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tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News
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Country focus

Treasury is confident its strategy on Covid-19 vaccine acquisition is foolproof against PPE-like corruption

National Treasury is convinced that SA’s Covid-19 vaccine acquisition strategy won’t feature corruption elements and middlemen unlawfully profiteering from this process – as was seen in the emergency procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) that has become a cadres’ feast. The process of securing Covid-19 vaccines for frontline health workers and the wider public is being done on an urgent and expedited basis by the government, with normal bidding and procurement processes falling away. Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane says that the Department of Health is negotiating directly with vaccine manufacturers, which is a key safeguard against corruption, and also means that there is no room for middlemen to be introduced in the vaccine procurement process.

Ramaphosa urges businesses to help fund Africa’s vaccine rollout (Reuters)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday urged businesses to help fund the continent’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout and asked more countries to support an initiative to waive intellectual property rules affecting vaccine production. Ramaphosa, who currently chairs the African Union (AU), has been leading efforts to secure sufficient vaccine doses for Africa’s 1.3 billion people. Ramaphosa told an AU webinar that it was a “painful irony” that some COVID-19 vaccine trials had taken place in Africa but that it was still struggling to secure doses. If a push by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization to waive parts of the TRIPS agreement on intellectual property rights succeeds, African countries could benefit from technology transfer to manufacture vaccines more cheaply, he said.

Government recommits to stabilising debt (SAnews)

National Treasury has reiterated government’s commitment to prioritising the COVID-19 pandemic response, reducing the fiscal deficit and stabilising debt over the next five years. The department made the commitment during a series of virtual meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 15 and 25 January 2021. The IMF noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened South Africa’s growth and fiscal vulnerabilities and therefore, government is rightly prioritising the response to the pandemic. The IMF urged South Africa to reduce large fiscal deficits and debt levels through the containment of the wage bill, and avoiding ill-targeted subsidies and transfers to inefficient SOEs. “South Africa should advance structural reforms that will raise long-term growth,” said the IMF.

Harm to informal food trade is harm to entire SME food industry (BusinessLIVE)

In April 2020, SA moved into unprecedented territory when the Covid-19 pandemic that had been ravaging populations across the globe finally hit home. Overnight, businesses were shuttered, employees furloughed and the economic wellbeing of millions brought into question. In the following months, the SA economy shed more than two-million jobs and an already high unemployment rate shot even higher. While the devastation unleashed on the economy affected all levels of the working class, it was those considered most vulnerable who were hit hardest. The food sector mirrored the rest of SA’s economy, with the haves fairing far better than the have nots.

Investing in transport: How can we help countries make better-informed decisions? (World Bank)

South Africa has made significant progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the work is far from over. To sustain and amplify the socioeconomic gains of the last few years, expanding access to sustainable transport will be a key priority. These were the views expressed by Ms. Boitumelo Mosako, Chief Financial officer and Executive Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), in a dialogue during the just concluded 10th Consortium Meeting of the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All). For Mosako, the benefit of working with SuM4all partners is clear: it is all about making better-informed decisions to transform South Africa’s transport sector and propel the country forward.

Transnet National Ports Authority move to improve competitiveness (SAnews)

The Coega Development Corporation (CDC), developer and operator of the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has welcomed the move by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to relocate its head office to the Port of Ngqura. “It’s a much-welcomed move and one the CDC looks forward to with keen interest bearing in mind the symbiotic economic enabling relationship the CDC and Port of Ngqura have enjoyed over a long period of time,” CDC Unit Head of Marketing, Brand and Communications, Dr Ayanda Vilakazi said on Wednesday. He said the decision of the TNPA shows the commitment to be closer to clients, ensure the unblocking of projects, and facilitate further the competitiveness of ports, impacting positively on the various port users.

Kenya sets the pace in use of tech to ease travel (Business Daily)

Massive changes have been implemented at airports across the globe in the wake of a pandemic that has altered the way we do things in virtually every aspects of our lives. Countries have been compelled to innovate to make airports and travelling safe and help in fighting the Covid-19 menace. Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is no exception, having deployed latest technologies in screening and clearance of travellers.

