Fortnightly, 4 September 2019

Fortnightly, 4 September 2019

September 4, 2019


4 September 2019
4 Elul 5779
5 Muharram 1440




1.1  Israel & South Korea Finalize Free Trade Agreement in Jerusalem
1.2  Israel & US Sign MOU to Strengthen Cooperation Between MASHAV and USAID
1.3  Honduras Trade Delegation to Visit Israel & Mark Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital
1.4  Prime Minister of Ethiopia Visits Israel


2.1  Rookout Raises $8 Million in Series A Funding to Set New Standard in Software Observability
2.2  Salesforce Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire ClickSoftware
2.3  BIRD Partners Take Renewable Energy Microgrids Into the AI & Machine Learning Age
2.4  Tricentis Acquisition Extends Selenium and Appium Test Automation in the Cloud
2.5  Rail is Going Global in India With the Partnership of ConfirmTKT and Save A Train
2.6  WSC Sports Raises $23 Million in Series C Funding
2.7  American Airlines to Launch Tel Aviv – Dallas Flights
2.8  TriEye Raises $2 Million More for Cameras That Can See in the Dark
2.9  Sino-Israel Center to Launch at Bar-Ilan University Nanotech Institute
2.10  Revuze Attracts Investment from the SAP.iO Fund
2.11  BlackBerry to Close Israel Development Center
2.12  El Al to Launch Routes to Dublin and Dusseldorf
2.13  McDonald’s Israel Expands Vegan Burgers to 40 Branches
2.14  Axonius Raises $20 Million More to Support Rapid Market Success
2.15  Music Education Startup JoyTunes Raises $25 Million
2.16  Intel Lays Cornerstone for Mobileye’s New Global Development Center in Jerusalem
2.17  Israel’s F2 Capital is Raising $75 Million to Invest in Homegrown Startups
2.18  Yissum Wins Bid to Host Largest International Technology Transfer Conference in 2019


3.1  The Rise of Venture Capital Funding in Jordan
3.2  SINC Raises $250,000 in a Pre-Seed Funding Round
3.3  The Importance of Fashion to the UAE’s Retail Market
3.4  Five UAE Fintech Start-Ups Graduate from Emirates NBD’s Program
3.5  UAE’s Group 42 Invests $65 Million in Chinese eCommerce Platform Jollychic
3.6  Saudi Arabia’s Nana Direct Raises $6.6 Million for Expansion
3.7  NowPay Closes $600,000 Seed Round from Silicon Valley’s Endure Capital & 500 Startups
3.8  Egypt & Bombardier Agree to Build Two Monorails
3.9  Chefaa Closes Significant Seed Funding Round
3.10  Egypt’s Harmonica Acquired by Dallas’ Match Group
3.11  Trella Joins Y Combinator’s S19 Batch
3.12  Egypt’s Wholesale and Retail Food Market in 2019
3.13  ADTRAN to Invest in Egypt to Create a Better Broadband Experience


4.1  Vertical Field Launches Study on the Impacts of “Smart Living Walls”
4.2  Israel’s Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station Begins Operations
4.3  Israel to Invest NIS 30 Million in New Plastic Recycling Technologies
4.4  Jordan Sees Clean Energy to Cover 20% of its Power Needs by 2022
4.5  Bahrain Bans Sand Dredging in Order to Repair Seabed
4.6  Oman’s Dhofar Wind Farm Produces First Kilowatt Hour of Electricity


5.1  Lebanon’s Annual Average Inflation Rate Stands at 3% in July 2019
5.2  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Ended at $8.04 Billion in First Half of 2019
5.3  Jordan’s Average Inflation Rate for July 2019 Rises by 0.2%
5.4  Jordanian Unemployment Continues to Rise Unabated
5.5  Chinese Company Signs $1.4 Billion Iraq Construction Deal

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.6  Bahrain Says Budget Deficit Narrows to $1 Billion in First Half of 2019
5.7  Trademark Infringements in Dubai Increase By 23% in First Half
5.8  UAE’s Third Nuclear Plant Hits Key Power Testing Milestone
5.9  UAE to Add Sugary Drinks and E-Cigarettes to Excise Tax List in 2020
5.10  Saudi Arabia Replaces Royal Court Chief and Creates Ministry of Industry
5.11  Saudi Arabia Launches $826 Million in Water Projects

♦♦North Africa

5.12  Egypt’s Annual Inflation Rate Declines to 7.8% in July
5.13  Remittances from Egyptians Abroad Rose to Around $3 Billion in May
5.14  Morocco’s Consumer Price Index Down 0.8% in July
5.15  Morocco Hosts 5.4 Million Tourists During First Half of 2019
5.16  Morocco Faces High Water Stress and Ranks 22nd Worldwide for Stressed Nations


6.1  Erdogan Says Turkey Wants to Continue Defense Cooperation with Russia
6.2  Turkey Foreign Trade Deficit Narrows 47% in July
6.3  Turkish Central Bank Says End of Tax Cuts Boosted Inflation
6.4  Turkey Draws Nearly 25 Million Foreign Visitors in 7 Months
6.5  Over 88% of Turkish Households Have Internet Access
6.6  Turkish E-Commerce Growth Stymied by Logistics Problems
6.7  Greece Posts January – July Surplus of €1.76 Billion
6.8  Greek Exports & Imports Decline Steeply In June
6.9  Cyprus-Greece-Israel-US Cement Eastern Mediterranean Security Partnership
6.10  Greeks Expanding Use of Credit Cards
6.11  Greek Housing Sector Rebounds at Strongest Rate in More Than 12 Years



7.1  Immigration to Israel Increases by Nearly 30%, Largely Due to Russian Speakers


7.2  Saudi Arabia’s Six Flags Qiddiya to Feature World’s Fastest Roller Coaster
7.3  Turkey Bans Istanbul’s ‘Queer Olympix’


8.1  Can-Fite to Treat Advanced Liver Cancer Patients with Namodenoson in Israel
8.2  CartiHeal Performs First Agili-C Cartilage Repair Implantation Procedures at New York Hospital
8.3  Corteva Agriscience Invests in Evogene’s Agriculture Biologicals Subsidiary, Lavie Bio
8.4  Nobio Receives FDA Clearances for Infinix Flowable & Bulk Fill Composites
8.5  GemmaCert Raises $3.5 Million
8.6  Teva Announces Availability of a Generic Equivalent of EpiPen Jr in the United States
8.7  MDClone, Developer of First Healthcare Synthetic Data Engine, Raises $26 Million
8.8  Terason Partners With DiA Imaging Analysis for Superior AI Cardiac Solutions
8.9  Carevature’s Cutting-Edge Dreal Technology Now Available to Spine Surgeons at Scripps Health
8.10  Check-Cap & GE Healthcare Complete Manufacturing Line Transfer for C-Scan System
8.11  V-Wave’s Interatrial Shunt Receives FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for Heart Failure
8.12  FDA Clears Biobeat for Non-invasive Cuffless Monitoring of Blood Pressure
8.13  Genetic Screen Identifies Genes That Protect Cells from Zika Virus
8.14  ApiFix Receives FDA Approval to Commercialize its MID-C System
8.15  DiA Imaging Analysis & Edan Instruments Accelerate Adoption of DiA’s Cardiac Solutions
8.16  CartiHeal Performs First Agili-C Cartilage Repair Implantation Procedure in Texas
8.17  Cannibble Food-Tech Announces the USA Launch of Its New Cannabis Infused Edibles
8.18  Sheba, Tel HaShomer & Telesofia Medical Announce Cutting-Edge Telemedicine Software
8.19  Maverick Medical AI Announces First Commercial Deployment at USHS Health System


9.1  Mellanox Ethernet and InfiniBand Solutions Deliver Breakthrough Performance
9.2  Checkmarx Named ‘Black Unicorn’ Award Winner for Vision in Software Security
9.3  Netline Provides C-Guard IED Jamming System for the Israel Defense Force
9.4  accessiBe Launches First-Ever AI-Driven Web Accessibility Tool
9.5  Lightbits Labs Cited as Startup of the Year in the 14th Annual 2019 IT World Awards
9.6  Vayyar Launches First Universal Sensor Solutions to Put an End to Hot Car Deaths
9.7  Eye-Net Mobile Successfully Completes Connected Car Controlled-Environment Trial
9.8  S1 Medical Goes Live With Sapiens’ Workers’ Compensation Solution
9.9  D-ID Adds New Anonymization Solution for Video and Still Images
9.10  Israel Selects Elbit Systems’ Iron Fist Light Decoupled Active Protection System
9.11  ECI and KPGCo Selected by CL Tel to Modernize Its Network Infrastructure in Iowa
9.12  Convizit Wins Pitango’s $1 Million Startup Competition


10.1  Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index for July 2019 Increases by 0.2%
10.2  Unemployment Down Sharply in Israel
10.3  Israel’s Budget Deficit Remains at Highest Level Since 2014
10.4  Hi-Tech Sector Employment in Israel Surpasses 300,000 Workers
10.5  Israeli Startups Raised Over $350 Million in August
10.6  August Tourism to Israel Reaches New Record


11.1  ISRAEL: Fitch Affirms Israel at ‘A+’; Outlook Stable
11.2  LEBANON: Lebanon Ratings Affirmed At ‘B-/B’; Outlook Remains Negative
11.3  JORDAN: Cash-Strapped Jordan Imposes New Taxes; Public Anger Ensues
11.4  IRAQ: Iraq Ratings Affirmed At ‘B-/B’; Outlook Stable
11.5  GCC: VAT in Gulf Arab States – Balancing Domestic, Regional and International Interests
11.6  OMAN: Challenges to Maximizing Renewables in Oman’s Energy Mix
11.7  EGYPT: Egypt Takes Another Step Toward China
11.8  EGYPT: Egypt Declares Water Emergency as Precaution
11.9  MOROCCO: King Mohammed VI Announces Plan to Promote Social & Economic Equality
11.10  TURKEY: Environmental Problems Provoke Protests on All Fronts in Turkey


1.1  Israel & South Korea Finalize Free Trade Agreement in Jerusalem

Israel and South Korea signed a Free Trade Agreement on 21 August, one which is expected to greatly reduce the cost of cars and electronics imported from Seoul.  Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen and visiting South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee announced the finalization of the accord at a ceremony in Jerusalem.  The accord will also reduce or eliminate tariffs on Israeli exports to South Korea on goods such as wines, cosmetics, metals and industrial machinery.  Afterwards, the two met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hailed the deal, noting that it is Israel’s first Free Trade Agreement with an Asian economy.  In 2018, trade between Israel and South Korea amounted to approximately $2.5 billion, an increase of almost 15% over 2017.

This agreement with South Korea marks a dramatic change from years past when Seoul was hesitant about cultivating close commercial ties with Israel, out of concern that it would harm their trade relations with the far bigger market with Arab and Muslim countries.  One diplomatic official said that this attitude began to change when Israeli trade ties began flourishing over the last decade with China and Japan, and when it became an open secret that Arabian Gulf countries were cooperating with Israel on a variety of levels.  (Various 21.08)

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1.2  Israel & US Sign MOU to Strengthen Cooperation Between MASHAV and USAID

On 22 August, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Katz and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Green signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between USAID and Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) in Jerusalem.  The agreement seeks to strengthen cooperation between the two countries and leverage expertise on a variety of global development efforts.  The MOU is a groundbreaking step that will elevate Israel’s standing in the world and broaden Israel-US partnership on mutual development priorities in third-party countries.  (MFA 21.08)

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1.3  Honduras Trade Delegation to Visit Israel & Mark Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and his wife will conduct a visit to Israel next week to inaugurate a trade office, which will hold diplomatic status, in Jerusalem.  Israel welcomes the opening of this trade office and sees it as an important step towards the future move of the Honduran Embassy to Jerusalem, and the opening of the Israeli Embassy in the Honduran capital.  Moreover, this step reflects the close relations between our two countries, and the warm friendship between our two peoples.

President Hernández is expected to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.  The two leaders will inaugurate the new diplomatic trade office in Jerusalem.  During the course of the visit, President Hernández will visit Israel’s shipyards and is expected to participate in a high-level economic meeting with leading members of Israel’s business community.  This meeting will take place with the goal of advancing investment and commercial ties between our two countries.  This important visit will serve to strengthen relations between Israel and Honduras, and advance cooperation in a diverse range of fields.  (MFA 21.08)

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1.4  Prime Minister of Ethiopia Visits Israel

On 1 September, Israel welcomed the visit of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, to which it attaches great importance as it will contribute to the enhancement of the relationship and strengthen the cooperation between the two countries.  Prime Minister Netanyahu received Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed upon his arrival with a guard of honor at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.  During the course of the visit, the Ethiopian Prime Minister met with President Reuven Rivlin, visited Yad Vashem and toured the National Cyber Directorate.

Ethiopia has a close and friendly relationship with Israel, cooperating in many fields, including agriculture, water and irrigation, health, education, science, technology and innovation.  During the visit the two sides will discuss strengthening bilateral cooperation in the fields of security, agriculture and technology, with special emphasis on cyber.  The Ethiopian Prime Minister’s visit to Israel is further evidence of PM Netanyahu’s ‘Return to Africa’ policy and the common desire of both countries to strengthen the bonds of friendship and deepen bilateral cooperation.  (MFA 30.08)

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2.1  Rookout Raises $8 Million in Series A Funding to Set New Standard in Software Observability

Rookout has raised $8 million in a Series A funding round that was led by Cisco Investments, who made a strategic investment alongside existing backers TLV Partners and Emerge.  Additionally, industry leaders including Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, John Kodumal, CTO and Cofounder of LaunchDarkly, and Raymond Colletti, VP of Revenue at Codecov, added their support. Rookout will use the funding to continue its commercial growth while expanding its core offering to cover additional observability use cases and languages. Coinciding with this news, the company also announced a free tier option.

Since exiting stealth just over a year ago, Rookout’s code-level data collection has defined a new category of observability software that decouples data from code, making understanding and debugging code easier and massively faster.  Companies using Rookout have seen the time it takes to make a single observation reduced from hours to a few seconds, minimizing the chore aspects of debugging, providing deep code insights and freeing up vital R&D resources to focus on features.

Tel Aviv’s Rookout allows software engineers to set “non-breaking breakpoints” with a single click, collecting live code execution data on-the-fly, without stopping the code or requiring any redeployment.  Rookout’s flexibility enables it to be used in the most modern infrastructures, including containerized code on Kubernetes clusters, as well as traditional legacy systems; it’s also the first and only solution for debugging the code of live serverless functions in production.  In the coming year, the company plans to add additional programming languages alongside its existing support for JVM-based languages like Java and Kotlin, as well as NodeJS and Python.  (Rookout 07.08)

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2.2  Salesforce Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire ClickSoftware

San Francisco’s Salesforce signed a definitive agreement to acquire ClickSoftware, a leader in field service management solutions.  The addition of ClickSoftware will enhance Salesforce Service Cloud’s leadership as the #1 service platform, empowering every service employee from the contact center to the field to deliver more connected, intelligent customer service.

ClickSoftware enables companies to intelligently schedule and optimize field service work.  Salesforce Field Service Lightning, built on Service Cloud, harnesses the latest in dispatching, mobile workforce empowerment and IoT technologies to empower companies to connect their entire service workforce on a single, centralized platform.  With the combined capabilities of Field Service Lightning and ClickSoftware, Salesforce will be positioned to lead the way to the future of field service.

Salesforce introduced Field Service Lightning in 2016 to empower the mobile workforce with a 360-degree view of the customer, predictive insights and an offline-first mobile app.  ClickSoftware and Salesforce have partnered since Field Service Lightning launched to deliver proactive, intelligent field service.  With ClickSoftware and Field Service Lightning, if a mobile employee gets delayed by traffic, a dispatcher can quickly route another field technician to the job so the customer’s appointment does not get delayed.  These interactions are then automatically updated across the entire Salesforce platform so everyone — customers, sales, customer service and field service — has complete visibility.

Petah Tikva’s ClickSoftware is the leading provider of field service optimization solutions that help you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your field service operations.  (Salesforce 07.08)

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2.3  BIRD Partners Take Renewable Energy Microgrids Into the AI & Machine Learning Age

Portland, Maine’s Introspective Systems has finalized its contract with the Binational Research and Development Foundation (BIRD US-Israel Foundation) to begin a commercialization project with its Israel-based partner, Brightmerge.  The companies will leverage their areas of expertise to create an end to end AI-based data solution for Microgrid design, development, and operations.  Brightmerge and Introspective Systems have the industry knowledge and technological know-how to provide seamless solutions that bring entire economies into the digital age of energy.  Brightmerge currently has several premium, paid pilots with large clients that understand the potential of the microgrid revolution.  These clients wish to move now instead of waiting and keep losing money.  The project is expected to reach alpha stage of development by Q2/20 with first production versions ready at the beginning of 2021.

Introspective Systems is the developer of xGraph, a breakthrough software platform that enables developers to build systems designed for complex software ecosystems.  xGraph is AI-enabled for systems that require autonomous and collaborative decision-making to meet the challenges of complexity in environments including healthcare, IoT, energy and science.

Modiin’s Brightmerge develops an online cloud-based expert system that accurately predicts a microgrid system’s energy and financial performance.  The platform integrates data sets in one platform and automates decision making using ranking and optimization algorithms to choose the best components, suppliers, and contractors for each project.  The company opened a fund round to complete the product and drive first sales.  (Introspective Systems 08.08)

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2.4  Tricentis Acquisition Extends Selenium and Appium Test Automation in the Cloud

Mountain View, California’s Tricentis has acquired TestProject, a first-of-its-kind community-powered test automation platform designed for Agile teams.  As part of its commitment to TestProject, Tricentis will be investing in research and development to advance the product, extend the community, and help testers master best practices for web, Android and iOS test automation.

TestProject is built on the leading open source test automation tools: Selenium and Appium.  It supports all major operating systems, and enables any software team to test web, Android and iOS apps using a “low-code/no-code” approach.  With the community-driven approach, automation building blocks are shared with the entire community – reducing the time required to construct robust test automation.  AI-based matching automatically analyzes the application under test and recommends add-ons that will enhance the tests.

Founded in 2015, Petah Tikva’s TestProject is the world’s first cloud-based, community testing platform. TestProject makes it easier for testers to do their jobs quickly, and to collaborate using popular open source frameworks (e.g., Selenium and Appium) to ensure quality with speed.  By fostering a collaborative community that can come together — as individuals and in teams — TestProject is shaping the future of software testing.  (Tricentis 08.08)

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2.5  Rail is Going Global in India With the Partnership of ConfirmTKT and Save A Train

ConfirmTKT, the largest independent train tickets seller in India, just launched European train ticketing solution in collaboration with Save A Train.  ConfirmTKT is probably the largest OTA to date that is trying to grab this major market, and this launch is only the beginning as Save A Train offerings is planned to extend later this year to North America / China / Russia and more.  Through this partnership, ConfirmTKT aims to expand and strengthen its foothold in the lucrative European market.

Ramat HaSharon’s Save a Train is an innovative Railtech startup developing and implementing a series of rail tech travel products & solutions that enable competitive online trains tickets booking, dynamic pricing for train tickets and advanced revenue systems and BI for railway operators.  (Save A Train 08.08)

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2.6  WSC Sports Raises $23 Million in Series C Funding

WSC Sports has raised $23 million in Series C funding, bringing the company’s total funding to $39 million.  The new capital will be used to further expand WSC’s growth across new sports, products and geographic regions.  This funding round was led by O.G. Tech Ventures – the international tech investment arm of Ofer Global, along with NTT DOCOMO Ventures, HBSE Ventures – the venture arm of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Maor Investments, ISF and Go4it Capital.

WSC Sports’ award-winning AI technology generates personalized and automatic sports video content in near real-time. WSC has innovated the way sports and media owners create and distribute short-form video highlights at scale and works with tier-1 clients including NBA, Bundesliga, PGA Tour, US Open, Bleacher Report, Discovery, MLS, FIBA, Cricket Australia, WarnerMedia and many more. In 2018, WSC Sports analyzed more than 17,000 sporting events and produced more than 850,000 videos for its customers.

Existing investors also joined the funding round, including Intel Capital, Detroit Venture Partners (Dan Gilbert’s venture capital firm), Elysian Park Ventures, WISE Ventures (Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings), 2BAngels and iAngels. The funding comes after a year of explosive growth for WSC Sports – doubling its customer base and revenue year over year for the last 3 years, growing to more than 100 employees worldwide and expanding its global footprint with offices in New York and Sydney.

Givatayim’s WSC Sports‘ platform generates personalized sports videos for every platform and every sports fan – automatically and in real-time.  Currently being used by leading media rights owners such as WarnerMedia, NBA, MLS, US Open, PGA Tour, Bundesliga and others, WSC Sports’ platform utilizes advanced AI capabilities to analyze live sports broadcasts, identify each and every event that occurs in the game, create customized short-form video content, and publish to any digital destination.  This enables partners to instantly generate and distribute professionally edited personalized clips and videos on a large scale to engage audiences and maximize video monetization opportunities.  (WSC Sports 08.08)

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2.7  American Airlines to Launch Tel Aviv – Dallas Flights

American Airlines announced that it will be launching a new Tel Aviv – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) route.  The service will include three weekly flights, beginning on 9 September 2020.  American Airlines will use Boeing 787-9s for these flights.  American Airlines flew to Israel until 2015 when it halted its Tel Aviv – Philadelphia route.  The carrier claimed the cancellation was for financial reasons following a drop in tourism to Israel.  DFW is the airlines biggest hub and it will offer passengers connection services to 33 US cities.  (AA08.08)

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2.8  TriEye Raises $2 Million More for Cameras That Can See in the Dark

TriEye expanded its series A round from $17 million to $19 million with an investment from Porsche.  The newfound funds, which bring the startup’s total raised to date to $22 million, will accelerate ongoing product development, operations, and hiring.  TriEye also provides software and AI-powered remote sensing platforms it says are based on well over a decade of nano-photonics research, and that were developed by a team of experts in device physics, process design, electro-optics and deep learning.  The company asserts the full-stack approach positions it well to tackle verticals beyond automotive, like mobile, industrial, security, and optical inspection.

TriEye’s backers include Intel Capital, cybersecurity entrepreneur Marius Nacht, and Grove Ventures.  It competes to an extent with sensor suppliers such as Oregon-based Flir, which manufactures thermal vision cameras embedded with machine learning algorithms, and Boston-based startup WaveSense, which is developing ground-penetrating radars (GPR) for autonomous cars.

Tel Aviv’s TriEye’s Raven is an HD shortwave infrared (SWIR) camera solving the low-visibility challenge for ADAS and AV.  TriEye’s life-saving technology is based on a decade of nanophotonics research, enabling affordable mass production of SWIR sensing on a CMOS-based sensor. SWIR enables vision under adverse weather and night-time conditions, mounting behind the windshield and seamless integration with existing vision AI algorithms (i.e. Object Recognition).  TriEye’s CMOS-based design enables HD resolution, low power consumption, small form factor and 1,000x lower cost compared to current technologies.  (TriEye 21.08)

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2.9  Sino-Israel Center to Launch at Bar-Ilan University Nanotech Institute

Israel’s Bar-Ilan University Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) signed a joint agreement in Beijing on 20 August to establish a Chinese Center of Excellence within Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.  The Chinese National Academy of Sciences will set up the center, which will include a research lab focused on nanomedicine, 2D materials engineering, and graphene production.  The center will host scientists from additional research institutes in Israel.  The signing ceremony took place at the Chinese National Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Institute (NCNST) in the presence of diplomats from the Israeli Embassy in Beijing.

The main goal of the joint research laboratory, according to the agreement, will be to integrate teamwork between Chinese and Israeli researchers and industrialists from both countries.  This will facilitate the transfer of theoretical research, specializing in nano-medical materials and graphene into products, readily available to consumers.  (NoCamels 21.08)

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2.10  Revuze Attracts Investment from the SAP.iO Fund

Revuze announced that the SAP.iO Fund made an investment in the company, as part of a funding round that included existing and new investors.  The SAP.iO Fund joins other well-known investors in Revuze, including Nielsen, NPD, TIC Group and Prytek.  The funding comes on the heels of fast international adoption of the Revuze solution across multiple industries and geographies, from China to US and Europe.

