The African Union (AU) through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is set to launch the Eastern regional co-ordination center in Kenya come October 1.
The East African RCC will be launched under the theme of “Ensuring effective preparedness and response to current public health threats in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.” The RCC serves as a hub for Africa CDC surveillance, preparedness, and emergency response activities, and coordinates regional public health initiatives by Member States in consultation with the Africa CDC headquarters.
Speaking at the weekly briefing on September 23, the Director of the Africa CDC, Dr. John Nkengasong, confirmed that the institution will be launching its Eastern regional collaborative center in Kenya very soon.
“We will be launching our regional collaborating center in Kenya. There are five regional collaborating centers, i.e. Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, and Gabon. These centers have been operating, but some of them have not been officially launched. This occasion will be for launching the center in the presence of several ministers from the republic of Kenya and we invite you (the media) to be part of that ceremony in Kenya.”
“Our first surprise was that it has no penis, but instead it has breasts and long hair, and then we found out that it’s a pregnant woman,” Marzena Ozarek-Szilke, an anthropologist and archeologist, told The Associated Press of the Egyptian mummy jolt. “When we saw the little foot and then the little hand (of the fetus), we were really shocked.”
The Egyptian mummy dates back to at least the 1st century B.C., researchers said in a paper published Wednesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science, and it’s the first known case of a pregnant embalmed body.
The woman appeared to have been between ages 20 and 30 when she died, and her baby was just a couple of months shy of full term, between 26 and 30 weeks along, or about seven months, the researchers said.
The sarcophagus had been labeled with the name of a male priest, Hor-Djehuti, BBC News reported, when the remains arrived at the University of Warsaw in 1826, courtesy of a donor who said it had been found in royal tombs at Thebes. However, back then it was common for antiquities dealers to name-drop famous places to increase the perceived value of archaeological finds, and looting and rewrapping remains was fairly common, BBC News said.
The coffin’s inscriptions indicated that it contained the priest, but researchers at the Warsaw Mummy Project learned otherwise during a project initiated in 2015, examining remains via scanning technology. And that’s when the “male priest” changed gender. Moreover, they suspect the mummy may date back even further than the 1st century B.C., AP said.
“This is our most important and most significant finding so far, a total surprise,” team member Wojciech Ejsmond of the Polish Academy of Sciences told AP. “It opens possibilities of learning about pregnancy and treatment of complications in ancient times.”
A 37-square-kilometer solar park so large that it can be seen from space, with over seven million photovoltaic panels, and funding of $4 billion. In Africa? Impossible? Not anymore.
Thirty international infrastructure developers got behind this project, investing in Egypt’s massive Benban solar park, which will be the largest in the world upon completion. Among the investors is Africa50, established by the African Development Bank (https://www.AfDB.org/).
Africa50 is an independent infrastructure fund, focused on high-impact projects mostly in the energy and transport sectors. The investment vehicle contributes to Africa’s growth by developing and investing in bankable projects, catalyzing public sector capital and mobilizing private sector funding.
Africa50’s investment in Egypt’s 1.5 GW solar park in the Aswan desert is a prime example.
The solar energy potential in Egypt, a country known for year-round sunny days, has long tempted investors. But the high cost of solar plants led the government to favor climate-warming fossil fuels, accounting for 90% of its power generation.
Now that the prices of its components have fallen, solar energy has become competitive, allowing Benban to become a reality. In 2017, Africa50 joined investors Norfund and Scatec Solar to reach financial close for six of the 32 utility scale solar power plants in the complex, totaling 390 MW.
The Benban project, providing clean energy to hundreds of thousands of households, will help Egypt to reach its target of generating 20% of its power from renewable sources by 2022. It has put Egypt on the map as a major solar player in Africa and has set a precedent for using North Africa’s ample solar resources to provide power while meeting climate change commitments.
The solar power project has also demonstrated Africa50’s ability to act as a bridge between the private sector and governments to deliver more projects more quickly and help narrow Africa’s infrastructure gap.
