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tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

Country focus

SA expands trade relations across three continents (News24)

South Africa is one of three key markets to join the World Logistics Passport Global Reach Programme, a trade-boosting programme aimed at increasing trade spanning nine countries across three continents. Mike Bhaskaran, CEO of the World Logistics Passport, said the trade programme was a major policy initiative established to increase trading opportunities between emerging markets. Bhaskaran said South Africa, India and Indonesia joined Colombia, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Uruguay and the UAE in a club of trading nations sharing expertise to smooth trade flows around the world.

“The World Logistics Passport increases resilience in global supply chains and removes the barriers that prevent developing economies from trading as freely as they might, which is more important than ever as governments around the world seek to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19,” said

Can SA trust the EU’s commitment to fair trade? (BusinessLIVE)

The EU would appear to have one rule for the 27 member states with its trade defence policies, and quite another when it comes to its behaviour towards SA. The EU has emphasised once again its commitment to fair trade. One of SA’s new year hopes would be that it lives up to this commitment in 2021. For some in SA, and particularly its poultry industry, the EU has a history of saying one thing and doing something completely different.

SA’s new energy path gains momentum (Mail & Guardian)

South Africa is on track to meet its post Covid-19 energy needs while reducing its dependence on coal in the current low economic growth scenario, but also when economic growth accelerates in the second half of the decade to 2030. This was affirmed by Minister for Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe when he spoke at the third South African Investment Conference (SAIC), held virtually in November last year.

“Energy security in the context of the IRP 2019 is defined as South Africa developing adequate generation capacity to meet its demand for electricity, under both the current low-growth economic environment, and even when the economy turns.” The IRP sets South Africa on a path to pursue a diversified energy mix that reduces reliance on a single or a few primary energy sources. South Africa has a particular need to reduce its dependence on coal in order to reduce emissions. In order to achieve this goal, the IRP allocates the biggest growth to renewable energy for the next decade.

Namibia: Ministry embarks on broader consultation for national budget (New Era)

The Ministry of Finance, which has commenced with drawing up the 2021/22 National Budget, has urged all Namibians to ensure their voices are heard through a broadened open budget initiative. The 2021/22 budget, tentatively scheduled to be tabled by mid-March, is expected to be severely constrained due to subdued economic activity that has seen revenue decrease significantly.

Rich Kenyans triple dollar deposits in pandemic era (Business Daily)

Well-off individuals and companies seeking to safeguard their wealth tripled their dollar deposits to Sh88.1 billion in dollars in the nine months to November last year when Kenya’s economy was in a Covid-linked slump and the shilling weakened steeply against the greenback. Latest data by the Central Bank of Kenya(CBK) shows that the value of dollars stockpiled in banks crossed a record Sh714 billion in November compared to Sh625.9 billion in February just before the country reported its first case of Covid-19 infection on March 13 —triggering restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. The value of the dollar deposits between February and November 2020 represents a 219 percent leap when compared to a similar period of the previous year when the equivalent of Sh27.63 billion was banked.

Tourism gropes in the dark of losses related to Covid-19 (The East African)

Kenya’s hoteliers estimate the country lost in excess of Ksh150 billion ($1.36 billion) in tourism earnings to the Covid-19 pandemic as the tourism industry collapsed across the world. The sector is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange, earning Ksh163.56 billion ($1.54 billion) in 2019, and and which had been expected to grow by one percent in 2020. Tourism contributes 10 per cent of Kenya’s annual GDP and employs over two million people. However, restrictions on travel to combat Covid-19 reduced airline travel and accelerated cancellations of hotel reservations. These measures continue to affect receipts, thereby reducing foreign exchange inflows, and impact service sector-related employment in East African countries with a high dependence on tourism.

Kenya extends e-passport migration deadline to December (Business Daily)

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i displays the new e-passport launched at the Nairobi immigration offices on August 31, 2017. PHOTO | NMG The government has extended the deadline for migrating to the e-passport by another 10 months due to disruptions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i made the announcement on Thursday, saying the new deadline is December 31. Kenya has been phasing out the old-generation passports as part of a binding commitment to migrate to the new EA e-passport.

Flower jobs surpass pre-Covid-19 levels (Business Daily)

Flower firms are now employing more people than they did in the pre-Covid period, signalling the continued recovery of the sector that was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. A survey of flower farms carried out by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) ahead of last week’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting showed that the number of workers currently employed exceeds the headcount in February 2020 by 13 percent.