Revuze’s artificial intelligence solution is the first in the market to transform how brands consume customer experience (CX) insights.  While other solutions are typically requiring experts and manual labor to deliver insights, while being limited to specific feedback channels like Social Media or Surveys, Revuze allows any role in the organization to gain deep insights from any data sources and without any manual labor or experts involved.  With Revuze organizations distribute decision making, making better decisions, faster across the board.  Revuze recently announced that Dolby, the leader in audio and video technologies, is leveraging Revuze to understand Mobile consumer preferences when consuming audio and video.

Backed by investors such as the SAP.iO Fund, Nielsen and NPD, TIC Group and Prytek, Netanya’s Revuze transforms how brands consume CX insights so they can make better decisions, faster across every role in the organization.  While other solutions rely heavily on experts and manual labor, the Revuze solution is up and running without professional resources.  (Revuze 20.08)

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2.11  BlackBerry to Close Israel Development Center

Globes reported that Waterloo, Ontario’s BlackBerry is closing down its Israel development center with 40 employees in Petah Tikva.  BlackBerry founded its development activity in Israel in 2015 on the basis of WatchDox, a startup that it acquired for $100 million.  A staff of 20 employees in North America who have worked on WatchDox’s product simultaneously with employees in Israel will continue to maintain the product.

WatchDox was sold to BlackBerry after the Canadian company lost its momentum in a mobile telephony market now dominated by Google Android and Apple.  The steep decline in its revenue caused BlackBerry to shed a third of its staff worldwide in 2012.  Since BlackBerry’s mobile operating systems were always known for their high level of security, the company decided to switch its focus from sales of telephones to security products and services.  BlackBerry completely closed down its telephone business in 2016 and laid off 200 employees worldwide.  Since that time, part of BlackBerry’s business has prospered, while other parts have stagnated and been closed down.  (Globes 25.08)

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2.12  El Al to Launch Routes to Dublin and Dusseldorf

El Al Israel Airlines announced that it is launching two new routes, from Tel Aviv to Dublin and to Dusseldorf.  The Israeli carrier will offer three weekly flights each to the Irish capital and German city starting in the late spring of 2020.  The Tel Aviv – Dublin flights will begin from May 26 2020 on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on Boeing 737s.  The Dusseldorf flights begin June 1 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Tickets for the new routes went on sale on 4 September.

In the last quarter, El Al commenced new routes to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Manchester in addition to a new route to Nice in the first quarter.  They have also announced new routes to Tokyo and Chicago, which will begin operating in March 2020.  (El Al 28.08)

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2.13  McDonald’s Israel Expands Vegan Burgers to 40 Branches

McDonald’s Israel has expanded its pilot sales of vegan burgers to 40 branches.  The vegan products, called Big Vegan, is produced by Osem-Nestle subsidiary Tivoll.  It was launched two months ago, and has hitherto been sold at only 18 of the chain’s 186 branches in Israel, most of them in the greater Tel Aviv area.  McDonald’s is also marketing a double-size vegan burger.

In addition to physical expansion, McDonald’s Israel is also expanding its geographic deployment by opening new branches.  Opening of a new branch in the Zim Urban center in Arad, a branch in the Ispro Center in Ness Ziona, a kosher branch in the Holon Mall and a branch in Afula will be completed this month.  The chain will open 10 new branches by the end of the year, including the two new restaurants at Ben Gurion Airport.

The popular global trend is pushing many fast food chains to look for meat substitutes for their products.  Burger King, McDonald’s competitor, has already begun marketing a vegan burger made by Impossible Foods at its branches in the US, and is gradually expanding this line.  Burger King Israel, however, does not yet offer a vegan burger.  Meatless hamburgers made by Beyond Meat have been sold in recent months at restaurant chains in Israel, such as Moses, BBB, and SUSU & Sons, as well as in natural food stores, where they are relatively expensive, with three hamburgers being sold for NIS 54.  (Globes 27.08)

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2.14  Axonius Raises $20 Million More to Support Rapid Market Success

Axonius has raised $20 million in Series B funding, led by new investor OpenView.  Existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, YL Ventures, Vertex, WTI and Emerge also participated in the round, bringing the company’s total funding to $37 million to date.

This funding enables Axonius to continue to accelerate demand for its Cybersecurity Asset Management Platform, the only asset management solution on the market today that leverages existing security investments to gain unmatched visibility into an organization’s asset inventory.  By seamlessly connecting to over 135 security and management solutions, Axonius uncovers solution coverage gaps and automatically validates and enforces security policies.  The funding will also be used to drive customer acquisition and expedite product innovation following rapid growth and industry validation.  Earlier this year, Axonius was named RSA Conference’s “Most Innovative Startup 2019” for solving the asset management challenge, the security industry’s most fundamental, long-standing problem.  While asset management has been a nagging, decades-old challenge, the simple, agentless approach by Axonius is being rapidly embraced by organizations worldwide.

Tel Aviv’s Axonius is the cybersecurity asset management platform that gives organizations a comprehensive asset inventory, uncovers security solution coverage gaps, and automatically validates and enforces security policies.  Axonius is deployed in minutes, improving cyber hygiene immediately.  (Axonius 27.08)

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2.15  Music Education Startup JoyTunes Raises $25 Million

JoyTunes has completed a $25 million funding round.  The round was led by Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm Qumra Capital with participation from existing investor New York-based venture capital and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners.  The funding round brings JoyTunes’ total funding raised to date to $43 million, the company said.

The company intends to use the new round of funding to expand its product offering rather than expanding its team, Joytunes founder Yigal Kaminka said in a Monday interview with Calcalist. The funds will be used to advance the company and not to buy back employee shares, he added.

Founded in 2011, Tel Aviv’s JoyTunes develops apps that teach users how to play musical instruments.  Simply Piano, JoyTunes’ signature app, shows users which piano keys to press to play the song of their choice.  Through the microphone on the user’s phone or tablet, the company’s technology is able to recognize in real-time which sounds are played.  Simply Piano has 25 courses for different skill levels and hundreds of different songs spanning multiple genres.  The app has been downloaded more than 10 million times and JoyTunes now has more than 200,000 paying subscribers, surpassing $20 million in annual revenues.  (JoyTunes 28.08)

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2.16  Intel Lays Cornerstone for Mobileye’s New Global Development Center in Jerusalem

Mobileye President and CEO Prof. Shashua and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu laid the cornerstone for Mobileye’s new global development center in Jerusalem on 27 August.   They were joined by Israel Economy Minister Cohen and Jerusalem Mayor Lion.  When complete, the eight-story complex will span 50,000 square meters above ground and 78,000 square meters below ground and provide work space for as many as 2,700 employees. It is scheduled to open in 2022.  Intel, a leader in the semiconductor industry, is shaping the data-centric future with computing and communications technology that is the foundation of the world’s innovations.

Mobileye, a developer of cutting-edge autonomous driving tech and advanced driver assistance systems, was acquired by chipmaker giant Intel in March 2017 for $15.3 billion, marking the largest acquisition of an Israeli company to date.  Chinese tech giant Baidu announced it was teaming with Intel to integrate Jerusalem-based Mobileye tech into its autonomous vehicle platform in July 2018.  In October 2018, German auto giant Volkswagen joined forces with Mobileye to deploy Israel’s first driverless, electric ride-sharing service.  (Intel 29.08)

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2.17  Israel’s F2 Capital is Raising $75 Million to Invest in Homegrown Startups

Israel’s first pre-seed technology accelerator, F2 Capital, is raising a $75 million fund to invest in Israel-based startups, according to an SEC-filing.  So far the accelerator has raised around $55 million for the fund.  F2 Capital was spun out of Genesis Partners, another Israeli venture firm, in 2016.  F2 Capital took with them Genesis Partners’ pre-seed program: The Junction.  The firm, taking on the role of accelerator as well, offers guidance, networks, and $100,000 in capital to each startup that joins the program.  It has coached over 5,000 alumni and over $500 million has been raised by the startups born out of it.  F2 Capital’s business partners include Deloitte, Facebook, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform.  F2 Capital’s fund raising shows that despite late-stage sector activity in Tel Aviv, early seeds are also being planted.  (F2 Capital 27.08)

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2.18  Yissum Wins Bid to Host Largest International Technology Transfer Conference in 2019

Yissum announced its selection as the host of AUTM ASIA 2019, the largest international conference for technology transfer experts and related professionals.  The conference, which will be co-hosted by the Israel Technology Transfer Network (ITTN) will take place in Jerusalem, Israel on 4 – 7 November 2019, bringing together hundreds of academics, government and industry experts from across the globe to discuss the most important and current issues in Technology Transfer.

The announcement of the conference coincides with the publication of ITTN’s 2018 annual report showing the collective impact of the Technology Transfer sector in Israel.  In 2018, Israeli tech transfer organizations (TTOs) evaluated 1,000 new innovations and filed over 620 new patents.  In 2018, ITTN member organizations, which include universities, research institutions, hospitals, and HMOs, launched 74 spinoff companies, produced over 1,000 sponsored research and consulting agreements and hundreds of new license agreements.  The most active sectors for Israeli TTO’s were pharma and biotech, accounting for some 40% of activity, followed by MedTech.

Yissum is the technology transfer company of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Founded in 1964, it serves as a bridge between cutting-edge academic research and a global community of entrepreneurs, investors, and industry.  Yissum’s mission is to benefit society by converting extraordinary innovations and transformational technologies into commercial solutions that address our most urgent global challenges.  (Yissum 03.09)

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3.1  The Rise of Venture Capital Funding in Jordan

Much of the Arab Middle East’s VC investment growth has come from Jordan.  The Hashemite Kingdom, which represents roughly 2% of the region’s population, accounted for 8% of startup investments last year — registering an increase that was second only to Egypt.  Amman’s Oasis500 fund was among the most active investors with between seven and eight disclosed deals in 2018 alone.

It has been observed that none of this growth would be possible without Jordan’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.  When a team worked with the American University of Beirut to design a Growth Readiness Program for small- and medium-sized enterprises, they found no shortage of firms to compete for a spot in the challenging, 12-week course.  Still, despite a robust effort to reach them through outreach programs and countrywide boot-camps, many of Jordan’s best ideas may not get on the radar of its more prominent funds.

USAID JCP, working with the Companies Control Department at Jordan’s Ministry of Industry, Trade & Supply, has been working hard to put in place new regulations to attract venture capital investors to the country.  Those efforts reached a peak on 27 December 2018, when the country’s official Gazette published new regulations operationalizing the 2018 Venture Capital Law.  USAID assisted in developing the new law, its support pushing through the regulations.  The new regulations now allow the establishment of VC funds in Jordan, bringing them in line with international best practice in governance, taxation, and a full range of support services.  One of the primary objectives of the new regulations is to make that framework more familiar to international fund managers, lawyers, and other service providers who work with venture capital funds — thus lowering barriers to entry in the Jordan market.  (MAGNiTT 29.08)

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3.2  SINC Raises $250,000 in a Pre-Seed Funding Round

SINC, a Bahrain based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) mobile platform that simplifies the management of a mobile workforce by operating timesheets, location tracking, staff scheduling, and job tracking, has raised $250,000 in a pre-seed funding round led by Dubai Angel Investors and other prominent regional angel investors.  The funds will be used in the short-term to expand SINC’s development team and build out the job tracking functionalities that small businesses in North America desperately need.

One of the main problems facing blue-collar small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is that with labor costs growing exponentially compared to revenue, the accurate analysis of such data can be difficult and traditional timesheets may result in employers overpaying staff.  Overcoming such issues, the SINC mobile app or web platform improves the reporting on staff tardiness and no-shows, as well as improving productivity and accountability with job costing analysis capabilities being placed at employer’s fingertips.  Additionally, the application reduces payroll administration time by 98% and reduces payroll costs by 10-15%.  SINC is built with mobility and convenience in mind as the mobile app allows human resources management and staff to undertake their in-office functions on-the-go.

SINC has ambitious targets, looking to initially expand its presence and customer base across North America, targeting a sizeable portion of the estimated 1.5 million small blue-collar businesses in that geography.  The company then seeks to develop tailor-made solutions for the ever-growing and unique labor environment in the MENA region.  (SINC 28.08)

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3.3  The Importance of Fashion to the UAE’s Retail Market

The value of clothing sales in the UAE amounted to $12.3 billion in 2018, registering an annual growth rate of about 4.8%, according to new analysis released by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  The research also said the apparel retail sector is expected to see stronger performance over the 2019-2023 period.  The analysis, based on recent data from Euromonitor International, described the apparel market as a major segment and key contributor to the UAE’s retail sector.  It said global fashion brands still view the country as a preferred entry point for establishing their presence in the MENA region.

The analysis identified menswear as the top-performing category with the segment accounting for $6.2 billion worth of sales last year (53%), followed by womenswear with 34% and children’s apparel (7%).  It added that the outlook for UAE apparel sales is expected to improve over the next five years as economic conditions become more favorable and consumer confidence strengthens.  The research also said that online retail sales are witnessing strong growth, a trend expected to put pressure on prices.

Menswear is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 3.8% between 2019 and 2023 to reach $7.8 billion in 2023 while womenswear is expected to see a CAGR of 4.9% in sales over the same period to reach $5.2 billion in 2023, largely driven by stable footfall and an increasing in spend on modest fashion.  Meanwhile, children’s apparel sales are projected to register a CAGR of 3.7% over the 2019-2023 period to reach $1 billion by 2023.  (AB 23.08)

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3.4  Five UAE Fintech Start-Ups Graduate from Emirates NBD’s Program

Five financial technology (FinTech) start-ups have become the first to graduate from a Sandbox testing platform.  The Sandbox program is run by Emirates NDB, in collaboration with the largest financial technology accelerator in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, the DIFC FinTech Hive.  The two financial institutions have been working together to help startups integrate their technologies with an API (application programming interface) sandbox set up by Emirates NDB.  These APIs allow developers to access over 200 of Emirates NDB’s APIs and 500 other endpoints covering retail, corporate and SME customers, along with over five million simulated customer transactions.  The five startups that graduated were:

-Monimove, a digital trade finance firm

-Norbloc, a shared KYC (know your customer) system using blockchain

-Gamechanger, a keyboard banking system

-Bankbuddy, a chatbot for the finance industry

-Leap FinTech, a digital onboarding program for SMEs

The API Sandbox, launched by Emirates NBD Future Lab in 2018, is a first in the region, marking a significant landmark in the bank’s AED1 billion digital transformation program.  (Emirates NDB 22.08)

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3.5  UAE’s Group 42 Invests $65 Million in Chinese eCommerce Platform Jollychic

Jollychic, a Chinese cross-border ecommerce platform focused on the Middle East, has secured $65 million from UAE tech giant Group 42 in a series C+ funding round.  Group 42, which is behind several national strategic tech projects in the region, considered Jollychic’s potential and position in the Middle East and its vision of building an ecommerce-based internet ecosystem for the investment.  Jollychic said it plans to use the fresh funds to expand its segmentation, improve its logistics system, and develop third-party payment options and e-wallets.  The funding will also help the company further strengthen its localization efforts.

Its payment platform, JollyPay, recently received relevant licenses in the UAE and online payment service qualification in Saudi Arabia.  The development will help Jollychic with its goal to build an ecommerce ecology and “no cash society” in the Middle East.  (TechInAsia 08.08)

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3.6  Saudi Arabia’s Nana Direct Raises $6.6 Million for Expansion

Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) and Impact46 have co-led an investment round in Riyadh based Nana Direct, an online grocery platform serving 13 cities across the Saudi kingdom.  Other investors in the round, which raised $6.6 million, included Watar Partners, Saudi Venture Capital (SVC) Company and Wamda Capital.

Nana, a mobile-only company, said it aiming to transform the traditional supermarket experience and gain traction all over the Gulf kingdom.  It added that it is in advanced stages of onboarding new stores and supermarkets to offer greater availability to users.  It will use the new capital to accelerate its growth plans, continue to build its team and further develop vendor relations.  (AB 20.08)

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3.7  NowPay Closes $600,000 Seed Round from Silicon Valley’s Endure Capital & 500 Startups

NowPay, a Cairo-based fintech startup has raised $600,000 in a SEED funding round. Investors included Silicon Valley’s Endure Capital and 500 Startups.  Founded in 2018, NowPay commits itself to helping employees get their salaries in advance whenever they apply for it during the month.  A simple process that requires the employees to log into NowPay’s application through their account and enter the advance amount which they require.  The account by this point will already be verified by the employer himself and the employees would be able to get their requested amount within a day or two.  In order to rescue employees from financial stress and other relevant worries, it is essential that the employees feel that they can get their salaries whenever they are out of cash.  The scheme that defines NowPay can help employees better manage their budgets and overcome cash flow problems thereby avoid any unnecessary tensions.

The application offers additional features such as allowing the user to see their salary status, salary details, account balance and maximum load that they can request, on the application.  NowPay is at the forefront of revolutionizing the corporate culture in Egypt that seeks to harmonize the interoperability of the employers and the employees.  (NowPay 29.08)

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3.8  Egypt & Bombardier Agree to Build Two Monorails

On 5 August, Egypt’s Ministry of Transportation signed a contract with Quebec’s Bombardier Transportation to build two monorails, linking the Sixth of October City with Giza, and Nasr City with the New Administrative Capital.  Bombardier was selected to establish a €3 billion monorail project in Egypt in May.  Bombardier will deliver the project in partnership with two Egyptian companies Orascom Construction and the Arab Contractors.  (DNE 05.08)

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3.9  Chefaa Closes Significant Seed Funding Round

E-health startup Chefaa has closed a six-figure US dollar seed funding round from Flat6Labs and 500 Startups as it plans geographic expansion and the rollout of more products.  Chefaa received pre-seed funding from Flat6labs Cairo in 2018, as well as a social impact grant from the StartEgypt initiative, and has now closed its seed round.  The undisclosed investment, which Disrupt Africa has been told is a six-figure US dollar amount, comes from Flat6Labs and 500 Startups, and will be used to help the startup expand both geographically and in terms of its product offering.

They currently serve nine Egyptian cities, including Delta and Upper Egypt, and plan to cover Egypt totally by the end of this year.  They will start expansion plans to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region by the end of this year as well.  Chefaa is free to use for patients, with the startup charging pharmacies a commission fee on transactions and a monthly subscription fee in case of scheduled monthly packages for chronic patients.  It also charges monthly subscription fees to medical and pharmaceutical organizations in return for access to insights.

Founded in May 2017, Cairo’s Chefaa helps patients make scheduled medicine orders in a bid to tackle challenges with accessing medication in a timely fashion.  Chefaa is a vision-driven company to help patients order/schedule & have medicine delivered from nearest pharmacy according to GPS location with the easiest user trip.  Locate medicine in a click by their real-time search engine.  Their services extend to non-pharmaceuticals via their e-commerce Marketplace to be one-stop shop, using AI technology.  Chefaa is HIPAA compliant.  (Disrupt Africa 18.08)

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3.10  Egypt’s Harmonica Acquired by Dallas’ Match Group

Egypt-based Harmonica, a seed-stage startup that offers mobile matchmaking with a large presence in the Middle East and other countries with a large Muslim population, has been acquired by international dating giant Match Group.  The Dallas, Texas based acquirer is the holding company of Tinder, OkCupid and, among others.  After the acquisition, 12 full-time employees from Harmonica are joining Match Group to help it serve the Muslim demographic globally.

Harmonica was founded in April 2017 by four Egyptian entrepreneurs who wanted to use technology to enhance the matchmaking process in a traditionally acceptable manner.  The idea came out of personal experience, and the belief that technology could improve this process and facilitate meaningful relationships, as well as empower singles to meet their future life partners.

Match group with a market cap of over $20 billion, is ranked from the world’s top 20 digital companies according to Forbes.  The investment in Harmonica follows Match Group’s April 2019 reorganization of its international leadership team to double down on the market opportunities for products in Asia, which includes many countries that are predominantly Muslim.  Harmonica will remain headquartered in Cairo; this will be Match Group’s first office in the Middle East.  (MAGNiTT 07.08)

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3.11  Trella Joins Y Combinator’s S19 Batch

Trella announced that it has joined Y Combinator’s S19 batch.  Joining the network of the globe’s top startups further validates Trella’s commitment to digitizing trucking and offering a grade-A end-to-end solutions to both shippers and carriers in the trucking industry.  Mountain View, California’s YC opens the door for invaluable opportunities for synergies and collaboration with fellow YC companies and alumni, as well as unparalleled access to YC’s network of investors, mentors, and partners

Addressing an enormous pain-point in a deeply fragmented industry plagued by asset under-utilization and a lack of transparency, consistency, and reliability, Trella’s tech platform has already piqued the interests of regional and global investors and businesses.  Earlier this year, Trella raised $600k+ in a pre-seed funding round led by Algebra Ventures, with participation from strategic investors, global VCs, and notable angel investors including Esther Dyson and Jambu Palaniappan.

Cairo’s Trella is a platform that connects shippers to carriers.  Trella offers services and technology to empower drivers, improve their efficiency, boost their earnings and utilization as well as creating job opportunities.  Trella aims to reduce costs for shippers, introduce a transparent pricing structure and provide them with a more reliable source of carriers. All the while allowing them to track their shipments in real-time as well as report key insights on their transportation trends and performance.  (Trella 18.08)

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3.12  Egypt’s Wholesale and Retail Food Market in 2019

The “Wholesale and Retail Food in Egypt 2019” report has been added to‘s offering.  The wholesale and retail of food in Egypt has been under pressure since the floating of the Egyptian pound in 2016 which drove up inflation and put pressure on import prices.  This was coupled with the introduction of value-added tax and the withdrawal of several fuel and food subsidies.  Over-crowding, lack of parking facilities and out-of-stock situations are all commonplace experiences for shoppers.

However, there is long-term growth potential given that on average Egyptians spend 35% of their income on food, and more than 40% of the population are under 30, the generation widely regarded as most likely to understand the benefits of the one-stop approach to shopping.

Egypt’s food retail sector is fragmented and dominated by small, traditional, grocery retailers, whose 115,000 outlets account for 98% of the nearly 119,000 stores in the country and 80% of sales.  The growing formal sector of modern supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores makes up the remaining 2% comprising 1,500 outlets and representing around 20% of total sales.  It is dominated by five major retailers. The modern grocery retail market is forecast to double between 2017 and 2021.  Among leading retail outlets, UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim holds the Carrefour franchise in Egypt, and there are growing local and regional chains such as Metro and Spinneys.  (RAM 07.08)

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3.13  ADTRAN to Invest in Egypt to Create a Better Broadband Experience

Huntsville, Alabama’s ADTRAN, a leading provider of next-generation open networking and subscriber experience solutions, announced an agreement with the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) to work on a joint manufacturing program in Egypt to deliver ADTRAN’s market-leading fiber products for Egypt and the region.  A signing ceremony was held today at the AOI headquarters and was attended by executives from both companies, leading network operators, government ministers and industry leaders.

As part of an initial focus, the team will work on ADTRAN’s fiber access portfolio, including its award-winning XGS-PON, GPON and other SD-Access solutions.  AOI is a leading manufacturer in the region and partners with companies in a diverse range of fields including electronics, renewable energy, automotive and aeronautics.  (ADTRAN 19.08)

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4.1  Vertical Field Launches Study on the Impacts of “Smart Living Walls”

Vertical Field announced the launch of the world’s largest ever research study on the impact of “Smart Living Walls” in urban settings in terms of the environment, human health and wellbeing.  The long-term research study, led by Professor Itamar Lensky and colleagues from Bar-Ilan University (BIU), the Agricultural Research Organization, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, together with Vertical Field, will take place over a number of years, and will monitor and analyze a range of scientific parameters pertaining to living walls, such as CO2 footprint reduction, heat reduction, impact on air quality, health impact assessment, economic benefits evaluation, establishment of winning economic models, and other aspects.  The research aims to alleviate and minimize the adverse effects of rapid urbanization and increased building density on the environment, as well their impact on human health in an urban ecosystem.

The research is supported by the Israeli Science Foundation and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space.  It also integrates innovative solutions from Environmental Resources Management (EnviroManager), Israel’s largest private company engaged in continuous environmental monitoring, and from Netafim, a global manufacturer of irrigation equipment.

