tralac’s Daily News Selection
The African Economic Conference 2019 began today in Sharm el-Sheikh. The theme: Jobs, entrepreneurship and capacity development for African youths. Concept note (pdf):
Specifically, the conference will give African stakeholders, youth representatives and political leaders the opportunity to: provide their insights and thoughts on the debate on youth jobs, skills and entrepreneurship capacities; assess the impact of past and current reforms and initiatives to address youth jobs challenges in Africa; and discuss the feasibility of proposed innovative policy options to reap the benefits of Africa’s youth bulge and address the challenge of youth skills mismatch in the labor market. [Twitter updates: #AEC2019]
The Sustainable Development, Sustainable Debt: Finding the Right Balance conference is underway in Dakar. The opening address was delivered by the IMF’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva. A backgrounder by the IMF’s Abebe Aemro Selassie: Africa’s Infrastructure Gap and Debt
The midterm review on the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014–2024 takes place later this week in New York. Downloads include National Reports and three regional preparatory reviews. UNCTAD compiled this backgrounder.
German companies in Kenya less optimistic about their business (AHK Eastern Africa)
German companies are still confident about their business in Kenya but optimism has decreased in the last six months, as indicated in the Autumn 2019 World Business Outlook Survey, released by the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce for Eastern Africa (AHK Eastern Africa) in cooperation with the German Business Association in Kenya. According to the survey results, the business expectations of companies in the next twelve months now stands at 62% expecting higher/better. This is down from 71% in the Spring 2019 survey results. In addition, interest in expansion of existing employee base has fallen to 38%, down from 45%, while 48% remained constant in their desire to maintain their current employee numbers. However, the German business community in Kenya still sees many opportunities for bilateral trade relations and economic growth, including employment opportunities. 57% of responding companies, up from 42%, indicated their current situation is likely to remain constant. In addition, 33%, up from 19%, still maintain constant positive business expectation for the next 12 months. The highest increase is 33% expecting better/higher economic growth for their organization, up from 29%, while 52%, up from 42%, expect their economic growth to remain constant.
South Africa’s merchandise trade statistics: October surplus
The South African Revenue Service, on Friday, released trade statistics for October 2019 recording a trade surplus of R3.09bn. The trade surplus is attributable to exports of R123.35bn and imports of R120.26bnn. Exports increased from September 2019 to October 2019 by R13.09bn (11.9%) while imports increased by R14.53bn (13.7%). The year-to-date (1 Jan - 31 Oct) trade surplus of R5.32bn is an improvement from the R3.70bn deficit for the comparable period in 2018. Exports increased by 2.8% year-on-year whilst imports for the same period showed a decrease of 4.3%. The top 5 countries for exports during October: China (10.1%), Germany (9.1%), US (6.8%), Mozambique (5.0%), UK (4.7%). Top 5 countries for imports: China (18.6%), Germany (10.1%), US (7.0%), India (4.8%), Nigeria (3.9%). [Related: SA’s tourism trade balance edges lower]
South Africa: Home Affairs briefing on e-Visa pilot, Border Management Authority
The National Council of Province is scheduled to consider the BMA Bill on Tuesday. This will bring to finality deliberations on the Bill and once adopted, will be referred back to the National Assembly which will then consider it for submission to the President before it becomes law. In the meantime, the BMA project management team has been busy finalising the technical work required to establish the BMA. I have directed the BMA project management office to focus their initial efforts in strengthening the borderline between Limpopo and Zimbabwe, Mpumalanga and Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal with Mozambique.
On the e-Visa pilot: The department is testing the new system with Kenya. As part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya. This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week, on 09 December 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for a visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot. We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised. In early 2020, we’ll include China, India and Nigeria to the pilot which will run until March 2020.
39th Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers approves crucial cotton, textile and apparels strategy (EAC)
The 39th Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers has approved the final draft Cotton, Textiles and Apparels (CTA) Strategy and its implementation roadmap. The strategy makes a critical analysis of the CTA sector along the following key levels of the value chain: cotton seed (production); seed cotton (ginning); cotton lint (spinning); yarn (weaving/knitting/printing/dyeing/finishing), and fabrics (garments/apparels/fabrication/manufacturing) level. The Council further approved the Final Draft Leather and Leather Products Sector Strategy and its Implementation Roadmap.
The Council directed the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security to develop a strategy to boost the production of cotton in the region. In their deliberations, the Ministers observed that the seed cotton sector was constrained by low and declining production, low productivity, low quality and fluctuating farm gate prices. Textile mills were further constrained by outdated technology; low spinning capacity, availability of cotton lint, high cost of energy and low skill levels.
The Council also approved the draft EAC Export Promotion Strategy 2020 – 2025 for implementation. The EPS 2020-2025 contains the following strategic interventions: Stimulate exports through acquired market intelligence for enterprises and improved visibility on international markets; Improve market access and conditions for EAC export; Strengthen export competitiveness through interventions like improved access to finance and technology for enterprises, in particular SMEs, and; Strengthen the trade support institutions and partnerships.