“Relative to the employment numbers by the farms in February, the survey findings show that employment has recovered and exceeded the pre-Covid (February) levels, averaging 113 per cent in December 2020 and January 2021, compared to 87 per cent in November 2020, and 69 per cent in April,” said CBK in the survey.

According to the CBK survey, the flower sector employs over 500,000 people, including over 100,000 engaged directly in flower farms, and impacts over two million livelihoods indirectly.

Investment in infrastructure, innovation now our digital-era focus, (IPPMedia)

Kamando said in Dar es Salaam earlier this week that digital revolution is the backbone of economic, technological and social prosperity after the industrial revolution. He said the importance of digital transformation is crucial for any modern company and more so for the telecommunication industry that has played a central role in rolling out digital solutions in the market. “One of the fundamental pillars of creating a digital society is investing in world-class infrastructure and we have invested heavily on this to build a state of the art network that offers the best user experience,” Kamando said.

Uganda: Government projects public debt to rise to 54.1 per cent by 2023 (Daily Monitor)

Rising expenditure pressures resulting from the need to finance infrastructure projects and an increase in Covid-19 related borrowing will push Uganda’s public debt to 54.1 per cent by the end of the 2022/23 financial year, according projections by the Ministry of Finance. Details contained in the Debt Sustainability Analysis report authored by the Ministry of Finance, indicates that public debt is projected to increase to 49.9 per cent of gross domestic product by June 2021, before peaking to 54.1 per cent by the end of 2022/23 financial year. In the next few years, the Ministry of Finance said, public debt is projected to increase on the account of an increase in the pace of borrowing to finance infrastructure projects, especially in the transport and oil and gas sectors.

Gold makes 44 per cent of Uganda’s export earnings (Daily Monitor)

Gold massively outperformed other export with cumulative earnings hitting $1.7b (Shs6.3 trillion) for the period between December 2019 and November 2020. The earnings represent a 44 per cent contribution out of total exports, which during the period stood at $3.8b (Shs14.3 trillion), according to data from Bank of Uganda. Gold has in the last five years become Uganda’s largest export overtaking coffee, which during the period earned $509m (Shs1.8 trillion), representing a percentage contribution of 13 per cent.

Road Concession: Fed Govt Expecting N1trn Private Sector Investments (Economic Confidential)

The Federal Government is expecting over N1tn from the private sector for the development and maintenance of the 12 highways that it selected for concession under the Highway Development Management Initiative. It was gathered in Abuja on Wednesday that with the funds from private investors, government would be free of the burden of maintaining and rehabilitating the identified roads. It was reported late last month that the Federal Government would receive the Outline Business Case Certificate of Compliance for 12 pilot federal highways billed for concession.


News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations

Spotlight on the African Union

COVID-19 has not diverted AU’s attention from Africa’s priority issues, says Mahamat (Vanguard)

Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Mahamat on Friday said that “exceptional situation’’ caused by COVID-19 has not diverted the bloc’s attention from Africa’s priority issues. Although the COVID-19 pandemic “has totally changed the working methods of the AU, it has not diverted the attention of the Union from the continent’s priority issues,’’ Mahamat said during the 38th Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council held on Wednesday and Thursday. Mahamat expressed his hope that “the year 2021, in spite of the concerns related to new variants of COVID-19, will be prosperous and more fruitful in terms of achieving the developmental objectives of the continent and the world in general.’’ Listing a set of achievements in regional integration such as the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market.

AU chair admits failures in first term as he seeks second chance (The East African)

African Union Commission boss Moussa Faki Mahamat says the continental body failed to attain some of its goals, including ending violence as a result of “emerging threats”, which overwhelmed member states.

In a speech to African Union’s group of Foreign Ministers on Wednesday, Mr Mahamat said Africa will have to address old and new problems at the same time, if at all the continent can end continual violence. Ahead of the virtual Assembly of Heads of State on February 6, Mr Faki listed the continental free trade area agreement (AfCTA) launched last month, launch of protocol on free movement and the Single African Air Transport Markey (SAATM), concerted efforts to fight disease outbreaks as well as counter-terrorism measures among his successes.