Ramat HaShavim’s Vertical Field is a leading provider of natural smart living wall solutions for urban environments and smart cities.  The company is operated by professionals in the field of agricultural technology, enabling the development of smart walls that combine the best of design and manufacturing, smart computerized monitoring, soil-based technology, water technology and more.  (Vertical Field 22.08)

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4.2  Israel’s Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station Begins Operations

Shikun & Binui Group announced the start of the commercial operation of Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station, the largest renewable energy project in Israel and one of the largest in the world.  In recent months, the plant has begun to generate electricity and is now supplying renewable energy to the national electricity grid that meets the consumption needs of an estimated 70,000 households.  The plant has been a significant contributor to the implementation of government policies as well as to the goals in connection with generating electricity from renewable energy.

Several months ago, when the plant was completed and connected to the national electricity grid, Negev Energy Co. obtained the necessary permits, including a permanent electricity production license from the Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Energy, and began the commercial operation of the solar thermal power plant in Ashalim for the duration of the franchise.

Negev Energy, a joint venture of Shikun & Binui Energy (50%), the Noy Infrastructure Fund (40%) and the Spanish firm TSK (10%), won the tender that had been issued by the Accountant General at the Ministry of Finance and entered into a design franchise agreement in 2013, for the planning, design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of a 121 MW thermo-solar plant for a period of 25 years.  The 988-acre plant is composed of some 16,000 parabolic troughs and about half a million concave mirrors, which converts solar energy into steam that is then used to generate electricity.  The Negev Energy Power Station has a unique system for storing thermal energy, based on molten salt, which allows the plant to operate for approximately an extra 4.5 hours daily at full power following sunset, maximizing the plant’s efficacy and efficiency.  The investment in the construction of the plant is estimated to be about NIS 4 billion.  Hundreds of workers, sub-constructors and suppliers, most of them residents of south Israel and the Negev region, took part in the construction of the plant.  (Shikun & Binui 03.09)

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4.3  Israel to Invest NIS 30 Million in New Plastic Recycling Technologies

The Israel Innovation Authority has approved the establishment of a new consortium aimed at promoting the development of recycling technologies, and the use of recycled materials in Israel’s plastics industry.  Set to receive an investment of 30 million (around $8,600,000), the CIRCLE consortium will enable companies in the recycling sector or plastic and polymer manufacturers, as well as academic and research institutes in the field to develop innovative technologies to give Israeli industry an edge in international markets.  The technologies developed in the consortium will allow for the expansion of the range of recycled materials and their applications.

The consortium’s establishment is aimed at leveraging Israel’s academic and industrial capabilities in order to close the existing technological gap and situate Israel’s plastics industry as a leader in the field of plastic waste management.  It will operate within Israel Innovation Authority’s MAGNET consortium, a nonprofit association of industrial firms and academic research institutes for the research and development of cutting-edge technologies.  (IH 13.08)

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4.4  Jordan Sees Clean Energy to Cover 20% of its Power Needs by 2022

Jordanian Energy Minister Zawati said on 27 August, at the sixth international and fifth Arab forum on renewable energy, that Jordan has developed a legislative environment that has facilitated the creation of renewable wind and solar energy projects, providing “clean electricity” to the national grid at a current capacity of 1,200 megawatts.  This figure constituted 12% of electricity generated in the Hashemite Kingdom in 2018.  Clean energy sources are expected to contribute 20% of Jordan’s electricity needs by 2022, compared with 1% in 2014, according to Zawati.   The value of renewable energy investments has exceeded the $4 billion mark.  The ministry is preparing a “long-term strategy” for the energy sector to last up to the year 2030, Zawati said, pointing to the ministry’s vision for the year 2050, which is to be shared with institutions from the private and public sectors.

The strategy boasts four key pillars, which include reducing the import of energy, boosting reliance on locally produced renewable energy, achieving energy security and diversifying its sources as well as slashing energy costs.  The minister highlighted Jordan’s efforts, through cooperation with neighboring countries, towards enhancing the connection between the Kingdom’s grid and those of stakeholder nations, allowing for the exchange of energy, especially renewable energy.  (JT 27.08)

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4.5  Bahrain Bans Sand Dredging in Order to Repair Seabed

Bahrain has banned the extracting and dredging of sand, in a bid to allow the kingdom’s seabed to recover from decades of damage.  The order was announced by Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa on 31 August and was welcomed by fishermen and environmentalists.

Sand dredging and extraction cuts large chunks of the seabed without any differentiation or thought to its importance to the marine cycle.  The operations stir up the seabed, causing irreparable damage to the marine environment over long distances; this worsens when there are strong currents.  The order focuses on the seabed area north of Muharraq and around the Jarradah island, the report said.  (AB 01.09)

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4.6  Oman’s Dhofar Wind Farm Produces First Kilowatt Hour of Electricity

The 50-megawatt (MW) Dhofar Wind Farm in Oman has produced its first kilowatt hour of electricity, marking a major milestone for the GCC region’s first utility-scale wind farm.  The landmark wind farm, which is fully funded by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), was successfully connected to Oman’s electricity transmission grid in August during the commissioning of the project’s first wind turbine, which is now supplying clean power. The remaining 12 wind turbines will be commissioned, tested and connected to the grid in sequence, ensuring the start of commercial operations before the end of 2019.  The project is being implemented by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) through an EPC consortium of GE Renewable Energy and Spain’s TSK.  Once fully commissioned, the wind farm is expected to generate enough electricity to supply 16,000 homes – equivalent to 7% of Dhofar Governorate’s total power demand – and will offset an estimated 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, while reducing reliance on natural gas for domestic power generation.

The Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) will be the purchaser of the generated power, from the Rural Areas Electricity Company of Oman (Tanweer), which is responsible for operating the wind power plant upon completion.  GE Renewable Energy has provided the project’s 3.8MW wind turbines, which have been built to withstand Oman’s hot and arid desert conditions, while TSK is responsible for the remainder of the wind farm’s infrastructure and electrical transmission facilities connecting the plant to the grid.  (KT 14.08)

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5.1  Lebanon’s Annual Average Inflation Rate Stands at 3% in July 2019

According to the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), Lebanon’s average consumer prices rose by an annual 3% in the first seven months of 2019, compared to an annual rise of 6.23% recorded by July 2018.  The increase in prices over the period came on the back of yearly rises registered across all components of the consumer price index (CPI), except Transportation and Health.  The breakdown of the CPI revealed that the average costs of Housing and utilities (including: water, electricity, gas and other fuels) which grasped a combined 28.4% of the CPI, climbed by an annual 2.65% by July 2019.  Average Owner-occupied rental costs (constituting 13.6% of the category) grew by an annual 2.64%.  In turn, the average prices of water, electricity, gas, and other fuels (11.8% of housing & utilities) recorded a yearly uptick of 2.54% over the same period.  Moreover, the average prices for Food and non-alcoholic beverages (20% of the CPI) and Education costs (6.6% of CPI) registered yearly upticks of 4.85% and 5.14%, respectively, by July 2019.  As for the average prices of Clothing and Footwear (5.2% of the CPI), they also rose by 14.55% year-on-year (y-o-y) by July 2017.  Meanwhile, average consumer prices of Health (7.7% of the CPI) and Transportation (13.1% of the CPI) recorded the respective downticks of 0.80%YOY and 0.96% YOY.  The latter slipped mainly due to the decline in average oil prices which slipped by an annual 8.16% to $65.87/barrel by July 2019.  (CAS 21.08)

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5.2  Lebanon’s Trade Deficit Ended at $8.04 Billion in First Half of 2019

Lebanon’s trade deficit widened in the first 6 months of the year to reach $8.41B, up by 4.58% compared to the same period in 2018.  Regardless of the promising progress in exports, which grew by a yearly 12.38% to $1.73B, the wider deficit came as a result of a 5.83% yearly increase in the value of imports to $10.14B, noting that Mineral products and Vegetable products are the only 2 categories to witness an increase in its imported value.

In terms of value, Mineral products were the leading imports to Lebanon by June 2019, grasping a 33.24% stake of total imported goods.  Products of the chemical or allied industries followed, constituting 10.15% of the total, while machinery and electrical instruments grasped 8.99% of the total.  Specifically, Lebanon imported $3.37B worth of Mineral Products, compared to a value of 1.64B in the same period last year.  In fact, the net weight of imported mineral fuels, oils and their products witnessed a yearly increase from 2,707,439 tons by June 2018 to reach 6,008,753 tons by June 2019, the highest volume in more than 10 years.  The increase in volume is mainly due to the smuggling to Syria amid the rationing of oil in the country, as the Syrian Government is trying to limit capital outflows from the country.  Meanwhile, the value of chemical or allied industries recorded a decrease of 9.47% y-o-y to settle at $1.02B and that of machinery and electrical instruments also declined by 14.87% over the same period to $911.74M.

In terms of top trade partners, Lebanon primarily imported from US, China, and Russia with shares of 9.08%, 8.60% and 6.92%, respectively, by June 2019.  As for exports, the top category of products exported from Lebanon were pearls, precious stones and metals, which grasped a share of 32.88% of total exports, followed by a share of 11.57% for prepared foodstuffs, beverage, and tobacco and 10.74% for Machinery; electrical instruments over the same period.  The value of pearls, precious stones & metals surged by 43.88% by June 2019 to reach $568.92M.  As for the value of Prepared foodstuffs; beverages, tobacco, it declined by 3.96% y-o-y to $200.15M.  Meanwhile, the value of Machinery; electrical instruments recorded an important increase of 22.95% year-on-year to $185.90M.  In H1/19, Switzerland followed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia were Lebanon’s top three export destinations, respectively constituting 19.08%, 12.94%, and 6.72% of total exports.  (Blom 26.08)

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5.3  Jordan’s Average Inflation Rate for July 2019 Rises by 0.2%

The monthly report on inflation in Jordan issued by the Department of Statistics indicates that the Consumer Price Average (Inflation) reached 125.55 in July 2019 against 125.30 during the same month of 2018, recorded an increase by 0.2%.  The main commodities groups, which contributed to this increase, were Rents by 0.51%, Meat & poultry by 0.35%, Cereals and its products by 0.12%, Education by 0.07% and Culture & Recreation by 0.06%.  Meanwhile, the main commodities groups which witnessed a decrease in their prices were Transport by 0.38%, Dairy and its products and eggs by 0.16%, fuel and lighting by 0.13% and Tobacco and Cigarettes  by 0.15%.

On the monthly level, the Consumer Price index for July 2019 has decreased by 0.1% compared with the previous month (June) 2019.  The main commodities groups which contributed to this decrease were Meat & poultry by 0.15%, Transport by 0.18%, Fruits & Nuts by 0.04% and Sugar and its products and Fuel & lighting by 0.02% for each.  Meanwhile, the main groups which witnessed an increase in their prices were Dairy and its products and eggs by 0.12%, Vegetables, Dried and Canned Legumes by 0.11%, Beverages by 0.03% and Oil & fats by 0.02%.  (DoS 19.08)

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5.4  Jordanian Unemployment Continues to Rise Unabated

The Hashemite Kingdom’s unemployment rate registered a 0.5% increase at the end of this year’s second quarter, currently standing at 19.2%.  In its quarterly unemployment report, the Department of Statistics (DoS) reported that the unemployment rate for men stood at 17%, compared with 17.2% for women, denoting increases of 0.5 and 0.4% respectively in comparison with the same period of last year.

Unemployment amongst university-degree holders also registered an increase, standing at 25.9%.  The unemployment rate for those who have completed their secondary education or beyond amounted to 56%, compared with 44% for those with a lesser qualification.  Unemployment was most prevalent among the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, reaching 46 and 40% respectively.  The DoS reported that 30% of men with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed, compared with 84% unemployment among their women counterparts.  (DoS 02.09)

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5.5  Chinese Company Signs $1.4 Billion Iraq Construction Deal

A Chinese company has reportedly signed a $1.39 billion construction contract in Iraq.  According to Xinhua, China Construction Third Engineering Bureau will implement civil engineering projects and infrastructure in southern Iraq, including low-cost housing, education, medical centers and facilities projects in governorates of Najaf, Karbala and Basra.  (Xinhua 08.08)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.6  Bahrain Says Budget Deficit Narrows to $1 Billion in First Half of 2019

Bahrain has announced it has narrowed its budget deficit to BD404 million ($1.07 billion) in the first half of 2019.  The kingdom feels it is ahead of its projected deficit reduction schedule, after the deficit fell from BD650 million in the same period a year earlier.

Last month, a report from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Oxford Economics said Bahrain’s economic outlook for the remainder of 2019 remains “challenging” due to weakness in government finances, limited prospects for oil sector growth and a general slowdown in the non-oil economy.  According to ICAEW’s report, economic growth in the kingdom more than halved last year from 3.7% in 2017 to 1.8 in 2018, with further deceleration seen in 2019 to 1.6%.  ICAEW said it expects a range of measures to be taken to reduce the fiscal deficit from an estimated 10.1% of GDP in 2018 to around 7% of GDP in 2019.  Bahrain, which does not benefit from the vast oil wealth of other Gulf Arab states, last year released a plan to fix its debt-burdened finances after securing a $10 billion Gulf aid pledge.  (AB 07.08)

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5.7  Trademark Infringements in Dubai Increase By 23% in First Half

There was a 23% increase in the number of trademark infringement cases brought in Dubai over the first half of the year.  The Intellectual Property Protection section in Dubai Economy resolved 186 cases as opposed to 151 over the same period in 2018.  Commercial agencies brought forward 16 cases of trademark infringement in the first six months of 2019, a 33% increase over H1/18.  Among the cases, 38 were relating to cosmetics and 22 were about personal care products while the other brands involved were mostly perfumes (21 cases), clothes (14), gold and ornaments (13), phones and accessories (12), glasses (10), bags and leather products (7) and watches (6).  It comes as the Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection (CCCP) sector in Dubai Economy witnessed a 63% year-on-year increase in trademark files registered on its ‘IP Gateway’ portal during the first six months of 2019.

The top five source countries among the trademark files opened in the first six months of 2019 were: USA (1,482 files, representing 29% of the total); UAE (742 files, 14.8% of the total); Germany (325 files, or 7%); France (273 files, or 5.2%) and the UK (260 files, 5%).  (AB 25.08)

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5.8  UAE’s Third Nuclear Plant Hits Key Power Testing Milestone

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) achieved another milestone in the construction of Unit 3 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, being built in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi.  ENEC said it has safely and successfully energized Unit 3’s main power transformer and gas insulated bus, an important step in the continued testing and commissioning of the plant.  Unit 3’s auxiliary power transformers and excitation transformer were also energized in normal operating configuration, ENEC said, adding that it comes approximately one year after the completion of similar work on Unit 2.  Testing and commissioning teams will now begin preparing for the start of hot functional testing at Unit 3 which consists of almost 200 tests performed on major systems.  The construction of the Barakah plant is progressing with Unit 1 complete, while Unit 2 stands at 95%, Unit 3 at 91%, and Unit 4 at 82%.  Unit 1 is currently undergoing commissioning and testing, prior to regulatory review and receipt of the operating license from regulators.  (AB 20.08)

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5.9  UAE to Add Sugary Drinks and E-Cigarettes to Excise Tax List in 2020

On 20 August, the UAE Cabinet announced a decision to expand the list of excise taxable products to include sweetened beverages, sugary drinks and electronic smoking devices, starting from 1 January 2020.  The decision to add a tax of 50% is part of efforts to reduce consumption of unhealthy goods and modify consumers’ behavior.  The decision also requires manufacturers to clearly identify the sugar content in order for consumers to make “sensible healthy choices”.  A tax of 100% will be levied on electronic smoking devices, whether or not they contain nicotine or tobacco, as well as the liquids used in electronic smoking devices.  The decision aims at reducing the consumption of harmful products that put the health of people and environment at risk.  In 2017, the UAE Government started introducing excise tax on specific goods, which are typically harmful to human health or the environment.  (AB 20.08)

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5.10  Saudi Arabia Replaces Royal Court Chief and Creates Ministry of Industry

On 30 August, Saudi Arabia announced the creation of a new natural resources ministry, separating it from the energy ministry, while replacing the head of the royal court in a series of official decrees.  Bandar al-Khorayef, a top business executive, was appointed head of the new Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources as the world’s top crude exporter seeks to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Other royal decrees published on state media named Fahd al-Essa as head of the royal court, the center of power and politics in the absolute monarchy.  Essa is a royal insider said to be close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler and heir apparent.  Former information minister Awwad al-Awwad was appointed head of the human rights commission, while Mazen al-Kahmous was named new chairman of the national anti-corruption commission.  (AB 31.08)

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5.11  Saudi Arabia Launches $826 Million in Water Projects

Saudi Arabia has launched water developments in Mecca and across other holy sites worth over $826.6 million.  Projects include setting up a pipeline for carrying desalinated water from the desalination plant in Al-Shuaibah to Mecca and the holy sites at a total cost exceeding $233m and the second phase of Al-Shuaibah Desalination Plant with a capacity of 250,000 cubic meters per day at a cost of over $313m.

Other water services projects include water networks, connections to homes, strategic reservoirs and sanitary drainage networks and connections at a cost of over $160m in several districts of Makkah and the holy sites.  This is in addition to the $124m Desalination Unit Project in Al-Shuaibah.  The new projects are an attempt by the authorities to reach a sustainable water sector that will develop and preserve the water resources, protect the environment and provide high quality and efficient services that will contribute to socio-economic development.  (AB 14.08)

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►►North Africa

5.12  Egypt’s Annual Inflation Rate Declines to 7.8% in July

The annual inflation rate in Egypt declined to 7.8% in July, according to a monthly statement issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).  On a monthly basis, the rate dropped in July from June by 1.5%, registering 307.8 points in July down from 312.5 points in June.  The annual inflation rate reached 11.7% before the end of July due to the increase in fuel prices during that month, compared to 8% during June.  In May, the annual inflation rate in Egypt had reached 14.1%, a 1% increase on April.

In June 2019, Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation fell sharply for the first time this year to 9.4% from 14.1% in May, continuing its drop to 7.8% in July.  The annual inflation rate declined during the past June to reach 8.9% compared to the same time in 2018 which had recorded 13.8%, while the inflation rate recorded 12.4% during the first half of 2019.

Earlier this month, Egypt implemented its latest round of fuel subsidy cuts, raising prices by 16 to 30%, as it neared the end of its loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for economic reform.  As well, the Egyptian government raised prices on cooking gas, oil, electricity and some food items.  (CAPMAS 08.08)

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5.13  Remittances from Egyptians Abroad Rose to Around $3 Billion in May

Egypt’s remittances from workers abroad rose 43% month-on-month in May to around $3 billion, the central bank said.  The remittances, one of the country’s main sources of hard currency, stood at $2.1 billion in April.  Egypt received $2.6 billion in remittances in May 2018.  (Ahram Online 27.08)

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5.14  Morocco’s Consumer Price Index Down 0.8% in July

Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP) has announced that the consumer price index (CPI) fell by 0.8% in July compared with the previous month.  The drop in the price consumer index is due to the decline of the food index by 2.0% and the non-food index by 0.1%.

The Core inflation indication (ISJ) fell by 0.2 % in one month but went up 1.3 % annually, HCP said.  HCP explained that the decreases in food products between June and July 2019 mainly concern vegetables (8.1%), 4.3% for seafood, 3.6% for fruits, 1.7% for meat, and 0.5% for milk, cheese and eggs.  With regards to non-food products, the decline mainly concerned fuel prices and stood at 1.0%.

HCP also compared July’s 2019 consumer price index with that of 2018.  The figures indicate that the consumer price index rose 0.3% in July 2019 compared with the same period of the previous year due to the rise in the non-food product index by 0.9 % and the decline of that of food products by 0.5%.  CPI evaluates prices of goods and services, including medical care, food and transportation.  (HCP 22.0)

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5.15  Morocco Hosts 5.4 Million Tourists During First Half of 2019

The Moroccan Tourism Observatory reported that more than five million tourists visited Morocco in the first half of 2019.  The number represents a 6.6% increase compared to the same period last year.  The Tourism industry market saw an increase in arrivals from a range of countries, especially from France, Italy, German, and Spain.  Key markets include Italy, with an increase of 12 %, France (9%), Spain (8%) and Germany (8%).  The arrivals from the Dutch, British and Belgian tourists also increased.  The report shows that tourists to Morocco favor Marrakech and Agadir.  The report shows that Marrakech saw an increase of 8% of tourist arrivals, while Agadir recorded an increase of 4%.  Last year, Morocco received 12.3 million tourists, recording an increase of 8 million from the previous year.

Morocco has introduced a vision to enhance the sector.  The 2020 vision offers “a spatial planning policy of tourism offer, guarantor of the benefits to spread and the socio-economic development of all the Kingdom’s regions,” according to the Ministry of Tourism.  Morocco’s projects to enhance tourism include the preservation of Morocco’s heritage and legacy.  (MWN 12.08)

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5.16  Morocco Faces High Water Stress and Ranks 22nd Worldwide for Stressed Nations

In its latest reports on overall water stress, the World Resources Institute (WRS) has ranked Morocco among the countries threatened to face high baseline water stress.  Morocco ranks 22nd in the overall ranking and 12th in Arab countries.  The WRS attributed water scarcity to climate-change, socio-economic development, urbanization and population growth.  The report found that 12 out of the 17 most water-stressed countries are in the MENA region – home to one-quarter of the world’s population.  The 17 countries use more than 80% of the available supply on average every year.

The WRS has stated that there are countless solutions to tackle water shortage but only stated the most 3 effective ways.  The solutions include: Investing in grey and green infrastructure by building pipes and treatment plants, as well as wetlands, and healthy watersheds.

With 100% of its water treated and 78% of it is reused, Oman – ranked 16th in the list – has emerged as a leader in water treatment and reuse.  Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) treat around 84% of wastewater collected, but only 44% are reused.  (MWN 08.08)

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6.1  Erdogan Says Turkey Wants to Continue Defense Cooperation with Russia

On 27 August, Turkish President Erdogan said that Turkey wants to continue defense industry cooperation with Russia, including on warplanes, following talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.  Erdogan spoke after the leaders visited an air show outside the Russian capital where Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jets performed demonstration flights and the Turkish leader inspected aircraft.  In another step that could further strain ties with NATO ally the United States, Turkey took delivery on Tuesday of a second batch of Russian S-400 air defense equipment.

The initial delivery of parts of the S-400s, which Washington says is not compatible with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defenses, arrived in Ankara in July despite warnings about possible US sanctions over the purchase.  Washington has not yet acted on the threat, but it did begin last month to remove Turkey from its program of manufacturing F-35 jets, which Turkey also planned to buy. In response, Erdogan said Turkey would turn elsewhere for jets to meet its needs.  Putin said he and Erdogan discussed cooperation on Russia’s Su-35 jet and possible joint work on its new Su-57.  (HDN 28.08)

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6.2  Turkey Foreign Trade Deficit Narrows 47% in July

Turkey’s foreign trade deficit almost halved on an annual basis in July, the Turkish Statistical Institute reported on 29 August.  The deficit shrank by 47% to $3.19 billion.  Exports rose by an annual 7.9% to $15.2 billion, while imports fell 8.5% to $18.4 billion.  Turkey’s government has introduced measures to boost exports, including providing cheap credits and other incentives, as it seeks to reverse an economic downturn.  A currency crisis that peaked a year ago has curtailed demand for imported goods and made exports cheaper.  Seasonally and calendar-adjusted exports and imports increased by a monthly 15.2% and 4.6%, respectively, compared with June.  Calendar-adjusted exports increased by 4.8% and imports dropped by 9.1% on an annual basis.  (TUIK 29.08)

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6.3  Turkish Central Bank Says End of Tax Cuts Boosted Inflation

Turkey’s central bank said an end to temporary tax cuts on some durable goods led to an acceleration in inflation in July.  Increases in energy prices had also helped reverse a recent slowdown in consumer price inflation (CPI), the central bank announced on 6 August.

