tralac Daily News

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tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

National

South Africa’s trade surplus remains robust, underpinned by commodity prices (Daily Maverick)

South Africa’s trade surplus remains among the few bright spots in an economy dimmed by load shedding and other constraints. According to data unveiled on Monday by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), South Africa posted a trade balance surplus in April of R51.24-billion. This brings the cumulative surplus for the first four months of 2021 to R147.83-billion. By way of contrast, in the first four months of 2021, South Africa had a trade deficit of R4.41-billion. “Exports increased by 213.4% year on year whilst imports increased by 25.8% over the same period,” SARS said in a statement. The driving force has been red-hot commodity prices, notably for platinum group metals (PGMs). The category “precious metals and stones” in April saw a rise in exports of 12% in April compared to March, reaching just over R50-billion.

ECIC Growing Product Suite to Support SA Businesses Exporting to the Rest of Africa (the dtic)

South African manufacturers exporting to countries on the African continent will have access to additional insurance products that underwrite risk outside the control of the exporting entity. This follows a new mandate signed by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Minister Ebrahim Patel, to empower the Export Credit Insurance Corporation (ECIC) to support South African businesses in key priority sectors, as African countries prepare for increased trade and industrialisation following the signing of the AfCFTA.

Exports of goods to other African countries amounted to R346 billion in 2019, prior to the slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Other African countries bought more than R2 billion South African-made personal protective equipment and related Covid-19 products in the past year, with significant exports of cars, trucks, components and machinery growing in the period before the Covid-19 pandemic. The ECIC will focus on priority sectors where Sector Master Plans have been agreed. These cover six sectors comprising Automotive; Clothing, Textile, Footwear and Leather; Sugar; Poultry; Steel and Metal Fabrication; and Furniture. Combined these sectors account for nearly R320 billion of South Africa’s exports in 2019 to countries within Africa and elsewhere in the world, or 25% of total exports.

SA’s economy will only recover before 2025 if vaccine rollout speeds up, says OECD analysis (Business Insider)

South Africa’s economy is unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic levels before 2025 due to the slow vaccination rollout and low consumer spending, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).Economies around the world are expected to rebound in 2021, with most developing nations on track to reach their vaccination goals within the next quarter and resume trade at pre-pandemic levels. But the latest gross domestic product (GDP) projections offered by the OECD, which analyses advanced and emerging economies within the G20 forum, are more optimistic than those presented in December 2020.

Maritime rolls out e-system to enhance efficiency (KBC)

Licenced shipping lines agents operating in Kenya will from Wednesday, June 2, 2021 start using the Maritime Single Window System (MSW) to electronically prepare and submit vessel pre-arrival and pre-departure declarations to the government agencies at the Port of Mombasa. Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade) has been working together with Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to implement an E-Maritime Module on the Single Window System to allow Shipping Agents in Kenya to electronically submit vessel pre-arrival and pre-departure FAL declarations to government agencies. According to a statement, KenTrade seeks to provide harmonized and simplified ship to shore clearance procedures to the maritime stakeholders as part of its mandate for trade facilitation.

Development projects transforming Coast region says Elungata (The Star, Kenya)

The massive investment by the national government on the infrastructural development at the Coast is transforming the region, Coast regional coordinator John Elungata has said. Elungata said the Sh40 billion Lamu Port, the ongoing Sh24 billion phase II of the Dongo Kundu bypass, the construction of the Mombasa Airport road, the planned Kibarani bridge among other projects will change the face of the region. According to Elungata, the huge resources committed by the government for the infrastructural improvement and other critical projects have positioned Coast as an attractive destination for investment, trade and tourism.

Kenya, Burundi deepen trade ties for united East African Community (The East African)

Kenya and Burundi on Monday signed several deals aimed at deepening trade and development, following talks between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Evariste Ndayishimiye at State Lodge Kisumu, western Kenya. Addressing the press shortly after the bilateral talks, President Kenyatta said the agreement is primarily aimed at fostering sustained socio-economic development. “The cooperation between our countries is built on a solid foundation of shared values and principles – to foster sustained socio-economic development and transformation, a vibrant and united East African Community and an integrated and prosperous Africa,” he said.