Africa CDC Director Dr John Nkengasong acknowledged Kenya’s robust technology ecosystem, where blockchain and machine learning are being used to address challenges in various sectors, saying that such an advantage will be key to getting the country’s air industry back to profitability. “Kenya has always been a trailblazer of innovation in Africa, but it is its commitment to continental integration that makes our collaboration on digital health through Trusted Travel such a powerful showcase of Pan-African innovation,” he told Digital Business.

Kenya shrugs off inflation fears to retain benchmark loans rate (The East African)

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) on Wednesday retained the base lending rate at 7 per cent for the sixth time in a row shrugging off rising concerns over inflation. The Monetary Policy Committee “noted that the package of policy measures implemented since March 2020 were having the intended effect on the economy, and are being augmented by implementation of the announced fiscal measures in the financial year 2020/21 Budget,” MPC chairman and CBK governor Patrick Njoroge said after its meeting.

Taxes, politics biggest threat to Kenya’s economic recovery (Nation)

Tax increases and politics are seen as the biggest challenges to recovery as analysts look for bright spots to invest in the Kenyan economy. Egyptian investment firm EFG Hermes says the rise in political temperatures ahead of a plebiscite on Building Bridges Initiative and 2022 general election are likely to dampen recovery post-Covid-19. The firm’s analysts say the market is already reflecting more uncertainty about Kenya’s political path than it did two years before the 2017 elections.

Restructured loans hit Sh1.6 trillion (Nation)

Commercial banks have now restructured loans amounting to Sh1.63 trillion, which is more than half of all loans in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is after borrowers, hard hit by the health crisis, took advantage of the relief announced by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). The CBK said of the Sh35.2 billion that was released by the lowering of the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) in March, Sh32.6 billion (92.7 percent) has been used to support lending, especially to the tourism, trade and transport and communication, real estate, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

‘Utilise ATO to gather market information’ (Chronicle)

Zimbabwe’s private sector has been urged to utilise the to gather market intelligence and boost trade riding on the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Speaking during the AfCFTA webinar meeting organised by the country’s national trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade on Tuesday, the African Union (AU) Commission senior customs expert and advisor at the AfCFTA Mr Willie Shumba said: “The AU Commission has established what is called the African Trade Observatory, it’s a market intelligence system which tells you of the various opportunities and products which other countries might have or have interest in…. The AfCFTA is saying those who want to take advantage of the trade and economic opportunities within Africa now need to look beyond their traditional markets such as Comesa, EAC and Sadc.”

Customs and Excise crucial to unlock Namibia’s competitiveness (New Era)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is brim-full of opportunities to strengthen intra-Africa trade, regional and continental value chains and to create access to new markets and revenue streams. Within this context of the renewal of supply chains, customs administrations will play an integral part as they unlock and leverage Namibia’s competitiveness and enhance both continental and global trade logistics. These sentiments were expressed yesterday by Minister of Finance Iipumbu Shiimi during the celebration of World International Customs Day, which this year encompasses the theme: “Customs bolstering recovery, renewal and resilience for a sustainable supply chain”. In a speech, delivered by Commissioner of the Namibian Revenue Agency (NamRA) Sam Shivute, Shiimi noted that “the sustenance and security of the supply chain play a pivotal role in the movement of goods across borders and countries.”

P13 billion Budget deficit projected (The Patriot On Sunday)

Botswana’s Balance of Payments (BoP) amounts to P21.1 billion deficit as of September 2020, a Bank of Botswana Report has shown. “The deficit mainly resulted from larger payments for imports than receipts from exports in the current account, as alluded to earlier. This resulted in a higher deficit in the current account, as compared to a small surplus registered in the financial account,” the Monetary Policy Committee report indicated. The merchandise trade, services and income accounts recorded a combined deficit of P10.6 billion, which was partly offset by a surplus of P3.6 billion in the current transfers’ account, which is dominated by the SACU revenue receipts. Exports decreased by 75 percent while imports decreased by 23.1 percent, leading to a deficit of P8.7 billion in the merchandise trade account.

Automotive policy will make Nigeria Africa’s manufacturing hub – FG (Nairametrics)

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo has disclosed that the new Automotive Industry Bill will help position Nigeria in its rightful position, as the manufacturing hub of Africa. According to him, the whole idea of the New Automotive Policy will be centered on creating an enabling environment for key players in the industry, as the policy seeks to gain the confidence of investors in the industry, especially the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), with the view to have them come in to set up manufacturing plants in Nigeria. The Minister revealed that to make this happen, the government is set to put in place a policy that guarantees the investments of manufacturers and other key players in Nigeria.