Turkish CPI advanced to an annual 16.7% last month from 15.7% in June, the Turkish Statistical Institute said.  Most economists predict that the rate will slow in the third quarter before accelerating again.  The government’s year-end target for CPI is 15.9%.  The central bank noted that annual increases in food prices continued to slow. A jump in the price of food, stoked by a currency crisis, had helped inflation reach a 15-year high of 25.2% in October.  A recent increase in tobacco prices will impact inflation during August.  (CBT 06.08)

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6.4  Turkey Draws Nearly 25 Million Foreign Visitors in 7 Months

Turkey welcomed 24.69 million foreign visitors in the first seven months of this year, according to a recent Culture and Tourism Ministry data.  The number of foreigners visiting the country rose by 14.1% in January-July from the previous year.  Istanbul remained Turkey’s top tourist draw, attracting 34.2% of all visitors- around 8.4 million.  The Mediterranean resort city of Antalya followed with 31.8% or over 7.85 million foreign visitors in the same period.  Edirne, in northwestern Turkey, which borders both Bulgaria and Greece, received the third-highest number of foreigners, with 2.5 million during the first seven months.  (AA 29.08)

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6.5  Over 88% of Turkish Households Have Internet Access

Almost nine out of 10 households have internet access in 2019, a Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) survey announced on 27 August.  Internet access of households in the country rose 4.5% to 88.3% in 2019, versus the last year, according to the Information and Communication Technology Usage Survey.  While some 87.9% of households had a broadband internet connection, 86.9% of households also used a mobile broadband connection in 2019.

Internet usage of individuals aged 16-74 was 75.3% in 2019.  This proportion was 72.9% in 2018, according to the survey.  While the proportion of males aged 16-74 using the internet were 81.8%, this proportion was 68.9% for women.  During the twelve months (April 2018 – March 2019), 51.2% of internet users among the individuals aged 16-74 interacted with public authorities over the Internet for private purposes.  This proportion was 45.6% in the previous period, TÜİK.

In the April 2018 – March 2019 period, 34.1% of internet users used online services to buy goods or services, up from 29.3% in the previous period.  The proportion of shopping over the internet was 38.3% for men and 29.9% for women.  TÜİK will release next data on this subject in August 2020.  (TÜİK 27.08)

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6.6  Turkish E-Commerce Growth Stymied by Logistics Problems

Nearly 85% of e-commerce in Turkey is carried out in the northwest, west and center of the country with lack of logistics in other regions putting people off taking their business online, a report by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD) and consultants Deloitte Digital said.  It said 84% of e-commerce is in just three of Turkey’s seven regions – the Marmara, Central Anatolia and Aegean, with 56, 16 and 12% of the volume respectively.

Infrastructure is important: A Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) study cited in the report showed that 17% of users do not shop online due to issues with logistics.  In the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) for 2018, Turkey ranked 47th out of 160 countries.  Unsurprisingly, the impact e-commerce has on the gross national product (GNP) correlates with internet penetration levels. For Turkey, the e-commerce market size was found to be $6.1 billion, while the gross national product (GNP) was $766 billion in 2018.  An increase of 10% in internet penetration correlates to a 1.8% increase in gross domestic product (GDP), said the report.

According to the Information Technologies Authority (BTK), there are 61 million mobile broadband internet users in the country, out of 80 million people in total.  Two-thirds of internet users in Turkey (63%) use social media, according to the report, only six points behind the world-leader, the United States.  YouTube is used most actively with 92%, followed by Instagram’s 84%.  One platform that stood out was Pinterest, where three quarters of users (72%) with no intention of shopping end up making a purchase after being inspired by the digital moodboard, the report showed.

Despite the lack of PayPal, and a decrease in the number of websites for holiday bookings, multi-channel retail and online retail, Turkey’s online shopping increased by 42%, said the report, and total revenue for online sales in Turkey for 2018 increased to 60 billion liras ($10 billion) from 42.2 billion liras in 2017.  Consumers shop in digital marketplaces for clothing, electronics, food, holidays and books in Turkey, in this order. The biggest sellers are mobile phones (50% of electronics) and nappies (53% of children’s goods).  The biggest digital marketplaces in Turkey were listed in the report were N11 and Hepsiburada. Trendyol, which received investment from Chinese giant Alibaba in 2018, is another key player, according to the report.

In mid-May 2019, Turkey removed all customs tax exemptions, as announced in the Official Gazette. The tax-free limit had been reduced over the years, from €150 to eventually €22, with electronics and cosmetics in particular excluded from the exemptions.  Turkey now imposes an 18% customs tax on goods from the EU, and 20% for the rest of the world.  (Ahval 19.08)

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6.7  Greece Posts January – July Surplus of €1.76 Billion

The first seven months of the year went unexpectedly well for Greece’s finances and an expected primary shortfall of €803 million turned into a surplus of €1.76 billion, boosting the government’s belief that it can achieve the surplus target agreed with the creditors, equal to 3.5% of GDP.  Net revenue rose 8.1% to €28.59 billion, €2.13 billion more than planned.  The results were helped by a one-off item, the extension of the management of the Athens International Airport which brought almost €1.4 billion to state coffers, including €271.6 million in value-added tax.

The previous government had agreed to a much smaller amount for the extension, but was pressured by the European Union into reopening talks.  The airport deal extension alone accounted for well over 40% of VAT collected by the government (€662 million), but total VAT revenue rose just 8% from last year.  Revenue from taxing properties rose 11.8%, to just over €600 million, while another €644 million came from other EU central banks returning the profits they had made from the sale of Greece bonds.  (Various 27.08)

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6.8  Greek Exports & Imports Decline Steeply In June

Greek exports dropped 9% year-on-year in June, but the country’s trade deficit narrowed 22.9% because imports dropped even more, according to preliminary data compiled by ELSTAT.  Total exports in June came to €2.76 billion, compared to €3.03 billion in June 2018, while imports stood at €4.28 billion, a drop of 14.5% from last June’s €5.05 billion.

For the first half of the year, exports rose 2.2% year-on-year, to €16.82 billion, while imports rose 4.8%, to €27.7 billion.  This brought the first-half trade deficit to nearly €10.9 billion, or 8.8% higher than last year’s.  Raw materials and chemicals led the first half’s export growth, rising 16.1% and 14.5%, respectively.  By contrast, exports of fats and oils tumbled 48.4%.  Exports of industrial products grew by a modest 1.1%.

Greece’s 27 European Union partners remain the customers for its exports:  Overall, 55.7% of Greek exports headed to other parts of the EU. Excluding refined petroleum products, the percentage of Greek exports to the rest of the EU rises to 67.9% of the total.  (ELSTAT 23.08)

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6.9  Cyprus-Greece-Israel-US Cement Eastern Mediterranean Security Partnership

Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the United States agreed to enhance cooperation in energy, cyber and infrastructure security, after ministerial summit in Athens.  On 7 August, Greek Energy Minister Hatzidakis hosted the first energy summit of the four countries that underlines the growing importance of hydrocarbon wealth and need for stability in the region.  Natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have rendered the region a viable alternative energy source for Europe, but also exposed long-simmering disputes between neighbors jostling for rights over resources.

East Med regional tripartite summits between Israel and Cyprus, which have made discoveries, and Greece, keen to be a hub, have recently been extended to include the United States.  Cypriot Energy Minister Lakkotrypis said he had received assurances from his Israeli, Greek and U.S. counterparts of full support over Cyprus’ right to search for natural resources.  Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, disputes the EU-member state’s right to explore for natural gas, staking a claim over offshore areas that breach the island’s designated maritime zone.  Ankara has dispatched two drill ships east and west of the island, a move Cyprus says is a violation of international law and triggered EU sanctions against Turkey.  (FM 07.08)

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6.10  Greeks Expanding Use of Credit Cards

Use of credit and debit cards in Greece expanded 12.8% in the second quarter of 2019, but the average value of each transaction declined, according to data published by the Hellenic Bank Association.  The upward trend in the use of credit and debit cards continued, and the drop in the average transaction value is an indicator that Greeks now use credit cards to pay even small bills, which in the past they would have settled with cash.  Efforts by tax authorities to catch tax-evading businesses by providing tax breaks for submitted credit and debit card receipts are behind this change in paying habits, bankers believe.  The data do not include Greeks’ purchases abroad or tourists’ purchases in Greece.  (HBA 13.08)

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6.11  Greek Housing Sector Rebounds at Strongest Rate in More Than 12 Years

The recovery in Greece’s housing market gained speed in the second quarter with prices increasing at the strongest pace in more than 12 years, helped by an expanding economy and growing foreign interest.  Property accounts for a large chunk of household wealth in Greece, where the home ownership rate is 80%, above the EU average of 70%.  Apartment prices rose 7.7% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, Bank of Greece data showed, accelerating from a 1.3% increase in the first quarter of 2018.  More specifically, prices rose by 11.1% year-on-year in Athens, where home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and a “golden visa” program – a renewable five-year resident’s permit in return for a €250,000 ($285,000) investment in real estate – have grown very popular.

Greek house prices fell 42% between 2008, when the country’s protracted recession began, and the end of 2017.  A similar trend is unfolding in Greek prime office prices, which rebounded by 7% last year.  The rise was seen in all market segments – including old and newly built apartments – and in all regions, though prices in the capital led the way.

The Greek market had been hurt by property taxes imposed to plug budget deficits, tight bank lending and a jobless rate still around 17.2%, the highest in the 19-nation Eurozone.  But economic prospects have improved since 2015 when Greece signed up to a third bailout package worth up to €86 billion ($107 billion).  The country emerged from its latest bailout in August last year and is now relying on markets to cover its financial needs.  Greece’s €180 billion economy expanded in January-to-March, but at a slower annual pace than the quarter before, mainly driven by consumer spending and a pick-up in investments.  (Reuters 02.09)

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7.1  Immigration to Israel Increases by Nearly 30%, Largely Due to Russian Speakers

Immigration to Israel rose by almost 30% in the first half of 2019 compared to the previous year, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel.  The increase of 16,005 newcomers from 2018 comes mostly from Russian speakers who have been leaving countries associated with the former Soviet Union.  The overwhelming majority of new immigrants reportedly came from Russia, numbering 7,884 (a 73% increase) and Ukraine with 3,007 (a 6% increase).  Immigration from the United States remained stable, with French immigration dropping 21%.  According to the Jewish Agency, 839 new arrivals came from France to Israel in the first six months of 2019.  Immigration from France spiked from 2013 to 2015 but has dropped as many have struggled with finding employment and failing to acclimate to the Middle East.  (JNS 20.08)

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7.2  Saudi Arabia’s Six Flags Qiddiya to Feature World’s Fastest Roller Coaster

Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia’s entertainment city, will include twelve record-breaking attractions when it opens to the public in 2023, including the world’s longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster and the world’s tallest drop-tower ride.  In a ceremony in Riyadh on 26 August, American theme park operator Six Flags unveiled the designs for its park in Qiddiya, which David McKillips, who manages development of the company’s parks outside the United States, said it will be “the most unique Six Flags theme park ever built”.  There will be twelve world record-breaking rides that will be inside this park.

Six Flags Qiddiya will cover 32 hectares and include 28 rides and attractions across six themed lands including The City of Thrills, Discovery Springs, Steam Town, Twilight Gardens, Valley of Fortune and Grand Exposition.  Within The City of Thrills will be two of the major record-breaking rides: The Falcon’s Flight, inspired by the kingdom’s famous raptor, will be the longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world, while the Sirocco Tower will be the world’s tallest drop-tower ride.  The Citadel, a central hub area, will be covered by a billowing canopy form inspired by traditional Bedouin tents and McKillips said this was reflective of the park’s plans to embrace its local Saudi surroundings.

Qiddiya is operated by the Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC), which was incorporated in May 2018 and is wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. The project broke ground on April 28 last year and the first of three phases is due to open in 2023.  (AB 26.08)

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7.3  Turkey Bans Istanbul’s ‘Queer Olympix’

Authorities in Istanbul have banned the “Queer Olympix” sports event, making it the latest in the string of pro-LGBT events to be banned in the country.  The third annual Queer Olympix, included football, beach volleyball and long jump.  Police in Istanbul’s Kadıköy arrived at the scene of the event, where organizers were setting up, with water cannons.  The Kadiköy district governorate in an official statement said banned the event for the first time as a precaution against the provocations that may occur due to social sensitivities.  Turkish authorities this year banned for the fifth year in a row the annual pride march for LGBTI rights in Istanbul, which attracts tens of thousands of people.  The ongoing ban in Turkey’s largest city as well as the ban on pride week activities in several other provinces such as the southern provinces of Antalya and Mersin have stirred a debate on creeping conservatism under President Erdoğan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).  (Ahval 29.08)

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8.1  Can-Fite to Treat Advanced Liver Cancer Patients with Namodenoson in Israel

Can-Fite BioPharma announced that a supply of Namodenoson has been manufactured and is ready for use in the treatment of advanced liver cancer patients under compassionate use at the Rabin Medical Center in Israel.  Compassionate use allows doctors and their patients the option of early access to investigational new drugs, under closely controlled and monitored circumstances, when a patient who is facing serious illness has exhausted all available treatment options.

Can-Fite recently announced results from its Phase II study of Namodenoson in the treatment of advanced liver cancer.  Namodenoson was found to increase overall survival in HCC patients with Child Pugh B7, the largest subpopulation of the study, as compared to placebo, even though the trial did not meet its primary endpoint.

Petah Tikva’s Can-Fite BioPharma is an advanced clinical stage drug development Company with a platform technology that is designed to address multi-billion dollar markets in the treatment of cancer, inflammatory disease and sexual dysfunction.  The Company’s lead drug candidate, Piclidenoson, is currently in Phase III trials for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.  Can-Fite’s liver cancer drug, Namodenoson, recently completed a Phase II trial for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, and is in a Phase II trial for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).  (Can-Fite 06.08)

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8.2  CartiHeal Performs First Agili-C Cartilage Repair Implantation Procedures at New York Hospital

CartiHeal announced the successful enrollment and operation of the first two patients in the Agili-C Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) pivotal study at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), New York, NY.  The surgeries were performed by site Principal Investigator Prof. Andreas Gomoll, MD, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon.  The multi-site clinical study will involve a minimum of 250 patients, which 228 patients have already been enrolled.  HSS is one of 15 U.S. clinical sites participating in this randomized and controlled Food and Drug Administration (FDA) IDE clinical study.  The primary study objective is to show superiority of the Agili-C™ cartilage regeneration implant over the current standards of care: microfracture and debridement.

Kfar Saba’s CartiHeal, a privately-held medical device, develops proprietary implants for the treatment of cartilage and osteochondral defects in traumatic and osteoarthritic joints.  CartiHeal’s cell-free, off-the-shelf implant is CE marked for use in cartilage and osteochondral defects.  Agili-C has been implanted in over 400 patients with cartilage lesions in the knee, ankle and great toe in a series of clinical studies conducted in leading centers in Europe and Israel.  In these clinical studies, the Agili-C implant was used to treat a broad spectrum of cartilage lesions, from single focal lesions to multiple and large defects in patients suffering from osteoarthritis.  In the United States, the Agili-C implant is not available for sale – it is an investigational device limited for use in the IDE study.  (CartiHeal 07.08)

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8.3  Corteva Agriscience Invests in Evogene’s Agriculture Biologicals Subsidiary, Lavie Bio

Wilmington, Delaware’s Corteva, a leading pure-play agriculture company, and Evogene announced that Corteva will make an investment in Evogene’s agriculture biologicals subsidiary, Lavie Bio (Lavie).  The transaction includes the exchange of all shares of Corteva’s wholly owned subsidiary Taxon Biosciences along with an equity investment by Corteva in Lavie.  As consideration for the Taxon Biosciences shares and equity investment, Corteva will be issued approximately 30% of Lavie’s equity while Evogene will hold approximately 70% of Lavie’s equity.

Corteva subsidiary Taxon Biosciences’ capabilities are expected to provide significant synergetic value to Lavie and accelerate the development of Lavie’s products.  Taxon Biosciences’ assets, including a large microbial collection and product candidate pipeline, will be integrated into Lavie’s pipeline, accelerating Lavie’s ‘biology driven design’ approach and its product development.  Corteva’s investment in Lavie will also provide to Corteva certain rights with respect to Lavie’s corn and soy pipelines, allowing Lavie to benefit from Corteva’s world-leading corn and soybean market access.

Lavie focuses on improving food quality, agricultural sustainability and productivity through the development of novel microbiome based agriculture biological products.  Lavie’s unique approach utilizes a proprietary Computational Predictive Biology (CPB) platform, developed by Evogene, leveraging big data and advanced informatics through discovery, optimization and development stages in order to create next generation microbiome-based products.  Lavie’s product candidate pipeline addresses major needs in row crops such as corn and wheat as well as specialty crops such as grapes.

Rehovot’s Evogene is a leading biotechnology company developing novel products for major life science markets through the use of a unique computational predictive biology (CPB) platform incorporating deep scientific understandings and advanced computational technologies.  Today, this platform is utilized by the Company to discover and develop innovative products in the main following areas (via subsidiaries or divisions): ag-chemicals, ag-biologicals, seed traits, human microbiome based therapeutics and medical cannabis.

Evogene’s CPB platform has been designed for the in silico (computational) prediction and prioritization of genes, proteins, microbes and small molecules based on multiple attributes that will be key to successful development and commercialization of novel life-science based products.  Successfully addressing these multiple product attributes at the beginning of the discovery process, rather than one at a time during the development phase, is expected to reduce the time and cost of a program, but much more importantly, increase the probability of reaching a successful outcome.  (Corteva 07.08)

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8.4  Nobio Receives FDA Clearances for Infinix Flowable & Bulk Fill Composites

Nobio’s Infinix advanced dental restoratives – Flowable Composite and Bulk Fill Flow Composite – received U.S. FDA clearance to market.  These are the first FDA-cleared products incorporating Nobio’s patented QASi particle technology for maintaining restoration integrity and protecting against degradation by bacteria over time.  Two other Infinix products with QASi technology are pending FDA clearance, the Universal Composite and the Universal Bond, which has an antibacterial cavity cleansing effect.

More than 200 million tooth restorations are performed each year in the U.S. only, most of them to replace existing restorations that fail due to bacteria that penetrate the tooth-restoration interface (e.g., the micro-gap between the restoration and tooth, a common site of recurrent decay).  The estimated annual cost of replacement dentistry is more than $5 billion in the U.S. alone.  Recurrent decay may eventually lead to tooth loss. QASi particles (quaternary ammonium silica-dioxide) are a member of Nobio’s family of antimicrobial particles.

These particles are said to combine a high concentration of antimicrobial molecules that are covalently bonded to a solid core, reportedly forming an insoluble, potent, long-lasting antimicrobial structure.  The antimicrobial effect occurs only when bacteria contact the material containing these particles, offering significant advantages versus traditional approaches relying on the release of antimicrobial molecules, which eventually deplete and may affect also normal flora.  Nobio particles are said to have a long-term effect because they’re retained in the filling material following polymerization and are insoluble.  Long-term antimicrobial protection and a stable molecular structure are especially important in dental restorations which are intended to remain in the oral environment for decades.

Petah Tikva’s Nobio provides an infection and biofilm prevention solution based on antimicrobial materials.  The technology is already incorporated in antimicrobial dentistry products to improve the longevity of restorations and antimicrobial indwelling catheters, which are associated with hospital-acquired infections.  The technology core consists of proprietary particles with very high antimicrobial activity that can be permanently embedded in a broad range of products and materials to prevent the formation of biofilm, indefinitely.  The Nobio particles are safe and highly effective and provide a permanent, scalable, and cost-effective solution against biofilm formation and contamination.  (Nobio 08.08)

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8.5  GemmaCert Raises $3.5 Million

GemmaCert has raised NIS 12 million ($3.5 million) for its organization, which incorporates an honor winning cannabis strength testing application.  The funds were raised by speculators from Japan, Latin America, and Europe just as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which contributed $573,000 through an opportune reserve for college workers.  The venture was made by a post-subsidizing organization valuation of NIS 100 million ($28.6 million).

The organization’s cannabis strength testing application breaks down the complete THC and CBD levels in an example of cannabis, incorporating levels in ground cannabis, dry blossom buds and CBD oil.  The application won the esteemed 2019 iF Design Award in the Medicine and Health class in Hamburg, Germany in March.

Ra’anana’s GemmaCert is developing the world’s first truly non-destructive and non-invasive analytical device for the precise verification of the potency of cannabis flowers.  It is suitable for growers, processors, distributors and dispensaries along the value chain.  With their eco-friendly device, no solvents or grinding is required since there is no need for sample preparation ahead of testing, flowers remain intact and undamaged after analysis; it is easy-to-use and delivers quick results for real-time decision-making.  Their proprietary technology combines advanced optics and imaging analysis to overcome the challenges of the heterogeneous cannabis flower.  It comes with an integrated cloud database, also to be available with sorting and labeling functionality, traceable packaging, mobile apps and more.  (GemmaCert 20.08)

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8.6  Teva Announces Availability of a Generic Equivalent of EpiPen Jr in the United States

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced availability of the FDA-approved generic version of EpiPen Jr®1 (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injector, 0.15 mg, in the U.S.  The product is available in most retail pharmacies and the Wholesale Acquisition Cost is $300 for a 2-pack.

Teva’s generic equivalent of EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® utilize the Antares Pharma VIBEX® device. Antares and Teva have an exclusive License, Development and Supply Agreement for epinephrine auto injector products that Teva markets in the U.S.  Epinephrine Injection (Auto-Injector) is a prescription medicine in a disposable, prefilled automatic injection device (auto-injector) used to treat life-threatening, allergic emergencies including anaphylaxis in people who are at risk for or have a history of serious allergic emergencies. Each device contains a single dose of epinephrine.

Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has been developing and producing medicines to improve people’s lives for more than a century.  They are a global leader in generic and specialty medicines with a portfolio consisting of over 3,500 products in nearly every therapeutic area.  Around 200 million people around the world take a Teva medicine every day, and are served by one of the largest and most complex supply chains in the pharmaceutical industry.  (Teva 20.08)

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8.7  MDClone, Developer of First Healthcare Synthetic Data Engine, Raises $26 Million

MDClone announced the closing of a $26 million Series B funding round led by health-tech venture capital fund aMoon, with additional funding from existing investors OrbiMed Israel Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.  MDClone has built the first of its kind platform which democratizes data to the entire healthcare ecosystem, enabling on-demand and self-service access to healthcare data without IT mediators and, using synthetic data, without risk to patient privacy.

MDClone’s platform addresses the myriad of problems accessing healthcare data for operations and quality improvement, research or innovation.  At the core of MDClone’s platform is a healthcare-oriented data lake and discovery tool which, together with MDClone’s patented Synthetic Data Engine, provides a rapid and safe self-service environment for caregivers and researchers to understand any element of the care path for any population of interest.  This breakthrough in speed to data and insights, while fully protecting patient privacy, has opened new opportunities for collaboration and the development of new services, technologies and treatments by MDClone clients.

Beer Sheva’s MDClone introduces the world’s first Healthcare Data Sandbox, finally putting data in the hands of those who can use it to transform care.  Powered by MDClone’s Synthetic Data Engine and Longitudinal Database, the Sandbox eliminates privacy concerns and data limitations to improve quality, empower research and drive innovation.  The Healthcare Data Sandbox has been deployed worldwide in health systems, HMOs, pharma companies and research institutes.   (MDClone 22.08)

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8.8  Terason Partners With DiA Imaging Analysis for Superior AI Cardiac Solutions

Terason, a leading global ultrasound imaging company based in Burlington, Massachusetts, has partnered with DiA Imaging Analysis, a leading provider of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based solutions for ultrasound analysis, to provide its cardiac solutions on Terason’s point-of-care ultrasound devices.  The partnership fills a market need for more accurate and objective image analysis for clinicians in hospitals and outpatient settings, which commonly analyze ultrasound images visually.

DiA’s flagship, FDA cleared and CE marked cardiac solution, LVivo Toolbox, leverages its pattern recognition, machine learning and deep learning-based technology to identify cardiac functions and abnormalities.  LVivo’s AI-based algorithms generate fast, quantitative and objective results that support clinicians’ decision-making process and reduce the subjectivity associated with cardiac ultrasound analysis.

