Ibrahim, known professionally as Shifa Gardi

Shifa Zikri Ibrahim, known professionally as Shifa Gardi

The reporter and TV anchor for Kurdish media network Rudaw was killed in Mosul on 25 February. According to Rudaw’s website, Gardi was covering heavy clashes between Iraqi forces and IS and hoped to film a mass grave where hundreds of civilians were reportedly buried by IS. She was killed by a roadside bomb near the grave.

Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova deplored her death saying her “commitment to bringing news and information to the public should not have cost her life.” Bokova also called for more protective measures to ensure the safety of reporters covering conflict zones.

Rudaw’s Executive Director Ako Mohamm said journalists were always instructed to be behind the frontlines of the war but that Gardi appeared to have moved closer to the frontlines “out of seriousness to her job.”

The devoted journalist presented a daily special programme on the Mosul offensive from inside the city and continued to do so until her death.

Tuba Akyılmaz, professionally known as Nuzhian Arhan

Tuba Akyılmaz, professionally known as Nuzhian Arhan

In March, the Turkish Kurdish journalist and reporter for RojNews died due to her injuries. According to RSF, she was shot in the head by sniper fire on 3 March in Sinjar.

This happened as she was covering clashes between forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a Yazidi militia allied with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The journalist, who also worked for a feminist news website, was taken to a hospital in Syria where she died a few weeks later.

According to the International Press Institute, another journalist who was injured along with her, said they were returning from an “area where they had been trying to interview Rojava Pershmerga troops when they decided to cover clashes that had broken out,” accusing the same group of firing on them while Arhan was in turn accused of being part of a scheme to ambush the troops.

Véronique Robert

Véronique Robert

In June, the Franco-Swiss conflict reporter also died in hospital due to injuries from a Mosul mine blast, which also killed her French colleague and Iraqi fixer.

Robert had undergone surgery in Iraq but later died in Paris. She was working on a report for a weekly French programme and had accompanied Iraqi forces in their battle against IS to retake Mosul.

She exclusively covered the hunt for jihadists and published an exceptional article about an IS photographer in the magazine Paris Match.

Her colleagues described her as “a true professional of the war, methodical, rigorous, was never tired, always in action,” according to a report by Le Monde.

Her death was deplored by Bokova.

Robert’s death brought the number of journalists killed in Iraq to 29 since 2014, according to RSF.

In 2007, Robert started a fierce campaign against authorities in Dubai, where she lived, to demand proper retribution for her 15-year-old son who had been kidnapped and raped.

Kim Wall

Kim Wall

The body of the young Swedish journalist was discovered in Copenhagen on 21 August, but she had already been reported missing as of 10 August.

According to the BBC, her mutilated torso was found by a passing cyclist as her head, legs, and clothing were found in weighted-down bags by police divers on 6 October.

Her brutal murder remains unsolved despite Danish inventor Peter Madsen being tried as a suspect, who denied killing her but gave inconsistent accounts on her death.

Stories by her family, friends, and colleagues emerged on her exceptional dedication to her job and her quest for the most dangerous stories. She produced pieces for The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, among others.

Sruthi Gottipati, a freelance journalist and friend of Wall’s, published an important piece in The Guardian detailing the efforts, risks, challenges, and determination of freelance female journalists like Wall and herself.

Daphne Galizia

Daphne Galizia

The Maltese journalist was killed in October in a car bomb because of her regular work on corruption exposure of dominant figures including businesspersons, top government officials, and opposition leaders in Malta.

Galizia’s blog, the Running Commentary, ran hundreds of stories on the topics of corruption, money laundering, and shady banking, which continued until the day of her death.

Her most important work included exposing her nation’s links to the infamous “Panama Papers”. A description of her in a Guardian article read: “Her style was fearless, witty, and sardonic. She became the island’s most celebrated reporter and teller of plain truths.”

Ten suspects were arrested over her murder but only three have so far been charged. Evidence suggested that her murder was carefully planned and that the bomb was detonated by a mobile phone signal sent from a boat off the island’s coast, according to media reports.

Her family however remained sceptical about the independence of investigations.

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Inflow of refugees continues to be topic of discussion in international community Tue, 19 Dec 2017 09:30:36 +0000 Sisi, EU discuss migration issues, asylum seekers within Egypt-EU migration dialogue

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With the increasing escalation of political turmoil in the Middle East in recent years, thousands of migrants continue to attempt to cross seas and the desert, running away from oppressive regimes, police states, civil conflicts, and terrorist groups, to cross into countries that are argued t are believed to provide better living conditions.

