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tralac Daily News
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21 Sep 2020

tralac Annual Conference 2020 highlights

Africa Trade Pact Negotiators to Fast-Track E-Commerce Talks (BNN Bloomberg)

Negotiations for e-commerce and digital trade under an Africa-wide free trade pact will be fast-tracked as the coronavirus pandemic heightens the need for a legal and governance framework, according to the zone’s most senior official.The talks that were to have been part of phase 3 of what could be the world’s biggest free trade area will now take place alongside phase 2 negotiations on competition policy, intellectual property rights and investment protocols, said Wamkele Mene, the secretary general of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Discussions are expected to begin early next year.”We ignore digitization at our own peril,” Mene told a virtual conference organized by the Trade Law Centre (tralac). “We’ve got to develop a very clear and compelling strategy for how we can ensure that our trade under this agreement is more efficient, more dynamic and certainly more affordable.”

DDG Wolff: WTO reform crucial to restoring confidence in the trading system (WTO)

Looking to the continent’s economic future, I am pleased that trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will enter into force on the 1st of January 2021. This is a great achievement. I believe that the AfCFTA has the potential to play a strong role in driving the post-pandemic economic recovery as well as longer-term growth and addition of value to its trade. I have been asked to speak about three main topics: first, about whether the WTO is fit for the 21st century; second, on what we can learn for the world trading system from the COVID-19 pandemic; and third, on the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)’s potential benefits for Africa.

Visit the 2020 Annual Conference webpage for more info.


National news

Government Remains Committed to Consumer Protection Even During COVID-19 Pandemic - DDG Masotja (Department of Trade, Industry and Competition)

The South African government remains committed to attending to and resolving issues of consumer protection even during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was said by the Deputy Director-General of Consumer and Corporate Regulation at the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (the dtic), Dr Evelyn Masotja. Masotja was facilitating a Consumer Protection Webinar hosted by the dtic in conjunction with its agencies, the Competition Commission (CompCom), National Consumer Commission (NCC) and National Credit Regulator (NCR), as well as the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

Masotja said work is being done to close different gaps in the areas of consumer protection and consumer redress, to ensure that there is continuation of service delivery to the public. According to her, issues of consumer protection are strategically important for government and the public, and it is imperative for sessions such as the webinar to inform consumers about their rights in terms of what the legislation provides, particularly the Consumer Protection Act, the National Credit Act and the Competition Act

Namibia to allow international travel, lift COVID state of emergency (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

The Namibian government said on Thursday it will open up the country for international travel from Sept. 18 as it ends a six-month long state of emergency with the average number of daily coronavirus cases trending downwards. President Hage Geingob, during a media briefing, said the government had considered the economic implications of continuing the restrictions and the state of preparedness of its hospitals. The announcement comes a day after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country would allow international travel from October and lifted almost all lockdown restrictions with effect from Sept. 21. Namibia’s economy which relies heavily on mining -particularly diamond exports - and wildlife tourism, is expected to contract by a record 7.8% in 2020 after being pounded by the emergency restrictions.

Bureau urges truck drivers to cooperate in reducing traffic congestion, accidents (Ethiopian Press Agency)

The Addis Ababa Administration Transport Bureau said that the curfew for Importing and moving through heavy vehicles into the city remains the same with fines and suspensions. The bureau has implemented a guideline to limit the movement of heavy vehicles to reduce traffic congestions and accidents during working hours following COVID-19.

KRA tax collections fall 15pc despite easing lockdown (Business Daily)

Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) tax collections for the two months to August dropped 15 percent to Sh188.08 billion, reflecting sluggish economic performance after easing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. “The revenue projections for FY 2020/21 have been revised taking into account the revenue performance by end August 2020 and the prolonged effects of Covid-19 pandemic on economic activities and the measures put in place to curb its spread,” Mr Yatani said in the draft Budget Review and Outlook Paper.

