tralac Daily News
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) today releases trade statistics for December 2020 recording a trade surplus of R32.00 billion. These statistics include trade data with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN). The year-to-date (01 January to 31 December 2020) trade surplus of R270.63 billion is an improvement from the R23.66 billion surplus for the comparable period in 2019. Exports increased by 21.9% year-on-year whilst imports increased by 5.7% over the same period.
The volume of human traffic and light vehicles passing through Beitbridge Border Post has relatively declined with authorities fully implementing the national lockdown regulations which among other things restricts non-essential general travel. The country moved into national lockdown level 4 on January 5, under which intercity travel, the general travel across borders is suspended, essential shop open between 8am and 3pm and there is a curfew which runs between 6pm and 6am. As it stands only Zimbabweans resident in foreign countries and those foreigners with valid work or study permits, diplomats on Government business are allowed entry
Export speed-up projects in spotlight at Richards Bay Coal Terminal (Engineering News)
South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal is going all out to raise its export efficiency in a bid to counter ship queuing. With the R1.34-billion worth of stacker reclaimers and shiploaders provided in 2018 putting in solid performances, RBCT has now turned to debottlenecking conveyor projects to speed the export side of the business. The first of these is the Conveyor 931 project and the second is the Conveyor 50/52 project.
€3m loan to support South African blueberry industry (Engineering News)
A €3-million loan to United Exports will help to support growth, exports and jobs in South Africa’s blueberry industry. South Africa’s Western Cape Department of Agriculture estimates that the country’s blueberry sector employs 5 700 people. The fruit is an increasingly important product for South Africa, with production climbing to 18 000 metric tons in 2019/20 from 11 000 the year before, according to the South Africa Berry Producers Association.
Kenya seeks G20 $298m debt holiday extension (The East African)
Kenya may receive additional debt relief from the Paris Club of international creditors to help ease Covid-19 related financial distresses. The country has already received Ksh32.9 billion (about $298.6 million) loan repayment break which it would have paid between January and June, and will make more savings if the period is extended for another six months. Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor Patrick Njoroge said an announcement extending the debt service waivers may come in April. “We should add that G20 have committed to consider if they could extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) beyond June 2021,” he said during a post monetary policy committee (MPC) briefing on Thursday.
Economy Relaxed Covid rules fail to lift economy (Business Daily)
Kenya’s economy remained in doldrums in the third quarter of 2020 despite progressive easing of lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, new data shows. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics( KNBS) said the country’s GDP contracted 1.1 per cent in the July-September 2020 period compared to a similar period a year earlier — marginally defying earlier predictions that the economy had to reached a lowest point in the second quarter and was set to begin rising. The slump was, however, softer compared with the second quarter’s 5.5 per cent plummet, aided largely by stronger performance in agricultural production and construction works.
There is now hope of Kenyan female entrepreneurs gaining more traction in the African continent’s trade sector as the African Union’s flagship project of a free trade zone takes effect. “Gender disparities have led to less women participating effectively in manufacturing and trade sectors. These are the areas we want to have addressed through AfCTA,” she said on January 26, during a webinar on the status of implementation of AfCFTA. KAM chair, Mr Mucai Kunyiha said while the agreement opens opportunities for increased intra-Africa trade, it would require traders’ innovativeness to compete with other global exporters. He called on the government and relevant agencies to avail information to all stakeholders to enable them make investment decisions.
Google has committed $10 million (1.1 billion Kenyan shillings) to support economic recovery in Kenya, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet said during a virtual meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. In September 2020, Google announced support for African businesses, job seekers and educational institutions in navigating the pandemic. Since then, the company says it has worked with over 300,000 Small and Medium Enterprises to digitize their businesses and provide them an online presence by building for the Google Business Profiles and business sites. “To continue to support the economic recovery in Kenya, we are committing an additional $10M to go towards loans for small businesses, support for tech startups, and grants for underserved communities. More to come on how we’ll help more people and businesses in Kenya and across Africa,” Pichai said during the meeting.