Slash on imported vehicles’ duties begins next week – Customs (The Punch)

AfCFTA: Nigeria Customs raises concern over non-inclusion in rules of origin (WorldStage)

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has expressed concern over its non-inclusion in the rules of origin in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali made this known at a news conference to mark 2021 International Customs Day in Abuja. Ali explained that while customs was excluded in the rules of origin in verification and certification of goods, chambers of commerce were certified to carry out such obligations. He said chambers of commerce were not experts in the process, hence the need to properly include customs to perform its roles.

‘Economy projected to recover in Q2 in absence of major shocks (The Guardian Nigeria)

Notwithstanding anticipation of slow growth, reflecting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and prospects of stricter containment measures amid a new strain of the virus, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has projected a return to positive growth in the second quarter (Q2) of this year. According to the Chamber, Nigeria’s economic growth trajectory is hinged on effective management of the pandemic locally and globally; widespread vaccine rollout; direction of global oil market, and quality of fiscal, monetary, trade and regulatory policies.

Nigeria Joins Forces with World Economic Forum to Fight Plastic Pollution (WEF)

Nigeria will officially join the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), a platform that works with governments, businesses and civil society to translate plastic pollution commitments into concrete solutions. In joining GPAP, Nigeria will work with the WEF to launch a National Plastic Action Partnership, based on a promising model that has been piloted in Indonesia, Ghana and Viet Nam. Its principal mandates will include creating and working with locally led, locally driven platforms, such as the Federal Ministry of Environment and the African Development Bank-coordinated Nigeria Circular Economy Working Group (NCEWG), to bring together the country’s most influential policy-makers, business leaders and civil society advocates. The goal is to deliver a national action plan for radically reducing plastic pollution, connecting high-potential solutions with strategic financing opportunities.

Seychelles: Country Strategy Paper 2021-2025 (AfDB)

Seychelles became a high-income economy in 2015, and its GNI per capita reached US$ 15,600 in 2018, and continues to enjoy a stable political environment. Moreover, the country witnessed recent robust economic growth averaging 4.2% during 2016-2019 and recorded significant progress on social front with a low Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) estimated at 0.04 (2019). Despite this positive evolution, the country still faces development challenges. This Country Strategy Paper (CSP) 2021-25 for Seychelles was prepared at a time when the country was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic and is aligned both with the Seychelles’ new Vision 2033 and National Development Strategy (NDS) 2019-2023, and the Bank’s strategic and operational priorities. Owing to the victory of the opposition in the presidential elections of 24 October 2020, any changes in the strategic direction of the country will be reflected in the CSP 2021-2025.


News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations

Working together towards global recovery (SAnews)

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on African economies, on public health and on the AU system itself. “It is therefore more critical than ever that we step up our collaboration on all fronts as we drive the global recovery effort,” President Ramaphosa said. In his welcome address delivered virtually at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) 20th Symposium on Thursday, President Ramaphosa said the African Union will continue to work through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility known as COVAX to ensure equal access to the vaccine, and that the needs of poor countries are taken into account. President Ramaphosa said they will pursue efforts through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to complement the COVAX arrangements and to secure enough vaccine doses for the continent.

Africa’s $60bn losses in illicit capital flows due to multinationals’ tax avoidance, says AfDB Adesina (Businessamlive)

The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has stated that profit shifting, base erosion and tax avoidance by multinational corporations form a huge part of Africa’s missing taxes and they account for a large share of the over $60 billion in illicit capital flows that Africa loses annually. He made this revelation on Thursday while delivering his speech at the FIRS First Tax Dialogue held by the FIRS in Abuja, Nigeria. “Taxing corporate revenue instead of profits will discourage investments needed to grow businesses and to create jobs. Now, natural resources tax can play a major role in Nigeria. Given Nigeria’s high reliance on oil and gas and minerals, the government should ensure these sectors pay taxes and royalties that are fair and transparent,” Adesina stated.