Early this week, the first session of the Egypt-EU migration dialogue was launched by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos. According to the EU delegation in Egypt, the meeting covered migration-related issues, from the fight against smuggling and trafficking to the promotion of legal channels of migration and mobility, and from the prevention of irregular migration to the protection of asylum seekers and refugees, in a comprehensive and balanced approach.

The EU commissioner met with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and the duo asserted the need for a comprehensive strategy to counter the phenomenon and not merely implement security strategies. According to the Egyptian presidency, Al-Sisi highlighted “settling ongoing crises, encouraging efforts of development, and enhancing living conditions.” He asserted to the EU delegation that there has not been a single case of illegal immigration from Egypt to other countries, including Europe, since 2016.

According to the EU, the first session of meetings focused on points of “protection and asylum,” focusing on the importance of mobilising efforts to provide protection to those who qualify for it, in line with international standards, as well as opportunities to increase resettlement schemes. It also focused on the “prevention of irregular migration, migrant smuggling, and trafficking in human beings, agreeing on strengthened strategic cooperation to prevent irregular migration and tackle migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings,” including at the regional level and through reinforced cooperation between Egyptian authorities and EU agencies, operations, and programmes, complemented by a renewed engagement on counter-terrorism cooperation.

In September last year, Egypt suffered a deadly incident when a boat packed with nearly 400 illegal immigrants capsized on its way to Italy; around 202 people drowned including non-Egyptians. Days after it capsized, bodies started to float and appear on the beach in the Egyptian coastal city of Rashid. In November 2016, the cabinet approved the illegal immigration law which stipulated a fine of EGP 50,000-200,000 or a prison sentence (without specifying the duration) for anyone who trafficks illegal immigrants, attempts to traffick them, or mediates in the trafficking process.

Another article of the law stipulated hard labour and a fine of EGP 200,000-500,000 if suspects started, managed, held a position in, or were a member of an organised group that aims to trafficing illegal immigrants.

However, west of Egypt, Libya continues to remain a source of trouble when it comes to the migration crisis. Last November, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said the Mediterranean Sea remains “by far the world’s deadliest border,” with more than 33,000 migrants dying, in an attempt to make the dangerous crossing, since 2000. Although the number of deaths has dropped since record arrivals on European soil between 2014 and 2016, the risk of death during the journey has risen significantly, according to a UN report published by the IOM. A controversial naval blockade by Libya’s coastguard has made the journey across the Mediterranean more dangerous as it shifted the route towards the longer central crossing to Italy.

Early this week, Amnesty International published a report accusing European governments of being complicit in the suffering of refugees and migrants fleeing through Libya. The report accused European states of not only being fully aware of the abuses those refugees go through, but also of supporting Libyan authorities in detaining them.

The watchdog criticised European governments, especially Italy’s, for prioritising the closure of the central Mediterranean route in the face of the refugees rather than protecting them, thereby, ignoring basic asylum principles.

Amnesty highlighted an important dimension in this refugee crisis to explain the gravity of the situation, particularly that “Libya is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention,” hence, “it does not recognise UNHCR, nor does it have a national asylum system.”

On top of this, the organisation added that there is no legislation or infrastructure that can help contain the refugee crisis or provide any means of protection. This resulted in mass detention becoming the primary tool to manage the flow of migrants.

The report argued that European states are fully aware of the sufferings of refugees, however, they remain committed to reducing the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean via three means. First, European states continued to provide technical assistance to DCIM, Libya’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, despite the human rights violations detained migrants face. Second, they allowed Libyan Coast Guard to increasingly intercept refugees crossing the sea to take them back to Libya. Third, they made deals with local Libyan authorities, tribal leaders, and armed groups to enable them to control the borders to stop the smuggling of people.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2011, European governments have been criticized for applying “double standards” regarding the crisis. Last year, the EU made an agreement with Turkey, on 18 March, to stop the flow of refugees to Europe. It was agreed that every person arriving in Greece illegally, including asylum seekers, would be returned to Turkey.

This year, more than 161,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe, with 75% of them arriving in Italy via the central route. In 2015, the EU witnessed a sharp rise in migrants entering the bloc, many of them refugees fleeing war in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with Germany receiving nearly 900,000 people, according to a report by Deutsche Welle in November. “Nearly 3,000 migrants have died attempting to make the crossing this year. While the figure is likely to increase before the end of the year, it is significantly less than last year, which witnessed 4,757 deaths in the Mediterranean,” the news agency added.