All systems go as Uganda, DRC sign agreement on road projects (The East African)

Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have signed an infrastructural agreement, defining each other’s role in the two roads they are jointly funding. With Ugandan company Dott Services already selected and on site as the main contractor for the three road projects, the two countries wanted the agreements concluded and signed to pave way for smooth construction, mobilisation of equipment and funding. “Uganda already has its share of the funding secured,” says Susan Kataike, spokesperson for the Ministry of Works and Transport. “And for the president himself signing the agreement, that’s how significant these roads are.”

Tanzania, Kenya earn praise after deal on trade barriers (The Citizen)

Members of the business community yesterday commended Tanzania and Kenya for agreeing to scrap a host of trade barriers. During a ministerial meeting held here at the weekend, the two countries agreed to resolve 30 out of 64 barriers impeding cross-border business. “This is a positive development because such barriers, especially non-tariff barriers, impede business growth,” said Mr Hussein Sufian, Bakhresa Group corporate manager. He said the move by the two governments to address the notorious drawbacks would pave way for businesses to prosper. He said it was no secret that NTBs have failed some key businesses in the region to prosper as anticipated.

Tanzania draws AU bodies closer (The East African)

Tanzania’s wind of change under President Samia Suluhu this week blew towards mending fences with at least two key African Union-backed institutions that had fallen foul of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli’s government. Foreign Affairs Minister Liberata Mulamula on May 26 announced the country’s move to formally ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and restore working relations with the African Court of Human and People’s Rights, saying that Tanzania had only “removed itself from the clause” binding it to the Court. It is not clear whether Tanzania has written to the AU to reverse that 2019 decision.

NamRA implements UCR use (Informante)

The Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA) has implemented the use of the Unique Consignment Reference (UCR) within its customs clearance operation for both import and export in the ASYCUDA World system. The UCR concept is the fundamental need for Customs authorities to facilitate legitimate international trade, while at the same time, providing effective controls. In this respect, the UCR would provide Customs with an efficient tool to exchange information between enforcement agencies. The basis of the UCR is to maximise use of existing supplier, customer and transport references. According to NamRa commissioner Sam Shivute, the UCR will start on 1 June this year.

Take advantage of AfCFTA; develop more products from cocoa – Amb. Boateng to Ghana (GhanaWeb)

Former Ambassador to China, Edward Boateng, has charged Ghana to capitalize on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to sell its cocoa. His reaction follows reports that China had begun the production of cocoa. “I think what we should be looking at is how much more can we do with our cocoa. I still think that we as a nation have more room to develop more products from our cocoa.” “Even if we take out the Chinese market, AfCFTA itself offers us a huge market. If we get even 20 percent of Africa to consume our cocoa, that itself is a big market,” he added.

Importers disappointed at government’s failure to enforce joint inspection at port (GhanaWeb)

Some importers have expressed disappointment at the government’s failure to enforce the joint cargo inspection protocol instituted at the country’s ports. According to them, there was a lot of hope when government announced the mandatory joint inspection of cargos at the ports; but a few years on, the initiative has been abandoned. The Chairman of the Korea Importers Association, Oduro Kwarteng, said importers would be happy if the mandatory joint inspection of cargos policy is enforced. According to him, many importers currently spend several days at the port to ensure their cargos are inspected and cleared before they move out; a situation that is not only hectic but also costly. He said the policy would greatly improve ease of doing business at the port, and therefore government should push the relevant stakeholders to go back to its implementation.

AfCFTA: Experts Urge FG to Align with Regional IP Organisations (THISDAY)

Experts in the country have stressed the need for the country to become signatories to African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) in view of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). According to them, this would complement efforts of the federal government to lay the foundation for the creative industry in the country to benefit from the continental pact. They stated this at the 2021 Legal Business Conference held in Lagos, with the theme, ‘Entertainment Law and Business: Issues and Opportunities.’ Founder and convener, Legal Business Network, Ms. Ifeoma Ben, said: “We cannot have this conversation without talking about contemporary issues, so AfCFTA is one of the areas that we really need to look at because it will open up our borders, enlarge the market because we are now going to have a liberalisation of markets and so we really need to discuss it.

