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tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News
Photo credit: Simon Dawson | Bloomberg

Country focus

A more conducive business environment’ needed for South Africa to recover – report (Engineering News)

With the largest number of jobs created in 2021’s economic recovery expected to come from the private sector, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that government will need to continue working with the private sector to create “a more conducive business environment” as an enabler of job creation. The President indicated during his State of the Nation Address (SoNA) last week that the social compact between the public and private sectors was underpinned by “a clear commitment to grow the economy and to create jobs”.

SA moves to manufacture, commercialise hydrogen cell technology (SAnews)

After over a decade of research and development around hydrogen fuel technology, President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa is now ready to manufacture and commercialise hydrogen fuels technology. The President said this when he responded to a debate on the State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday. “For more than a decade, government has been working with various partners, including the private sector and academia, to develop hydrogen fuel cell and lithium battery storage technologies. “This work serves two important developmental objectives: it offers the possibility of a new, renewable source of energy, while establishing new uses and new markets for the platinum group metals that are abundant in our country. “Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, which use platinum, offer an alternative source of clean electricity, while hydrogen allows for energy to be stored and delivered in a usable form,” he said.

Budget must focus on lowering unemployment, debt, says NetVest CEO (Engineering News)

This year’s Budget, set to be presented by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on February 24, must focus on reducing unemployment in the country and addressing the country’s debt-to-gross-domestic-product (GDP) ratio, investment advisory NetVest Group of Companies CEO Busisiwe Mdletshe told Engineering News this week. She emphasised that lowering unemployment is the most important issue at present, given that this is the biggest contributor to a lack of tax revenue.

South African envoy eyes $1bn trade with Pakistan – Profit by Pakistan Today

South Africa’s High Commissioner Methuthuzeli Madikiza has said that his country considers Pakistan an important market for trade cooperation and is keen to further enhance the volume of bilateral trade.

The high commissioner said that Pakistan is the 14th biggest exporter to South Africa, which calls for the need to further strengthen trade relations between the two countries. He said that the volume of bilateral trade could increase to $1 billion in the next few years if cooperation and joint ventures can be initiated in including tourism, agriculture, services and pharmaceutical sectors.

Zimbabwe optimistic about 7.4% economic growth in 2021: Central bank (CGTN Africa)

Zimbabwe expected a strong economic growth of 7.4 percent this year despite the COVID-19 impact, Central bank governor John Mangudya said on Thursday. “The measured optimism is based on the expected significant growth of the agricultural output in 2021, as a result of the good rainy season, fiscal sustainability, and the Bank’s focus on price and financial system stability,” Mangudya said in his 2021 monetary policy statement. This would be a rebound from a decline of 4.1 percent registered in 2020. “Notwithstanding these COVID-19-related challenges, the Bank remains optimistic that the expected economic growth of 7.4 percent in 2021 is achievable,” said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor.

According to Mangudya, improved production and productivity will be key to sustaining the growth rate of 7.4 percent in 2021 and above 5 percent thereafter.

More trucks now using Zimbabwe for transit (Chronicle)

THE volume of commercial trucks using Beitbridge Border Post is increasing as transporters are avoiding the Botswana transit route due to strict Covid-19 screening. The Botswana government is reportedly retesting everyone passing through the country even if the travellers have Covid-19 clearance certificates from their point of departure. As a result, truckers who used to cross from Zambia, Malawi, Angola, and DRC to South Africa through Groblersbrug Border are now using Beitbridge.

According to border officials yesterday, the state of affairs has resulted in truckers spending more time than usual at the border. Through the inter-border agencies, Zimbabwe and South Africa have been giving priority clearance to critical cargo to decongest the borders. “We are having an influx of trucks which used to cross via Botswana. As a result, there is more pressure at Beitbridge Border Post. So, we are doing our best to move cargo as quickly as possible,” said a Zimbabwean border official.