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#MeToo movement puts responsibility of publicising sexual harassment on victims: critics Tue, 19 Dec 2017 08:30:48 +0000 The movement beat finalists Mohammed bin Salman and Trump, himself accused of sexual harassment

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Social activist Tarana Burke started using the phrase “Me Too” on MySpace in 2006 as part of a campaign to empower black women through empathy. Burke said she was inspired to use that phrase in response to a 13-year-old girl who told her that she had been sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. The confession, making Burke feel helpless, encouraged her to respond with “me too”, according to the Washington Post.

In October 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano reused the phrase as part of an awareness campaign to highlight the magnitude of sexual harassment and sexual assault as pervasive issues and encourage sexual assault victims to come forward and show solidarity with one another. She tweeted, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” This quickly helped the hashtag gain momentum.

Soon, celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon, Christina Perri, Heather Graham, Sheryl Crow, and Ellen DeGeneres tweeted using the hashtag, causing it to spread on an even wider scale. The hashtag #MeToo was used more than 200,000 times on Twitter when it first came to prominence, but soon the number of tweets jumped to 500,000, BBC reported.

On Facebook alone, the hashtag had been used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts in 24 hours, according to CNN. The hashtag trended in at least 85 countries, used in different languages according to each victim’s country.

Interestingly, lots of men have also taken part in the movement and tweeted about being exposed to sexual harassment themselves.

#WhatWereYouWearing, #YouOkSis, and #SurvivorPrivilege were all similar movements that were started by women of colour as well, but have not gained the same reach as #MeToo.

Time magazine recently named its “Person of the Year” for 2017. as the ‘Silence Breakers’, referring to the women who spoke out about their sexual abuse experiences, including through the #MeToo campaign. Time’s annual distinction recognises the person, group, or idea that had the largest influence on events and news throughout the year.

The list of potential winners included Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s 31-year-old leader; Patty Jenkins, director of “Wonder Woman”, being the first woman to direct a film that made more than $100m in its opening weekend; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the youngest of 16 princes in Saudi Arabia; Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon; Robert Muller, the man leading the investigation of possible Trump campaign-Russia collusion; US President Donald Trump, who was chosen as Time’s Person of the Year in 2016 and who was previously accused of sexual harassment himself; Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China; and the “Dreamers”,  thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the US by their parents facing uncertain futures if the Trump administration continues with its plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that allows non-American citizens who entered the country as minors to be eligible for work authorisation in the country and shields them from deportation.

“This is the fastest moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women, and some men, who came forward to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault,” Time’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, said, commenting on Time’s choice for 2017’s Person of the Year, according to Vice.

While the “Silence Breakers” are Time’s favourite group for 2017, critics remain sceptical of the effectiveness of such movements as #MeToo, claiming that it could devolve into another aspect of “an individualistic neoliberal feminism”, leaving men like Donald Trump and Roy Moore—a former US Senate candidate accused of sexually assaulting teenagers—unscathed.

CNN reported that the hashtag received criticism for putting the responsibility of publicising sexual harassment on those who experienced it, which could easily re-traumatise the victims. The Huffington Post said that some have found the hashtag to inspire outrage and negative emotions, rather than foster good communication.

Noteworthy, Time’s choice of the “Silence Breakers” is not the first time the magazine chose a group of unnamed people for its “Person of the Year”. In 2011, the magazine chose “The Protester”, and in 2014 it chose “Ebola Fighters”.

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Yemen: a country ruined by all parties Sun, 17 Dec 2017 09:30:20 +0000 Humanitarian situation worsening in years of war fuelled by Muslim powers over Middle East control, with no prospect for victories

The post Yemen: a country ruined by all parties appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Almost two years ago, Saudi Arabia launched a coalition with several Arab states to fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Since that intervention in 2015, the conflict only escalated further, bringing dire humanitarian conditions to the country.

Over the past 33 months, the situation on the ground in Yemen witnessed many developments, the most recent significant example being the killing of former president and key player Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Moreover, Saudi involvement in the war heavily increased in 2017, allegedly to stop Iran’s regional expansion, a purpose the kingdom also used when mobilising Gulf countries against Qatar and when reportedly forcing a resignation upon the Lebanese prime minister.