Over 900 MSMEs Training MoU Signed by UIA & Uganda Insurers Association (East African Business Week)
The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and Uganda Insurers Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at creating an enabling environment for doing business in Uganda by especially strengthening the intersection between investment and insurance at the Authority’s head office on Lumumba Avenue. Mr. Joseph Kiggundu, the Acting Director-General, Uganda Investment Authority, noted that itnhad already trained an estimated 600 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in various sectors across the country and was looking to train even more MSMEs under the new MOU. “Through this renewed relationship, over 900 MSMEs will be trained in Entrepreneurship skills and sensitized on the benefits of insurance which will ensure long term survival and sustainability of these enterprises,” said Mr. Kiggundu.
The bilateral trade volume between Nigeria and the Middle East reached $19.3 billion in 2019 while Nigeria’s export to China was about $2billion in the form of mineral oils and fuels, oil seeds, plastics, rubber, animal products, shipping vessels and fruits. Vice President, Strategy and Partnerships, MIE Groups, Zahoor Ahmed, revealed this at the virtual press conference organized by Zenith Exhibitions and Middle East for the inaugural edition of Connecting Trade Worldwide (CTW) with Equipment and Manufacturing West Africa (EMWA) code named EMWA & CTW Nigeria that will hold April 27 to 29, 2021, titled, “Growth and Advancement of the Industrial Sector to unlock Nigeria’s Potential,” in Lagos.
FEC Approves Policy to Stop Rejection of Nigerian Goods (THISDAYLIVE)
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved the National Quality Policy to stop rejection of Nigerian goods exported out of the country. The approval which was given during the 31st virtual meeting also included N9 billion approved for the construction of various roads and power projects across the country. “For a long time, Nigerian exporters have been suffering because of lack of quality of their goods. We felt that it was high time we actually have a policy which will create a situation whereby standard of the Nigerian goods that are exported would be raised, such that that rejection would stop,” said Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo
Nigeria Loses W’Africa Air Travel Market to Ghana (THISDAY Newspapers)
Nigeria has lost the West African air market to Ghana as today no Nigerian airline is operating to destinations such as Accra, Abidjan, Dakar, Freetown, Monrovia and the Gambia. Along with the loss of these air travel market are also businesses that were dominated by Nigerians but today, with the influx of Chinese into retail trade in the West Coast and the entrance of South African investors, Nigeria has lost huge market in the sub-region. “The downturn of Nigeria’s economy forced the country to scale back its trade in West Africa. China and South Africa entrepreneurs have moved in because of our bad economy, which became noticeable from 2016. Before then, Nigeria controlled air travel in the sub-regionl,” Uko said.
Gambia: Ministry Explains Reasons for Price Rise in Essential Food Commodities (Foroyaa Newspaper)
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE) has issued a statement explaining the causes for the recent increment of prices of some essential food commodities, which are both external and local factors. The ministry said on the domestic front, some of the trade support institutions have come up with new tariff/charges effective 1st January 2021. These new measures affect the overall cost structure of the importers of essential food commodities. “The Gambia Revenue Authority has re-introduced the 20% reduction on the indicative value for all imports including the imports of essential commodities. There was 20% reduction on the indicative value of all imports as a government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The re-introduction of 20% on the indicative value will increase the general CIF duty payable to GRA on essential food commodities by 20%,” the dispatch added.
In comparison to previous years, Togo has significantly improved its ranking under the “Trading across borders” indicator by adopting multiple reforms that focus mainly on the digitization and reduction in delays, for import and export procedures related to import and export. In comparison to previous years, Togo has significantly improved its ranking on the “Trading across borders” index by adopting multiple reforms that focus mainly on the digitalization and reduction in delays, for import and export procedures related to import and export.
During the event, Paul Mullard, senior advisor at the UK Department for International Trade (DIT), said that the Egypt-UK agreement provides confidence to business and trade between the two countries. It will ensure that it continues on almost the same terms as secured in the EU-Egypt Association Agreement. The current agreement also provides an opportunity to focus more on exploring different ways of enhancing the trade relations between both sides. “The trade between the two parties stood at about £3.6bn in 2019, of which £2.4bn was in trade and goods,” Iman Refaat Nasr, General Director of Trade in Goods, Trade Agreements and the Foreign Trade sector at Egypt’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said. “This represented only 8% of Egypt’s trade with the EU in 2019.”
