Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News
Photo credit: Simon Dawson | Bloomberg

Country focus

Saving SA’s poultry industry (SAnews)

For the last decade, poultry production in South Africa has been static - despite the fact that consumption has continued to grow. This has happened because imported poultry has come into the economy in large quantities, displacing South African meat, especially at the lower end. In an effort to address threats to the local production of poultry, government, together with a number of stakeholders in the industry, including poultry producers, farmers, processors, exporters, importers and organised labour, developed the Poultry Master Plan.

Resolving energy challenges critical to economic recovery (SAnews)

President Cyril Ramaphosa says resolving the current energy challenges is fundamental to South Africa’s economic recovery. “That is why we are making every effort to bring new power generation capacity online in the shortest possible time,” President Ramaphosa said. In his weekly newsletter, President Ramaphosa said the country’s electricity shortages have been a problem for more than a decade. He said economic activity has been severely interrupted with power cuts affecting smaller businesses and large industries alike.

African Free Trade agreement seen as a ‘gift from the gods’ (Eyewitness News)

Business organisations are excited about the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, which is being implemented this year. The National African Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Nafcoc) and the Small Business Institute (SBI) said it presented many opportunities for SMMEs to interact across the continent and to trade freely without the burden of tariffs and heavy customs duties.

“Our view is that Africa has not been trading with itself but has been trading with Europe, Asia, America and other continents,” he said. “We are looking forward to creating a space wherein minerals and commodities in Africa can be beneficiated within Africa instead of taking minerals out of Africa and sending them to other continents for processing, only for them to be sold back to us.”

“What’s possible is very exciting – 90% of goods being traded tariff-free has the potential of catapulting the continent’s industrialisation,” he said. However, Dludlu cautioned against “non-qualifying economic operators” that were not part of the deal taking advantage of the pact.

Trade Lobby and Mastercard give small businesses Sh400m loans (Business Daily)

About 14,000 small enterprises impacted by Covid -19 has received Sh400 million in interest-free loans from a trade lobby and Mastercard Foundation to help rebuild their ventures. The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) chief executive Samuel Matonda said Monday the funds earmarked for youth and women-led small businesses were disbursed between last October to March. Micro and Small Enterprises (MSMEs) in the informal sector mainly dealing in agricultures, retail, healthcare and manufacturing sectors constituted the larger share of beneficiaries of the credit facility rolled out last October.

Kenya now eyes UK talks on free trade in services (Business Daily)

Kenya has set its sights on fresh talks with the United Kingdom on free trade in services such as money transfers after the pact ensuring continuity in tax- and quota-free trade in goods was enforced yesterday. Industrialisation and Trade secretary Betty Maina said Nairobi would engage London with a view to facilitating seamless dealings in key services which include financial transactions as well as investment flows. The two countries on Monday exchanged instruments of the UK-Kenya Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was earlier in the month approved by respective parliaments, marking the official ratification of the pact.

“The agreement we have signed is for trade in goods, but we look forward, as we indicated at the beginning of the negotiations, to also engage in other framework for trade in services, promotion of investments, and deepening economic and trade cooperation with United Kingdom,” Ms Maina said yesterday in Nairobi.

Kenya-UK trade deal: Why the devil is in the details (The Standard)

After a long and bruising battle, the United Kingdom finally got its wish to leave the European Union. Following the exit, Britain had to find alternative trade partnerships with other regions. One such deal was with the East African Community (EAC) countries, with Kenya at the forefront of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Despite initial opposition, the agreement was signed on December 8, last year. It was later ratified by the parliaments of the two countries.

Treasury reduces duty-free sugar import quota by 30pc (Business Daily)

The Treasury has capped the amount of sugar that can be imported duty-free to Kenya from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) at 210,163 tonnes as the government moves to tame influx of the cheap sweetener following an outcry from farmers. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said in a Kenya Gazette notice that imports which exceed the set limit will attract 100 per cent duty, in what comes as good news to farmers and local sugar processors. Kenya is normally allowed to ship in 300,000 tonnes of sugar annually from the Comesa member states to avoid dumping of cheap commodity into the country. Mr Yatani said firms enjoying the duty free status will have to meet the rules of origin of Comesa.