In addition to the war in Syria, the global threat of terrorism and extremist groups, and political turmoil in several countries in the Middle East, Yemen is caught up in a fight of internal and external powers. Experts do not seem positive about a proximate end to the war and are sceptical of victory.

On Thursday, escalation renewed. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles to the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of UN resolutions. Haley displayed debris recovered by Saudi Arabia as evidence, thus supporting the kingdom’s claim against Iran after a missile was lunched from Yemen towards Riyadh’s airport in November.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US of cover-up of and complicity in war crimes in Yemen.

“While Iran has been calling for ceasefire, aid and dialogue in Yemen from day one, [the] US has sold weapons enabling its allies to kill civilians and impose famine,” Zarif tweeted on Friday. But Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-chief Mohammad Jafari said “victory in Yemen is near.”

In March 2017, a Reuters report said Iran planned to give more empowerment to the Houthis. Citing a senior Iranian unnamed official, the report said the IRGC decided to increase the amount of help given to the Houthis, including arms support and training. “Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East,” the official said.

Saudi Arabia claims intervention in Yemen is to stop Iranian expansion  

In April 2017, the Saudi embassy in the US released a 60-page report on the Yemen conflict. Its cover page included the unnamed senior Iranian official’s statement to Reuters, quoted above.

Saudi Arabia accused the IRGC and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia of aiding their allies in Yemen. The report justified Saudi Arabia’s intervention, supported by the US, by saying it would avoid a civil war in Yemen after the 2011 uprising against Saleh and prevent the rise of terrorism but the Iranian-backed Houthis sabotaged efforts for a peaceful transition of power.

The kingdom said it came under attack by Houthi military offensives—including 40 intercepted missiles launched at Saudi territory between 2015 and 2017—which required protection of the gulf region’s national security against an arsenal of ballistic weapons, tanks, and other advanced military equipment.

The report said Saudi Arabia made achievements in Yemen. The first cited was the “Improved Containment of Iranian Influence on the Arabian Peninsula” which it said it did by intercepting naval vessels providing arms to the Houthis.

Secondly, the report said it largely eradicated “Houthi-led separatism” by responding to the request of the Yemeni government to regain control of most of Yemen’s territory.

Thirdly, the “erosion of religious extremism,” because the civil war would have left the country vulnerable to the rise of terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State group (IS) and Al-Qaeda.

The fourth achievement, according to the report, was the extension of “significant humanitarian support” provided to the country’s population. Moreover, Saudi Arabia claimed diplomatic efforts, in coordination with the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council, to foster a climate for political negotiations.

Iran says Yemenis are fighting Saudi, US 

The Yemeni Foreign Affairs Ministry published its own report on Friday titled “A refutation of alternative evidence. Yemen, a case study,” in which it stated that Saudi Arabia and the US failed to prove Iran’s delivery of weapons in Yemen and that UN experts found both US and Iranian components in the missile fragments.

The report said that “more than 10,000 people have been killed in over two years of heavy airstrikes and fighting which have destroyed countless schools, hospitals, factories, and other civilian targets,” for which it blamed Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The report focused on the humanitarian situation as well as Saudi Arabia’s purchase of weapons, and support it has been receiving, from the US including information, logistical assistance, and “daily refuelling of warplanes by US personnel.”

It established that Saudi Arabia purchased forbidden weapons such as cluster munitions and that the administration of former US president Barack Obama signed the “highest level of arms sales in the history of the US-Saudi relationship,” with a total of 42 deals worth $115bn.

Moreover, Iran blamed Yemen’s famine on the blockade of the country’s ports. The report also denied Iranian provision of ballistic missiles used in Yemen, saying they had been purchased in past decades form different sources, such as the former Soviet Union.

Lastly, the report said that “it’s time to recognise that there is no military solution” in Yemen and that there must be an immediate ceasefire and dialogue, which Iran would be committed to facilitating.

Humanitarian situation 

Both sides claim to be in support of national dialogue and political stability in Yemen. They both also assert humanitarian concern and assistance to the Yemeni people.

The actual situation is different. In his statement on Monday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick called on parties to “facilitate unimpeded aid delivery,” estimating that 8.4 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.

“Famine still threatens millions; preventable diseases continually strike a weakened population in all parts of Yemen. The continuing blockade of ports is limiting supplies of fuel, food and medicines, dramatically increasing the number of vulnerable people who need help,” McGoldrick observed.

