Fortnightly, 2 October 2017

Fortnightly, 2 October 2017

October 2, 2017


2 October 2017
12 Tishrei 5778
12 Muharram 1438




1.1  Finance Ministry Admits Obstacles in Achieving Haredi Workforce Integration
1.2  Nahariya to Get 11,600 New Homes


2.1  Gigya to be Acquired by SAP
2.2  Colospan Raises $7.7 Million
2.3  Playbuzz Raises Additional $35 Million
2.4  Israeli Wine Exports to China Skyrocket
2.5  DouxMatok $8.1 Million Funding to Accelerate Commercialization of Sugar Reduction Technology
2.6  Beijing Accelerator to Help Israeli Startups in China


3.1  Syniverse Enables LTE Roaming for Alfa Telecom in Lebanon
3.2  Jordanian Cosmetics Imports Up 11.3% to JOD49 Million in First 5 Months of 2017
3.3  Arby’s Opens New Restaurant in Kuwait
3.4  University of South Wales Launches Aviation Engineering Education at Dubai South
3.5  Builder Hired For Oman’s $260 Million Mega Dairy Project
3.6  Montana Company Sells to Saudi Arabia
3.7  IFF Expands Flavors Site in Cairo
3.8  Sierra Nevada Corp. and TAI progress with T-X Freedom Trainer Development
3.9  GenePeeks Announces Distribution Agreement with Bioiatriki for Greece & Cyprus


4.1  Dubai Plans to Launch Climate Change Strategy
4.2  World Bank to Triple Funding to Egypt to $1 Billion, Focus on Renewable Energy
4.3  Twelve New Eco-Friendly Buses Hit Marrakech Streets on 28 September


5.1  Jordan Ranks 65th in Global Competitiveness Report
5.2  Jordan’s Tourism Sector Reports Good News So Far This Year
5.3  Amman’s Higher Education Ministry to Launch Plan to Attract 70,000 International Students

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.4  GCC’s Halal Import Bill Reaches $50 Billion
5.5  UAE Set to Build $136 Million City to Replicate Life on Mars
5.6  Tourists Spend $28.5 Billion in Dubai – the Most in World
5.7  Foreign Workers in the UAE Remit Over $21 Billion in First Half of 2017

♦♦North Africa

5.8  Egypt Targeting Annual Inflation of 13% in the Second Half of 2018
5.9  Egypt’s Foreign Debt Up 42% to $79 Billion in 2016-17
5.10  US Pledges Over $100 Million in Cooperation Agreements with Egypt
5.11  Italian Company Magneti Marelli to Build New Automotive Plant in Tangier


6.1  Turkey’s Trade Deficit Widens by 22.8% in August
6.2  Turkish Government Introduces Sharp Tax Increases
6.3  Economic Freedom Diminishes in Greece



7.1  Israel’s Population Reaches 8.7 Million At Rosh Hashanah
7.2  Sukkot Holiday Celebrated
7.3  Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah Celebrated


7.4  Iraqi Kurdish Leader Says ‘Yes’ Vote Won Independence Referendum
7.5  King Salman Issues Royal Decree: Women Will Drive in Saudi Arabia
7.6  Egypt’s Census Finds Local Population Reaches 104.2 Million
7.7  Millions of Egyptian Students Begin Their New School Year
7.8  New Japanese Schools in Egypt Receive 20,000 Applications


8.1  Enlivex Therapeutics Closes $8 Million Series B Round Led by KIP and Hadasit
8.2  Temasek Leads $25 Million Investment Round in Integra Holdings
8.3  ElastiMed Secures Additional $1 Million in Funding
8.4  Teva Announces Reintroduction of Generic Depo-Provera in the United States
8.5  Teva & Nuvelution Pharma Accelerate Development of AUSTEDO Tablets for Use in Tourette Syndrome
8.6  Augmedics Secures $8.3 Million in Series A Funding for Augmented-Reality Surgical Visualization System
8.7  Can-Fite Files Patent Application to Treat Cytokine Release Syndrome
8.8  Therapix’s First-in-Class Therapy Demonstrates Reversal of Age-Related Cognitive Impairment
8.9  Check-Cap Announces Filing of CE Mark Registration for C-Scan
8.10  Fidmi Medical Raises $2 Million from B. Braun Melsungen
8.11  Atox Bio Continues Development of Reltecimod for Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
8.12  Evogene & Rahan Meristem Report Positive Results Addressing Black Sigatoka Disease
8.13  Mazor Robotics Announces CE Mark Approval for the Mazor X Surgical Assurance Platform
8.14  Algatech Offers Organic, Non-GMO Natural Astaxanthin
8.15  Phytech Raises $11 Million to Enable Scaling Plant-Based Digital-Farming Deployment
8.16  Magenta Medical Secures $15 Million in Series B Financing


9.1  Kaymera Joins the VMware Mobile Security Alliance to Provide Advanced Mobile Defense Solutions
9.2  Enacomm & CallVU Bring Innovative Customer Engagement to Financial Institutions in North America
9.3  HPE Chooses Mellanox Spectrum to Power StoreFabric M-series Switches
9.4  ECI Drives Network Transformation for Utilities Across Europe
9.5  Nova’s Advanced XPS Solution Selected by the World’s Leading Foundry
9.6  Elbit Systems Awarded $300 Million Command & Control Systems Contract by Asia-Pacific Customer
9.7  Elbit Systems Awarded a $240 Million Contract to Provide an Array of Defense Electronic Systems to Africa
9.8  Utah’s FrontRunner Trains Enjoy High Bandwidth Wi-Fi with RADWIN’s Train-to-Ground Solution
9.9  Partner Selects Atrinet’s NetACE Platform to Automate Business and Residential FTTH Service Delivery
9.10  MySize Awarded its First Patent
9.11  Asset Health Management Application Developed by NYPA and mPrest Wins Best of New York Prize
9.12  AudioCodes Introduces 445HD IP Phone for Microsoft 365
9.13  Visuality Systems Releases Java Client ‘Server Message Block’ (SMB) Supporting The Latest SMB Dialects
9.14  VoiceSense Introduces Groundbreaking Speech-Based Solution for Big Data Predictive Analytics


10.1  World Economic Forum Lauds Israeli Competitiveness
10.2  Over the Past 5 Years, 145 Israeli Startups Raised Capital Through Crowdfunding
10.3  Israel’s Trade with Russia is Booming
10.4  Heart Disease Mortality in Israel on Steady Decline
10.5  Israel Ranked 19th Most ‘Food Secure’ by UN Global Hunger Report


11.1  LEBANON: Outlook on Banking System Changed to Stable on Political Stability & Growth
11.2  SAUDI ARABIA: Moody’s Assigns A1 Ratings to Saudi Arabia’s Global Notes
11.3  EGYPT: Egypt Benefits From Strong Reform Momentum; Weak Government Finances Remain Challenge
11.4  EGYPT: The Economy is Gathering Strength
11.5  MOROCCO: The Political Inconvenience of Morocco’s Currency Reforms
11.6  MOROCCO: Morocco’s Grand Plan – In Pursuit of Economic Union


1.1  Finance Ministry Admits Obstacles in Achieving Haredi Workforce Integration

The increase in employment of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men since 2000 has come to a halt in the past 18 months, according to the Ministry of Finance.  Only half of Haredi men aged 25-64 work for a living, compared with nearly 87.6% among non-Haredi men.  As of mid-2017, the employment rate among Haredi men was 12%, short of the 63% target set by government for 2020.  These figures indicate that the employment rate among Haredi men has increased by an average of 1% a year since 2012.  At that rate, the 2020 target is unreachable.

It is interesting to note that the policy aimed at including Haredi women in the labor force has been very successful; the employment rate among Haredi women has already exceeded the target set for 2020.  Haredi women have been successful, despite the fact that their fertility rate is among the highest in the world, at an average of 6.9 children per woman.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the employment rate among Haredi men has risen over the past 15 years.  This trend accelerated from Q4/14 through the Q4/15.  Most of the increase in employment rates among Haredi men has been in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets.  Analysis of employment rates by location indicates that the rate among Haredi men is higher in the new Haredi towns than in the older ones.  The leading town in Haredi employment among men was Beitar Illit with 58% (compared with 35% in 2006-2010), followed by Elad (56%, compared with 34% in 2006-2010), Jerusalem (44%, compared with 30% in 2006-2010), Beit Shemesh (43%, compared with 29% in 2006-2010), Modi’in Illit (40%, compared with 23% in 2006-2010), and Bnei Brak (39%, compared with 37% in 2006-2010).  (Globes 25.09)

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1.2  Nahariya to Get 11,600 New Homes

The State of Israel via the Ministry of Construction and Housing today reported the signing of an overall agreement between the state and the Nahariya municipality for the construction of 11,600 new housing units with a budget of NIS 1.7 billion.  The northern Mediterranean coastal city currently has a population of 55,000.

Under the agreement, 9,800 new housing units will be marketed in Nahariya in 2017-2019, together with commercial and business space, on four sites located on state-owned land.  The Ministry of Construction and Housing added that the Local Planning and Building Commission was likely to approve an additional 1,717 housing units under the planning and building regulations.  The Ministry of Construction and Housing also announced in addition to the new housing units, public institutions will also be built in the city, including synagogues, schools, kindergartens, community centers and sports facilities.  The total budget is NIS 1.7 billion, including an estimated NIS 1.4 billion in development work, NIS 225 million for public institutions, and NIS 110 million for upgrading old buildings.  The Ministry of Transport is also allocating NIS 270 million in a five-year plan.  (Globes 26.09)

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2.1  Gigya to be Acquired by SAP

Gigya has entered into an agreement to be acquired by SAP SE.  Major independent analyst firms, most recently Forrester Research, have positioned Gigya as a top vendor in this field.  Gigya’s customer identity management platform helps companies build digital relationships with their customers. Its platform allows companies to manage customers’ profile, preference, opt-in and consent settings, with customers maintaining control of their data at all times.  Gigya’s technology provides new capabilities to consumers across channels and touchpoints, builds rich intelligent profiles and creates a consent-based approach to personalization across sales, service, and marketing.  Gigya, an SAP Hybris partner since 2013, has customers already using a solution extension from SAP Hybris and Gigya. This acquisition will enable the teams to further build upon this existing strong relationship.

By way of the acquisition, SAP Hybris intends to become the first organization to offer a cloud-based data platform enabling companies to profile and convert new customers, gather accurate conclusions from disparate consumer engagement sources and collect data for enhanced consumer choices that are in line with regulations.

Tel Aviv’s Gigya has more than 300 employees.  The company’s operations will become part of the SAP Hybris business unit for customer engagement and commerce.  The transaction is expected to close in Q4/17, subject to regulatory approval. Terms of the transaction are not disclosed. Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Gigya.  (Gigya 24.09)

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2.2  Colospan Raises $7.7 Million

Kfar Saba’s Colospan (formerly Cologuard) has announced the completion of a $7.7 million financing round led by the Triventures fund.  Previous investors in the company, including Docor (controlled by the Van Leer incubator, where Colospan started); Amit Technion and Clal Biotechnology Industries investment fund Anatomy, which invests in medical equipment, also took part in the round.

Colospan has developed a product that protects the intestine after a colectomy and sealing of the intestine, which are performed in cases of severe intestinal inflammatory disease and cancer of the bowel or rectum.  In places where the intestine has been sealed, leakage requiring prolonged hospitalization or repeat surgery on already weak patients is liable to occur.  In severe cases, the inflammations are liable to cause the death of the patient.  Colospan’s product is a silicon sleeve that constitutes a pipeline inside the intestinal pipeline.  The contents of the intestine pass through it, so that they do not leak, even if there is a hole in the intestine.  After 10 days, an X-ray can be taken to see whether or not the intestine has healed. If it has, the sleeve can be removed non-invasively, without surgery.  (Globes 27.09)

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2.3  Playbuzz Raises Additional $35 Million

Playbuzz announced it has raised $35 million in Series C funding, led by Viola Growth with participation from existing investors including Disney, Saban Ventures, 83North, Carmel Ventures, firstime and Oded Vardi.  The round more than doubles the company’s existing funding, bringing the total to $66m and further positions it as the number one platform relied upon by premium publishers and brands worldwide as they align their content with today’s content consumption habits.  Playbuzz will use the investment to expand its global footprint, with a focus on its branded content business which already works with Fortune 500 brands to create, distribute and measure engaging native advertising campaigns.

The Playbuzz platform is used by the world’s top publishers when they want their stories heard, enabling them to create engaging, visually-stunning editorial content – no design or development skills necessary.  It is also relied upon by top brands who tap the company to create interactive branded content campaigns that Playbuzz then distributes at scale to its existing network of tens of thousands of publishers.

Playbuzz’s platform suits any topic, tone and audience, powering over 12,000 engagements per minute, and is proven to boost audience engagement, garnering metrics high above industry standards, such as 2 – 4 minute average session times (as compared to the 15 second industry average).  Branded content campaigns powered by Playbuzz are consumed by 65% of users on average (as compared to the 24% industry benchmark).

Founded in 2012, Playbuzz is a leading storytelling platform used by the world’s premium publishers and brands to author, distribute and monetize interactive stories that drive audience engagement.  The company has over 150 employees across its offices in New York, London, Tel Aviv, Hamburg, Sao Paulo, Moscow and Los Angeles.  Playbuzz’s rapid growth is fueled by the adoption of its platform by premium publishers and brands who use the company’s interactive storytelling and real-time analytics tools to engage users, boost their reach, raise brand awareness, improve monetization capabilities, and optimize content for maximum social interaction.  (Playbuzz 28.09)

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2.4  Israeli Wine Exports to China Skyrocket

An Israeli winery is set to build an $8 million facility in central China, hoping to take a piece of what has become one of the largest wine markets in the world.  The winegrower, Hayotzer, has signed a preliminary agreement with the Pen Dun Group to build the joint project.  Hayotzer, which is owned by Arza, one of Israel’s largest wineries, will hold a 20-25% stake and will advise on winemaking and viticulture of the proposed venture.  China is currently the world’s fourth largest wine consumer and is set to surpass France and the United Kingdom by 2020, making them second only to the United States.  The plan for the winery is only the latest agreement between Israel and China. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has recently visited Beijing to sign a $300 million trade agreement with “clean-tech” Israeli companies, meaning environmental-friendly energy and agricultural technology.

China is hungry for Israeli technology and Israeli companies are happy to provide it.  Press reports say that more than 1,000 Israeli companies have set up shop in China and large delegations of Chinese businessmen visit Israel every year.  China has also recently bought a controlling interest in Tnuva and Ahava Dead Sea products.

China is Israel’s third largest trading partner after the US and the European Union.  Israel’s exports to China were more than $3.2 billion last year, up from just $300 million a few years ago. In recent years, China has invested more than $15 billion in Israeli technology companies.  Israel and China established diplomatic relations in 1992 and recently marked 25 years of close ties.  (The Media Line 23.09)

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2.5  DouxMatok $8.1 Million Funding to Accelerate Commercialization of Sugar Reduction Technology

DouxMatok announced $8.1m in funding to commercialize its patented sugar reduction solution by the end of 2018.  Tests conducted by food & beverage multinationals have confirmed that, when using DouxMatok sugars, they can reduce up to 40% of the sugar content in their products while retaining the same taste profile.  The funding round was led by Israel’s largest Venture Capital fund, Pitango, with the participation of existing shareholders, including Gil Horsky and FoodLab Capital.

By maximizing the efficiency of sugar delivery to the taste buds and enhancing the perception of sweetness, DouxMatok significantly reduces the caloric value and sugar levels of products.  Perception of sweetness is stronger, and lingers longer, resulting in higher satisfaction and reduced craving for sweetness.  Unlike sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners, DouxMatok carries no aftertaste and is produced using sustainable green chemistry principles while being fully compliant with FDA and EU regulations.

Following successful sensory validation and pilot testing, the company is currently working closely with leading food & beverage multinationals to scale-up and commercialize the first consumer products with DouxMatok’s sugar reduction technology.

Petah Tikva’s DouxMatok is pioneering the development of targeted flavor delivery technologies, while improving the nutritional profile of food and beverage products. Its patented sugar reduction solution targets the taste buds with an efficiently delivered concentrated dose of flavor that enables sugar reduction up to 40% and lower caloric value without compromising on taste.  (DouxMatok 19.09)

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2.6  Beijing Accelerator to Help Israeli Startups in China

A new accelerator will be founded in Beijing as a cooperative effort between Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry and ShengJing Group of China.  The Chinese company calls itself the world’s largest private equity fund of funds.  The Ministry of Economy and Industry is funding the project.

The five Israeli companies slated for the first class of the accelerator will receive training and mentoring for six months.  They will also participate in a roadshow in order to help them raise money from investment concerns in China.  The companies participating in the venture will receive professional services free of charge, and will not be required to relinquish shares.  In principle, the venture is aimed at companies in all sectors with technology likely to succeed in the Chinese market.  The deadline for registering for the program is the end of October.

ShengJing has already invested $100 million in Israel through venture capital funds Viola Group, Vintage Investment Partners, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), and Canaan Partners.  ShengJing has also invested directly in a number of Israeli startups.  The Chinese fund has invested in major Chinese technology companies, such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.  (Globes 01.10)

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3.1  Syniverse Enables LTE Roaming for Alfa Telecom in Lebanon

Tampa, Florida’s Syniverse signed a multiyear agreement to provide LTE roaming and real-time monitoring services to Lebanon-based operator Alfa, managed by Orascom TMT.  The services support an enhanced 4G LTE experience for roaming subscribers and those visiting Lebanon.  A crucial part of LTE roaming involves the deployment of an IPX network, and Diameter, the industry-standard signaling protocol for messages from mobile devices, and the management of proper routing and delivery of Diameter signaling messages.  Syniverse is providing its IPX with Diameter Signaling Service to Alfa Telecom in Lebanon as part of its global, reliable and secure platform.  Syniverse’s IPX provides a comprehensive solution for LTE roaming with a carrier-grade connection to the company’s all-IP network connects over 1,000 operators, including over 280 direct connections.  (Syniverse 21.09)

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3.2  Jordanian Cosmetics Imports Up 11.3% to JOD49 Million in First 5 Months of 2017

The overall value of imported cosmetics has increased by 11.3%, to JOD49 million, in the first five months of 2017, compared to JOD44 million over the same duration last year, according to the figures of the statistics department.  Annually speaking, Jordan’s imports in cosmetics have increased by nearly 9%, from JOD104 million in 2016 to JOD113 million in 2016.  Chief among the countries exporting cosmetics to Jordan are the UK, France, India, Germany, China, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, the US and Saudi Arabia.  Other countries selling cosmetics to the Kingdom include Australia, Egypt, Palestine, Italy, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait and Slovenia.  (AlGhad 23.09)

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3.3  Arby’s Opens New Restaurant in Kuwait

On 26 September, Arby’s yesterday opened its first new restaurant in Kuwait.  The restaurant will be owned and operated by Al-Kharafi Global for General Trading & Contracting Company (Kharafi Global).  In 2016, Arby’s Restaurant Group (ARG) and Kharafi Global announced a development agreement for Kharafi Global to open at least 25 new Arby’s restaurants in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  The first restaurant will be located in Jabriya.  Two additional restaurants are expected to open in Abu Al-Hasaniya and Al Kout Mall later this year.  The new restaurant in Kuwait is one of the 126 franchised Arby’s restaurants located outside the United States.  Arby’s also has franchised restaurants in Canada, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and Turkey.  Arby’s, founded in 1964, is the second-largest sandwich restaurant brand in the world with more than 3,300 restaurants in seven countries.  The brand is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.  (ARG 27.09)

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3.4  University of South Wales Launches Aviation Engineering Education at Dubai South

The University of South Wales (USW) has announced that it will deliver degrees to aerospace engineering students as a key partner at the UAE’s new Dubai South development.  Dubai South is a planned city of a million people around the new Al Maktoum International Airport.  In 2016, USW signed a Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) with Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC), the parent organization of Dubai South, in the presence of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airlines, and USW Pro Chancellor Professor John Andrews.

USW will accept its first students in Dubai South from September 2018 in a facility in the development’s existing Business Park. USW’s initial academic offering has received approval from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority [KHDA].  The USW courses initially on offer will include the BSc (Hons) Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, the BSc (Hons) Aircraft Maintenance Engineering top-up degree, and Foundation course, through which a student can gain the right qualifications to move onto the degree program.  (USW 21.09)

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3.5  Builder Hired For Oman’s $260 Million Mega Dairy Project

Mazoon Dairy Company, the flagship dairy project in Oman, has announced the appointment of Al Adrak Trading and Contracting to build its dairy and juice manufacturing plant.  Construction will start in October at a project site located in Al-Sunaynah in the Al Buraimi Governorate and is planned to be completed by the third quarter of 2018.  While the overall project investment will be almost $260 million, the value of the main contract will be $72.5 million.  The contract will comprise the construction of the main dairy farm, feeding center, milking parlors, staff accommodation, office building, utilities and connecting road network.  It is anticipated that the first of the initial phase of 4,000 cows will start arriving at the farm in early 2018.

Backed by the Oman Food Investment Company alongside government pension and investment funds, Mazoon Dairy will provide include milk, yoghurt, laban, cheese, ice cream and juices.  Starting from an initial herd of 4,000 Holstein-Friesian cows, it will eventually grow to 25,000 by 2026.  By then it is planned that production levels will mean dairy imports to Oman would fall to nearly 10% from the present 70%.  Within 10 years of operations it is anticipated that over 70% of the 2,300 employees at Mazoon Dairy will be Omani nationals.  ((Various 27.09)

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3.6  Montana Company Sells to Saudi Arabia

S&K Aerospace of St. Ignatius, Montana, has been awarded a $559,011,645 fixed-price, incentive firm contract for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) supply services effort.  This program is comprised of logistical in-Kingdom support, supply consumables for F-15 C/D/S/SA fleets, and operation and maintenance of print plant and print on demand facilities for the RSAF F-15 program.  Work will be performed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is expected to be completed by March 2023.  This contract involves foreign military sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The award is the result of a source selection effort and four offers were received.  Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $248,797,940 will be obligated at time of award.  Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia is the contacting activity (MoD 27.09).

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3.7  IFF Expands Flavors Site in Cairo

New York’s International Flavors & Fragrances, a leading innovator of sensory experiences that move the world, opened its fully renovated and expanded facility in Cairo, Egypt.  The investment supports both the Company’s regional focus on growth in the Middle East and Africa, as well as its focus on key categories, providing enhanced services to customers and strengthening its presence in this key market.  The Middle East/Africa region is a critical component of IFF’s Vision 2020 strategy.  They believe the expansion and upgrade of their Cairo facility will support their efforts to grow.  The expanded labs will allow them to better serve Egyptian customers and strengthen market presence in Africa and the Middle East.  IFF has a long-standing presence in Egypt. Its Cairo facility has been operational since 1979, with a sales office, creation and applications labs, and flavor production facilities.  (IFF 18.09)

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3.8  Sierra Nevada Corp. and TAI progress with T-X Freedom Trainer Development

Collaboratively developed by Sparks, Nevada’s Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the Freedom Trainer is being pitched for the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) T-X lead-in fighter-trainer (LIFT) tender.  SNC and TAI designed the Freedom Trainer to be a relatively low-cost solution both in terms of acquisition and life-cycle maintenance.  Built with an all-composite airframe and fully digital fly-by-wire flight control system, the Freedom Trainer is powered by two Williams International FJ44-4M turbofan engines, each with a thrust output of 16.01 kN, cruise speed of 833.4 km/h and range of 3,700 km.  The Freedom Trainer was designed to fulfill the T-X’s core requirements, including the 6.5g-7.5g sustained turn and high angle-of-attack. However, SNC and TAI are aiming to differentiate the Freedom Trainer from its competition on the basis of noticeably lower acquisition and maintenance costs.

To control cost and complexity, SNC and TAI will omit weaponization from the Freedom Trainer.  Instead, the Freedom Trainer will digitally simulate air warfare experiences.  Likewise, the Freedom Trainer utilizes open architecture for subsystems integration, low-cost engines and off-the-shelf components (COTS).

SNC and TAI are banking on the world market as a contingency in case the Freedom Trainer is not selected for the T-X bid.  Certain aspects of the Freedom Trainer seem to be steered towards that eventuality.  For example, while selected for managing cost, the Williams FJ44-series is also free from ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) restrictions.  This enables SNC and TAI to readily offer the platform to a wide array of prospective customers with relatively limited regulatory barriers in the U.S.  (Quwa 27.09)

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3.9  GenePeeks Announces Distribution Agreement with Bioiatriki for Greece & Cyprus

Cambridge, Massachusetts’ GenePeeks, a computational genomics company focused on transforming genetic disease risk analysis, announced a new partnership with Bioiatriki, a primary healthcare services provider with extensive diagnostic capabilities at its twenty-nine diagnostic centers across Greece and Cyprus.  This new distribution agreement represents the latest step towards GenePeeks’ goal of making its next-generation preconception test available to families around the world.  Unlike traditional carrier screening, GenePeeks Preconception Screen identifies the combined parental risk of passing on more than 1,100 serious genetic diseases.  Bioiatriki has established itself as a leading primary healthcare services provider in Greece and Cyprus, with twenty-nine autonomous diagnostic centers that receive over two million patient visits per year.  (GenePeeks 27.09)

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4.1  Dubai Plans to Launch Climate Change Strategy

Dubai Municipality has announced that it is in the process of developing a climate adaptation strategy for the Emirate of Dubai.  The strategy will cover several sectors, including energy, water, infrastructure, food, biodiversity, ecology, coastal area, air quality, public health, business and tourism development.  This announcement is part of plans to make Dubai the environmentally cleanest city by 2050.

The strategy will be implemented in three major phases – the first of which is to study the best global practices and identify legal gaps and assess the current and future status of climate change on all sectors.  The second phase will include the preparation of short and long term plans, including initiatives, projects and studies, and prioritizing them while the final phase will include setting the timeframe for implementation of these plans and linking them to performance indicators.  (GN 27.09)

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4.2  World Bank to Triple Funding to Egypt to $1 Billion, Focus on Renewable Energy

The World Bank’s private sector lending branch of the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) has announced plans to triple its funding to Egypt from approximately $300 million, in the past year, to $1 billion during the current financial year.  The boost in lending is part of a funding scheme comprising the wider Middle East region and totals $2 billion, representing a 20% increase from last financial year.  IFC’s decision to expand funding to Egypt comes against the background of the country implementing a large-scale IMF economic reform program that has helped the Arab world’s most populous nation secure a $12 billion loan from the IMF.  The reforms include a currency float in November last year and the slashing of subsidies on energy products.

The IFC is focusing on lending for infrastructure development projects with a particular interest in renewable energy in the Middle East region. Last year, the lender earmarked around half of its released funds in the Middle East to activities related to renewable energy and climate.  Of the $1 billion that IFC plans to invest in the Egyptian market, around $700 million will be dedicated to renewable energy initiatives.  The lender hopes to secure similar bonds to develop renewable energy projects in Lebanon and Jordan, where wind power and clean energy initiatives are being explored.

The Green Climate Fund members also announced in September that it will finance three Egyptian climate projects totaling $350 million, including an initiative on renewable energy, climate change adaptation and private sector participation in climate-focused projects.  (WB 01.10)

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4.3  Twelve New Eco-Friendly Buses Hit Marrakech Streets on 28 September

Twelve out of 25 eco-friendly buses began operating in the Moroccan city of Marrakech after successful tests.  The new environmentally-friendly buses were introduced at the 22nd edition of the Climate Change Conference of the Parties 2016 (COP22), which took place in Marrakech back in November 2016.  The environmentally-friendly bus services will be run by Spanish bus company Alsa.  The eco-friendly vehicles are 12 meters long and have a capacity of 71 seats.  The busses will also ensure accessibility for disabled people.  The other 13 buses are expected to be operational later in 2017.  The Spanish company has already set up the prices for the new buses services.  Moroccans will have to pay MAD 100 per day and MAD 150 for two days, while foreigners have to pay MAD 150 per day and MAD 200 for two days.  (MWN 20.09)

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5.1  Jordan Ranks 65th in Global Competitiveness Report

Maintaining its overall score, Jordan slipped two ranks globally, falling to the 65th place out of 137 in the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).  The Kingdom seized the 7th place in the region, preceded by the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

Attributing this stability to the recent governmental measures to consolidate the country’s fiscal situation and business environment, the report highlighted the numerous challenges posed by the large refugee influx over the recent years.  With strained resources and increased scrutiny of public spending by the private sector and the public at large, the Kingdom has been forced to increase taxation, which was considered as the most problematic factor for doing business.  Access to financing, policy instability, inefficient national bureaucracy and inadequately educated workforce were also cited as major hindrances to the national business environment.

Jordan displayed some encouraging progress in the innovation and sophistication factors, ranking 46th and 48th globally in the respective categories.  The Kingdom’s overall score was however brought down by its very poor performance in the 3rd pillar — macroeconomic environment — ranking 115 out of 137 countries worldwide, a low average even compared to its regional counterparts.  (JT 31.09)

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5.2  Jordan’s Tourism Sector Reports Good News So Far This Year

Jordan marked World Tourism Day by reporting an increase in the number of visitors and revenues, the Tourism Ministry Secretary General Issa Gammoh said.  On the occasion, the Tourism Ministry organized several activities including 16 campaigns to raise awareness of environmental impacts of tourism and to clean archaeological sites across the Kingdom.

The first eight months of this year have shown positive indicators in terms of the numbers of tourists, tourism facilities and credit loans.  Jordan has moved up two places in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2017, ranking 75th globally compared to its rank in 2015.  The numbers of tourist facilities such as hotels, lodges, restaurants and travel agencies have increased by 18%.

While the number of visitors of the Middle East have plummeted by 4.1%, that was not the case in Jordan.  The main reasons behind the increase are the improvement in the region’s stability and the increasing awareness of Jordan as a safe destination despite its location in a turbulent region, thanks to promotion efforts by stakeholders.  According to Tourism Ministry figures, the number of overnight and one-day visitors in the first half of 2017 reached 2,410,583 compared to 2,192,627 in the same period of 2016, marking an increase of 9.9%.  In H1/16, some 204,530 visited Petra, while in the same period this year, the figure rose to 297,615.  (JT 27.09)

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5.3  Amman’s Higher Education Ministry to Launch Plan to Attract 70,000 International Students

Amman’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is preparing an executive plan to attract 70,000 international students to Jordanian universities by the year 2020.  For this purpose, the ministry has established a new directorate aimed at promoting Jordan as an educational destination and at improving the experiences in the Kingdom.  In order to facilitate the provision of information to the students, the ministry has set a link in its official website, where students can find resources about the steps and documents needed in order to study in Jordanian public universities.  The ministry has also reached out to embassies and other diplomatic bodies to spread the word about Jordan’s openness to international students.  It is hoped that bringing 70,000 international students to Jordan will result in an approximate annual revenue of JD2 billion, which accounts for 6.7% of the national GDP.  (JT 28.09)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.4  GCC’s Halal Import Bill Reaches $50 Billion

The global halal economy is estimated to touch the $6.4 trillion mark by 2018, according to a new report, with GCC countries importing $50 billion worth of products.  Research by Farrelly and Mitchell, a food and agri-business specialist, showed that the UAE’s halal import bill is $20 billion, or about 40% of the GCC’s total.  It said the UAE is home to 5,000 importers, manufacturers and stockers of halal products, with the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) expecting to issue 18,000 halal certifications this year.  Globally, Muslim expenditure on food and beverage (F&B) was estimated at $1.12 billion in 2014 and potentially rising to $1.58 billion in 2020.  (AB 19.09)

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5.5  UAE Set to Build $136 Million City to Replicate Life on Mars

The UAE on 26 September announced plans for a $136 million project to build a city that simulates life on Mars.  According to reports, the city will be spread across 1.9 million square feet and will replicate conditions for human settlement on the Red Planet.  The announcement is the latest in the UAE’s Mars 2117 project which was launched by Sheikh Mohammed in February at the World Government Summit in Dubai.  It aims to focus on parallel research into exploring means of mobility, housing, energy and food as well as speeding up the time it takes to travel to the planet.

In November 2016, Sheikh Mohammed approved the final designs of the UAE’s Mars Hope probe which is scheduled to reach the Red Planet in 2021.  He gave the green light to start manufacturing the probe’s prototypes, the Arab world’s first Mars probe.  In 2015, Dubai unveiled the blueprints for the first Arab mission to Mars.  (AB 27.09)

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5.6  Tourists Spend $28.5 Billion in Dubai – the Most in World

Dubai has been named the fourth ranked international travel destination in the world, according to the annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index.  The report showed that only Bangkok, London and Paris ranked above it for overnight visitors from overseas in 2016.  Dubai was also ranked as the city with the highest international overnight visitor spend, amounting to $28.5 billion in 2016.  Abu Dhabi, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.9% between 2009 and 2016 in its growth of visitors, also retained its position as the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa, and is the fourth fastest growing city globally.  MasterCard said Dubai attracted 14.87 million international visitors last year and is forecast to see 7.7% growth this year.  From the top 10 cities, only Tokyo is expected to see better growth this year.  (AB 27.09)

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5.7  Foreign Workers in the UAE Remit Over $21 Billion in First Half of 2017

The total value of remittances by foreign workers in the UAE reached AED78 billion ($21.2 billion) during the first half of 2017, according to the UAE Central Bank.  The bank announced that remittances totaled AED40.8 billion during the second quarter, an increase of 10% compared to the first quarter.

Indian workers continued to lead as the most active nationality in terms of remittances, totaling AED14.64 billion or around 35.9% of the total during the second quarter of the year.  Pakistani workers came in second position with 9.6%, a value of AED3.91 billion.  Remittances by Filipino workers accounted for 7.1% with a value of around AED2.9 billion while Egyptian workers accounted for 5.2% (AED2.12 billion).  According to the data, the value of remittances by British workers reached AED1.7 billion while the figure for Bangladeshi workers totaled AED1.63 billion, which was the same for American workers.

Workers from Asian countries represent over 82% of the number foreign workers registered in the UAE, and they accounted for a total value of overseas remittances of around AED23 billion, or 56.3%, during the second quarter of 2017.  (AB 29.09)

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►►North Africa

5.8  Egypt Targeting Annual Inflation of 13% in the Second Half of 2018

Egypt is targeting an annual inflation of 13% in H2/18, the governor of the Central Bank of Egypt said on 18 September.  The country is aiming for inflation rates of 13% next year, with the medium-term aim of 7%, which he said was “important for our financial stability and for our debt capital markets to emerge.”  Egypt floated its currency in November 2016, which led to the value of the Egyptian pound by around half, as part of a series of economic reforms aimed at improving the country’s finances.  The move was followed this summer by fuel subsidy cuts.  The country’s annual urban inflation climbed in to its highest level in decades in July to 33%.  It dipped slightly in August, dropping to 31.9%.

The reforms have helped the government secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan and allowed the central bank to revive its foreign currency reserves, which registered at $36.143 billion at the end of August.  Amer said that the country’s GDP has grown to become “export-driven.”

In the fourth quarter of FY2016/17, which ended in June, GDP surged to reach 4.9%, up from 2.3% in the same period of the previous year.  The governor forecast no “major shocks to the economy, or to prices, over the next year.”  (Ahram Online 18.09)

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5.9  Egypt’s Foreign Debt Up 42% to $79 Billion in 2016-17

Egypt’s foreign debt rose to $79 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year which ended in June, up 42% from 2015-16, the Central Bank of Egypt announced.  The cash-strapped country has been borrowing from abroad to fund its budget deficit and boost its balance of foreign reserves after a years-long dollar shortage sapped its ability to import and slowed economic activity.  (CBE 28.09)

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5.10  US Pledges Over $100 Million in Cooperation Agreements with Egypt

Egypt and the US signed eight economic cooperation agreements worth $121.6 million to develop investment, education, health, agriculture and water management, in line with Egypt’s economic reform program as well as the country’s 2030 development plan.  Egypt’s International Cooperation and Investment Ministry said the agreements were signed between Minister Sahar Nasr and director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Sherry Carlin at the ministry’s premises in Cairo.  The agreements include a grant of $29 million to be disbursed periodically by 2022, with an initial disbursal of $6 million, for improving family planning and reproductive health.

The second agreement is a grant worth $50.8 million for supporting integrated solutions for water with the housing ministry and the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater.  The water agreement aims to increase the availability of potable water and improve its quality. It also aims to improve sanitation services, especially in rural areas, by establishing water plants, improving the methods of water treatment, replacing damaged pipelines, and building sewage systems.

One of the agreements allocates $13 million to enhancing the country’s lower and higher education systems through support programs, and allots $27 million for the US-Egypt Higher Education Initiative.  The agreement should help create more job opportunities for higher education graduates, as well as more scholarships for and partnerships with Egyptian higher educational institutions.  A trade and investment promotion agreement worth $5.1 was signed to bolster the investment and trade environment, and specifically micro, small and medium enterprises.

Since 1978, the USAID program has contributed nearly $30 billion in Egypt, according to the US envoy in Cairo.  Egypt normally receives $1.3 billion annually in military assistance from the United States and nearly $250 million in economic aid.  (Ahram Online 27.09)

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5.11  Italian Company Magneti Marelli to Build New Automotive Plant in Tangier

Fiat’s Subsidiary, Magneti Marelli signed an agreement with Morocco for the establishment of an automotive production plant in Tangier.  The overall amount allocated for this investment project is MAD 441 million.  The plant will cover an area of approximately 20,000 square meters, with the possibility of subsequent expansion.  The plant’s production is forecast to begin within 2019, with the progressive employment of approximately 500 workers by 2025.  The production capacity will be approximately 6 million units.  This initiative forms part of Morocco’s aspirations to develop the industrial activity of the automotive sector by attracting new manufacturers and equipment providers.  (MWN 26.09)

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6.1  Turkey’s Trade Deficit Widens by 22.8% in August

Turkey’s trade deficit widened 22.8% year-on-year to $5.87 billion in August, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜIK) showed on 29 September.  Exports rose 12.3% to $13.29 billion while imports increased 15.3% to $19.16 billion in August from the same period last year.  The proportion of imports covered by exports was 69.3% August, while it was 71.2% during the same period of 2016.  While Turkey’s exports rose to $103.3 billion in the first eight months of the year with a 10.8% year-on-year increase, its imports hit $148.9 billion in the same period of 2017 with a 13.8% year-on-year increase.

Germany was Turkey’s largest export market at $1.34 billion in August, followed by Iraq at $971 million, the United Kingdom at $849 million and the United States at $717 million.  Imports mostly came from China ($2.12 billion), followed by Germany ($1.86 billion), Russia ($1.59 billion) and Italy ($986 million).  (TUIK 29.09)

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6.2  Turkish Government Introduces Sharp Tax Increases

Ankara has introduced significant rises in a number of taxes, including a 40% rise on personal cars, in line with the new medium-term economic program unveiled on 27 September.  Finance Minister Naci Agbal said a draft would be sent to parliament soon to raise corporate taxes in the financial sector from 20% to 22%.  They will also raise taxes in the third income section from 27% to 30% as of 2018.  Motorized vehicle taxes on private cars will also be hiked to 40% in 2018.  The existing tax system on automobiles is based on cars’ engine cylinder volume.  This will be revised so that it will also be based on the value of private cars.  Up to 20% of additional taxes will be imposed for the purchase of new cars.

Agbal also said a 10% tax on winnings from lotteries would be hiked from 10% to 20%, while a special consumption tax will be imposed on cigarette papers and energy drinks.  A 130-item draft law on these tax hikes and various others was presented to parliament late on 27 September.  (HDN 27.09)

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6.3  Economic Freedom Diminishes in Greece

Greece has dropped 27 places in the latest Economic Freedom of the World report compiled by the Fraser Institute think tank in Canada, falling to 116th among 159 countries, just days after learning it had also sunk on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.  The findings of the Economic Freedom report were heavily influenced by the imposition of the capital controls in 2015, though many of the Greek economy’s negative features recorded are more deep-rooted.  Economic freedom means fewer regulations and more flexible labor relations, and the countries with the highest readings happen to be those with the best economic conditions.

Greece is rock bottom among the 159 states in the size of the state, garnering just 3.42 points on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 signals maximum economic freedom.  The reason for this is that many enterprises continue to be state-controlled and the ratio of taxes to incomes is particularly high.  This country also ranks very low (121st) in terms of regulatory environment, as it is seen to have too many regulations in the labor market and entrepreneurship that restrict economic freedom.  Among the subcategories in this domain, Greece scored particularly low regarding administrative requirements for business activity (i.e. there is too much bureaucracy).  Other factors that weighed on Greece’s score are its overregulated labor market and the phenomena of corruption and favoritism.

The latest report, which is based on 2015 data, placed Greece a relatively high 47th in the operation of its legal system and the protection of property rights, with a 5.98 score – the only field where there was an improvement from last year’s report.  However, Greece ranks low in the legal execution of contracts and courts’ impartiality.  In terms of currency stability, Greece’s marks dropped from 9.70 to 8.35 due to the imposition of the capital controls in 2015, placing the country in 87th spot. It scored 7.64 points in freedom of international trade.  (eKathimerini 30.09)

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7.1  Israel’s Population Reaches 8.7 Million At Rosh Hashanah

On Rosh Hashanah eve, Israel’s population stood at 8.743 million, of which 6.523 million, or 74.6%, are Jews and 1.824 million, or 20.9%, are Arabs, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on 18 September.  Permanent residents who, according to the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry, are neither Jewish nor Arab – including most non-Jewish immigrants, many of whom are non-Arab Christians or have no religious affiliation – comprise some 396,000 people (4.5%).

According to new CBS data, 25,977 immigrants made aliyah in 2016, 57% of whom moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union.  Another 17% came from France and 11% emigrated from the United States.

Some 181,405 babies were born over the past year.  The overall fertility rate is Israel stood at 3.11% – the highest among the member states of the OECD.  While 53,579 couples wed, 14,487 divorced that same year.  According to the data, 44% of Israelis defined themselves as secular, 22% said they were “somewhat observant,” 13% said they were observant, 11% defined themselves as religious and 10% identified as ultra-Orthodox.

Israel’s GDP was NIS 1.22 billion ($284 million) in 2016, while GDP per capita was NIS 143,000 ($40,600).  Exports came to NIS 369.4 million ($104.7 million) and imports to NIS 343.9 million ($97.63 million).  The current account balance of payments NIS 12 billion ($3.4 billion), the equivalent of 3.8% of GDP, and the average Israeli household income came to NIS 18,671 shekels ($5,302).  National expenditure on health stood at NIS 90.3 billion ($25.6 billion), or 7.4% of GDP for 2016.  The annual expenditure on welfare stood at NIS 130.7 billion ($37.12 billion), or 27.3% of annual GDP on welfare and NIS 54.7 billion ($15.5 billion), or 4.6% of GDP on culture, entertainment and sports.

The state spent NIS 94.8 billion ($26.8 billion) on education, or 7.8% of the GDP.  There were 2.2 million students enrolled in the education system and nearly 74% of high school students passed the high school matriculation exam. Some 76,000 Israelis earned university degrees in the 2015-2016 academic year, five times as many as in 1990.  (CBS 18.09)

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7.2  Sukkot Holiday Celebrated

The Jewish festival of Sukkot begins at sunset on Wednesday, 4 October until nightfall on 12 October (in Israel).  The festival ends on day later outside of Israel.  The holiday begins on the Hebrew date of 15 Tishrei, the fifth day after Yom Kippur.  The word “Sukkot” means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday.  The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there or by actually living in the sukkah as much as possible, including sleeping in it.  The holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.  There are intermediate days during the week, which begins and ends with a holiday, referred to as Chol Ha-Mo’ed.

Another observance related to Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog.  Jews are commanded to take these four plants and use them to “rejoice before the L-rd.”  The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit native to Israel), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), two willow branches (arava) and three myrtle branches (hadas).  The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav.  The etrog is held separately.  With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down, symbolizing the fact that G-d is everywhere).

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7.3  Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah Celebrated

On 11/12 October, or 22 Tishri, the day after the seventh day of Sukkot, is the holiday Shemini Atzeret.  In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is also the holiday of Simchat Torah.  Outside of Israel, where extra days of holidays are held, only the second day of Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah.

These two holidays are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot, but that is technically incorrect; Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right and does not involve some of the special observances of Sukkot.  Shemini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day).”  Rabbinic literature explains the holiday this way: our Creator is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.  Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah.”  This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings.  Each week in synagogue we publicly read a few chapters from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working around to Deuteronomy 34.  On Simchat Torah, the last Torah portion is read, then proceeds immediately to the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration.  There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing in the synagogue with the torahs.  As many people as possible are given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah.  In addition, as many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions.  Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are holidays on which work is not permitted.

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7.4  Iraqi Kurdish Leader Says ‘Yes’ Vote Won Independence Referendum

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on 26 September that Kurds had voted “yes” to independence in a referendum held in defiance of the government in Baghdad and which had angered their neighbors and their U.S. allies.  The Kurds, who have ruled over an autonomous region within Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, consider the referendum to be an historic step in a generations-old quest for a state of their own.  Iraq considers the vote unconstitutional, especially as it was held not only within the Kurdish region itself but also on disputed territory held by Kurds elsewhere in northern Iraq.

In a televised address, Barzani said the “yes” vote had won and he called on Iraq’s central government in Baghdad to engage in “serious dialogue” instead of threatening the Kurdish Regional Government with sanctions.  The Iraqi government earlier ruled out talks on Kurdish independence and Turkey threatened to impose a blockade.

The referendum has fueled fears of a new regional conflict.  Turkey, which has fought a Kurdish insurgency within its borders for decades, reiterated threats of economic and military retaliation.  Barzani, who is president of the Kurdish Regional Government, has said the vote is not binding, but meant to provide a mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighboring countries over the peaceful secession of the region from Iraq.  (Reuters 26.09)

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7.5  King Salman Issues Royal Decree: Women Will Drive in Saudi Arabia

On 26 September, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a Decree authorizing the issuance of drivers’ licenses for women in the Kingdom.  The Decree will take effect June 2018 for the issuance of drivers’ licenses to women.  During the preparatory period until June of 2018, the relevant agencies in the Kingdom are instructed to make all the necessary changes to the current rules and regulations to implement the order.  This also includes developing the infrastructure and institutional capacity, such as expanded licensing facilities and driver education programs, to accommodate millions of new drivers.

Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States, said, “Saudi Arabia is changing. We have dynamic leadership.  We are implementing our Vision2030 initiative through which we are empowering women and youth to play a greater role in the Saudi economy and take better advantage of the increasing opportunities that result from the Kingdom’s modernization and economic reform initiatives.”  Ambassador Khalid added, “The issue of women driving was never a religious or a cultural issue.  In fact, the majority of the members of the Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom agree that Islam does not ban women from driving.  This was a societal issue.  Today, we have a young and vibrant society and the time had come to make this move.  (KSA 26.09)

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7.6  Egypt’s Census Finds Local Population Reaches 104.2 Million

CAPMAS announced the result of the latest census on 30 September that Egypt’s population had reached 104.2 million.  Some 94.98 million live within Egypt, while 9.4 million live abroad.  The population of Egypt rose from 59.2 million in 1996 to 72.6 million in 2006 and to 94.8 million in 2017, which implies an average annual growth rate of 2.04% during the period 1996-2006 and to 2.56% during the period 2006-2017.

Census data revealed that youth aged 15 to 24 years constitute 18.2% of the total population, meaning one in five Egyptians is within that age group.  The census also revealed that 18.4 million, at 25.8% of the population, are illiterate.  Out of that figure, 10.6 million are females, at six of every 10 illiterate.  Some 68% of the population is married.  The census of 2017 was conducted through enumerating all citizens and foreigners in the country during April 2017.  (CAPMAS 30.09)

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7.7  Millions of Egyptian Students Begin Their New School Year

On 23 September, several million Egyptian students headed back to school as classes started in some schools in 11 governorates across Egypt for the new academic year 2017/18, including in Cairo, Alexandria and Upper Egypt’s Minya.  Students in the remaining 16 governorates started school the next day.

Some 22 million students are currently enrolled at Egyptian public schools for the new academic year, while over one million are enrolled at private schools.  Governors, security bodies, and the health and education ministries supervised preparations for the new school year.  The Ministry of Education has issued guidelines to school administrators to ensure the safety of students and employees and follow up on plans to prevent and treat infectious diseases among students, MENA added.

The education ministry said it would vaccinate students and ensure the safety of school meals in accordance with a plan set by the health ministry.  The ministry’s guidelines also stress the importance of students saluting the flag and singing the national anthem before the start of classes.  The ministry also said that 99% of schools’ textbooks have been printed.  Some 2.5 million university students started the academic year a week earlier.  (Ahram Online 23.09)

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7.8  New Japanese Schools in Egypt Receive 20,000 Applications

Over 20,000 applicants have registered in Japanese schools in Egypt since registration opened on 27 September, the Education Ministry announced on 30 September.  Five Japanese schools, which run from kindergarten through the third grade, will open their doors to students for the first time in October.

The project, which aims to create 100 such schools, is part of a cooperation protocol signed between Egypt and Japan in May 2017, with Japan providing the necessary technical support for the project.  The students will be attending schools in Cairo’s Shorouk City, the Fifth Settlement, New Cairo, and in the governorates of Alexandria, Menoufiya, Suez, Assiut, Beni Suef and Minya.  The new schools will teach the same curricula taught in government schools in addition to the Japanese “whole child education” system known as Tokkatsu.  Tokkatsu focuses on achieving a balanced development of “intellect, virtue and body” by ensuring academic competence, rich emotions and healthy physical development.

Parents are required to sign an agreement to spend at least 20 hours during the school year in workshops with their children at the schools.  Each class at the school is planned to comprise 40 – 45 students and runs until 17:00h, an average of three hours longer than regular schools in Egypt.  Fees for the schools will range between EGP 2,000 and EGP 4,000 ($113 to $225).  (Ahram Online 30.09)

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8.1  Enlivex Therapeutics Closes $8 Million Series B Round Led by KIP and Hadasit

Enlivex Therapeutics closed an $8 million equity financing round at a valuation of approximately $50 Million pre-closing.  Korea Investment Partners (KIP) has invested $6 million in the financing round and Hadasit Bio Holdings has co-invested $2 million.  The financing is expected to fund the commencement of Phase III clinical trials of Enlivex’s lead compound, Allocetra.  Allocetra is indicated for the prevention of Graft Vs Host Disease (GVHD) post bone-marrow transplantation.  In addition, Enlivex will continue pre-clinical and clinical development for other immunotherapy indications.

Jerusalem’s Enlivex Therapeutics is a clinical-stage immunotherapy company, developing an autologous and allogeneic drug pipeline for the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions which involve over-expression or hyper-expression of cytokines (Cytokine Release Syndrome).  This includes CAR-T cancer treatment procedures, Graft-versus-Host disease (GvHD) resulting from bone-marrow transplantations, solid organ transplantations and an assembly of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, multiple sclerosis,  and other disorders.

KIP, a member of Korea Investment Holdings Group, is a Venture Capital firm that has invested and promoted the growth of promising businesses for the past 30 years.  HBL is a holding company with interests in life sciences companies involved in medical and biotechnological research and development.  HBL is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, allowing the public access to the biotechnology field.  Most of HBL portfolio companies originate in knowhow developed at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.  (Enlivex Therapeutics 20.09)

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8.2  Temasek Leads $25 Million Investment Round in Integra Holdings

Integra Holdings announced the first closing of a $25 million investment.  Temasek, an investment company headquartered in Singapore, led the round with an investment of $15m.  They were joined by Arie Capital, with an initial investment of $2m.  The Israeli Teachers’ and Kindergarten’s Study Funds, one of Integra’s current shareholders, also participated in this financing round.  The funds raised will be used to advance Integra Holdings’ existing portfolio companies and to create new companies, based on promising technologies originating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Founded in 2012 by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of the Hebrew University, Integra Holdings’ mission is to bring the Hebrew University’s Life Science Academic Excellence to market.  Integra Holdings is a unique venture organization with a balanced portfolio of investments, based on an exclusive selection of life science companies, and focused on proprietary, first-in class innovations in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices.  Integra Holdings takes a hands-on approach by providing its portfolio companies with the strategic planning, business development and research and development guidance they need to bring their technologies to market.  (Integra Holdings 28.09)

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8.3  ElastiMed Secures Additional $1 Million in Funding

ElastiMed announced that it recently raised$1 million from a strategic investor, existing investors – The Trendlines Group and Pix Vine Capital – new private investors, and the Israeli Innovation Authority.  This represents the Company’s second round of funding, bringing total raises to$2 million to date.  Funds will be used to conduct a clinical study, regulatory filings, and to further expand the Company’s current intellectual property.

Misgav’s ElastiMed has developed a wearable medical device improving circulation in the legs for the treatment of venous and lymphatic diseases.  Based on proprietary technology and utilizing innovative smart materials, ElastiMed’s device compresses and massages the legs when stimulated by an electric pulse.  The smart sock provides patients with a comfortable, easy-to-wear, highly effective, and affordable treatment option to prevent symptoms such as swelling, blood clots, leg ulcers, and sports injuries.  (ElastiMed 25.09)

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8.4  Teva Announces Reintroduction of Generic Depo-Provera in the United States

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced the reintroduction of the generic equivalent to Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection (medroxyprogesterone acetate injectable suspension, USP) 150 mg/mL, in the United States. Medroxyprogesterone acetate injectable suspension is a progestin indicated only for the prevention of pregnancy.

Teva has been committed to strengthening its generic injectable business globally, by making continued investment in newer, higher-value generic injectable products.  With nearly 600 generic medicines available, Teva has the largest portfolio of FDA-approved generic products on the market and holds the leading position in first-to-file opportunities, with over 100 pending first-to-files in the U.S. Currently, one in seven generic prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. is filled with a Teva generic product.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is a leading global pharmaceutical company that delivers high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions used by approximately 200 million patients in over 60 markets every day.  Headquartered in Israel, Teva is the world’s largest generic medicines producer, leveraging its portfolio of more than 1,800 molecules to produce a wide range of generic products in nearly every therapeutic area.  In specialty medicines, Teva has the world-leading innovative treatment for multiple sclerosis as well as late-stage development programs for other disorders of the central nervous system, including movement disorders, migraine, pain and neurodegenerative conditions, as well as a broad portfolio of respiratory products.  (Teva 25.09)

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8.5  Teva & Nuvelution Pharma Accelerate Development of AUSTEDO Tablets for Use in Tourette Syndrome

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and San Francisco’s Nuvelution Pharma announced their partnership to develop AUSTEDO (deutetrabenazine) tablets for the treatment of tics associated with Tourette syndrome (TS) in pediatric patients in the United States.  This partnership will accelerate development of Austedo in TS, hopefully bringing a much needed new treatment option to affected young patients more quickly.

This novel agreement provides a creative risk-sharing funding framework for progressing a promising pipeline opportunity into an approved product, with a success-based investment return for Nuvelution.  Under the terms of the agreement, Nuvelution will fund and manage clinical development, driving all operational aspects of the Phase III program, which is expected to commence later this year.  Teva will lead the regulatory process and be responsible for commercialization.  Upon FDA approval of AUSTEDO in TS, Teva will pay Nuvelution a pre-agreed return on its invested capital.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is a leading global pharmaceutical company that delivers high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions used by approximately 200 million patients in over 60 markets every day.  Headquartered in Israel, Teva is the world’s largest generic medicines producer, leveraging its portfolio of more than 1,800 molecules to produce a wide range of generic products in nearly every therapeutic area.  (Teva 19.09)

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8.6  Augmedics Secures $8.3 Million in Series A Funding for Augmented-Reality Surgical Visualization System

Augmedics has secured $8.3 million in Series A funding.  Led by Davos, Switzerland-based AO Invest, which is fully funded by the non-profit AO Foundation, as well as Israeli Innovation Authority, Terra Venture Partners and other undisclosed investors. Augmedics will use the proceeds to complete research and development as well as pre-clinical and clinical trials of its ViZOR System, establish strategic distribution partnerships and seek 510(k) clearance for The ViZOR from the US. Food and Drug Administration.

In the future, the ViZOR System will leverage various sensors to collect big surgical data to process and analyze using deep learning algorithms. Ultimately, it will also make suggestions, provide alerts, and perform other surgical assistance during the procedure.

Founded in 2014, Yokneam Elite’s Augmedics develops cutting edge technologies for future surgery.  The company’s ViZOR System is an augmented reality surgical visualization solution designed to allow surgeons to see inside a patient’s anatomy during complex procedures.  First intended for use in minimally invasive spinal surgery,  The ViZOR can help improve procedures by allowing surgeons to see the patient’s spine through skin and tissue, as if they had X-ray vision, eliminating some of the limitations of minimally invasive spine surgery.  Augmedics received seed financing from TerraLab incubator, an incubator of the Israeli Innovation Authority.  (Augmedics 19.09)

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8.7  Can-Fite Files Patent Application to Treat Cytokine Release Syndrome

Petah Tikva’s Can-Fite BioPharma, a biotechnology company advancing a pipeline of proprietary small molecule drugs that address cancer, liver and inflammatory diseases, has filed a patent application to protect the use of its drugs and other ligands which target the A3 adenosine receptor (A3AR) to treat cytokine release syndrome (CRS).  CAR-T cell therapies are designed to treat certain cancers by modifying an individual patient’s own immune cells to specifically target their cancer cells. CRS, which is caused by an overactive immune response to the treatment, has been identified as a potentially severe and life-threatening side effect of CAR-T cell therapies.

While most people with CRS experience mild or moderate flu-like symptoms which are easily managed, some patients experience more severe symptoms that may lead to potentially life-threatening complications such as cardiac dysfunction, acute respiratory distress syndrome or multi-organ failure.  One recently approved CAR-T therapy shows 79% of patients receiving the treatment got CRS and 49% got severe CRS, according to the drug’s prescribing information.

Can-Fite’s platform technology utilizes the Gi protein associated A3 adenosine receptor (A3AR) as a therapeutic target. A3AR is highly expressed in inflammatory and cancer cells where low expression is found in normal cells, suggesting that the receptor could be a unique target for pharmacological intervention.  The Company’s drugs have an excellent safety profile with experience in over 1,000 patients. Piclidenoson (CF101) is expected to enter Phase III trials in two auto-immune indications and Namodenoson (CF102) completed patient enrollment in a Phase II liver cancer trial and is slated to enter Phase II for the treatment of NAFLD/NASH.  (Can-Fite 18.09)

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8.8  Therapix’s First-in-Class Therapy Demonstrates Reversal of Age-Related Cognitive Impairment

Therapix Biosciences announced new pre-clinical data generated in the Company’s development program for the treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI.  Therapix’s proprietary ultra-low dose tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) drug candidate (THX-ULD01) significantly reversed age-related cognitive impairment in old mice.  The pre-clinical animal study was designed and conducted by Professor Yosef Sarne of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

In the study, old female mice (24-month-old) were injected once with 0.002 mg/kg of THC, which is 3-4 orders of magnitudes lower than doses that induce the conventional cannabinoid effects in mice.  These mice performed significantly better than vehicle-treated old mice, and performed similarly to naive young mice aged two months, in six different behavioral assays that measured various aspects of memory and learning.  The beneficial effect of THC lasted for at least seven weeks.

Givatayim’s Therapix Biosciences is a specialty clinical-stage pharmaceutical company led by an experienced team of senior executives and scientists.  Their focus is on creating and enhancing a portfolio of technologies and assets based on cannabinoid pharmaceuticals.  With this focus, the company is currently engaged in two internal drug development programs based on repurposing an FDA approved synthetic cannabinoid (dronabinol): THX-TS01 targets the treatment of Tourette syndrome; and THX-ULD01 targets the high-value and under-served market of mild cognitive impairments.  (Therapix 27.09)

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8.9  Check-Cap Announces Filing of CE Mark Registration for C-Scan

Check-Cap, engaged in the development of C-Scan, an ingestible capsule for preparation-free, colorectal cancer screening, announced that it has filed for the CE Mark registration of C-Scan. Data from the multi-center clinical investigation to support the submission showed safety and encouraging results for detecting patients with polyps in an un-prepped colon.  The objective of the study was to assess safety and the clinical performance of C-Scan in detecting patients with polyps.  The three-center trial enrolled 66 patients, with a mean age of 59 years.  Following capsule ingestion, subjects swallowed small doses of contrast agent and fiber supplements with each meal throughout capsule passage.  Both confirmatory colonoscopy, performed by an independent investigator, and C-Scan review, performed by a central review group, were blinded to results.

Isfiya’s Check-Cap is a clinical-stage medical diagnostics company developing C-Scan®, the first capsule-based system for preparation-free colorectal cancer screening.  Utilizing innovative ultra-low dose X-ray and wireless communication technologies, the capsule generates information on the contours of the inside of the colon as it passes naturally.  This information is used to create a 3D map of the colon, which allows physicians to look for polyps and other abnormalities.  Designed to improve the patient experience and increase the willingness of individuals to participate in recommended colorectal cancer screening, C-Scan removes many frequently-cited barriers, such as laxative bowel preparation, invasiveness and sedation.  The C-Scan system is currently not cleared for marketing in any jurisdiction.  (Check-Cap 27.09)

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8.10  Fidmi Medical Raises $2 Million from B. Braun Melsungen

Misgav’s Fidmi Medical, a portfolio company of The Trendlines Group, announced that it received an investment of$2 million from B. Braun Melsungen.  Fidmi Medical has developed a new, low-profile enteral feeding device (nutrition through a tube) that overcomes the drawbacks of existing solutions.  Current feeding tubes are changed often due to clogging, degradation or dislodgement.  The Fidmi PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) device has a replaceable inner tube that keeps the feeding line fresh and prevents clogging.  Its soft, stable internal structure prevents unexpected dislodgements.  Upon removal, the internal structure gently disassembles to eliminate damage to the stoma tract and surrounding tissue, preventing unnecessary hospital visits and dramatically improving patient quality of life.  Investment funds will be used to complete clinical trials and prepare for market entry.  (Fidmi Medical 26.09)

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8.11  Atox Bio Continues Development of Reltecimod for Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections

Atox Bio has been awarded the next option on a performance-based contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development of Reltecimod in patients with Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections (NSTI).  The award of this option brings the current commitment from BARDA to $20 million.  The contract covers the pivotal Phase 3 study of Reltecimod, manufacturing and regulatory activities.  Reltecimod (AB103) is a rationally designed peptide that binds to the CD28 co-stimulatory receptor to modulate the host’s immune response to severe infections.  By limiting, but not inhibiting, the body’s acute inflammatory response, Reltecimod helps control the cytokine storm that could quickly lead to morbidity and mortality.  Reltecimod received Orphan Drug status from the FDA and EMA as well as Fast Track designation.  NSTIs, commonly referred to as “flesh eating bacteria”, represent the most severe, rare types of infections involving the skin, skin structure and soft tissues.

Ness Ziona’s Atox Bio is a late stage clinical biotechnology company with operations in the US and Israel that develops novel immune modulators for critically ill patients with severe infections.  Atox Bio is exploring the potential of Reltecimod in NSTI and additional critical care indications such as Acute Kidney Injury.  Atox Bio is supported by an investment syndicate including SR One, OrbiMed and Lundbeckfonden Ventures.  (Atox Bio 26.09)

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8.12  Evogene & Rahan Meristem Report Positive Results Addressing Black Sigatoka Disease

Evogene and Rahan Meristem announced positive results in 2nd year field trials in banana demonstrating efficacy against Black Sigatoka disease.  The parties also announced their agreement to utilize revolutionary genome editing technology to leverage genomic knowledge gained from the field trials for the joint development of a potentially safer and healthier product, for both growers and consumers.  The end product is targeted to be classified as non-GMO, which might significantly reduce regulatory barriers and improve market access.

Utilizing its predictive biology computational platform, Evogene has successfully identified a number of genes, mostly of wild banana origin, predicted to have high efficacy against Black Sigatoka.  Following these predictive results, Rahan validated the efficacy of several genes in two field trials, both of which exhibited an effective reduction of disease symptoms on banana trees.  Rahan is continuing with gene validation, with 3rd year field trial results anticipated late next year.  In parallel, this proprietary information will be the “blue-print” for the parties genomic editing efforts, with Evogene identifying specific genome edits expected to impact disease resistance against Black Sigatoka, and Rahan performing the genome editing and field validation.

Rehovot’s Evogene is a leading biotechnology company for the improvement of crop productivity for the food, feed and fuel industries.  The Company operates in three key target markets: improved seed traits (addressing yield increase, tolerance to environmental stresses and resistance to insects and diseases); innovative ag-chemicals (developing novel herbicide solutions for weed control); and ag-biologicals.

Rosh HaNikra’s Rahan Meristem is an agro-biotechnology company with more than 40 years of experience in plant propagation and breeding.  They produce millions of plants every year and export to more than 20 countries around the world.  (Evogene 26.09)

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8.13  Mazor Robotics Announces CE Mark Approval for the Mazor X Surgical Assurance Platform

Mazor Robotics announced CE Mark approval for its Mazor X Surgical Assurance Platform.  The CE Mark allows Mazor and its commercial partner, Medtronic, to market the Mazor X in the European Union, as well as other countries that recognize the CE Mark.  Their commercial partner for the Mazor X, Medtronic, will be responsible for marketing and selling the system in Europe.  Caesarea’s Mazor Robotics believes in healing through innovation by developing and introducing revolutionary robotic technologies and products aimed at redefining the gold standard of quality care.  Mazor Robotics Guidance Systems enable surgeons to conduct spine and brain procedures in an accurate and secure manner.  (Mazor 20.09)

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8.14  Algatech Offers Organic, Non-GMO Natural Astaxanthin

Kibbutz Ketura’s Algatech (Algatechnologies) announced its 100% organic Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae powder and astaxanthin oleoresin have been granted non-GMO verification by the Non-GMO Project Inc.  Algatech is the first and only astaxanthin manufacturer to have achieved this extraordinary verification.

AstaPure natural astaxanthin is sourced from the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, cultivated in the Arava desert, an ideal location for microalgae cultivation due to its clean air, stable climate conditions and intense sunlight all year round.  The eco-friendly, GMP-certified closed-system technology allows for the production of the highest quality of microalgae products.  Pure, non-GMO algae biomass is essential for meeting regulation requirements.  Since developers and manufacturers of supplements, foods and beverages cannot possibly test for all potential impurities, it is critical to partner with a trusted supplier.  (Algatechnologies 19.09)

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8.15  Phytech Raises $11 Million to enable Scaling Plant-Based Digital-Farming Deployment

Phytech announced the closing of series B investment led by Tencent Holdings Limited, with participation of existing investors Syngenta Ventures and others.  The Industrial Internet of Things is rapidly transforming farming practices, where digitalization, smart sensing, and predictive applications are now a necessity for farmers to optimize production in order to meet future global food demands.

Phytech help farmers address these challenges by constantly sensing, communicating and analyzing plant demands through its proprietary IoT and AI platform. This data provides farmers real-time recommendations through simple-to-use farm management applications and helps them increase crop yields while decreasing resource inputs. Phytech’s machine learning capabilities identifies water stress by means of direct plant monitoring and is the most accurate way to make irrigation decisions, the heart of the cultivation process.  The investment will support the on-going growth and commercial deployment in current and new geographies.

Kibbutz Yad Mordecai’s Phytech is a Digital farming company that provides Plant-Demand practice applications. Powered by advanced data analytics, machine learning, and artificial plant intelligence, Phytech provides growers easy-to-use applications to achieve better yields, healthier crops and higher profits. Phytech’s revolutionary solution is deployed by leading growers worldwide.  (Phytech 31.09)

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8.16  Magenta Medical Secures $15 Million in Series B Financing

Magenta Medical, a medical device company in the field of trans catheter heart failure therapy, announced the successful closing of its $15m series B financing round.  The syndicate of investors is comprised of Abiomed, a leader in trans catheter heart pumps, Pitango Venture Capital, among Israel’s leading venture capital groups, JAFCO Co., Japan’s leading venture capital firm, and a group of industry luminaries and cardiovascular experts.

Founded in October, 2012, Magenta Medical is a privately held company that is engaged in the development of novel device solutions for the treatment of acute heart failure.  Magenta Medical has developed a temporary venous catheter-based therapy for hospital-admitted patients with Acute Decompensated Heart Failure (ADHF). Its novel therapeutic principle is aimed at addressing a pathophysiological core element of acute heart failure – renal venous congestion and its deleterious effects on renal and cardiac function.  The experimental animal data of the device are compelling and in line with a vast and growing body of clinical and experimental evidence supporting the therapeutic concept.  The company is currently conducting a European multicenter clinical trial on the path to obtaining the CE Mark.  (Magenta Medical 28.09)

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9.1  Kaymera Joins the VMware Mobile Security Alliance to Provide Advanced Mobile Defense Solutions

Kaymera Technologies announced that it has joined the VMware Mobile Security Alliance.  Kaymera’ s Adaptive Mobile Threat Defense (AMTD) solution, uses advanced machine learning and risk analytics to provide real time, risk-based and context-aware threat detection.  Now, thanks to this integration between Kaymera’ s AMTD and the VMware Workspace ONE digital workspace platform powered by VMware Air Watch technology, the connected solutions can apply effective risk based threat mitigation in real time and actively protect corporate assets.  Kaymera’ s AMTD with VMware Workspace ONE can automatically stop access to sensitive information on high-risk mobile devices to protect any organization from contamination, and enforce security and compliance policies based on the level of risk identified in real-time by Kaymera’ s advanced Contextual-Aware Risk Engine (CARE).  The solution adds advanced threat detection and mitigation capabilities on top of VMware Workspace ONE mobile management for comprehensive mobile security.

Herzliya’s Kaymera offers government agencies, enterprises and SMEs worldwide the most powerful and versatile Mobile Threat Defense platform. With a contextual, self-learning risk analytics engine and multi-layer mitigation capabilities at its core, the platform can detect, prevent and protect against any mobile threat – in real time. Our rich portfolio ranges from hardened mobile devices serving the most sensitive personnel, to powerful mobile threat defense apps continuously protecting all other organizational assets. Kaymera balances mobile functionality, usability and productivity with uncompromising security – optimally engaging mitigation measures on demand per the specific threat and employee’s context.  (Kaymera 27.09)

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9.2  Enacomm & CallVU Bring Innovative Customer Engagement to Financial Institutions in North America

With smartphone penetration getting closer to 80% of the mobile market in the United States, banks, credit unions, and payments companies now have the opportunity to tap into an era of digital service for calling customers.  Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Enacomm, a leading provider of intelligent customer self-service and authentication applications, announced its partnership with CallVU, the market leader in Digital Engagement Solutions.  Together, they will empower businesses to drive calling customers to digital self-service, significantly improving operational efficiency and customer experience.

CallVU’s platform expands self-service with mobile digital engagement, diverting customers from voice calls to digital self-service.  With CallVU, organizations can maximize the efficiency of digital assets, such as existing mobile and website apps, and serve them to callers during a live call.  This will open new revenue streams, achieve more digital usage, reduce costs and enable faster service resolution.  CallVU’s out-of-the-box integration with Enacomm enables financial institutions to naturally extend their IVR proposition into a digital experience in a rapid time to market, leveraging profound IT implementation benefits.

Ra’anana’s CallVU offers an innovative Mobile Digital Engagement Platform blending rich digital and interactive media with the voice channel. CallVU drives simple interactions to self-service and enhances meaningful interactions to a branch like experience. The company addresses the business need of diverting customers to digital self-service, resulting in reduced call volumes, higher utilization of existing digital assets, and greater customer experience. CallVU was named a Gartner Cool Vendor in Customer Service CRM in 2016.  (Enacomm 25.09)

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9.3  HPE Chooses Mellanox Spectrum to Power StoreFabric M-series Switches

Mellanox Technologies announced the Mellanox Spectrum Ethernet Switch has been selected by HPE to power their StoreFabric M-series storage networking switches.  The solution delivers the world’s fastest and most efficient storage network for the enterprise and cloud.  The HPE StoreFabric M-series switches are specifically optimized for storage and bring unmatched performance and value. HPE’s M-series product family offers a broad range of models with unique form factors and flexible port configurations.  Combined with predictable performance, low latency and zero packet loss, HPE brings an entire family of storage optimized fabrics to market designed to meet the needs of the modern data center.  Spectrum is part of Mellanox’s Ethernet Storage Fabric (ESF) solution, which combines container support for storage-aware software with low latency, zero packet loss hardware to form the ideal storage networking platform.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies (NASDAQ: MLNX) is a leading supplier of end-to-end InfiniBand and Ethernet smart interconnect solutions and services for servers and storage. Mellanox interconnect solutions increase data center efficiency by providing the highest throughput and lowest latency, delivering data faster to applications and unlocking system performance capability. Mellanox offers a choice of fast interconnect products: adapters, switches, software and silicon that accelerate application runtime and maximize business results for a wide range of markets including high performance computing, enterprise data centers, Web 2.0, cloud, storage and financial services.  (Mellanox 25.09)

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9.4  ECI Drives Network Transformation for Utilities Across Europe

ECI announced the continued successes of its ElastiGRID solution for utilities and strategic industries.  ECI is traditionally strong in this sector, but in the past year has been extremely successful in helping several large utilities across Europe update their legacy networks to modern, packet based solutions, which provide a robust and secure framework for the future.  Utility customers around the globe are modernizing their networks, and turning to ECI as they phase out legacy telecommunications systems.  ECI’s scalable, modular architecture and flexible support of ‘any technology mix’ offer customers a customized, risk-free transition to modern networking that can last well into the future.  The transition to modern networking solutions is not as easy for utilities with many legacy systems and protocols in place. ECI’s solutions ensure that legacy services, e.g. SCADA, continue to be transmitted natively, in line with industry recommendations.

Petah Tikva’s ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC network solutions to CSPs, critical infrastructures as well as data center operators.  Along with its long-standing, industry-proven packet-optical transport, ECI offers a variety of SDN/NFV applications, end-to-end network management, a comprehensive cybersecurity solution, and a range of professional services.  ECI’s ELASTIC solutions ensure open, future-proof, and secure communications.  With ECI, customers have the luxury of choosing a network that can be tailor-made to their needs today while being flexible enough to evolve with the changing needs of tomorrow.  (ECI 27.09)

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9.5  Nova’s Advanced XPS Solution Selected by the World’s Leading Foundry

Nova announced that its most advanced XPS platform was selected by the world’s leading Foundry for inline applications to be deployed in its advanced technology nodes.  Revenue from this order is expected to be recognized during the third quarter of 2017.

The VeraFlex III XF is the latest generation of the VF XPS series, which offers superior sensitivity to sub-angstrom thickness and composition characterization used for monitoring critical processes such as atomic layer deposition (ALD) at the most advanced Logic nodes.  The VeraFlex product family of in-line XPS metrology tools is a critical component to almost every semiconductor manufacturer’s process control strategy as they advance to more complex structures.  With ever-improving productivity, precision and sensitivity, the VeraFlex III is increasingly being utilized in more production lines, adding more applications for both thickness and composition measurement steps.

Rehovot’s Nova delivers continuous innovation by providing advanced metrology solutions for the semiconductor manufacturing industry.  Deployed with the world’s largest integrated-circuit manufacturers, Nova’s products deliver state-of-the-art, high-performance metrology solutions for effective process control throughout the semiconductor fabrication lifecycle.  Nova’s product portfolio, which combines high-precision hardware and cutting-edge software, supports the development and production of the most advanced devices in today’s high-end semiconductor market.  Nova’s technical innovation and market leadership enable customers to improve process performance, enhance products’ yields and accelerate time to market.  (Nova 27.09)

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9.6  Elbit Systems Awarded $300 Million Command & Control Systems Contract by Asia-Pacific Customer

Elbit Systems was awarded an approximately$300 million contract, for the supply of command and control systems to a customer in Asia-Pacific.  The project will be performed over the next three years.

Haifa’s Elbit Systems is an international high technology company engaged in a wide range of defense, homeland security and commercial programs throughout the world.  The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), unmanned aircraft systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, signal intelligence systems, data links and communications systems, radios and cyber-based systems.  The Company also focuses on the upgrading of existing platforms, developing new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial applications and providing a range of support services, including training and simulation systems.  (Elbit Systems 27.09)

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9.7  Elbit Systems Awarded a $240 Million Contract to Provide an Array of Defense Electronic Systems to Africa

Elbit Systems was awarded a contract, in an amount of $240 million, to provide a wide array of defense electronic systems to a country in Africa.  The contract, which will be performed over a two-year period, is comprised of Directed Infra-red Counter Measure (DIRCM) systems to protect aircraft from shoulder fired missiles (Man Portable Air Defense Systems -MANPADS), based on passive IR (Infrared) systems, and includes Missile Warning Systems (MWS), radio and communication systems, land systems, mini-UAS systems and helicopters upgrade.

Haifa’s Elbit Systems is an international high technology company engaged in a wide range of defense, homeland security and commercial programs throughout the world.  The Company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), unmanned aircraft systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, signal intelligence systems, data links and communications systems, radios and cyber-based systems.  (Elbit Systems 26.09)

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9.8  Utah’s FrontRunner Trains Enjoy High Bandwidth Wi-Fi with RADWIN’s Train-to-Ground Solution

RADWIN announced that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has approved the system acceptance testing for FrontRunner commuter train Wi-Fi systems delivered by RADWIN.  The project was implemented by Contract Systems Integrator, The GBS Group of Virginia Beach, VA.  UTA and GBS chose RADWIN’s FiberinMotion Train-to-Ground solution to deliver free high-speed Wi-Fi to passengers onboard its FrontRunner trains.  UTA’s FrontRunner runs along an 89-mile corridor and serves Weber, Davis, Utah and Salt Lake Counties; RADWIN’s trackside radios were deployed approximately 2 miles/ 3.2 Km apart along 30 miles/48 Km of the corridor north of Salt Lake City.  FiberinMotion was chosen to replace a low-throughput, legacy radio system and was integrated by the GBS Group – RADWIN’s partner and system integrator – in conjunction with a cellular based solution from 21Net.

Tel Aviv’s RADWIN is a leading provider of Point-to-Multipoint and Point-to-Point broadband wireless solutions.  Deployed in over 170 countries, RADWIN’s solutions deliver broadband on the move for trains, vehicles and vessels.  (RADWIN 26.09)

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9.9  Partner Selects Atrinet’s NetACE Platform to Automate Business and Residential FTTH Service Delivery

Atrinet announced that Partner Communications, one of the largest service providers in Israel, has selected Atrinet’s NetACE to provide an efficient way to automate, optimize and assure its network services across multiple network layers and its multi-vendor network equipment.  NetACE will play the pivotal role in the next-generation Partner Communications OSS solution to create seamless real-time network automation and SDN programmability of the Carrier Ethernet and MPLS business network environment.  This will accommodate substantial traffic growth and rapid increase in the number of business and residential customers Partner Communications faces today.  NetACE will enable Partner Communications to significantly bolster responsiveness to business demands by automating the delivery of L2 VPN and L3 VPN business services and FTTH residential services across its large multivendor MPLS and Carrier Ethernet network infrastructure leveraging open REST APIs of NetACE.

Hod HaSharon’s Atrinet is an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) of elastic network & service management solutions for hybrid legacy, NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and Software Defined (SDN) networks to accelerate service delivery and empower network operations.  Atrinet’s solutions have been deployed by the largest service providers and enterprises driving unrivaled multi-vendor service agility and speed through an innovative model-based customization approach.  (Atrinet 28.09)

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9.10  MySize Awarded its First Patent

My Size has been awarded its first patent.  Russia Patent No. 2628497 was granted to the Company on August 17, 2017 for its Measurement of a Body Part smartphone application.  The patent expires 20 years from the patent filing date, or 20 January 2033.

The Measurement of a Body Part application was designed for the online apparel market.  It enables shoppers to always choose the right size garment on a retailer’s website using the accurate measurements taken with their smartphone of an area of their body.  The application first analyzes the recorded information using big data, and then recommends the appropriate size of an article of clothing the shopper has selected for consideration on a retailer’s website.  All of MySize’s technology applications use the algorithms of smartphone, rather than the smartphone camera, to record and document body measurements.  This maintains and ensures customer privacy.

Airport City’s MySize has developed a unique measurement technology based on sophisticated algorithms and cutting-edge technology with broad applications including the apparel, e-commerce DIY, shipping and parcel delivery industries.  This proprietary technology is driven by several patent-pending algorithms which are able to calculate and record measurements in a variety of novel ways.  (My Size 26.09)

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9.11  Asset Health Management Application Developed by NYPA and mPrest Wins Best of New York Prize

An asset health management application co-developed by the New York Power Authority and mPrest was recognized with the 2017 ‘Best of New York Award,’ for the best data analytics – business intelligence project of the year.  mPrest and NYPA, the largest state public power organization in the U.S., received the “Best Data Analytics – Business Intelligence Project for 2017” award for mPrest’s Transformer Monitoring & Diagnostic application software, an application that performs real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance of power transformers, which are essential to reliable distribution of electricity from power plants to customers.  The application has demonstrated great results and enhanced operating efficiencies at NYPA’s Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, one of the US’s largest sources of renewable energy. mPrest’s Asset Health Management product has since been rolled out at NYPA’s Blenheim Gilboa Pumped-Storage Power Project and 500 MW plants in Queens, N.Y.

Following testing using historical performance data by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) that proved the mPrest platform effective, NYPA is looking at additional applications for this technology. EPRI conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery, and use of electricity for the benefit of the public.  The application revolutionizes the way utilities maintain and support their critical assets. It gives utility operators, like NYPA, a complete real-time picture of transformers’ health with forward looking prediction, and recommended maintenance actions required to optimize their operation.  Using advanced and proven trend analysis and abnormal behavior algorithms, utility operators can detect anomalies in operation and predict equipment failure.  The software coordinates strategic maintenance of internal systems, avoids unplanned outages, reduces operational costs and supports reliable power supplies for customers.

Petah Tikva’s mPrest is a global provider of mission-critical monitoring, control and big data analytics software.  Leveraging the power of the Industrial IoT, mPrest’s integrative “System of Systems” is a proven catalyst for digital business transformation.  Its management solution has been deployed in next-gen IoE (Internet of Energy) applications for power utilities, such as Asset Health Management, Distributed Energy Resource Management and Critical Infrastructure Protection, as well as innovative management applications for water utilities, smart cities, defense and homeland security.  (mPrest 26.09)

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9.12  AudioCodes Introduces 445HD IP Phone for Microsoft 365

AudioCodes announced the launch of the 445HD IP phone. A significant addition to AudioCodes’ 400HD series of IP phones, the 445HD model is designed to deliver an enhanced user experience with full Microsoft unified communications (UC) integration.  The 445HD model includes a large, high resolution 4.3″ color screen with programmable keys and an integrated LCD sidecar that displays speed dial contacts and their presence status.  It delivers enhanced voice quality through AudioCodes’ underlying voice processing technology that includes native support for Microsoft’s wideband SILK codec. The 445HD supports both Bluetooth and USB for connecting external headsets.  Like all members of the AudioCodes 400HD IP phone family, the 445HD can be managed from a single central location using the One Voice Operations Center (OVOC) management solution. OVOC delivers full life-cycle management of devices within an enterprise deployment including automatic provisioning, configuration, troubleshooting and voice quality monitoring.

Lod’s AudioCodes designs, develops and sells advanced Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and converged VoIP and Data networking products and applications to Service Providers and Enterprises.  AudioCodes is a VoIP technology market leader, focused on converged VoIP and data communications, and its products are deployed globally in Broadband, Mobile, Enterprise networks and Cable.  The Company provides a range of innovative, cost-effective products including Media Gateways, Multi-Service Business Routers, Session Border Controllers (SBC), Residential Gateways, IP Phones, Media Servers, Value Added Applications and Professional Services.  (AudioCodes 21.09)

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9.13  Visuality Systems Releases Java Client ‘Server Message Block’ (SMB) Supporting The Latest SMB Dialects

Visuality Systems has taken the initiative to develop and provide Java developers with the latest implementation of the Microsoft SMB file sharing connectivity, jNQ.  Written in pure Java, jNQ is a client software library, which is available through its API and works in any Java environment starting from 1.4.  For nearly two decades, the open source JCIFS, developed by Chris Hertel, was the industry’s de facto JAVA SMB standard supporting SMB1 and utilized by thousands of entities.  The recently released jNQ allows secured file sharing over the encrypted and most recent SMB 3.1.1.

The drive to develop the new Java solution has come from perceived demand by developers to progress to a protected SMB implementation following the WannaCry and Petya cyber-attacks.  jNQ prevents such malicious attacks by means of Message signing, Encryption, Active Directory authentication, Kerberos authentication and Pre-logon integrity.