Africa50 is one of the largest contributors to the Benban park. With a 25% stake, the investment platform contributed equity to fund construction, alongside Scatec Solar and Norfund, which helped leverage total funding of around $450 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Dutch Development Bank FMO, the Green Climate Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector.
“Benban is a good example of how we use early stage project development expertise and financing to rapidly bring projects to financial close and then add equity to encourage broader financing,” said Alain Ebobissé, Africa50 CEO.
“Benban is also the first of our dozen active projects to become fully operational and is now delivering clean energy to Egyptian people and businesses,” he added.
The plants are supported by 25-year power purchase agreements with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) under Egypt’s Feed-in Tariff program, backstopped by a sovereign guarantee. Access roads and interconnection facilities were funded collectively by the Benban project developers under a cost-sharing agreement with EETC and the New and Renewable Energy Agency.
The development impact of Benban is tremendous. Africa50’s six plants alone created about 1,000 construction jobs (out of 4,500 total jobs) and a quarter of the 250 permanent operations positions.
In 2019, when the plants were operational, they started producing about 870 GW hours of power annually, providing clean energy for over 400,000 households and avoiding 350,000 tons of CO₂ emissions that would have been produced from non-renewable sources.
The consortium is also pioneering the use of bifacial solar modules, capturing the sun from both sides of the panel to increase generation.
The innovations of the Benban project could provide valuable insights for the Desert to Power program, led by the African Development Bank. Desert to Power, with which Africa50 is associated, aims to develop 10 GW of solar power across the Sahel by 2025 and supply 250 million people with green electricity, including in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Moreover, Benban’s links to the infrastructure of the Aswan Dam will help combine hydro, wind, and solar power, a model for other African regions.
The landmark Benban project is an example of a fundamental change in the way an African country can provide power to its people.
For decades, the Egyptian government had built and operated most power plants and was spending more on electricity subsidies than it was on education, healthcare, and social welfare combined.
Benban proves that, with the right regulatory regime and cost structure, the private sector, supported by partners such as Africa50, can make solar power attractive, allowing governments to focus on other pressing priorities.
Indeed, in the time of COVID-19, partners such as Africa50 can play a key role in leveraging private finance to free up government budgets across the continent to deploy resources to fight the pandemic.
Egypt is the Bank’s second largest regional shareholder and third client in terms of cumulative historical approvals, making it the Bank’s strong partner
African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) President Akinwumi Adesina has saluted Egypt’s strong macroeconomic performance, its improved ranking in the ‘Doing Business Index,’ and the success of major projects in which the Bank is supporting Egypt, lessons that can be learned for the development and the integration of the continent. Adesina was speaking during a session at the just-ended Africa 2018 Business Forum held in the Egyptian city of Sharm-el-Sheikh.
According to the Bank’s latest Country Results Brief, Egypt (https://bit.ly/2QkVPBX) has regained its position as first destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. Over the past five years of prudent fiscal policy, it has seen a diversified economy, with services accounting for about half its gross domestic product (GDP), industry, 34% of GDP, and agriculture 12%.
“(We need) bold and innovative initiatives that realize the enormous possibilities of the continent.”, Adesina said, adding that “we need to prepare, structure and de-risk opportunities to turn them onto investments.’
Adesina spoke as part of a Presidential Panel on “Bold Leadership and Collective Commitments” in which he joined the Heads of Afreximbank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, and the International Finance Corporation, to deliberate on advancing intra-African investments together. The Bank leaders were in the presence of Egyptian President HE Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
Egypt is the Bank’s second largest regional shareholder and third client in terms of cumulative historical approvals, making it the Bank’s strong partner. Today, the Bank has a portfolio of 30 operations in Egypt, valued at US$2.9 billion.
