tralac Daily News
While there has been a slight uptick in domestic and international cargo traffic in recent weeks, the fact remains that South Africa is struggling to counter the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown responses. Overall maritime cargo for January 2021 was down 15% compared to the same time last year, and according to industry body the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), there will be no “quick fix” to the situation.
Global container imbalances, port congestion and poor efficiency have taken their toll, and the hoped-for bump in cargo traffic after the “hard” level 5 lockdown was lifted did not materialise. February 2021 proved to be a much-improved month for air cargo, as the public started to adopt more positive sentiment towards flying both domestically and in Southern Africa. However, SAAFF warns the short-term outlook is not expected to improve while the operational curfew persists, even if the medium-term outlook looks slightly better
Wandile Sihlobo, the chamber’s chief economist, said industry stakeholders already knew the markets they were interested in. “These are the markets which the government should prioritise in its engagement with foreign equals in exploring trade opportunities. We are mindful that this is not an easy process as other countries would probably want a reciprocal arrangement when South Africa is pursuing a localisation industrial and trade policy approach. Nevertheless, those are trade-offs for policymakers to balance; all the industry could do is express its views on export markets that will support the expansion in domestic agricultural output,” said Sihlobo. Agbiz said it was unsurprising that South Africa’s agricultural sector was highly export oriented, with exports accounting for roughly half of the production in value terms, about $10.2 billion (R153bn) in 2020, up 3 percent year-on-year.
Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister, Fikile Majola says the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) programme will play a critical role in supporting the implementation of South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan. “The SEZ programme is at the core of the reimagined industrial strategy, which is purposefully structured to stimulate local and foreign direct investments. The SEZs are also going to play an important role in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement as we position our country to become a vibrant manufacturing hub of the African Continent,” Majola said. Majola was addressing the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour on Tuesday.
Op-ed: How can South Africa’s sunset industry be extended? (Mining Review)
Mining is a sunset industry. No matter how deep we dig or far we go, minerals are finite, and their extraction becomes more challenging every year. The Minerals Council South Africa has stated that over the last decade, multi-factor productivity in South Africa has fallen by 7.6%. Mining output has declined by 10% and minerals sales has contracted by 11%. However, although we know that at some point we will run out of mineable resources, for now it is projected that there are still approximately $2.5 trillion of mineral resources in the country. No picture of South Africa’s future is complete without taking into account what mining can contribute to the economy. And harnessing technology is the only way that we will be able to get the most out of our mining resources in ways that are efficient, effective and responsible.
Trade PS advises Zambians in diaspora to invest in Zambia (Zambia Reports)
Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Mushuma Mulenga has urged the Zambian Diaspora in Australia and New Zealand to take advantage of the conducive business environment in Zambia and invest to contribute to the growth of a diversified and resilient economy. During a virtual meeting designed to inform the Diaspora about investment opportunities in the Zambian economy, Mr. Mulenga said the Zambian Government had created an investment climate that encouraged partnerships between indigenous and foreign enterprises.
The Namibia Trade Forum (NTF) says policymakers should consider offering the manufacturing sector rebates – especially the underdeveloped sectors, such as the fashion industry. According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, fashion apparel costs the country more than N$740 million annually through imports. Simon at the trade talks said despite the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) agreement of 2002 (as amended on 12 April 2013) which provides for member states to “apply identical rebates on imported goods”, Namibia rarely makes use of this tool to encourage industrialisation.
Call for simplified export procedures (Chronicle)
“I think it is high time we simplify. I am not asking us to take away the documents, but to simplify the process because a lot of industries face this challenge in the area of simplification,” Bulawayo-based industrialist who is also United Refineries Limited (URL) chief executive officer, Mr Busisa Moyo, noted. Manufactured exports currently constitute about 16 percent of total exports and industry believes there is significant room to expand the export basket, which is hugely dominated by raw exports, especially minerals and tobacco.
Nigeria records highest trade deficit since 1981 (Nairametrics)
Nigeria has recorded its biggest foreign trade deficit since 1981 as the trade balance stood at a deficit of N7.38 trillion in 2020. This is according to available data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to the recent foreign trade report, total imports in the year 2020 was valued at N19.9 trillion surpassing the total exports of N12.52 trillion, indicating a trade deficit of N7.38 trillion. This is the second time Nigeria is recording a negative trade balance in the past 10 years.
