tralac’s Daily News Selection
Ministers in charge of Internal Affairs and those in charge of Labour of Member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development convened in Khartoum last week and endorsed the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons (pdf) in the IGAD Region. The Prime Minister of Sudan and Chair of IGAD, Abadalla Hamdok, said that ‘by signing this Protocol, IGAD are opening a new horizon that can lead to developing and strengthening all kinds of cooperation between its Member States’. IGAD is implementing a three-year project funded by the European Union Trust Fund to facilitate Free Movement of Persons and Transhumance in the IGAD Region.
EAC Bills, budget waiting for quorum at summit (The East African)
Failure of the EAC to hold both the Council and Summit meetings within the stipulated time has far-reaching consequences, not only on the financial viability of the bloc but also on the functions of its major institutions that include the regional parliament and court. The postponement means that more than 21 Bills by the East African Legislative Assembly will not be assented to, thereby delaying critical Community agenda items. The Summit was also expected to appoint more judges to the East African Court of Justice bench to expedite the backlog of cases. The most critical impact is a delay in passing the EAC Secretariat’s budget, whose approval to execute is only granted by the Heads of State. [Charles Onyango-Obbo: EAC is losing pace, leaders must meet to oil its wheels]
Disrupted supply of goods from China hurt eastern Africa (The East African)
The Kenya Ports Authority, in a response to queries from The East African, said four Chinese ships have not docked at the Mombasa Port in January and February, implying eight shipments have failed to arrive during the two months. Most Chinese factories are on lockdown as Beijing scrambles to contain the outbreak, disrupting supply chains across the world. “The port of Mombasa receives three big dischargers (imports) from China under Evergreen Line and one COSCO ship on a monthly basis. These four ships have not called since the coronavirus effect in China,” said the KPA managing director Daniel Manduku. KPA predicts that the downturn in imports from China will become clearer in March. “There is an anticipated effect on the throughput in the following months from February given the reduced trading volumes with China as a major trading partner,” said Mr Manduku.
China has now appealed to WTO members to remove “unnecessary restrictions” which have affected trade between China and World. This is in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has cut flights to mainland china with shipping lines avoiding ports in the country, as the virus kill at least 2,700 people with more than 80,000 infections globally. Through its Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), China says it will strengthen communication and coordination with economic and trade partners.
Data from the Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), which oversees the country’s trading platform-Single Window System, already shows a 38.7% drop in the value of imports from China in January. The agency’s data shows the value of imports from China in January dropped to Sh54.9 billion, compared to Sh89.6 billion in January 2019. Clearing agents have reported reduced activities on imports from China, Kenya’s biggest source where a total of Sh324.9 billion worth of goods came from between January and November last year, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows. “Volumes have reduced and iff the situation persist, we are likely to see a further drop on imports from China,” Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman Roy Mwanthi told the Star.
Africa has become “the burial ground of vehicles that run on fossil fuel as the West turns to electric and newer cleaner technologies,” said Philip Jakpor, an activist with the Nigerian branch of the group Friends of the Earth. Many second-hand vehicles shipped to Africa from Japan are believed to have failed, or were about to fail, pollution tests there, according to the UN Environment Program. But in many parts of Africa such regulations are often poorly enforced, and rampant corruption ensures that used vehicles can slip by any controls. More than 1.2 million used vehicles were imported into Africa in 2017, according to UN figures. Most were destined for Nigeria and Kenya, two of Africa’s largest economies. Both countries also have car-assembling plants.
Uganda’s government last year contracted two companies to inspect used vehicles before they are shipped. The head of the standards agency acknowledges the system is imperfect as not all vehicles are subjected to tests as they cross into the country. Inspectors based in Uganda only carry out spot checks. Ben Manyindo, head of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, called for a plan that eventually would lead to the banning of used vehicles from abroad.
The question of whether to impose import restrictions remains contentious despite wide recognition of the dangers of an unlimited flow of used vehicles into Africa, the continent least equipped to deal with climate-changing carbon emissions. In Zimbabwe, where the government has tried and failed to impose restrictions amid resistance from importers and others, there is no age limit for imported cars. Used cars are not checked for emissions levels when they enter the southern African nation from ports in Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, which notably allows the importation of used vehicles only for re-export to other countries.
10th African Union Commission – European Commission: selected highlights from the joint communiqué (AU)
The European Commission welcomed the entry into force of the AfCFTA, and the ongoing implementation of its first phase, and stressed the importance of the second phase of negotiations on competition policy, intellectual property, and the investment protocol which aims to enhance the investment policy climate and address risks facing businesses and investors. The two Commissions agreed on the need to prioritise regional infrastructure as an underpinning element of the AfCFTA. They agreed to maximise synergies between European and African private sectors in view of the upcoming EU-Africa Business Forum, and to promote actions focused on the diversification of African economies by:
developing the private sector and strengthening productive capacity in agriculture, manufacturing and services;
value-addition in national and regional value chains;
supporting regional and trans-continental transport; and
In order to better connect the two continents and accelerate growth for the achievement of the SDGs and AU Agenda 2063, they agreed to promote cooperation to establish a Digital Partnership based on a shared vision on an open and secure digital economy, and which puts African and European citizens at the centre of the digital transformation. They agreed that Africa and Europe should harness the many opportunities offered by digitalisation to drive innovation and transformation in all sectors. Building on the work done by the EU-AU Digital Economy Task Force, they noted the importance of taking into consideration the pdf AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy by Africa (2020-2030) (1.80 MB) for the future cooperation. In this regard, both continents agreed to enhance their partnership to:
support digital infrastructure;
build a secured single digital market in Africa by the 2030;
help improve favourable environment, policy and regulation;
develop digital skills and applications; and
promote digital innovation and entrepreneurship.