ECA supporting Kenya to organize its AfCFTA implementation strategy review meeting

The Kenya State Department for Trade, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), is organizing a four-day meeting from 23 to 26 March to review the country’s African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation strategy. About 50 experts, including government officials, trade economists, academia, development partners, youth and women’s representatives, are expected to participate in the meeting holding in Mombasa, Kenya.

Kenya is one of the 36 countries that have ratified the agreement, which provides an opportunity for Africa to create the world’s largest free trade area with the potential to unite more than 1.2 billion people in a $2.5 trillion economic bloc and usher in a new era of development.

“Vaccine friendship’: India offers Kenya free doses of Covid vaccine (Emergency-Live)

India is once again the protagonist of a beautiful gesture of solidarity in the fight against the Covid pandemic: in recent weeks it has offered and donated free doses to many developing countries, the latest of which is Kenya. The initiative was called vaccine Maitri (‘Hindi for vaccine friendship’) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Speaking to The Nation on Sunday, Kenya’s Vaccine Advisory Task Force chairperson Dr. Willis Akhwale said India’s offer involves collaboration in technical exchange, virtual training, and sharing of notes and experiences. “We will be sharing a lot with them in terms of discussing what they are going through and their investigations of the AstraZeneca vaccine, exchanging reports, and learning how they are monitoring the impact,” Dr. Akhweale said.

Kagame: Now is the time to scale up investments to ensure digital equity (The New Times)

President Paul Kagame on Monday, March 22, said that there is need to forge new partnerships for universal broadband and scale up the investments required to bridge the digital divide. President Kagame made the remarks while addressing the 2021 spring meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which he co-chaired with Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire.

In his remarks, the President noted that broadband usage has exploded during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, amidst restricted movement in different parts of the world. However, he pointed out that as life increasingly shifts online, the contrast between the digital haves and have-nots is even more blatant.

President Kagame Lobbying For African Medicines Agency (Taarifa Rwanda)

As Covid-19 pandemic continues its protracted pounding across the globe, Africa is reminded it is the time for solidarity owing to missing out in the scramble for vaccines. President Paul Kagame is now pushing for a swift ratification of a treaty establishing the African Medicines Agency. Ibrahim Mayaki, Nepad Chief Executive Officer flew to Rwanda’s capital Kigali to meet President Kagame from March 13-15 to take stock of the institution’s activities and its priorities for the coming months. Item 1 on the agenda: accelerating ratifications of the treaty establishing the African Medicines Agency, under the aegis of the AU. “Quality of Governance is not always linked to “level of development “but to leadership ;an example is Rwanda that had a roll out implementation plan of vaccination before receiving the vaccines. Some “developed” countries have surpluses of vaccines and face chaotic implementation,” Mayaki said on Monday.

Botswana’s relations with China continue to deepen (China Daily)

Diplomatic relations between China and Botswana have grown significantly this year, with the African nation becoming the 46th country on the continent to sign a memorandum of understanding on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Botswana also was one of the five African countries that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited in January.

In addition, with a focus on infrastructure construction, China will help promote connectivity in Botswana and support the African Continental Free Trade Area, thus boosting trade relations with Botswana, Zhao said. As Botswana places great emphasis on growing its digital economy, Zhao

Zim leather sector gets US$15m to add value (The Herald)

Zimbabwe has received US$15 million funding from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to capacitate industrial operations under the leather sector value chain. Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, has said Bulawayo would play a leading role in implementation of leather transformation projects, as she confirmed receipt of the critical funding from the 21-member regional trading block, to which Zimbabwe is a member. Revitalising the leather sector is one of Comesa’s flagship projects, which has seen the bloc establishing a specialised unit, the Africa Leather and Leather Products Institute (ALLPI).

Kazungula rail bridge brings hope – Zambia Daily Mail

The Kazungula Bridge Project is a multi-national border crossing project located at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe rivers about 65km upstream the Victoria Falls. It is uniquely located where four international boundaries meet, namely Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. The project lies on the border between the two countries on the North-South Corridor (NSC), a vital trade route in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for countries such as Zambia and Botswana. “It will be a lot of relief to many of our traders – no time wasting, also connectivity will be faster for traders willing to travel to other countries, especially Southern African Development Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries,” Cross Border Traders Association Livingstone branch chairperson Happy Mafumu says.