CPI 2020: Sub-Saharan Africa (Transparency.org)

With an average score of 32, Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region on the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. Across the region, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights structural gaps in national health care systems, corruption risks associated with public procurement and the misappropriation of emergency funds. The economic shock of the pandemic led to protests and dissent in many countries, including South Africa (44), Angola (27) and Zimbabwe (24), about rising costs of living, corruption and the widespread misuse of emergency funds. In South Africa, an audit of COVID-19 expenditures revealed overpricing, fraud and corruption. In Nigeria (25), civil society organisations denounced reports of hoarding of COVID-19 medications by states and called on anti-corruption institutions to investigate the allegations. Rather than add pledges, countries must enforce numerous existing anti-corruption commitments, including Agenda 2063, the transformative agenda of the African Union for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

2020 CPI: corruption worsens Covid-19 response and recovery - Corruption Watch

SA fails to make progress in Corruption Perceptions Index

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at the Virtual Meeting on the Africa COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Strategy (World Bank)

COVID-19 has had a heavy toll on the people of Africa in terms of lives lost and the severe economic impact that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. Tens of millions of people are falling into extreme poverty. It’s vital to prioritize the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. We estimate that every month of delay costs the African continent $13.8 billion in lost GDP. That’s in addition to the loss of lives and human capital. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last March, the Bank has committed $25 billion to African countries to support their health and economic recovery, and we expect to commit an additional $15 billion by June. We urge leaders of African countries to move quickly to secure vaccinations for their populations, and to avail themselves of the financing available from us and other partners to help with this.

We’ve unique opportunity to bridge digital divide and change our lives (The East African)

According to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development at Unesco, most Africans get access to the internet through data from their cell phones. However, the usage gap on the continent, or the percentage of people living inside mobile broadband coverage but not using mobile internet, stood at 49 per cent in 2019. Lack of digital skills and affordability are the two main drivers behind this gap.

Covid-19 has shown us in many ways that digital connectivity, particularly through our mobile phones, is crucial and that lack of it can have catastrophic effects. We cannot underestimate the democratisation of data and the power of the internet in the post-Covid future – just getting people connected opens up a world of possibilities that goes beyond getting a job. If you put data in the hands of people and allow them to do with it what they want, it will bring unprecedented opportunities.

‘Africa needs a single passport to make AfCFTA effective’ – Acheampong (GhanaWeb)

African leaders and stakeholders behind the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have been urged to develop a common passport to facilitate trade within the continent. According to Benjamin Acheampong, Executive Director of consultancy group Wealth Masters, the notion of “Africa Rising” will remain a misnomer unless conditions for doing business on the continent with ease are created. He said governments need to focus on improving internet services, communication and transport in order to ensure a smooth implementation of the AfCFTA. “When all these infrastructure are put in place, then we are on course to pull this AfCFTA initiative off.”

Access Bank repositions digital payment to reap AfCFTA gains (The Nation Newspaper)

Access Bank’s planned expansion to eight African countries will come with huge gains from the 1.3 billion people targeted in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) deal. The bank’s strong digital banking platforms will play well in enabling electronic payments across countries of operation and beyond. The lender is not only focusing on key markets to support regional trade and targeting new opportunity markets but positioning its operations as a trade and payments gateway to the world.

Several African Countries Reimpose Restrictions While COVID-19 Cases Rise (News Ghana)

Although during 2020, African Union (AU) member states have recorded far few cases of coronavirus infections per capita than many western industrialized countries in Europe and the United States as well as Brazil and India, the advent of a new variant of the virus in South Africa has raised alarms on the continent and internationally. Many governments have imposed lockdowns and severe restrictions on movements and gatherings which closed schools, businesses, religious institutions and social gatherings since March 2020. However, the economic and social impact of these measures left many workers unemployed. Border crossings had been closed or severely restricted throughout the SADC and other regions of the continent. This lessening of border crossing restrictions and the spike in coronavirus cases has served to spread the virus on a broader inter-continental level.

