tralac’s Daily News Selection
Next week, in Libreville, Gabon: Building Africa’s negotiating capacity for improved terms of engagement with the rest of the world (23-27 April)
Africa’s Pulse: Boosting access to electricity in Africa through innovation, better regulation (World Bank)
With Sub-Saharan Africa’s household electrification rate at the lowest in the world, boosting access to electricity is a key development issue for the region, according to Africa’s Pulse, a World Bank bi-annual analysis of the state of African economies. The latest issue of the report (pdf) includes a section exploring the role of innovation in accelerating electrification in the region. “Access to electricity will lift productivity within and across sectors,” said Albert G. Zeufack, World Bank chief economist for the Africa region. “African governments must fully embrace technology and leverage innovation to ensure quality, affordable and sustainable electricity.”
The region’s household electrification rate averaged 42% in 2016. There is wide variation in electricity access across countries, with some fragile countries having rates less than 10%. There are also huge disparities in electricity access between rural and urban households; the report notes access rates among urban households are about 71%, compared to 22% among rural households. Aside from low access, the region is also facing issues such as low consumption, low reliability, high per kilowatt cost, and utilities running at loss.
African Ministers of Finance, Economy and Integration call for more efficient, transparent institutions to fight corruption, illicit financial flows (AU)
The 2nd AU Specialized Technical Committee meeting emphasized that in order to accompany the AfCFTA and speak of African integration, certain tools such as the African Monetary Fund (whose host agreement was recently signed with the Government of Cameroon), and the African Investment Bank will play a major role in the operationalization of the continental free trade area through the elimination of trade restrictions, increased monetary integration, financing of development projects, and development of multilateral payment systems for current transactions on the continent. Also, member states need to strengthen transparency in the public sectors, in management and budgetary control as well as transparency in the financial system; the Commission needs to call upon Member States that have yet to sign and ratify the protocol and statutes of the African Financial Institutions to do so; and finally, AUC needs to request Member States to develop policies to mobilize domestic resources and curb illicit financial flows.
Enhancing COMESA’s regional integration programme: Lusaka workshop update
Participants (10-13 April) considered the results of the four sets of interventions and related studies. Experts from CESO Development Consultants were tasked to carry out various studies on support to implementation of the COMESA Trade in Services Programme. They included the review of COMESA rules of origin, including the design of an electronic certificate of origin; Study on COMESA member states positioning to benefit from the emerging economies; and mainstreaming gender/women and youth in COMESA’s regional trade integration. The project, “Targeted support to the COMESA Secretariat to enhance its regional trade integration agenda’ was launched in May 2017 with financial support from the European Union through Tradecom II.
The UNECA is launching a campaign to have all countries of the ECCAS sub-regional bloc operationalize the ECCAS Preferential Tariff – one of the instruments for easing trade in the zone. This is within the framework of the ECCAS Free Trade Area which should lead to the full integration of the countries of this zone into the AfCFTA – a market that promises to boost the economies of the countries of the entire continent. The first step in the process involves contributing to the establishment and operationalization of national committees responsible for examining applications for approval of made-in-Central-Africa finished products to be included in Preferential Tariff grid of the Community, in accordance with the clauses establishing the ECCAS Free Trade Area. To date, only four countries out of the 11 ECCAS member States have set up such committees.
Seychelles begins domestic consultations on AfCFTA ratification (Seychelles Nation)
The government of Seychelles has set up a committee to conduct internal consultations with key stakeholders regarding the AfCFTA. The committee held its first meeting in Mahe with various agencies and organizations, including the Central Bank of Seychelles, department of Foreign Affairs, the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Assembly of Seychelles. The meeting was led by the local chief negotiator on commerce, Charlie Morin. Seychelles was among the 44 out of the 55 AU member states that signed the consolidated text of the AfCFTA agreement. To become legal, the agreement first needs to be ratified by the National Assembly of Seychelles.