“The year 2020 was initially scheduled as a cut-off year to silence the guns on the Continent, the year from which democratic peace would function as a powerful lever for justice and socio-economic development. Looking at the state of affairs, I note that we have moved only half way,” he told the Foreign Ministers during a virtual sitting of the African Union Executive Council, the second highest organ of the African Union.

Opening Remarks by H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat at the 38th Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council

For my part, my Statement will focus on a very succinct presentation of the outcome of the areas of activity of the last four years. Regional integration, Infrastructures, Democratic governance, Peace and security, Institutional reform, Health, Social affairs, Science and innovation, Environment, Food self-sufficiency, bringing the AU closer to the peoples and finally the assertion of Africa on the world stage are the salient features of these priorities.

The panorama of Regional integration, during the term of office, was enriched by a set of achievements, the most striking of which are, among others, the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched on 1 January, the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), the adoption of the Protocol on Free Movement and the guidelines for the African Passport….. The progress, if remarkable, still challenges us strongly by the problems which block their effective development. For example, the optimal functioning of the African Continental Free Trade Area depends on two key prerequisites, namely on the one hand, the entry into force of the Protocol on Free movement, whose ratification rate is still below the required threshold and on the other hand the full commitment of all stakeholders, both public and private sector.

Minister Naledi Pandor: 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council | South African Government

We are meeting in the context of our global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had severe effects on our countries and yet it has also united us in a manner reminiscent of the solidarity that the OAU led against apartheid South Africa. While we are not yet at a level that allows a focus on post COVID recovery, it will be logical to use our precious unity to devise solutions that allow Africa to grow together.

Beyond the pandemic, we also have to ensure our AU executes our agreed reform agenda effectively. We have adopted many decisions since launching the AU, yet we have not yet build fully functional machinery with quality execution, appropriate financial administration and management and a key focus on development. We have made progress in 2021. The implementation phase of the AfCFTA is underway and that is history. We call on AU Member States to finalise all the outstanding issues by June 2021, as agreed during the Extraordinary Summit of 5 December 2021. The vision of Agenda 2063 is realisable if we act with energy and determination.

5 Great Things the African Union Has Achieved This Year (Global Citizen)

South Africa’s run as chair of the African Union (AU) will come to an end this week at the African Union Summit, which takes place over the weekend — with the role to be taken over by the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Cyril Ramaphosa took over as AU Chair in February last year and was welcomed to the position at the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The year that followed tested the African continent on several fronts as the pandemic highlighted gaps in Africa’s health care systems and lack of economic and social development.

As the pandemic persisted throughout the year, these priorities naturally had to shift to include Africa’s pandemic strategy and continental relief from the pandemic’s impacts. In a short space of time, the South African president managed to lay down the groundwork for most of his initial priorities and has implemented strategies for the continent to continue responding to the pandemic after his chairmanship.

African Union Summit is an opportunity to make good on anti-corruption convention commitments (Transparency International)

African leaders meeting this week at the African Union Summit must redouble their efforts to tackle the root causes and enabling factors of corruption, Transparency International said today. A recent Transparency International report into implementation of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC) in ten countries shows much room for improvement. The report finds gaps in enforcement and implementation of AUCPCC Articles related to money laundering, illicit enrichment, political party funding, and space for civil society and media.

Read the report: Implementing and Enforcing the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption: a Comparative Review

The African Union: What role in tackling Africa’s challenges? – ECDPM

The African Union (AU) represents different things to different people. For some, it is a core part of the development landscape in Africa – a symbol of pan-Africanism, continental collective action and aspirations for ‘The Africa We Want’. Others know of its existence but are less sure of its relevance, or how its programmes and policies could or should affect what they experience day to day in their own countries. For others who seek to support African development and international partnerships, the AU is a natural counterpart to the European Union – two continental unions, seeking similar goals. Though all of these partially reflect reality, both in Africa and Europe we see a need to better explain and understand what the African Union does and how it works. This virtual guide aims to do just that.

Connecting African citizens with African decisions - ISS Africa

To be effective, the African Union (AU) needs to become more accessible, responsive and relevant to the average African citizen. This means we need more information about and involvement in the AU’s decision-making processes. The AU summit on 6 and 7 February is an opportunity to remind Africa’s leaders of that. Member states gathered at the summit will no doubt reflect on their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the African Continental Free Trade Area which was launched on 1 January this year. They’re also expected to discuss the implementation of the AU Commission’s long-awaited structural reforms, and elect new AU Commission leaders. Heads of state should use this summit to discuss the importance of multilateral institutions in Africa and the continent’s quest to make them more effective. By pooling ideas, goals and resources, multilateralism and its institutions can make a vital contribution to the continent’s future.