News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations
The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Future Investment Initiative (FII) and OriginAll S.A. announced today a partnership representing a historic effort and opportunity to harness their respective strengths in an effort to eradicate counterfeit and illicitly traded products from the AfCFTA nations. “Counterfeiters and illicit traders have been taking advantage of our continent for centuries, depriving our nations from substantial revenues, fostering corruption and costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of African citizens every year. This can no longer be tolerated, it needs to stop, and it must stop now. We must put our national interests and the safety of African citizens first.” Said H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA. “I am proud to be at the forefront of this initiative and grateful to our friends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for standing by our side during this historic moment,” the Secretary General added.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, the organizer of the Kingdom’s flagship forum taking place in Riyadh this week, on Wednesday signed a number of major agreements, including a partnership aimed at protecting over 1.2 billion people from counterfeit and illicit trade in Africa. Addressing a press conference on the second day of the fourth FII forum, Richard Attias, CEO of the institute, announced the three initiatives. The first is a letter of intent between the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Swiss tech company OriginAll and the FII Institute, to develop technology aimed at protecting people from 54 African nations from counterfeit and illicitly traded products.
The Executive Director of the AfCTFA Policy Network, Louis Yaw Afful, has called on various Ministries of Trade and trade establishments of party states of AfCTFA to publish their tariff offers, which are the list of products that each country says it is ready to liberalize under the 90% tariff liberalization. He believes, this will make businesses abreast with products that fall within the 10% exclusive or sensitive categories and will attract duties when exported. “Local businesses should know what products have been liberalized so that when products are coming from other countries they can be able to identify the products which are under the exclusives and therefore know whether they will be allowed into the country.”
The number of countries that have ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is approaching 40 with the continent’s leadership showing immense political will towards achieving its aspirations. The African Union Commission’s (AUC) Trade Commissioner, Albert Muchanga, said during an Invest in Africa webinar on Wednesday that five countries had indicated their intention to ratify the agreement soon, joining the 35 nations that have already ratified and deposited their instruments. “Right now I’ve got firm assurances from Zambia, Tanzania, Somalia, Algeria and Morocco that in due course they would deposit their instruments of ratification,” he said.
AfCFTA improves Africa’s trade profile, investment attractiveness (Engineering News)
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) helps to improve the attractiveness of Africa for investors, as the potential markets companies can tap have become much larger. This also places the continent in a stronger position to negotiate fair trade terms with other countries and blocs, African Union Commission (AUC) Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga said during a seminar on January 27. Companies can already start to trade in goods that have been designated under the rules of origin protocols, with the finalised agreement on rules of origins expected to be tabled before the AUC in June. “The rules of origin protect Africa from transshipments − imported goods that are not produced within the continent, but [whose manufacturers] want to take advantage of the larger addressable markets. This is done on a product-by-product basis, and rules of origin and local content requirements for products in 85% of sectors have been finalised, allowing traders to immediately benefit from trading them within Africa,” he noted.
AfCFTA offers opportunities for youth, women-led firms (Business Daily)
On January 1, 2021, African countries officially opened their markets under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) pact and duty-free trading of goods and services across borders. On this same day, the United Kingdom’s Brexit kicked-off, officially marking the end of the frosty UK-European Union relationship. The opening up of free trade area offers youth and women in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) greater opportunity to be principal players in regional value chains by opening up continental markets for supplying inputs to larger enterprises in cross-border trade. With the digital economy and e-commerce growing fervently, youth and women will benefit immensely by leveraging on Africa’s digital infrastructure to maximise existing opportunities through AfCFTA.