Ghana Signs a $1.6Billion Trade Deal with the United Kingdom (Lexology)

Ghana signed a new Trade Partnership Agreement with the United Kingdom worth $1.6Billion. The Minister for Trade, Hon. Alan Kyeremanteng disclosed that the Agreement will take the form of the Economic Partnership Agreement signed between the European Union and ECOWAS. The Agreement is expected to provide duty-free and quota-free access for Ghanaian goods to the UK market and preferential tariff reductions for UK exporters to the Ghanaian market. This will enable businesses trading within the Ghana-UK markets to capitalize on the exchange of goods and services at competitive rates.

Both governments expect the Agreement to help boost confidence amongst traders and to strengthen the existing trade and economic relationship between Ghana and the UK.

Nigeria Plans $50bn Intra-Africa Exports - AfCTA — Economic Confidential

The National Action Committee on African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement has disclosed plans to achieve economically viable communities in Nigeria by growing its intra-Africa export trade volume to $50bn by 2035. The Senior Special Assistant to the President and Secretary, National Action Committee on AfCTA, Francis Anatogu, made the disclosure in an AfCFTA overview presentation to the media in Lagos on Monday. He stated that other national AfCFTA aspirations were to establish a highly productive workforce, a business friendly environment, quality infrastructure, export development incentives and a strong national brand.

Anatogu said, “Success with AfCFTA is a diversified and sustainable Nigerian economy with strong linkages with neighbours and the top economies in Africa and a globally accepted country brand.

Nigeria’s border closures haven’t served their purpose (ISS)

In August 2019, Nigeria closed its land borders with neighbouring Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. While people were allowed to pass through, the movement of goods was blocked. The objective, Nigerian officials said, was to stem the smuggling of goods, particularly rice. Yet the phenomenon hasn’t stopped since the closure, raising questions about the measure’s effectiveness and the actual reasons for the decision.

Trade officials interviewed by the ISS said the closure had probably resulted in new smuggling routes as illicit dealers are determined to move their goods across borders. They acknowledged, however, that products – including rice – are likely to have been smuggled in smaller consignments given the difficulty of driving heavy duty trucks through alternate routes. Already, informal trading via unapproved routes is a long-standing economic practice in local communities.

EgyptAir to spread wings in Africa while seeking $300 million support from government (CGTN Africa)

Egypt’s national carrier, EgyptAir is looking to expand in Africa as air travel recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the carrier seeks more than $300 million in additional government aid. The state-owned airline plans to help develop a new Ghanaian carrier and is weighing a joint venture with a Sudanese airline, according to Roshdy Zakaria, chief executive officer of EgyptAir Holding Co. The new airline, likely called Air Ghana, will probably begin operations “in a couple of months,” he said.

“To spread in Africa, that is our main goal,” the CEO said. “When we have a hub somewhere in the middle of Africa that will give us a chance to reach” new destinations.

News from Africa and Africa’s international trade relations

AfCFTA programme to enslave Africans if challenges not addressed (Myjoyonline.com)

The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) may enslave Africans to the rest of the world if the challenges associated with the programme are not fixed, the Citizen Watch, a think tank group has revealed. Currently, it is estimated that Ghana needs about US$5billion for the next 10 years to support the private sector to enable it compete favorably with its peers. ”What our leaders ought to know is that they are in to take advantage of our resources, by scooping everything we have in the country without bringing in anything”, it said in a statement signed by Elikem Agbenyegah, the leader of the group. “The government don’t have the funds to support the local industries to enable them compete with its peers, however, the foreign companies would come in with their resources to establish huge factories in the country. They would export the products to neighboring countries and make their returns on investments, which would be a major disadvantage to us”, it said.