Adesina highlighted key Bank interventions in Egypt that have provided essential support to the country’s development. For example, energy sector interventions, including the Ain Soukhna and Suez power plants have contributed to overcoming Egypt’s power shortage by adding 3,250 MW of new and efficient generation capacity that can meet the electricity demand of about 7.5 million households, and will facilitate power interconnection with neighboring countries.
The Bank’s operations in 12 governorates, including Assiut and Domyat, have helped over 20 000 farmers to purchase essential inputs at the right time for crop and livestock production.
The Bank has also made a strong contribution to women through its pioneering Women’s Economic Empowerment Project, through which $9 million has enabled women to benefit from 4,306 loans. Under the same programme more than 24,000 women have received training.
Participating at the roundtable ‘Egypt – the Investment Gateway to Africa’ hosted by Egyptian Prime Minister HE Moustafa Madbouly and with participation from about 80 CEOs, Adesina stressed the importance of partnerships to meet Africa’s huge investment needs.
He cited the Bank’s recently concluded Africa Investment Forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa, as an example of greater intra-African private sector collaboration. The Forum successfully convened key private and public stakeholders, and provided an unprecedented platform for effective dialogue to drive investments into the continent.
The value of boardroom projects tabled for discussion during the Forum stood at US$47 billion, while investment interest was secured for 49 projects worth US$38.7 billion.
The Bank President said the Sharm el Sheikh conference will advance greater regional integration and investment.
“Regional integration is essential to face international competition and to facilitate the creation of jobs for youth,” Adesina said.
The Africa Forum in Sharm el Sheikh has emerged as a key platform for high level dialogue between Heads of State, senior Government officials and business leaders focusing on key strategic sectors. The 2018 Forum, which is the third in the series, focused on enhancing private sector cooperation in Africa to increase cross-border investments and trade.
The 2018 Forum, titled “Bold Leadership and Collective Commitment- Fast Tracking Intra-African Investments”, also dedicated a day to Empowering Women, whose voices are critical for framing the African business agenda going forward.
Temenos to support participants of AUC Venture Lab FinTech Accelerator
The Venture lab at The American University in Cairo (AUC Venture Lab) (http://Schools.AUCEgypt.edu/business/aucvlab/), the leading university-based startup accelerator in Africa and the MENA region, and Temenos (SIX: TEMN) (www.Temenos.com), the banking software company, have announced their intention to collaborate and strengthen the fintech ecosystem in Cairo.
Temenos will support financial innovation in Egypt by providing startups with access to the world’s number one core banking solution to be used as their development environment.
A key aspect of the collaboration will see Temenos provide a sandbox service to the startups utilizing the accelerator. This sandbox, a non-production cloud-based version of the best-selling Temenos T24 core banking system, will enable startups to integrate their solutions with banking data and functionality as well as to test them for scalability and robustness. It will also allow them to plug into the 11 major financial institutions in Egypt already running Temenos T24.
Temenos and AUC Venture Lab will also collaborate on events and other community-building activities. It is envisaged that the AUC Venture Lab would play host to Temenos events, such as the upcoming “Meet the Marketplace” in October of this year, where global fintechs who are existing members of Temenos Marketplace will be invited to showcase and demo their solutions to a number of Egyptian financial institutions. These fintechs will demonstrate solutions, which can cater to opportunities and challenges relevant to the Egyptian market such as financial inclusion and literacy, digital engagement, security, risk and compliance.
Commenting on the announcement, Jean-Paul Mergeai, Regional Director Temenos Middle East & Africa at Temenos said: “We are excited to be working with the AUC Venture Lab in accelerating and empowering digital innovation in Egypt. The Egyptian market is currently in an ideal position to take advantage of a rich fintech ecosystem that will help drive digital transformation across the banking industry. At Temenos, we are proud to help make this a reality and deliver value to the growing number of Egyptian banks, which take advantage of our solutions and our partnerships with leading fintech firms both globally and regionally. Innovation is part of our DNA and the Temenos MarketPlace was founded on the notion of bringing together banks and fintechs in a win-win situation. I am optimistic that our partnership with AUC Venture Lab will continue to foster the spirit of innovation in Egypt and help to pave the way for fintech startups for years to come.”