Top Issues to Watch in Africa: 2021 (Lexology)
Can African governments head off a sustained spike in the spread of COVID-19 and recover economically in 2021? How will the Biden administration engage the continent? Will companies implement more effective due diligence efforts in their supply chains to prevent human rights abuses? What impact will efforts to battle corruption and mitigate climate change have in the coming year? Covington’s Africa Practice offers insights on these questions and other key issues that will define 2021 on the continent.
Africa’s Opportunity (Project Syndicate)
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened Africa’s political and economic problems, and increased its funding needs, the crisis may yet trigger bold initiatives in international relations, trade, debt sustainability, and foreign investment. Will Africa and the world seize the chance to chart a new and better course?
In this Big Picture, Harvard University’s Célestin Monga urges US President Joe Biden’s administration to rekindle the US-Africa relationship at the symbolic, strategic, and operational levels. Likewise, Carlos Lopes of the University of Cape Town shows why Africa and the European Union – the region’s main trade and investment partner – should revamp their ties and build a stronger, more equal partnership. And Hippolyte Fofack of the African Export-Import Bank and Pat Utomi of the African Union’s Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee explain why Africa must demand a level playing field from the World Trade Organization.
Turning to the pandemic’s impact on debt sustainability, Paola Subacchi of the University of London’s Queen Mary Global Policy Institute warns that repayment moratoria for African countries, including under the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), will not solve the problems caused by large-scale Chinese lending. Even if the DSSI is fully implemented, argue Brahima Coulibaly of the Brookings Institution, former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Vera Songwe of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, multilateral lenders will still need to close Africa’s pandemic-response funding gap.
But Johns Hopkins University’s Anne O. Krueger doubts that the DSSI’s shortcomings reflect its limited scope and scale. She argues that rich countries should provide poorer ones with pandemic-related necessities, rather than relying on imprecise debt-relief efforts that relieve pressure on governments to embrace growth-enhancing reforms. In a similar vein, the Ecobank Foundation’s Carl Manlan and Efosa Ojomo of the Clayton Christensen Institute urge African leaders to emulate China and target the continent’s 165-million-strong diaspora in order to attract more foreign direct investment.
The benefits of intra-regional trade are well known, and some examples already exist on the continent. Trademark East Africa, an initiative supported by the UK government that is aimed at driving trade across the East African community, has been effective in increasing trade flows and reducing trade costs by up to 10%. This initiative should be scaled to other regions in Africa to supplement AfCFTA and accelerate its rollout. Although the initial benefits will stem from increased intra-African trade, we believe that AfCFTA also provides a huge opportunity to boost the UK-Africa trade corridor. It will also stimulate significant investments into the continent, particularly in sectors such as technology, manufacturing and infrastructure.
One of the lessons from COVID-19 is that we need each other, and partnerships between nations and the private and public sectors are critical. Private sector-led economic growth, enabled by market-friendly policies, should be the template for public-private partnerships in Africa.
As forecast in 2020, Africa is coming up short in the Covid-19 environment, fiscally and in terms of social policy provisions. Governments on the continent are scrambling to secure Covid-19 vaccine supplies while confronting the economic fallout flowing from the pandemic. In addition to these considerations, the climate crisis is another factor that looms large for the region.
African leaders and representatives from the development community, civil society and private sector came together on Thursday for a symposium to celebrate two decades of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a flagship program of the African Union. Participants commended the African Development Bank highly for its role in financing infrastructure and agricultural programs on the continent. The organization was relaunched as the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) in 2018, which participants noted was a turning point in its evolution. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on African economies, on public health and indeed the African Union itself. It has served as a stark reminder of our global interconnectedness because, in the end, what affects one, affects us all.”
