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Industry organisation Business Unity South Africa and other business associations, representing 14 countries on six continents, have congratulated Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The business community has also jointly written a letter to the new director-general explaining the paramount role that the WTO plays in the business community, and outlining issues that need to be addressed by the WTO to better function. The business community has proposed ways in which a more regular and structured dialogue between the WTO and the business community can be achieved, building upon existing initiatives and establishing possible opportunities. These include establishing an advisory council that would allow business to provide insights to WTO members on matters of importance. Moreover, arranging more regular trade dialogues, as well as consultations and hearings on specific negotiations is requested.
South Africa’s major banks were impacted negatively by an “unprecedented operating environment” during the Covid-19 pandemic, reports professional services firm PwC in its ‘Major Banks Analysis’ for the 2020 financial year. The analysis highlights key themes from the combined local currency results of Absa, FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank.
PwC Africa banking and capital markets leader Francois Prinsloo says that while the major banks’ 2020 results are reflective of an intensely challenging operating environment, they also reveal their resilience. “Contemplating how the pandemic and the associated uncertainty and risks may play out, it is clear that purposeful, technology-enabled and customer-centric strategies will feature prominently in the major banks’ areas of focus going forward.” PwC’s economics team expects the global economy to expand by 4.7% this year, a forecast heavily conditional on a successful deployment of effective Covid-19 vaccines and accommodative fiscal, financial and monetary conditions.
Kenya’s economy is now picking up speed after the COVID-19 shock, but the pandemic has left deep imprints on the country’s fiscal and debt positions. Earlier in the year, IMF staff and the country’s authorities reached a provisional agreement on a program to support the next phase of the country’s response to the health crisis. IMF Country Focus spoke to the IMF mission chief for Kenya, Mary Goodman, who explained that the loan would be used to support the government’s reform plans and help meet financing needs.
Kenya’s trade deficit starts to rise as imports go up (Business Daily)
Kenya’s trade deficit widened by four percent in January compared to the corresponding month last year as imports started to go up after months of decline. Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows the difference in value of goods and services imported and those exported in January stood at Sh106.4 billion compared to Sh102.3 billion recorded in the same period last year. Kenya mainly import petroleum products, vehicles, household goods, pharmaceuticals and machinery, while exporting tea, cut flowers, vegetables and coffee. The country’s import bill last month stood at Sh160.7 billion, against exports receipts of Sh54.3 billion. The Covid pandemic caused a fall in imports for the better part of last year, due to reduced demand and trade supply chain disruptions as counties instituted restrictions to control the pandemic.
US, Kenya trade deal set for review (Business Daily)
The US says it will put the proposed trade deal struck with Kenya by the former Donald Trump regime under “review”. The US Senate last week confirmed Katherine Tai, a former trade lawyer for the Obama administration and Congress, as the trade representative. Ms Tai said during her confirmation hearing before the US Senate said that the Biden government will review the proposed deal before further talks. “If confirmed, I plan to review the state of the negotiations with Kenya, and, in consultation with Congress, chart a path forward that reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to a trade policy that prioritises the interest of America’s working families,” she told the Senate when asked about the timelines for talks on the Kenya deal.
MPs move to ban export of local iron ore (The Standard)
The export of iron ore could be banned if Parliament approves a proposed law that will include the mineral in the list of goods that cannot be exported. The Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to include iron ore on the list of goods that are “prohibited and restricted exports.” This is as Kenya seeks to protect local firms that rely on the ore for the production processes from competing with export markets for the lucrative mineral. The Bill also wants to match the local laws with those of other East African Community (EAC) partner states that have already banned the exportation of iron ore. “The principal object of the Bill is to amend the Excise Duty Act to align the Act with the EAC Customs Management Act, 2004 and the policy decisions of the other partner states to ban export of iron ore,” read the Bill in part
Nigeria: Another Trade Deficit in Q4 2020 (Proshare)
The latest report from the NBS in its series on foreign trade in goods shows the total value of trade as NGN9.1trn in Q4 ‘20, representing an increase of 8% on the preceding quarter. The value of trade in Q4 was the highest recorded in 2020. Compared with Q3, the total export value increased by 7% to NGN3.2trn, and the import value rose by 9% to NGN5.9trn. The value of imports almost doubled that of exports. The net result was a deficit of NGN2.7trn, which followed a deficit of NGN2.4trn the previous quarter. This makes five consecutive trade deficits. The data were drawn primarily from the Nigeria Customs Service. On an annual basis, total trade was valued at NGN32.3trn in 2020, which was 10% lower than 2019. The value of total imports in 2020 stood at NGN19.8trn while total exports were valued at NGN12.5trn. The annual deficit was therefore NGN7.3trn. Total trade in 2020 declined primarily due to lower exports. The implementation of lockdowns and restrictions had an adverse effect on export activity last year. The total trade value as a percentage of GDP stood at 21% in 2020.