Zambia and Zimbabwe to Benefit from a Common Agro-Industrial Park between Zambia (UNECA)

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa held today a validation meeting on the study on Assessing the Feasibility of Establishing and Managing a Common Agro-Industrial Park between Zambia and Zimbabwe. ECA is supporting this initiative as part of technical assistance towards accelerating regional cooperation and development. According to COMSTAT data, “agriculture contributes about 40 percent to the regional GDP of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and about 70 percent of the regional population directly draw their livelihood through employment and sustenance from the sector”.


Africa

AFCFTA launches e-TradeHubs to ease trade processes for women-led small businesses (Ecofin)

The e-TradeHubs portal, which will be a one-stop-shop for trade tools and information in Africa, has been launched by the International Chamber of Commerce, Trade Law Centre (TRALAC), UPS International Public Affairs & Sustainability, and West Blue Consulting. This is in line with Women Traders in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) “Women Traders in the AfCFTA” – an initiative to enable public policy, and create electronic guidelines to assist women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitize their businesses.

“The AfCFTA holds unprecedented opportunities for women-led businesses to trade, invest and participate in cross-border value chains. The eTradeHub is a one-stop portal with all the information required to ensure trade regulatory compliance. Tralac is proud to partner with ICC, UPS and West Blue Consulting to launch the eTradeHub, contributing to trade facilitation and so boosting intra-African trade,” commented Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director, tralac.

Africa’s free trade area can benefit women equally through targeted measures, says UNECA director (UNECA)

Targeted measures are needed to ensure opportunities arising from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) benefit women and men equally across the region. Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), made this plea to African countries at a roundtable on ‘human capital: culture and heritage’, hosted during the 2021 Africa Dialogue Series. She said trade alone cannot change the fact women, who although play a significant role in Africa’s economy, remain underpaid and underemployed compared to men. “We know that trade can be a powerful driver of gender equality but that can only happen if we implement measures which stamp out inequalities across the whole system.”

Africa urged to reopen borders to foster saving lives, economies (New Business Ethiopia)

African Ministers responsible for health, ICT, and transport have made a call to the African States to work towards harmonizing pre-entry and exit requirements for cross-border travel, increase mutual recognition, and cross-border information exchange. The Africa CDC, the lead COVID-19 response organ of the African Union, has gone further to provide a platform to member states to support this undertaking known as Trusted Travel. The Ministers also called for cross-collaboration among different sectors and stakeholders. The Call to Action comes under the umbrella of Africa Against COVID-19: “Saving Lives, Economies, and Livelihoods” campaign, which recognizes the need to define our “new normal” by striking a balance between saving lives, re-opening of economies, and revitalizing livelihoods within the African continent.

Africa is set to become a global hub for agritech (MyJoyOnline)

Africa’s agricultural sector is set for exponential growth in the coming decade, research commissioned by Microsoft and compiled by Africa Practice reveals. With a projected value of ¢1 trillion by 2030, the continent is poised to become the global centre of agritech solutions and has also seen rapid growth in e-agriculture solutions. With agriculture sustaining 70 percent of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft believes that agriculture is a key sector in Africa. Developing agritech solutions to enable data-driven, precise and connected farming will help farmers across Africa optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase their profitability. Leveraging our extensive partnerships and initiatives network, Microsoft, through its 4Afrika initiative, is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tools like AI, IoT and edge computing to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector.

AERC Bi-Annual Conference to Explore Public Finance Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic (AERC)

The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) will host its flagship international conference to discuss opportunities and challenges on the Covid-19 Pandemic and public finance management in Africa. This is the Fifty-fourth plenary session of the Bi-annual Research Conference which will be held virtually on Monday 31st May 2021. The Conference will be staged under the theme: “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Public Finance in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities”. The pandemic compromised Africa’s state of public finance significantly leading to unprecedented contraction of tax revenue, whilst placing extreme stress on public spending as governments struggled to respond to the health crisis, including increased funding for: the health sector, social and business relief, measures to reduce and combat the spread of the virus and various other related needs. However, it also offers opportunities for constructive change as well.