To better understand the extent of the challenge of unemployment on the continent, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) launched the PIDA Job Creation Toolkit during the 5th PIDA Week held in Egypt, Cairo, in 2019. The PIDA Job Creation Toolkit is an innovative tool for tracking the impact of regional infrastructure development projects on the African labour market. Providing an overview of the toolkit, Dr. Nyirenda-Jere noted that it has the following functionalities, among others: Estimating the number of jobs created by the infrastructure project during its life cycle from project preparation to commissioning; Maximising jobs by suggesting steps to be taken such as skills developments and policy inclusivity to create secondary jobs resulting from anticipated improved infrastructure services; and Building scenarios for job creation in infrastructure projects through features such as suggesting female suppliers for procurement needs in the supply chain.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Project Preparation Development Facility (SADC-PPDF) continues to support SADC Member States to strengthen regional infrastructure connectivity by providing grants for project preparation and development for cross-border regional infrastructure projects in energy, transport, information communication technologies (ICT) and trans-boundary water. According to a report by the SADC Executive Secretary for the financial year 2019/2020, by 2019, PPDF had approved a total of Euro 20 million for the preparation of 13 regional projects covering energy, transport and water which are expected to generate US$4.81billion in infrastructure investment. This has the huge potential of unlocking business opportunities across the infrastructure value chain, not just in advisory services, but also financing, construction, equipment supply, technology and skills as well as operations and maintenance.
The East African Legislative Assembly today reconsidered and approved the EAC Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2020/21, amounting to USD 97,669,708, at a Special Sitting held virtually. With it, the Assembly further enacted the recommitted EAC Appropriation Bill, 2020. Under the 2020/21 vote, the EAC Secretariat is to receive USD 48,564,401, while the East African Legislative Assembly gets USD 16,755,725. The East African Court of Justice is expected to benefit from the kitty, earning USD 3,970,406, while USD 8,380,057 is earmarked for the Lake Victoria Basin Commission. The Assembly further approved USD 1,536,751 for the activities of the East African Science and Technology Commission, and USD 1,399,318 for the activities of the East African Kiswahili Commission.
Technology Unlocking Trade Value in East Africa (East African Business Week)
The latest data – and the region’s continued focus on transforming its key industries, sectors, and infrastructure through technology – is giving me hope that the economic outlook is brightening. Trade-in East Africa has already picked up: according to the Brookings Institute, after an initial drop in trade in Kenya during the early months of the pandemic, by July domestic exports were already 12.7% higher compared to the year before. For countries and ports of trade that have updated their infrastructure through investments into new technology, these income gains will be easier to realize.
Efficiency should be a top priority. Increasing the volume of containers passing through regional ports could hold huge financial benefits. PwC estimates that sub-Saharan Africa could save $2.2-billion in costs per year if container throughput is doubled at major ports. In addition, improving port performance by 25% can reduce the price of imported goods in the region by $3.2-billion per year while adding $2.6-billion to the value of exports. Automation is also key. Africa’s long-term reliance on slow, manual processes has stunted the growth of trade at its ports. The turnaround time for vessels at African ports – the time it takes to port, offloads cargo, reloads, and departs – averages five days. In addition, deploying new technologies could help solve efficiency and productivity issues at key ports of trade.
East African Businesses adopt digital solutions amid covid-19 (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation)
Business Membership Organizations (BMOs) in the East African region are adopting Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software technologies, in a bid to improve service provision to businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows a two-day training by the East African Business Council (EABC) in partnership with GIZ- Business Scouts for Development and the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Speaking during the opening session of the training, EABC CEO Dr. Peter Mathuki urged East African companies to adopt digital business models to improve business resilience and continuity amid the pandemic. “COVID-19 has brought forth opportunities in e-commerce, which have significantly scaled down the cost of doing business by automating manual office operations and reducing human interaction hence increasing productivity and efficiency,” he said.
Three ways West Africa’s digitalisation can improve (The Africa Report)
According to a report by the African Union and the OECD, a shift to digitalisation is essential for successful development in West Africa. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a strong incentive to the African Union (AU) and the EU to push the continent to accelerate its digital shift by implementing remote learning, retail and production. On 19 January, the AU’s Department of Economic Affairs and the OECD published a report on the dynamics of development in Africa. The report argues that productivity gains and the added value of digital technology are essential for the successful implementation of “Agenda 2063” to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future, and provide tens of millions of young people entering the labour market with stable and gainful employment. Digital transformation improves corporate governance and, most importantly, increases their profits by an average of 20%.