African migration observatory to begin work in February (InfoMigrants)

The African Migration Observatory was inaugurated at the end of December 2020 and will begin work in February 2021. One of its main aims is to collect information to establish better migratory policies and invite a more balanced view of the topic on the continent. Africa’s first migration observatory is about to begin work in the Moroccan capital Rabat next month, (February). It has been set up by the African Union (AU) with the support of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who is responsible for the dossier on migration within the African Union. Its inauguration comes more than two years after the adoption of the international Marrakesh pact in 2018 for safe, ordered and regulated migration. The observatory is intended to help observe, research and collect and exchange their own data about migration on the continent, according to its creators – members of the African Union.

Roundup: AU commission chairperson announces “eight major priorities” seeking second-term (Xinhua)

Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on Tuesday announced “eight major priorities,” seeking re-election amid an imminent upcoming election. Mahamat, who was elected by African leaders to lead the 55-member pan-African bloc back in January 2017 during the 28th AU Summit, is fast approaching an end to his four-year first-term tenure at the helm of the AU Commission. The Chairperson of the AU Commission is set to present an assessment of his first-term activities to the assembly of African leaders, who are set to meet from February 6 and 7 as part of the 34th AU Summit.

The eight major priorities include finalizing the institutional reform and strengthening the leadership of the AU Commission; enhancing administrative and financial accountability; silencing the guns at continental level; executing key continental integration projects such as the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) Agreement; as well as realizing the continent’s food self-sufficiency, reduce poverty by building resilience through agriculture, the blue economy and environment protection.

Vision of H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat for the term of office 2021-2024

34th AU Summit strives to leverage and valorise African Arts, Culture and Heritage (African Union)

The thirty fourth (34th) Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) scheduled to take place on 6 and 7 February 2021 will hold under the theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. This theme of the year will be presented during the upcoming African Union Summit, by the lead Department of Social Affairs at the AUC. However, it is worth noting that, Africa is universally recognised for its rich arts and cultural diversity given that, African cultural heritage springs from different communities all over Africa. Therefore, cultural heritage, which is seen as an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values, will for the next twelve months, be at the centre of discussion in most events organised by the African Union

SADC hailed for regional integration (New Era)

The Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC) has been hailed for a sound record on some important milestones in different areas of regional cooperation and integration, especially when it comes to peace and security, infrastructure development, as well as trade and investment. Addressing delegates during the launch of the African Union-SADC National Committee yesterday, international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said this has been made possible through continental and inter-regional cooperation and integration. “The participation of our citizens in decision making, particularly women and youth, bring the regional process closer to people. Theory and practice continue to prove that such cooperation can positively contribute to capacity building, as well as infrastructure and economic development across countries and regions,” she noted.

Africa Finance Corp. to Boost Lending in Virus Battle (Bloomberg)

The Africa Finance Corp., a development-finance institution focused on infrastructure across the continent, expects to more than double its lending this year in a bid to help African countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The organization, which today announced its first direct-borrowing arrangement with the OPEC Fund for International Development, plans to lend more than $2 billion on a net basis in 2021, said Banji Fehintola, the AFC’s senior director, head of treasury & financial institutions. “We have always done at least $1 billion of net lending annually at a minimum,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that this year’s amount would be a record. “We are trying to get the continent back from the Covid pandemic.” Countries across the continent were decimated last year as attempts to curb the spread of the virus saw economic activity shut down and trade disrupted. Africa experienced its first recession in a quarter-century last year, according to the World Bank.

Food Systems in Africa: Rethinking the Role of Markets (World Bank)

Food for cities in Africa is changing under the triple effect of growth demography, urbanization and transformations in agricultural production and trade. These changes create risks: African cities increasingly face the challenges of undernutrition and malnutrition. But they also generate new opportunities: the economy food is the continent’s main source of employment and will remain so in the near future, both to ensure agricultural production, agro-food processing and product distribution. At the center of this economy are the intermediaries market, which link producers and consumers, and whose ineffectiveness explains that about a third of the production evaporates in food losses.