Ayman Ismail, Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at AUC’s School of Business and Director of AUC Venture Lab added: “The emerging fintech space in Egypt has the potential to transform the industry and expand access to financial services in one of the largest regional markets. At AUC Venture Lab, we understand the technological challenges that fintech startups face. Our partnership with Temenos responds to this challenge by offering our startups an exclusive opportunity to build their products on the Temenos platform and to accelerate their development cycle. This contributes to faster rollout of new innovative products and services to the Egyptian market.”
The most important issues that face Egypt over the coming years are tied to a rapidly growing population, the modernization of its economy, and how best to ensure a modern social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society. Below, Subir Lall, who leads the IMF team on Egypt, discusses these three issues.
Cairo, Egypt: Scene from the busy Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo. Khan El Khalili is a major souk in the Islamic district of Cairo (photo: Ictor/Getty Images by iStock)
1. Take advantage of the rapidly growing population
Over the next five years, around 3.5 million young Egyptians are projected to join the labor force. Absorbing these new entrants into the labor market will be a challenge. However, this also creates a tremendous opportunity for faster growth—if Egypt can support the emergence of a strong and vibrant private sector to productively employ this emerging generation of workers.
Over the past several decades, the private sector in Egypt has been less dynamic and outward-oriented than in peer countries, with a small share of firms able to compete outside the domestic market. To foster greater private sector development and export-led growth, the authorities have broadened the structural reform agenda under their program, initiating reforms to improve the efficiency of land allocation, strengthen competition and public procurement, improve transparency of state-owned enterprises, and tackle corruption.
2. Modernize the economy
With nearly 100 million people and a geographic location that provides excellent access to important foreign markets, Egypt has immense potential. However, economic development has been constrained by the legacy of inward-oriented economic policies, weak governance, and a large role for the state in economic activity that has resulted in significant misallocation of resources.
With the economy now stabilizing, Egypt’s challenge is to modernize its economy to better take advantage of its potential. An essential element of that process is to ensure the best allocation of resources to generate higher growth, and remove price distortions that impede markets from functioning efficiently.
Energy subsidies have been among the most significant price distortions. They keep fuel costs well below the market price, which encourage inefficient use of energy and overinvestment in capital intensive industries to take advantage of low fuel costs. Energy subsidies are costly and inequitable, tending to benefit the well-off who are disproportionately large energy consumers.
Pricing energy correctly will help improve economic efficiency so that investment is not channeled to capital intensive and heavy energy-use sectors. Rather, investment should be made into job creating sectors that benefit small and medium-sized businesses that take advantage of Egypt’s strengths, and help integrate the country into global supply chains. Reducing energy subsidies also frees up resources for health and education—critical to long-term economic growth and societal progress.
3. Provide a modern social safety net to protect the vulnerable
As Egypt begins to modernize its economy and make it more competitive, it will also need to continue to bring down public debt to a level consistent with long-term sustainability. The challenge is to ensure that the most vulnerable segments of society are protected during this process, and that fiscal resources are safeguarded for spending on health and education.
The shift away from a social protection system based on energy subsidies is crucial in moving toward a better-targeted and more effective social safety net. The 2018/19 budget will continue to replace poorly-targeted energy subsidies with programs that directly support the poorest households through expanded cash transfer and food subsidy programs. The authorities have strengthened programs like food smart cards, and more than doubled the amount of assistance provided through these cards.
The government has also strengthened social solidarity pensions, and the Takaful and Karama cash transfer programs. Takaful is an income support program for families with children, and Karama is a social inclusion program for persons who cannot work, specifically the elderly and people with disabilities.