Afreximbank and the Africa Finance Corporation sign agreement for vaccine manufacturing in Africa (Afreximbank)

African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has signed a collaboration agreement with Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) to facilitate and support manufacturing of vaccines on the continent, critical to supporting Africa’s fight against diseases, such as COVID-19. Under the agreement signed in April, Afreximbank and AFC will identify and engage partners, and co-finance vaccine manufacturing projects in Africa. The two institutions will provide preparatory support to project developers and promoters whilst stepping up policy and advocacy efforts to unlock major market barriers. These cross-cutting barriers include border clearance, road and freight logistics, cold-chain and warehousing on the continent and access to market. A key outcome will be establishing African self-reliance for the sustainable, secure supply of routine vaccines for the continent’s population, as well as improving the continent’s capacity to respond to epidemic outbreaks such as COVID-19.

African countries urged to prioritize domestic resource mobilization amid COVID-19 (Market Watch)

A World Bank official on Monday urged African countries to prioritize domestic resource mobilization as compared to debt in financing their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reinhart told the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium’s 54th biannual plenary session on the pandemic and public finance in Africa that most African countries entered the pandemic with limited fiscal space and higher debt levels, and are now facing prolonged economic downturns as conditions have not normalized.

Communique of 998th meeting of the PSC held at the ministerial level on 22 May 2021, on “Access to Vaccines Against COVID-19 by the African Continent: Challenge to Human Security in Africa” (PSC)

Notes with satisfaction the remarkable achievements of the AU in response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, including, the implementation of the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19; the establishment of the African Union COVID-19 Response Fund; the formation of an African Medicines Supplies Platform; the appointment of African Union Special Envoys for COVID-19 Response; and the creation of the African Vaccines Acquisition Task Team;

Underscores the need to raise global awareness of the threat posed to human security in Africa, as a result of the current unethical practices of hoarding and monopolizing the COVID-19 vaccines; condemns all acts and attempts aimed at undermining Africa’s efforts to access COVID-19 vaccines and calls on the international community to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equitably distributed taking into consideration that ‘nobody is safe until everyone is safe’;

Stresses the need to scale-up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Africa in order to achieve universal and equitable access, including through sharing of the intellectual property, technology transfers and open non-exclusive licensing; in this regard emphasizes the importance to build and strengthen African manufacturing capabilities of all types of vaccines; and requests the AU Commission, through its Africa CDC, to make proposals to Member States on continental vision/strategy on the manufacturing of vaccines by African institutions;

Also requests all actors to explore possible options for increasing production, including voluntary licenses, technology pools, the use of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibilities and the waiver of certain intellectual property provisions ; and in this regard strongly supports the call for waiver of intellectual property protection for COVID-19 vaccine tabled by South Africa and India before the World Trade Organizations and appeals to the international community for its support, in line with paragraph 12 of AU Assembly Decision 797

Aspen pledges support to ensure equitable Covid-19 vaccine access in Africa (Engineering News)

Multinational specialty pharmaceutical company Aspen has committed to making sterile manufacturing capacity available for equitable Covid-19 vaccine access for Africa, as part of the continent’s efforts to determine how it can expand its manufacturing capacity to establish supply across the continent. Aspen CEO Stephen Saad presented during a high-level seminar on manufacturing vaccines in Africa on May 29, which was hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa and French President Emmanuel Macron. Aspen’s contribution to this fight, to date, has been through its ongoing supply of dexamethasone and lifesaving anaesthetics, which have played an important role in this regard throughout Europe and globally. Aspen is now, however, shifting its Covid-19 focus to assist in ensuring equitable access to vaccines for less developed countries, with a particular emphasis on African countries.

Institutions partner to expand diagnostic capacity in Africa (Engineering News)

To strengthen diagnostic capacity and the health response to Covid-19 in Africa, global development institution IFC, private sector financer Proparco and pathology services company Cerba Lancet Africa have announced a partnership to increase patient access to a range of laboratory tests. The entities say that expanding access to diagnostics and laboratory testing is a critical part of tackling Covid-19, which has exposed vulnerabilities in health systems across Africa, as well as demonstrated the need for increased testing and laboratory services.