Victoria Falls council okays informal traders (Chronicle)

SOME informal traders in Victoria Falls have resumed business after the city council allowed them back to their vending stalls following pronouncement by President Mnangagwa for informal businesses to reopen. President Mnangagwa on Monday extended Level 4 lockdown by a further two weeks and allowed the informal sector to open but subject to meeting World Health Organisation Covid-19 protocols. Private sector organisations seeking to resume work were also encouraged to test all employees prior to opening. Informal traders such as curio and flea market operators are some of the businesses that were closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NCBA projects economy to grow by 4.9pc in 2021 (Capital Business)

NCBA is projecting the economy to recover upwards of 4.9 percent in 2021 following the tactical reopening of the economy. In its latest economic outlook, NCBA however warns that recovery will require bold, innovative and extraordinary actions on the part of policymakers. NCBA Bank Group Managing Director, John Gachora said the economy is estimated to have contracted in 2020 following a hard and broad-based hit on output in the second and third quarters due to the pandemic. “However, looking ahead, there is a reason to be optimistic…the phased reopening of the economy has seen a return of about 80percent of activity as consumer and labour mobility improves and supply chains are restored,” said Gachora.

Gachora said the Sh57 billion Post Covid Economic Stimulus has helped restore activity in some sectors especially construction and minimized the negative effects on others, with positive GDP spillovers. “To further repair the damages from the pandemic and avert a prolonged economic descent, it is essential that the Economic Recovery Strategy as proposed tactfully addresses the “lives versus livelihoods” dilemma,” said Gachora.

Kenya’s Volume of Trade at Sh218.96bn in December 2020-KNBS (Capital Business)

Kenya’s volume of trade in the month of December 2020 stood at Sh218.96 billion, a new data shows. The statistics by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reveals that the figures were up from Sh189.83 billion that was recorded in the month of November 2020. The value of total exports increased from Sh50.79 billion in November 2020 to Sh57.51 billion in December 2020, while the value of imports increased from Sh139.04 billion in November 2020 to Sh161.46 billion in December 2020. “Domestic exports by Broad Economic Category (BEC) indicated that food and beverages was the main export category in December 2020 accounting for 42.97 per cent of exports, while non-food industrial supplies accounted for 23.89 percent of the total exports,” reads KNBS report on leading economic indicators for December 2020.

Nairobi airport ready to switch from fruit to vaccines (TimesLIVE)

Companies and governments around the world are racing to establish cold-chain storage and delivery systems for vaccines which must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures and can only be kept in a standard fridge for up to five days. Mitchell Cotts has applied for international certification by health authorities to handle the imports, Tanui said, adding that it can handle vaccines which need to be kept as cold as -30 degrees. The company will modify its existing pharma unit at its $25m (R364m) facility at the airport, adding extra cabinets to hold the vaccines, and enhancing security. “When we designed this, we did not have in mind that a pandemic like Covid will be there and the number of vaccines that will come,” Tanui said.

Kenya Is Becoming a Global Hub of FinTech Innovation (Harvard Business Review)

For over sixty years, the U.S. was the leading innovator of financial technology (or FinTech) in the world. Over the past decade, however, China has become the global leader: Powered by smartphones and social apps, China has used remote payments and the digitization of money management to build a steady vehicle of financial inclusion. But it may not be the leader for long. Recently, African countries such as Nigeria and Kenya have emerged as FinTech hotbeds, and are using inexpensive, accessible tech to mobilize consumers in ways never seen before. To stay competitive, U.S. banks and FinTech companies need to study the factors enabling these successes abroad – and figure out how they can keep pace.

Simply defined, FinTech is the application of technology and innovation to solve the needs of consumers and firms in the financial space – think credit cards, online banking, and blockchain-powered cryptocurrencies. While it’s arguably just the latest update to the millennia-old evolution of credit, contracts, and banking, FinTech was one of the most explosive fields of the past decade. Venture capitalists, traditional finance firms, governments, and even the average smartphone user each had a hand in the massive acceleration of its growth. Advancements like remote payments, app-based stock trades, and automated insurance claims became commonplace. The IMF cited estimates of over $50 billion invested in the field during the first half of the 2010s, with triple-digit year-over-year growth being the norm.

Nigeria's economy exits recession as GDP grows by 0.11% in Q4 2020 | Nairametrics

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.11% (year-on-year) in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2020, representing the first positive quarterly growth in the last three quarters.This is contained in the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product report, published by the National Bureau of Statistics

Europe remains largest destination of Ghanaian exports (Myjoyonline)

Europe continue to remain the largest destination for exports of Ghanaian goods as European countries received the largest share of 31.0% of Ghana’s total exports at the end of September last year. It was followed by the Far East including China and Japan which accounted for 20.1% percent of exports from Ghana. The Rest of Africa with 15.7%, the European Union with 12.3%, Other Economies (10.6%), ECOWAS (9.0%), and North America (1.2%) followed suit respectively. According to data from the Bank of Ghana, the Far East however emerged as the leading source of imports accounting for 39.1% of the total imports. This indicates China and the United Arab Emirates were the largest trade destination for Ghanaian traders. The European Union followed with a share of 24.2% whilst North America (12.4%) and Other’ economies (8.0%) respectively followed. Other Europe (6.8%), Rest of Africa (5.5%) and ECOWAS (4.0%) were also regions or continent Ghana imported goods from.