The Council referred the request for admission to the EAC from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the 21st Summit of the EAC Heads of State for consideration.
COMESA-EU sign €8.8m agreement to support private sector competitiveness
The EU and COMESA have signed an €8.8m contribution agreement to increase private sector participation in sustainable regional and global value chains through improved investment/business climate and enhanced competitiveness in the COMESA region. This was one of the activities conducted during the opening of the 40th Meeting of the Council of Ministers that took place in Lusaka. The funds will be used to implement the Regional Enterprise Competitiveness and Access to Markets Programme (RECAMP), focusing on agro-processing, horticulture and leather products. RECAMP will also support pre-selected value chains based on the potential to generate value addition, jobs creation and attraction of investments to the region.
Rwanda, DRC begin joint border services (New Times)
The Rwanda-DR Congo border of La Corniche, popularly known as Grande Barrière, on Saturday started operating as a OSBP, according to the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration. Grande Barrière is one of the busiest border crossings on the continent. Construction of the OSBP linking Rubavu in Western Province to the border city of Goma in eastern DR Congo was launched in late 2014, with the project’s construction, worth $9m (about Rwf6 billion), financed by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.
2020 Africa-France Summit: African technical consultation meeting in Lusaka (AU)
African experts have convened in Lusaka to deliberate on regional priorities in preparation for the 2020 Africa-France Summit, billed for 4-6 June 2020 in Bordeaux, France on the theme of “Better Cities, Better Lives” co-hosted by the AUC, the ECA and UN-Habitat. With Africa having the world’s highest rate of urban growth (3.58%) and its urban population doubling between 1995 and 2015 and projected to almost double again by 2035, the Summit presents an opportunity for African countries to further reinvigorate commitments to advance sustainable urbanization through innovative solutions, and strengthen international cooperation in this regard. Mr Apollinaire Nkeshimana (Ministry of Minister of Local Government of Public Works, Infrastructure and Urban Planning of Burundi) and the representative of the Chair of the Sub-committee on Human Settlement and Urban Development of the AU-STC8, emphasized that the Africa-France 2020 Summit aims to develop new long-term partnerships within the framework of Africa-France cooperation.
Perspectives on the Work Programme and Moratorium on Electronic Commerce (WTO)
Since 1998, WTO members have periodically taken decisions at Ministerial Conferences to continue their practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. Recognizing the potential implications on certainty and predictability for business and consumers from the moratorium lapsing prior to the next Ministerial Conference, we propose an extension of the moratorium until the 12th Ministerial Conference and to continue the work under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce during this period. We note that the moratorium is without prejudice to Members’ right to impose internal taxes, fees or other charges in a manner consistent with WTO Agreements. We propose that the General Council adopts a decision to this effect at its meeting in December 2019 and we will submit a draft decision in the near future.
Draft General Council Decision (pdf). The General Council decides as follows: Members agree to continue the work under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, based on the existing mandate as set out in WT/L/274. Members agree to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 12th Ministerial Conference. The General Council shall report to the 12th session of the Ministerial Conference. [Note: Both documents circulated by: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Guatemala, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Uruguay]
Global Sugar Alliance committed to stamping out export subsidies (Queensland Country Life)
Members of the Global Sugar Alliance have reaffirmed their commitment to use all avenues available to stamp out export subsidies and remove trade-distorting domestic price supports. Meeting in London last week to celebrate 20 years since the alliance of countries was formed, government ministers and industry representative organisations discussed the sugar price supports and export subsidies being paid by the Indian government, and India’s alleged violation of its commitments to the world community made in the WTO. Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said Australia, Brazil and Guatemala remain 100% committed to the action they have launched with the WTO. “We do know that a dispute panel has now been formed,” Mr Schembri said. “These things do take time but we’re confident we will get a result in 2020. This is going to be a defining year for us.”
Mr Schembri said this was not just an action against India: “This is also sending a signal from Australia and other countries that aren’t subsidised, that if we think any country is breaking WTO rules, we will ferociously protect our patch to ensure that producers get a fair go and access to a fair world price.” The action in the WTO comes after the Indian government approved an export subsidy equal to a staggering A$216/tonne in August. The unprecedented subsidy is designed to enable India to export more than 6 million tonnes of sugar over the next year, a move which will flood global markets.
India: Tax on cheap imports from free trade partners under consideration (Mint)
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said India was looking at introducing a “border adjustment tax” on low cost imports from free trade partner countries, which will bring level playing field between such imports and locally produced goods. The proposed tax is perfectly compliant with the WTO’s rules on multilateral trade, Goyal said in his address to industry leaders at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence, 2019, on Saturday in Mumbai. The proposal for a “border adjustment tax” came up from a domestic steel maker at a recent meeting on ‘Make In India’, the minister said. Goyal emphasised that India’s trade policy rests on national interest as well as on the interests of its people and the industry, which will guide all government engagement with the rest of the world. “The interest of our people and industry are paramount. That is the terms of India’s engagement with the rest of the world. No more will India stand with weak knees or play on the backfoot,” the minister said, adding that India walked out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal earlier this month when the country’s concerns were not adequately addressed.