Trade Ministry announces resolution to impeded Egyptian exports in Kenya (Daily News Egypt)

The issue of Kenyan authorities imposing customs duties on Egyptian exports to the country has been resolved, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea. The tariffs had been imposed on Egyptian products flowing into Kenya, in violation of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Agreement. Gamea noted that her ministry, represented by the Egyptian Commercial Service, undertook intensive negotiations with the East African Community (EAC) to resolve the issue. The negotiations saw an extension of the exemption granted to COMESA countries until 30 June 2021.

Kenya-Tanzania air travel boost for business – EABC (The Star)

The Kenyan Government added Tanzania to the list of 147 nations whose citizens are exempted from the 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival.Other countries that have been added to the list include Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In 2019, the value of Kenya’s exports to Tanzania stood at approximately $336 million (Sh 36.4 billion) while imports were valued at $275. Million (Sh29.7 billion). EABC has been pushing for a coordinated approach on the resumption of regional air services over the last two months since the partner states started considering reopening their borders.

Uganda eases restrictions despite virus surge (The Star)

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has announced a further easing of coronavirus restrictions in the country as the infection rate continue to rise. The president said international borders will be reopened for tourists, while returning Ugandan citizens who have tested negative for Covid-19 will be allowed to self-isolate at home. A ban on private and public transport has been lifted in districts bordering neighbouring countries.

Kingdom of Lesotho must seize textile manufacturing crown (BusinessLIVE)

The health and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19 has had a global economic effect. From disrupted supply chains to restrictions on the free movement of people and their skills, goods and capital, the world has had to adjust to a “new normal”. A question on the lips of those contemplating filling the void left by the forced rethink of the “one country” risk arising from reliance on factory China is whether Africa can benefit. Lesotho is well positioned to turn opportunity into real jobs with its manufacturing capabilities.

Angola: Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Oil Price Shock (IMF)

The Angolan authorities adopted timely measures to tackle the challenges arising from the COVID-19 shock. Measures to protect public health included quarantine, social distancing, closing of borders with limited exceptions, closures of schools, restaurants, and public events, and limited transportation. The economic downturn and social distancing to contain the spread of the virus have been damaging, especially given the large informal sector. The government recently approved a prudent supplementary budget for 2020 using a conservative oil reference price. It has also introduced a comprehensive set of fiscal and monetary measures to support economic activities.


Regional and continental news

AfCFTA: Nigeria securing approval to ratify agreement – Trade Minister (Nairametrics)

Minister of Trade, Niyi Adebayo said Nigeria is currently in the process of securing approval to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement soon. The Minister disclosed this during a meeting with the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA), Mene Wamkele on Monday. In today’s meeting, The Minister told the delegation that Nigeria has set up a National Action Committee on AfCFTA, which would implement Nigeria’s roll-out strategy in a bid to take advantage of the agreement. He added, “Nigeria is currently in the process of securing approval to ratify the agreement within the shortest possible time”. The African Union announced in August that the first commercial deal of AfCFTA will be taking off on January 1, 2021.

Tripartite Ministerial Committee Endorse Legal Instruments for Transport Facilitation

Cross border road transport laws, regulations, standards and systems are set to be harmonized from Cape to Cairo following the endorsement of two anchor Multilateral Agreements and five Model Laws. The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Sectoral Ministerial Committee on Legal Affairs (TSMCLA) endorsed the Tripartite Draft Legal Instruments on Transport and Transit Facilitation during a virtual meeting held on 18 September 2020. The instruments will be presented for consideration for final approval by the Tripartite Ministerial Council that will then recommend the Vehicle Load Management Agreement and the Multilateral Cross-Border Road Transport Agreement for signature, by the Heads of State and Government.

Emerging trends arising from Covid-19 yield trade and investment opportunities for agile businesses (African Export-Import Bank)

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union, has hosted the first of five webinars to raise awareness of the African continent’s premier trade event, the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), which is to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 6 – 12 September 2021, under the theme ‘Building Bridges for a Successful AfCFTA.’