In November, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Yemen was facing the fastest growing cholera epidemic ever recorded; as figures stood at 2,200 deaths and 895,000 suspected cases since April, the majority of which were children.

Lifting restrictions on Yemen’s Red Sea ports and Sanaa airport to allow humanitarian supplies became a major demand.

OCHA figures issued on 29 October 2017:

  • 11.3 million children across Yemen need humanitarian assistance
  • Casualties reached 13,920, including 5,159 people killed and 8,761 injured since March 2017
  • Suspected cholera cases are likely to reach one million by the end of 2017
  • A record seven million people received food assistance in August

The Yemeni conflict

Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm was launched in 2015, which added to the already complex situation in the country.

Yemen had been suffering a civil war between the north and the south until unification took place in 1990.

Ali Abdullah Saleh

A military man, Saleh was Yemen’s long-time president, first named as president of North Yemen in 1978 as a successor to assassinated president Ahmad bin Hussein al-Ghashmi.

In 2004, a rebellion against the government was led by the Shiite cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, in Sa’dah in northern Yemen. He was killed in clashes that resulted in thousands of casualties.

Saleh was accused of corruption and blamed for the country’s poverty but remained president until 2011 when he faced a popular uprising against him.

He survived an attack on the presidential place but was wounded in the explosion, travelling to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

After his return to Yemen, Saleh agreed to transfer power to his Saudi-backed deputy, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

However, he then allied with the Houthis who forced Hadi to flee the country.


The Houthis are officially known as Ansar Allah, a group which rose in the 90s based on Zaidism, a Shiite sect. The group is named after long-time rebel leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi.

The group opposed former president Saleh during nationwide protests against him in 2011, then participated in the political talks that followed and brought Hadi as the interim president.

In 2014, they overthrew Hadi and allied with Saleh’s forces, taking control of the capital Sanaa.

According to Charles Schmitz, scholar at the Middle East Institute, Saleh was aiming to lead Yemen’s political future, hoping to weaken the Houthis. In an article with the BBC in February 2015, Schmitz noted that the Houthis had the upper military hand and could repress attempts to “undermine the movement,” saying that Saleh may become their “prisoner.”

On 4 December 2017, that prediction became true. The group announced it killed Saleh, shortly after he turned against them and declared a restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia.

His son has vowed to drive the Houthis out of the country.

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New youth law tips scales of political participation in society Tue, 12 Dec 2017 09:00:28 +0000 The law enforcement is yet awaiting Al-Sisi’s ratification

The post New youth law tips scales of political participation in society  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Egyptian government has launched a number of activities and services for youth, particularly throughout 2017, starting with national youth conferences, encouragement for youth projects, the Presidential Leadership Program, and the annual World Youth Forum, stating that the purpose behind all this is mainly to motivate youth to engage further in political activity.


Throughout these opportunities, the state has been calling for youth participation in politics, encouraging them to voice their thoughts and provide suggestions to benefit the country, and focusing on qualifying them for leadership.

Contrary to this, the reality inside youth centres is that hundreds of youth can join different activities, except anything related to politics.

Youth centres are clubs affiliated with the state, offered to those who are not able to afford the expenses of a sports club. Hundreds of families send their children to such centres to practice sports and arts in their spare time. There are over 400 centres in urban areas and more than 3,700 in rural areas, according to 2016 data from the country’s official statistics agency CAPMAS, in addition to another 74 centres in Cairo.

A few days ago, the Egyptian parliament approved a law to regulate youth centres that would ban young people from practising politics inside these centres, a decision that stirred great controversy among parliament members and youth members of these centres. The new bill prohibits youth from practising political activities inside youth centres and sports clubs. It also prohibits smoking, gambling, and drinking alcohol inside these centres.

As justification for banning politics in youth centres, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal said, during a previous discussion session over the law, that “youth centres are a public facility where political ideas should not be propagated, and political activity is always a bias towards a particular party and a particular government. Therefore, it is not permissible to depart from the constitutional text in Article 87, which prohibits the exercise of any political or religious activity inside them.”

Abdul Aal continued that currently, there are 104 political parties in Egypt, saying “I believe and agree that they failed to prepare political cadres,” referring to the role of these centres in the past. He affirmed his rejection for practising politics inside these centres, referring to articles of the constitution, and citing examples of some failed political parties as a justification for his stance.

While discussing the failure of political parties, member of the Free Egyptians parliamentary bloc, Ayman Abu El-Ala said that there are political parties who did not totally fail in preparing political cadres, referring to a number of parliament members who were originally influential figures in parties including Al-Wafd, Free Egyptians, and Future of a Nation.