An African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) team will visit Lagos on Monday to sensitise stakeholders in Fintech and other professional associations on the initiative. Francis Anatogu, Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCFTA, made this known in a statement on Friday. “We believe that for AfCFTA to be successful, Lagos State as Africa’s commercial hub of Nigeria and a megacity needs to key into this transformational programme.” Anatogu said the mandate of the committee was to coordinate the activities of private and public sectors, regarding AfCFTA implementation at federal and sub-national levels.
Free Zone: Lagos to Attract Additional $5bn in 4 Years (THISDAYLIVE)
The Lagos Free Zone (LFZ) which already has a committed investment of $2 billion is poised to attract an additional $5 billion over the next four years. This was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer, LFZ, Mr. Dinesh Rathi, at the headquarters of the company in Ibeju-Lekki during the official visit of Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his cabinet members to the zone at the weekend. Rathi, further explained that the zone, which was established in the year 2012 was being promoted by Tolaram Group, a leading conglomerate in Nigeria – who have already attracted about $2 billion committed investment to the Zone currently.
The government of Ghana has taken steps to put up certain institutions, structures, and programmes to help the country including the private sector, to harness the benefits inherent in the AfCFTA agreement. In the first place, an Inter-Ministerial Facilitation Committee has been constituted by the President to provide strategic direction and coordinate support for the implementation of AfCFTA in Ghana. A National AfCFTA Coordinating Office is being established at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) to act as one-stop-shop facilitation and information hub. Moreover, a National AfCFTA/BIAT Steering Committee has been constituted. Currently, Ghana has not churned out a publicly accessible national AfCFTA implementation strategy despite the fact that the real trading under the pact began on 1st January 2021.
The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) has organised Regional consultations on the medium-term national development policy framework 2022-2025 for Municipal and District planning coordinators and heads of decentralized departments in the Oti Region. Mr Bright Y. Atiase, Deputy Director for National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), said the current medium-term national policy framework (MTNDPF, 2018-2021) would end this year and there was the need to prepare a new policy framework for 2022-2025.
Obangame Express (OE21), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western Africa, kicked off its tenth year with 32 participating nations at an opening ceremony in Accra, Ghana, March 19, 2021. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE21 is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
Ethiopia: Empowering Women With Digital Technology (Technology Times Pakistan)
Women in Africa are more likely to be entrepreneurs, than men. They make up 58 percent the continent’s self-employed population and women’s formal ownership of SMEs currently stands at around a third of all registered SMEs in Africa-and we know SMEs are estimated to account for over 90 percent of all firms outside of the agricultural sector in the region, says a document published recently. The African Development recognizes the important role that women entrepreneurs play in the development and economic growth of our continent. However, African women business owners continue to face gender- specific legal, social and administrative barriers, even while Africa leads the world in terms of numbers of women business owners, it added. To end this and enable women access financial services get the required timely information and to flourish their business the application of digital technology is of paramount importance.
Angolan Government and the Pan-African Private Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC) have agreed to promote business cooperation between Angola and the other African nations. Signed on Thursday, the deal is part of a memorandum of understanding between the Angolan Government, represented by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Industry and Commerce and PAFTRAC which in the signing was represented by officials of the Angolan business group Opaia. The deal provides for the establishment and development of a long term integrated cooperation among the parties involved.
In a note that reached ANGOP on Thursday, linked to the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Angolan Government states its strong wish to promote business in all sectors of the national economy, following the example of success of the emerging economies.
Egypt vows to increase exports to $100 billion (Arab News)
The Central Bank of Egypt on Sunday issued treasury bills worth EGP19 billion ($1.21 billion) on behalf of the Finance Ministry. Governments resort to financing budget deficits by offering bonds and treasury bills as debt instruments, and public banks are their largest buyers. Treasury bills are short-term debt instruments, with maturities ranging from three months to a year.
The Central Bank of Egypt on Sunday issued treasury bills worth EGP19 billion ($1.21 billion) on behalf of the Finance Ministry. Governments resort to financing budget deficits by offering bonds and treasury bills as debt instruments, and public banks are their largest buyers.
AFDB supports Domestic Debt Market Development Liberia (Liberian Daily Observer)
The African Development Bank Group (www.AfDB.org) has launched a project to support the development of domestic debt markets and financial systems in four West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) countries: the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. The Bank had earlier approved a grant of UA1.5 million or about $2 million for the project.The project, according to a press release from the Bank, is funded by the Bank’s Transition Support Facility, will provide technical assistance and capacity building to develop domestic debt markets in the four countries. Specifically, it will support the deepening of primary debt markets, improvement of debt market infrastructure, enhancement of institutional capacity in relevant agencies and authorities, and a broadening of the investor base.
According to the World Bank’s first Economic Update on the Gambia, real GDP growth exceeded 6% two years in a row before COVID-19 struck, driven by rebounding confidence, investment, low interest rates, and growing tourism. While Tourism arrivals had started well at the beginning of 2020, they collapsed by about 50% in March 2020, as containment measures were put in place swiftly. GDP growth is expected to have stagnated in 2020, however, the economy is expected to gradually recover in 2021 as the pandemic recedes, conditional on political stability and normal weather conditions.
“Prior to COVID-19, The Gambia’s economic prospects had been improving but the pandemic interrupted a promising start to 2020,” stated Mehwish Ashraf, World Bank Country Economist and lead author of the report. “That being said, the economy has weathered the pandemic better than anticipated and is expected to start recovering gradually in 2021, although the outlook remains uncertain.”
News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations
There is no doubt that the AfCFTA is a very ambitious initiative. Could this continental integration initiative mark a departure from previous sub-regional integration experiences? There are several factors to consider. Regional integration, and specifically the AfCFTA, are currently enjoying significant political support. Political support is essential to the success of regional integration, but it has to translate into practical implementation programs, supported by the necessary improvements in governance.
Private sector interest in, and support for the AfCFTA, is also running high. Active engagement in the negotiations and implementation processes by the private sector is required for the AfCFTA to succeed. Global interest in the AfCFTA is also notable. Foreign direct investment can play an important role to support the achievement of the AfCFTA’s objectives, by expanding and diversifying productive capacity. If a global investor establishes a commercial presence in one of the State Parties (country which has ratified the Agreement), that enterprise will enjoy the benefits of the AfCFTA. This could bring positive effects, especially for consumers, but new competition may also pose challenges to domestic enterprises.
While the report pointed out that Africa’s regulatory regime was yet to catch up with the speed with which the digital sector was growing, in general, it remained patchy and characterized by poor enforceability. The growth of mobile technology, among the other factors, built a fertile foundation that could be buttressed by developments in venture capital and funding, online payments, and logistics. “We arrive at the conclusion that the digital economy can be a powerful catalyst for Africa’s economy with the potential to alleviate many of the economic burdens of COVID-19. But more importantly, e-commerce and digital trade can serve as a powerful engine for the economic recovery now required,” the authors of the report said.
A new report launched by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on the impact of COVID-19 on e-commerce in Africa, shows that the sector and the digital economy grew considerably throughout the decade ending in 2019. The report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic, bad as it is with the associated health and economic impacts, has opened up new opportunities for the continent’s digital economy.
Land locked developing countries (LLDCs) are vulnerable to fluctuations which were further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in border closures that continue to affect the movement of goods and people. A high-level roundtable on Saturday discussed possible measures that can be taken to address some of these challenges and support LLDCs during this critical time. In opening remarks to the meeting, Mr. Francis Ikome, Chief of the Regional Integration Section in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Regional Integration and Trade Division, said the think tank has a continuing interest in the development of LLDCs. He said within the scope of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) lay an opportunity to promote the smooth functioning of corridors, easing life for Africa’s LLDCs. He said Africa’s infrastructure deficit posed a challenge that brings about additional costs in trade, especially for the LLDCs.
Mr. Ikome noted that African LLDCs were making commendable progress as noted by the mid-term review report of the Vienna Programme of Action, but still had a long way to go. He also recognized the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 in the development of LLDCs, adding that no country will be able to overcome the pandemic alone and therefore collaboration was key. “Corridors create opportunities for industrialization and are vectors of market growth. The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for promoting smooth functioning of corridors for sustainable industrialization and diversification during the COVID-19 era,” said Mr. Ikome.
For her part, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Ms. Amina Abou-Zeid, said the AUC also pays special attention to corridors to ensure LLDCs are connected and that trade flows easily. “Corridors don’t work alone. They need to be linked to ports which are affected by challenges like border control harassment and lengthy queues at the borders resulting in delays,” she said
Zambia and Zimbabwe have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a joint industrialization project spearheaded by COMESA Secretariat. The Joint Industrialization Project will promote self-sustained, balanced and inclusive economic growth between the two countries. It will provide opportunities for the private sector to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area through enhanced competitiveness.
In her statement, Ms Kapwepwe said that the success of the Project will enable the two Member States to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic transformation through industrialization. “Once successful the pilot project will be upscaled to other Member States in the region,” she said.
Minister Yaluma said the project has come at the right time as it fully supports the Zambian industrialization and job creation agenda for the country. It will enable the two countries to share ideas and resources for industrial development and further strengthen the working relationship between Zambia and Zimbabwe in the field of industrialization. “Despite the growth potential in the region, poverty, unemployment, low investment levels, and depressed aggregate demand, among others, are prevalent in the COMESA region,” he said attributing this economic scenario to depressed industrialization.
Women businesses need help to mitigate Covid-19 challenges (Daily Monitor)
A trade support organisation has called for the revision of the Simplified Trading Regime to enable cross-border women traders participate more. In a report released last week, Ms Sheila Kawamara Mishambi, the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) executive director, said the impact of Covid-19 on cross-border women traders across East Africa had mostly been immense forcing closure of at least 64.2 per cent of women-owned businesses. The Simplified Trading Regime supports small-scale traders to benefit from simplified customs document and simplified certificate of origin, under which goods that originate from member countries and whose value does not exceed $2,000 (Shs7.3m) per consignment, qualify for duty-free entry in the respective markets.
Participants to the conference which was themed: “Tanzania Awareness National Dialogue on the new SADC Vision 2050 and RISDP 2020-2030” came up with a number of policy recommendations geared to ensure successful implementation of the agreed development plans. The virtual meeting was supported by Southern Africa Trust (SAT) and German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ). They suggested for SADC member states to speed up ratification and domestication of all SADC protocols and programmes at the national level including the SADC Development Fund and SADC Agriculture Development Funds.
On the RISDP 2020-2030, they suggested that SADC member states including Tanzania recognize and domesticate the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) 2019-2028 which aims to shed new light on the important role family farmers play in eradicating hunger. Governments to increase joint trading by ensuring every member state identifies products of its comparative advantage to trade within the block.
A total of 63 regional infrastructure projects have been developed in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region, including 17 regional energy projects under the second Priority Action Plan for Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA PAP 2), the African Union continental strategic infrastructure framework, the SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has said. H.E Dr Tax was speaking during the virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting which was hosted by Mozambique on 12 March 2021
A study to create an enabling environment for developing energy projects has been commissioned. Establishment of the Regional Transmission Infrastructure Financing Facility (RTIFF) which has already identified core services and institutional arrangements under which RTIFF can operate is expected to be concluded by the end of March 2022 after consideration by Council. The development of the Regional Gas Master Plan has also commenced, with Phase I concluded in October 2020. It covered gas demand and supply assessment, gas market study and capacity building needs. Phase II covering the soft and hard gas infrastructure blueprint for the Region will commence during the first quarter of 2021/22 financial year.
Speaking yesterday to the virtual Ministerial Meeting on EnhancingAir Transport Connectivity and Growth in West Africa, ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano and Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu emphasized how liberalization and innovation remain key to the region’s optimized and sustainable air connectivity.On the topic of liberalization, President Sciacchitano highlighted in his keynote address to the participants to the event, which was hosted by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Aviation and the International Partners for Aviation Innovation and Sustainability (iPADIS), that “the restoration of air connectivity is nothing short of vital for the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries’ 308 million people, and for their many businesses which rely on cross-border travel.”
Tankers: West Africa Crude Oil Exports on The Decline (Hellenic Shipping News)
Tanker loadings from West Africa proved to be problematic numbers-wise, during 2020. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that ‘2020 was overall a very negative year for crude oil trade, although of course the tanker market was partially shielded by the increased demand for floating storage. West Africa’s performance was pretty average in this context. In 2020, West Africa exported 205.9 mln tonnes of seaborne crude oil, which represented a -8.9% y-o-y decline compared to 2019.
West Africa accounted for 10.1% of global seaborne crude oil trade last year, ahead of Russia and ahead of the United States. In the first 3 months of 2020, West Africa exported 56.1 mln tonnes of crude oil, up +3.3% y-o-y. The second quarter of 2020 saw shipments of 52.5 mln tonnes from West Africa, down -6.2% y-o-y. In the third quarter, exports declined to 48.6 mln tonnes, which was down -17.8% y-o-y. The fourth quarter of 2020 saw 48.7 mln tonnes, down -14.2% on a year-on-year basis”, said Banchero Costa.
Africa is one of the most blessed continents in the world in terms of its potential marine and terrestrial natural resources. However, most of these riches, particularly the marine resources which contribute to the Blue Economy, are yet to be responsibly utilised to foster the economic transformation of a rich yet poor continent in the world. In most African countries, terrestrial resources seem to receive closer attention by governments and other stakeholders to the extent that certain conflicts and political instability in some parts of the continent result from such resources. On the other hand, the marine resources which include freshwater bodies and oceans can offer significant economic opportunities such as fisheries, seabed mining, oil drilling, aquaculture, trade, and tourism which can drastically transform Africa’s future.
Global trade rebound suggests some lessons of COVID-19 are being learned (Trade for Development News)
In April 2020, global markets were in freefall. Governments around the world were debating whether to impose drastic new protectionist measures, and global trade appeared on the way to its steepest decline since the 2008 global financial crisis. While the COVID-19 pandemic was the direct cause of this chaos, the still simmering U.S.-China trade conflict and the collapse in consensus over the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) exacerbated the concerns. The pandemic appeared poised to push global trade to the breaking point.
The recovery in merchandise trade began in June. By the end of the year, global COVID-related trade losses had been made up, with growth in merchandise exports up 7.8% year-on-year in December. For 2020 as a whole, the World Bank’s recent Global Economic Prospects report projects a decline in global trade slightly smaller than during the financial crisis year of 2009, although the 2020 GDP decline is projected to be nearly twice as large as 2009. Low-income countries experienced the first aggregate contraction in a generation, and are expected to remain 5.2% below the pre-pandemic projections by 2022.
At the core of the recovery are businesses that have found ways to adapt their supply chains even with production shifts to maintain social distancing, and amid policy uncertainty and new border procedures. Recent World Bank surveys with multinational businesses indicate that over half (58%) have turned to digital technologies to optimize capacity and improve logistics, and a third report mapping the tiers of their supply chains to improve visibility of potential vulnerabilities.
Prioritise pandemic relief, recovery and no time for debt buybacks (The Edge Markets MY)
Governments of developing countries are being wrongly advised to use their modest fiscal resources to pay down accumulated debt instead of strengthening pandemic relief and recovery. Thus, debt phobia risks deepening and extending Covid-19 recessions by prioritising buybacks.
Nearly half (44%) of low-income countries were already debt-distressed or at high risk even before the Covid-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020. Limited fiscal space has constrained developing countries’ relief and recovery measures, making them far more modest than those of developed countries.
Nevertheless, their government debt ratios rose faster in 2020. Many developing countries have taken on more debt, typically on non-concessional terms — from private lenders and non-Paris Club members. Public debt in emerging markets has thus surged to levels not seen in over half a century. From January to October 2020, the average debt burden of developing countries rose 26% as tax revenues declined sharply. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects their average debt ratios will increase by 7% to 10% of GDP in 2021, with some terming this a “debt pandemic”. Debt burdens limit fiscal resources and the policy space needed to better address the pandemic health and economic crises in developing countries. Debt is particularly debilitating in the least developed countries, where healthcare services were modest even before the pandemic.
In January, we projected 2021 global growth at 5.5 percent, but prospects of a stronger recovery are emerging – because of additional fiscal stimulus, especially in the U.S., and the prospects of broader vaccination. We will update our global forecasts in the new World Economic Outlook coming out in early April. However, the global recovery has been incomplete and unequal.
We don’t know how prolonged the health crisis will be. Access to vaccines remains very uneven, both across advanced and emerging economies. Low-income countries might not see significant vaccination well into 2022, and that is a problem: this pandemic will only really be over when it is over for everyone.
These challenges are daunting, but they can be overcome with concerted actions by all countries. Let me highlight three priorities. First, end the pandemic swiftly. Second, countries should maintain economic support and calibrate it to the stage of their recovery and the pandemic. Third, we must mitigate divergence across countries. This includes providing access to liquidity for developing economies and preventing climate change from hampering their economic growth and convergence.
Dubai-led World Logistics Passport expands to facilitate global trade (ArabianBusiness.com)
The World Logistics Passport (WLP), the first global freight loyalty programme, has expanded into a global network of trade megahubs in 11 nations. Launched last year under the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai-led program is being rolled out in 11 countries across four continents including India, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia and South Africa. Speaking about the WLP’s success, Sheikh Mohammed said: “The World Logistics Passport is yet another major initiative that reflects the UAE’s vision to shape a brighter future for our world through innovative programmes that foster global trade cooperation. Davos summit sees launch of World Logistics Passport, a major initiative to boost trade between Africa, Latin America and Asia. The WLP allows traders and freight forwarders to access benefits in return for increased trade in each of the programme’s hubs.