Ghana must negotiate with Benin to resolve export issues – Patrick Boamah (Modern Ghana)

Member of Parliament for Okaikwei Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah is urging authorities to take immediate steps to resolve challenges with the export of goods into Benin. “I am urging the Ministry of Trade and policymakers and implementers to ensure that whatever it takes for them to have negotiations with colleagues or trade partners in Benin has to be done immediately to protect Ghanaian jobs and safeguard Ghanaian industries,” he said. According to him, due to the decision of that country to withdraw from the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, some companies such as interplast are facing difficulties in the export of goods.

Egypt’s Sisi urges securing fair access to coronavirus vaccines for African nations – Politics – Egypt (Ahram Online)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Wednesday called for continuing coordination with the international community to secure the chance for African states to obtain coronavirus vaccine doses in a fair and just way.

Sisi called for securing the funding and logistical support required for African nations to tackle the pandemic’s economic, social, and health repercussions, Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said. “Mr. President indicated that holding this meeting confirms the availability of the political will to enhance joint African efforts to deal with the implications and consequences of the coronavirus,” Rady added. The president shed light on the “unprecedented” challenges and threat posed by the novel virus on health and development systems at the regional and international levels, Rady noted. “Mr. President also affirmed that Egypt would spare no effort towards exploiting all its capabilities to support its African brothers in obtaining coronavirus vaccines, given Egyptian experiences in this regard,” Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady

Finance minister: Increasing demand on joining 2nd stage of initiative on export payment (SIS)

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait has said an increasing demand on joining the 2nd stage of the Export Development Fund (EDF)’s initiative on exporters lump sum payment of export subsidy dues that provides a 15% payment cut is remarkable. In statements on Wednesday 17/2/2021 Maait said the initiative came in line with the government’s implementation of presidential directives to support the export sector and settle delayed dues of the companies with the fund till the end of June 2020. As many as 950 export companies have submitted requests to join the initiative as of Feb 7, he said. According to the minister, the launching of the second phase has been prompted by tangible success achieved in the first stage that highly contributes to providing financial liquidity, thus enabling exporting companies to deliver commitments before all customers, especially amid the current financial situation posed by Covid-19 pandemic.

Egypt boosts investment in Congo, hoping to secure support in Nile dam crisis (Al-Monitor)

Egypt is expected to direct more investments into the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid Egyptian efforts to have greater influence in the country. The Egyptian and Congolese governments signed a series of agreements in various fields, including in infrastructure, energy and drinking water, during the visit of Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to Cairo on Feb. 2.

Urbain Manoka, a Congolese economist, added: “Investment is the factor par excellence of the DRC’s economic growth. It creates income and is one of the main engines of economic activity. A volume of over 50% of inflows [were invested] in sectors linked to basic infrastructure and agriculture, because the country favors investments in the secondary sector, [which is considered a] creator of added value.”

Liberian cocoa farmers still struggle to get to market; can the AfCFTA help? (The Africa Report)

Getting cocoa to market on Liberia’s treacherous roads is no joke. Like Liberia, many African countries hoping to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will require heavy investment in basic road infrastructure. In this episode of Talking Africa, we follow cocoa beans from harvest to coast. The AfCFTA, which came into effect at the beginning of the year, has been heralded as a major step in increasing intra-continental trade with the potential to stimulate growth, industrialisation and generate an additional $450 billion for African countries by 2035. In his annual address to the legislature last month, Liberian President George Weah described the AfCFTA as “a milestone achievement for Africa in terms of the promotion of trade amongst citizens of the African Union” and said he would forward the agreement for urgent ratification, joining the 36 countries that are already fully signed up. But connectivity issues, including weak transport infrastructure and the added costs that come with it, have been flagged as a significant challenge to the success of the initiative across the continent. Liberia will be no exception, given the deplorable state of much of its road network, with motorbikes the primary means of transporting goods and passengers in rural areas.


