tralac’s Daily News Selection
A suite of REC-related policy updates:
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
An extra-ordinary meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers will be held on Friday, in Lusaka. Ministers will also be briefed on key regional integration programmes including the TFTA and the AfCFTA. Member States’ level of compliance with their obligations under the COMESA Treaty, particularly on customs matters, will also be discussed.
COMESA Court of Justice retreat: close ties between regional and national courts critical to fortify regional integration
COMESA Secretariat to host the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa
Intergovernmental Authority on Development
IGAD Ministerial Thematic Meeting on Livelihoods and Self-reliance for Refugees, Returnees and Host Communities: communiqué (pdf)
IGAD Technical Boundary Committee submits its report to South Sudan Special Envoy: the committee had to define and demarcate the tribal areas of South Sudan as they stood on 1 January 1956.
Economic Community of West African States
Experts meet to review the implementation of the ECOWAS regulation on roaming. The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States has brought together experts from member states to evaluate the implementation of the Regulation on Roaming on Public Mobile Communications Networks in the Region, approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2017. The Commissioner of Telecommunications and Information Technologies of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Zouli Bonkoungou, in his welcome address said that the Roaming Regulation is part of priority programmes of the ECOWAS Commission Management aimed at directly impacting the lives of community citizens. The effective implementation of the Regulation, according to Commissioner Bonkoungou, will enhance the regional integration efforts, the free movement of persons and goods and will also make cross border communications easy among Member States.
ECOWAS validates Regional Public Debt and Monetary Statistic Compilation Tools. Representatives of central banks from member states of ECOWAS have validated regional public debt and monetary statistics compilation tools in a five day workshop which ended on 29 March in Abuja. This includes the methodology which will enable member states compile regional statistics of ECOWAS macroeconomic accounts, government finance statistics, balance of payments as well as monetary and public debt statistics. The harmonized public debt platform was validated through the use of the International Monetary Fund’s Standardized Reporting Forms framework and after taking into account the West African Economic and Monetary Union’s methodology and harmonization framework of its Member States.
West African Economic and Monetary Union
IMF staff report on common policies for member countries: The WAEMU has remained on a strong growth trajectory. The region continued to exhibit one of the fastest growth rates in Africa in 2018—estimated above 6% for the 7th year in a row - fueled by buoyant domestic demand despite adverse terms-of-trade shocks and persistent security concerns in some member-countries (see Table 1). Inflation stayed low reflecting the peg to the Euro, continued ample agricultural production and limited pass-through of higher world oil prices. Fiscal consolidation efforts are estimated to have reached ½ percentage point of GDP in 2018, with the fiscal deficit narrowing to 3.8% of GDP. Meanwhile, external reserves increased, underpinned by Eurobond issuances. Despite the pull from a wider external current account deficit, reserves reached 4.3 months of imports of goods and services (or 32.2% of M2) at end-2018, up from 3.9 months of imports (or 29.4% of M2) at end-2017. Beyond better enforcement of export receipt repatriation requirements, this improvement was largely due to sizeable Eurobond issues from Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal—equivalent to 1.1 months of imports in net terms, partly compensated by shortfalls in other sovereign external financing. The external reserve import cover of 4.3 months remains below the 5-8-month range estimated as adequate for the WAEMU (see Annex 1).