How the Financial Sector can Implement Climate Action in Africa (International Policy Digest)

Climate change is already shrinking Africa’s economies and in less than 9 years the gross domestic product of the continent will shrink by 15%. These losses manifest through lost productivity and damage to key economic sectors – like agriculture, infrastructure, and energy. In financing such sectors, financial institutions should demand that certain actors prioritise climate-resilient actions that will buffer against climate change risk. This cannot be effectively done without tapping into the informal sector players who are the biggest constituency in Africa’s economies. There however exists an over $300 billion lending gap in the informal sector that represents an opportunity for formal financers but which remains untapped because of the perceived high risk of this informal sector.

Palm oil, timber, cocoa: What to expect from Africa in 2021 (The Arica Report)

The 35th CyclOpe report on commodity markets, which was published on 26 May, highlights that the prices of agricultural commodities did not evolve at the same rate as those of industrial metals and energy. This is due to the economic crisis that has resulted from the ongoing pandemic. The price of industrial metals and energy collapsed, before firmly recovering at the end of the year due to strong Chinese demand. However, the average cost of these items has not reverted to that of 2019 levels. Even though Philippe Chalmin, the report’s coordinator, believes that “agricultural tensions should not be exaggerated”, it is obvious that commodities have once again become an asset rich in potential capital gains among investors.

Africa viewed as one of key elements of Belarus’ multipronged foreign policy (Belarus News (BelTA))

Belarus views Africa as one of the important elements of its multipronged foreign policy, Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolai Borisevich said at the opening ceremony of the second Belarusian-African Economic Forum on 31 May, BelTA has learned. “Africa is an important market where such global players as China, the USA, Russia, India, and the EU are actively working and competing. We also consider the African continent as one of the important elements of our multipronged foreign policy,” the deputy minister said.

“A New Deal for Africa”: Op-ed article by President Charles Michel, and more than 30 European and African leaders (EURO)

In one year, the pandemic has halted a quarter-century of steady economic growth in Africa, disrupted value chains, and caused an unprecedented increase in inequality and poverty. As a result, the entire world is at risk, because the global economy could lose one of its future drivers of growth. But it is not only Africa that is at risk of losing its opportunity to emerge fully from COVID-19. The global economy could lose one of its future drivers of growth. Africa has everything required to overcome the pandemic crisis and lead the world toward a new cycle of sustainable growth: enterprising and innovative young people, natural resources which can supply a local industrial base, and a highly ambitious continental integration project. But Africa does not have the instruments to recover from a crisis as huge as it was unexpected.


Global economy

Putting the capacity to produce front and center to spur LDC trade (Trade for Development News)

Thriving economies produce. What they produce could be export commodities, human enterprises, linkages to supply chains, data innovations, i.e. the whole range of things that generate profit today. Some countries are able to create a lot, benefiting from skilled labor forces, the best in technology, effective transportation and more. But for others, including the least developed countries (LDCs), what is termed their “productive capacity” may be quite limited. According to a recent discussion, it is time to change that.

With the upcoming LDC5 in Doha to chart the next Programme of Action for LDCs, and many of the aims of the previous decade now out of reach, the international community is readying to plan for an critical next decade. According to UNCTAD’s LDC Report 2020, between 2001 and 2018, improvements in the productive capacity of LDCs has been “lackluster”. During that time period, only Rwanda and Myanmar moved from the low-capacity category to average, and five countries fell from the high-productive group.

WTO Debate on Waiver of Vaccine IP Protections Drags On (Bloomberg)

For the first time in a long time, World Trade Organization delegates are talking about ways they can make a direct impact on the lives of people. For decades, the WTO’s agenda has generally focused on reducing international trade barriers and making it more efficient and predictable for companies to do business abroad. That debate gained new momentum this month after U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai made her bombshell announcement that the U.S. would support a temporary waiver to the WTO’s intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines. But Tai’s about-face has not resulted in a change of opinion from U.S. allies like the European Union, Canada, and Switzerland, which continue to oppose a sweeping vaccine waiver and remain skeptical that it would do anything to help get more jabs to people in the world’s poorest nations.

