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tralac’s Daily News selection

tralac’s Daily News selection
Photo credit: Joseph Maynard

26 May 2020

The AfCFTA Secretariat, through the AUC, invites qualified and competent applicants who are citizens of AU Member States to submit applications for the positions of:

  • Director of Trade in Goods and Competition

  • Director of Services, Investment and Intellectual property Rights

  • Director of Administration and Human Resources Management

  • Director of Finance

Note: The closing date for applications is 29 June 2020


Standard Bank Group’s Vinod Madhavan: Enabling digitally-led trade growth is a key opportunity (The Eagle)

In many of the 20 countries in which Standard Bank operates, there are stringent and specific requirements around the roll-out of digital solutions. Some of the countries have taken market-appropriate approaches towards moving to digitising trade. In certain places on the continent, if one wants to issue a guarantee, for example, the standard is to issue on a physical piece of paper. While the core nature of trade is unlikely to fundamentally change in the near to medium term, future – financial institutions are on a journey to streamline these processes, very often through leveraging the ABCD (artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and data analytics) of disruptive technologies.

From the point of view of adoption of robotics/intelligent automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in trade business processing, Standard Bank has had good success in South Africa and Uganda. Ghana is not far behind in adoption. Purely by leveraging this technology, one could materially quicken up the issuance of a local guarantee, reducing the time taken to issue a guarantee, for example, by 80%. If we take it a step further and combine AI with Optical Character Recognition, we can bring increased operational efficiencies to the areas of manual document sorting and data entry, starting the journey of reducing the manual nature of trade processes. Such technologies allow for banks to take documentation needed to validate a transaction (sometimes 50-100 pieces of paper) and evaluate or validate that documentation against the letter of credit instrument in a much shorter time period.

Standard Bank is currently in conversations with multiple regulators, exploring how we could go about amending regulations, even though it may be a temporary dispensation for the duration of COVID-19, to facilitate digital trade. These engagements are happening in multiple markets across our network. With the challenges brought about by the virus outbreak, there is now an exciting dialogue in markets that will help to influence some of the necessary changes. [The author is head of trade for Standard Bank Group]

UBA Africa Day Conversations 2020: Why Africa can’t afford further delay on AfCFTA (Premium Times)

The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Africa’s economy has shown that the continent can ill-afford a further delay in the implementation of the AfCFTA, panelists in a web conference on Africa’s economic recovery, post-COVID-19, said on Monday. The panelists consisted of the Senegalese President Macky Sall and his Liberian counterpart George Weah; the president of Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah; US Senator and member of the Foreign Relations Committee on Africa, Chris Coons; the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, and the president of the Africa CEO Forum, Amir Yahmed.

In his presentation, Mr Oramah said despite not having too much health problems or deaths as a result of the pandemic, Africa has become the epicentre of the economic devastation COVID-19 has unleashed upon the global economy. He blamed the situation on excessive dependence on commodity export without any effort to build infrastructure to promote intra-regional integration and trade as well as avoid bailouts from outsiders. “If there was any doubt about the importance of the agreement reached about two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has showed this is the way to go. We have to put away all reservations we have and build supply chains across Africa. This is the only way we can begin to foster dynamic growth in the African continent. If we do not do that, we will remain perpetual commodity exporters. And we have seen what commodity exporters suffer in times of global crisis like this.” [CNBC Africa interview with Afreximbank’s Hippolyte Fofack]

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda: ”Our colonial borders have long separated us. Now a united Africa should rise and reach its dreams and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is a step in this direction”

100 Days of COVID-19 in Africa: What we’ve learned and what’s ahead. To mark this milestone, COVID-19 Africa Watch reached out to ten African leaders and veteran African watchers to ask for their reflections on two key questions:

  • Over these first 100 days, what African leader or organization deserves special recognition for their response to COVID-19?

  • Looking ahead, what will be the most consequential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic one to two years from now?

We feature responses to these questions from Edem Adzogenu, Mimi Alemayehou, K.Y. Amoako, Aubrey Hruby, W. Gyude Moore, Zemedeneh Negatu, Hannah Ryder, Ayo Sogunro, Vera Songwe, and Rachel Strohm.

Small cross-border traders adopt new business tactics to manage pandemic restrictions (COMESA)

Since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the Great Lakes region in mid-March 2020, small scale traders have been unable to cross borders as they have traditionally done either to buy or sell goods. To support cross border trade, which is the lifeline of a huge community in the region, the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project engaged stakeholders to come up with innovative means of trading across the borders of the three countries covered by the project. Subsequently, a new concept of bulk-buying has been developed whereby goods are procured in large consignments in collaboration with suppliers across the borders. This ensures there is no mass movement of traders crossing the borders.

Led by the Cross-Border Traders’ Associations, this concept has helped traders minimize the risk of Covid- 19 spread and allow safe trade. It consists of packaging similar goods from either side of the borders and moving them across the border using joint means of transport. This limits the movement of people to the strict minimum. Only the driver conveys the goods accompanied by the group representative, responsible for cash transactions as well distribution of the merchandise among the members. In the points, small scale cross-border trade is conducted by grouping goods from CBTAs who note down the requirements of their members. This constitutes the consolidated list of orders to be sent to their counterparts on the other side of the border. Prices are discussed and agreed over the phone. A truck escort is authorized to accompany the vehicle in order to receive payments with mobile money transactions also used. Once the goods arrive, the traders share them out and proceed with trading at their different points of sale. For this innovation to succeed, a lot of goodwill and trade policy support is required from the respective governments.