Africa needs urgent trade finance boost in the wake of COVID-19, report finds (AfDB)

There is an urgent need for financing to reenergize Africa’s trade in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest trade finance report released jointly by the African Development Bank and the African Export-Import Bank. According to the report, Trade Finance in Africa: Trends Over the Past Decade and Opportunities Ahead, only 40% of Africa’s trade is bank-intermediated – a far lower share than the global average of 80%. The trade finance gap also remains unacceptably high at $81 billion in 2019. “The good news is that development finance institutions (DFIs), including the African Development Bank, are playing a more active role in supporting the trade finance industry in Africa,” it says.

Africa steps up efforts toward economic recovery (China Daily)

With several countries in Africa showing signs of flattening the coronavirus infection curve, efforts are now underway toward investment in various sectors both at national and continental levels to allow economic recovery. According to Cyril Ramaphosa, the chairperson of the African Union and the president of South Africa, the AU is developing a comprehensive response to coronavirus, addressing the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. “Working together as countries, as the international community and with our development partners, it is within our means to meet the aspirations of Agenda 2030,” Ramaphosa said at the virtual high level meeting of the United Nations sustainable development goals moment on September17.

Why COVID-19 is a wake-up call for African economies to diversify (Ventures Africa)

The low levels of economic diversification in Africa largely contribute to economic fragility across the continent, making it extremely vulnerable to negative shocks such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, experts have said. Several countries across the region are endowed with minerals and natural resources, which constitute a major source of Africa’s income. But an over-dependence on exports for foreign exchange earnings makes its economies susceptible to external shocks and price volatility. Economic experts under the auspices of the African Economic Research Consortium are the latest to call for economic diversification on the continent in a digital press conference themed Covid-19 Crisis Amplifies the Urgency for Economic Diversification in Africa held Wednesday, September 16.

New platform launched to protect African communities from climate change impacts (The Guardian Nigeria)

Fresh efforts are in the offing to halt impacts of climate change in the continent, with the launch of a regional office of the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) in Côte d’Ivoire. According to the GCA Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Verkooijen said: “The impacts of climate change are already being felt across Africa and will only increase in magnitude. Adaptation is not a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. Through our role as a solutions broker, GCA Africa will work closely with partners in every sector to ensure the most effective adaptation measures are shared and scaled across the continent, responding to the growing demand for strengthening resilience to the impacts of our changing climate.”

Let’s build united, prosperous, stable and secure economic community - Akufo-Addo tasks ECOWAS leaders (MyJoyOnline.com)

President Akufo-Addo has tasked the president, commissioners and staff of the ECOWAS Commission to work to continue to work to build a united, economically prosperous, politically stable, and secured Community that meets the aspirations of the citizens of the Community.The Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Community said, “As we round off the implementation of ECOWAS Vision 2020, and finalise the development of Vision 2050, we should strive to make ECOWAS a Community in which our dreams of prosperity, peace, security, integration and development are realised for the well-being of its citizens.”


Global trade news and Africa's global relations

US tells Kenya to publicly support Israel or forget free trade deal (The East African)

The US wants Kenya to support Israel’s political and commercial interests, or forget a free trade deal (FTA) with the world’s biggest economy. This is one of a raft of conditions set in the ongoing FTA negotiations between Nairobi and Washington. The US has indicated in its objectives seen by The EastAfrican that the deal with Kenya should, with respect to commercial partnerships, discourage actions that prejudice or discourage business between the US and Israel.