France to join South Africa’s bid to increase support for Trips waivers at G7 meeting (Mail & Guardian)

France has made a commitment to support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to persuade leaders at both the upcoming G7 and G20 meetings to agree to a waiver on the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement for Covid-19-related pharmaceutical interventions. President Emmanuel Macron told an event on vaccine manufacturing in Africa on Friday evening at the University of Pretoria that South Africa could count on him to fix the inequalities associated with dealing with the virus. “We have been advocating that Covid-19 vaccines must be a global public good. This is important for the stability of global healthcare. I will be alongside you on key issues and the main battles and on Trips agreements and IP [intellectual property]. You can count on me; you can count on France – we will deliver together,” he said.

EU, UK raise doubts about COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver at WTO; express hesitancy (Republic)

The EU, UK, and Japan on Monday continued to raise doubts at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the proposed intellectual property waiver (IP waiver) on the COVID-19 vaccines’ raw material and other product, a Geneva trade official reportedly said. While in its monumental shift under the Biden administration, the US has backed and supported the waiver for intellectual property related to COVID-19 vaccines, other member countries which include Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan, EU, and the UK expressed doubts about the negotiations on the India and South Africa-led proposal as they requested for some more time to thoroughly analyze it.

“It is important for WTO Members to work together to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to the timely access to affordable medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing, and supply of medical products essential to combat COVID-19,” the WTO committee said at the meeting.

Europe still can’t get on board with the TRIPS waiver (Devex)

A lot has changed in a year. The same European leaders who rallied those early funding efforts behind a promise of global solidarity are now the main obstruction to a waiver of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS. The proposal is supported by much of the global south – partially backed by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which reversed its position earlier this month – as the best way to ensure equitable vaccine access.

IFC, Proparco, DEG and DFC to Support COVID-19 Vaccine and Pharma Manufacturing in Africa (IFC)

To strengthen Africa’s vaccine and pharmaceutical development and to accelerate the continent’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Proparco, the German Development Finance Institution (DEG) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) today announced a partnership to support vaccine manufacturing in Africa. “Creating and developing markets for vaccines and other pharmaceutical products is a priority for IFC in Africa. We need strong partnerships and cooperation between the public and private sectors to support countries and regions to combat this pandemic now and to build in the longer-term more resilient health systems and supply chains,” said Makhtar Diop, IFC’s Managing Director.

Jaishankar to chair BRICs foreign ministers’ meeting Tuesday (Mint)

Post covid economic recovery, the strengthening of the multilateral system to make it more effective and further enhancing cooperation among BRICs countries will be key items on the agenda of the group’s Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Tuesday. “The ministers are expected to exchange views on the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the need for strengthening and reforming the Multilateral System with a view to enhancing its capacity to effectively address the diverse challenges of our time and to adapt them to contemporary realities, on global and regional issues of concern, sustainable development, countering terrorism besides discussing ways to enhance intra-BRICS cooperation, especially people-to-people cooperation,” the statement said.

MDBs to the Rescue? The Evidence on COVID-19 Response (Center For Global Development)

The world is now more than a year into the second global crisis of the century. Both the current pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) more than 10 years ago tested the capacity of international financial institutions to respond with speed and scale. This time, the IMF has stepped up, first with emergency finance facilities, and later this year with a massive injection of global liquidity through a Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation of $650 billion. But what about the multilateral development banks (MDBs)? One of their central roles is to expand the fiscal space of middle- and low-income countries (MICs and LICs) for development spending, exactly what is needed now, and to catalyze finance from the private sector, especially when private finance pulls back. Have they done so? As the 2020 data on MDB finance become available, what can we conclude about how MDBs are performing when the developing world needs them most?

The Suez Canal is being widened. Will it be enough to stop another ship getting stuck? (CNN)

In an effort to avoid a repeat of the event, in mid-May, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced it had started dredging work to widen and deepen the southern part of the canal where the Ever Given was jammed. The work is intended for “maximizing the canal’s efficiency and shortening the vessels’ transit time, as well as raising the navigation safety,” said a press release from the SCA. But there are still questions as to whether this will be enough to prevent future blockages.

5th WCO Global AEO Conference concludes successfully with substantive recommendations for AEO 2.0 (WCO)

The 5th WCO Global AEO Conference, held over three days from 25 to 27 May 2021, concluded successfully with over 3,917 registered participants from 158 World Customs Organization (WCO) Member administrations and stakeholders’ representatives around the world. Under the theme “AEO 2.0: advancing towards new horizons for sustainable and secure trade”, the Conference kicked off with a high-level discussion that identified the strengths and weaknesses of the AEO concept and provided a glimpse into the future of AEO 2.0. The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, acknowledged that one of the main challenges with current AEO programmes was a lack of harmonization due to various factors, including the level of automation, physical security, environmental aspects and the question of a guarantee. He went on to say that it was critical to harmonize AEO application, validation and authorization processes through increased use of technology.

COVAX Joint Statement: Call to action to equip COVAX to deliver 2 billion doses in 2021 (WHO)

Countries that are advanced in their vaccination programmes are seeing cases of COVID-19 decline, hospitalisations decrease and early signs of some kind of normality resume. However, the global picture is far more concerning. Even though COVAX will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals it has already secured with several manufacturers, if we do not address the current, urgent shortfall the consequences could be catastrophic. Now more than ever, at the peak of the pandemic, we need ambitious, global solutions. When it comes to worldwide vaccine distribution, COVAX is the only initiative capable of rising to the challenge of this moment.

WHO chief urges all countries to support pandemic treaty (CGTN Africa)

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom on Monday called upon all countries to support a proposed pandemic preparedness treaty, warning that it would be a “monumental error” to think the danger of COVID-19 has passed. Tedros made the call in his closing remarks at the World Health Assembly, noting that “this is an idea whose time has come.” “…the one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response; that could also improve, as I said earlier, the relationship between Member States, and fosters cooperation,” the WHO chief said.

World Social Report 2021 (United Nations)

New approaches made possible through improved access and Internet connectivity can raise the standard of living for approximately 3.4 billion people living in rural areas, without them having to migrate to cities, according to the newly released 2021 World Social Report “Reconsidering Rural Development.” The COVID-19 pandemic, together with already persistent high levels of poverty and inequalities, are threatening to stall progress for the world’s rural populations. But the pandemic has also proven that new technologies can enable rural populations to flourish, ending the rural-urban divide.

State of Finance for Nature (UNEP)

If the world is to meet the climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation targets, it needs to close a USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050. The current investments in Nature-based solutions amount to USD 133 billion – about 0.10 per cent of global GDP, most of which comes from public sources.

State & Trends of Carbon Pricing 2021 Executive Summary (PMI)

They can play a useful role within a broader suite of policy instruments that tackle other market failures and climate challenges. Research and development or sector-specific regulations, for instance, will also be necessary to reduce emissions outside the coverage of the carbon price or to address barriers apart from price. The State and Trends of Carbon Pricing looks at explicit carbon prices enacted by a government mandate and impose a price based on the carbon content. This includes carbon taxes and emissions trading systems. Crediting mechanisms can also generate credits from voluntarily implemented reduction or removal activities and these are included in the report. Finally, how companies use an internal carbon price to guide investments decisions and/or as an internal carbon fee is also included.

Climate talks resume online as pressure to act grows (Eyewitness News)

For the first time since 2019 and following a flurry of net-zero pledges from the world’s largest emitters, UN climate negotiations resume Monday in a virtual format less than six months before the crunch COP26 summit. The talks, nominally hosted by the United Nations climate change programme in the German city of Bonn, will all be informal, meaning that no decisions will be taken during the three-week discussions. But with increasingly dire warnings from scientists that the pace of global warming is already outstripping humanity’s best plan to cut emissions, the pressure for progress to be made on a number of thorny issues is high.

Paris accord rules must be wrapped up this year: UN climate chief (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Governments must finalise rules for the Paris Agreement on climate change at November’s COP26 summit so the pact can be fully implemented and serve as the basis for a green recovery from the pandemic, the U.N. climate chief said on Monday. As three weeks of virtual climate talks opened, Patricia Espinosa also called on rich nations to fulfil long-standing climate finance pledges to poorer, vulnerable nations in order to secure trust in the U.N.-led process. “It’s time to wrap up outstanding negotiations and implement the Paris Agreement,” said Espinosa, noting that many nations have yet to submit stronger climate action plans that were due last year under the 2015 global accord. “Unleashing its full potential will not only address climate change but help the world build forward from COVID-19 and drive the transformation towards a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future,” she said.