‘AfCFTA represents path to the Africa we want’ - Wendell Addy (GhanaWeb)

The immediate past president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Judson Wendell Addy, has urged the continent to work towards establishing an enabling environment that will help foster the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). According to him, African leaders will have to demonstrate political will to be able to achieve integration for the economic development and transformation of the continent.

“AfCFTA is the path to the Africa we want, so we have to put in all the enablers to have it function. We need to encourage our political leaders to give us the reforms that we need,” he said. “We have to address unrest, policies that should be common across the border, currency issues, banking and transactions. There is a whole range of things that have to be addressed to serve the role of trade integration.”

“Inasmuch as we want to have a common market, if we don’t position ourselves well, it is our former masters who are going to benefit more.”

Standard Chartered host client conference on African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) (The Nation Newspaper)

As part of Standard Chartered’s knowledge, capacity building and developmental initiatives across its local markets, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria (SCB) hosted a virtual conference for clients and stakeholders on 21st January, 2021. The conference was organized to discuss the Implications of a Single Continental Market for Nigerian businesses on the back of the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement on 1st January, 2021. The virtual conference was a unique opportunity for the Bank to re-reinforce its brand promise and commitment to driving commerce and prosperity across Africa which remains a strategic region for the Bank’s for trade and investments priorities. AfCFTA is expected to facilitate the creation of a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of people and investment capital, thus deepening economic integration of member countries and expanding intra-African trade across the continent. Experts believe that full implementation of the agreement will provide growth opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses, boost industrialization, increase investment opportunities and technology transfers.

African Integration: A priority economic growth lever for the African Development Bank (Born2Invest)

Regional integration has been an integral part of the mandate of the African Development Bank Group since its inception. In this regard, it figures prominently among the five operational priorities of the institution. The Bank supports the African Union’s Vision 2063 and is fully committed to the advent of a Continental Free Trade Area (FTAAf) so that countries can benefit from the opportunities offered by a large regional market and the spillovers of stimulated intra-regional trade.

Aid to Africa was in decline even before the pandemic (ONE Campaign)

The OECD DAC, which tracks official development assistance (ODA) spending, has released the latest global aid figures. Due to a lag in reporting and analysis, these only cover through the end of 2019, but they paint a grim picture for what development assistance looked like in the lead up to the global pandemic. While overall global aid totalled US$151.7 billion, aid fell far short of commitments, and what’s more, development assistance to Africa and the most vulnerable countries declined.

UN FAO estimates that Africa loses about 4 billion dollars worth of food production - SABC News

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that Africa loses at least 4 billion dollars worth of its total food production to post harvest losses. Yet the solution would be as simple as getting farmers to process their produce, value addition, before sending it to the market. That is what one local government in Kenya is doing with mango’s, changing fortunes for farmers.

Ghana-UK Joint Statement: Ghana-UK Trade Partnership Agreement (GOV.UK)

On 31 December 2020, Ghana and the UK announced that they had reached a consensus on the main elements of a trade agreement that would replicate the effects of the trade relationship between Ghana and the UK prior to the end of the Transition Period following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. They stated their intention to finalise the text of the agreement to reflect progress made in relation to rules of origin, cumulation arrangements, time-bound commitments, provisions for development cooperation and commitments to human rights and good governance. Today Ghana and the UK are pleased to announce that they have finalised negotiations on a new Interim Ghana-UK Trade Partnership Agreement. This Agreement will provide for duty free and quota free access for Ghana to the UK market and preferential tariff reductions for UK exporters to the Ghanaian market. The Agreement will enter into effect following the completion of relevant internal procedures required in both Ghana and the UK.

Trade with America thrived under Trump (Mail & Guardian)

Long-held simmering mistrust between the ANC and the US government was further fuelled when the White House seemed to take up the cause of the small but loud right-wing group AfriForum when Trump stated that he had instructed his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to look into the situation, specifically claims of land expropriation, in South Africa.