An Africa Roadmap for Biden by Célestin Monga (Project Syndicate)

The arrival of President Joe Biden’s administration provides an opportunity to rekindle the US-Africa relationship. Typically, articulating an Africa strategy is not a top priority for new American presidents. In Biden’s case, he has taken office at a time of heightened global fears about COVID-19, ongoing economic uncertainty, and deep geopolitical division. And for its part, Africa is suffering its worst economic performance in a generation, setting the stage for persistent misery, social unrest, and violent conflict in the future. Nonetheless, the sheer depth of these problems makes this a perfect time for bold initiatives. To be sure, Africa – a dynamic region with great resilience, high aspirations, abundant resources, unbounded creativity, and plenty of ideas – should not rely on any foreign power for its political and economic future. The fuse of prosperity and peace must be lit from within. But, because trade is the main engine of growth and socioeconomic development for African economies (all of which are small and open), and because the US remains the world’s dominant economic player, Africans are looking to the Biden administration to propose a new course.

How Joe Biden can revamp US-Africa policy with an eye on China (Quartz)


Global Economy

Global Financial Stability Report Update, January 2021: Vaccines Inoculate Markets, but Policy Support Is Still Needed (IMF)

Vaccines Inoculate Markets, but Policy Support Is Still Needed The Global Financial Stability Update at a Glance Approval and rollout of vaccines have boosted expectations of a global recovery and lifted risk asset prices, despite rising COVID-19 cases and softening economic activity in late 2020. Until vaccines are widely available, the market rally and the economic recovery remain predicated on continued monetary and fiscal policy support. Inequitable distribution of vaccines risks exacerbating financial vulnerabilities, especially for frontier market economies.

Policymakers should continue to provide support until a sustainable recovery takes hold: under-delivery may jeopardize the healing of the global economy. However, with investors betting on a persistent policy backstop and a sense of complacency permeating markets as asset valuations rise further, policymakers should be cognizant of the risks of a market correction.

IMF raises concern over uneven COVID-19 vaccination, recovery (The Guardian Nigeria)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed confidence that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across different parts of the world would boost confidence in the economy despite rising infection cases. It warned that the uneven vaccination trend and “asynchronous recovery” could stifle growth and endanger capital flows to emerging market economies “especially if advanced economies were to begin to normalise policy.” These were contained in the January 2021 Global Financial Stability Update released yesterday. IMF said the earlier-than-expected global vaccination campaigns “have boosted market sentiment and paved the way for the global economic recovery” but regretted that the uneven process could fuel financial vulnerabilities in emerging markets, including Nigeria, as capital moves to economies with reduced risks.

Global coalition of industry associations call for breakthrough on data flows at the WTO (ICC)

ICC is pleased to join the release today of the Joint Industry Statement on Cross-Border Data Transfers and Data Localization Disciplines in the WTO Negotiations on E-Commerce, which encourages WTO negotiators to agree on a framework to facilitate the seamless and secure movement of information across borders. “COVID-19 has underscored the indispensable role of e-commerce in our lives, and we commend the participating WTO Members for the progress made to date,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO. “Data flows are at the heart of today’s global economy. They support economic opportunity in every country and across every sector,” said Victoria Espinel, President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance. “In today’s remote environment, our jobs, health, education, and well-being depend on digital connectivity and data flows like never before. It should be a top priority for governments to negotiate WTO commitments that support the seamless and secure cross-border movement of information.”

Elizabeth Morgan | The WTO and COVID-19: Securing medical and food supplies (Jamaica Gleaner)

COVID-19, as indicated in previous articles, is a trade and health crisis requiring collaboration between the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other trade-related bodies. An important aspect of the treatment of COVID-19 is the trade in medical goods and services. In goods, we are looking at medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes clothing, gloves, face coverings; drugs, including vaccines; ventilators and other medical technological devices, some still evolving. In addition, there is concern about the general flow of trade to keep economies functioning and the availability of food supplies. The WTO, therefore, has an important role to play in this pandemic. It is concerned about the contraction of global trade, projecting that it would decline by about nine per cent in 2020, and about the use of trade policy measures to restrict trade, especially if there is a shortage of medical and food supplies. While the WTO was expecting trade to rebound in 2021, there is still a pessimistic outlook for this year –depending on policy measures applied and the ability to contain COVID-19

Accelerating Digitalization: Critical Actions to Strengthen the Resilience of the Maritime Supply Chain (World Bank)

The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has upended lives and brought major disruption to economic activity across the world, precipitating an unprecedented global health and economic crisis. One of the key lessons learned early in the pandemic was the need to ensure business continuity of the critical supply lines, notably the maritime gateways, and the associated logistical chains. However, the maritime ports are also just one node in a complex logistical chain involving a number of interactions; digitization is vital to improving the competitiveness of that chain. This report highlights the immediate, short-, and medium-term measures considered necessary to strengthen the resilience of the maritime and logistics sector, to build back better, and more importantly ensure countries realize the significant potential efficiency gains of digitization. Any move towards increased digitization will require a high level of political commitment, while the establishment must have an appropriate legal, regulatory, and policy framework at the national level, across the different disciplines of the maritime, port, clearance agencies, and the transport and logistics sector.

