Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac’s Daily News Selection


tralac’s Daily News Selection

tralac’s Daily News Selection

Underway in Addis Ababa: ETTG-UNDP agenda-setting event on the EU-AU Partnership

Selected EAC trade and development policy events

  • Regional consultative meeting on the 6th Development Strategy 2021/2022 - 2025/2026 (11 March, Arusha), in preparation for national consultations (12-31 March)

  • Study on the effectiveness and efficiency of the East African Customs Union (starting 11 March)

  • 7th Meeting of the Ad hoc EAC Competition Authority Commissioners (12-14 March, Nairobi)

Trade Policy Reviews scheduled this month at the WTO: Australia (11 & 13 March), Japan (18 & 20 March), Zimbabwe (25 & 27 March)

Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa (The European Commission)

To strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union are proposing to engage discussions with African partners in view of jointly defining at the upcoming EU-AU Summit a new comprehensive EU strategy with Africa that could be built on five partnerships:

  • A partnership for green transition and energy access;

  • A partnership for digital transformation;

  • A partnership for sustainable growth and jobs;

  • A partnership for peace and governance; and

  • A partnership on migration and mobility.

This new strategy and these partnerships are in line with the common priorities set by the EU and the African Union at the 2017 Summit in Abidjan. It takes inspiration notably from the very fruitful discussions between the European Commission and the African Union Commission, which took place in Addis Ababa on 27 February 2020 and reflects the EU’s proposals for the ongoing exchanges with African partners in view of defining a joint partnership agenda at the upcoming EU-AU Summit in October 2020. EU-Africa engagement will continue at bilateral, regional and continental level.

Extract: III. Partners for sustainable growth and jobs: Regional and continental economic integration

Proposed Action 3: Partner with Africa to substantially increase environmentally, socially and financially sustainable investments that are resilient to the impacts of climate change; to promote investment opportunities by scaling up the use of innovative financing mechanisms; and to boost regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the AfCFTA.

The latter will be done by making political, technical and financial support for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (for which EU support already grew from EUR 12.5 million in 2014-2017 to EUR 60 million in 2018-2020) a top priority. We are ready to share our customs union and single market experience. Cooperation on the strategic corridors that facilitate intra-African and Africa-Europe trade and investment, and improve sustainable, efficient, and safe connectivity between both continents, will also be enhanced by the long-term prospect of creating a comprehensive continent-to-continent free-trade area. EU business associations can play an important role in the Business Forum organised in the margins of the upcoming AU-EU Summit. Cooperation and dialogue, business partnerships along critical value chains, as well as the deepening of Economic Partnership Agreements, and other EU trade agreements with African partner countries, are the tools through which this can be achieved.

Proposed Action 4: Partner with Africa to attract investors by supporting African states in adopting policies and regulatory reforms that improve the business environment and investment climate, including a level-playing field for business.

With this in mind, it is proposed that the EU develops more ambitious arrangements to facilitate, attract and support investment in Africa. The EU should further develop the use of platforms such as the Sustainable Business for Africa Platform and the International Platform on Sustainable Finance. In parallel, it is important to promote regulatory reforms and to strengthen the institutional capacity of public authorities, business organisations and entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs, while reinforcing capacity-building related to SME access to markets and finance. In this respect, European business organisations should continue to support entrepreneurship in Africa. The EU should also encourage regulatory dialogue with public administrations to exchange good practices. Budget support dialogues should continue to be a key instrument in promoting reforms. Finally, trade agreements and investment provisions to attract, facilitate and support sustainable investment will also contribute to improving the business climate.

pdf Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa: Joint Communication, 9 March 2020 (656 KB)

pdf Factsheet: Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa (1.29 MB)

International Women’s Day: selected commentaries, messages

  1. AUC chairperson Mousa Faki Mahamat: In addition, in collaboration with the UNECA, the commission launched the African Women Leadership Fund with the aim of mobilizing resources from the global private sector to fund women’s initiatives and promote an enabling environment for the increased participation of women across the continent. Furthermore, the AfCFTA promises to benefit women in business, especially women cross-border traders across the continent. Indeed, Africa is on a good trajectory to provide expanded opportunities for women to realize their financial and economic freedom.

  2. WEF’s Elsie S. Kanza: How to empower women entrepreneurs to grow Africa. Yet most women businesses remain stuck at the micro level, unable to grow due to a range of factors. The report, Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Businesses in Africa 2019, finds that barriers to growth and profitability include social norms, networks and strategic business decisions. In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, it is also alarming to note that the technology gender gap is widening, further crippling the growth potential of women entrepreneurs. Also worrying is the growing digital divide – women are being left behind in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. Still, it feels like a never-ending climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. This must change.

  3. WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo: Members have also started to integrate gender into their WTO work. Last year, 10 out of the 12 members who went through the Trade Policy Review process voluntarily included information on their gender-responsive trade policies. This is a 66% increase from the year before. In line with requests from members, we have also incorporated trade and gender into our Technical Assistance Plan. Last March the WTO launched its first training module on trade and gender. Since then, 13 courses have been provided to government officials, including three at the regional level. WTO members’ demand for these courses is growing, so we will continue our efforts on this front. By 2021, we plan to launch an e-learning module on this issue, which will be available to all WTO stakeholders. The Buenos Aires Declaration has been a catalyst for all this work. As a next step, the Declaration’s proponents are currently working on a report on its implementation to be presented to ministers at our 12th Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. They are looking at ways to take this work forward, including by making the discussion more structured and prominent.

  4. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed: ”We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the global agenda for people, planet and prosperity, if we do not bring along half our population”, Ms Mohammed said at a press conference following the launch of the UN-EU’s Spotlight Initiative. “We cannot say we have achieved peace if half our communities live in fear, insecurity, and without dignity.”

  5. B20 Saudi Arabia profiles priorities for the Women in Business Action Council. The Council, the first of its kind for the B20, will ensure that issues surrounding gender diversity in business and economic empowerment of women are placed at the center of Saudi Arabia’s B20’s presidency. B20 Saudi Arabia has established six taskforces that concentrate on specific economic priority areas, with 656 taskforce members across all G20 members. The Women in Business Action Council sits across all six taskforces, a structural change from past B20 presidencies. Women make up 43% of B20 Taskforce and Action Council Chairs, the highest proportion in the group’s history. Furthermore, the B20 Presidency established criteria for Committee Membership that has resulted in 33% of participants being women, the highest per centage among some of the most recent B20 Presidencies (Turkey 23% in 2015, Germany 22% in 2017, Argentina 28% in 2018). “The Women in Business Action Council is the first initiative of its kind in the history of the B20. It has been established with the recognition that mainstreaming women in business is key to improving the standards of business conduct including integrity, empathy, and creativity, thus adding to economic growth and productivity,” said Yousef Al-Benyan, Chair of the B20 Saudi Arabia.

  6. GATF’s Candice White: How making trade faster and easier empowers women around the world. Policymakers, businesses and the development community must focus on increasing trade opportunities for women and eliminating the challenges to trade that exist today. One such mechanism to reduce non-tariff trade barriers and red tape so that women-owned businesses can reap the benefits of trade is the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. The Alliance is a mechanism to bring governments and businesses together to help countries implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. If fully implemented, the agreement stands to reduce trade costs by more than 14% in low-income countries and more than 13% in upper-middle-income countries, according to estimates. For example, Alliance projects in Zambia and Malawi are creating new licensing frameworks for customs clearing agents, a field where women are largely underrepresented, and establishing accredited training programmes for agents to upskill. A scholarship fund designed to support agents in becoming professionally licensed is being used to attract women to join the industry.

Roadmaps for developing the pharmaceutical industry in West Africa (UNIDO)

A new set of publications comprising a regional reference framework and country-specific roadmap documents has been released to support the development of the pharmaceutical industry in ECOWAS. It was produced by UNIDO with financial support from the WAHO. The publications feature a risk-based and stepwise approach towards compliance with international standards of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). GMP is a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. It is designed to minimize the risks involved in any pharmaceutical production that cannot be eliminated through testing the final product. Implementing these tools within the region will be part of a comprehensive programme that UNIDO and WAHO are currently developing in order to strengthen the West African pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. The pharmaceutical industry in Africa is a priority sector for the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), which is operationalized by UNIDO as per the resolution of the UN General Assembly in 2016. [Note: The framework document - available in English, French, and Portuguese- and the Roadmaps for all ECOWAS Member States can be accessed here]

Mauritius: AfCFTA stakeholders workshop on boosting intra-Africa trade (GoM)

The Vice-President of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr Eddy Boissézon, highlighted the need for the creation of a single African continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, which he said will help expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation. He further underlined the need to develop rapidly road maps for the implementation of blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies in Africa adding that these technologies will drive the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Vice-President also spoke on the digital economy in Mauritius which according to him, has gone a long way to position itself as the 3rd pillar of the economy and pitched on a high growth path.

Towards an African Human Security Index: update (AU)

The consultative meeting (5-6 March) provided a useful platform for receiving feedback from experts on the suitability of the proposed conceptual design and methodology of the index taking into account data availability across African Union Member States. Mrs Thokozile Ruzvidzo (Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division, UNECA) highlighted that the proposed AHSI is an attempt to provide a holistic assessment of human security through its seven dimensions of economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, political security. She further added that AHSI is directly responds to both Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda on the centrality of human security as an enabler and precondition for sustainable and inclusive development.

European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan: Showing the value of trade policy (The Parliament Magazine)

Signing deals with global partners builds trust and understanding, which in turn means increased opportunities to cooperate in other areas of policy. On that basis, we want to use our network of trade deals as leverage to improve standards worldwide. This is one way to ensure “a more geopolitical Europe”, in the words of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The European Union is a regulatory superpower. This means that we are often at the head of the pack when it comes to setting standards worldwide. Our global partners look to us for leadership in a wide range of areas. We are leading the way in climate action, global institutional reform, data protection and a huge number of other areas. So, when we sign trade agreements, we expect our partners to meet our standards. Take data protection; our EU regulation in this complex policy area is viewed as a global trendsetter and has been adopted by many other countries.

Or take climate action; Europe is already a global leader in implementing the COP21 targets, but our ambition has been turbocharged by President von der Leyen’s flagship initiative, the European Green Deal. Our recent trade agreements have contained a Trade and Sustainable Development chapter, including legally binding commitments to effectively implement the Paris Agreement.

This was a step in the right direction; but for our future trade agreements, we will go even further, tying in the Paris Climate Agreement as an essential element. Another area where we are hoping to find common ground with our partners is on the rules governing global trade.


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