News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations

COMESA, EAC and SADC States urged to rapidly conclude processes towards ratification of TFTA to facilitate implementation

Member and Partner States of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been called upon to rapidly conclude processes and procedures towards the ratification and implementation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). The call was made during the Extraordinary Virtual Meeting of the Tripartite Council of Ministers held on 15 February, 2021 to discuss the status of signature and ratification of the TFTA and Guidelines for Management and Monitoring of Safe Cross Border Movement of Persons and Personal Goods while Mitigating the Spread of the Coronavirus. Currently 10 Member and Partner States, namely Botswana, Burundi, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Eswatini and Zambia have ratified the TFTA Agreement, which falls short of the 14 Tripartite Member and Partner States required for the TFTA to enter into force in accordance with Article 39 (3) of the TFTA Agreement.

Private sector firms join push for AfCFTA agenda (The East African)

Private sector lobbies in Africa’s six regional trading blocs have formed the African Business Council, a continental umbrella body to spearhead the business agenda for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The council – with its headquarters at the African Union offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – has been carved out of the six regional trading blocs, these are the East African Community; Southern African Development Community (Sadc); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa); Southern African Customs Union; Economic Community of West African States, and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa. According to EABC Chief Executive, Peter Mathuki, the council has been long in the making. “We are in discussion with the AfCFTA secretariat with the aim of strengthening the role and mandate of the private sector in driving the continent’s business agenda through the six regional blocs.”

New dawn for continent as African steers world trade (The Herald)

The African continent on Tuesday carved its own piece of history when Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was elected to lead the World Trade Organisation, as its director-general. She becomes the first woman and the first African to lead this 164-member organisation in the 73 years of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which later transformed to the World Trade Organisation.

For strategic reasons, the appointment could not have come at a better time for Africa, a continent that is hoping to consolidate its economic prowess, which is increasingly become too big to ignore following dramatic and positive economic strides in recent years.

Africa was not able to successfully lobby for increased trade share before because of its fragmented trading policies, that could not be synchronised into one formidable platform, hence the formation of AfCFTA. Through AfCFTA and the presence of an African leader at the WTO who understands the economic challenges and prospects for growth of the continent, the African Union (AU) can now successfully lobby for an observer status at the WTO.

Afreximbank commits $200 million to continental export fund (The New Times)

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has committed a $200 million envelope to support the Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA), which will have its permanent headquarters in Rwanda. This was confirmed by Louise Kanyonga, the Chief Strategy and Compliance at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), during an exclusive interview with The New Times on Wednesday, February 18. Established in 2019, FEDA is an equity investment fund and a subsidiary of Afreximbank that seeks to fund African businesses to promote intra-African trade and facilitate foreign direct investment flows into the continent’s trade and export sectors.

African Union to set up infrastructure fund for the continent (Reuters)

The African Union is setting up a fund to finance the construction of much-needed roads, railways and power plants on the continent, its infrastructure head said, turning to new sources of cash due to donor fatigue and higher debt levels. The continent has an estimated annual infrastructure financing deficit of $60 billion-$90 billion, the AU says, making it hard for the body to advance its goal of integrating the disparate individual markets into a single, free trade area. “Africa is financially starved as far as the need for infrastructure development is concerned,” Raila Odinga, who is the AU’s high representative for infrastructure, told Reuters.

Talks with the funds are going on and the AU’s experts are setting up the legal and financial structure for the infrastructure fund, which will be administered by the newly formed African Union Development Agency, Odinga said.

Will the Restructured African Union meet the Continent’s Urgent Challenges? – ACCORD

The Summit’s annual theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want,” which was decided last year, has been overshadowed by the imperatives to complete the reform of the Union and to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit reviewed and approved a comprehensive report of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) that includes crucial strategic continental actions in response to the pandemic, especially the need for equitable and timely access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all AU Member States to ensure that at least 60% of the continent’s population is vaccinated. In respect of the reform of the Union, the election of the Commission’s new leadership has been a big step forward.

AfDB President Adesina says vaccines and debt relief will be key to Africa’s recovery from COVID-19 | The New Dawn Liberia

The President of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org), Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, has called for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for Africans and said debt relief would help African economies recover faster and better from the pandemic. Speaking on 8 February at a virtual event held in his honour as the outgoing African of the Year of African Leadership Magazine, the Bank President warned that so long as the coronavirus was unchecked in any part of the world, no one would be safe. “There is light at the end of the tunnel – it just happens to be a very long tunnel. I am very positive that African economies will bounce back over the next two years, but the speed of recovery will depend on ensuring that Africa gets enough vaccines for its population,” Adesina said. “The world must not short-change Africa on access to vaccines,” he added. He also said significant debt relief would be key to accelerating African economies’ recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. “To recover faster, Africa will need significant debt forgiveness from bilateral and official creditors,” he said during the virtual event attended by Douye Diri, the Governor of the Nigerian state of Bayelsa, and Benoy Berry, Chairman of Contec Global Worldwide.

