Issue  No. 208
7 January 2019

This report is designed to give you a snapshot about the MENA region tackling multiple issues:


       57.06 USD         1,289 USD


Economic Outlook
  • Egypt Minister of Agriculture Ezz Eddin Abusteit reported that Egyptian agricultural exports were able to penetrate new markets for the first time across 2018. He added that these markets are in East Timor (Citrus), Uruguay (Citrus and Grapes), Canada (Grapes and Tomatoes), China (Grapes and Beet pulp), Myanmar (Citrus), Indonesia (Potatoes and Garlic), Taiwan (Garlic) and Japan (Fruits and Vegetables). It is worthy to mention that 2018 witnessed a boom in the export of Egyptian agricultural products which exceeded 5.2 million tons, and 2019 is expected to increase further due to the cooperation between the Agriculture Ministry and relevant ministries as well as the export council for agricultural crops.
  • Egypt Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar stated that Egypt exports increased reaching 22.6 BN USD in the first eleven months in 2018 compared to 20.4 BN USD during the corresponding months in 2017. The Ministry expected that Egypt exports will jump 10.6% reaching 25 BN USD by the end of 2018 compared to 22.4 BN USD in 2017. The largest destinations who imported from Egypt during the current year comprise the UAE, Turkey, the US, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Spain, Algeria, and France.
  • Saudi Arabia economy showed an improvement of the economic indicators in November 2018, while remittances continue to fall for the second straight month. The amount of foreign reserves held by the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency (SAMA) increased by 2% in November 2018 on a y-o-y basis which is the 8th consecutive monthly increase recorded in 2018. Credit to the public sector in November 2018 also increased by 17.5% compared to November 2017, while credit to the private sector grew by 2.3% y-o-y, recording its fastest growth rate in two years.
  • Saudi government has awarded Britain Airedale International Air Conditioning a 4.73 MM SAR (1.26 MM USD) contract to supply air-conditioning systems for the under-construction Riyadh Metro, with an estimated cost of 86.3 BN SAR (23 BN USD), the 176 km Riyadh Metro 85 stations are distributed across six color-coded lines.
  • Saudi Arabia received 2,183,013 Umrah pilgrims since the start of the season. The number of Umrah visas issued by various Saudi missions reached 2,555,201 until January 3, 2019. The government announced that 1,774,420 pilgrims left the country after completing the Umrah rituals while 408,611 of them are in Makkah and Madinah. The number of Saudi employees working with Umrah companies and institutions included 8,070 males and 1,668 females. Most pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom via air while 184,580 entered the country by land entry and 7,003 via seaports.
  • UAE real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow 3.7% in 2019, higher than the 2.9% in 2018 and the 0.8% growth achieved in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). UAE jumped 10 places in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking to 11th position globally in 2019 from 21st position in 2018 to lead the Arab world for the sixth consecutive year. UAE is the most competitive economy in the Middle East & North Africa region, according to the IMD World Competitiveness Center.
  • The official portal of the UAE Government witnessed significant increase in its users, reaching 5 million in 2018 compared to the number of users in 2017, as the figure tripled in just one year. The number of sessions for 2018 reached 7.5 million, while page-views amounted to more than 12 million. For top visited pages, "visa tracking and fees" came in the first place, followed by "value added tax (VAT)" and then "employment laws and regulations".
  • DP World with a world class infrastructure and a strong robust growth of Dubai as an established cruise hub in the region, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal the biggest cruise terminal in the world in term of size and handling capacity, receives more than 2.3 million tourists since its inauguration in 2014 and up to till end of 2018. Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal recorded a 172% increase in Cruise tourists' numbers reaching 632,700 visitors in 2018 compared to 232,600 visitors in 2014 in addition of recorded significant growth of vessels calls from 94 calls in 2014 to 120 calls in 2018.
  • Qatar Central Bank sold 500 MM QAR (136.8 MM USD) of T-bills with maturities of three, six and nine months. It sold 300 MM QAR (137.3 MM USD) of three-month bills at an interest rate of 2.36%, 100 MM QAR (27.4 MM USD) of six-month at an interest rate of 2.43% and 100 MM QAR (27.4 MM USD) of nine-month at an interest rate of 2.72%.
  • Qatar GDP increased reaching 2.2% in Q3-2018 compared to 1.7% in Q2-2018. Quarter-on-quarter growth climbed to 4.0%, the highest rate in at least two years, from 1.2%.
Political Events