Europe should move away from a donor-recipient relationship with Africa and cooperate as equals instead, EU lawmakers have said in a new report adopted on Thursday (28 January). “Europe and Africa need each other; a new and equal partnership must reflect this,” said Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a French centrist MEP. In its report on a new EU-Africa partnership, the European Parliament’s development committee called for substantial funds to be earmarked in the upcoming budget designed to support the EU’s foreign policy. Among their recommendations, MEPs call for long-term EU financial and technical support for African countries to boost climate adaptation; EU support for African regional integration to help reduce dependence on foreign imports; and for the EU to support the new African continental free trade area which was launched in January.
Empowering Africa: MEPs vote on strategy for a new EU-Africa partnership (European Parliament)
On Thursday, MEPs adopted a wide-ranging strategy on a new EU-Africa partnership by 20 votes, with two votes against and three abstentions. The strategy emphasises the need to go beyond simply cooperating on issues such as the green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance and migration. As well as addressing these areas, listed by the Commission and the European External Action Service, human development must be central to future EU-Africa relations, said MEPs, who welcome this fresh approach to the relationship. The future partnership should prioritise education, including teacher training, reducing early school leaving, and concentrate on the inclusion of girls. It should also aim to improve health care and national health systems.
AU urges to waiver TRIPS obligations in response to COVID-19 (Devdiscourse)
Chairperson of the African Union (AU), President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the World Trade Organization to waiver specific Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) obligations related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 for a defined period. Together with India, South Africa has proposed a TRIPS waiver in response to the pandemic. “We need more countries to support this initiative. This would enable countries in Africa and elsewhere to access active pharmaceutical ingredients and benefit from technology transfer, including the know-how to manufacture vaccines in Africa at a cheaper cost,” he said.
Zim joins India, SA in trade waiver efforts (The Herald)
Zimbabwe has joined South Africa, India and other countries in sponsoring the proposed waiver from certain provisions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of Covid-19. The waiver is aimed at fast-tracking local production to ensure equitable distribution and easy accessibility of vaccine and other medicines as efforts to curb the Covid-19 virus intensify. Addressing IP barriers is central to countries’ ability to manufacture, import and export Covid-19 medical products while TRIPS flexibilities play an important role in promoting access, in the current context of a pandemic and global demand, simply relying on such flexibilities to overcome IP barriers would be insufficient.
African officials say they are working to acquire hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for the continent over the next year and are urging African solidarity in the battle against coronavirus. Dr. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), says health facilities across the vast continent have conducted 30 million tests — the bulk of them in 10 countries, including South Africa, the continent’s coronavirus hotspot. Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda also conducted tests. Nkengasong noted that much more needs to be done. He added that the private sector is also pitching in, with telecom giant MTN this week donating $25 million to the African Union’s (AU) efforts to secure vaccines for the continent’s 3 million health care workers.
In 2020, faced with grave and complex environment both at home and abroad and the huge impact of the epidemic in particular, the Chinese government has taken resolute and swift actions to contain the virus spread, and taken solid measures to stabilize employment, finance, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment and market expectations, and fully safeguard employment, people’s livelihood, market entities, food and energy security, stability of industrial and supply chains and operations at grassroots levels. Foreign trade achieved positive growth. The total value of imports and exports of goods was 32,155.7 billion yuan, an increase of 1.9 percent. The trade balance stood at 516.8 billion yuan in surplus.
UN Women, Standard Bank programme provides leg up for women farmers (Engineering News)
Despite the many challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, financial services provider Standard Bank and United Nations (UN) Women have made progress in equipping women farmers with the skills and resources needed to grow their businesses and succeed over the long term. Women play a vital role in the agricultural industry in Africa, growing about 70% of the continent’s food, yet they are the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change, Standard Bank corporate and investment banking for agribusiness executive Linda Manda said during a roundtable discussion of the programme on January 27.
