Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News
Photo credit: WHO

National trade and trade-related news

Post-pandemic recovery must be sustainable, inclusive (Engineering News)

Efforts to accelerate the post-Covid-19 recovery in South Africa must be done sustainability and in an inclusive manner, speakers said during the Financial Services Working Group of the South African chapter of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) Business Council’s webinar on May 6. Development finance institution (DFI) the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa CEO TP Nchocho said as was the case with most DFIs and banks with the advent of the pandemic, it did not know what the future would hold and how things would unfold, and there was a natural adjustment to pull back and be extra cautious.

Young people encouraged to consider poultry farming (SAnews)

Young people should consider poultry farming when starting a business – this was the advice given to those contemplating starting a business. “The poultry industry is one of the most advanced sectors in terms of farming in the world. I think all young people should consider it for farming. If you think of something called biotechnology, you can’t think of anything than a day old chick that is raised for meat, or a layer that is raised to be able to lay an egg,” said the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s Dr Nkhane Baldwin Nengovhela.

Durban Port’s return to form vital for South African recovery, says Ramaphosa (Engineering News)

President Cyril Ramaphosa told the National Assembly of Parliament that government’s plans to guide South Africa on the path to economic recovery will not succeed unless the Port of Durban is restored to its former glory. Upon his visit, Ramaphosa committed to a R100-billion infrastructure development project to return the port – under the management of Transnet – to its former position as the number one port on the African continent. The Durban port has been overtaken by two African ports in recent years.

Internet solution for low-income communities (SAnews)

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an entity of Science and Innovation Department, has funded the company FibrePoynt (Pty) Ltd, which is developing the internet/wireless communication system that can be an alternative or supplementary to fibre to the home (FTTH) underground, or overhead cable technology. TIA Portfolio Commercialisation Manager Sipho Dikweni said the technology not only puts South Africa on the map, but responds to the socio-economic challenges and the country’s strategic broadband imperatives to make internet accessible to everyone, irrespective of their socio-economic status and geographic location.

Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane: G20 Tourism Ministers’ virtual meeting (South African Government)

The international community is doing everything possible to ensure that travel and tourism fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to share with you South Africa’s approach in this regard. Government has approved the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan (TSRP). The TSRP includes interventions to ignite the recovery which is anchored in three strategic themes namely: protecting and rejuvenating supply, re-igniting demand and strengthening enabling capability for long term sustainability. South Africa supports the adoption of the G20 Tourism Ministers Communique.

Infrastructure development to drive trade – analysts (The Herald)

Rapid infrastructure development across the country will not only consolidate the country’s position as a continental trade hub but will also boost trade between Zimbabwe and the rest of the world, analysts said. This comes after President Mnangagwa on Wednesday commissioned the completed phase of the Marongora-Hellsgate section of the Makuti-Chirundu road which is part of projects to improve the North-South corridor. Coupled with ongoing projects along the Beitbridge-Harare Highway, Government has set its sights on upgrading the Kazungula-Victoria Falls Highway. Apart from that, the Second Republic is also carrying out infrastructural development projects across the country to ensure that no one is left behind.

ZimTrade targets small businesses, youth exporters (Chronicle)

The empowerment of youths and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) so that they enjoy export benefits is essential for creating sustainable economic trade, ZimTrade has said. The trade development agency says in view of wider market opportunities to be opened up under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, the capacity development and empowerment projects should be accelerated to ensure the country bene­fits more. It said a focus on youth trade is particularly important for creating sustainable trade and at the same time, empowering SMEs can contribute to employment generation and skills development of the same youth demographic, creating a sustainable environment for the advancement of trade.

The Opportunities are Vast in a Potential U.S.-Kenya Free Trade Agreement (US Chamber of Commerce)

Last year, the U.S. and Kenya announced the launch of free trade negotiations, the first of its kind between the U.S. and a sub-Saharan Africa country. If successful, it would be the most significant trade development in the region since the enactment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade preference program in 2000. “A trade agreement between the two countries would be the first of its kind between the U.S. and a sub-Saharan African country and would provide a steady framework for strengthening our relationships with economies across the continent by providing the necessary legal protections and enduring, reciprocal trade,” said Scott Eisner, Chamber senior vice president and USAfBC president .

Delayed release of annual economic survey keeps investors guessing (Business Daily)

The statistics agency has delayed release of Kenya’s annual economic survey that was to reveal the full extent of damage inflicted on the economy and the jobs market during Covid-19 lockdown .Typically the report is released in late April or early May and was to capture economic conditions in year a when Kenya imposed restrictions like travel ban, night curfew, closure of schools and night clubs to curb coronavirus. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) director-general Macdonald Obudho said on Thursday the delay in releasing the Economic Survey 2021 was due to late submission of data by some of respondents in economic sectors.

Balancing between trade and health (Daily Monitor)

The ban of maize imports from Uganda by Kenya stirred inflamed conversations about public health and trade within East Africa. The Kenyan government took this stance after reports indicated that consignments of maize from Uganda were contaminated with high levels of aflatoxins, sparking concerns of food safety. The ensuing visit of Kenyan officials to discuss non-tariff barriers affecting trade between Uganda and Kenya and to verify sugar exports to Kenya underscores the linkage between trade and food safety. The trade war, however, triggers strategic questions which should exercise the region’s policy minds.

IMF Staff Completes Review Mission to Rwanda

“Rwanda continues to grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic activity contracted by 3.4 percent in 2020. While a second wave of infections led to a three-week lockdown in Kigali in early 2021, a gradual lifting of restrictions is currently underway. Growth is projected to rebound to 5.1 percent in 2021, supported by the national vaccination campaign targeting 60 percent of the population by end-June 2022 and continued government support to hard-hit businesses and vulnerable households. However, downside risks to growth remain substantial owing to uncertainties surrounding the duration and impact of the pandemic, and the availability of vaccines.”

Ghana Rising: Outlook on Ghana’s promising future as a 21st Century economy (Myjoyonline.com)

Ghana is one of the rising leaders on the continent, actively pursuing development and prosperity for its people. Twitter’s decision to launch in Ghana, as well as Germany’s intention to establish a German-West African centre for global health and pandemic prevention in Ghana, as well as Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, are all demonstration of this competitive advantage, and point to an ambitious future for the country. Although entrepreneurship on the continent is not new, there is a renewed and increased focus on entrepreneurship as an alternative to employment. Only the private sector and small businesses, not government, can launch a 21st century economy and ensure prosperity for millions.

‘Government is frustrating local shipbuilding, capabilities’ (The Guardian Nigeria)

In shipbuilding, 40 per cent capital cost goes into human labour, which means Nigeria is contributing about $1.8 billion worth of human capital cost yearly to foreign shipyards, needless to say about the loss in technology transfer and real engineering experience and expansion for our teeming youths. Nigeria also loses about $6.2 billion estimated earnings yearly from shipbuilding, ship repairs and spare parts manufacturing activities and other losses of about $4.6 billion in regional trade due to lack of domestic vessels access for goods transportation. Nigeria’s shipbuilding industry is of strategic importance to the economy and plays an important role in employment generation, development of manufacturing and related industries, foreign exchange savings, provide for national security and most important, create access for regional and international trade.

Food Scarcity: Why Buhari must assent to PVP bill now – Experts (Vanguard)

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) in collaboration with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Bill now, stressing that it will unlock potentials across Nigeria’s Agricultural ecosystem while protecting farmers. Director-general of the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, while delivering a presentation on the “significance of the PVP Act to the Seeds Subsector and the Nigerian Food and agriculture ecosystem” said that the PVP Bill provides intellectual property protection to breeders to help get the best genetics which aids food security.

Kazungula Bridge opens Monday (Botswana Daily News)

African Union (AU) chairperson and President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Mr Felix Tshisekedi is scheduled to officially open the multi-million Kazungula Bridge on Monday. A Ministry of Transport and Communications media release explains that the project comprises the road-rail extra dosed cable stayed bridge including approach roads as well as a one-stop post on either side of the Botswana/Zambian border. It will accommodate a planned railway line linking Mosetse-Kazungula in Botswana to Kazungula-Livingstone in Zambia.

Cameroon Poultry Farmers Urge Europe to Ease Trade Restrictions (Voice of America)

Cameroon’s poultry farmers and sellers are calling on authorities at home and in Europe to loosen trade restrictions put in place over the coronavirus pandemic and avian influenza, which have more than doubled the price of chicken. François Djonou, president of Cameroon’s Interprofessional Association of Poultry Farmers, says European countries and Cameroon reduced commercial flights to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The poultry shortage was further aggravated in November 2020, when the European Commission reported that multiple European countries had outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as bird flu. The group says regional production cannot keep up with demand. Central African states provide less than 20 million of the 150 million chickens needed in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, according to the group.

Growth revitalising Egyptian sector (Fruitnet.com)

Egypt’s agricultural exports have performed well in the past few months, according to Ahmed Ghazy, marketing manager at citrus giant Nile Establishment For International Trade, despite the current economic pressures and lockdowns in dozens of countries due to the Covid-19 crisis. For Ghazy, the Egyptian government has played an important role in supporting the agriculture sector throughout the pandemic, including citrus. Ghazy said that recent growth was revitalising the sector, attracting investments and seeing the establishment of new projects, as investors seek to take advantage of opportunities in the sector and Egypt’s comparative advantages.

Egypt opens massive new pharmaceuticals facility (Global Finance Magazine)

On April 1, Egypt opened Gypto Pharma City – a brand new industrial zone dedicated to the health sector. Spread over 180,000 square meters located 30 kilometers north of Cairo, it is one of the biggest drug production facilities in the Middle East, with 160 production lines that can manufacture 150 different types of medication and a total quantity of over 150 million packages a year, according to the government. This project is a state initiative aimed at reducing the country’s import bill and seek self-sufficiency in health care. “We must have the ability to produce medicine at the highest levels,” said Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi during the opening ceremony.

Somalia’s businesses tap solar energy to expand, boosting economic growth (world bank)

Somalia is facing a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted businesses and the country’s economic outlook. A recent World Bank Group and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) survey noted the pandemic’s significant impact on Somalia’s private sector narrowing sales and employment by about 30% and leaving most firms with liquidity challenges. The change of fortunes has been made possible through the Somali Business Catalytic Fund (SBCF), a $13 million matching grant operation under the World Bank-supported Somali Core Economic Institutions and Opportunities Project (SCORE). This form of funding, which allows small, regular, phased out payments, has been particularly critical in Somalia as it allows micro, small and medium size businesses to overcome the hurdle of high upfront costs associated with acquiring quality solar systems to address energy challenges.

African regional and continental news

African Export-Import Bank calls for innovative finance solutions for free trade (News Ghana)

African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) on Thursday called for innovative finance solutions for the successful implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Emeka Uzomba, senior advisor at Afreximbank, told a virtual forum that the continent has made numerous attempts on liberalizing trade, which have not been successful due to the absence of finance elements. “We, therefore, need to create our own solutions to finance businesses to take advantage of opportunities presented by the AfCFTA,” Uzomba said during the Kenya Association of Manufacturing forum on Small and Medium Enterprises. While saying that one of the reasons for low intra-Africa trade as compared to other regions is the lack of affordable financing for businesses to engage in cross-border trade, Uzomba observed that the availability of trade finance will help catalyze the exchange of goods and services among the African nations.

Finance SMEs for AfCFTA, manufacturing SMEs urge (The Star, Kenya)

Manufacturing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have called for financing to enable them take advantage of opportunities in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).This was during a live session, hosted by Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Syspro Africa. “With the commencement of trade under AfCFTA, came challenges, which hinder small businesses across Africa, from reaping its benefits. We, therefore, need to create our own solutions, to finance businesses to take advantage of opportunities presented by different trade agreements,” noted Uzomba, Senior Advisor, Afreximbank.

Re-examining Africa’s socio economic priorities (SAnews)

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for the continent to re-examine its socio-economic priorities, says Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa. Addressing the launch of Africa Month on Wednesday, the Minister said the pandemic is imposing heavy human, financial and economic costs to Africa and across the globe. “The crisis also provides an opportunity to re-examine the continent’s socio-economic priorities; including the role of cultural workers; contributing to building stronger and more resilient health and social sectors towards equality; inclusion; social cohesion and African Renaissance as inspired by the Ubuntu philosophy,” Mthethwa said.

African economies need to be structured to better withstand shocks (Engineering News)

The economic devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic saw Africa’s GDP fall by 2.1% last year. African economies urgently need to become more competitive and implement reforms to create a more business friendly environment if they hope to attract investment. The continent needs to lessen its reliance on imports from other regions and to achieve that each country needs to grow its manufacturing capacity. One of the biggest lessons emanating from 2020 was the consequence of disruptions to global supply chains. The Absa Manufacturing Survey revealed that these disruptions, including shortages of raw materials, continues to inhibit manufacturing supply chains. A noticeable trend resulting from these supply chain disruptions were increased incidences of local substitutes for imported products which is encouraging. Whether this trend remains evident post the pandemic remains to be seen.

African Leaders Seek Vaccine-Making Sites to Counter Inequality (Bloomberg)

Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal are among countries calling for the establishment of full vaccine-manufacturing plants to prepare for future pandemics after Africa found itself at the back of the queue for Covid-19 shots. While many developed nations are well advanced with their vaccination rollouts, most African countries are almost out of initial supplies and the continent accounts for just 2% of global administered shots, data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. There are fewer than 10 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, and most of those carry out packaging and labeling rather than manufacturing. That makes the continent ill-equipped to source and supply doses in times of crisis, as this pandemic has demonstrated. Among the biggest barriers to local manufacturing are intellectual-property protections. Vaccine manufacturing needs both significant financing and specialized skills to build factories that can be certified as free from contamination, said Stavros Nicolaou, chairman of South Africa’s local pharmaceutical manufacturers industry association.

Covid Vaccination Ignores Truckers as EAC Explores Common Health Pass (softpower.ug)

Truck drivers are complaining about being left out as key populations when the Ministry of Health was considering priority groups for immunization against COVID-19. Despite their schedules and the availability of testing services at border points, even truckers who fall under the priority groups like those with underlying illnesses and those aged above 50 years have had to go look for vaccines in designated vaccinating health facilities. Because of this, Kinene says many of them have not yet receive their jabs and continue being a threat to efforts to limit the spread. This has been revealed just a day after genome sequencing that categorizes the coronavirus strains circulating in the country found Uganda to have five strains of which the UK, South African, and the Nigerian strain were reportedly ferried into the country by truck drivers.

UK should support faster disbursement of African Development Bank funds to promote continent’s covid-19 recovery (UK Parliament)

The sub-committee’s latest report has considered ICAI’s review on The UK’s Support to the African Development Bank, which assessed the UK’s involvement in the Bank as Green/Amber, indicating “satisfactory achievement in most areas, but partial achievement in others”. Amid uncertainty over the UK’s future official development assistance (ODA) spend, the sub-committee was reassured by Minister James Duddridge’s reassurance that given the positive work of the Bank, the UK Government would like to continue working closely with the Bank to leverage the UK’s development experience. This was reinforced two weeks ago by the Foreign Secretary who confirmed ODA spend for the African Development Fund, within the African Development Bank. As Africa recovers from the impact of covid-19, the sub-committee heard how more paid-in capital can help communities get back to normal.

The World In Africa And The Challenges Of Development – Interview (Eurasia Review)

ASCIR Executive Director Pamela Carslake: “African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) certainly adds to Africa’s agency and fortunes, in leveraging its resources in advancing its agenda (that is Agenda 2063). China, as well as other partners could play significant roles, as well as benefit immensely from what AfCFTA promises. Especially if critical analysis and assessment is done, to identify meaningful areas of collaboration.”

China, Africa to avoid falling into zero-sum trap (The Herald / Xinhua)

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent virtual trip to Africa turned out to be another Washington’s political trick to drive a wedge between China and Africa. The real intention behind Washington’s words and deeds is too obvious. It is attempting to put on a zero-sum game, disrupt China-Africa cooperation, and exclusively advance American interests in Africa. However, China and Africa would not fall into that trap of zero-sum thinking. In this fast changing world, China and Africa will surely continue to work together and stride forward along the path of building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

Microsoft Broadband Deal: Implications and how to maximize for AfCFTA (Nairametrics)

On the 3rd of May, 2021, The Federal Government announced a deal with Microsoft through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure across the six regions in the country. Microsoft disclosed in a statement saying: “Six regions in the country have been earmarked for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure. Microsoft’s Airband team will work closely with local partners to improve broadband connectivity in these communities while also assisting with the design and implementation of hyper-scale cloud services.” With Nigeria looking to diversify the economy, deeper broadband penetration can act as a catalyst for Nigerian service exports for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

US backs TRIPS Waiver

Over 100 countries back TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 vaccines (SAnews)

President Cyril Ramaphosa says a proposal by South Africa at the World Trade Organisation to waiver specific Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) obligations related to the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines is now supported by over 100 countries. The President said this when he responded to oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday. “We want to manufacture vaccines locally against the pandemic. It is for this reason that South Africa and India proposed the TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organisation to enable the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries. “The proposal is now supported by more than 100 countries. SA welcomes the statement by the United States that it will support the TRIPS waiver on intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

Statement of Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on USTR Tai’s statement on the TRIPS waiver

“I read with interest the statement made yesterday by USTR Katherine Tai and I warmly welcome her willingness to engage with proponents of a temporary waiver of the TRIPS Agreement to help in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. As I told the General Council yesterday, we need to respond urgently to COVID-19 because the world is watching and people are dying. I am pleased that the proponents are preparing a revision to their proposal and I urge them to put this on the table as soon as possible so that text-based negotiations can commence. It is only by sitting down together that we will find a pragmatic way forward – acceptable to all members – which enhances developing countries’ access to vaccines while protecting and sustaining the research and innovation so vital to the production of these life-saving vaccines.”

Gates Foundation reverses course on COVID-19 vaccine patents (Devex)

Mark Suzman, CEO at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced Thursday that the foundation is supportive of temporarily lifting coronavirus vaccine patent protections. “No barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, which is why we are supportive of a narrow waiver during the pandemic,” he wrote in a statement, which was an about-face for the world’s largest private foundation. Gates had opposed waiving some provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS. A waiver would allow member nations to stop enforcing a set of COVID-19-related patents for the duration of the pandemic so that low- and middle-income countries can produce or import generic versions of vaccines.

Chairperson of the AUC welcomes the USA decision for waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid19 vaccines (African Union)

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, welcomes the announcement of the United States of America to support South Africa and India’s call for the temporary waiver of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization.

The Chairperson commends this important show of global leadership by the United States of America, alongside more than 100 countries, to help end the most devastating global public health crisis in living memory, by supporting the South Africa and India-led proposal to temporarily suspend rules on intellectual property rights on Covid19 vaccines. The Chairperson further urges all countries that have not yet done so, to urgently support this historic initiative of multilateral cooperation to ensure equitable vaccine protection for the entire global community.

S. Africa welcomes U.S support for patent waiver on covid-19 vaccines (Africanews)

Relief for campaigners as the United States endorses a temporary and targeted waiver of intellectual property protections to Covid-19 vaccines. A campaign to lift patent protections on coronavirus vaccines is picking up steam. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes the support of the United States’ administration. “And now we welcome the statement by the United States administration that it will support the TRIPS waiver on intellectual property protection for Covid-19 vaccines. Now this is a victory for South Africa. It goes to show the influence we have as a country, working together with others, that our voice and messages have weight,” he said.

U.S. change of course on IP waiver facing backlash (Bio World)

The Biden administration’s May 5 about-face on the proposed TRIPS waiver of intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19-related medical products is not playing well with U.S. industry, EU trading partners and others concerned about the long-term unintended consequences. Lindsay Bealor Greenleaf, vice president and health care policy/drug pricing expert at ADVI, said the administration’s newfound support for the waiver could chill biotech investment going forward because of uncertainties it creates around patents.

There’s a lot of skepticism that the waiver will provide any relief, let alone immediate relief. Aside from Tai’s acknowledgment about the time involved in negotiating a final waiver acceptable to a consensus of WTO members, there’s also the time needed to retrofit manufacturing facilities and get them scaled up, adequately staffed with a trained workforce and approved for production.

After US Reversal, EU ‘Ready to Discuss’ Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver (Common Dreams)

After the Biden administration shocked the world by expressing support for waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, a European Union leader on Thursday suggested that the bloc’s members “are ready to discuss” also dropping their opposition to the proposal – which rich nations have blocked since last year. “In the short run, however, we call upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow exports and to avoid measures that disrupt supply chains,” she added.

Swiss not swayed by US vaccine waiver announcement (SWI swissinfo.ch)

In a reaction on Thursday evening, the Swiss economics ministry said the US announcement was “significant”, but that waiving IP rights would not guarantee “fair, affordable, and fast” access to vaccines and other technology against Covid-19. “Many questions remain open about the solutions which they [the US] concretely have in mind,” the economics ministry said in a statement to the Keystone-SDA news agency. Switzerland will “evaluate” the new proposition. The Swiss position thus hasn’t appeared to have shifted much since a previous WTO meeting in March, when the government said it was “misleading” to believe that the temporary suspension of patents would translate swiftly into a worldwide supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

Devex CheckUp: Will US backing save the COVID-19 IP waiver?

In a stunning reversal, the United States announced on Wednesday that it was ready to back the proposal for waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines at WTO. While this is a welcome step, the fight for equitable distribution of vaccines is far from over. What are the next steps and what will it take to achieve them?

Activists are hopeful the shift in U.S. support will encourage other high-income nations such as the U.K. and Canada to rethink their opposition. They are now pressuring the government and companies to transfer that technology through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, Andrew Green reports.

Calling the U.S. announcement a “remarkable expression of leadership,” Africa CDC head Dr. John Nkengasong urges other countries to support the waiver. “When the history of this pandemic is written… we will remember not just the loud voices of those who did not support us but we will also remember the silence of our friends in this battle,” he says.

US support for TRIPS Waiver – activists force a great step forward but a steep climb still lies ahead (Daily Maverick)

“This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the global Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in the service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.” This is in response to a request for a waiver tabled by South Africa and India more than nine months ago, which has won the support of 100 mostly developed countries but faced the resistance of the UK, US and EU. As well as – predictably – the big pharmaceutical companies.

Aspen says it can produce generic Covid-19 vaccines in SA amid US support for patent waiver (Engineering News)

On Thursday, the US shocked many by announcing that it would support a temporary patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines. Currently, only pharmaceutical companies that own the patents for the vaccines are allowed to manufacture the jabs. But lifting the patent rights means that they will lose this exclusive right. Their vaccine formulas can then be used by other parties to manufacture generic versions of these vaccines, without fear that they will be sued. “While it is difficult to provide all details in this regard, it can be confirmed that Aspen’s sterile manufacturing capacity would enable it to manufacture another vaccine – generic or otherwise – provided the necessary technical transfers are effected and regulatory registrations are in place,” said Aspen’s group communications manager, Shauneen Beukes, on Thursday.

Why the TRIPS waiver unlikely to solve India’s Covid-19 vaccine shortage (ThePrint)

India and South Africa, who submitted a proposal to waive Intellectual Property Rights on Covid-related innovations, are going to present a revised proposal on this topic, which will be discussed by the Council on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, in the second half of May. Most developing countries, members of the European Parliament, and now the US government have sided with the two countries in their motion before the Council on the Agreement on TRIPS. Developed countries, including Japan and the UK oppose the move.

Global economy

COVAX: Enhance Transparency, Share Intellectual Property (ReliefWeb)

The COVAX vaccine initiative should publish its contracts with vaccine developers and facilitate sharing of intellectual property to make vaccines swiftly available and affordable for all, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Public Citizen said today. COVAX, which was created in April 2020 to procure and distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, should incorporate human rights standards and principles of transparency and accountability. The groups wrote to the leadership of COVAX on December 14 with questions related to COVAX human rights policies and practices, and recommendations related to transparency and vaccine availability and affordability, among others. COVAX responded in detail in a March 25, 2021 letter, following a preliminary response on January 6.

Trade and public health, fish subsidies and LDC concerns in General Council spotlight (WTO)

Ensuring access to essential medical goods during a pandemic, securing a global deal on prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies and addressing the concerns of “graduating” least developed countries were among the topics discussed at the 5-6 May meeting of the WTO’s General Council. Members also exchanged views on the WTO’s continuing work on electronic commerce and the legal status of the ongoing “joint initiatives” talks.

Trade finance for SMEs in the digital era (OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Paper)

Access to trade finance, i.e. financial instruments and means of payments for international transactions, can enable SME engagement in international activities through direct exporting and participation in global value chains, and ultimately foster inclusive economic growth and innovation. The study examines trade finance for SMEs in the context of digital advancements and investigates how policy approaches can support SMEs in reaping the benefits of digitalisation in this respect. It also takes into account recent developments related to the COVID-19 crisis.

To what extent can blockchain help development co-operation actors meet the 2030 Agenda? (OECD Development Co-operation Working Paper)

Blockchain is mainstreaming, but the number of blockchain for development use-cases with proven success beyond the pilot stage remain relatively few. This paper outlines key blockchain concepts and implications in order to help policymakers reach realistic conclusions when considering its use. The paper surveys the broad landscape of blockchain for development to identify where the technology can optimise development impact and minimise harm. It subsequently critically examines four successful applications, including the World Food Programme’s Building Blocks, Oxfam’s UnBlocked Cash project, KfW’s TruBudget and Seso Global.

Govt support, investments must to build apparel value chains in LDCs (Fibre2fashion.com)

Government support, a conducive policy environment and enabling investment frameworks are necessary for building better apparel value chains in least developed countries (LDCs). Strengthening relationships between buyers and suppliers can help build resilience and bring transparency in the supply chain to reduce power imbalances, as per a recent report. Social and environmental industry standards should take centre-stage in the recovery, to ensure garment factory workers earn a living wage and have workplace protections in place, said Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) in its brief titled ‘Building better apparel value chains in least developed countries’.

Small island developing states: maritime transport in the era of a disruptive pandemic - empower states to fend against disruptions to maritime transportation systems, their lifeline to the world (UNCTAD Policy Brief)

The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may have had less noticeable impacts on small island developing States (SIDS). However, the impacts may be longer lasting and more critical. The pandemic has exacerbated the unique and overwhelming challenges in these States related to connectivity; a high level of dependence on external trade; remoteness and prohibitive transport costs; food security; infrastructure gaps; resilience; sustainability; and access to finance. This policy brief builds on the findings in Review of Maritime Transport 2020 and of the ongoing United Nations-wide project “Transport and trade connectivity in the age of pandemics: Contactless, seamless and collaborative solutions”, launched in 2020 amid the pandemic. It highlights key priority actions and policy recommendations to support SIDS in strengthening their ability to respond to shocks and disruptions that undermine their maritime transportation systems and to future proof their maritime supply chains through sustainability and resilience-building efforts.

Iata welcomes G20 guidelines for restart of international tourism (Engineering News)

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) – the global representative body for the airline industry – has welcomed the agreeing, by the Tourism Ministers of the Group of 20 countries (G20), of the ‘Rome Guidelines for the Future of Tourism’. The association urged the G20 governments to follow-up the announcing of the guidelines with action, to restore international mobility.

Socioeconomic inequality drives trade patterns in global wildlife market (Phys.org)

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Hong Kong and one in Singapore has found that socioeconomic inequality is driving existing trade patterns in the global wildlife market. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers suggest that current efforts to slow the global wildlife trade are not sufficient. They suggest that the only way to make a dent in the market is to pay those countries that are exporting the most animals to protect them. They note also that the global pandemic has slowed the trade in wildlife, but suggest the lull is only temporary unless other measures are put in place.

Economies in the Financial Spotlight in 2021 (IMF Blog)

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, the global financial system withstood the effects of the global pandemic and economic lockdowns due to unprecedented policy support. The Financial Sector Assessment Program, or “FSAP”, helps to assess financial vulnerabilities and make financial systems stronger and better able to withstand adverse events. The IMF considers country-specific features of financial systems and tailors its analysis to the needs of each member participating in the program. Assessments for advanced economies are done by the IMF alone, while those for other economies are typically carried out jointly with the World Bank. The IMF’s Executive Board will soon conduct a periodic review of the FSAP.

South Africa is home to Africa’s largest financial sector, with large cross-border banking groups and a well-developed investment fund and insurance sector. The assessment will examine the strength of the financial sector in a difficult environment of subdued growth and large fiscal deficits (exacerbated by a weak financial position of state-owned enterprises and the ongoing health and economic impact of COVID). The importance of capital flows to the financial sector will underpin the “capital-flows-at-risk” analysis, as well as the assessment of systemic liquidity management and macroprudential policy. The assessment will also examine banking, insurance, and securities markets; pension and cyber risk supervision; crisis management and resolution; fintech; financial inclusion; climate risk; and capital markets development.


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