Worries over growing counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine market in East Africa • Today News Africa

On the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX website, one video is quoted as saying, “When the world has safe and effective vaccines, how can we make sure they reach the people that need them the most?” The WHO may need to urgently drill down into answering that question because there is a robust COVID-19 vaccine counterfeit market set to make millions shipping fake vaccines to Africa. Djibouti, Lomé (Togo), and Cotonou (Benin) are all known entry points for fake pharmaceutical products related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on historical data, there is no reason to believe that these ports won’t also serve as a hub for counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines. In particular, one port is making the news as an “easy target” – Mombasa Port in Kenya. Three weeks ago, Mombasa Port, one of Africa’s busiest harbors, registered an increase in the number of ships and cargo. Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) told Africa Inc. Magazine they were optimistic about the early indications of significant growth. However, there is also concern about the Port Authority’s ability to inspect goods because, as one port worker stated, “The more shipments, the less inspection.”

Women-led businesses is missing ingredient to maximizing African entrepreneurship (The Africa Report)

Women make up 58% of African’s self-employed population, yet there are still significant imbalances between opportunities to scale, access to funding and training between men and women-led businesses on the continent. There is clear evidence of this in a recent World Bank report, Profiting from Parity, which shows that women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa continue to earn lower profits than men – 34% less on average. There is an irony in these inequalities: for investors, women are, in many ways, a better bet than men. In general, women in Africa are more likely than men to choose entrepreneurship as they find themselves in situations where they need to put their natural problem-solving skills to use. In Africa, 5% of Chief Executive Officers are women – slightly higher than the global average of 4%. Moreover, research shows that technology firms led by women experience a 35% higher return on investment than those led by men.

Why being endowed with oil is not always a boon: the case of Nigeria and Angola (The Conversation)

In countries with weak governance institutions, natural resource wealth tends to be a curse instead of a blessing. Where citizens are relatively powerless to hold ruling elites to account, resource wealth undermines development prospects. On the contrary, where citizens are able to exert constraints on executive power, resource wealth can generate development that benefits ordinary citizens.

Literature on the resource curse has done an adequate job of describing the general nature of the relationship between resource dependence and underdevelopment. It now needs to focus on understanding specific manifestations. In my latest book, I detail what these are in relation to oil in Nigeria and Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest oil producers.

Africa on Track to Make the Transition to Solar Power: Report (Mercom India)

The Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) has pointed out the growing popularity of solar in its ‘Annual Solar Outlook Report,’ which gives an overview of how African countries are faring in their transition to solar power. While there is no dearth of solar resources at their disposal, Africa is still lagging in adopting solar, but things are changing now, and the continent is looking ahead for a brighter future.

Where Is the Africa-China Relationship Headed in 2021? (CSIS)

Many African countries experienced an uneven relationship with China in 2020. Early in the year, the continent’s leaders worried how African students and businesspeople living in China would fare after the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan. The racist treatment of Africans a few weeks later in Guangzhou and elsewhere in China caused major diplomatic rifts, but African leaders’ attention quickly shifted to controlling the pandemic inside their own borders. Initially shielded from Covid-19 cases by their lack of global exposure to trade and tourism, African states carefully watched China and other Asian countries work hard to contain the outbreak and realized they had to take immediate action, too.

However, trade with China then faltered, leading to shortages and inflationary effects, and Chinese workers left projects in African countries due to concerns about the pandemic’s spread. But all this soon recovered too. The Africa-China relationship began to strengthen as the Chinese government and Chinese private organizations such as the Alibaba Foundation provided medical equipment to almost all African countries, and as China announced donations to the World Health Organization (WHO) and joined the COVAX and G20 debt suspension initiatives.


Global economy

WTO asked to focus on subsidies, unfair trade...as Okonjo-Iweala tackles delibitating pandemic (New Era)

With Nigeria’s former finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala being confirmed as the new director general of the World Trade Organisation, Namibia has implored the global trade body to look into specific trade issues affecting the continent. Amongst her many priorities, these include fisheries and agricultural subsidies and unfair trade practices such as product dumping into African markets and other developing nations.

