tralac’s Daily News Selection
Joint Statement on the Commemoration of African Integration Day (African Union)
Joint Statement of the Chairperson of the Assembly of the African Union, The African Continental Free Trade Area Champion and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission:
"Our first commemoration is taking place in unusual circumstances given the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected us all in Africa and around the world. Difficult as it is, the pandemic has inspired us to realise the potential we have to harness and address this challenge. In this regard, we need to reconfigure alternative supply chains in the face of the disruptions that emerged as soon as blockades and quarantines came into play to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Consequently, the pandemic challenged us to speed up our industrial development agenda, through the establishment of Regional value and supply chains, with the active participation of the private sector. Furthermore, the pandemic stressed the importance of strong health systems as well as e-government, e-education, e-diplomacy and e-commerce. Finally, the pandemic has unleashed the innovative spirit of Africans and built resilience as evidenced by the various adjustment measures at the community and national levels, including our use of traditional medicines.
"As we look to the post-COVID-19 era, it is clear that the future of Africa as regards recovery, development and resilience lies in accelerating its economic integration through the implementation, at the level of Africa, of the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA offers the best platform for us to build and deliver inclusive and sustainable development by using the large market space to mobilise investment. Within this framework, we urge all other African Union Member States to sign and ratify the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area."
“We should not lose sight of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area, which is a one of the major building blocks towards the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area,” said SADC Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax on Tuesday commemorating the inaugural Africa Integration Day 2020. Currently, intra-Africa trade accounts for 15 precent of its total trade volume, compared unfavorably to Europe’s 68 percent, North America’s 37 percent, and Latin America’s 20 percent. Under the AfCFTA, intra-African trade is projected to rise to 52 percent by 2040, and Africa will have a combined consumer and business spending of 6.7 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030.
Sadc wants macroeconomic convergence (The Herald)
Members of Parliament who belong to the standing committee on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (TIFI) of the SADC Parliamentary Forum are calling for concerted and coordinated action towards macro-economic convergence within the region. They made the call when their committee met virtually this week under the theme: “The role of Parliament in mitigating the effects of Covid-19 on the trade and business environment for the SADC Region.”
Trudi Hartzenberg, the executive director of Trade Law Centre NPC (TRALAC) joined the meeting. She said it was “extremely appropriate” that MPs were keen to know how far SADC had moved towards macroeconomic convergence. “Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on some of the challenges we face in terms of our over-reliance on imports of essential goods, medicines and food supplies for our food security,” Hartzenberg said.
Ghana ready to host AfCFTA despite Covid-19 (MyJoyOnline)
Government on Tuesday announced that the nation is ready to host the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, “It holds the potential to increasing Africa’s global trade and to facilitate the export of value-added products,” she said, adding; “I will contribute to building regional economic infrastructure, fostering food and energy security, generating jobs for the increasing number of young people, alleviating poverty and delivering shared prosperity through the implementation of appropriate policies.”
Africa’s economic growth could rebound in 2021, provided that governments manage the COVID-19 infection rate well, according to updated forecasts from the African Development Bank, released on Tuesday. In a comprehensive socio-economic assessment of the pandemic’s impact, the Bank said growth was now projected to rebound to 3% in 2021 from -3.4% in the worst-case scenario for 2020.
The report called for urgent policy interventions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic: “Across Africa, the response must be well-sequenced and multipronged, involving a public health response to contain the spread of the virus and minimise fatalities, a monetary policy response to ease liquidity constraints and solvency risks, and a fiscal response to cushion the economic impacts of the pandemic on livelihoods and to assist businesses.”
It’s close to two months since COMESA developed and issued Guidelines for Movement of Goods and Services across the Region during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this period, there has been a notable adherence to the guidelines and the advisories provided by World Customs Organisation (WCO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at the points of entry and exit by border authorities in most Member States.
According to a report by the Team Leader of the COMESA Trade Facilitation Programme funded under the 11th European Development Fund, Mr. Charles Chaitevzi: “Government agencies are now working in a more coherent manner and have also embraced the use of ICT tools,” he notes. “There has always been conflict between facilitating trade and the overriding need for border agencies to maximize revenue collections and compliance with enforcement measures and hence, the benefits of using ICT tools were not fully realized.”
The U.S. and Kenya started negotiating a free-trade agreement on Wednesday, paving the way for President Donald Trump’s push for bilateral pacts in Africa. “We look forward to negotiating and concluding a comprehensive, high-standard agreement with Kenya that can serve as a model for additional agreements across Africa,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a joint statement with Kenyan Trade Secretary Betty Maina.
Trump is moving to reset U.S. trade relationships with regions and nations across the world including Mexico, Canada, China, Europe, the U.K. In sub-Saharan Africa, he prefers bilateral agreements to the African Growth Opportunity Act, which allows about 6,500 products from 39 nations preferential access to the U.S. and expires in 2025.
Follow developments in the US-Kenya FTA negotiations on AGOA.info.
Eight candidates from Mexico to Moldova will vie for the top job at the World Trade Organization, seeking to convince its 164 members they can steer the body through intensifying global trade tensions and rising protectionism. With three of the six previous director-generals coming from Europe and the others from Thailand, Brazil and New Zealand, pressure has been building to choose a leader from Africa. However, the continent has not united on a single figure, instead producing three candidates, from Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. The others are from Britain, Mexico, Moldova, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The WTO has also never had a female chief. Three in the field are women.
The International Trade Centre today announced the launch of SheTrades Outlook, a digital tool that allows governments and others to track progress on gender equality in trade, and progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 to empower all women and girls. SheTrades Outlook provides quantitative and qualitative data using 83 indicators across six policy areas. It contains more than 50 good-practice examples to spur policymakers worldwide to introduce and reform policies that support women in trade.
The dramatic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have laid bare “weaknesses in our systems and societies”, a top official told the UN’s key international forum on sustainable development which began on Tuesday, warning that “a new dynamic” is needed to overcome the negative shocks. Introducing the Secretary-General’s progress report on the SDGs, Liu Zhenmin, UN chief for economic and social affairs, pointed out that the development goals are “all the more urgent” as the world confronts this “crisis of historic proportion…. A truly transformative recovery from COVID-19 must be pursued.”
Five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020 notes that progress had been made in some areas, such as improving maternal and child health, expanding access to electricity and increasing women’s representation in government. Yet even these advances were offset elsewhere by growing food insecurity, deterioration of the natural environment, and persistent and pervasive inequalities.
Now, in only a short period of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis, causing further disruption to SDG progress, with the world’s poorest and most vulnerable affected the most.