Beer Sheva’s DiA Imaging Analysis is the leading provider of artificial intelligence (AI) powered ultrasound analysis solutions that make ultrasound analysis smarter and accessible.  By using its advanced AI-based technology, DiA assists clinicians at all levels of experience to acquire and analyze ultrasound images – objectively and accurately, improving patient management.  (Terason 20.08)

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8.9  Carevature’s Cutting-Edge Dreal Technology Now Available to Spine Surgeons at Scripps Health

Carevature Medical’s unique Dreal technology has been approved for use by neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, California.  According to Carevature, Dreal technology allows surgeons to effectively target the impinging bone causing pain, and to preserve the soft tissue and bone critical to the patient’s spinal stability.  This technology also has significant potential to prevent more extensive fusion surgery.  To date, Carevature Medical’s Dreal® technology has assisted surgeons in over 1,500 cases, both non-fusion and fusion.  The company’s highly targeted approach has it working with medical systems and surgeons located across the US, in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, southern California, Michigan, Tennessee, and Florida, with plans to expand throughout 2019 and 2020.

Rehovot’s Carevature Medical, a privately held medical device company, Israel, is dedicated to developing advanced orthopedic surgery solutions that minimize trauma, resulting in long-lasting improved patient outcomes.  (Carevature Medical 20.08)

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8.10  Check-Cap & GE Healthcare Complete Manufacturing Line Transfer for C-Scan System

Check-Cap announced the completion of manufacturing line transfer implementation and qualification for the C-Scan System.  This collaboration between Check-Cap and GE Healthcare was primarily initiated to enable the manufacture of C-Scan Systems for U.S. clinical trials.  Upon the successful completion of this current clinical trial phase, both companies intend to explore collaboration expansion opportunities.

Check-Cap is currently conducting a pilot clinical trial in the U.S. to evaluate the safety, usability and subject compliance of the C-Scan System at the New York University School of Medicine and Mayo Clinic.  In addition, Check-Cap intends to continue collecting clinical data in additional studies in preparation for its planned pivotal study.  Assuming positive pilot clinical trial results, the Company plans to file with the U.S. FDA for approval of a pivotal clinical trial, to be initiated in-2020.  The C-Scan System has received CE marking for marketing in Europe and approval from the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Medical Device Division (AMAR) for marketing in Israel.

Usfiya’s Check-Cap is advancing the development of the C-Scan® System, the first and only preparation-free ingestible scanning capsule-based system for the prevention of colorectal cancer (CRC) through the detection of precancerous polyps.  The patient-friendly test has the potential to increase screening adherence and reduce the overall incidence of CRC.  (Check-Cap 19.08)

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8.11  V-Wave’s Interatrial Shunt Receives FDA Breakthrough Device Designation for Heart Failure

V-Wave announced that the U.S. FDA just granted the company a Breakthrough Device Designation for its interatrial shunt for Heart Failure (HF).  V-Wave’s minimally invasive, implanted interatrial shunt is being evaluated in a global, randomized, controlled, double-blinded, 500 patient pivotal IDE trial called RELIEVE-HF.  The study is enrolling advanced HF patients with preserved or reduced left ventricular ejection fraction who remain symptomatic despite the use of guideline directed medical and device therapies.

This breakthrough designation provides V-Wave with additional options for FDA communication that will facilitate collaboration, as well as a prioritized review of submissions and marketing applications.  The potential for early CMS support for this program, makes their Breakthrough Designation a double-win for HF patients who need access to novel therapies as quickly as possible.  Caesarea’s V-Wave is a privately held medical device company with offices in Israel and the U.S.  (V-Wave 15.08)

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8.12  FDA Clears Biobeat for Non-invasive Cuffless Monitoring of Blood Pressure

Biobeat announced that the U.S. FDA has granted a 510K clearance for its patch and watch for measurement of blood pressure, oxygenation and heart rate in hospitals, clinics, long-term care and at home.  Biobeat’s products enable cloud-based healthcare with connectivity either through a smartphone or a dedicated gateway.  Biobeat’s smartwatch and patch connect to the cloud through either a smartphone or a dedicated gateway.  The user will use one or the other device; whereas the watch is worn on the wrist the patch is to be placed anywhere on the upper torso.  Biobeat’s smartwatch and patch connect to the cloud through either a smartphone or a dedicated gateway.  The user will use one or the other device; whereas the watch is worn on the wrist the patch is to be placed anywhere on the upper torso.

Petah Tikva’s Biobeat employs 15 employees and has initiated sales in Israel and Europe.  Biobeat’s sensors are based on the company’s exceptional proprietary technologies in the field of reflective Plethysmography (PPG), developed by a team of world-renowned experts in this field.  The company is focusing on wireless medical-grade products that allow health providers to care as efficiently for patients outside of their facility as on-site.  (Biobeat 26.08)

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8.13  Genetic Screen Identifies Genes That Protect Cells from Zika Virus

TAU researchers said they have identified genes found to safeguard against infection as well as resuscitate infected cells.  A new Tel Aviv University study uses a genetic screen to identify genes that protect cells from Zika viral infection.  It may one day lead to the development of a treatment for the Zika virus and other infections.  The study was based on a modification of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique.  CRISPR-Cas9 is a naturally occurring bacterial genome editing system that has been adapted to gene editing in mammalian cells.  The system is based on the bacterial enzyme Cas9, which can locate and modify specific locations along the human genome.  A modification of this system, known as CRISPR activation, is accomplished by genetically changing Cas9 in a way that enables the expression of specific genes in their original DNA locations.

The results provide a better understanding of key host factors that protect cells from ZIKV infection and might assist in identifying novel antiviral targets.  Moving forward, the researchers hope to discover the mechanism by which the IFI6 gene inhibits infection.  (AFTAU 25.07)

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8.14  ApiFix Receives FDA Approval to Commercialize its MID-C System

ApiFix received approval from the U.S. FDA via a Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) to market the Minimally Invasive Deformity Correction (MID-C) system for the treatment of progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).  FDA approval of ApiFix’s MID-C system is a significant achievement for ApiFix.  More importantly, it makes a notable treatment advancement available for patients and their families who want FDA approved alternatives to permanent spinal fusion.  The MID-C System addresses a significant unmet clinical need for a motion-preserving alternative to spinal fusion and is a viable treatment option for progressive scoliosis in a select group of AIS patients.

ApiFix’s MID-C technology is a posterior dynamic deformity correction (PDDC) system that enables surgeons to perform a unique treatment providing permanent curve correction while retaining spine flexibility, all via a less invasive surgical procedure compared to spinal fusion.  Patient recovery is relatively pain-free and is measured in days, not months.  The MID-C system acts as an “internal brace” with a patented unidirectional, self-adjusting rod mechanism and motion-preserving polyaxial joints, allowing additional post-operative correction over time.

Founded in 2011, Misgav’s ApiFix is a privately held medical device company and is a portfolio company of The Trendlines Group.  ApiFix is a leading motion-preservation scoliosis correction company developing a unique platform technology that represents a disruptive approach to spine deformity treatment.  ApiFix’s Minimally Invasive Deformity Correction (MID-C) system has FDA and CE Mark approvals and is now available in the USA, Canada, Europe, Israel and Singapore.  (ApiFix 27.08)

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8.15  DiA Imaging Analysis & Edan Instruments Accelerate Adoption of DiA’s Cardiac Solutions

DiA Imaging Analysis announced a partnership with China’s Edan Instruments, a leading medical products and services company.  DiA’s AI-based cardiac solution, LVivo Toolbox, provides a fast and objective cardiac ultrasound analysis that assists in reducing the subjectivity and increasing the efficiency of clinician’s decision-making process.  LVivo Toolbox could be easily used by clinicians with various levels of experience and fits to operate as an integrated add-on solution on ultrasound devices and Healthcare IT systems.  Edan Instruments has developed unique ultrasound devices that offer advanced imaging technologies, dual touch screens and a gesture-control user interface, supporting a wide range of clinical applications and delivering excellent image clarity.

Beer Sheva’s DiA Imaging Analysis is the leading provider of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered ultrasound analysis solutions that make ultrasound analysis smarter and accessible.  By using its advanced AI-based technology, DiA assists clinicians at all levels of experience to acquire and analyze ultrasound images – objectively and accurately, improving patient management.  DiA’s solutions are cross-platform that can be easily implemented to ultrasound devices and healthcare IT systems, as an integrated part of clinician’s workflow.  (DiA Imaging Analysis 27.08)

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8.16  CartiHeal Performs First Agili-C Cartilage Repair Implantation Procedure in Texas

CartiHeal announced the first implantation of the Agili-C implant, as part of Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) clinical study by Joseph M. Berman, MD at Arlington Orthopedics Associates (AOA), Arlington, Texas.  The clinical study will involve a minimum of 250 study patients, currently 234 patients have already been enrolled.  Arlington Orthopedics Associates is one of 15 U.S. clinical sites participating in this randomized and controlled IDE clinical study.  The primary study objective is to demonstrate the superiority of the Agili-C™ implant over the current surgical standards of care: microfracture and debridement in the treatment of large spectrum cartilage defects.

Kfar Saba’s CartiHeal, a privately-held medical device company headquartered in Israel and New Jersey, develops proprietary implants for the treatment of cartilage and osteochondral defects in traumatic and osteoarthritic joints.  CartiHeal’s cell-free, off-the-shelf implant is CE marked for use in cartilage and osteochondral defects.  Agili-C has been implanted in over 400 study patients with knee, ankle and big toe cartilage lesions in a series of clinical trials at leading centers in Europe and Israel – treating a broad spectrum of cartilage lesions, from single focal lesions to multiple and large defects in osteoarthritic patients.  In the United States, the Agili-C implant is not available for sale – it is an investigational device limited for use in the IDE clinical study.  CartiHeal 27.08)

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8.17  Cannibble Food-Tech Announces the USA Launch of Its New Cannabis Infused Edibles

Cannibble announced the USA launch of its new brand, “The Pelicann™” to lead their line of products.  The Pelicann products will be manufactured in the USA and Cannibble is targeting the USA first as it is the biggest cannabis market worldwide.  The Pelicann presents powder-mixes enhanced with cannabinoids and hemp products.  The products are proposed for personal use with ‘single-serve’ packages and for kiosks and convenience stores with instant servings of prepared products.  The easiest preparation concept promises freshly made cupcakes, shakes, flavored popcorn or many others in just a few seconds, by the consumer. It’s easy to make it anywhere.

The Pelicann products are offered in three families of cannabis, easy to spot by unique colors and carrying all types of cannabis ingredients from Hemp seeds, Hemp seeds oils and Hemp protein (Green); Full-spectrum CBD to Isolated CBD (Pink)  and THC infused (Blue).  All of The Pelicann products are manufactured under a strict Food manufacturing QA protocols and with a known, tested and fixed cannabinoids dosage.

Kfar Saba’s Cannibble Food-Tech is a food developer company with more than 35 years accumulated food developing, manufacturing and global distribution and 7 years’ experience with the Pharma-grade and Recreational Cannabis markets, by its founders.  Cannibble manufactures and sells its products: Cannabis premixed powder foods, beverages, nutritional supplements, and spices infused with Cannabinoids with a controlled and measured dosage according to global and local Cannabis regulations.  (Cannibble 28.08)

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8.18  Sheba, Tel HaShomer & Telesofia Medical Announce Cutting-Edge Telemedicine Software

Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer, in collaboration with Telesofia Medical, has announced the launch of a new, personalized telemedicine program that will enable cancer patients to quickly reach their doctors and get personalized feedback via video within the comfort of their own homes.  It will also allow oncologists to more closely monitor and treat their patients between doctor office visits.  The innovative program will begin as a pilot within the Oncology Department at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in the Middle East and one of the top ten hospitals in the world.  It will be offered to several hundred patients within the gastrointestinal oncology unit during the next few months.

The app allows patients to report side effects and other issues in real time to their doctors.  Tailor-made videos based on the oncologist’s instructions then pop up on the patient’s phone.  The technology has the potential to increase patient empowerment, reduce unnecessary medical complications and increase treatment efficiency.

Ramat Gan’s Telesofia Medical is the leading provider of personalized videos designed to enhance patient education and engagement.

Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer is the largest and most comprehensive medical center in the Middle East.  Sheba is the only medical center in Israel that combines an acute care hospital and a rehabilitation hospital on one campus, and it is at the forefront of medical treatments, patient care, research and education.  (Sheba 26.08)

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8.19  Maverick Medical AI Announces First Commercial Deployment at USHS Health System

Maverick Medical AI has entered into a commercial agreement with US Health Systems (USHS), a leading health management company in partnership with Arizona Complete Health.  As part of the agreement, USHS will pay for expanded deployment within its organization of Maverick’s software for reading primary care physician progress notes and extracting chronic conditions and risk factors with reimbursable value.  The agreement follows an initial pilot in which, over a period of a few months, Maverick’s software was tested and validated by USHS’s specialists and was proven to achieve 98% accuracy on both precision and recall.

Maverick’s software is powered by the company’s cutting-edge Clinical AI Cognition platform technology that utilizes advanced machine learning and AI capabilities.  Maverick’s technology is unique in its value-added approach to analyzing patient documentation by mimicking the way specialists read and understand clinical text.  Using this approach, the platform can read and understand sentences and context and translate unstructured data into structure data as would a physician.

Founded in 2017 by former senior executives in the digital health industry, Tel Aviv’s Maverick Medical AI meets unaddressed needs in today’s complex value-based healthcare environment.  Maverick is entering the market with the only Clinical Cognition AI platform for medical documentation, enabling users such as physicians, providers and payers to identify and monetize clinical insights hidden deep in available documentation.  (Maverick Medical AI 03.09)

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9.1  Mellanox Ethernet and InfiniBand Solutions Deliver Breakthrough Performance

Mellanox Technologies announced that Mellanox Ethernet and InfiniBand ConnectX smart adapter solutions are optimized to provide breakthrough performance and scalability for the new AMD EPYC 7002 Series processor-based compute and storage infrastructures.  Leveraging the 2nd Gen AMD EPYC processors’ support of PCI Express 4.0, innovative architecture, and four times peak FLOPS per-socket performance over the AMD EPYC 7001 series processor, mutual customers can maximize their data center return-on-investment.  With PCI Express 4.0 connectivity, the AMD EPYC 7002 processor platform is also ideal for advanced server based storage solutions.  The large number of PCI Express 4.0 lanes enables direct connectivity to 24 NVMe storage drives plus Mellanox ConnectX 100 and 200 gigabit per second adapters and achieve full I/O throughout.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies ( is a leading supplier of end-to-end Ethernet and InfiniBand 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, unlocking system performance and improving data security.  (Mellanox 08.08)

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9.2  Checkmarx Named ‘Black Unicorn’ Award Winner for Vision in Software Security

Checkmarx has been named a winner in Cyber Defense Magazine’s 2019 Black Unicorn Awards, recognizing its significant growth trajectory in software security and future potential as a cybersecurity market leader.  Notably, this comes on the heels of the company’s continued strong business momentum, securing 60% year-over-year revenue growth for the first half of 2019.  Checkmarx competed over a five-month period against many of the industry’s leading providers of cybersecurity products and services for this prestigious award.  The term “Black Unicorn” signifies a cybersecurity company that has the potential to reach a $1 billion or greater market value as determined by private or public investment.

Checkmarx’s elite security research team also has contributed to the company’s notoriety over the past few months, most recently discovering critical flaws in popular devices such as the Lenovo smartwatch X and the AEG Smart Scale PW 5653 BT.  These findings ultimately help vendors become more aware of the vulnerabilities plaguing modern software and help better protect businesses and consumers worldwide.

Ramat Gan’s Checkmarx is the global leader in software security solutions for modern enterprise software development.  Checkmarx delivers the industry’s most comprehensive software security platform that unifies with DevOps and provides static and interactive application security testing, software composition analysis and developer AppSec training to reduce and remediate risk from software vulnerabilities.  (Checkmarx 06.08)

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9.3  Netline Provides C-Guard IED Jamming System for the Israel Defense Force

Israel’s Netline Communications Technologies is supplying its C-Guard Reactive Jamming (RJ) manpack system to the Israel Defense Force.  The C-Guard RJ manpack system is designed to provide frontline forces with a real-time counter-IED solution.  The system detects and prevents IED activation attempts, creating a secured zone around soldiers on the frontline and reacting to real-time electronic warfare threats by both detecting the threat and providing an immediate response of jamming RF signals that are attempting to detonate the IED.  The solution offers advanced reactive jamming capabilities, wide coverage, simple operation by an individual soldier to provide protection of personnel within a specific radius, and improved overall control of the operational situation without requiring any additional hardware.

Tel Aviv’s Netline Communications Technologies develops, manufactures and delivers high-end Electronic Warfare and spectrum dominance systems for leading defense forces and homeland security & intelligence agencies.  The company specializes in counter-IED Electronic Warfare, military/insurgency communication jamming, information security, prison cell phone control, and intelligence solutions.  Among Netline’s range of products are active and reactive RF jamming systems in different configuration, as required in different operational scenarios (vehicular, portable, stationary and rapid deployment jamming systems), counter drone solutions, Prison solutions and more.  (Netline 07.08)

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9.4  accessiBe Launches First-Ever AI-Driven Web Accessibility Tool

accessiBe has recently launched a pioneering web accessibility tool powered by artificial intelligence (AI).  The solution simplifies the way companies and site owners can make their content accessible to users with disabilities by using AI to automatically apply accessibility standards to their websites.  The AI solution scans and analyzes the website and, within 48 hours, applies the necessary modifications so that the site transmits compliant and accessible content to the end users.  The AI also re-scans for new and revised content daily which benefits sites that feature dynamic or fast-changing content.

After two years of development, accessiBe was eventually launched in 2018 in Israel where it went through successful pilot efforts.  The company signed over 2,000 paying customers while providing the solution for free to over 300 non-profits.  Among its clients are the Israeli licensees of leading brands like Burger King, Volvo, Deloitte, HStern, and others.

Ra’anana’s accessiBe began in 2016 when laws and legislations that mandated the promotion of web accessibility started to spread.  Starting 2019, the company has expanded its reach in the US and other countries following insistent customer demand.  (accessiBe 08.08)

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9.5  Lightbits Labs Cited as Startup of the Year in the 14th Annual 2019 IT World Awards

Lightbits Labs announced that Network Products Guide, the industry’s leading technology research and advisory guide, has named it the Bronze winner as Information Technology Cloud/SaaS Startup of the Year in the 14th Annual 2019 IT World Awards.  These industry and peer recognitions from Network Products Guide are the world’s premier information technology awards honoring achievements and recognitions in every facet of the IT industry.

Lightbits earned this recognition for its work in delivering a unique scale-out software-defined storage solution purpose-built for cloud infrastructure.  Early on, Lightbits recognized that cloud infrastructure requires a different approach than traditional enterprise infrastructure.  Most notably, cloud-scale data centers require disaggregation of storage and compute, as evidenced by the top cloud giants’ transition from inefficient direct-attached SSD architecture to low-latency shared flash.  The Lightbits team pioneered NVMe/TCP so their solution is easy to deploy at scale, while delivering performance that is indistinguishable from direct-attached SSDs.

Kfar Saba’s Lightbits Labs, founded in early 2016, is remaking modern clouds on a global scale.  The company’s mission is to reinvent the way storage and networking are deployed in hyperscale data centers.  As trailblazers in this field, Lightbits’ solutions are already being successfully tested in industry-leading cloud data centers around the globe.  (Lightbits 14.08)

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9.6  Vayyar Launches First Universal Sensor Solutions to Put an End to Hot Car Deaths

Vayyar launched the world’s first sensor solution capable of meeting industry dual-band needs.  Developed specifically to increase safety and passenger monitoring in the interior of a car, this solution is the first to provide manufacturers with sensors that meet country-specific frequency requirements, such as a 79GHz band in Japan, or a 60Ghz band in Europe and the United States.  Addressing these regulatory bands provides new flexibility to manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers by offering a choice between these frequencies.  Compared to other options, this sensor suite is far more advanced and cost-efficient, meeting all requirements for faster and more effective interior sensor implementation.

The need for more advanced interior car monitoring and safety has become a critical issue in the industry, especially for infants; since 1998, over 800 children have died as a result of vehicular heatstroke with more than half of the cases showing that the child was forgotten by the caregiver.  By 2022, child presence detection will be a requirement through the HOT CARS Act legislation in the USA and the Euro NCAP.  Vayyar’s universal sensor solutions create a new, holistic solution for manufacturers to maximize in-cabin safety and prevent such accidents.  These sensors are able to detect if an infant has been left in a vehicle, even if they are covered by a blanket or in a car seat, and send a notification to a driver’s phone to alert them of the danger.  As the only sensor capable of meeting all country-specific frequency requirements, Vayyar is dedicated to preventing hot car deaths around the world, not just in one country.

The sensors’ point cloud capabilities are able to display the dimension, shape, location and movement of people and objects, and enable the complete identification of the car’s environment – regardless of environmental conditions like darkness. In-cabin safety solutions include seat belt reminders (SBR), optimized airbag deployment, gesture control, driver drowsiness alerts and Child Occupancy and Detection (COPD) alarms.

Yehud’s Vayyar Imaging is a global leader in 4D imaging technology, providing highly advanced sensors to a wide variety of industries including automotive, smart home, robotics, retail and medical.  The company’s sensors can see through walls and objects and track and map everything happening in an environment in real-time, all while maintaining privacy.  Utilizing a state-of-the-art embedded chip and advanced imaging algorithms, Vayyar’s mission is to help people worldwide improve their health, safety and quality of life using mobile, low-cost 4D imaging sensors.  (Vayyar 14.08)

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9.7  Eye-Net Mobile Successfully Completes Connected Car Controlled-Environment Trial

Foresight Autonomous Holdings announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Eye-Net Mobile, successfully completed a controlled-environment trial of its Eye-Net cellular-based accident prevention solution for a leading vehicle manufacturer.  The trial, conducted in a designated test track, was designed to demonstrate Eye-Net’s advanced capabilities of protecting vehicles and vulnerable road users from oncoming collisions, to test the system’s performance and robustness, and to discuss possible suitability of the Eye-Net solution for the connected car platforms of the leading vehicle manufacturer.

Eye-Net Mobile’s market penetration strategy is directed at potential partners, such as this leading vehicle manufacturer and location-based service providers.  Integrating Eye-Net as a feature in the partners’ applications at a very early stage in order to optimize the solution to their needs will help facilitate Eye-Net’s rapid market penetration, thus reaching millions of users.  A controlled trial demonstrating the system’s capabilities will help to engage potential partners and present the potential of the solution and its advantages in the commercialization phase.  The Company believes that such cooperation will add substantial value to potential strategic partners by enhancing their users’ safety.

Ness Ziona’s Eye-Net is a cellular-based vehicle-to-everything (V2X) accident prevention solution designed to protect the most vulnerable road users in real time—including pedestrians, cyclists, scooter drivers and car drivers—by providing collision alerts when the road users have no direct line of sight.  Eye-Net relies on proprietary, cutting-edge technology, a set of sophisticated algorithms and advanced system architecture, and existing cellular infrastructure.  (Foresight 14.08)

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9.8  S1 Medical Goes Live With Sapiens’ Workers’ Compensation Solution

Sapiens International Corporation announced that Philadelphia’s S1 Medical, an independent cost containment and medical management firm that provides unique niche programs to the casualty market, has successfully launched Sapiens ClaimsGo for Workers’ Compensation.  The first major program being supported by the joint S1 Medical-Sapiens’ solution is Broward County Public Schools, the sixth-largest school district in North America.  Sapiens ClaimsGo (formerly called StoneRiver CompSuite Claims) is a full-featured solution developed for specialized and quick administration of workers’ compensation policies and claims, offered in a hosted environment.

S1 Medical chose Sapiens’ comprehensive solution for its end-to-end claims capabilities, particularly the ability to integrate with data reporting & managed care systems.  S1 anticipates improved productivity through joint/cooperative usage of ClaimsGo, more effective automation, and resulting in better claims processing across their customer’s claims management program.