Air travel and Africa’s economic integration (BusinessDay)
It is perhaps ironic that Nigeria, few weeks after it rejected to sign the AfCTA agreement in Kigali, will be hosting the 59th Airports Council International Africa Board and Committees Meetings and Regional Conference and Exhibition. It is ironic because after staying out of an Africa-wide agreement to free trade, Nigeria is hosting 47 African countries that belong to the trade body for the world’s airports that promotes greater economic integration amongst African economies. Unlike our absence in Kigali, the conference, holding over a six-day period in Lagos, provides a good platform to re- engage Africa on a broader agenda for Nigeria’s relations with the continent and the global economy in general. It is also a good platform to argue that trade in goods and services, and even immigration, which drive aviation business and economic growth, is never a zero-sum game, but the platform on which advanced countries have made economic progress, improved standards of living, and reduced poverty. [The author, Dr Ogho Okiti, is CEO of Time Economics, an economics consulting firm, based in Abuja], [Air Tanzania plans regional flights to Kenya, rest of EAC]
COMESA has signed an MoU with the China-Africa Business Council to provide a framework for promoting economic cooperation between the two organizations. Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya and CABC Executive Secretary, Mr Bai Xiaofeng, signed the MoU in Hangzhou on 9 March. The agreement seeks to promote and facilitate trade, investment and encourage industrial development, research, technology transfer, skills development, financial services, shipping services and logistics between the two parties. [A preview of China Trade Week: 13-15 June, Nairobi]
A road agency for SADC could help support the development of infrastructure in the region as well as economic integration, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande suggested. Nzimande briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport on his department’s annual performance plans for the 2018/19 year. In his closing remarks Nzimande raised the possibility of a Sanral for the SADC, but did not get into too much detail as not to “excite” the media, as he put it. He said that the department is considering its role and initiatives it can implement in this respect. [Bid to block Beitbridge border hits brick wall]
Zambia and Zimbabwe have resolved to expand the Zambezi River Authority board as well as the Council of Ministers as both countries show commitment to kick-start implementation of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme. Speaking in Victoria Falls recently, ZRA board secretary corporate services Mr Peter Kapinga said a resolution had been passed to include Ministers of Water and their permanent secretaries for the Council of Ministers and board respectively. Viewed as the panacea to electricity problems facing Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Batoka Gorge project will see two power stations being constructed to produce a combined 2 400MW to be shared by the two countries. The dam wall, to be located 54km downstream from Victoria Falls, will be 181 metres high.
Ethiopia’s government plans to hire foreign companies to help develop the country’s sugar industry, after canceling a military-industrial conglomerate’s contract on a key project. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in office since April 2, has signaled he plans to reduce “favoritism” toward the security forces when awarding contracts and ensure development projects are “more inclusive for the people.” The state-run Ethiopia Sugar Corp. is looking for a new contractor to develop Tana Beles II in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which has been hit by protests over the past two years by residents who say they’re being excluded from economic power.
What sells in e-commerce: new evidence from Asian LDCs (ITC)
Cross-border e-commerce can help least developed countries to become more competitive and diversify their exports – and this is especially true for Asia-Pacific, the most dynamic region in global e-commerce. To capture that potential, small businesses in these countries need more market intelligence. This paper (pdf) fills that gap, using market data from Alibaba.com to identify which products from five Asian LDCs – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Nepal – can generate the most demand abroad.
UNCTAD’s E-commerce Week: Regulation must steer not stifle innovation. Protecting consumers without stifling innovation will require governments to strike a delicate balance, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said at the week’s main event. “The honeymoon where there was a blind embrace of technology as a panacea of human problems is over. As we learned from our very unquestioning embrace of unequal, flawed globalization, we are at a time, it is true, when we must ask ourselves challenging questions. How can we find sufficient balance between incentivizing innovators, players, to continue driving inclusion while not sacrificing the responsibility of regulators to keep away illegal commercialization of confidential and personal data, abuse of privacy rules? So this balancing act becomes our major challenge.” According to Nick Srnicek, a lecturer on the digital economy at Kings College in London, this makes digital platforms such as Facebook the new oil rig. The metaphor is fitting, he said, because they’re “designed basically to siphon off as much data as possible. The very nature of a platform business model is that it is an intermediary between a number of different groups. Facebook, for instance, positions itself as an intermediary between users, on one hand, and advertisers, developers – all sorts of different groups,” he said, adding that such a role puts it in a position to capture all the data from the interactions between those groups. [Digital skills, not connectivity, drive women’s empowerment, experts say; Fostering effective trade logistics in a digital world]
Mauritius together with the UN will co-host the Small Island Developing States Global Business Network Private Sector Partnership Forum and a SIDS Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea region (21-25 May). The Forum will forge collaboration among SIDS regional private sector organisations for a better exchange of experiences and best practices.
Today’s Quick Links:
Nigeria records steady improvements on ideal business environment: Minister Enelamah
ECOWAS summit adopts significant decisions to resolve the protracted political crisis in Guinea Bissau
ECOSOCC Sectoral Clusters: Cairo meeting update
Future of food: maximizing finance for development in agricultural value chains
Fiscal adjustment in Latin America and the Caribbean: short-run pain, long-run gain?