Given this, one would expect that the Trump years would have been a period of diminishing trade between the two countries. Yet this was not the case. To be sure, the past four years have been characterised by commercial difficulty. As somewhat expected, the Trump administration slapped South Africa with a steel tariff for about a year under the pretext of “national security” concerns. This was an odd claim, given that South Africa represented at most 2% of US steel imports, whereas countries with higher shares were exempted from the tariff. Following the efforts of the department of trade and industry, the tariff was revoked in early 2019. Unexpectedly, however, the trade between the two countries grew substantially over the 2017-2020 period.

Over 1,000 Financial Stakeholders Participate in the Arab-Africa Trade Bridges Program Investment Pillar Webinar Aimed at Growing Regional Trade Investment and Technology Transfer | Africanews

Under the umbrella of the Arab-Africa Trade Bridges (AATB) Program, three IsDB Group Private Sector Entities hosted a webinar on key trade finance and investment components aimed at fostering regional trade. The entities included the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) (www.ITFC-IDB.org), the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) in collaboration with IsDB Group Business Forum “THIQAH”. Over 1,000 development institutions, sovereign funds, banks, investment and private equity companies, and key government and corporate sector representatives were in attendance.

Key outcomes from this session noted considerable progress in terms of launching and implementing the projects involving the growth of trade investment and technology transfer between Arab and African countries. The session also addressed the key challenges limiting the business community and concerned trade and investment authorities of the countries in both regions by nurturing an environment where the parties can benefit from the opportunities that exist. In his opening address, Mr. Oussama Kaissi, said: “Despite the tragedy presented by the pandemic, these unprecedented times have brought development institutions together to seek solutions and encourage innovation, teaching us that the best way forward is together. ICIEC believes that through the AATB program, our multilateral efforts can enhance pandemic responses, capacity building efforts, and economic security, providing the citizens of Arab and African countries the knowledge and materials to build a better future.”


Global economy

WTO: South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee withdraws from director general race, clearing path for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (SCMP)

Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean candidate to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), has dropped out of the race, effectively opening the door for Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become its first African leader. In a statement, Yoo, the South Korean Trade Minister, said that she had been “in consultation with major countries such as the United States” over the consensus vote to become the next director general of the WTO. Nigerian candidate Okonjo-Iweala had been recommended by top WTO officials to lead the Geneva body in October, after being judged to have had majority support among members, but the appointment was blocked by the United States under the Trump administration.

The pandemic is not under control anywhere unless it is controlled everywhere (PIIE)

Having largely cornered global supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, countries in Europe are clashing with one another over hoarding their doses, while sending poor countries to the back of the line. Yet, rich, vaccine-manufacturing countries are deluding themselves if they think they can eradicate COVID-19 at home and speed their economic recoveries while the pandemic rages elsewhere, especially in developing economies. Epidemics anywhere threaten immunization efforts everywhere—not least because new viral variants are emerging around the globe. Because a globally cooperative and better coordinated effort is needed, rich countries must stop their infighting and perhaps slow their own consumption of the currently limited stock of vaccines in order to deploy more to the world’s hotspots as soon as possible

Decades of progress on extreme poverty now in reverse due to Covid (The Guardian)

Two decades of progress in the reduction of extreme poverty, the elimination of which is one of the sustainable development goals, have been pushed into a sharp reverse by a combination of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing climate emergency and increasing debt. With the World Bank warning of a “truly unprecedented increase” in levels of poverty this year, and renewing calls for debt forgiveness, experts are warning of a growing crisis in multiple areas from education to employment, likely to be felt for years to come. While the World Bank was already pessimistic, in January it updated its forecast for the expected number of newly impoverished people this year from between 88 and 115 million to the new range of between 119 and 124 million.

Countries hail leadership of outgoing UNCTAD chief | UNCTAD

Delegates from UNCTAD’s 195 member states applauded its outgoing Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi for his outstanding leadership of the organization for nearly eight years, as he prepares to step down from the role on 15 February. Dr. Kituyi received warm accolades for steering the organization to greater heights, as he presided over his last meeting of UNCTAD’s governing body, the Trade and Development Board, on 3 February. “We can appreciate the fruit of your work in many of the cornerstones that you leave behind for posterity,” said Nasir Andisha on behalf of member countries of the Group of 77 and China.