Holon’s Sapiens International Corporation empowers insurers to succeed in an evolving industry.  The company offers digital software platforms, solutions and services for the property and casualty, life, pension and annuity, reinsurance, financial and compliance, workers’ compensation and financial markets.  With more than 35 years of experience delivering to over 450 organizations globally, Sapiens has a proven ability to satisfy customers’ core, data and digital requirements.  (Sapiens 21.08)

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9.9  D-ID Adds New Anonymization Solution for Video and Still Images

D-ID introduced the newest addition to its products portfolio: Smart Anonymization for video and still images.  Utilizing the most advanced computer vision and deep-learning models, D-ID’s proprietary anonymization algorithm replaces facial features and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including license plates, with computer-generated data. D-ID’s Smart Anonymization is easy to deploy and ensures immediate privacy compliance.

D-ID removes facial images without processing or profiling the subject.  It then replaces the images with AI-generated, photorealistic faces of nonexistent people.  These anonymized faces retain a natural complexion, making the technology far superior to legacy solutions that rely on blurring or pixelation.  Moreover, anonymized faces preserve key non-identifying attributes of the original face including age, gender, expression, gaze direction and more, allowing for analytics to be collected while respecting privacy laws and regulations.

Tel Aviv’s D-ID allows organizations to enhance security and ensure their customers’ and employees’ privacy by removing sensitive biometric Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from videos and still images. The company’s revolutionary De-Identification solution makes images unrecognizable to facial recognition algorithms – while keeping them similar to human eyes. At the same time, D-ID’s smart anonymization replaces facial images with AI-generated faces, allowing organizations to apply advanced analytics and monetize video data, while still meeting strict privacy regulations.  (D-ID 21.08)

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9.10  Israel Selects Elbit Systems’ Iron Fist Light Decoupled Active Protection System

Elbit Systems announced that following a competitive bid, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) selected Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IFLD), the Company’s Active Protection System (APS), for the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Eitan new eight-wheeled Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) and the D-9 Bulldozer.  The award of the contract for the program is subject to completion of negotiations between the parties.  The selection of the IFLD for the IDF’s Eitan AFV comes on the heels of the decision by the U.S. Army to proceed with the IFLD for the Bradley AFV.

IFLD uses independent optical sensors, tracking radar, launchers and countermeasure munitions to defeat threats at a safe distance from the defended combat vehicles.  The system provides 360-degree protection coverage for close-range scenarios in both open terrain and urban environments.  Its low size and weight, versatile high-performance, negligible residuals and ease of integration position IFLD as an optimal active protection solution for any fighting vehicle.

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 and munitions.  (Elbit Systems 20.08)

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9.11  ECI and KPGCo Selected by CL Tel to Modernize Its Network Infrastructure in Iowa

ECI is working with channel partner KGPCo to upgrade the network infrastructure of Iowa-based CL Tel, a full service telecommunications and broadband service provider.  Transitioning to next generation transport technologies will enable CL Tel to continue providing outstanding service to local Clear Lake, Ventura and Mason City communities.  The solution, based on ECI’s Apollo and Neptune portfolios, ensures that the CL Tel network is capable of supporting the growing bandwidth demands of its constituency.

To address increasing bandwidth demands and ensure continued support to the communities it serves, CL Tel sought to replace its current fiber optic transport network.  Through KGPCo, ECI was chosen to deploy a next-generation solution – a multi-ring, optical transport network which supports Layer2 over MPLS functionality.  This will allow CL Tel to reliably meet today’s network demands and grow bandwidth as needed.  Moreover, the MPLS-TP over ROADM network will provide Ethernet and TDM services with under 50 millisecond protection as required for many mission-critical and legacy services.

Petah Tikva’s ECI is a global provider of ELASTIC network solutions to CSPs, critical industries, and data center operators.  With the advent of 5G, IoT, and smart everything, traffic demands are increasing dramatically, and network operators must make smart choices as they evolve their infrastructure.  ECI’s Elastic Services Platform leverages our programmable packet and optical networking solutions, along with our service-driven software suite and virtualization capabilities, to provide a robust yet flexible solution for any application.  (ECI Telecom 14.08)

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9.12  Convizit Wins Pitango’s $1 Million Startup Competition

Convizit was selected as the winner of Pitango Venture Capital’s TRIFECTA early-stage startup competition.  One of 11 companies that participated in the competition’s semi-finals in New York City in April, Convizit received the competition’s $1 million investment prize.

Jerusalem’s Convizit‘s autonomous insight-generation solution enables companies to quickly and easily leverage behavioral data to generate tangible business benefits.  Whereas existing behavior analytics tools require extensive time and skills, and ignore most user actions, Convizit automatically captures, tags (based on context) and analyzes comprehensive behavioral data to continuously reveal new opportunities for increasing engagement and revenue – with zero human effort required.  The company’s top-notch data scientists and developers, led by two former alumni of an elite army data intelligence unit, are pushing the envelope of big data analytics and AI to usher in the next generation of user behavior analysis.  (Convizit 14.08)

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10.1  Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index for July 2019 Increases by 0.2%

The Bank of Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index for July increased by 0.19%.  The Index’s rate of increase since the beginning of the year reflects growth at the long-term pace, while the fluctuation in Composite Index data between the first and second quarters reflects a fluctuation in National Accounts data during that period, which affected the trend of the index.  The fluctuation in National Accounts data is due to the change in green taxation rules, which led to vehicle purchases being brought forward to the first quarter at the expense of the second quarter.

The Index for July was positively impacted by increases in goods exports and in the job vacancy rate in July, and by an increase in the retail trade and services revenue indices in June.  In contrast, declines in the imports of consumer goods and of manufacturing inputs in July, as well as declines in the industrial production index in June, moderated the Composite Index’s rate of growth.  The Index for previous months was revised slightly downward due to the growth data published for the second quarter, which, as mentioned, reflected the fluctuations in vehicle purchases.  (BoI 20.08)

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10.2  Unemployment Down Sharply in Israel

Unemployment fell to 3.7% in July from 4.1% in June, according to the latest workforce figures for Israelis over 15 published on 26 August by the Central Bureau of Statistics.  The employment rate, consisting of the proportion of employment in the general population, dipped from 63.4% in June to 63.1% in July.  The rate among Israelis aged 15 and over remained unchanged last month at 60.8%.  (CBS 26.08)

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10.3  Israel’s Budget Deficit Remains at Highest Level Since 2014

Israel’s budget deficit remained at a record 3.8% of GDP for the second successive month in July.  This is the highest level that the deficit has been since 2014 in both absolute numbers and in terms of a percentage of GDP.  The Ministry of Finance’s revised forecast is that 2019 will end with a budget deficit of 3.6% of GDP, almost NIS 10 billion in excess of the budget target.  According to the Ministry of Finance data, there has been a moderation in the rapid growth rate of expenditure by government ministries, which have grown by 8.5% since the start of 2019.  The planned growth rate for the budget in 2019 was meant to be 5.1% compared with 2018 – the difference between the planned performance has been gradually narrowing since April.  On the other hand, state revenues have risen by only 1.5% compared with last year.  According to the Israel Tax Authority, tax collection grew by an annual average of 6% between 2013 and 2017.  The Israel Tax Authority said that bringing car imports forward to April cost the government NIS 200 million in lost revenues in July.  (Globes 06.08)

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10.4  Hi-Tech Sector Employment in Israel Surpasses 300,000 Workers

The Israel Innovation Authority announced that the number of tech employees increased by 19,000 in 2018, and by 11,000 in the first five months of 2019, raising the number of employees in the tech industry to a record 307,000.  The figures for tech employees, published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, exclude telecom sector employees.  According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the average monthly wage in the technology industry was NIS 24,000.

Figures for 2018, published last January by the Central Bureau of Statistics, showed a 0.4% rise in the proportion of employment in the technology industry, including the communications sector.  The Innovation Authority’s figures, which exclude the communications sector, show the same rate of increase, from 8.3% to 8.7% at the end of 2018.

This is the steepest rise in the proportion of those employed in the technology industry since 2006.  In general, the proportion of those employed in the technology industry rose from 7% to 8% in 2002-2016, with fluctuations along the way.  The figures for 2018 and 2019 reveal that the proportion of those employed in the technology industry, excluding communications, is nearing 9% for the first time.  According to the figures for January-May 2019, the steep increase in the proportion of those employed in technology sectors is continuing in 2019.

The Innovation Authority attributes this growth to the various measures taken by the government to increase the supply of qualified human capital for the industry, such as the Council of Higher Education Planning and Budgeting Committee’s plan to increase the number of students in technological subjects in higher education and the Innovation Authority’s support tracks, such as the Coding Bootcamps track and special tracks for encouraging entrepreneurship among Arabs, Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), and women.  (Globes 27.08)

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10.5  Israeli Startups Raised Over $350 Million in August

Globes reported that Israeli tech companies have raised $4.9 billion since the start of 2019, and are on course to easily exceed last year’s record figure of $6.4 billion.  Israeli startups raised over $350 million in August, according to press releases issued by companies that have completed financing rounds.  The figure may be more as some companies prefer to remain in stealth and not to publicize the investments they have received.

After raising $3.9 billion in the first half of the year, according to IVC, Israeli tech companies have now raised $4.9 billion since the start of 2019, including $650 million in July and now a further $350 million in August.  This figure is on course to beat last year’s record tech company fund raising, when according to IVC-ZAG, Israeli companies raised $6.4 billion, up from $5.24 billion in 2017.

August was a relatively quiet month for startup financing rounds with $200 raised by cybersecurity company Cybereason alone.  Other significant sums raised included $29 million by healthcare data cloning company MDClone, $25 million by music teaching app JoyTunes, $23 million by AI sports platform WSC Sports, and $20 million by cybersecurity company Axonius.  (Globes 01.09)

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10.6  August Tourism to Israel Reaches New Record

Israel has so far received 3.1 million visitors during 2019 and looks set to break last year’s record, when 4.1 million tourists visited Israel.  Some 305,000 tourists came to Israel in August, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported, up 9% from August 2018.  Between January and August 2019, 2.9 million tourists came to Israel, up 10% from 2018.  Overseas tourists spent an estimated NIS 1.5 billion in Israel last month and have spent NIS 15 billion since the start of the year.

August is traditionally a strong month for tourism, for vacationers rather than business tourists: 22% of tourists visiting Israel come from the US, with large numbers of tourists from France, Russia, Germany and the UK.  (CBS 03.09)

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11.1  ISRAEL:  Fitch Affirms Israel at ‘A+’; Outlook Stable

On 29 August 2019, Fitch Ratings affirmed Israel’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘A+’ with a Stable Outlook.

Key Rating Drivers

Israel’s IDRs balance strong external finances, robust macroeconomic performance and solid institutional strength against a government debt/GDP ratio that is high relative to peers and ongoing political and security risks.

Israel’s public finances remain a weakness relative to ‘A’ category sovereigns.  The sustained trend of decreasing indebtedness reversed in 2018 and the fiscal outlook has become more challenging in the near term.  The central government budget deficit widened to 2.9% of GDP in 2018 (in line with the budget target), from 1.9% in 2017.  We forecast the deficit to widen to 3.6% of GDP in 2019.  Government debt/GDP increased moderately in 2018, to 61%, ending a long downward trend from 75% at end-2007 and 95% at end-2003.  It remains significantly higher than the ‘A’ median of 49% in 2018.  The general government budget deficit and interest spending/revenue are also weaker than the peer medians.

Other features of public debt are fairly favorable.  The share of external debt is low, at 8% of GDP in 2018 down from 20% of GDP in 2006. Israel benefits from high financing flexibility, having deep and liquid local markets, good access to international capital markets, an active diaspora bond program and US government guarantees in the event of market disruption.

Israel passed the 2019 budget in March 2018, earlier than normal due to political considerations and it rested on overly optimistic revenue projections.  The failure to form a government after the April 2019 elections has prevented the adoption of corrective measures.  We project the central government budget deficit to widen to 3.6% of GDP compared to 2.9% budgeted.

Fitch’s base case scenario is that the 2020 budget will be adopted around March 2020, several months after the formation of a government following the 17 September elections.  We expect the government coalition will take steps to narrow the deficit, given the country’s track record of deleveraging and the high level of the deficit given Israel’s position in the business cycle.

We forecast the central government deficit to narrow slightly to 3.5% of GDP in 2020 and 3% in 2021, resulting in a moderate rise of government debt/GDP ratio.  The forecast factors in that the deficit will reach close to 4% of GDP in 2020 in the absence of fiscal consolidation.

While the deficit will narrow, it will remain above the debt-stabilizing level in the medium term, estimated at close to 2.5% of GDP.  Recent budget planning has been pro-cyclical and has sought to respond to long-standing public complaints regarding the cost of living.  There is also more discussion of tolerating a moderate increase in the debt ratio in order to boost investment in infrastructure and education.

Israel’s macroeconomic performance has been strong and the economy will remain buoyant in 2019, with real GDP growth of 3.1%, low unemployment, rising wage growth and still low inflation.  Five-year average real GDP growth is stronger than rating category peers and growth volatility has been lower.  We forecast that growth will remain robust in 2020-2021, at close to 3% per year despite fiscal tightening, which will partly be mitigated by the start of gas output from the Leviathan offshore field in 2020.  There are upside risks, related to production gains at the Intel factory or larger than forecast gas exports to Egypt.  Downside risks relate to any large security incidents or further weakening of world trade.  More generally, the economy has benefited from supportive monetary and fiscal policies and a stronger global economy.  The last two factors are likely to become less supportive over the medium term.

The Bank of Israel (BOI) is unlikely to raise rates in 2019.  While the BOI is aiming to normalize monetary policy, it still faces inflation at the lower limit of its target band, recent dovish monetary policy decisions in the US and Europe limit its room to maneuver and the shekel is appreciating.  Inflation hovered mostly just above the lower end of the BOI’s 1%-3% target band since mid-2018 but dipped below it in June and July 2019.

Israel’s external balance sheet remains strong. Israel has returned current account surpluses each year since 2003, and Fitch expects further surpluses in 2019-2020.  In recent years, the weakness of the trade balance in goods has been mitigated by the strong growth of services exports.  Foreign exchange reserves reached $120 billion in July 2019 (11 months of current external payments). Israel’s net external creditor position reduced slightly to 48% of GDP at end-2018 but remains significantly stronger than the ‘A’ median and stronger than the ‘AA’ median.  Fitch’s international liquidity ratio for Israel has continued to improve strongly.

Israel’s ratings are constrained by political and security risks, but its credit profile has shown resilience to periodic conflict and political shocks over an extended timeframe. Conflicts with military groups in surrounding countries and territories flare up intermittently and can lead to increased spending commitments or be damaging to economic activity. Domestic politics can be turbulent, with coalition governments often not lasting their full term.

The September repeat parliamentary election is unlikely to present a clearer outcome than the previous one in April, and building a coalition is likely to prove challenging.  Both Blue and White party, led by former chief of staff Benny Gantz, and Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party poll at close to 30 seats out of 120.  If Mr. Netanyahu is able to form a coalition, potential confirmation of his indictment in several criminal cases later in 2019 could destabilize the government.

Ongoing instability in Syria and geopolitical risks centered on Iran, in the context of the latter’s rising tensions with the US, continue to present risks to Israel.  Israel is concerned by the influence of Iran in neighboring Syria and Lebanon, and continues to intervene in Syria with air strikes to counter the presence and activities of Iran or Iranian proxies.  Risk remains of another conflict with Hezbollah, although there has not been a clash since 2006 and both sides would suffer losses.  There are periodic flare-ups in the Gaza strip, although they are unlikely to present a material security risk to Israel.  There has been no tangible progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Fitch assumes no breakthrough in agreeing a peace deal.

Israel’s well-developed institutions and education system, despite disparities of quality among demographic groups, have led to a diverse and advanced economy, with an innovative high-tech sector.  Human development indicators and GDP per capita are well above the peer medians.  However, Doing Business indicators, as measured by the World Bank, remain below those of peers.  The government also faces socio-economic challenges in terms of income inequality and integration of growing but less economically productive sections of the population into the labor force.

Rating Sensitivities

The main factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action are:

-Renewed progress in reducing the government debt/GDP ratio.

-Sustained easing in political and security risks.

The main factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action are:

-Sustained deterioration of the government debt/GDP ratio, either through widening fiscal deficits or a structural decline in GDP growth.

-Serious worsening of political and security risks.

Key Assumptions

Fitch assumes regional conflicts and tensions will continue.  Fitch does not assume any breakthrough in the peace process with the Palestinians or a prolonged serious deterioration in domestic security conditions.  (Fitch 28.08)

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11.2  LEBANON:  Lebanon Ratings Affirmed At ‘B-/B’; Outlook Remains Negative

On 23 August 2019, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Lebanon at ‘B-/B’.  The outlook remains negative.

The negative outlook reflects that we could lower our ratings on Lebanon in the next six-12 months if banking system deposits and the Banque du Liban’s (BdL; the central bank) foreign exchange (FX) reserves continue to fall, likely reflecting a weak policy environment and impaired market access.  Continued weakness in foreign currency inflows and the use of BdL’s FX reserves to meet government debt-service could test the country’s ability to maintain the currency peg, in our view.

We could revise the outlook to stable if the Lebanese government is able to significantly improve foreign investor confidence by taking credible steps to implement its fiscal consolidation and medium-term electricity sector reform plans.


The affirmation reflects our view that, despite a significant decline in investor confidence, BdL’s usable FX reserves, estimated at about $19 billion at end-2019, remain sufficient to service government debt in the near term.  In our base-case scenario, we expect BdL will draw on FX reserves to finance the $1.5 billion Eurobond maturity and about $1 billion of coupon payments in November.

The Lebanese government’s debt-servicing capacity depends largely on the domestic financial sector’s willingness and ability to add to its government debt holdings.  In turn, this relies on bank deposit inflows, particularly from nonresidents.  However, customer-deposit growth has slowed in recent years and total deposits contracted for the first time in May 2019 by close to 1% year on year.  We expect nonresident deposits will rebound following BdL’s recent financial engineering operation in July.  These operations are BdL’s efforts to increase U.S.-dollar inflows into Lebanon by offering high interest rates and other financial incentives to banks, and to depositors.  Notwithstanding these operations, we expect gross FX reserves (including gold) will decline by $5.5 billion in 2019 given large external financing needs.

In the next six months, the government will face the challenging task of implementing announced measures to address fiscal and economic issues.  Given the weakness of foreign currency inflows, on which the whole economy depends, we expect the government will make some progress on reforms in the short term to improve investor confidence.

Recent government measures include the approval of a fiscal deficit reduction plan in 2019, a roadmap to reform the electricity sector, and plans to finalize the 2020 budget before the end of this year.  The authorities have indicated that the 2020 budget will incorporate major changes to the pension system and public sector, as well as new procurement, customs, and tax evasion laws.  While the historical track record on reforming these areas remains mixed, even partial implementation could support the disbursement of some donor funds for infrastructure projects pledged at the Cedre conference in 2018.

The ratings on Lebanon reflect our view of the country’s sizable fiscal and external deficits and very high and rising public debt levels.  These partly stem from weak institutions and sectarian tensions. Lebanon’s net general government debt, projected at 130% of GDP in 2019, is the fourth-highest among all the sovereigns we rate after Venezuela, Greece, and Japan.

Institutional and economic profile:  We view Lebanon’s governance and institutional effectiveness as very weak.

-Deep sectarian divisions in the political system and high regional security risks will likely continue to hamper policymaking.

-However, implementation of fiscal and economic reforms will be key to stemming the deterioration of public finances and foreign currency buffers.

-We expect growth will remain subdued, but gradually improve to 2.2% by 2022, supported by the government’s investment program and easing tensions in Syria.

We see long-term constraints on Lebanon’s institutional and economic profile, largely stemming from a divided political environment organized along confessional lines.  The fragile political landscape continues despite an end to the political vacuum that persisted in one form or another for more than a decade.  A new cabinet was formed on 31 January 2019, after a nine-month delay and at a time of heightened investor fears regarding Lebanon’s debt sustainability and the possibility of debt restructuring.  Parliamentary elections were held in May 2018, the first since 2009.

The new government has shown some willingness to address extremely weak public finances.  The approved 2019 budget was more austere than expected, reflecting some level of political cooperation.  Reducing the fiscal deficit over five years is one of the key conditions to release the $11 billion donor funds pledged at the Cedre conference in April 2018, which will be critical to restoring investor confidence.

In addition, after decades of electricity shortages, meager investment, and costly government subsidies (of 3% of GDP in 2018) to Electricite du Liban (EdL), in April the cabinet approved a medium-term plan to transform the electricity sector.  The plan targets a reduction in technical losses, the introduction of smart meters, new power plants, and a change in the fuel mix from diesel and heavy fuel oil to cheaper natural gas.  A key fiscal measure to achieve cost recovery for EdL is an increase in electricity tariffs in 2021. This is contingent on a substantial increase in electricity generation financed by the private sector and donors.

However, efforts to implement structural reforms remain an uphill battle.  We note that even after long delays in forming a government, there was a government shutdown for more than 40 days until mid-August, following a shooting that targeted a minister’s convoy and stirred tensions between rival Druze parties in the cabinet and their allies.

Official estimates show that real economic growth slowed to 0.3% in 2018, and we expect the weak performance will persist in 2019.  Credit to the private sector contracted by 7% year on year in first-half 2019 following a 3% decline at end-2018.  Leading economic indicators for the first half of the year point to a decline of 30% or more in cement deliveries, construction permits and property sales’ value.  We estimate subdued but positive growth of 0.2% in 2019 based on some offsetting factors, such as increasing tourist arrivals from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the gradual start of exports to Syria, and the disbursement of BdL’s $1.1 billion 2019 stimulus package, which was delayed until July.

We forecast growth will recover only gradually, to 2.2% by 2022, far below the average real GDP growth of 9.2% seen in 2007-2010.  Our growth forecasts assume some increase in exports and public and private investment following the partial implementation of the government’s Capital Investment Program.  The Cedre donor funds are mostly in the form of concessional debt targeted for infrastructure and other investments.  Because this funding is contingent on structural reforms, including improving public finances, we expect disbursements will be gradual and far lower than the pledged amounts.

The government expects to start the second round of licensing for offshore blocks in 2020, following the signing of oil and gas exploration and production agreements for two blocks in 2018.  However, we have not incorporated potential oil and gas production into our economic forecasts at this time, given uncertainty surrounding discoveries and the ongoing maritime dispute with Israel.

We also expect external security risks will remain high.  The Syrian conflict has abated, but has yet to be resolved, and we expect Lebanon’s political, security, and economic trajectories will remain entwined with those of its larger neighbor.  There is also an increasing risk of escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel amid growing tensions between Iran and the U.S.  Moreover, Lebanese banks risk being affected by a further ramp up in sanctions against Hezbollah, following new sanctions imposed against Hezbollah members in the government for the first time.  Nevertheless, our base-case scenario does not incorporate a destabilization of the country’s banking industry.

Flexibility and performance profile: Very high debt burden, with debt-servicing capacity increasingly dependent on the central bank’s foreign reserves

-We expect a general government deficit of 10% of GDP in 2019, compared with the official target of 7.6% of GDP.

-We do, however, forecast gradually narrowing fiscal deficits through 2022, although these will not be enough to reverse the rise in government debt levels.

-We expect a small turnaround in nonresident deposits for the rest of 2019, mainly because of BdL’s recent financial engineering operation.  Nevertheless, these inflows will be insufficient to meet the country’s high external financing requirements.

We estimate Lebanon’s fiscal deficit will shrink slightly to 10% of GDP this year, from a peak of 11% in 2018.  The 2019 budget was only passed in July and the impact of the government’s policy measures will be limited to the remaining five months of 2019.  While the fiscal deficit decreased by 18% year on year during the first five months of 2019, we understand that this was mainly due to delayed payments to municipalities, hospitals, and contractors that will likely be fulfilled before the end of the year.

Lebanon’s fiscal flexibility remains constrained by high interest costs – above 50% of government revenue and the highest ratio among our rated sovereigns – along with still-high public sector wages.  Although the 2019 budget envisaged the issuance of treasury bills (T-bills) at 0%-1% interest rates, aiming for fiscal savings of 1.2% of GDP, we understand that there is no commitment from BdL or the banks to subscribe to these bills.  On the revenue front, the ratio of tax revenue to GDP is low, at about 15%, and tax evasion is widespread.