3 pioneering African nations embrace gene editing to boost food security, farmer incomes (Genetic Literacy Project)
Kenya, Nigeria and Eswatini are taking the lead on genome editing in Africa as they see its potential in boosting food security and increasing farmers’ incomes. To aid this advance, the three African nations have made significant progress in establishing guidelines to regulate gene editing and gene drive, whereas other countries are taking the direction of case-by-case regulation. Kenya, in its drive to become a middle-income country, is strengthening its biosafety framework to facilitate the adoption of crops developed through the tools of biotechnology. Kenya is now leading African countries since it has begun drafting guidelines to regulate gene-edited products, using procedures in Argentina as a model. The draft guidelines define what needs to be regulated, what is partially regulated and what is not regulated at all.
Africa’s Great Green Wall to see quicker growth with new $16 billion (Landscape News)
The Great Green Wall for the Sahel and the Sahara Initiative, which seeks to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land and create 10 million green jobs by 2030, has entered a new phase with partners pledging USD 16.85 billion in international finance for the Wall’s 11 involved countries over the next five years. To date, 4 percent of the Wall is estimated to be complete, bumped to 18 percent when taking into account associated improvements outside the direct intervention areas. The funding, which makes up more than 30 percent of USD 33 billion needed to reach the end line, seeks to bring rural development initiatives to scale in a region ravaged by the combined effects of drought, poverty and food insecurity.
The WTO Chairs Programme aims to enhance understanding of the multilateral trading system among academics and policy makers in developing countries through curriculum development, research and outreach activities by universities and research institutions. Through a variety of case studies, the book illustrates how countries in different regions view the opportunities and challenges of digital technologies and how policy makers are responding to them. The publication, entitled “Adapting to the digital trade era: challenges and opportunities”, considers how technological advancement such as the growth of e-commerce and the development of blockchain technology may contribute to inclusive growth. It also looks into what needs to be done at the domestic and regional level to take full advantage of the opportunities offered in the new digital trade era.
The European Union put forward a proposal calling on the WTO Secretariat to prepare a compendium document containing the contributions of COVID-19 responses that members and observers have provided to the committee. The compendium would help identify key difficulties and challenges members and businesses have encountered when importing or exporting goods during the crisis as well as particular reforms and changes members and businesses have made in response. Such a compilation would constitute a good basis to discuss recommendations to address the ongoing pandemic, the EU said.
WTO to take up India, South Africa’s TRIPS waiver plea (Economic Times)
The World Trade Organization will next week take up a proposal by India and South Africa for temporary waiver of some TRIPS Agreement provisions to ensure all countries have access to Covid-19 vaccines and medicines. The meeting is scheduled for February 4. The proposed game-changing waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) would enable free flow of medicines, Covid-19 therapeutics and technology transfer across the world, experts said. The move comes at a time when global drug makers involved in the development of Covid-19 therapeutics have refused to give up the patents over their products despite receiving funding from public institutions to develop them, aid organisations said.
Investment in Upskilling Could Boost Global GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030 (Modern Diplomacy)
Accelerated investment in upskilling and reskilling of workers could add at least $6.5 trillion to global GDP, create 5.3 million (net) new jobs by 2030 and help develop more inclusive and sustainable economies worldwide. These are the key findings of a World Economic Forum report published today. The report, Upskilling for Shared Prosperity, authored in collaboration with PwC, finds that accelerated skills enhancement would ensure that people have the experience and skills needed for the jobs created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – boosting global productivity by 3%, on average, by 2030. The newly created jobs will be those that are complemented and augmented – rather than replaced – by technology.
In the payments industry, they’re known as remittances. But for the recipients of the cross-border money transfers and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments usually associated with developing economies, they are lifelines. They have provided critical support for those developing markets during the pandemic and will continue their importance after the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, a report by Oxford Economics, commissioned by Western Union, has found.
China has reiterated its pledge of “making COVID-19 vaccines a public good,” while calling for joint global efforts to fight the pandemic even as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a worsening “vaccine divide” between rich and poor nations. “It is important to scale up cooperation in vaccine development, production and distribution, and make it truly accessible and affordable to people across the world,” Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed in his speech at the virtual Davos Agenda 2021 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday. He asserted that “containing the coronavirus is the most pressing task for the international community.”