Both Commissions expressed their commitment to strengthening of the multilateral trading system. The European Commission reiterated its support to an enhanced observer status for the AU at the WTO. [ pdf Joint Communiqué] (158 KB)
Communiqué 2020 (pdf). We underline the crucial importance of the multilateral rules-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable trading system and reaffirm the principles and objectives set out in the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO in 1995 and the contribution that the WTO has made to strengthening the stability of the global economy. We reaffirm the value of taking decisions through a consensus-based and member-driven process at the WTO and we remain firmly committed to this trading system and to ensuring the proper functioning of its dispute settlement system.
We highlight the need to update global trade rules to reflect market and policy shifts that have occurred in recent years and to address contemporary agricultural and food challenges. We note that some progress has been made in reducing trade-distorting agricultural support in the past. However, we are concerned about increasing trade-distorting domestic support being provided by some countries and the negative effects this can have on farmers’ income in other countries. Therefore, we strongly encourage the continuing discussions in this pillar. We believe that WTO-compliant free-trade agreements can make a vital contribution towards opening markets to the extent that they are complementary to efforts being made at multilateral level to reduce trade barriers. Bilateral free-trade agreements can also contribute to sustainable development by incorporating ambitious sustainability chapters.
WTO DDG Alan Wolff on the proposed Digital Council For Agriculture. Speaking at a side event of the WTO agriculture negotiation meetings on 24 February, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff hailed the strong commitment of 72 agriculture ministers to strengthen the WTO for achieving sustainable agriculture trade as expressed in a communiqué at the Berlin Global Forum for Food and Agriculture. He urged members to build on this effort and take necessary decisions to reform the agriculture sector at the 12th Ministerial Conference.
Third, - and a very important point - is the support by the Ministers of the concept note on Digital Council For Agriculture. As you may know, Ministers at last year’s GFFA mandated the FAO together with other stakeholders - including the WTO - to develop a concept note for the establishment of an International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture. The Concept Note was presented to Ministers at the GFFA this year and will now have to be presented to FAO’s governing bodies for further discussions and its formal establishment. According to the planned structure of the Digital Council, the WTO — together with other IOs — would be part of an Advisory Committee. The establishment of the Digital Council for Food and Agriculture responds to the urgent need to disseminate digital technologies and smart solutions to enhance production in a sustainable manner to feed the world’s growing population and to achieve the SDGs.
Realizing the potential of digitalization to improve the agri-food system: proposing a new International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture. Download: Concept note (pdf)
Related digital trade, finance postings:
The EU posted its Data Strategy and the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence last week - the first pillars of the Commission’s new digital strategy. The Commission also published a report on Business-to-Government (B2G) data sharing. The report coming from a high-level Expert Group contains a set of policy, legal and funding recommendations that will contribute to making B2G data sharing in the public interest a scalable, responsible and sustainable practice in the EU.
Data, digital issues set to be part of India-US trade deal. The proposed mini-trade deal between India and the US is set to be resurrected in a larger and more modern form. While more restrained than US President Donald Trump’s expectations of a “fantastic, biggest ever trade deal,” a number of Indian and US officials familiar with the development say the new agenda will be more forward-looking. Talks may begin as early as April and will prioritise data and digital issues, the people said on condition of anonymity.
The New Zealand government has announced the launch of its Digital Council, which was enacted to advise government on how to maximise the societal benefits of digital and data-driven technologies. The Digital Council will function as an independent group that acts “a bridge and connector between the government, the technology industry, and communities across New Zealand,” the New Zealand government said. The Digital Council takes over from the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group (DEDIMAG), which concluded its work program at the end of last year.
Standard Chartered’s Regional CEO Sunil Kaushal talks to Dianna Games about Africa’s prospects for growth in 2020, the bank’s sustainability strategy and how it is capitalising on digital trends.
The 2020 ICC Banking Commission Annual Meeting (20-23 April, Dubai) will consider the role of new technologies and digitalisation in the trade finance industry. Sessions will address the lasting hurdles associated with the digitalisation of trade finance, including legal hurdles as well as harmonising standards and interoperability between technology platforms.
Crypto in Africa: A coming money revolution? Cryptocurrencies have the potential to revolutionise the financial system, but following a series of scams there is still a good deal of scepticism about them. Dr Desné Masie talks to some leading players to assess the value of this innovation to Africa.