We forecast Lebanon’s deficits will gradually narrow to 9% of GDP by 2022.  Authorities expect electricity sector reforms will bring savings of $1.7 billion over the next three years and help narrow the deficit to 4.8% in 2022.  While we expect the government to make some progress on these reforms, several challenges remain, including vested political interests, subdued economic growth, public opposition to austerity, and the expiry of several of the fiscal measures included in the 2019 budget after three years.

As a result of Lebanon’s large financing needs, we expect gross general government debt will increase to 157% of GDP by 2022, from about 140% in 2018.  Although the proportion of foreign currency-denominated debt to total government debt is high, at about 40%, nonresident holdings of government commercial debt are relatively low, at about 10%.

Domestic banks support government debt-servicing in two ways:  They buy certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by BdL, which in turn buys government debt.  BdL held about 53% of the government’s outstanding domestic debt as of end-May 2019, which amounted to around 36% of total central government debt.  They buy Lebanese government debt directly.  Banking-system claims on the public sector accounted for about 13% of total banking-system assets, or about 40% of total central government debt.

The proportion of government debt BdL holds has been steadily increasing, while the proportion held directly by the banks has decreased.  BdL has absorbed banks’ liquidity through the issuance of long-term deposits and CDs, which constrains banks from converting local currency to U.S. dollars and limits rapid dollarization.  As a result, bank deposits at BdL accounted for 56% of total bank assets as of June 2019.

BdL was the key contributor to the repayment of maturing government Eurobonds in 2018 and 2019.  In April and May 2019, BdL repaid Eurobond maturities of $500 million and $650 million, respectively, through bridge financing to the Ministry of Finance (MoF).  The MoF has also issued Eurobonds directly to the BdL.  We view these Eurobonds as an accounting transaction that does not generate foreign currency until the Eurobonds are issued to investors.  We deduct the Eurobonds on BdL’s balance sheet from FX reserves–the residual amount held by BdL was $2.9 billion as of end June.

In the past, growth in nonresident and total deposits has provided a reliable source of funding for the current account and fiscal deficits, and supported BdL’s FX reserves.  However, during the first six months of 2019, there were total deposit outflows of almost $2.5 billion.  This reflects reduced investor confidence, partly driven by the delays in the formation of the government at the start of the year and the budget’s approval.

We expect continued pressure on FX reserves through 2022, given the large external financing needs, an expected drop in nonresident deposit inflows, and rising dollarization to above 70%.  Between December 2017 and June 2019, BdL’s official FX reserves (excluding gold) dropped by $6.8 billion to $33.5 billion.  BdL has implemented several financial engineering operations since 2016, the latest in July 2019.  We understand that banks attracted a little over $2 billion in deposits over July to mid-August.  As a result, central bank FX reserves improved by nearly $700 million in July, the difference reflecting other foreign currency drains on reserves.  The risk of large deposit outflows is mitigated to some extent by the increase in average deposit maturity to over one year from about just 45 days in 2017.

We forecast the current account deficit will decline only slightly through 2022, helped by gradual growth in exports following the opening of the land border with Syria.  Nonetheless, we expect the deficit will remain very large, averaging about 21% of GDP over 2019-2022, reflecting the large current account payments including imports for expected capital projects.

BdL plays a material role in steering macroeconomic and financial policy and assists in financing the budget deficit.  However, the financial engineering operations have substantially increased BdL’s domestic FX liabilities, albeit with long tenors.  BdL does not publish its net FX position.  Given the high levels of current account payments and short-term and maturing long-term external debt, we expect Lebanon will face rising pressure to maintain sufficient levels of FX reserves if it is to preserve confidence in the currency peg.

We currently believe that BdL will utilize all available tools to support the banking system and ensure financial stability in the event of sudden market distress or stress on banks’ capital position.  (S&P 23.08)

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11.3  JORDAN:  Cash-Strapped Jordan Imposes New Taxes; Public Anger Ensues

Osama Al Sharif posted on 30 August in Al-Monitor that economists suggest the Jordanian government should cut its own expenses and those of its staff instead of imposing taxes that add to the people’s economic burden.

A couple of tax-related measures recently introduced by the Jordanian government have triggered criticism and even riots in one city on the border with Syria.  Residents of Ramtha, 56 miles north of Amman, took to the streets on 23 – 24 August to protest an unexpected government decision issued on 22 August that limits the quantity of certain items — for example, only one carton of cigarettes per person — that an individual can bring into the kingdom.  Anyone caught entering with more than the allowable limits could be charged with smuggling.

Ramtha’s economy heavily depends on cross-border trade with Syria, and hundreds of taxi drivers from the city transport passengers and goods on a daily basis between the two countries.  The city’s economy suffered when the border was closed between 2015 and 2018 after the Syrian government lost control of the crossing point to rebel forces.

Rioters in Ramtha burned tires and police cars and clashed with anti-riot police for two days, until late on 24 August, when the government reached an agreement with city notables to cease all forms of escalation.  The Jordan Times reported the government justifying its decision as part of an anti-smuggling effort aimed at protecting citizens and residents from narcotics, weapons and smoking.  The government claimed on 24 August that cross-border smuggling had cost the treasury $183 million in the first seven months of this year.

On 15 August, the government announced the imposition of customs fees on products for personal use bought online outside the kingdom.  It gave the Customs Department one week to create an “electronic platform” for residents to register online to track progress toward the annual cap on online shopping of around $700, which replaced the previous cap of $3,380.  Those who fail to register will have to pay higher customs and fees when clearing the goods through customs.

The decision has forced one local company, CashBasha, which facilitates online shopping through Amazon, to suspend operations in the kingdom.  Its business model had allowed customers to order products through CashBasha’s online interface and pay in local currency to have goods delivered directly to them without having to go through the customs authority.

Interviewed by Al-Mamlaka TV on 22 August, Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Minister Muthana Gharaibeh said that only 5% of Jordanians shop online and that the decision to impose customs fees is aimed at achieving “tax justice,” leveling the playing field as it were, given that local retailers must charge sales tax, which increases the prices of their goods, and must also pay income tax.  Gharaibeh announced that the government will soon impose a sales tax on local advertising posted on Google and Facebook.  He claimed that Google and Facebook had cut into the revenue of local ad agencies, forcing many to close.

The latest measures, described by some as desperate, were triggered by what is now expected to be a drop in government revenues for 2019.  In January of this year, the government raised custom fees on hybrid cars, resulting in a drop in related customs and sales tax revenues by $318 million in the first six months of this year compared to last year’s figures.

The government had anticipated an increase in sales tax revenue to $5 billion in 2019 compared with $4.5 billion in 2018.  During the first quarter of this year, however, total tax revenue dropped by 1.4%, or $33 million, compared to the same period of last year.  Economists attributed the decline to higher sales taxes increasing the cost of goods and the low purchasing power of consumers.

Last year, the government raised the sales tax on many consumer items, some from 0%, with a maximum of 16%.  The move was part of a three-year economic reform program agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2016.  Most economic sectors in the kingdom have seen a decline in revenues over the past three years due to higher taxes, higher energy costs and lower purchasing power.

On 5 August, Deputy Prime Minister Rajai Muasher told lawmakers that the decision made last year to end the subsidizing of bread had backfired. He said that the government had disbursed JOD 170 million dinars ($239 million) annually for the subsidy, but after lifting it, was shelling out JOD 270 million ($380 million) in compensating low income families directly and bearing the total cost of keeping bread prices stable.

Jordanians mocked Finance Minister Izziddin Kanakrieh after he remarked on 5 August that government revenues from taxing cigarettes and petroleum products amount to JOD 2 billion ($2.8 billion), but that this revenue stream will decline as citizens switch to electronic cigarettes and electric cars.  Critics were quick to portray the minister as appearing to encourage cigarette smoking and fossil fuel use when the world is heading in the opposite direction.

The IMF has conducted two reviews of the Jordanian economy this year and will undertake a third assessment before the end of the year. Jordan’s annual economic growth remains modest, at around 2%, far from the all-time high of 10.58% in the first quarter of 2007.

Labib Kamhawi, an economic expert, told Al-Monitor that what is happening is a result of failed economic strategies and arbitrary decisions aimed only at raising and levying taxes.  “Instead of focusing on growth and development, successive governments have only cared about managing the bulging national debt and the growing budget deficit,” Kamhawi said.  The unsettled economic environment, Kamhawi said, has driven away local and foreign investors.  “The situation now is critical, and we are witnessing an economic stagnation that is a prelude to total collapse,” he asserted.

Khaled Zubaidi, head of the economic section at the daily Addustour, told Al-Monitor, “This government has no economic team, and its sole function is to levy taxes as our national debt reaches $42 billion.”  He added that the government has failed to encourage development projects that create jobs and attract investors.  “The government should start with itself, first by streamlining its more than $1 billion annually in salaries and other running expenses, instead of provoking citizens with arbitrary decisions,” Zubaidi said.

Osama Al Sharif is a veteran journalist and political commentator based in Amman who specializes in Middle East issues.  (Al Monitor 03.09)

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11.4  IRAQ:  Iraq Ratings Affirmed At ‘B-/B’; Outlook Stable

On 23 August 2019, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its ‘B-‘ long-term and ‘B’ short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Iraq.  The outlook is stable.


The stable outlook reflects our opinion that risks from Iraq’s expansionary fiscal position will be contained, to some extent, given that spending is limited by the government’s ability to finance it.  We could lower the ratings if the government increased spending beyond our expectations, resulting in either a decline in foreign currency reserves or a sharp rise in its net debt and debt-servicing costs.  This could also occur if oil revenue fell further than we expect and the government was unable to cut expenditure or implement countermeasures.

We do not expect to raise the ratings over the next 12 months, but we could over the forecast period if higher-than-expected nonoil growth, for instance from reinvigorated reconstruction efforts, which resulted in an increase in Iraq’s economic growth and higher GDP per capita.


Our ratings on Iraq are constrained by its nascent political institutions and domestic political tensions – including divisions between the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish ethnic and sectarian groups – as well as security risks.  Despite a significant hydrocarbon endowment, Iraq’s GDP per capita remains low and economic activity weak, in our view.  Monetary policy is largely constrained by the weakness of the banking system.  The fiscal position remains constrained by a dependence on oil revenue and large spending needs for reconstruction.

Our ratings are underpinned by the fact that the majority of Iraq’s oil output is in areas under the control of the federal government.  Crucially, more than 85% of Iraq’s oil fields and oil output are located in the south of the country, some distance from the volatile areas formerly held by Islamic State (IS).  The government’s debt levels are moderate, and the country’s external indebtedness is relatively low, reducing external risks.

Institutional and economic profile: Growth will accelerate alongside increasing oil production, but nonoil growth remains constrained

-There are some indications that the security situation is improving, which, along with increasing oil production, will support growth.

-Fostering nonoil growth will remain difficult, given slow reconstruction efforts and a weak business climate.

-We expect that Iraq’s institutional profile will remain weak, with a divided society and unpredictable policymaking.

Iraq has the world’s fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves and is the second-largest oil exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).  Oil dominates the Iraqi economy, contributing about 50% of GDP, 90% of government revenue, and more than 95% of exports.  Nevertheless, with a population of about 40 million, Iraq has relatively low economic wealth with per capita GDP at an estimated $5,200 in 2019.

After a two-year recession, we expect overall GDP growth to pick up in 2019 to 3.0%, with further acceleration in 2020 to 4.3%, as OPEC production cuts cease and production continues to ramp up.  We expect production will average 4.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2019, which factors in partial compliance with OPEC production cuts, up from 4.4 mbpd in 2018.  We expect that total oil production will increase toward 5.0 mbpd by the end of our forecast period in 2022, though growth should moderate to about 2.5% in later years as oil production growth slows.

Nonoil growth has struggled to take off, not least because of slow reconstruction efforts.  Low public investment and a difficult business environment have slowed the post-war recovery.  We expect lower oil prices will likely hamper private consumption in the coming years.  The nonoil sector’s contribution to growth harbors upside potential, which could be at least partly unlocked as the government’s increased fiscal expenditure gives rise to more positive consumer sentiment.  However, the delicate political situation and weak governance will continue to constrain growth outside the oil sector over our forecast period.

Iraq’s political situation will remain complex and unpredictable, in our view.  The new prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, was appointed in October 2018, five months after parliamentary elections.  Although all cabinet appointments were made by July 2019, we view these substantial delays as symptomatic of weak administrative capacity.  They might also point to weak parliamentary support for the prime minister given that cabinet nominations require the majority support of parliament.

In our opinion, the 2019 budget highlights the unpredictability of Iraq’s policymaking.  The budget incorporates numerous concessions to quell the risk of public discontent, following years of conflict, and address substantial reconstruction needs.  However, it results in a significant public spending increase that we estimate will be about 20% above 2018 levels.

Iraq’s three-year standby arrangement (SBA) with the IMF expired in July 2019, with an estimated $2.1 billion of the $5.3 billion program disbursed, despite Iraq’s inability to meet all of the program’s conditions.  The IMF program had been an important source of support for Iraq’s fiscal situation in that it unlocked further budget financing from both official and unofficial creditors.  With no new program planned, we expect that other bi- and multi-lateral lenders will be less willing to lend to Iraq.  Although, we note that there are still actively engaged bi- and multi-lateral lenders in the country.  As a result, we expect the magnitude of the government’s planned fiscal spending and deficit to be contained.

The threat of domestic conflict remains.  The government has thwarted two would-be states within its borders in recent years: An IS caliphate and an independent Kurdistan.  However, risks of further political turmoil from both groups persist.  In September 2017, the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum resulted in a 93% vote in favor of independence.  However, shortly afterward, the Iraqi government took control of territory disputed by the Kurds, including the southern Kirkuk oilfields.  The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) position has weakened since the referendum, and it is unlikely to achieve independence.  We note more conciliatory provisions have been made for the region in the 2019 budget and that fiscal transfers from the federal government have resumed.  In addition, there is a risk that the continued influence on Iraqi politics by external parties – including Iran, the U.S. and Turkey – could destabilize consensus building.

We also believe Iraq’s political and economic development is hampered by widespread corruption.  The country ranks among the world’s worst in the Corruption Perceptions Index and the World Bank’s governance indicators.  The government has taken active measures to address this issue, including the recent reintroduction of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Council.  We believe that fighting corruption, the lingering presence of IS, and tensions with the KRG are Iraq’s major political and security challenges in the near term. Strengthening governance, accountability, and transparency could help unlock Iraq’s economic potential.

Flexibility and performance profile: Though the current account should remain in surplus, we expect a fiscal deficit moving forward

-The expansionary budget in 2019 should return the government to a deficit from a surplus in 2018.

-Following a substantial current account surplus in 2018, Iraq’s liquid external assets now exceed its external debt.

-We expect the Iraqi dinar will remain pegged to the U.S. dollar.

After a general government fiscal surplus of about 8% of GDP in 2018, from higher oil prices and a 25% underspend largely on capital expenditure, we expect a deficit of about 4.8% in 2019 and a slight increase in the deficit in the later years of our forecast horizon.  This forecast takes into account our lower oil price assumptions and the government’s ambitious spending plans.  Keeping in mind that the political pressures that contributed to this expansionary stance are unlikely to fully abate – and that Iraq’s reconstruction needs are very significant – we see limited prospects for consolidation measures to be implemented without a new IMF program.

However, even though the government envisages a budget deficit of around 10% of GDP in 2019, we expect that limited access to bi- and multi-lateral funding lines, given the end of the IMF program and no approved budgetary support, will moderate government spending.  In 2018 the government resumed reparation payments to Kuwait and in 2019, fiscal transfers to the KRG started.

The government plans to finance its 2019 deficit by running down assets accumulated from the 2018 fiscal surplus, and if needed through a mixture of short-term domestic financing (T-Bills bought by domestic banks) and increasing the pension fund’s holdings of government securities.  We expect net general government debt to average around a moderate 44% over the forecast period.

The 2018 current account surplus was nearly 17% of GDP due to high oil prices and slightly higher export volumes over 2017.  We expect the current account surplus to fall by about half in 2019, due to lower oil prices and increased imports, but the current account should remain in a surplus of about 7% on average over the forecast period.  We believe Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) data significantly underreports imports, since imports into the region of Iraqi Kurdistan are not included and imports at other entry points into Iraq are not systematically measured.  We use IMF data because we believe it provides a more accurate representation of Iraq’s external position.

After two strong years of oil exports, we estimate usable reserves at $5.8 billion at year-end 2018.  We deduct the monetary base from official reserves because we regard them as somewhat encumbered by the need to defend the currency peg in a time of stress.  The increase in reserves has had a positive effect on Iraq’s international investment position, pushing liquid external assets above external debt.  At the same time, Iraq’s external position is highly dependent on the oil price outlook.

We expect the Iraqi dinar’s exchange-rate peg to the U.S. dollar will remain in place over the next few years.  While the peg has helped control inflation, it limits the CBI’s monetary flexibility.  We view the monetary policy transmission mechanism as weak.  The banking sector in Iraq is still burdened by high nonperforming loans, and does not fully fulfill the lending functions of stronger banking systems.  For this reason, the monetary policy tools that rely on the banking sector, such as the reserve requirement and the provision of standing facilities, are of limited effectiveness in Iraq.

The financial stability of domestic banks is uncertain and we view the risk stemming from the financial sector as a moderate contingent liability for the government.  In our view, the government would bear the cost of any needed recapitalization resulting from a reorganization of the banking sector.  Financial accounts audited to international standards are not available for most banks in Iraq.  We believe that the two largest banks, Rafidain Bank and Rasheed Bank, which are both owned by the state, are severely undercapitalized, and consider that there are high nonperforming loans across the whole sector.  (S&P 23.08)

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11.5  GCC:  VAT in Gulf Arab States – Balancing Domestic, Regional and International Interests

Robert Mogielnicki posted on 26 August in Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington that the Gulf Arab states remain in the early stages of implementing a value-added tax following the Gulf Cooperation Council’s adoption of the Unified VAT Agreement in 2016.  A VAT functions as an indirect tax on select goods and services – often referred to as a consumption tax – that is imposed wherever value is added along the supply chain.  This fiscal measure is part of a series of economic reforms Gulf Arab states have introduced since the oil price shock beginning in 2014, seeking to diversify government budgets and boost non-oil revenue with new taxes and fees.  International organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, have strongly encouraged Gulf Arab states to introduce a VAT and also recommended an increase in the standard tax rate beyond 5%.

Progress to date has been mixed.  Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each imposed the VAT in January 2018, whereas Bahrain began implementing the tax at the outset of 2019.  Total revenue collection figures in Saudi Arabia and the UAE exceeded initial expectations, averaging 1.55% and 1.79% of gross domestic product respectively.  Inflation jumped in both countries following the introduction of the tax, but price increases are expected to moderate over the coming years.  Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain simultaneously passed measures to minimize the economic impact of the VAT on businesses and local citizens.  These measures include zero rating (levying a VAT at the rate of 0% on a product or service), exemptions and VAT-free zones.  Preferential treatment not only reduces the overall tax base – and consequently the total revenue potential – but also complicates the future integration of each country’s VAT system.

The remaining GCC states have delayed the VAT implementation.  Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are expected to launch domestic VAT systems by 2020 or 2021.  The reasons behind the delays are not entirely clear.  Kuwait’s slow-moving political bureaucracy, Oman’s challenging economic environment, and the boycott of Qatar posed genuine challenges to an implementation of the tax by the beginning of 2018.  These countries have achieved more progress in the adoption of a modest excise tax, in accordance with the GCC’s Common Excise Tax Agreement of 2016.  Qatar and Oman adopted an excise tax in 2019, and Kuwait plans to introduce the tax in 2020.

Despite beginning as a regional policy and being strongly encouraged by international organizations like the IMF, the VAT in the Gulf is becoming an increasingly country-focused initiative.  This approach may be required for individual countries to advance a VAT system that is palatable to political insiders, members of the economic elite, and other actors in key sectors.  The regional context also shifted since the adoption of the Unified VAT Agreement in 2016: A less cohesive GCC hampers policy coordination among the bloc’s member states.  Variation in the timing of implementation and technicalities of tax policy designs could increase competitive dynamics among states.  Moreover, uncoordinated development of local tax systems complicates the regional integration of tax systems needed for the smooth functioning of intra-GCC trade in goods and services.  (AGSIW 27.08)

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11.6  OMAN:  Challenges to Maximizing Renewables in Oman’s Energy Mix

Aisha Al-Sarihi posted on 27 August at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington that climate change and increasing energy demand have prompted a global search for ways ‎of producing less pollution-generating energy.  The oil- and gas-rich Gulf Arab states are ‎highly impacted by climate change and are also challenged by increasing domestic ‎energy demand.  The surge in energy demand of 5% per year on average for the Gulf ‎Arab states has been mainly met by fossil fuel resources, namely oil and gas, which ‎comprise nearly 99% of the total energy mix; this has been associated with regional ‎growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing energy demand has already triggered ‎some of the Gulf Arab states, such as Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to ‎import natural gas to meet domestic energy needs.  This growing demand has also ‎affected the ability of these hydrocarbon-dependent states’ economies to maintain oil ‎and gas exports, the major sources of income.‎

Furthermore, deficits in states’ budgets due to the 2014 drop in oil prices have prompted ‎Gulf Arab governments to seek alternative sources of income to hydrocarbon revenue. ‎ However, the Gulf states have pursued economic diversification largely through the ‎expansion of oil downstream industries and petrochemicals, which necessitate ‎reallocation of oil and gas feedstocks for their operation.  Reallocation of oil and gas ‎feedstocks to petrochemical industries, however, is challenging because oil and gas ‎supplies are also needed to meet increasing demands for electricity, water desalination, ‎and, in some cases, enhanced oil recovery.‎

The Gulf Arab states are therefore searching for alternative energy resources, such as ‎renewable energy.  Renewables could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions ‎while also supporting the Gulf states in their economic goals of meeting increasing ‎domestic energy demand and creating jobs.  However, renewable energy remains ‎extremely underutilized in the Gulf Arab states: By the end of 2018 renewables ‎accounted for a mere 0.6% of total electricity capacity.  In Oman, for instance, the ‎share of renewables in total electricity capacity was around 0.5% in 2018 despite ‎ambitious plans of sourcing 10% of electricity from renewable energy sources by ‎‎2025.  Natural gas is the main fuel used for electricity generation, constituting nearly ‎‎96.7% of the country’s energy mix.‎

Types and share of fuel used for electricity generation in Oman

Aware of the economic, social, and environmental challenges associated with 100% ‎reliance on hydrocarbons, the Omani government has started focusing on developing ‎alternative energy resources, such as renewables. In 2008, Oman’s Authority for ‎Electricity Regulation launched a study to assess the potential renewable energy ‎resources in the country. It found significant available resources, especially wind and ‎solar. The study indicated that 50% of houses in Oman, with 20 square meters of ‎available roof area, are suitable for solar photovoltaic installation; utilizing the total ‎available area would provide space for an installation capacity at around 420 ‎megawatts.  Also, the study indicated that around 100 square miles of desert area (0.1% ‎of the country’s land area) could be utilized to build concentrated solar power plants, ‎providing around 2,800 megawatts of solar energy capacity.  Additionally, the ‎installation of 375 wind turbines, each with 2 megawatts of capacity, would have the ‎generation potential of at least 750 megawatts; this would require a wind farm land area ‎of nearly 40 square miles.  If all available solar and wind resources are harnessed, a total ‎‎3,970 megawatts of electricity could be generated from renewables – around 48.2% of ‎total installed electricity capacity in 2018.‎

The release of the 2008 study sparked interest among investors, researchers, and other ‎governmental entities in Oman in renewable energy research and development.  In 2017, ‎Oman launched two policy initiatives and the Oman Power and Procurement Company ‎signed a power purchase agreement for the first utility-scale 50 megawatt wind-based ‎renewable project in southern Oman.  The first policy initiative, Sahim, allows entities ‎such as homeowners and commercial buildings to install rooftop solar photovoltaic ‎systems to produce solar electricity for their own use and to sell surplus energy to ‎electricity distribution companies.  Secondly, Oman announced a national renewable ‎energy target, which aims to source 10% of total electricity generation capacity from ‎renewables by 2025.  Oman’s installed renewable energy capacity increased from 1 ‎megawatt in 2014 to 8 megawatts by the end of 2018.  Oman’s progress toward ‎incorporating renewables is in line with its commitments to the Paris Agreement, which ‎it signed in April 2019, and its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2% set in ‎its nationally determined contribution.‎