Wishing her all the best in her new role and many successes, Elijah Mukubonda, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade (MIT), said other issues the ministry feels need the WTO’s attention are property rights, such as geographical indications and traditional knowledge as well as equitable access to WTO dispute settlement.

“Currently, many developing nations are not really in position to advance their trade issues to the WTO dispute settlement system due to high cost. Some of the trade issues include global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions by developed nations and capacity building for developing and least developed nations.

“Dr Okonjo-Iweala ascends to take the helm of the global trade body at a time where the Multilateral Trading System is faced with numerous barriers such as a wide range of institutional reforms; impasse on the appellate body; conclusion of the negotiations on fisheries subsidies and the impact of Covid-19 that has turned lives upside down in every sector leaving us with little to no hope with unprecedented challenges. She emerged as the best candidate on merit-based firmly in her education and experience. Dr Okonjo-Iweala has vast knowledge in global economy and trade, multilateralism, economic relations as well as states and international development,” Mukubonda stated.

“Accelerating Trade Digitalization in Times of the Pandemic” (APN News)

Tomorrow [19 February] marks the entry into force of a new international agreement promoting paperless trade, a timely reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought digital solutions to regional development challenges into the limelight. 

Paperless trade across borders has proven an effective way to mitigate trade disruptions since the onset of the crisis, enabling commerce to continue while limiting physical contact. Yet, despite the increasing acceptance of electronic documents across borders, implementation of cross-border paperless trade remains low according to the United Nations Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation for Asia and the Pacific.

Across Asia and the Pacific, governments must move from time-consuming paper-based processes to electronic and traceable trade procedures that can significantly enhance competitiveness and address new challenges associated with e-commerce and the digital economy. In doing so, our region can also recover some of the $200 billion in illicit financial flows that sharply reduce the capacity of governments to put in place support measures for vulnerable groups.

How mobile phones are helping achieve UN sustainable goals (Business Daily)

The global mobile industry is contributing to the realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development (SDGs) goals but huge challenges lie ahead for many nations in achieving Agenda 2030. This is according to the 2020 GSMA report which states that that while significant progress has been made since 2015, including reductions in global poverty and maternal and child mortality rates, the world is still far from delivering sustainable development in the next ten years. The survey, 2020 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals, applies a methodology where an impact score is assigned to all SGD goals and calculated out of 100. It discloses that while the mobile industry had the highest effect on infrastructure, at 63, it has had the lowest impact to end hunger (40), eradicate poverty, protect life on earth and promote peace and justice, which all had a score of 44.

Make ‘every effort’ to save COVID-19 response from corruption, UN Assembly President urges (UN News)

Speaking at the UN-Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Annual Parliamentary Hearing, Volkan Bozkir underscored that the potential impact of corruption during the coronavirus pandemic “cannot be overstated”. “Already, corruption has led to scarcity in essential protection, life-saving equipment, adequate assistance and the provision of vital services. Corruption has caused thousands of extra lives to be lost during this pandemic”, he added. The Assembly President stressed the role of parliaments in ensuring oversight and transparency of the trillions of dollars’ worth of protection announced by governments to tackle the pandemic. “Parliaments can play a critical role in ensuring these funds are not diverted through corruption. We must ensure that corruption does not deprive the most vulnerable of medical supplies or assistance programmes”, he said.

Trade and Development Board, 70th executive session (UNCTAD)

The meeting took place virtually on 3-5 February 2021. Key issues included: Presentation of The Least Developed Countries Report 2020: Productive Capacities for the New Decade; Report of the Working Party on the Strategic Framework and the Programme Budget on its eighty-first session; Report of the Eighth United Nations Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices; Report of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy; Report of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Financing for Development; Report of the Preparatory Committee to the fifteenth session of the Conference; and Report of the Joint Advisory Group on the International Trade Centre.

Documents, Statements and Presentations are available here.

Trade and Environment Review 2021: Trade-climate readiness for developing countries (UNCTAD)

This edition of UNCTAD's Trade and Environment Review examines the physical impacts of climate change and their effects on developing country economies and trade; the vulnerabilities of developing countries to climate change; costs and finance for climate change adaptation; and finally, ways that developing countries can enhance their trade-climate readiness, i.e., enhance the resilience of their trade to climate change through adaptation actions and economic diversification. Special attention is given to examining the challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries, specifically the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS).