tralac Daily News
Buoyant global trade and record-high commodity prices continue to underpin SA’s healthy trade balances. But the government cannot rely on this as its sole source of economic dynamism. An impressive recovery in global goods trade and an average 30% rise in commodity prices over the past year have provided a much-needed uplift for the South African economy at a time when good news has been in short supply. Last week’s news that the value of exports had risen to an all-time high in March encapsulated both the growing global demand for goods that require commodities as inputs and the escalation in their prices as a result.
The manufacturing industry in South Africa soared to nine-year high in April as new business and output grew strongly as a result of a sharp rebound from the Covid-19 impact. IHS Markit said South Africa enjoyed a strong bounce in economic performance in April as output growth soared to the fastest for just more than nine years. It said new business also rose at a marked pace, supported by strengthening customer demand as markets recovered further from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid could reignite SA’s industries (Sunday World)
Business leaders in the manufacturing industry believe that the Covid-19 crisis could be a catalyst for Africa’s next industrial revolution. The CEO of KAS Africa said the upheaval of global supply chains caused by the pandemic has helped to highlight how important local production capacity is to ensure the resilience of local economies and continuous supply of essential products. The sector declined from 26% of South Africa’s gross domestic product in 1994 to less than 14% currently. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has pursued several policies to “localise” more manufacturing in the country in an effort to re-industrialise Africa’s most advanced economy.
To achieve a successful localisation programme with incremental local content thresholds as part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), a consistent procurement pipeline needs be established, says industry association South Africa Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli. The stop-start nature of procurement, and latent bid windows, severely damaged the meaningful momentum, pre-2015, which established new manufacturing capacity within the wind and solar value chains in South Africa. “It is, therefore, crucial that further interruptions or delays are not encountered. A controlled rollout of procurement will allow all aspects of the value chain, and not only the manufacturing sector, to expand,” she says.
South Africa is finalising the much-anticipated Hydrogen Society Roadmap as the country shapes its industrialisation and economic pathway. This development was recently outlined by the Department of Science and Innovation’s (DSI) Chief Director for Hydrogen and Energy, Dr Rebecca Maserumule. Crafting the document began last year and is expected to be finalised in the next three months. The roadmap is a collaborative roundtable of which all relevant stakeholders are at equal footing and the issues of gender equality and social inclusion are at the forefront.
President Cyril Ramaphosa: Roundtable on Pandemic Preparedness (South African Government)
“While the pandemic has highlighted the value of partnership, it has also demonstrated the damaging effects of unilateral action and unequal access to resources. We cannot hope to overcome this pandemic for as long as richer countries have most of the world’s supply of vaccines to the exclusion and the detriment of poorer countries. As we prepare for future pandemics, we need to accelerate efforts to realise Universal Health Coverage. We need to ensure that vaccines and other life-saving treatments are considered a public good.”
Shortage of containers impacts on trade (Chronicle)
The Shipping Industry is at sixes and sevens as the industry tries to grapple with container shortages to ship goods across the world. Numerous reasons have been advanced around the global container shortage and the consequent impact on global trade. With improved technology, big vessels have become choice vessels so as to capitalise on capacity and economies of scale. Areas like Africa have a surplus of empty containers as they import more than they export. Out of 4 full container loads (FL) 3 containers return empty reports Africa Container Shipping. In addition, it takes more time to return the empty containers due to staff shortages caused by lockdowns.
Tanzania’s gold shipment hit $3 billion mark for the first time as price of the precious metal increased in the world market. According to the Bank of Tanzania, the value of the exports of gold to $3.025 billion in the year ending March 31, 2021, compared with $2.324 billion recorded previously. During the year to March 2021, gold exports accounted for 55.9 percent of non-traditional exports after increased by $701.3 million to $3.025 billion. The increase is associated with “an increase in the market price of gold and government initiatives in supporting the mining industry,” the central bank stated.
Domestic air travel fares double on high demand (Business Daily)
The cost of domestic flights has doubled on some routes since Sunday when the air travel resumed after the lockdown as airlines record high demand, forcing carriers to increase frequencies on different routes. Kenya Airways ticket price have shot to Sh10, 050 on Mombasa and Kisumu routes from a low of Sh5, 000 when the flights resumed on Sunday. KQ, which started with two flights to Mombasa and one in Kisumu on Sunday, has so far added additional flights on these routes.
Kenya scraps work visa for Tanzanians (Business Daily)
Kenya has scrapped work visa and permit requirements for Tanzanian nationals in an effort to boost trade and tourism between the two countries, fast-tracking implementation of East African Common Market Protocol allowing workers to move freely in the region. President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the new visa policy on Wednesday during a joint session of Kenya and Tanzanian business community in Nairobi, which was attended by the visiting Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu. President Kenyatta said the move would allow Tanzanians to enter the country without restrictions and work freely, attracting foreign investment and boosting tourism without compromising national security.
Oil pipeline-related splurge raises Uganda real estate industry spirits (The East African)
Commercial activity surrounding the recent signing of key agreements related to the 1,445km East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) and a surge in oil explorers’ procurement budgets have increased hopes of recovery in the country’s real estate industry that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The total value of industry contracts fell to $21 million in 2019, a pattern attributed to prolonged days tied to the announcement of the Final Investment Decision (FID) for Uganda’s commercial oil production programme, as well as drawn out income tax disputes between the Uganda Revenue Authority and international oil companies amid shrinking global crude oil prices.
Non-oil exports: FG pledges improved funding for exporters (The Sun Nigeria)
Amidst the dwindling fortunes of the oil and gas sector exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government at the weekend expressed concern over Nigeria’s poor records in exportation of manufactured and value added products, stressing such developments pose grave danger to its balance of trade and payment positions. Head of Strategic Planning at NEXIM Bank, Mr Tayo Omidiji, who represented the Managing Director of the bank, Mr Abubakar Bello, stated that while the Nigerian economy remains diversified, its external sector is still dominated by oil and gas trading which accounts for over 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. He explained that Nigeria recorded trade deficit of N7.38 trillion in 2020, compared to a surplus of N2.23 trillion in 2019. Omidiji recalled that the nation’s total trade declined by 10.32 per cent in 2020, as crude oil export shrank by 35.71 per cent to N9.44 trillion in 2020. He said that agricultural commodities equally recorded price declines owing to COVID-19 related factors that affected several sectors of the economy.
Tanzania pledges to strengthen trade ties with Nigeria (Premium Times)
Tanzanian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Benson Bana, has pledged his government’s commitment to boost the volume of trade with Nigeria to promote intra-Africa trade. “Basically, our bilateral cooperation is flexible in terms of volume of trade, so we are struggling to increase the balance of trade and also promote more Tanzanian products in the Nigerian market. “How do we do that? We are entering digital age, the 21st century of science and technology, so we are thinking especially of youths to start interacting, to do big business bilaterally.
SON to leverage accredited labs to end rejection of exports (The Guardian Nigeria)
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has stated that by leveraging its three accredited laboratories, the country would witness a gradual end to the incessant rejection of locally-made goods at the international market. The Director-General, SON, Farouk Salim, said: “Most of our manufacturers have been complaining that their products were rejected even by our local companies because the products are not certified because they do not have laboratory certificates to authenticate the standards. Now, that excuse is out of the way. Due to the export potentials of our industries and with the certification, it is easy for them to export anywhere in the world because an accredited laboratory means that whatever we say is good is good. It gives the nation credibility, it gives our manufacturers credibility, and it saves our foreign currency because they do not have to go to neighboring countries to get their products certified anymore so it is a win-win situation for everybody.”
Startups vital to future of Nigeria – Osinbajo (The Sun Nigeria)
The Vice-President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said that the startup ecosystem is one of the vital tools in finding solutions to Africa’s various challenges. According to him, these challenges will determine if the continent’s future as the next frontier for economic opportunities will fully be realised. “Globally, the startup ecosystem is the most viable platform for innovators and entrepreneurs to take their ideas from inception to impact. It brings relevant stakeholders together to collaborate and bring something new to the world or new to an industry. There will never be a more perfect time to strengthen the African startup ecosystem than now, on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
FG to automate Nigerian ports operations (The Sun Nigeria)
As part of the Federal Government’s plan to automate operations in the Nigerian ports, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) yesterday signed an agreement with National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) with a view to automating data collection and gathering in the ports. The Managing Director of NPA, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, said that the automation will bring timely access to data exchange for planning, research, monitoring, projections and reporting across port industry. “I would like to specifically request the collaboration of automation of data collection. This is an area that we really require support on how we can really move towards automation of data which will eliminate errors and also have live and up-to-date information as and when required.
FG ready to deploy 5G technology (The Sun Nigeria)
The Federal Government has announced it is going ahead with arrangements to deploy Fifth Generation (5G) Technology in the telecommunications industry. The government allayed fears and concerns on health and security implications over deployment of 5G, asserting Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. It added the resources and revenues to be earned from the deployment are so huge they cannot be ignored.
‘Nigeria’s debt profile, servicing worrisome’ (The Sun Nigeria)
Recently, the Federal Government sourced $3.4 billion loan from IMF, $2.5 billion loan from the World Bank, $1 billion loan from AfDB, as well as N850 billion domestic capital market loans among others. Economists have insisted that the continuous borrowing by Nigeria was not good for the economy, going by the huge amount spent on servicing those debts, they also noted that Nigeria’s debt to revenue and debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratios are becoming unfavourable. The Director-General, LCCI, Dr. Muda Yusuf, noted that the high level of debt servicing continues to hinder robust investments in hard and soft infrastructures which are key to stimulating productivity and improving living standards. The economists advised that Nigeria needs to be more proactive in public financial management as the economy is contracting and the country’s public debt profile is becoming unfavourable.
During the visit, the Minister for Africa and the Trade Envoy attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and Konexa, a British company, which will help increase sustainable energy access in Nigeria. The delegation also visited a government secondary school in Abuja that is currently being supported by the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme. At the end of the visit, the Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP, said: The UK-Nigeria relationship matters to both countries. Over 4 days, we have covered a wide range of issues, including how best to strengthen trade and investment cooperation, how to get and keep more girls in school, and how to work more closely together on global challenges such as COVID-19 and on climate change ahead of COP26.
Rice is a major food crop in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. However, rice production remains insufficient in the country due to technological and financial constraints, and food system and markets are perennially disrupted by spreading violence and COVID-19-related restrictions. Many Nigerians still suffer from hunger. After years of research, Chinese experts in Nigeria have managed to solve problems in land preparation, sowing, weed control and fertilizer management. An increasing number of local rice farmers nearby have started to adopt the technologies used at Wara Agricultural Park.
Ghana set to receive first LNG cargo at end of May (S&P Global)
There are a number of LNG export projects across North and West Africa, but Egypt in 2015 became the first – and so far only – African country to import LNG. Ghana is now expected to receive its first LNG cargo at the end of this month, a project spokesman said May 4, as the country prepares to become sub-Saharan Africa’s first LNG importer. LNG will be supplied under a long-term contract with Shell, which said in a February strategy presentation that it wanted to grow its LNG market footprint by creating new markets, including being a first supplier of LNG to Ghana.
A new report from the Transforming informal work and livelihoods project has caught the attention of policy makers and media in Ghana. Researchers from UNU-WIDER and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon conducted a survey with more than 600 workers in different cities throughout Ghana to assess the immediate and near-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour market outcomes. These data have been analysed and published in the new report delivering novel insights on how the pandemic and related policy measures have impacted the livelihoods of workers and their families. In the report, the researchers provide a comprehensive overview of their findings, which can help inform future policies.
The Malawi Country Partnership Framework (FY21–25) supports the country’s goal of creating more jobs, strengthening human capital and increasing economic growth and accountability. It targets three strategic areas; reinforcing foundations for growth and accountability; promoting private sector-led jobs and livelihoods; and strengthening human capital development. In addition, the CPF pays special attention to two cross-cutting issues of women’s empowerment and digital development. These priority areas are guided by Malawi’s development vision as laid out in the Malawi 2063 (MW2063) document, which targets the country’s lower-middle-income status by 2030 through a focus on three pillars: commercial agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization, as well as the 2018 Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) and with the forthcoming IFC-led Country Private Sector Diagnostic (CPSD).
Revenue gained from their community horticultural gardens and livestock production offers women informal traders them major opportunities to strengthen food security and to improve their livelihoods, a big contrast from the past, when the women in these communities had far fewer economic opportunities. This kind of dramatic transformation has been made possible on a large scale with the support of the Sustainable Livelihoods for Displaced and Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Sudan Project (SLDP). Funded by the government and the World Bank State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF), the government-implemented project was designed to strengthen the capacity of local stakeholders, including state authorities, displaced persons and vulnerable host communities, to plan and implement improved livelihood and natural resources management practice. With a budget of $7.135 million, it consisted of two phases over an eight-year period, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2021.
African regional and continental news
The African Council of Ministers in charge of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), is charging all member countries to publish their various tariffs, concessions and trade schedules for all traders. The move is to ensure transparency in trading and also to make member countries aware of what products and tariffs are being traded under. The Council of Ministers in charge of AfCFTA which is the second-highest body made their expectations at the 5th Session meeting in Accra. Secretary-General of the AfCTA Secretariat, Wamkele Mene believes the move will boost investor confidence on the continent as well as giving more African entrepreneurs hope.
The substantive participation of the private sector in driving Africa’s development and wealth, calls for a stronger Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) approach between the governments and private firms. Regardless of the challenges surrounding the private sector ecosystem, its contribution as an engine to Africa’s industrialisation process and economic development at large remains relevant. Even though, we can also not ignore the voices of those who posit that capitalist is at the core of an unequal society driven by private sector accumulation but there is room for improvement. Private sector active participation in key economic areas such as agriculture, industries, and services provision contribute immensely to the total GDP growth of Africa’s economy while according to AfDB provides about 90 percent of employment opportunities including formal and informal jobs.
The COVID‐19 pandemic and the measures deployed by governments and private sector institutions to contain its spread – lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, travel bans and restrictions, masking requirements, shutdowns of non‐essential activities – have caused severe socioeconomic dislocations on African economies. Many African governments responded with programs to mitigate personal hardship and disruptions to economic life. At the same time, central banks have cut policy rates and injected liquidity on an extraordinary scale in the economies. Therefore, it is not surprising that the pandemic and the actions taken to contain it have exacted substantial costs on African economies, including deep economic contractions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution in sub-Saharan Africa: key to the coronavirus recovery? (Oxford Business Group)
The coronavirus pandemic has significantly accelerated the global spread of technologies associated with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), among them artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), big data and blockchain. In sub-Saharan Africa, many now see 4IR as key to the region’s recovery. Various factors stand the sub-Saharan region in good stead to take advantage of 4IR technologies. For example, in recent times the region has seen a massive expansion of mobile technology, with consumers leapfrogging traditional development channels straight to digital services, particularly with regard to banking. Africa also boasts disproportionately high numbers of young people, a demographic dividend which is already bearing fruit in terms of the 4IR. Further to this, a report published at the end of 2019 by the African Development Bank (AfDB) noted that IoT had expanded considerably in Africa, while there had been strong investment growth in technology-led areas. But the report also highlighted a range of challenges, among them ICT infrastructure gaps and the fact that the start-up ecosystem was under-capitalised.
Africa sees the fastest recovery in air cargo – with new record highs – but passengers scarce (Business Insider South Africa)
Global air cargo demand reached an all-time high in March, with African airlines posting the fastest recovery and increasing freight volumes by 24.6% compared to the same pre-pandemic period in 2019. Following a dismal 2020, when global air cargo volumes dropped by 10.6% – the largest decline in 30 years – the freight industry has shown a remarkable recovery in the first quarter of 2021. And although Africa has shown the swiftest recovery in air cargo demand, it’s also the only region to report a month-on-month decline in Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPK) between February and March. RPK measures the number of kilometres travelled by paying passengers.
Tax forum reminds businesses that there’s money to be made in Africa (Eyewitness News)
The African Tax Administration Forum said the continent signed away billions of dollars through tax incentives for businesses. Speaking at the 5th high level tax policy dialogue, the forum’s executive secretary Logan Wort reminded businesses attending to come to Africa because there was money to be made and not because of incentives. “It is not tax incentives that attract direct investment, that’s a myth. Direct investment is attracted to a stable economy, good infrastructure, a good educated workforce and political stability. Those are things that attract investment,” said Wort.
Imagine development planners in Central Africa getting their hands on a smart and integrated tool which helps them identify the most profitable points to deploy investments for the expansion and deepening of value chains in agribusiness, manufacturing, mineral transformation and beneficiation as well as an endless flow of renewable energy to leverage their current development plans. ECA’s preliminary geospatial-data driven analysis on economic opportunities along Central Africa’s transport corridors showcases the far-northern regions of Cameroon, connected to the whole of Chad as one of Africa’s best spots for the development of a value chain in wind and solar renewable energy.
AGRA has today announced a partnership with Aceli Africa to enhance capital flows to SMEs in the agriculture sector and support a financially inclusive agricultural transformation across Africa. AGRA and Aceli have signed a letter of intent committing to jointly work together to test and scale up innovations that substantially drive down the cost and risk of financing SMEs in the agriculture space. Aceli Africa is a market incentive facility that offers financial incentives to mitigate risk and compensate lenders for the transaction costs of serving high-impact agricultural SMEs. Aceli plans to support its 25 lending partners in mobilizing $700 million in financing for agri-SMEs by 2025 with a focus on SMEs that are gender inclusive, improve food security, and practice climate-smart agriculture.
Priorities going forward include enhancing food security in the SADC region, making more productive use of the small-scale farming sector and using the African Continental Free Trade Area as a lever for agricultural and regional development. These effects have also been felt in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) across agricultural value chains, impacting regional food security, intraregional trade and economic growth.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from eight Southern African countries participated in a webinar on accountability and good governance in projects funded by multilateral development banks. “The role of CSOs in promoting principles of transparency and accountability, and in amplifying citizens’ voice and participation are key ingredients in achieving inclusive and sustainable development,” said Vanessa Moungar, Director of the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society, in opening remarks. The webinar, organized by The African Development Bank, aimed to sensitize the groups about the role and importance of independent accountability mechanisms and how greater transparency and accountability in development bank-funded projects enhances social and environmental impacts for beneficiaries.
Tech hubs have taken on a key role in the digital transition in African nations. With traditional work methods moving increasingly towards automation, tech hubs provide start-ups with training and capacity building, from ideation to market readiness. “Technology is our new reality,” says Joseph Mwanyika, executive director of Ennovation for Change, an NGO start-up supported by and working with Ennovate Hub in Tanzania. “For example, access to transportation, education, and health is all now increasingly online,” he continues. “As a result, tech hubs are incredibly important in the African entrepreneurship ecosystem: they play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurship ecosystem. However, they also need support themselves,” the Executive Director acknowledges.
Covid-19 has reversed the downward trend in global poverty for the first time in a generation. Even if we witness an economic recovery globally this year, we cannot expect a dramatic reversal in poverty levels due to the long-term damage caused by Covid-19. The pandemic is expected to reduce global potential growth and require, going forward, fiscal adjustments to tackle the increasing debt levels in many eastern and southern African countries. The coming months present an opportunity to implement reforms and interventions that contribute to long term growth that is more inclusive. Just as we have fast-tracked the Covid-19 response, we must fast-track the building blocks of sustainable infrastructure investment. This means governments should work to attain robust legal frameworks, transparency, and regulatory certainty for infrastructure sectors.
Focus on Africa free market, UNDP tells govt (Daily Monitor)
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has advised government to use the national industrial policy launched yesterday, to tap into the 1.2 billion African Continental Free market. Speaking at the launch, Ms Elsie Attafuah, the UNDP country representative, said Covid-19 has exposed certain realities in more developed countries which started looking internally for market, adding that it is crucial for Uganda to look at the Intra-Africa trade to help the country regain growth after Covid-19. “Industrialisation is the key to economic transformation through export revenue, poverty eradication, sustained prosperity, which will contribute to inclusive growth, resilience, transformation of the economy and society. It will bring foreign- direct investment and international competitiveness,” she said.
EAC Partner States have no option but to accelerate the integration process (East African Community)
Ugandan President Museveni said that failure by the EAC Partner States to form a stronger, more cohesive bloc with a bigger market would be disastrous for the region in the long run. “Integration is not really something we will do or not do. It is a must. If we don’t we shall end up in a very bad situation.” President Museveni said that EAC Partner States markets operating individually were small and therefore need to integrate into a bigger one. “We need to solve the issue of market or else we shall continue enriching other countries,” said the Head of State. Businesspeople in East Africa were in full support of the integration because they were very much inconvenienced by national borders and other non-tariff barriers.
One currency for Africa (MyBroadband)
A single currency for Africa will make it much easier to trade and invest across the continent, but because all countries are unlikely to agree on a central bank or monetary policy it will likely have to be a decentralised cryptocurrency. This is the view of Montegray Capital founder, venture capitalist, and former FNB CEO, Michael Jordaan. Jordaan said intra-African trade and not foreign aid, is the key to sustainable development in Africa. There are, however, many non-tariff barriers like delays at border posts or non-standardised customs procedures which are holding the continent back. Jordaan said these bottlenecks will have to be resolved to optimise trade between African countries. Another big challenge for intra-African trade is making it easy for big and small exporters to be paid by anyone in the world.
France begins transfer of €5bn to BCEAO as part of CFA franc reform (The Africa Report)
During his visit to Abidjan from 29 to 30 April, Bruno Le Maire, France’s minister of the economy and finance, reassured Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara that the CFA franc reform agreements approved in December 2019 would be implemented in their entirety. France has begun the process of transferring €5bn to the accounts of the Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). Paris’ decision comes within the framework of the reform of the CFA franc, which will be replaced by the eco.
Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should invest more in data production to boost their economic development, said an ECOWAS official here Wednesday. Kofi Konadu Apraku, ECOWAS commissioner for macroeconomic policy and economic research, made the remarks at the ECOWAS regional statistical coordination meeting held in Accra. The development of new data sources, including big data, should be exploited to improve the provision of official statistics to leverage advances in new technologies that would make data production easier and more cost-effective in the region.
EAC seeks tighter hug from ‘Russian bear’ (The Standard)
Regional countries stand to reap huge economic benefits if they can cooperate with the Russian Federation, an official has said. Newly appointed East Africa Community (EAC) Secretary General Peter Mathuki has emphasised the need to formalise cooperation between the regional body and the Russian government. Speaking at EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, yesterday, Dr Mathuki said the bloc is keen to identify areas of cooperation. “EAC is the fastest growing regional economic bloc in Africa. It is anchored on a clear vision with four pillars of integration: the customs union, the common market, the monetary union and ultimately the political federation,” Mathuki said.
WTO TRIPS Waiver
At the General Council meeting, WTO members agreed to allow the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to continue consideration of the proposal first put forward by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver of certain TRIPS obligations in response to COVID-19. “The way the WTO handles this matter is critical,” DG Okonjo-Iweala told members. “Vaccine policy is economic policy because the global economic recovery cannot be sustained unless we find a way to get equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics,” she added.
“I think that it is incumbent on us to move quickly to put the revised text on the table but also to begin and undertake text-based negotiations. I am firmly convinced that once we can sit down with an actual text in front of us, we shall find a pragmatic way forward, acceptable to all sides that allow the kinds of answers that our developing country members are looking at with respect to vaccines, whilst at the same time looking at research and innovation and how to protect them,” she said.
In arguing against suspending intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, an adviser to Moderna and the former chief medical officer of Merck, makes many misstatements. Contrary to Rosenblatt’s position on the issue, the United States should join the rest of the world in suspending patent rights to increase vaccine access. Pointing to the unspecified “billions” spent by industry as a justification for industry to retain patent rights, Rosenblatt neglects to mention the $17 billion spent by the National Institutes of Health on vaccine platforms and the more than $13 billion spent by the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed on COVID-specific vaccines, including all of Moderna’s research-and-development and clinical trial costs.
The United States has swung its weight behind a hotly-debated proposal by India and South Africa to suspend intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines for the duration of the pandemic. The dramatic turnabout in the US position, announced Wednesday evening by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, signals a sea change in the balance of powers around the debate over the IP waiver – which until now had been supported primarily by low- and middle-income countries.
United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today released a statement announcing the Biden-Harris Administration’s support for waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.
“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts – working with the private sector and all possible partners – to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”
Perspectives on the TRIPS waiver (IPWatchdog.com)
“In a world where the standard approaches are not doing enough, the TRIPS Waiver is a necessary first step toward facilitating increased, rapid production of vaccines. Rather than undermining the value of innovation or making it less likely in the future, the proposal demonstrates how, for many countries, the traditional balance between innovation and access has tipped toward prioritizing access for the time being.” – Rachel Thrasher of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center
“President Biden took a bold and important step today by choosing multilateralism and humanity over special interest group pressure both inside and outside of his administration. This is a breakthrough that will help the world attack the virus on a global scale so we can collectively focus on building back a better global economy and the set of rules to govern it. The EU, UK, Brazil, Norway and Japan need to follow suit and put humanity first over special interests.” – Dr. Kevin P. Gallagher, Director of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center and Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University
“Weakening intellectual property protections, as the WTO waiver proposal would do, will not increase access to the tools we need to fight COVID-19; in fact, they would hinder access to the COVID-19 tools we’ve discovered already, and it will stop the search for new tools right in its tracks. Put simply, weakening intellectual property protections won’t help us, and it will hurt us.” – Patrick Kilbride of the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“Today’s disastrous decision by President Biden will do little to end the COVID-19 pandemic and help developing nations, but it will hand over America’s medical technology to adversarial states like China and Russia. We support distributing vaccines to countries that need them, but not in a way that jeopardizes America’s successful vaccine development. It’s astonishing that President Biden is now providing the Chinese Communist Party with access to America’s intellectual property, medical research, and innovation.” – Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Vaccine IP waiver ‘could take months for WTO to negotiate’ (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Ten meetings in seven months have failed to move WTO members toward consensus on the original waiver proposal. Now that the U.S. President Joe Biden has backed a proposed waiver for COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights, the next stop is for the World Trade Organization to hammer out a deal - a process that could take months.
Pressure is mounting on Australia to support the waiver of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines after the United States reversed its long-held opposition to announce they will back the plan. Australia is now one of the last countries not to have thrown its support behind the waiver proposal at the World Trade Organization. Australia had indicated willingness for a compromise position on the waiver, however the proposal had ultimately been blocked repeatedly because of the WTO’s consensus-based system requiring absolute support, as opposed to a majority voting system.
Counterfeit remains top priority for EU’s efforts in intellectual property protection (European Commission)
The European Commission published today its biennial report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in third countries. Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Strengthening the protection and enforcement of EU Intellectual Property Rights in third countries is a European Commission priority. Deficiencies in the intellectual property system harm European businesses, undermining their investment and hampering the dissemination of technology and knowledge. Counterfeiting and piracy are a scourge on our economy and expose our citizens to low quality and dangerous counterfeits, such as the fake medical products that flooded the European market in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
USTR releases Annual Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Protection (United States Trade Representative)
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today released its annual Special 301 Report on the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. “Intellectual property rights incentivize our creators, manufacturers, and innovators to invent new products and technologies,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. “The laws, policies and practices that protect those rights must appropriately balance the interests of creators with those seeking to use their creations. Failing to adequately and effectively protect those rights in foreign markets hurts the U.S. economy, the dynamism of American innovators and the livelihoods of our workers.”
The number of people facing acute food insecurity and needing urgent life and livelihood-saving assistance has hit a five-year high in 2020 in countries beset by food crises, an annual report launched today by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC) has found. The stark warning from the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises reveals that conflict, or economic shocks that are often related to COVID-19 along with extreme weather, are continuing to push millions of people into acute food insecurity.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have agreed on the need for the US and South Africa to cooperate in addressing the Islamist insurgency in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. Pandor and Blinken also agreed on the need to expand Covid-19 vaccine production, at a meeting on the margins of the G7 foreign and development ministers’ meeting in London on Wednesday.
Boosting small business is crucial to a smart recovery (Atlantic Council)
There is little doubt that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play an outsized role in most economies. They are employers, producers, service providers, and innovators who power integrated supply chains, driving global economic growth and job creation. In emerging and developing markets, formal SMEs contribute roughly 40 percent of national income (GDP) and generate at least seven out of ten jobs; and these estimates rise substantially if you take informal business into account. To build back better, a strategic recovery should start with SMEs. Successful efforts by national governments and multilateral institutions should soften the range of supply, demand, information, and administrative constraints and focus on SMART strategies: Skills, Money, Adaptation/Adoption, Regulatory environment, and Trade.