Morocco, A green energy bridge between Europe and Africa (The Parliament Magazine)

Since 2009, Morocco has developed an ambitious renewable energy programme aimed at increasing the share of renewable energies in the national energy network to 42 percent by 2021 and 52 percent by 2030. Developing a regional energy strategy in partnership with the European Union, in particular a green strategy, would allow Morocco to play a major role in the creation of a Mediterranean energy hub in southern Europe, guaranteeing the energy security of Europe and the world. In addition, facilitating South-South cooperation - between developing countries - would also benefit Northern countries, who in exchange for technical and financial assistance often receive the benefits of the projects they help develop as their Southern counterparts become important suppliers of energy.

Worst Shipping Crisis Puts Lives and Trade at Risk (Bloomberg.com)

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended life as we knew it for the past 8 months – but one thing that’s remained uninterrupted is the flow of goods transported by ships. Cargo containers, bulkers and other merchant vessels have continued to transport everything from medicines to electronics to oils. In conversations with Bloomberg reporters, more than 40 active seafarers on nearly as many ships described deteriorating conditions. Nearly half didn’t have current contracts and some said they hadn’t been paid in more than two months. Now there are calls for investors and topline consumer companies at the top of the global supply chain to take action and help seafarers get home.

Here’s why South Africa and its neighbours are anxious about EU and UK post-Brexit trade talks (The Conversation)

As the deadline for the post-Brexit trade talks between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) looms, concerns have arisen as to whether the two parties will be able to conclude a deal. In terms of the Brexit divorce agreement, the UK is expected to leave the EU single market and customs union on 1 January 2021. A trade deal will govern future trade relations between the EU and the UK. The prospect of striking such a deal, however, has been thrown into doubt by the publication recently of a new controversial bill by the British government that seeks to overrule parts of the Brexit withdrawal pact.

The outcome of these talks will have implications for the South African economy, specifically trade. The EU as a regional bloc is South Africa’s largest trade partner in the world, and South Africa is the EU’s biggest trade partner in Africa. South Africa has longstanding and extensive trade relations with the UK. Prior to exiting the EU, the UK was South Africa’s second largest trade partner, after Germany, in the EU regional community. The country is also South Africa’s fourth biggest market for exports, behind only China, Germany and the United States.

President outlines SA’s agenda for UN General Assembly (SAnews)

South Africa will this week advocate for Africa to have permanent representation on the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Writing in his weekly newsletter, President Cyril Ramaphosa said while the UN is leading efforts to ensure that the world that emerges from COVID-19 is better, fairer and more peaceful, the organisation has also enabled countries to focus on the work that needs to be done. This is not only to rebuild economies, but to do so in a manner that advances the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

G20 Trade And Investment Working Group Meeting Goes Virtual Amid COVID-19 (Republic World)

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, nations are set to convene the third meeting of the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG) on September 20. The meeting will be held virtually in the presence of the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers presided by the Saudi G20 Presidency to discuss the trade policies investment policy cooperation for the sustainable economic growth of the nations worldwide. On September 19, the Saudi government announced in an official press release that the event will be held remotely due to the COVID-19.

Japanese firms’ Africa expansion hit by COVID-19 and Abe exit (The Japan Times)

After recent years of growth, Japanese companies’ expansion into Africa is hitting a wall, dampened by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resignation of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Before the pandemic, Africa, as a “last frontier,” had attracted investment from the rest of the world and continued steady economic growth. “It is certain that the presence of Japan in Africa will drop due to the coronavirus crisis,” Jun Hirabayashi, director of Tokyo-based consulting company Qunie Corp., said.

Wu Peng: China-Africa ties destined for greatness (Capital News)

The Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, co-chaired by President Xi Jinping and held via video link in June, injected new dynamism into Sino-African friendship and cooperation in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic. China and Africa have been working together to expeditiously implement the outcomes of the meeting, with China having delivered more than 400 tons of critically needed medical supplies to 53 African countries and the African Union, and dispatching public health experts to 13 African countries. A total of 21 African countries have signed medical supply procurement deals worth $54 million. Moreover, the Chinese government and the African Union Commission had already signed an agreement in July for constructing the headquarters building of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia.

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