Africa still lags behind in trading within its borders (Africa Renewal)

“Implementation of regional integration continues to be hampered by governance, peace and security challenges,” said Mr. Karingi, adding: “Digitalization is key in maintaining trade competitiveness and enabling effective participation in cross border e-commerce.” The report shows that in 2018, Africa accounted for only 2.6% of global trade which is a slight increase from 0.2% from 2017. Intra-African trade increased to 16.1% in 2018 ($159.1bn), up from 15.5% in 2017. Globally, output slightly decreased to 3.6% in 2018 from 3.8% in 2017.

Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) New Date Confirmed - African Export-Import Bank

The second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) is now set to take place from 8 to 14 December 2021. African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the African Union (AU) and the Government of Rwanda have decided to shift the date of the continental trade fair, which was previously scheduled to hold from 6 to 12 September 2021, to allow for a broader roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines across the continent and ensure that the event is held under the most optimal health conditions.

“Our intent is that all participants garner the full benefits of the abundant networking, trade and investment opportunities that will arise at IATF2021. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of enthusiasm for the event. The extra time given to preparatory activities and effective roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines will allow IATF2021 to be held under favourable conditions, giving more confidence to participating governments, exhibitors, buyers, conference delegates and other visitors,” said Chief Obasanjo. “IATF2021 will bring together continental and global players to showcase and exhibit their goods and services, and explore business and investment opportunities enabled by the single market created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to accelerate Africa’s integration and industrialisation agenda,” he added.

AUDA-NEPAD: Does money and focus equal ownership and trade? (ECDPM)

With trading having officially started under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January 2021, the African Union (AU) and its member states are now under pressure to make this agreement a success. But as analysis of the agreement shows, most gains are not expected from tariff reduction but rather from reducing non-tariff barriers and from trade facilitation – where improving trade-related infrastructures is key.

The AU has a continental plan covering trade-related infrastructures too – the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) was set up in 2012 precisely to help boost regional and continental infrastructure connections. It laid out a framework of ‘priority’ projects – a shortlist from country and regional submissions – which needed funding.

Despite some progress, the first generation of PIDA was not a roaring success. Africa still lacks the necessary infrastructure to trade efficiently on the continent. Under NEPAD, the agency set up in the early 2000s as a ‘new’ effort to promote an ‘African renaissance’, the first generation of the PIDA priority action plan (PIDA-PAP1) saw only mitigated success.

But neither was PIDA a failure. It helped pool and channel funding to help set up numerous One Stop Border Posts (such as that between Rwanda and Tanzania or between Benin and Nigeria), upgrade ports (such as in Kribi in Cameroon or port access in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), build cross-border roads (such as the Libreville-Brazzaville Road and the railway line linking Malawi and Mozambique), and lay fibre-optic cables across the continent.

A greener AfCFTA possible if right policy, standards are enforced — Expert tells ECA seminar (Modern Ghana)

A greener African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be achieved if governments on the continent adopt proactive environment-friendly policies and enforce environmental standards, a trade economist said today at an event organized by The Economic Commission for Africa and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

“Trade in Africa will play a decisive role in the continent’s transformation and climate change action should not restrict it,” Mendez-Parra said at the virtual event on building back better through greening the AfCFTA. Instead, in itself, “the AfCFTA can increase resilience to climate change,” he said.

Fostering investment in infrastructure key for Africa’s industrialization | United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Sustainable industrialization is a feasible growth engine for Africa to build forward better in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Governments, however, need to invest in critical technological infrastructure and supportive policies to deliver economic development in the backcloth of the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic. This was the consensus of African policy makers attending the annual Economic Commission meeting for African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (COM2021) which opened in Addis Ababa Monday. African ministers spoke during a high-level panel discussion on the theme of the fifty-third session of the Commission, focusing on ‘Africa’s sustainable industrialization and diversification in the digital era in the context of COVID-19’. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Africa hard, triggering a recession in 25 years which has weakened economies and increased debt burdens.

“Sustainability, industrialization, diversification and digitization are the right strategies for Africa to recover from the disastrous impact of COVID-19 and to build more resilience, sustainable and inclusive growth and development,” lead speaker, Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Uzzeil Ndagijimana, told the panel. He stressed that these industrialization strategies need investment in vaccine production, good governance, access to cheap long-term financing, improved business environment and promotion of inter African trade.