In considering increasing renewable energy adoption in hydrocarbon-rich states, it is ‎important to explore the interactions between renewable energy and economic, social, ‎and environmental domains.  This can help to measure the role of renewables in ‎addressing the challenges of energy security, job creation and reducing carbon ‎emissions.‎

‎Interactions between renewable energy technologies and economic, social, and environmental ‎domains ‎

In the case of Oman, considering four scenarios with different degrees of integration of ‎renewable energy sources in the sultanate’s energy mix (including solar photovoltaic, ‎concentrated solar, and wind power) shows varying impacts on levels of hydrocarbon ‎consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and job creation.  These scenarios include a ‎business-as-usual situation in which there is no additional incorporation of renewables ‎as well as moderate, advanced, and ambitious scenarios, with 10%, 30% and 50%, ‎respectively, of electricity generation sourced from renewables through 2040.  The ‎ambitious scenario is estimated at 50% renewable energy integration in line with the ‎‎2008 Authority for Electricity Regulation’s findings projecting that, if harnessed fully, ‎renewables could meet 48.2% of Oman’s total electricity installed capacity.  Also, solar ‎photovoltaic remains at 10% in the advanced and ambitious scenarios due to its ‎potential to meet only 10% of Oman’s total electricity installed capacity.‎

Proposed Renewable Energy Integration Scenarios Through 2040

By 2040, in the business-as-usual scenario, the use of natural gas for electricity ‎generation could increase by 28% compared with 2010. In comparison to the business-‎as-usual scenario, in the moderate, advanced, and ambitious scenarios, there could be ‎‎27%, 46%, and more than 64% less natural gas consumption, respectively. Furthermore, ‎if no renewables are included in the future energy mix, carbon dioxide emissions are ‎expected to significantly rise. Under the current growth rate of natural gas consumption ‎for power generation, in the business-as-usual scenario, total carbon dioxide emissions ‎are expected to rise by 400% from 2010 to 2040. The integration of renewables, ‎however, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to the business-as-usual ‎scenario by more than 20%, 40%, and 58% in the moderate, advanced, and ambitious ‎scenarios, respectively. In terms of job creation, given the increase in the renewable ‎energy share in Oman’s energy mix in the moderate, advanced, and ambitious scenarios, ‎the employment in installation, operation, and maintenance of renewable energy ‎technology would increase correspondingly. Concentrated solar power provides the ‎largest number of jobs over time compared with other renewable technologies, such as ‎solar photovoltaic and wind power.‎

Yet, a number of barriers continue to constrain large-scale adoption of renewable ‎energy in Oman. These include a fragmented energy policy, the lack of a comprehensive ‎renewable energy regulatory framework, and a highly controlled energy market. To ‎better integrate renewables into the country’s energy mix, Oman needs to make ‎institutional changes to harmonize the efforts of different energy sector entities and ‎define accurate roles and responsibilities; develop a comprehensive renewable energy ‎regulatory framework to promote the integration of renewables in different energy ‎sectors, such as electricity, transportation, and industry; and gradually liberalize the ‎energy market, which could improve decision-making processes and attract renewable ‎energy investors.‎

Overcoming barriers that hinder the integration of renewables would unlock many ‎socioeconomic and environmental advantages. However, solar and wind energy alone ‎cannot meet all of Oman’s energy needs, especially given their nature of intermittency ‎and low technical efficiency due to high temperatures, humidity, and dust in the ‎country. Therefore, the enhancement of a mixed clean energy profile, including off-‎shore wind, waste-to-energy, hydrogen, thermal, and hydropower energy sources, as ‎well as developing smart grids and enhancing regional cooperation on renewables are ‎promising options that need further investigation.‎

Aisha Al-Sarihi is a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.  Her ‎areas of research interest include political economy of environmental sustainability, energy ‎policy, renewables, and climate policies, with a focus on the Arab region.‎   (AGSIW 27.08)

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11.7  EGYPT:  Egypt Takes Another Step Toward China

Haisam Hassanein posted in TWI PolicyWatch 3168 on 19 August that port projects and other outreach may help President Sisi check off some of his policy goals, but giving China such a foothold could threaten a number of U.S. interests in the region.

On 5 August, Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese company Hutchison Ports to establish a Mediterranean container terminal in Abu Qir.  President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi himself attended the signing ceremony, where he praised the company’s global reputation in the field and emphasized the importance of executing the project in accordance with the highest international standards.

The project is in line with Sisi’s track record of seeking Chinese help to fulfill his ambitious domestic and foreign agenda.  Hutchison is one of the world’s leading port networks, operating terminals in twenty-seven countries; in Egypt, it operates the country’s two main commercial ports, Alexandria and El Dekheila.  The company’s representatives commended the opportunity for direct investment in Abu Qir and announced that they will be training more than 1,500 Egyptian engineers and other workers for jobs at the terminal.  According to them, the facility will be able to handle up to 1 million containers annually once completed.

Sisi’s Outreach to China

Since Sisi took office as president in 2014, he has visited China six times and met with President Xi Jinping seven times.  His first trip took place in December 2014, when he signed twenty-five bilateral agreements, mainly on energy and transport issues.  He also pledged to cooperate on what has come to be known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s sweeping strategy to build a new Silk Road by investing in roads, rail, energy production, transit and other infrastructure projects across some sixty countries.

In September 2015, Sisi showed the seriousness of his intent to deepen ties by attending Beijing’s celebration of the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II.  Four months later, President Xi traveled to Cairo at Sisi’s invitation, the first such visit by a Chinese leader since 2004.  Xi in turn invited Sisi to two multinational events: the G20’s Hangzhou summit in September 2016, and the BRICS summit and business forum in Beijing a year later.

In September 2018, Sisi visited China for a fifth time to take part in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.  During his speech at the event, he praised Beijing’s outreach to African nations and emphasized the intertwining importance of the BRI and Agenda 2063, an African Union plan for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse.

Most recently, Sisi traveled to Beijing this April to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation alongside thirty-seven other world leaders.  There, he argued that Egypt has changed for the better under his rule—and, by extension, become a more attractive investment location—by successfully countering terrorist threats, implementing economic reforms, and practicing a balanced foreign policy in the Middle East.

Sisi’s reasons for wooing China so ardently are legion:

Prioritizing “no pressure” relationships.  The Chinese government has stayed out of Egypt’s internal affairs since the 2011 uprising and was quick to congratulate Sisi when he became president, even sending a special representative to his inauguration ceremony.  Unlike the United States, Beijing has not criticized Cairo for its record on political detainees, torture of prisoners, or other human rights abuses.  In return, Sisi has remained silent on China’s crackdown against Uyghur Muslims.

Accelerating economic growth. China is the world’s second-largest economy and Cairo sees it as being the global model on this front in the future.  Hence, Sisi has sought to establish close logistical relations in the hope of eventually making Egypt a central player in the Middle East and North Africa.  Thus far, Chinese investments in Egypt have centered on industrial projects (55%), construction (20%) and services (19%).  To further enhance bilateral investment, the two countries founded the Egyptian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Association, and business delegations from both nations have visited each other.  Sisi looks fondly at China’s success in transforming itself from a developing nation into a major economic power, seeing Beijing’s model as a blueprint for how a state can spur such growth while still ruling with an iron fist.

Courting a great power.  Sisi also regards China as the world’s future political and security superpower, so having Beijing on his side is crucial to raising his own status in the international arena.  In exchange, he has offered to open Egypt’s large markets to Chinese products, which in turn could give Beijing a window to the rest of the Arab world and Africa.  These and other goals spurred the two governments to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership deal in 2014.

Diversifying Egypt’s foreign policy and military options.  In Sisi’s view, Egypt’s biggest mistake during the Mubarak era was throwing all of its eggs in one basket, namely, the Western world.  He believes Cairo should engage with every world power so that it does not become dependent on one geopolitical axis or another.

Bolstering political legitimacy at home.  Historically, most Egyptian leaders have relied on their military backgrounds and heroic war records to boost their legitimacy during times of economic or political crisis.  For instance, Hosni Mubarak constantly reminded the public that he had led the air force during the 1973 war.  Anwar Sadat marketed himself as the man of war and peace who restored Sinai to Egypt, and Gamal Abdul Nasser was the hero of the poor and a symbol for resistance against “Western imperialism.”

Until recently, Sisi used a similar strategy, rallying the public around the goals of confronting the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist terrorist groups.  Now that his security apparatus has contained the Brotherhood and noticeably diminished the number of terrorist attacks, he apparently believes he has to reinvent himself for the Egyptian public in order to maintain his grip on power.  One way to do so is by getting close with world leaders and appearing on the international stage as often as possible to show audiences back home that he is still relevant.  Indeed, his media machine in Egypt never misses an opportunity to glorify his international speeches.

Implications for U.S. Policy

China has become an essential component of Sisi’s agenda at home and abroad.  Without its financing and expertise, showpiece projects like the new administrative capital and a new Suez Canal industrial zone are unlikely to get off the ground.  In return, China wants to take advantage of Egypt’s position in the Arab world and Africa to facilitate bilateral and collective cooperation in both regions, including on projects that further the BRI.  All of this should worry the United States, especially since China could use its access to Egyptian ports to improve its standing in the Middle East and potentially gather intelligence on U.S. interests, similar to Washington’s concerns about Israel’s Haifa port.

Other potential security concerns should be assessed as well, including: Chinese military sales to Egypt competing with U.S. sales; Chinese technology posing a counterintelligence risk; Chinese arms or forces establishing anti-access/area-denial bubbles in the East Mediterranean or Suez; and Beijing’s relations with North Korea accelerating Cairo’s own troubling engagement with Pyongyang.  Determining the severity of such threats will help Washington decide how Egypt fits into America’s growing great-power competition with China.

Haisam Hassanein was the 2016-2017 Glazer Fellow at The Washington Institute.  (TWI 19.08)

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11.8  EGYPT:  Egypt Declares Water Emergency as Precaution

Ayah Aman posted on 20 August in Al-Monitor that Egypt is cautious but optimistic on its water supply for the year, with strategies to address last year’s drop in Nile River flow.

Though water-scarce Egypt is on the verge of flood season, Cairo has declared a state of emergency due to a decline in water flow from last year.  Yet water experts say the country is in good enough shape because of its reserves and water conservation measures.  “The job of an irrigation engineer in Egypt has changed,” Mohammed al-Sibai, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, told Al-Monitor.  “We no longer manage water flooding but manage water scarcity, and make precise plans to deal with it, so as not to harm the main interests and the citizens’ needs.”

The ministry reported on 27 July that the total annual Nile River flow dropped 5 billion cubic meters (1.3 trillion gallons, or 6.5 billion cubic yards) from the year before due to decreased floodwaters from the Ethiopian plateau and equatorial lakes.  The government imposed a state of emergency in all governorates to regulate and manage water, especially to meet water needs for drinking and domestic use.  “Egypt’s annual water quota … will not be affected by the decline,” Sibai said.  “A state of emergency means keeping all of the Water Ministry’s departments on maximum alert to periodically follow up on the water situation in the main riverbed and all canals and water channels in the governorates.”

Sibai said, “According to the ministry’s Nile Flood Forecasting Center’s data on the amount of rainfall on the Ethiopian plateau [and equatorial lakes] during the current rainy season, flood rates are still moderate,” meaning there won’t be any extra water to increase the storage level in the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

Floodwaters flow into the Nile and then into the man-made Lake Nasser reservoir, created by the Aswan High Dam in Aswan province.  Some of the flow comes from rain in Ethiopia’s hills.  Another source is water that Sudan discharges from its dams to accommodate the new season’s floodwater coming from the Ethiopian plateau.  The annual water flow from the Nile is estimated at an average of 84 billion cubic meters of water.  Egypt gets 55.5 billion cubic meters of water a year from this flow, while Sudan receives 18.5 billion cubic meters under the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement.  The rest of the river’s flow is stored behind the Aswan High Dam and is considered a strategic stock for Egypt in case of water shortage or droughts.

Egypt is diligent about monitoring water availability.  “In addition to the declining water flow, Egypt is dealing with a water gap that is widening every year,” Sibai said.  “Internal needs are now estimated at 114 billion cubic meters annually, while only 59.4 billion cubic meters of running surface water is available.”  Sibai said, “The water deficit will be fixed through water recycling projects, which provide 24 billion cubic meters of water. Egypt is now one of the top countries in terms of water-use efficiency, reaching a rate of 95%, according to international estimates.”  Egypt also imports food and industrial products that, if grown or made internally, would require 34 billion cubic meters of water.

Despite the water scarcity in Egypt, “the water year 2018-2019 has ended well,” Sibai said.  “The daily challenges and problems that farmers face were dealt with in a number of ways, as endorsed in the 2017-2037 Water Resources Plan between nine ministries.”  The plan addresses four areas: developing water resources, improving water quality, making water use more efficient while reducing the amount used, and community awareness.

According to experts in Egyptian water affairs, the decrease in the Nile River’s flow from floodwater may not present a major danger at the present time, given Egypt’s strategic water reserves in the Aswan Dam, in addition to the absence of serious climatic events such as the drought that hit the Nile basin in the 1980s.

Abbas Sharaqi, a water and geology professor at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor Egypt’s current water scarcity is mainly due to its population growth, not the lower water flow from the Ethiopian plateau or equatorial lakes.  “The main rainy season in Ethiopia, which feeds the Nile, is in July, August and September, and the water reaches Egypt three weeks after the rainy season begins.  The amount of floodwater can’t be judged before the season ends in September,” Sharaqi said.

“It’s not possible to be in real danger, as long as there is a strategic water reservoir in the Aswan Dam, and official figures indicate that the water level there is so far within the safe limits,” he said.  “The most important challenge is to maintain safe [levels] of water in Lake Nasser.”

The decline in the Nile’s water flow is a chronic but manageable challenge for the Egyptian government.  Ethiopia had delayed filling the estimated 74 billion cubic meters of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam reservoir due to internal tensions.  Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in February 2018; the dam project manager killed himself that July, according to authorities; and dam officials were arrested on corruption charges.  Meanwhile, Cairo has yet to reach a clear agreement with Ethiopia to set common rules for filling the dam reservoir and avoiding any harm.

But last month, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Ati led an official delegation to Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss resuming negotiations and present Ethiopia with Egypt’s vision of the rules for filling the Renaissance Dam.  Speaking about the effectiveness of such steps, Sibai said, “Leaderships in Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan do not trust one another, and we recognize the parties’ appreciation of how critical the situation is.  The issue is being managed by virtue of agreements and treaties that guarantee no harm is done to any party.”

Ayah Aman is an Egyptian journalist for Al-Shorouk specializing in Africa and the Nile Basin, Turkey and Iran and Egyptian social issues.  (Al-Monitor 20.08)

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11.9  MOROCCO:  King Mohammed VI Announces Plan to Promote Social & Economic Equality

As reported by Al-Monitor, Morocco is taking action on unemployment, King Mohammed VI said recently, stressing the need to develop a social protection program and enhance education, especially vocational training.  Speaking on 20 August on the 66th anniversary of the Moroccan revolution, the monarch said the government is ready to select a commission to reduce social and economic disparities.  One way to do this, he believes, is by emphasizing education. He wants priority placed on vocational education over academic and university programs.

He said, “Passing the baccalaureate exam and going to university is not a privilege but a phase in the education process.  It is even more important to receive training that opens up prospects for professional integration and social stability.

However, such job prospects look dim.  Higher Planning Commission figures from May 2018 showed unemployment among vocational school graduates reached 26% in 2017.  A new development model is needed because of deteriorating conditions.  Morocco has suffered setbacks in the political, human rights, social and economic arenas, with protests igniting in multiple parts of the country.  There have been demonstrations over jailed activists in the northern Rif region, protests over water scarcity in Imider and Zagora in the south and marches in Jarada in the northeast.

What has led to these declines?  At the political level, most parties are struggling with internal conflicts that are using up what’s left of citizens’ trust.  At the economic level, the worsening budget deficit and national debt have affected productivity and the quality of public services and utilities, especially in the education and health sectors.  The poor have been affected disproportionately.

One obstacle to approaching parity among citizens is the imbalance of power in managing the country’s political affairs.  The late Driss Benali, who was a prominent economics professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat, said in 2011, “In order to bring about a just distribution of wealth, societal pressure is required.  This is why a democracy based on power and counterweight [to state] power is intrinsic.  There is no need for us to form consultative committees.”

Looking back over Mohammed VI’s rule, there were signs at the beginning of his reign in 1999 that he wanted to move away from the oppressive methods of his predecessor and father, King Hassan II.  He toured Morocco advocating help for marginalized groups and was nicknamed the “king of the poor.”  He soon dismissed his father’s Interior Minister Driss Basri, who was accused by political and human rights organizations of gross human rights violations.  Basri was called Hassan II’s “iron fist” during his repressive rule (1961-1999), known as the “Years of Lead.”

Perhaps to ease his son’s transition, Hassan II had appeared to soften in the last years of his reign, and in 1998 agreed to a rotation government chaired by socialist Abderrahmane Youssoufi.  This government was still in place at the beginning of Mohammed VI’s rule.  However, after the 2002 legislative elections, he appointed Driss Jettou, who had no political affiliation, as prime minister in a move that critics predicted would end the democratic transition process.

Today, eight years after the Arab Spring and 2011 constitution, the executive body is still subject to royal prerogatives.  Speaking to Hespress in March, Abdullatif Wehbi, a leading figure of the Authenticity and Modernity Party, said Jettou in effect had abandoned his powers as head of the executive body.

Mohammed VI has implemented some humanitarian ventures, but with questionable success.  In 2004, the Equity and Reconciliation Commission was set up with the goal of investigating human rights violations under Hassan’s rule and making sure victims received reparations.  The experiment, a first in the region, fell short: Victims’ documented testimony provided a factual account but did not include the names of the perpetrators.  Some human rights activists warned that failing to prosecute human rights violators would lead to a culture of impunity.

In 2005, under Mohammed VI’s watch, the National Human Development Initiative for Morocco was launched to combat poverty by setting up income-generating micro-enterprises.  However, in 2013 the Economic, Social and Environmental Council reported on the project’s defects: low productivity and profitability, poor governance and no continuing support for the enterprises.  These problems eventually contributed to the UN Development Programme ranking Morocco 123rd in its 2018 Human Development Index.

As for the king’s record regarding freedom of expression, there are still notable violations.  Some media outlets have been closed for good, such as the Demain magazine in 2003 as well as Nichane and Le Journal, which both closed in 2010.  Following the Arab Spring, increasing members of the press were arrested and prosecuted, including journalist Ali Anouzla in 2013, editor-in-chief of Hamid el-Mahdaoui in 2017 and Taoufik Bouachrine, editor-in-chief of Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, in 2018.

Economist Najib Akesbi, a public policy professor at the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine in Rabat, gave his take on the situation during a 2018 seminar at the pro-democracy think tank Abderrahim Bouabid Foundation.  He said, “The current political regime has made decisions without taking into account the community’s needs or correlating responsibility and accountability.”

Amine Belghazi is a freelance journalist and video producer based in Casablanca. He holds a master’s degree in international finance.  (Al-Monitor 29.08)

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11.10  TURKEY:  Environmental Problems Provoke Protests on All Fronts in Turkey

Orhan Kemal Cengiz posted on 12 August in Al-Monitor that the Justice and Development Party government’s policy of ignoring environmental concerns cause tensions in Turkey.

In May 2013, Turkey was shaken by mass protests that were labeled as the Gezi Park uprising.  In the beginning, there were only a few tents erected by environmentalists in Gezi Park in Istanbul to prevent the cutting down of some trees.  After a harsh police intervention where tents were set on fire, millions of Turks took to the streets across the country in an unprecedented social movement.  Some of the protesters are still in prison and being tried.

Nowadays, tensions are running quite high once again on environmental matters with protests, campaigns and strong reactions across the country.  Thousands of protesters staged demonstrations on the outskirts of a small town in the northwestern province of Canakkale over the Kirazli Gold Mine Project owned by Dogu Biga Mining, the Turkish subsidiary of Canada-based Alamos Gold, after disturbing images of clear cutting in the Ida Mountains shared on social media sparked public outrage.  Alamos Gold allegedly cut down 195,000 trees, four times more than it declared in the environmental impact report.

In addition, some 123,000 people signed a petition in just under two days to protect Lake Salda in the Yesilova district of Burdur province in southwestern Turkey.  Lake Salda is referred to as “Turkey’s Maldives” because of its white sand and turquoise waters.  The petition demands that the Turkish government cancel plans to build a park around the lake.

Meanwhile, protests continue against the filling of the controversial Ilisu Dam, whose artificial lake will submerge 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf in Batman province in Turkey’s southeast.  Police took 19 protesters into custody before releasing them.

These and other protests and actions against environmental degradation took place this month; the numbers of protesters point to some critical social and political trends in Turkey.

One may need to understand what caused all these environmental problems and the sense of alarm they created before trying to comprehend what these protests signify for the future of Turkey.  For the last 10 years, there has not been a single day where has not been an image in print and on social media showing serious environmental problems.  Some of these issues were caused by large construction projects such as Istanbul’s third bridge, Istanbul’s third airport and so on.  It is estimated that 13 million trees were cut down just for Istanbul’s third airport.  For Erdogan’s summer residence the number was 40,000, and for his official residence (they are both called the Palace) 10,000 trees were cut down.

Hydroelectric power plants not only destroy forests but also create serious environmental problems.  Hydroelectric power plants and nuclear reactors are being built or planned in many parts of the country, causing serious concerns.

Gold mines such as the one operated by Canadian Alamos Gold in the Ida Mountains cause serious anxiety because of the huge amounts of cyanide that are used to reach the gold companies want to extract.  Canakkale Mayor Ulgur Gokhan warned that the region is a first-degree seismic zone and that an earthquake could spell a disaster and that water sources might be poisoned.

In fact, Turkey was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for not closing down a gold mine after it was established by local courts that cyanide leaching caused health problems for people living in the vicinity.  The Canakkale mayor told the press that 26 other mining licenses have been granted in the region so far, meaning that the deforestation caused by Alamos Gold could be repeated many times over in this region.

These environmental issues are occurring not just from mines in northwest Anatolia, where Alamos Gold cut down the trees, but across the country.  The root cause of these problems is legal amendments made by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party government.  In 2004, the government changed the mining laws, making obtaining permission to operate much easier for Turkish and foreign investors.  The government granted more than 40,000 mining licenses between 2006 – 2008 alone.

According to 2019 Turkey Forestry Report of the Foresters’ Association, as a result of the 2004 legal amendments, it became possible to operate mines even on the best-quality forest land in Turkey.  Thus, foreign and Turkish investors have been operating mines in areas with some of the best ecosystems in the world, such as the Ida Mountains and Artvin.  Ahval News reported that during the reign of the AKP, forest areas opened for mining have increased by 170%.

Protests against the construction of the Ilisu Dam have also employed strong messaging by evoking the symbols of international destruction.  Hundreds of Twitter users have likened the blowing up of Hasankeyf with dynamite to the Taliban’s shattering of Buddha statues in Afghanistan.  These bitter reactions show, first, that people are outraged, and second, that even though thousands of people have been arrested, taken into custody and punished just for their social media messages, the anger caused by the environmental problems has trumped people’s fear of being retaliated against.

Professor Berkan Gultekin, an expert on environmental problems, says the government will continue to open natural resources to exploitation and commercialization to overcome the country’s economic crisis.  This means that protests will continue.  For example, 220 tents have been erected to join the Water and Conscience Watch to protect the forest against the gold mine in the Ida mountains, showing how environmental struggle will be playing a prominent role in the future of Turkish politics.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a human rights lawyer, columnist and former president of the Human Rights Agenda Association, a Turkish NGO that works on issues ranging from the prevention of torture to the rights of the mentally disabled.  (Al-Monitor 12.08)

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