The 2019 World Bank’s Doing Business Report indicates that the regional business climate has improved though it remains less favorable relative to comparator countries in Africa and Asia. The average WAEMU rank moves up by 4 places between 2018 and 2019, driven mainly by progress in Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. In addition, the region has kept the pace of reforms particularly in the area of starting a business. However, WAEMU countries still lag far behind in the areas of getting electricity or credit, registering property, protecting investors, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts. [The companion Selected Issues report]
EAC’s Strategic Retreat: opening address by President Kagame. Ten years ago, a similar retreat was held here and it resulted in some good solutions that have contributed to furthering our East African agenda. So let’s maintain that same spirit, of frank, brotherly discussion, aimed at finding the right remedies to the current challenges we face in the East African Community. First, we urgently need to get our house in order, both in terms of ownership, which includes paying our respective dues, as well as enhancing transparency and accountability in the management of the institution. This is the only way to maintain integrity internally, as well as credibility with our citizens, and our partner institutions. It will be very difficult to achieve even the more simple goals we have set, if we don’t get this right. I am sure very good progress has been made. Second, we have to urgently unblock obstacles in ongoing projects, and allow ourselves to finish the good work we have started together. Many of these require little more than political will. Even small triumphs generate so much goodwill, and increase the trust of our people in the East Africa Community. So why deprive ourselves of success that we need, and that is within our reach? [Backgrounder: The retreat came at a time when various regional joint projects have stalled while other multiple initiatives are yet to achieve the desired impact. Below are the top 5 issues that shaped the agenda of the summit:]
Recommendations of the 7th East African Health and Scientific Conference. Based on the keynote speech, parallel sessions and symposia presentations, the conference, held on 29 March, recommends that the EAC should, inter alia: Expedite development and application of innovative approaches (such as the cross border health unit model) to cross-border health, disease outbreak, preparedness and response in border areas, while adding value to the national health system; Promote establishment of national bio banks and data repositories among the Partner States and develop a regional policy for guiding the use and security of the repositories. Urge the Partner States to participate in development, evaluation and formalization of emerging technologies intended for promoting digital health; Harmonise the regional IP policy to guide development and uptake of digital health technologies; Strengthening platform for digital inclusion where communities have full access to information on surveillance and disease management. [Download the conference presentations here]
UNCTAD advises Botswana on investment policy processes: two updates
“Botswana must target more FDI”. Botswana has been encouraged to attract more FDI and tap knowledge on expanding its digital trade networks. UNCTAD secretary general, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, said this during a brief panel discussion with the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Ms Bogolo Kenewendo. Dr Kituyi, who was on a three-day working visit to Botswana at the invitation of President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, joined Minister Kenewendo to unpack Vision 2036 statement of transforming Botswana from an upper middle-income economy to a high-income economy. Dr Kituyi said there had been a boom in expansion of the digital trade which had grown four times than the normal trade. He said digital trade was critical and it was important for countries such as Botswana to have enabling regulatory measure to allow for ease of doing digital business. He appealed for development of necessary skills and the alignment of educational training with current market requirements. “We must cut back on red tape, create an enabling infrastructure development and trade facilitation where you reduce the risk of being landlocked. But don’t run the risk of attracting more foreign investors than domestic investors. Where this had happened the local enterprises registered offshore and came back as foreigners,” he warned. [UNCTAD chief meets Botswana president over economic reform]
Transformation team in offing. President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi says critical issues identified in Vision 2036 call for an urgent need for the development of the National Transformation Strategy. Speaking at a Cabinet retreat at Manong Lodge on 29 March, Dr Masisi said to that end members of the team would be announced in the near future. He said the strategy team would drive the process of transforming Botswana into a high income country, focusing on achieving a diversified and export-led economy among many. The two-day cabinet retreat was facilitated by an UNCTAD team led by secretary general Dr Mukhisa Kituyi.
Mauritius: Launching of the National Electronic Licensing System to ease doing business (GoM)
The National Electronic Licensing System (NELS), a key initiative to improve the investment and doing business climate in Mauritius, was launched yesterday at the Caudan Arts Centre, Port Louis. The NELS forms part of the project ‘Improving the Business and Investment Climate in Mauritius’ which aims to facilitate the business and investment environment by reducing the number of business permit applications and the time taken to obtain business licences and permits. The Vice-Prime Minister also outlined two key projects of the Government aimed at improving regulatory quality in the country. They are: Regulatory review of the business-related regulatory principles, followed by an in-depth review of the regulatory framework for four key sectors namely, land use and construction, trade and logistics, tourism and health and life sciences; Introduction of a regulatory impact assessment tool for evidenced-based approach to business related legislations.
US puts Kenya on list of cash laundering hotspots
The US government has put Kenya on a list of global hotspots for money laundering, citing insufficient controls on the circulation of dirty cash and the lack of laws against terrorism financing. A report published on Friday by the United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said money laundering in Kenya occurs in the formal and informal sectors, fuelled by domestic and foreign criminal operations. “Kenya remains vulnerable to money laundering and financial fraud,” says the report. “It is the financial hub of East Africa, its banking and financial sectors are growing in sophistication, and it is at the forefront of mobile banking.” Kenya recently formed a high-powered anti-money laundering task force to establish the extent of money laundering in the most susceptible sectors of the economy, setting the stage for a crackdown on the suspects. The team gazetted by Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich brings together 30 State agencies from the security apparatus, the Judiciary, as well as banks, Saccos, real estate and gaming regulators.
Starting on Wednesday: the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy. Background submission: TORs for the Working Group on Measuring E-commerce and the Digital Economy