  • Egypt Interior Ministry warned about an American website, named "GCL Internet Services", which has been apparently offering e-visas to Egypt at double the official price. The Ministry stressed that tourists who are looking to obtain an Egyptian visa must use the official government website. Egypt tourist visa is issued for 25 USD, or at 60 USD for multiple entries. Since December, incoming tourists and visitors were able to apply for an online visa without the need for embassy appointments, after Egypt officially launched its electronic visa services at the Cairo ICT Expo, aiming to attract tourists back into the country.
  • Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation Younis al-Masry issued orders to quickly complete work on development for Terminal 2 of the Hurghada International Airport, in order to have it ready to receive departure and arrival for international tourist trips on the first of February after a period of 14 months halted work.
  • The UAE has provided over 371.1 million units of polio vaccines to more than 57 million Pakistani children between 2014 and December 2018, through its anti-polio drive in the country, under the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Program, UAE-PAP. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed donated 167 MM USD (613.31 MM AED) for the efforts aimed at eradicating poliomyelitis and the provision of vaccines for children, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Saudi authorities have arrested more than 2.37 million foreigners who were living in the country in violation of residency and labor regulations. Officials announced that 609,632 of the detainees were deported to their respective home countries. The campaign, titled the Nation Without Illegals, was launched late in 2018 with the participation of 19 government and private sector agencies, including the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Passport Department. A total of 2,376,215 people was rounded up across the country in the past 13 months while 1,846,25 violated residency regulations and 364,634 labor regulations. Meanwhile, 165,327 people were arrested for breaching border security.
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Major Companies Transaction
  • Egypt could soon see express trains linking the country different regions in an effort to increase connectivity and efficiency following discussions between Egypt and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). The Egyptian government plans to establish express trains to link between Luxor and Hurghada, as well as another project linking between 6th of October City, Aswan and Luxor. The two express train projects would cover the increasing number of travelers to Lower Egypt and the Red Sea, as well as help in expanding tourist development.
  • Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly met with officials from the "Arab Contractors-Elsewedy Electric" alliance, which has won a contract for the construction of the hydropower Stiegler's Gorge dam project in Tanzania Rufiji River basin. The project aims at generating electricity of 2,115 MW to provide energy needs in Tanzania, as well as controlling water levels during flood periods and thus providing the water needs for the Tanzanian state. The 134-meter dam will have a storage capacity of 34 million cubic meters of water. The reservoir will be 100-kilometers long and 1,350 square km in area.
  • Saudi industrial group Tasnee has secured a 2 BN SAR (532.4 MM USD) credit facility from Banque Saudi Fransi to refinance an existing sukuk. The tenor of the new facility is seven years. Many regional corporate borrowers are seeking to refinance existing debt ahead of more expected interest rate rises in 2019.
  • Dubai Investments PJSC has announced that the work on the 460 MM AED Fujairah Business Centre project, developed by its joint venture entity Al Taif Investment, is 20.5% complete and on track to finish in June 2020, well ahead of its scheduled completion date in Q4-2020. The joint venture between Al Taif Investment and Fujairah Investment Establishment will have a total built-up area of 96,400 m2, offering a 19-level office tower and 19-level hotel and apartment tower as well as a shopping mall and retail area with parking for over 670 vehicles
  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Innovate Finance, an independent membership association that is at the heart of the UK FinTech ecosystem. This agreement aims to cement cooperation and collaboration between the UK and Dubai FinTech ecosystems exploring concepts that will help startups in both locations, ranging from sharing knowledge, hosting learning initiatives for startups such as financial technology programs in the Academy at DIFC and fostering relationships between their regulatory and financial communities.
  • Emirates NBD, a leading bank in the region has announced the launch of a new VAT-based enhanced loan solution for small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers. The new loan program makes it easier for SMEs to apply for financing by providing copies of their VAT returns filed with the UAE Federal Tax Authority to serve as validation of business turnover and income. The new program will cover home loan, auto loan and business loan products.
  • Shaker Group, the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of LG Air Conditioners in Saudi Arabia, has expanded its production capacity in partnership with LG. The new production facility, located in Riyadh, will manufacture high performance Multi Fan Air Handling Units (AHU). Total AHU market size in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 600 MM SAR (159.9 MM USD). The factory will allow Shaker Group to supply customers in Saudi Arabia with specialized AC solutions, ensuring better quality control and wider specification coverage in the market.
  • In Qatar, the Minister of Transport and Communications, has approved the amendment of the network rollout and coverage obligations of Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar licenses, for the provision of public mobile telecommunications networks and services. The amendments adopted unified obligations for both companies related to 2G, 3G and 4G networks, that is in accordance with the amendments of the Annexure (G), of the network rollout and coverage obligations of both companies' licenses related to public mobile telecommunications networks and services.
  • Qatar cabinet approved the establishment of a Microsoft global data center in the small Gulf country. Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform, announced plans to expand into the Middle East for the first-time in 2018 by setting up data centers in the neighboring UAE.
  • Kuwait has formally requested that Dubai unfreeze and return the money to the Port Fund, a private equity fund, which will then distribute the money to its investors and other international and U.S. stakeholders. After selling its last investment in November 2017, The Port Fund wired 496 MM USD to the bank account of its general partner, Port Link GP Ltd., at Noor Bank in Dubai, at which point the money was frozen without cause.
Sports and Culture
  • Mohamed Salah is on the six-man shortlist for the PFA Premier League Player of the Month award for December 2018. The Egyptian scored six league goals for the Reds throughout the month as the Reds won every match and moved clear at the top of the division. Salah is up against Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City), Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford (both Manchester United) for the accolade, which is voted for by fans.
  • Saudi Arabia plan to privatize its soccer clubs, could be delayed beyond the targeted 2020, in what would be the latest setback to economic reforms. Sport is one of the pillars of the government's Vision 2030 goal to raise living standards and diversify the economy beyond oil exports. Former Croatia manager Slaven Bili and Brazilian player Giuliano are among the top names to grace the Saudi league, in which Al Hilal are controlling champions.
  • The Belgium King Philippe, his wife Mathilde, and their four children concluded a three-day visit to Luxor during which they visited the cemeteries and temples of ancient Egyptian royalty in the east and west banks of the city of Luxor. The Belgian royal family showed their passion for ancient Egypt as they spent many hours touring the insides of western Luxor archaeological sites.


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