These efforts are also being supported by reforms to improve the efficiency of government spending and tax collection to ensure that pro-poor spending and investments in health and education are protected. More broadly, the faster creation of private sector job opportunities and the integration of women into the labor force as part of the authorities’ inclusive growth strategy is expected to steadily improve living standards, including for lower-skilled workers.
The Hotel Group Currently Employs Over 10,000 Associates Across 18 Operating Hotels
Marriott International (www.Marriott.com), the world’s leading hotel company, reinforces its commitment to Egypt with the launch of Tahseen, a unique hospitality training program developed in response to a growing need for talent within the industry.
Created in partnership with Helwan University and Professional Development Foundation (PDF), the program is focused on fast tracking the next generation of hospitality leaders from Egypt by providing them with firsthand experience and a springboard to launch successful careers in the industry. The company today unveiled the program at a signing ceremony graced by the Honorable Minister His Excellency Khalid Atef Abdul Ghaffar, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Egypt.
Also present at the occasion was Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Marriott International, who is on a three-day visit to the country. “Marriott International is a company that believes in putting people first and we are committed to giving our associates the world class training and the opportunity to grow and reach their potential, both personally and professionally. Our vision is to develop future leaders, empowered with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to be successful within the hospitality industry, both regionally and globally. Building a sustainable and robust hospitality education program like Tahseen, that nurtures and builds national talent, is indeed key to our success,” said Sorenson.
“Over the last four decades we have worked hard to consciously develop local talent and prepare them to become future leaders in hospitality,” said Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director Middle East and Africa, Marriott International. “Today we employ over 10,200 associates across our hotels in Egypt with 99% of them being local Egyptian nationals. Hospitality comes naturally to Egyptians. We therefore saw an opportunity and felt the need to play a more active role in the development of local talent in a formal and structured manner. We are delighted to partner with Helwan University and Professional Development Foundation, for what is truly a pioneering effort in imparting quality hospitality education in the country by opening doors of opportunity for the youth.”
Tahseen, was first launched by Marriott International in Saudi Arabia in 2017 and received very encouraging results paving the way for a wider regional roll out. Egypt is a strategic growth market for the company and was therefore an obvious priority. The company, together with Helwan University and PDF, has created a unique program that supports its commitment to further enhance tourism education in the country. Tahseen, which is set to commence in September 2018, provides the technical training that complements the newly initiated “Hotel Management & Operations” Bachelor’s Degree program created through the joint efforts of the PDF and Helwan University.
“We are very excited to partner with Marriott International to develop a program that is unique to Egypt and helps us bridge the gap between hospitality education and the need of the industry. Given the focus our government has on promoting Travel and Tourism, we are confident we will be able to attract the right talent who have a passion for the industry and create fulfilling careers for them, building leaders of the future that we can all be very proud of,” said Prof. Maged Negm, President of Helwan University.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Mohamed Farouk Hafeez, Chairman, Professional Development Foundation (PDF) said, “We are delighted to partner with Marriott International and Helwan University on this exciting project and I hope that together we will be able to make a valuable contribution in creating a successful and sustainable program that not only empowers our youth by increasing their employability but also enables them to make a smooth and seamless transition into the professional world.”
Tahseen, is a program that falls under Marriott International’s new Sustainability and Social Impact Platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction, which guides how the company makes a positive and sustainable impact wherever it does business. From empowerment opportunities to sustainable hotel development, the platform is designed to foster business growth while balancing the needs of associates, customers, owners, the environment and communities. One of the priority areas, or “coordinates”, of Serve 360 is Empower Through Opportunity. Tahseen is a program that directly supports and brings this vision to life.
Marriott International is the largest international operator in Egypt with a strong footprint of 18 operating hotels and resorts and more than 7,400 rooms across 7 brands including The Ritz – Carlton, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Marriott Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Sheraton and Westin. With four hotels in the pipeline, the company will add another 1200 rooms, debuting new brands including St. Regis and Element. By 2020, the hotel giant will have 22 operating hotels with more than 8,600 rooms.