Botswana’s COVID border checks rile truck drivers  (VOA)

Botswana’s strict COVID-19 border checks have riled truck drivers, who say they spend days waiting to be cleared. Botswana has so far confirmed only 35 COVID-19 cases and one death but began requiring the border testing amid rising concerns about imported infections. Truck drivers are growing frustrated with long delays at Botswana’s borders due to required COVID-19 testing. The truckers say they wait for up to five days before being cleared to deliver goods in Botswana, or transit through the country. Botswana’s COVID-19 taskforce team head Dr Kereng Masupu acknowledged the challenges faced by truck drivers. But he says remedial action cannot be taken overnight. Steps will be taken to improve the lives of drivers while awaiting their results, says Masupu, and their welfare should be taken seriously as they provide an essential service. 

EAC transport ministers meet today to resolve border cargo delays: They are expected to issue a joint statement on Covid-19 testing protocols to be adopted by all member states amid tensions caused by truck drivers protesting disputed results, a lengthy wait for results or harassment.

SADC Agriculture and Food Security, Fisheries and Aquaculture: ministerial outcome statement

The joint meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security, Fisheries and Aquaculture met through video-conferencing on 22 May 2020, to review progress on the implementation of the SADC Programmes and related strategies on Agriculture and Food Security and Fisheries and Aquaculture with a focus on impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and proposed measures to be implemented by Member States.

  • The ministers noted the various guidelines developed by the Secretariat for Member States to adopt and consider for implementation in support to mitigate challenges against the negative impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines were developed for both the Agriculture and Food Security, and Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors.

  • The ministers noted that the impact of COVID-19 will lead to a decline in the nutrition status of the vulnerable population due to insufficient access to foods, increase in household food insecurity, inadequate access to health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, which may result increased morbidities.

  • The ministers noted the outbreak of the African migratory locusts, which were reported in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, affecting cereal crops and pastures.

  • The ministers considered and approved the SADC Animal Genetic Resources Conservation and Utilisation Strategy and the SADC Strategy for Elimination of Dog-Mediated Human Rabies, for domestication and implementation for the Member States.

  • pdf Download (45 KB)

IGAD Agriculture and Livestock: ministerial outcome statement

Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Livestock of the Member States of IGAD, including representation from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, held a virtual ministerial meeting with key desert locust control organizations to upscale desert locust control operations and boost coordination efforts between IGAD and the Middle East region. The objective of the inter-regional meeting was to provide a platform for IGAD Member States, neighbours, regional and international partners to share experiences in pest control, deliberate on establishing a Joint Inter-Regional Contingency and Response Action Plan, that will guide the upscaling of cross-border and cross-regional control operations, improve coordination and join efforts to contain the desert locust invasion both in the IGAD region as well as in the breeding areas of the Arabian Peninsula. IGAD calls for (extracts):

  • Strengthening of transnational control institutions, particularly the DLCO-EA and CRC that have the mandate to fight the desert locust and other migratory pests;

  • Member states to continue supporting DLCO-EA to better deliver on its regional mandate, establishing a data sharing protocol and strengthening the existing joint Integrated Regional (and member state) Pest Early Warning System by honouring their subscription commitments;

  • Operationalize the IGAD Regional Disaster Response Fund to support timely response to all disaster emergencies in the region.

Wandile Sihlobo: Restricting maize imports during a pandemic? Bad idea (Fin24)

Since the pandemic started, several countries have adopted restrictive trade policy approaches such as export bans and export quotas. The justification for such policies was consumer focused, as the countries needed to ensure domestic food security during this pandemic. Fortunately, when International Grains Council data showed ample global grain supplies in the 2019/20 and prospects for a larger crop in the 2020/21 production season; countries such as Russia, Cambodia and Vietnam, among others, reversed these protectionist policies. These countries had intended to restrict their wheat and rice trade.

Unfortunately, on the African continent we continue to witness restrictive trade policy, although the policies are producer focused instead of consumer focused as has been the case in other continents. Consider Namibia, where the country’s Agronomic Board recently announced that there will be a suspension of imports of maize and millet from 1 June 2020 until the domestic harvest has been absorbed by domestic millers. The Namibian authorities expect this ban to be in place at least until November 2020, which is a period they expect the domestic supplies to last. The rationale provided is that the policy will ensure that domestic farmers have a market for their produce, which will support them during this pandemic. But I can’t stop to wonder if this policy is practical if one seriously considers Namibia’s maize market as an example. Maize is one of the major staple crops in the country, although largely dependent on imports. [The author is chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa; NAMC chief economist Sifiso Ntombela: If farmers want to attract investment, ESG is the key]

Rethinking land reform in Africa: New ideas, opportunities and challenges . The purpose of this AfDB collection of papers is to help inspire fresh and critical reflection, inquiry and evidence informed policy debate and dialogue. The 13 authors were given free rein to choose their own topics, frameworks and questions and to write in their own voices and styles. Independently, the authors chose some of the most contested issues in land reform in Africa.


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