Shs34.6b worth of mineral exports not declared (Daily Monitor)
Minerals worth Shs34.6b were, between June 2017 and June 2020, exported out of the country without being declared, making Uganda lose billions of shillings in royalties, according the Auditor General’s report. The report, which notes that exporters offended laws governing mineral exports, indicates that minerals worth Shs8.3b were not declared to the Department of Geological Survey and Mining while minerals worth Shs26.3b were exported without permits. However, the Auditor General’s report did not review the performance of gold.
Millers raise red flag on high aflatoxin levels in maize (Business Daily)
Grain millers have raised concerns about high levels of cancer-causing aflatoxin in maize being delivered to their premises for processing, coming at a time when Kenya has flagged imports from Uganda and Tanzania. The Cereal Millers Association (CMA) said in a statement yesterday that tests done by its members when receiving the grain have found that the aflatoxin levels are higher than the allowable 10 parts per billion. The millers have also raised concerns that the rejected maize is finding its way into the market through other channels.
Why locals should be co-opted into mega projects (The East African)
“If a transportation corridor is to become a true development corridor bringing sustainable development and social wellbeing to a country such as Kenya and the region while minimising or eliminating environmental damage, these steps are essential,” said Dr Tobias Nyumba, research scientist, Development Corridors Partnership Project, African Conservation Centre/University of Nairobi. “Development corridors need not prioritise economic benefits alone,” Dr Nyumba said. “Therefore, the various stakeholders play a central role, regardless of the nature of costs and benefits they are likely to accrue from the development projects,” he added.
Zambia: Raising tax collection should help turn around economy, says analyst (The Africa Report)
An IMF statement on 4 March said that “significant progress” has been made, while noting that fiscal consolidation – cutting spending and collecting more tax – is among the key remaining challenges. Finance minister Bwalya Ng’andu said the government is committed to securing an IMF programme. But by highlighting the need for “more detailed policy steps”, the IMF is signalling that Zambia’s Economic Recovery Programme is an incomplete response to its debt crisis, argues Nick Branson, director at Gondwana Risk in London.
News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations
On implementing the AfCFTA in 2021 (Trade 4 Dev News)
On 1 January 2021, Africa officially started trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is playing a key role in providing support to the AfCFTA process. ECA is collaborating with the African Union Commission (AUC) and various partners to advocate for AU Member States’ AfCFTA ratification and implementation, sensitization around the AfCFTA and technical support to the negotiations.
So far, 11 of the 41 countries and RECs have validated AfCFTA implementation strategies. The strategies aim at complementing the broader development framework of each country or region, especially in relation to trade and industrialization policies. Some are already implementing their AfCFTA strategies and have a National Committee in place to ensure proper coordination of implementation, policy coherence and effective domestication of the agreement. As of February, 41 State Parties had submitted their schedules of tariff concessions. Only a few countries, such as Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana and South Africa, have in place the needed customs procedures as required by the relevant AfCFTA provisions.
The Acting Director General/Chief Trade Negotiator of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation, Mr. Victor Liman, has called for the establishment of a trade bank that would empower the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to be able to participate fully in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment also said the AfCFTA was expected to complement Nigeria’s national development agenda and act as a catalyst for Nigeria’s export diversification.
Priorities for supporting trade under a build-back-better agenda (Brookings Institution)
Recent progress towards economic integration, starting with such regional blocs and culminating in the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), offers much promise for shared growth across the continent. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic – which has created production shutdowns, supply chain disruptions, and a profound decline in demand for economic services – has dampened what was an attractive growth trajectory for many African countries and delayed the ultimate implementation of the AfCFTA. Given the twin demand-supply shock African economies are experiencing, the region’s build-back-better agenda must address both sides of the issue.
Calls for Africa debt relief grow (The Herald)
Global lenders should consider a total debt relief for African countries that, like the rest of the world are reeling under the painful effects of Covid-19, the Southern African Parliamentary Forum (Sadc PF) has said. This comes as some African countries have already defaulted on their international debt repayment plans due to Covid-19, a global pandemic that has caused economic recessions worldwide. Speaking during a virtual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights, on sustainable options for financing the fight against Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery in Africa, Sadc PF secretary-general Ms Boemo Sekgoma said Africa should be given a fresh start, free of previous debts.
Call to track, measure women’s progress (New Era)
As the world marked International Women’s Day last week, the secretary general of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Boemo Sekgoma, called for an advanced framework for tracking and measuring key indicators to ensure the progress of women in political participation. She noted that although “women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality, democracy and for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, more remains to be done to ensure their meaningful political participation.
Social media report of tension at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat is untrue, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has said. A statement signed by Patrick Y. Nimo, Chief Director, Ministry of Trade and Industry, copied to the Ghana News Agency, said the attention of the Ministry had been drawn to a social media report carried on an online portal on March 14th, 2021 titled “Secretary General of AfCFTA threatens to sack all Ghanaian employees”.
“The Ministry of Trade and Industry wishes on behalf of the Government of Ghana to state emphatically and unequivocally that there is no such rift or tension between the Ghanaian nationals and their foreign counterparts at the Secretariat,” the statement said.
Less than a year after its inception, the African Medical Supplies Platform hosts more than 600 suppliers selling products that can help combat the coronavirus through an interface that is no more complicated than Amazon.com. Access is limited to countries, health systems, nongovernmental organizations and donor organizations like UNICEF. The AMSP “came to actually bridge the gap between supply and demand.”
How African states can improve their cybersecurity (Brookings Institution)
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalization around the world, but as life has shifted increasingly online, cybercriminals have exploited the opportunity to attack vital digital infrastructure. States across Africa, where digital capacity continues to lag behind the rest of the world, have emerged as a favorite target of cybercriminals, with costly consequences. In order to strengthen cybersecurity, African governments can take number of steps to improve their capacity to prevent and respond to cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
The 53rd Session of the Commission and 2021 Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development will be held from Wednesday, 17 March 2021 to Tuesday, 23 March 2021, under the theme: Africa’s Sustainable Industrialization and Diversification in the Digital Era in the Context of COVID-19. This year’s theme embraces the need for African countries to achieve rapid economic growth through environmentally conscious industrialization and diversification while taking advantage of digitalization.
COMESA has established the Non-Tariff Barriers Regional Forum comprising of National Monitoring Committees and NTBs Focal Points. This new structure is aimed at further strengthening the Trade and Customs Committee and Trade and Trade Facilitation Sub- Committee as part of the institutional structures for the elimination of NTBs at the regional level. COMESA Director of Trade Dr Christopher Onyango attributed the prevalence of reported and unreported Non-Tariff Barriers to the constrained intra-regional trade noting that Member States have justified most of these as measures necessary to regulate trade.
The prosperity of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is largely dependent upon sustained peace, stability and security as these form the foundation for sustainable development, SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has said. She highlighted that the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-30 and the SADC Vision 2050, which outline strategic interventions to address the emerging challenges and strategically position the region and shape the future of SADC, are anchored on a firm foundation of peace, security and good governance.
The Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) under the Free Movement and Migration in West Africa Project (FMM) jointly funded by ECOWAS and the EU, organized an Internal Validation Meeting of ECOWAS Directorates on the Strategy for Strengthening Protection in the Context of Mixed Migration. The Strategy will focus on improved measures for the identification of mixed migrants at risk and coordination both within the ECOWAS Commission and improvement at the level of Member States amongst other priority approaches.
Africa’s youth could pioneer digitally driven growth (University World News)
A digital education implementation policy, which forms part of the African Union Commission’s Digital Transformation Strategy (DTS), is aimed at overhauling the face of education on the continent using digital technology, said Sarah Anyang Agbor, the commissioner for human resources, science and technology. Agbor said the DTS was part of Africa’s development Agenda 2063 and it would help to improve the continent’s education system, connectivity, content, pedagogy, cost of data, teaching and management, adding that, it would “explore the use of high-tech methods to bring about digitalisation”.
For his second term as Chairperson of the AU Commission (2021-2024), Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat has outlined 8 key priorities that are in harmony with Agenda 2063: 1) Finalise the institutional reforms and strengthen the leadership of the Commission; 2) Enhance administrative and financial accountability; 3) Silence the guns at continental level; 4) Successfully execute key integration projects; 5) Food self-sufficiency, reduce poverty by building resilience through agriculture and the blue economy; protect the environment; 6) Operationalise policies in favour of youth and women; 7) Stimulate African thought on the obvious determining factors of crises; and 8) Renew strategic partnerships.
South Africa, Colombia and other middle-income countries hit hard by Covid have lined up behind richer ones to buy vaccines in hopes of averting more suffering. AstraZeneca and its partner, the University of Oxford, have emerged as key suppliers to lower-income countries, pledging not to profit from them. Yet the vaccine has faced safety and efficacy questions, most recently when a number of European Union countries suspended their use because of concerns about dangerous blood clots. AstraZeneca said that analysis of millions of records has shown no evidence of an increased risk, and the World Health Organisation has also backed the shot. South Africa, which budgeted as much as R19.3 billion ($1.3 billion) to vaccinate two-thirds of its population, confronted a similar dilemma. After a small study indicated AstraZeneca’s shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by a new variant, it had to change course.
The emerging picture of recovery from Covid-19 is that of inequality – in countries like Canada, each person has been allocated almost 5 sets of Covid-19 vaccines and $8,141 worth of government stimulus. In low-income countries (LICs) like Bangladesh, current vaccine orders only cover 14 in every 100 people, with announced fiscal stimulus equivalent to only $26 per capita. The significantly higher level of public investment in sustainable green and digital sectors as part of Covid-19 recovery plans in advanced economies compared to LICs will further exacerbate divergent growth patterns.
The realization of a post-pandemic economic recovery that is sustainable, inclusive and resilient is dependent upon greater involvement of women and girls, agreed a group of executives attending a virtual forum on gender parity held here Tuesday. Speaking at the virtual event organized by Global Compact Network Kenya in Nairobi, the executives said that bridging gender divide is key to speeding up recovery from social and economic devastations wrought by COVID-19 pandemic. “We call on the government to develop policies that can accelerate momentum towards achieving gender equality in a post-COVID-era,” said Sanda Ojiambo, the executive director of UN Global Compact.
The crisis has hit small and medium enterprises especially hard, causing massive job losses and other economic scars. Among these – less noticeable, but also serious – is rising market power among dominant firms as they emerge even stronger while smaller rivals fall away. New IMF research shows that key indicators of market power are on the rise – such as the markup of prices over marginal cost, or the concentration of revenues among the four biggest players in a sector. Due to the pandemic, we estimate that this concentration could now increase in advanced economies by at least as much as it did in the fifteen years to end of 2015. Even in those industries that benefited from the crisis, such as the digital sector, dominant players are among the biggest winners.
3 actions for business to prepare for a post-pandemic future (World Economic Forum)
Government-sponsored economic activity is likely to remain. COVID has not lessened the urgency to act on climate change. Businesses are now shifting focus to drive growth. The ambitious vaccine rollout programmes that are underway in many parts of the world are finally bringing hope that we may be turning the tide against COVID-19 and we can begin to open society and economies more broadly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reshaped the global economic environment and financial priorities. For development finance, the crisis has created a need for more fluid mobilization of resources while keeping sight of long-term climate and sustainability goals. That has been reflected in the European Investment Bank’s operational plan for 2021, which highlights this need for realignment. Key to providing a long-term base for recovery will be private sector support, international and local partnerships, and projects that reduce inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19, said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB vice president responsible for development and climate policy.
Digital Financial Services (DFS) is a recent mobile-centric financial inclusion innovation in developing countries, Nigeria inclusive. Using ubiquitous mobile phones as the means of service access, DFS provides the unbanked and underserved – many of whom live in rural areas – with access to basic financial services provided by banks and non-banks such as mobile network operators (MNOs) and third-party DFS providers (DFSPs). A study has shown that with mobile phones as the primary access mechanism for services, access to DFS is highly dependent upon the degree and quality of mobile coverage offered by MNOs.