Local Technology And Intra-Continental Trade Key To Effective Covid-19 Vaccination Rollout In Africa (Africa.com)

As countries across Africa roll out vaccines to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is becoming increasingly evident that the continent is in desperate need of ICT systems and healthcare solutions that can support mass vaccination programmes. Unfortunately, African countries are often seen by First World countries as dumping grounds for outdated or substandard technology, with equipment that is prohibited in Europe, due to regulatory issues, being resold on the continent. Aside from being outdated or substandard, imported medical technology seldom meets the requirements of African countries and their populations. In most instances, imported medical technology must be customised and adapted. Furthermore, the adoption of such technology creates an undesirable dependence on outside skills and resources, which often becomes too expensive to sustain in the long term. Hence, there is a growing demand and hunger in Africa to build homegrown skills and resources, which in turn highlights the need for intra-continental trading and partnerships that will enable the sharing of ICT technologies to help the continent manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, intra-continental trading in Africa is still relatively new as the continent was historically divided up into trade blocs. Countries within these blocs have a lot of administrative regulations and financial barriers that need to be overcome in order to facilitate effective intra-continental trade.

Widen market beyond borders: Modi (Chronicle)

LOCAL companies should now start exploring markets across the continent to tap into the vast potential opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, has said.

Speaking in an interview after touring three companies in the printing and packaging sector in Bulawayo last Thursday, Deputy Minister Modi said the implementation of the AfCFTA not only presents challenges to local industry but opportunities for local enterprises to broaden their market share. “We are over 50 countries in Africa, so we have all that market. As a country that’s an opportunity for us so that we don’t look to the markets that are very close to us,” he said.

Feature: Feeding East Africa’s hungry from a single port (CGTN Africa)

The World Food Programme supplies hundreds of thousands of metric tons of food per year to hungry people across the continent. The life-giving supplies are gathered from vendors and donors all over the world. But how is this massive quantity of food transported and distributed to the end user?

From conflict and disaster zones like Somalia, South Sudan, and northern Mozambique, to places battling chronic hunger like Ethiopia and Uganda nearly all of that food passes through a single place: the WFP’s logistics and sorting facility at the port of Mombasa.

As the region’s largest sea port, Kenya’s second city functions as a crucial node for shipping and logistics across East and Central Africa. CGTN Africa visited the ships, trucks and warehouses that make this fine-tuned distribution system tick.

Central Africa countries urged to embrace industrialization - Xinhua | English.news.cn

Industrialization remains a key priority for the Central African sub-region despite the adverse consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) sub-regional office said on Monday. Antonio Pedro, director of the ECA Sub-regional Office for Central Africa said the bloc has made some economic breakthroughs but needed to boost its industrialization progress. “Central Africa’s path to sustained development passes through industrialization. COVID-19 has revealed how dependent this region is on the import of essential goods such as food products as well as pharmaceutical products. The only way forward therefore is to produce and consume locally and this is done through industrialization,” Pedro told Xinhua in an interview by phone as African Finance Ministers began meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to chart a way forward for Africa’s industrialization and diversification agenda in the digital area amid COVID-19.

ECOWAS to Hold 2nd Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees in Abidjan (News Ghana)

The ECOWAS Commission will hold the 2nd Forum for National Trade Facilitation Committees from March 16th to 18th, 2021 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The 3-days meeting is aimed at strengthening the National Trade Facilitation Committees as a central platform for institutional coordination and implementation of trade facilitation initiatives resulting from regional and international obligations including the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The forum will specifically update participants on the implementation of the WTO TFA in the ECOWAS region, identify assistance for the implementation of Category C provisions of the TFA, exchange and identify Capacity Building for the implementation of provisions related to transparency obligation, exchange and update on the implementation of ECOWAS COVID-19 Guidelines by NTFCs and consideration of Trade Facilitation Committees in various agreements, among others.

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.

Gender Experts Meet to Review Programmes’ Implementation

COMESA Gender and Women’s Affairs experts began their 13th Meeting on Monday 22 March 2021 to discuss progress on the advancement of gender equality and empowerment of women through implementation of policy and legal frameworks, council decisions, programmes and projects. The objective of the three-day virtual meeting was to consider the progress made by both the Secretariat and Member States on the implementation of the Decisions of the Tenth meeting of the COMESA Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs held last year.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Permanent Secretary in Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mr Mushuma Mulenga appreciated the meeting coming shortly after the international Womens’ Day when governments, private sector, community groups, professional associations, women’s networks, celebrate women around the world, and their achievements in social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.

Increasing women’s access to capital critical in Africa’s fight against poverty (Africa Renewal)

Ms. Yemeru said the ECA will also work across divisions to strengthen data on women empowerment. She called for follow-up support to Member States that conduct time-use surveys to develop strategic responses on the workload of women in unpaid caregiving. Ms. Yemeru also talked about the need for planned and job rich urbanization as more people continued to move to the cities across Africa. Social sector financing; managing rapid urban growth; seeking digital solutions; investing in data evidence, were some of the recommendations for countries on the continent. Ms. Yemeru called on Member States to align their economic plans with financing and planning for sustainable urbanization and to better link urban and rural development and strengthen the interdependence between the two. The report calls on the ECA to give more technical assistance to its Member States, especially in the area of gender legislation.

Global economy

Aid for Trade: time to take stock of Covid-19’s impact (Trade for Development News)

A year into Covid-19 being declared a global pandemic, this month’s Aid for Trade stocktaking event, organized by the Development Division of the World Trade Organization (WTO), offers a timely opportunity to assess impact on developing and least developed countries’ (LDC) trade needs, discuss how to make the recovery sustainable and mobilize financing where it is needed most.

LDCs have been hit hard by the pandemic. Global lockdowns from Q2 last year triggered a plunge in demand for the hydrocarbons, metals and other commodities that dominate the exports of many, with countries like Angola suffering severe hits to their financing and budgets. And while those LDCs that have made inroads into global value chains for food were buffered by more stable demand for agricultural commodities, many of the same continue to be impacted by a slump in tourism receipts. Although the latest WTO Trade Barometer suggests a recovery in global trade is underway, it is patchy, with passenger air transport and ICT, for example, remaining very depressed. “There is still a sense of urgency about how we get out of this,” said Michael Roberts, Head of Aid for Trade at the WTO. “Now, we can really start to take stock of what the impact has been, how we are coping and how much further we need to go.”

DG Okonjo-Iweala continues outreach to members with Ottawa Group ministers (WTO)

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic was reversing years of progress on poverty reduction, she said the group could play a valuable role in helping the WTO contribute to accelerating vaccine production and roll-out, and better prepare for future health crises. The Director-General emphasized that the WTO needed to reach meaningful agreements by the 12th Ministerial Conference at the end of November. She called for the fisheries subsidies negotiations to be concluded by mid-year, and for progress on agriculture and dispute settlement.

New Ambassador from Namibia reiterates support for a temporary waiver to certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement to prevent, contain and treat COVID-19 | ACP

Secretary-General of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), H.E. Mr Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, presented Dr Mekondjo Kaapanda-Girnus, Ambassador of the Republic of Namibia to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Netherlands, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Mission to the European Union, to the OACPS Committee of Ambassadors (CoA) at their 936th session. During her inaugural address to the CoA, Ambassador Kaapanda-Girnus touched on a number of current challenges, such as the Coronavirus, which she noted, is having a “disproportionate impact on developing and emerging economies” and which is further putting decades of progress in health, education and economic development at risk. In addition, speaking about the difficulties experienced by countries with limited capacities in the pharmaceutical sector, Ambassador Kaapanda-Girnus, “reiterated Namibia’s support for the joint initiative by South Africa and India to seek a temporary waiver to certain provisions of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in order to prevent, contain and treat COVID-19.”

“OACPS is working towards an international trade order that guarantees just treatment of all members while providing a level playing field for SIDS and landlocked countries” | ACP

Secretary-General H.E. Mr Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, in a video message at the opening of the Joint Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – International Trade Centre (PIFS-ITC) Symposium on Trade Finance, highlighted several trade-related activities of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

Highlighting the importance of the private sector as a main development actor, the OACPS Secretary-General touched on key aspects of the OACPS’ trade policy, ending his presentation with three initiatives of special interest to the Pacific region.

Gaps Remain in Countries Readiness to Deploy COVID-19 Vaccines (World Bank)

As countries undertake the largest vaccination campaign in history, the World Bank has worked with governments, WHO, UNICEF, the Global Fund and GAVI on assessing countries’ readiness to safely deploy COVID-19 vaccines in 128 low- and middle-income countries. The results indicate that income level and other economic indicators correlate weakly with vaccine preparedness. The report focuses on ten key indicators, including cold chain & logistics, population prioritization, budgeting, training of healthcare personnel, and safety surveillance, among others.

“Many developing countries are in the midst of preparing aggressive COVID19 vaccine delivery plans,” said Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank. “While most countries are well enough prepared to begin inoculating their populations, there are still important gaps that must urgently be addressed for wide, large scale vaccination rollouts to succeed.”

Digital Services Taxes May Be Difficult To Remove (Forbes)

An unresolved issue in the OECD’s base erosion and profit-shifting 2.0 reform project is when and how countries will remove their unilateral digital tax measures once a solution is brokered. The OECD has made it clear that inclusive framework members are expected to revoke unilateral measures and refrain from introducing new ones when that time comes.

Digital services taxes and other unilateral measures continue to proliferate despite the fact that the OECD is reportedly only months away from reaching a solution. They continue to appear despite evidence indicating that they sometimes generate only modest revenue. But high revenue generation may not be the ultimate goal.

For years, Kenya has struggled with rising debt levels that have now reached a tipping point because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are on track to reach 70% of GDP by 2023, according to the IMF. In this environment, lawmakers have already reversed tax cuts because they simply cannot afford them.

Brexit Shows Why Traders Need Reliable Information But Many Are Ahead of the Game (Inter Press Service)

It’s now almost three months since the United Kingdom entered into a new trade agreement with the European Union. During that time, we’ve seen traders struggle to get to grips with the new arrangements. From lorry drivers having their sandwiches confiscated by Dutch customs officers to estimates of additional paperwork costs of $7 billion a year, and pig breeders watching their meat rot on the quayside for want of the correct forms. It has been a difficult start for a trading relationship once valued at $930 billion, and one that has shown the importance of providing traders in the UK and Europe with clear and simple information of the kind that was not required within the single market. It was with this in mind that the WTO passed the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2014.

The future of data: Unmasking community-level differences to better address food insecurity (Brookings)

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the challenge created by high-level, aggregated data when addressing chronic food security and other lasting challenges affecting Africa—namely the masking of community-level differences, which inhibits the effective distribution of resources in the region. Technological advancements now bring clarity to these gaps, equipping today’s generation of committed policymakers to tackle complex problems, especially those around food security. Until now, the best available data has been sparse, dated, and aggregated. Fortunately, data scientists have developed new machine learning (ML) models that can now produce reliable, local data for areas where data has been historically difficult or impossible to access. This approach allows policymakers the opportunity to develop data-driven strategies that improve food security down to the neighborhood level. Within a continent of astounding diversity, this swift and localized understanding will be essential in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic’s (and any future) threat to food security and providing stable access to food in its aftermath.

FACT SHEET: Small and Less Populous Island Economies (SALPIE) Initiative | The White House

Today the Biden administration launched the “Small and Less Populous Island Economies (SALPIE) Initiative,” an economic cooperation framework designed to strengthen U.S. collaboration with island countries and territories in the Caribbean, North Atlantic, and Pacific regions. The SALPIE Initiative signals the U.S. government’s prioritization of cooperation with these economies to counter COVID-19 economic challenges, promote economic recovery, respond to the climate crisis, and advance longer-term shared interests. Pandemic-related economic disruptions have caused an unprecedented global crisis, and import and tourism-dependent island economies have not been spared. These same island communities are also among the most vulnerable to climate change; their economic resilience is increasingly threatened by more frequent and severe storms, rising sea levels, and warming ocean temperatures.


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