Moreover, Qassem Farag, member of Parliament’s Youth Committee told Daily News Egypt, “youth participation in politics is very significant, and we support this, but are still against allowing politics in such centres, as this would change the nature of the functions of these centres.” He also said that practising politics will lead to forming different blocs inside these centres, and this will shift to “a situation that is not wished for or predictable.”

On the other hand, Parliament Member Samir Ghattas said, “the current political system forbids political action in universities and in youth centres”, adding that “there is no model in the world that solely relies on conferences for young people in the practice of political work.”

“These conferences are a sure sign of the lack of political work in all state institutions, parties, universities, and youth centres. I oppose the system that prevents politics in general,” he also said.

The MP asserted his rejection for the ban in the law, saying “I demand state institutions to mobilise young people to practice their political ideas within an official framework, so as not to fall prey to terrorist entities with extremist ideas.”

Ghattas was among another 20 members who opposed banning politics inside youth centres and demanded an amendment.

Furthermore, Hafez Abu Saeda, member of the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights, told Daily News Egypt, “we cannot prevent politics in universities, youth centres, or clubs, as we are not supposed to deal with politics as a taboo. I reject political parties inside centres as this will cause partisan bias, but political activity is required, and it is part of preparing youth for the future.”

Abu Seada, who is also a lawyer, mentioned an example explaining that youth in universities and clubs can organise seminars and conferences to discuss important issues to come up with different solutions and analyses, such as that related to the Jerusalem issue. He added that banning politics is a “crime that restricts participation in politics.”

In a similar context, Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdul-Aziz said that the “Youth Parliament” model in centres is a cultural activity and there is no ban on youth parties to participate in its activities.

Youth centres allow teaching politics only: centre members

Inside each youth centre, there is a Youth Parliament, which is a simulation where youth aged 18-24 are trained on how to join political life, through workshops explaining the constitution, parliamentary functions, and political parties.

Parliamentarians who support banning politics inside youth centres saw that these simulation parliaments are sufficient to qualify youth to join politics in real life.

“We are learning inside the [Youth] Parliament how to practice politics in reality, or in other words, the parliament is a program sponsored by the ministry to prepare youth to engage in real political life, but in fact, we are not participating in any decision-making. However, I wish we can be given an opportunity,” Ahmed Youssef, head of the Population Committee of the Youth Parliament of Cairo, told Daily News Egypt.

Moreover, Mahmoud Gamal, candidate for Gezira Youth Club, told Daily News Egypt in a phone interview, that he is against including politics in youth centres, but recommends teaching politics to youth at such centres.

Gamal said that he joined the Gezira centre twenty years ago. “In this place I learned a lot and was able to become a media practitioner,” he said.

“I believe that youth have great suggestions and ideas that would really benefit the country. They are on the streets every day, engaging with the public, living the daily life in Egypt, so they are the best people aware of the conditions and able to give solutions,” he also said.

Gamal added that in every youth centre, there is a Youth Parliament, but they are not given the opportunity to discuss political issues in depth, as there are still some restrictions, and youth are only learning to practice politics without producing any tangible contributions.

Members of the centres believe that they should have a chance to engage in politics to express their views towards different political and economic issues. Some parliament members believe that youth participation in politics will increase dispute and change the main aim of these centres into being a political platform for disputes and protests, while others believe that youth should be granted a chance to gain political training, to learn to speak up.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has launched over five conferences, giving youth an opportunity to join the discussion about different topics in the country, including economics, sustainable development, and education. In November, the World Youth Forum was launched with the participation of 1,000 young people from around the world, to speak about different experiences and attend a Model United Nations simulation.

The law was prepared by the government and includes 49 articles. It will grant young people, of both genders, the right to have control of the board of directors of these centres by at least 50%, within the framework of the state’s approach towards youth empowerment. It will also impose decisive penalties to counter any breach that affects the functioning of youth bodies and hinders them from performing their role.

The draft law stipulates that the concerned minister shall issue the necessary decisions for the implementation of this law and determine both the central administrative body and the competent administrative authority in charge of its enforcement within six months from the date of its implementation. Until such decisions are issued, the existing regulations and decisions shall remain in force.

The law is awaiting President Al-Sisi’s ratification for its enforcement and it will then be published in the state’s official gazette. Its currently being reviewed by the State Council.

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