With 20 years of experience in the SMB market, Yokneam Elite’s Visuality Systems focuses on bringing SMB connectivity to the Microsoft eco-system in the Embedded and Storage markets.  The company offers server and client SMBv3.1.1 implementations for virtually any non-Windows operating system written in C and Java, supporting the latest Microsoft SMB dialects.  (Visuality Systems 28.09)

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9.14  VoiceSense Introduces Groundbreaking Speech-Based Solution for Big Data Predictive Analytics

VoiceSense announced that the company has launched its SEAL (Speech Enterprise Analytics Leverage) solution, a groundbreaking speech-based solution for big data predictive analytics.  VoiceSense’s SEAL solution brings an innovative new approach to big data predictive analytics by focusing on the behavior tendencies of customers rather than their demographic and historical information.  Through the analysis of prosodic (non-content) speech parameters of a customer, such as intonation, pace, stress and more, SEAL can accurately predict future consumer behavior of a customer.  SEAL significantly shortens and improves decision-making processes and can be applied by an enterprise to a range of voice-based customer interaction scenarios to improve risk assessment, expand sales and increase customer retention.  The solution also has additional applications for health and wellness monitoring as well as providing human resources personal profiles of candidates and staff.

Herzliya’s VoiceSense is an innovative provider of speech-based solutions for big data predictive analytics. The company’s technology analyzes voice-based customer interactions in order to improve core enterprise activities – improving risk assessment, expanding sales and increasing customer retention. VoiceSense’s prosodic (non-content) speech analysis offers an innovative, language independent, biometric concept for predictive analysis enabling typical speech patterns to be linked to personal characteristics, which allow the accurate prediction of future consumer behavior.  (VoiceSense 28.09)

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10.1  World Economic Forum Lauds Israeli Competitiveness

Israel ranked 16th on the new World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2017-2018, improving its position by eight slots from last year.  This is the first time Israel ranks among the index’s top 20 nations.  The report noted that the two elements jeopardizing the Israeli economy’s growth were government bureaucracy and high tax rates.  Israel’s overall score on government bureaucracy dropped to 21.6, compared to 18.6 last year, indicating an increase in the burden regulation and bureaucracy impose on the economy.

The report states that Israel has managed to maintain its position among world’s top three innovative countries, noting that Israel earned its reputation as a startup nation over the huge number of inventions and innovations to its name since its inception, achieved despite all the challenges it faces.  Israel also climbed 15 slots in the WEF’s Technology Readiness Index, from 22nd last year to seventh this year. The index measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology.  Other indices included in the competitiveness report ranked Israel 11th in terms of financial market development, up from 19th last year, and 15th in terms of business sophistication, up from the 21st last year.

Among Israel’s neighbors, Jordan ranked 65th, Egypt placed 100th and Lebanon was slated 105th.  Yemen ranked 137th, making it the least competitive country on the list.  (Various 28.09)

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10.2  Over the Past 5 Years, 145 Israeli Startups Raised Capital Through Crowdfunding

Figures published on 28 September by the IVC Research Center show increasing use of crowdfunding in high tech.  IVC reports that 145 startups have raised a total of $197 million through crowdfunding over the past five years.  The figures also show that 17 of the companies that utilized crowdfunding, 12%, have had successful exits.  Israel currently has nine different platforms accommodating investments in technology companies through crowdfunding, two of which are foreign.  The largest player in this market is the OurCrowd equity crowdfunding platform.

OurCrowd accounted for 58% of the number of crowdfunding investments and 81% of the total amount raised through this instrument.  IVC notes that 2015 was the best year for crowdfunding, with 50 startups raising an aggregate of $57 million through crowdfunding out of $298 million in total capital raised by those companies, meaning that crowdfunding accounted for 19% of all the capital raised by those companies.

Some 36 companies raised $34 million through crowdfunding in the first half of 2017 out of a total of $173 million raised by those companies, meaning that crowdfunding’s share was again 19%.  (Globes 25.09)

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10.3  Israel’s Trade with Russia is Booming

Trade between Russia and Israel has grown this year by 25%, officials from both countries revealed, amid complications with other Russian trading partners.  The first six months of 2017 saw increased trade between the nations of about $380 million over the corresponding period last year.  The figures were released recently at a conference in Moscow about Russian-Israel relations.  The Israeli Russian Business Council cited that the mutual attractiveness of Israeli businesses to Russian counterparts explains the increase in trade between Russia and Israel.

The increase comes amid tightening cooperation between Israel and Russia on security issues connected with Syria, where the Russian government is engaged in propping up the beleaguered regime of the country’s president, Bashar Assad.  Its involvement in Syria has complicated Russia’s relations with Turkey, which has aided some forces fighting Assad in Syria’s civil war dating to 2011, and soured trade between those nations.  Separately, Russia’s trade with the European Union and the United States has also suffered due to sanctions imposed by the West over its invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and annexation of land.

During that period, Russia’s relations with Israel, which have remained neutral both on the Syrian issue and Ukraine, have noticeably improved, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveling to Moscow at least five times in the space of one year.  The strengthening of the ruble, which had lost half its value against the dollar due to dropping oil prices, has also helped Russia’s ability to conduct international trade.  (JTA 01.10)

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10.4  Heart Disease Mortality in Israel on Steady Decline

The Israel Heart Society published information on heart disease in Israel for World Heart Day.  The data showed that heart attacks are the second leading cause of death in Israel.  Some 250,000 Electrocardiograms, 45,000 cardiac catheterizations, 5,000 heart transplants and 4,000 open heart surgeries are just part of what 850 cardiologists perform throughout the country – generating data for a large-scale study conducted from 2000 to 2016 in 23 hospitals across the country.  The study indicates that about 25,000 cases of myocardial infarction (commonly known as a heart attack) occur annually in Israel and constitute the second leading cause of death – after cancer.

Despite the high number of people suffering from heart disease, Israel is one of the only countries in the Western world to have managed to reduce its mortality rate to levels that no longer make it the leading cause of death, thanks to the advanced cardiac care given to patients.  The data show that mortality rate from heart disease has decreased by more than 50% over the past 15 years.  For example, in 2000 about 20% of patients died within a month after suffering a heart attack, whereas in 2016 that figure dropped to 7.5%.

Gender-wise, over the years, there has been a slight decrease in the number of women who suffer from heart disease, whereas the number of male sufferers slightly increased, as they continue to be the majority patients admitted for it: 79% male in contrast to 21% female.  The average age of those suffering from a first heart attack also favors women: 64 for men, compared to 74 for women. The research explains that one of the main reasons for heart attacks occurring a full decade later among women on average is due to hormonal changes they experience during in menopause.  According to the data, 60% of patients with severe heart disease will die within 10 years due to inadequate effects of medication, smoking and an unhealthy lifestyle.  (Various 24.09)

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10.5  Israel Ranked 19th Most ‘Food Secure’ by UN Global Hunger Report

The United Nations ranked Israel in the 19th spot in its 2017 report on how well countries can feed their populations.  The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report ranked more than 180 countries.  The report noted, however, that Israel’s ability to feed its own people was largely dependent on imports of food, grains and the energy sources required to sustain large portion of its agricultural sector.  Without this dependence, primarily on imports from the United States, Israel would be ranked higher on the index.  (Israel Hayom 01.10)

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11.1  LEBANON:  Outlook on Banking System Changed to Stable on Political Stability & Growth

On 21 September, Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook on Lebanon’s banking system to stable from negative, reflecting greater political stability and an improvement in economic growth.  The outlook expresses Moody’s expectation of how bank creditworthiness will evolve in Lebanon over the next 12-18 months.

Moody’s forecasts real GDP growth of 2.8% in 2017 and 3.0% in 2018, up from 1.8% in 2016 because of the positive spillovers from renewed political stability.  The election of a president in October 2016 and the formation of a new cabinet ended a multi-year political vacuum.  In mid-June 2017 parliament approved a revised electoral law, clearing the way for the long-delayed legislative election to be finally held in May 2018.

“After years of deterioration, the operating environment is stabilizing,” said Alexios Philippides, an Assistant Vice President at Moody’s.  “However, economic output will continue to be constrained by deteriorating basic infrastructure and businesses will defer investment decisions until there is further clarity on the political situation.”  Therefore, the rating agency expects modest credit growth of 6% over the outlook period, similar to 2016, driven by the central bank’s support packages.

Moody’s expects Lebanese banks to continue attracting a steady flow of customer deposits.  This will enable the banking sector to finance both the government deficit, which the agency expects will average 9% of GDP in 2017 and 2018, and the private sector.

Banks’ high sovereign exposure, around half of banks’ assets in June 2017, will increase.  This exposure links banks’ creditworthiness to that of the government, which also exposes them to high interest rate risk.

Moody’s expects banks’ regulatory capital ratios to rise over the outlook horizon as higher Basel III capital requirements are phased in by end-2018, such as a minimum Tier 1 ratio of 13%.  Lebanese banks’ capital buffers will remain modest, however, in view of their very high exposure to the sovereign and the volatile operating environment in Lebanon.

Banks’ profitability will be challenged by a higher effective tax rate and limited new business.  However, Moody’s expects new provisioning needs to be low because banks used large one-off revenues in 2016 to book substantial collective provisions.  Despite a limited capacity to do so, the Lebanese government has a strong incentive to support its banks, as it relies on the banking system for the bulk of its financing needs.  (Moody’s 21.09)

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11.2  SAUDI ARABIA:  Moody’s Assigns A1 Ratings to Saudi Arabia’s Global Notes

On 29 September, Moody’s Investors Service assigned senior unsecured debt ratings of A1 to the global notes issued by the Government of Saudi Arabia under its global medium-term notes (MTN) program.

Ratings Rationale

The senior unsecured debt ratings mirror the Government of Saudi Arabia’s A1 long-term issuer rating.

The Notes, which are issued under the kingdom’s existing global MTN program are direct, unconditional and unsecured obligations of the Government of Saudi Arabia (the issuer), and rank pari passu with all other unsecured external debt obligations of the issuer.

Saudi Arabia’s A1 stable long-term issuer rating reflects very high levels of fiscal and economic strength, high institutional strength, and a moderate susceptibility to event risks.  Strong growth in oil revenues until the oil price shock in 2014 allowed for the build-up of a sizeable asset cushion and sharp debt reduction.  Although the decline in oil prices pushed the budget balance into sizable deficits, eroding the government’s reserves and prompting it to issue bonds on the international market for the first time in 2016, the fiscal position remains strong.

Despite rising funding requirements over the rating horizon, in Moody’s view the government has access to ample sources of liquidity, both from domestic and international capital markets and is unlikely to encounter problems financing fiscal deficits.  While foreign exchange reserves have fallen in light of large current account deficits since 2015, they remain sizable, at $494 billion (equivalent to around 74% of GDP) as of July 2017.  External debt is rising, but from a low base, and Moody’s expects annual external debt repayments to remain significantly below the critical threshold of 100% of foreign exchange reserves over the coming years.

Saudi Arabia’s credit challenges include the economy’s high dependence on oil, as well as a rigid government spending structure and government revenues that are vulnerable to oil price volatility. Saudi Arabia has historically experienced strong growth rates, but real GDP growth has decelerated since 2014, mainly due to fiscal consolidation in response to lower oil prices as well as crude oil production cuts.  Low growth illustrates both the ongoing economic pressures on economic strength from the oil price shock, but also the fiscal challenges given the plan to get to a balanced budget by 2020.

The government has announced ambitious and comprehensive plans to diversify the economy and government finances in its National Vision 2030.  However, significant implementation challenges remain, and Moody’s thinks there is a risk that the reform progress might slow down in a scenario of higher oil prices and/or growing public discontent. In Moody’s view socio-economic challenges are visible in strong population growth and high unemployment, and the rating also incorporates an element of geopolitical risk, driven by regional instability and the country’s strategic rivalry with Iran.

What Could Move the Issuer Rating Up/Down

Fulsome implementation of planned fiscal and economic reforms would be credit positive and could support a higher rating.  The success of such reforms would likely be reflected in fiscal deficits falling more quickly than currently envisaged, the government debt burden peaking at a lower level and growth recovering earlier and more rapidly from a broadening economic base.  Such developments would be more positive if they resulted from sustainable structural reforms, than from cyclical or temporary increases in the price of oil.  A reduction in regional political and security threats would also exert upward pressure on the rating.

Any signs or combination of the following factors would be credit negative, and could lead to a negative rating outlook or downgrade: loosening fiscal consolidation, such as fiscal deficits remaining above 10% of GDP over the coming two years; government debt ratios rising faster than in our baseline scenario and approaching 50% of GDP by 2018; renewed pressure on the exchange rate and a faster depletion of foreign exchange reserves; signs of difficulties to fund large fiscal and current account deficits in 2017 and 2018; an escalation of regional geopolitical risks and/or signs of deteriorating domestic political and social stability.  (Moody’s 29.09)

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11.3  EGYPT: Egypt Benefits From Strong Reform Momentum; Weak Government Finances Remain Challenge

Egypt’s (B3 stable) credit profile reflects its large and diversified economy and strong reform momentum, set against constraints which include its very weak government finances, Moody’s Investors Service said on 19 September in an annual report.

“Although Egypt’s economic growth is still below pre-revolution levels, it has started to pick up, and investor sentiment has also improved on the back of strengthened reform momentum,” said Steffen Dyck, a Moody’s Vice President — Senior Credit Officer and co-author of the report.  “We also expect that Egypt’s high fiscal deficits and government debt levels will gradually reduce.”

Moody’s estimates that the general government primary deficit has been cut to 1.8% of GDP in fiscal year 2017 which ended on 30 June from 3.7% the year before and will start to show small surpluses from 2019.

The rating agency forecasts a 10% of GDP budget deficit for fiscal year 2018, slightly higher than 9.2% projected by the budget, but down from an estimated 12.1% in 2016.

Preliminary official figures suggest real GDP growth of 4.2% in 2017, and Moody’s expects a further acceleration to 5.0% in 2019, supported by the government’s structural reforms.

The implementation of economic and fiscal reforms underlines improved government effectiveness and policy predictability.  Moody’s believes that risks to policy-making have declined further since mid-2016, underpinned by better co-ordination between government entities.