Vaccine imperialism as a global trading system sinkhole (IOL)

The European Union (EU) is often cited as an exemplary model for regional political and economic integration in the world. The EU’s political unity and policy coherence were reduced to a category of children’s books in how it dealt with the coronavirus. When the virus created commotion in Italy, France, etc, each state quickly reclaimed its individual sovereign rights and closed borders. Brussels and Berlin were not their usual self in a state of confusion.

At the same time, both the EU and the African Union (AU), when it comes to vaccines for treating the coronavirus, are suddenly alive and presenting a united front. The AU vaccine strategy entails sourcing the drug for countries as a collective through the famed Covax facility and or purchasing agreements with major pharmaceutical giants. The European Commission on the other hand has a similar strategy for its 27 members. It looks like the regional blocs are not acting on their own accord.

Rich countries block India, South Africa’s bid to ban COVID vaccine patents | DW | 04.02.2021

The World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on a proposal by India and South Africa to temporarily suspend intellectual property (IP) rules related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments hit a roadblock on Thursday after wealthy countries balked at the idea, Germany’s dpa news agency reported. The two developing countries say the IP waiver will allow drugmakers in poor countries to start production of effective vaccines sooner. India and South Africa had approached the global trade body in October, calling on it to waive parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). The suspension of rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information would ensure “timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat COVID-19,” they said.

The proposal was vehemently opposed by wealthy nations like the US and Britain as well as the European Union, who said that a ban would stifle innovation at pharmaceutical companies by robbing them of the incentive to make huge investments in research and development.

The WTO talks are taking place as some wealthy countries face criticism for cornering billions of COVID shots — many times the size of their populations — while leaving poor countries struggling for supplies. Experts say the global scramble for vaccines, or vaccine nationalism, risks prolonging the pandemic.

Small Business, Big Challenge (Global Finance)

Developing-market SMEs, which have long competed for funding against bigger corporates, are counting on help from governments and multilateral lenders to keep afloat.

The long shadow cast by the coronavirus pandemic has extended perhaps most dramatically to small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), highlighting the outsized role they play in the economies of three developing regions—Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East—and the challenges they face going forward. Full recovery from the Covid-19 crisis will be critical for these countries. According to a 2018 research paper by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), SMEs accounted for 96% of all businesses and provided two out of three private sector jobs in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. And in that region, SMEs generated 42% of GDP in 2015. These companies are especially important players in APAC cross-border trade, accounting as of 2015 for over 40% of export values in China and India, 26% in Thailand, 19% in South Korea and 16% in Indonesia.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, SMEs are similarly dominant, accounting for about 90% of all businesses, according to estimates by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, in a 2018 report. In Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Tunisia, SMEs account for more than 50% of employment, according to a 2020 working paper from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Within sub-Saharan Africa, the key to keeping SMEs viable and operational has been collaboration between regional governments and their respective central banks to take the strain out of liquidity conditions via debt forbearance programs and repayment moratoriums. “Many governments in sub-Saharan Africa had already started supporting SMEs before the Covid-19 pandemic, by setting up a clear strategy in specific sectors of the local economy such as agriculture, green energy, health or education,” says Patrick Egounlety, group head, Value Chain and Liquidity Products at Ecobank, a pan-African bank headquartered in Lomé, Togo. He cites Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin, Kenya and Rwanda as standout examples of government support for SMEs.

Another key support in the early months of the pandemic was the IFC, which announced in July that private-sector businesses across the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa would receive $5.6 billion during the current fiscal year, with an additional $2 billion for SMEs. During the 12 months through last June, the IFC had committed $4.6 billion to the region.

WTO Agreement On Agriculture Reflects Double Standards, Should Be Amended: Former Indian envoys (Business World)

Noting that the WTO Agreement on Agriculture is characterised by “democratic deficit” and is based on “commercial realpolitik”, a group of former Indian envoys have called for amending it so that it facilitates developing and least developed countries to achieve SDG of ending hunger and achieving food security.I n an open letter on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the former envoys said there is an opportunity for the US, EU and UK along with 19 members of the Cairns Group to end the “double standards that have skewed global production and markets”. They said while US, EU, UK and Cairns Group members want countries like India to liberalise their agriculture markets, allow the market forces to determine prices and limit subsidies, political groups and legislators from some of these countries express support for the farmers’ protests near Delhi and criticize the government for enacting farm laws that seek to empower farmers and bring in greater market efficiency.