Food systems face a daunting triple challenge requiring governments to take a more holistic approach (OECD)

Food systems face the triple challenge of providing food security and nutrition for a growing global population, and livelihoods to farmers and others working in food supply chains around the world, all while improving environmental sustainability. Given the deep connections between these objectives, governments can do much more to take into account the synergies and trade-offs that exist between the different areas, as well as the challenges for developing more coherent policy, according to a new OECD report. Making Better Policies for Food Systems brings together decades of OECD research and policy recommendations on food systems. The report underlines the long track record providing data, evidence and policy recommendations on topics ranging from agricultural productivity and trade to obesity, water use, rural development and global value chains.

Transforming agri-food systems will shape the future, FAO chief told World Economic Forum (FAO)

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, called today for coordinated joint responses and “global synergistic action before it is too late” to transform the world’s agri-food systems. Holistic changes are needed to address issues such as climate change, agricultural production, demographics, consumer demands, biodiversity, nutrition, pests and food technology, among others. “We know that the resources – intellectual, financial and material – to unlock innovation and transform agri-food systems are not lacking,” he said. Ultimately, the goal is on-the-ground livelihood improvement for rural and small-scale food producers, which can be fostered by initiatives such as online platforms for e-commerce, delivery services and marketing, and blockchain for better traceability and food safety

Noting how other panelists had discussed the role of trade and subsidies, he added that innovation is needed across the board. “We need innovation of policy, innovation of business models, innovation of financing and technology - with these four we will transform the agri-food systems.”

Climate change less likely to be seen as emergency in poor nations (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

An online UN survey, distributed through adverts in popular mobile games, shows increasingly global understanding of the climate crisis, but the highest concern is in rich nations. People living in the poorest countries are less likely to see climate change as an emergency or think it requires urgent action, the biggest-ever survey of public opinion on the issue showed on Wednesday. But despite regional differences, almost two-thirds of the 1.2 million people surveyed in about 50 nations agreed global warming was a crisis in the online “Peoples’ Climate Vote” poll conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Oxford. “There is an increasingly global understanding, and with it comes the ability to act collectively on climate change,” UNDP head Achim Steiner told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Least Developed Countries call for increased focus on climate adaptation (Modern Ghana)

The world’s least developed countries appealed to the international community for a greater focus on climate change adaptation, particularly locally-led adaptation, at the Climate Adaptation Summit held virtually this week. Bhutan, represented by Mr Sonam P. Wangdi, Chairs the Group of the 46 Least Developed Countries in the UN climate negotiations. He said: “Support for adaptation is urgently needed in the least developed countries, as our countries have low capacity to respond but have high exposure to increasingly intensifying climate impacts… Our priority is ensuring our communities and our economies can adapt to the changing climate. The climate crisis is worsening and our countries are the most vulnerable. Lives and livelihoods are at risk each day. Climate adaptation is critical for ensuring a safe future for all of our people, and future generations.”

Supply chains can be a climate game-changer. Here’s why (WEF)

For leading business executives committed to climate action, there was a silver lining in the dark cloud of 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped for the first time since the Second World War – by about 6-8%. Your company’s emissions probably went down along with everyone else’s. But most of this has happened for all the wrong reasons, and companies need ways to lower emissions that do not grow out of economic or operational disruption. Our latest analysis suggests that for many, a major opportunity lies in their supply chains.

11th Meeting of the Inclusive Framework on BEPS (OECD)

Since its formal establishment in 2016, the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Inclusive Framework has driven a sea change in international tax policy, particularly with respect to the four BEPS minimum standards that countries and jurisdictions are implementing on an equal footing. The Inclusive Framework is now grappling with an increasingly pressing task: delivering a multilateral, consensus-based solution to the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy.