tralac’s Daily News selection
African finance ministers met on 19 March in a virtual conference to exchange ideas on the efforts of their respective governments in dealing with the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. They noted that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa was already experiencing a huge financing gap in funding measures and programmes aimed at realizing SDGs and Agenda 2063 targets and goals. The Ministers emphasized that without coordinated efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic will have major and adverse implications on African economies and the society at large. Original economic forecasts in most economies are on average, being downgraded by 2-3 percentage points for 2020 due to the pandemic. The Ministers agreed on the following (extract):
Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100bn. As such, the waiver of all interest payments, estimated at $44bn for 2020, and the possible extension of the waiver to the medium term, would provide immediate fiscal space and liquidity to the Governments, in their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interest payments waiver should include not only interest payments on public debt, but also on sovereign bonds. For fragile states, the ministers agreed on the need to consider waiving principal and interest and encourage the use of existing facilities in the World Bank, IMF, AfDB and other regional institutions.
Documentation prepared for the Virtual Conference on COVID-19 Impact on Africa:
- pdf The case of Eastern Africa (1.41 MB)
- pdf Central Africa (512 KB)
- pdf West Africa: Impediments to harnessing demographic dividend (1.60 MB)
- pdf Southern Africa (407 KB)
- pdf North Africa (258 KB)
Africa’s borders close to fight the spread of COVID-19: selected updates
Nigeria shuts land borders (Premium Times)
The federal government has announced immediate closure of all its borders to human traffic. The announcement comes as Nigeria recorded 36 cases of COVID-19, including one death. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, stated this while addressing a news conference on Monday. Mr Mustapha said the new measure is in addition to the closure of the country’s air space from international travels. He said the new decision is part of additional measures taken to further control the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Ethiopia shuts land borders to fight coronavirus (The Guardian)
Ethiopia on Monday shut its land borders to nearly all human traffic as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Africa’s second-most populous country has so far recorded just 11 infections and no deaths, but officials have struggled in recent days to enforce prevention measures including bans on large gatherings, raising fears the tally could climb. The land border closure was part of a set of new measures announced Monday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office. Soldiers will be empowered “to halt the movement of people along all borders, with the exception of incoming essential goods to the country,” a statement said. Security forces will also play a role in enforcing existing measures prohibiting large gatherings and meetings, it added.
Kenya has effectively closed down two of its busy border posts as it moves to contain the spread of coronavirus. For the next one month, Busia OSBP, which Kenya shares with Uganda and Malaba border will be closed to human traffic. “No Kenyan will be allowed to cross over to Uganda and no Ugandan will be allowed by security officers to come into the country, at least for the next one month,” said County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri, at a news conference. Only heavy commercial vehicles with a driver and turn-boy will be allowed to cross over to either country. The Ugandan government is also reading from the same script and has already issued a raft of measures to avert the spread of the virus. “Pending the evolving of an EAC Health Response Plan to the Pandemic by the East Africa Ministers of Health, no person, Ugandan or otherwise, will be allowed to enter Uganda by land or water except for drivers and accompanying crews, not exceeding 3 persons, for cargo transport vehicles trailers, lorries and other cargo vehicles. No buses, mini-buses, salon cars or boda-bodas will be allowed in the country,” Museveni said.
Activities at Namanga’s OSBP are grinding to a halt as Kenya and Tanzania report increased cases of COVID-19. The busy OSBP that records a high number of human activity on the Kenya and Tanzania sides of the border town witnessed a significant drop to a handful of people on Wednesday evening. Other than human activity, trading between Kenya and Tanzania which averages Sh38 billion has also been affected. This follows Monday’s announcement by President Uhuru Kenyatta that borders with COVID-19 affected countries had been closed. The Principal Secretary in the State Department for East African Community, Kevit Desai said Namanga OSBP is key in the EAC integration, which cannot be fully achieved without the cooperation and collaboration with border agencies and host counties. The Namanga’s OSBP chair and Kenya Revenue Authority manager, Sally Serem, said it now takes three minutes to clear a truck crossing into Kenya. “It used to take us one hour to do so, but with modern equipment, that work now takes three minutes to clear a truck carrying goods to Nairobi,” said Serem. The PS later met with traders in Namanga and to listen to their concerns after the government closed the Kenya/Tanzania border. Most said they are soon closing shop after tourists stopped crossing the border after the coronavirus hit the country.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has directed that all of Ghana’s borders be closed for two weeks as the nation fights the coronavirus disease. The closure of the borders starts from 12:00am on Sunday, 22 March 2020, after which every human who wants to enter will be quarantined and tested for the virus. “Firstly, all our borders, that is by land, sea, and air will be closed to human traffic for the next two weeks, beginning midnight on Sunday. Anybody who comes into the country before midnight will be mandatorily quarantined and tested for the virus.” However, Akufo-Addo added, “this closure will not affect goods, supplies, and cargo.”
Togo closes borders over coronavirus (News Ghana)
The Republic of Togo has shut her borders to passengers on the Abidjan-Abuja Corridor to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. The closure of the country’s land borders at midnight of Friday, March 20, came hours after the shutdown of the national Airport in Lome following reports of increasing imported cases of the virus in the country. The closure, which is expected to be in force for two weeks, formed part of measures to contain the COVID-19. The measures include the prohibition of visit by persons to the beach, ban on religious activities and funerals, closure of schools and suspension of gathering of more than 15 people that the Government announced to enable the West African country to contain the pandemic. The Ghana News Agency (GNA) gathered that the number of confirmed cases in Togo, as of Friday evening, shot up to 45 from the earlier eight cases, necessitating government’s measures.
South Africa’s decision to close some borders with Lesotho is disrupting businesses in the tiny mountain kingdom because the owners have to travel longer distances to bring back goods into the country. South Africa shut down seven borders between neighbours in a bid to control the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Businesspeople in Lesotho this week said the move would cripple the country’s already weak economy. Consumers would feel the pinch as a result. Ntaote Seboka, president of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said businesspeople would incur more expenses when they import goods from South Africa because they would have to use other borders, which are far. Seboka said Lesotho relied “100% on South Africa” for trading. “It’s true that some borders are still operating, but those that were shut down will affect Lesotho’s economy badly,” he said.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative is seeking public comments on a proposed US-Kenya trade agreement, including US interests and priorities, in order to develop US negotiating positions. In particular, the TPSC invites interested parties to comment on issues that USTR should address in the negotiations including, but not limited to, the following:
a. General and product-specific negotiating objectives for the proposed agreement.
b. Relevant barriers to trade in goods and services between the United States and Kenya.
c. Economic costs and benefits to U.S. producers and consumers of removal or reduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on articles traded with Kenya.
d. Treatment of specific goods (classified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States or HTSUS) under the proposed agreement, including comments on the following:
Product-specific import or export interests or barriers.
Experience with particular measures that USTR should address in the negotiations.
Ways to address export priorities and import sensitivities in the context of the proposed agreement.
e. Fees, charges, and taxes affecting trade in goods and services between the United States and Kenya.
f. Customs and trade facilitation issues, including those related to pre-shipment inspection.
g. Sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade.
h. Transparency issues.
i. Other measures or practices, including those of third-country entities, which undermine fair market opportunities for U.S. businesses, workers, farmers, and ranchers.
Lawyers fight Kenya-US trade deal at EACJ (The East African)
Lawyers Christopher Ayieko and Emily Osiemo have filed a petition at the East African Court of Justice challenging Kenya’s plans to sign an FTA with the US. They accusing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration of violating the EAC Treaty and its protocols. The duo want Kenya’s proposed FTA with the US declared illegal, null and void. “That Kenya, without due regard to the provisions of the EAC Treaty and the protocols for the establishment of the Customs Union and Common Market Protocol, to which it is a party, entered into, negotiated and/or expressed intention to negotiate a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the United States of America in total violation of the Treaty and the protocols,” the two lawyers argued in their application. They also want Kenya barred from importing American wheat from Idaho, Oregon and Washington States on grounds that the government failed to provide information on the proposed agreement and the adopted phtyosanitary protocol of the certification of wheat grain with the US to the EAC Council on trade relations.