The stable outlook on Egypt’s sovereign rating indicates that the country’s credit strengths and challenges are balanced.

Positive pressure on the rating would stem from faster-than-expected progress on the government’s reform program, more rapid fiscal consolidation and improvements in debt metrics.

Early signs of the successful implementation of structural economic reforms that boost foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, and continued strengthening of external buffers would also be credit positive.

Conversely, any signs of reform slowdown would jeopardize the stable outlook.  Depending on the form and speed of reversals and the implications for government finances and external liquidity this could even lead to downward credit pressure.

Renewed social and political instability or a material deterioration in the security situation could also lead to a negative rating action.  (Moody’s 19.09)

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11.4  EGYPT: The Economy is Gathering Strength

The IMF on 26 September published the staff report for the first review of Egypt’s economic reform program, which aims at restoring the economic stability of Egypt and paving the way for higher long-term growth.  The program is off to a good start, with the government carrying out bold but necessary reforms while protecting the poor.  The IMF Executive Board approval of the government’s program led to a disbursement of $1.25 billion of the $12 billion support under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility.

“The Egyptian authorities have embarked on an ambitious reform program and have taken decisive measures aimed at restoring macroeconomic stability and sustainable public finances.  At the same time, by strengthening social protection measures, they have sought to protect the most vulnerable.  We have seen that economic activity has been gathering strength and efforts at reining in the budget deficit have begun to bear fruit.  With the liberalization of the foreign exchange market, foreign currency shortages have disappeared.  Looking ahead through the end of this year and into next year, the policy mix is also supportive of a decline in inflation from the high levels in the summer,” said Subir Lall, the head of the team dealing with Egypt at the IMF.

Egypt launched a reform program when its economy faced rising imbalances that led to high public debt, a widening current account deficit, and declining official reserves.  To support the home-grown reforms, the government embarked in November 2016 on an IMF-supported program to restore the stability of its finances, promote growth and employment, while shielding the poor from the adverse effects of the changes.

Here is a stocktaking of what the government has achieved since the start of the work.

  • Flexible exchange rate regime: With the floating of the Egyptian pound, the foreign exchange market normalized, and the parallel market for foreign currency disappeared.  The focus of monetary policy is to bring down inflation, which reached more than 30% since April, mainly due to the sharp depreciation of the pound and the impact of energy and tax reforms.
  • Reducing the budget deficit: The government implemented a value-added tax (VAT) as part of its reform program which aims to increase tax revenues sustainably.  The government also took steps to reform expenditures, including notably energy subsidies.  Resources from the higher VAT and more efficient spending will slow the accumulation of public debt, which had been rising rapidly.
  • Energy subsidy reform: The government has taken bold steps to reduce energy subsidies which benefit mostly the rich and also skew production to energy-intensive industries.  The government reallocated part of the resources to social spending, including on health and education, and for targeted cash transfers.
  • The inclusion of women and youth is critical to share the benefits of growth more broadly: The government has taken measures to increase employment and labor force participation for women and youth. It has allocated budget resources to increase access to and the quality of public nurseries to help women join the labor force.  It is also planning to improve the safety of public transportation.  The government has also implemented specialized training programs and job search schemes for youth.
  • Higher growth through wide-ranging structural reforms: The parliament approved several measures to improve the business climate such as less red tape in industrial licensing, and easier access to financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.  These measures should create more new jobs and help alleviate unemployment, which is particularly concentrated among women and young people.


The way forward

Building on the ongoing reform efforts and the restoration of confidence, Egypt has the opportunity to transition to a higher growth trajectory, and increase prosperity for all, by locking in the gains from macroeconomic stabilization and harnessing its full growth potential.  (IMF 26.09)

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11.5  MOROCCO:  The Political Inconvenience of Morocco’s Currency Reforms

Samia Errazzouki posted in Sada on 27 September that Morocco’s delays in implementing a more flexible currency system highlight officials’ fear of generating or amplifying protests.

On 26 September, Morocco’s central bank governor, Abdellatif Jouahri, faced journalists for the first time in months, after the much-anticipated announcement on the country’s plan to introduce more flexible currency reforms was unexpectedly delayed under relatively opaque circumstances.  Much to the chagrin of reporters, Jouahri remained silent about whose decision it was to delay the announcement, though he hinted that it was up to the government to initiate the reforms.  He also deflected questions on when a new date may be set.  The months’ long delay has coincided with the height of social unrest in the country’s northern Rif region, where protests have been taking place since October 2016 following the death of fish vendor Mouhcine Fikri, further raising questions about whether the current political and social context in Morocco has prompted authorities to halt economic reforms that have the potential to generate protests—a situation with which the country has been all too familiar in recent history.

Prior to this press conference, the last time Jouahri addressed journalists was on 20 June, when he indicated that an announcement for the first phase of liberalizing the currency was forthcoming.  The measure is intended to entice slumping foreign direct investment and propel Morocco to the forefront of regional financial markets.  The subsequent delays to the currency reforms have indirectly revealed a schism among Moroccan officials: Central Bank Governor Jouahri is cautious of the statements he makes due to the direct consequences they have in the financial market, Minister of Finance Mohammed Boussaid is anxious to move forward with liberalization measures, and Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani is wary that his economic policies could be seen as dictated by International Monetary Fund (IMF).  These entangled positions highlight officials’ fear of being blamed for any negative impact on the Moroccan economy and generating or amplifying protests.

The value of the Moroccan dirham is currently fixed through a peg that is tied 60% to the Euro and 40% to the U.S. dollar.  In late 2015, Jouahri hinted at plans for currency liberalization, stating Morocco would eye a flexible exchange rate regime for early 2016.  In June 2016, he announced those measures would be pushed to the first half of 2017.  Then in September 2016, Jouahri said they would be postponed to the second half of 2017.  According to the June 2017 announcement, the first phase of the reforms would widen the bracket in which the currency is traded from plus or minus 0.6% up to plus or minus 2.5%, a figure Othmani reiterated in an interview on 1 July, stating that the process of attaining full currency flexibility could take up to fifteen years.

Because of Egypt’s experience in floating its currency, Moroccan officials have tried to quell concerns that similar devaluation and inflation would take place.  Prime Minister Othmani even chided reporters for describing the forthcoming measures as “floating” the currency, instead pushing the term “flexibility.”  While a “managed float” is arguably the most apt description, the delays to the measures are likely driven by fears of the Egyptian scenario – but unlike in restrictive Egypt, there is greater potential for social unrest in Morocco.  Despite the country’s fears, however, the IMF has been one of the most optimistic voices about the planned reforms, asserting that not only is Morocco ready, but that the measures do not give the country “big exposure to risk.”  Fitch Ratings concurred, stating that the currency reforms would “have a limited impact on macroeconomic stability in the short and medium term.”  Bolstering these optimistic views is the $3.5 billion credit line the IMF has made available to Morocco to facilitate socially risky subsidy cuts on staple commodities, including sugar, wheat, and gas.

One of the factors necessary for a successful transition to a flexible exchange rate regime, for example, are strong foreign reserves, which Morocco possessed until the first week of May 2017.  Over the following two months, foreign reserves fell from nearly $26 billion to just over $21 billion, sparking reports that the central bank was rationing out foreign currency to banks to accommodate many Moroccans abroad who have to trade in their dirhams for dollars and euros.  Since then, foreign reserves have slowly inched back up to $23.5 billion, though that is nearly 11% lower than country had at the same time in 2016.  In June, Jouahri slammed currency traders for speculating against the dirham, blaming them for the fall in foreign reserves.  The widening trade deficit of $13.6 billion, mostly due to an increase in energy imports, exacerbated these circumstances. In an effort to reassure the financial market in June, Jouahri asserted that there would be no planned devaluation, likely an effort to buy time for reserves to stabilize and for protests in the north to subside.  In his press conference on 26 September, Jouahri made the rare move to speak about government decisions, perhaps attempting to present a united front between the government and central bank, saying, “It is positive if the government wants to take the time to appreciate this reform and its consequences. If it takes the time to do so, I am happy.”

Over the past few years, in an effort to narrow the budget deficit, the government has managed to pass some minor economic reforms, including reforming the pension fund and ending fuel subsidies.  However, further reform efforts have mobilized popular opposition across the country.  Some of the largest social demonstrations in Morocco over the past three years were prompted by the government’s efforts to introduce economic liberalization measures.  Other government plans to privatize the education sector by reducing grants and public hires, or to reform the pricing structure for utility services, have been put on the backburner due to massive protests.

For a country with a bloated public sector and an economy heavily reliant on imports, unpopular structural reforms and austerity measures, largely pushed by the IMF, have been Morocco’s go-to remedy for its budget deficit.  Economic liberalization in Morocco, however, has undoubtedly been a political project ever since the first wave of structural adjustment measures in the 1980s privatized publicly owned enterprises, putting them in the hands of business elites with close ties to the government and reinforcing the state–business networks that exist to this day.  The government’s current apprehensions about implementing steep economic liberalization measures are informed by the bread riots that shook the country in the 1980s, which were largely prompted by the rise in food prices following structural adjustment measures, and which Central Bank Governor Jouahri witnessed firsthand as minister of finance.  Today, these apprehensions are compounded by ongoing tensions in the country’s northern Rif region.

For decades, Moroccan officials have managed to appease the international financial institutions to which the country is financially indebted while largely keeping a lid on social unrest.  However, since the 1980s the economic measures implemented in Morocco have failed – and continue to fail – to fully integrate the country’s marginalized rural regions, where some still live without access to basic infrastructure and services.  A more assertive pursuit may jeopardize the government’s ability to balance the immediate potential for unrest and the long-term socioeconomic consequences of these politically inconvenient economic reforms.

Samia Errazzouki is a PhD student in history at the University of California, Davis and previously worked as a journalist in Morocco.  (Sada 27.09)

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11.6  MOROCCO:  Morocco’s Grand Plan – In Pursuit of Economic Union

Gwendolin Hilse posted in Qantara that Morocco is launching a charm offensive as the kingdom seeks to expand its influence in West Africa.  Membership of the economic union ECOWAS is also on the agenda.  Yet not everyone welcomes the idea.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is making his country’s membership application to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) a top priority.  Earlier this year, he visited Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Mali to promote his cause.  At its June summit in Monrovia, ECOWAS confirmed that Morocco’s membership was possible, at least in principle.  Back in January, Morocco had rejoined the African Union after 33 years.  Since then, the king has been busy signing dozens of bilateral trade agreements with other African countries.

In recent years, at least 85% of Morocco’s direct foreign investment has gone to African countries.  In 2016, it was the largest African investor on the continent, to the tune of $8 billion.  Of this, $2.7 million went to Ivory Coast alone.  However, trade with Africa overall is stagnating: in 2015, just 1.4% of Morocco’s imports and 7% of its exports were traded with sub-Saharan Africa.  If Morocco were to join ECOWAS as a full member, it would have access to the 15-member free market.

A ″win-win″ situation

From an economic standpoint, there is nothing preventing Morocco from achieving ECOWAS membership – the country is far better off than most other members in this regard.  According to the economic community’s constitution, geography is also not a criterion to exclude the North African country.  Christoph Kannengiesser, chief executive officer of the German-African Business Association, says it is a win-win situation: “ECOWAS will not be weakened by an economically strong country such as Morocco and as an ECOWAS member, Morocco would be better able to fulfil its desired role as a bridge between Africa and Europe.”

The issue of West Sahara: ECOWAS recognizes West Sahara as an autonomous state, Morocco on the other hand views the annexed area as a legitimate part of its kingdom.  West Sahara is located on the Atlantic coast between Morocco and Mauritania.  Morocco lays claim to the region and exerts control over most of it, despite refusal at an international level to recognize that it belongs to the Maghreb state.  The liberation movement Polisario is dedicated to achieving West Saharan independence

However, before Morocco can formally join ECOWAS, the organization says the political, economic and social implications should be thoroughly considered.  Although it is primarily considered an economic-based group, members of ECOWAS also aim for political integration.

Although the June summit openly discussed the possible membership of Morocco, King Mohammed VI did not attend owing to the presence of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  The Moroccan government explained the monarch’s absence by saying that Morocco had no official diplomatic relations with Israel.

Searching for new allies

Morocco is currently a member of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).  However, economic and political disagreements – especially between Morocco and Algeria – have prevented the group from making any real progress.  No major meetings have taken place since 2008.  In addition, the economy of Morocco’s most important trading partner, the European Union (EU), is faltering.  New allies and new markets for Moroccan products are needed – and with a combined population of 350 million, ECOWAS could turn out to be the perfect partner.

“The Moroccans are pursuing a double-edged political strategy,” says Kannengiesser.  On the one hand, the country is seeking a privileged relationship with Europe.  On the other hand, it is also trying to strengthen its integration with other countries on the African continent.

Attracted to the idea of membership of the West African economic union: “as an ECOWAS member, Morocco would be better able to fulfil its desired role as a bridge between Africa and Europe,” says Christoph Kannengiesser, chief executive officer of the German-African Business Association

“The Moroccans know that the African continent, especially West Africa, is an important region of growth, not only from an economic perspective, but in terms of political influence as well,” he says.  Of course, whether economic integration necessarily leads to political integration remains to be seen.

″An attack on Nigeria″

Nigeria, the strongest economic player in ECOWAS, is reluctant to see Morocco receive membership.  A number of interest groups have already lobbied the government in Abuja, calling on it to try and stop the North African country’s admission.  Nigeria currently makes up more than two-thirds of ECOWAS’ economic power. If Morocco were to join, it would become the second-strongest member, with more economic clout than Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mali combined.

“Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS is clearly an attack on Nigeria and its strategic position in West Africa,” says former Nigerian Foreign Minister Bolaji Akinyemi.  He argues that supporters of Morocco’s candidacy want to weaken Nigeria’s influence in the region and that in the event of its accession, Nigeria should leave ECOWAS.  “I don’t think ECOWAS would survive that,” says Akinyemi.  In order not to jeopardize economic co-operation, he instead recommends the development of bilateral agreements between Nigeria and Morocco.

“I think that economic pragmatism will play an important role in Nigeria as well,” says Kannengiesser.  He says he can imagine several possible outcomes of Morocco’s application to ECOWAS, including full membership, privileged integration status, or even simply observer status as an interim solution.  “But perhaps the whole thing could fail in the event of Nigeria’s veto,” he added.  (Qantara 20.09)

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