tralac Daily News
The knowledge economy provides South Africa with an opportunity to overcome structural barriers to economic transformation, says Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. “We are facing an economic and a social crisis. It is our collective responsibility as leaders in Government, Business and Communities to invest our collective expertise to address the challenges of our society; key among them is economic and equitable distribution of wealth,” the Minister said.
“Our assessment is that digital transformation and 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) can help to augment South Africa’s global competitiveness. While we have seen the country’s World Economic Forum (WEF) global competitiveness ranking improve overall in the past three years, the country improved its overall ranking to 60 out of 141 countries in 2020 compared with 67 the previous year – the country’s ranking in human capital development remains disappointing. “This means that the opportunities available to our population to participate in the mainstream economy remain limited,” the Minister said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa says The Presidency is at the forefront of driving structural reforms necessary to overcome bottlenecks that are deterring investment. The President said this when he responded to a debate on The Presidency Budget Vote in the National Assembly, on Thursday. “We are keenly aware, as several members said yesterday, that the pace of structural reform needs to speed up. The Presidency continues to drive the structural reforms that are necessary to overcome bottlenecks that are deterring investment and slowing our progress.”
The President said, meanwhile, that despite the impact of the pandemic on the sector globally, automotive component exports increased last year to a record R54 billion. He said exports of commercial vehicles, especially so-called heavy commercials like tractors and trucks, are also performing strongly. “Mining and manufacturing were also sectors where jobs were created, according to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey. “One of the sectors that has also proven most resilient and fast-growing is the financial services sector.”
Trade balance remains in a deficit amounting to N$2 billion (Namibia Economist)
The country’s trade balance remained in a deficit amounting to N$2 billion, increasing from N$1.8 billion recorded in both March 2021 and April 2020, the statistics agency said Thursday. Despite the increased deficit, the month of April 2021 saw total merchandise trade increase to N$18.7 billion, an increase of 0.8% and 43.3% compared to N$18.6 billion and N$13.1 billion recorded in March 2021 and April 2020, respectively. The Namibia Statistics Agency’s Statistician-General, Alex Shimuafeni in the latest released trade figure said Namibia’s trade composition by partner illustrated that China continued as Namibia’s largest export market while South Africa maintained her first position as Namibia’s largest source of imports. Shimufeni said the April 2021 trade figures indicated that re-exports fell by 3.1% month-on-month while a more significant increase of 49.9% was noted year-on-year.
OBBO: Kenyan corporate giants defy Covid, expand regional footprint (The East African)
Money has always been, perhaps, the most important “second truck” driver of regional integration, after the formal political actions of governments (enabling travel, passing policies that make it easy to work, enable border crossings, and so on). With the big Kenyan banks having already pocketed a chunk of South Sudan, these players are now all but set to try and lock in Middle Africa. They are the Trojan horses of regional integration.
What is lacking to create a really big bang is a fast train service across East African borders, or a low-cost carrier that is East and Central Africa’s matatu in space whizzing around the capitals for $100. Still, fast forward to 2025, or even earlier in 2023. Lying in your bed today, if you go into your M-Pesa app you can send money from Kenya to Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. By 2023, Ethiopia might get on the drop-down menu, and maybe by 2025 Sudan and DRC might be there too.
President Kenyatta unveils Kshs. 2.2B agribusiness fund targeting youth groups (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation)
President Uhuru Kenyatta has today unveiled the Kshs. 2.2bn Empowering Novel Agribusiness-led Employment (ENABLE Kenya) programme, a youth capacity building initiative aimed at creating employment, generating income and bridging succession gap in agribusiness. At the same event, the President unveiled the rebranded 4-K Clubs with a call to County Governments and stakeholders in the agriculture value chain to increase their support for efforts to empower the youth in agribusiness. “In addition, I note with appreciation the prioritization of initiatives to build capacity in modern agribusiness technologies and to provide access to affordable and high quality inputs,” President Kenyatta said.
Firms raise the alarm over illegal repackaging of sugar (Business Daily)
Manufacturers want stiffer enforcement of sugar packaging regulations to curb abuse by some retailers suspected of repackaging and rebranding contrabands in their names. Through their lobby, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the industrialists said a sizable amount of uncustomed sugar is smuggled into the country through porous borders, and some end up at the shelves without undergoing quality checks, posing a health risk to consumers. The body wants the government to enhance inter-agency surveillance to curb sugar smuggling within its borders and urged the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to enforce regulations and undertake its role in enforcing regulations on the repackaging of both locally produced and imported sugar.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Thursday reassured Tanzania of speedy implementation of the regional Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project and the standard gauge railway (SGR). A statement issued by the Directorate of Presidential Communications at Chamwino State House in the capital Dodoma said President Kagame’s reassurance was made during talks between President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta. President Kagame pledged to support the joint execution of the Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project and the SGR project that will connect the Rwandan capital Kigali and Isaka dry port in Tanzania.
Do more to prepare Zambia for AfCFTA (Times of Zambia)
More effort should be made to prepare the economy for Zambia’s participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which has been in place since January this year. There is need to come up with an export-driven strategy that will encourage the manufacturing sector to participate effectively in the yearning continental market. Being a land-linked market, Zambia can benefit effectively from the expanded marketplace under the AfCFTA if producers of goods and services in the economy grabbed the opportunity by upping production. Issues to do with lack of quality branding and packaging of locally-produced goods should be resolved through a multi-sectoral approach.
Uganda’s economy is on a recovery trend after facing the negative impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a top official of the country’s statistics agency said on Thursday. Chris Mukiza, executive director of Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) told Xinhua in an interview that preliminary estimates show that in nominal terms, the size of the economy increased to 148.278 trillion shillings (about 42.4 billion U.S. dollars) this financial year 2020/2021 from 139.711 trillion shillings (39.9 billion dollars) in the financial year 2019/20. The contribution of the industry sector increased to 27.4 percent in the 2020/21 financial year from 26.5 percent in 2019/20. The services sector continued to be the biggest contributor to the GDP although it registered a setback decline in 2020/21 with its share contribution registering 41.5 percent from 42.8 percent in 2019/20. The setback was due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, according to experts.
Partnership to help finance Egyptian cotton industry (just-style)
The two institutions held a bilateral meeting this week to discuss two project agreements: one for the cotton sector, and the other for Sudan’s dairy sector. They were attended by Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of ITFC, and LI Yong, director-general of UNIDO. The projects will support two key initiatives, including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which aims to revive the Egyptian cotton industry by supporting growers to cultivate sustainable cotton.
“ITFC’s participation demonstrates a commitment to nurture the cotton sector’s economic prospects by strengthening the overall value chain,” said Sonbo. “ITFC is confident that our partnership with UNIDO will continue to add value to important economic sectors, contribute to industrialisation, build stronger economies…”
Yong added: “The mission of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization is to promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID). This strategic partnership with ITFC will promote industrialisation, trade, and sustainable development for our common member countries towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in general and SDG 9, in particular.”
In a panel discussion at the Global Investment Forum in Dubai, a group of experts from Morocco discussed the country’s unique advantages as a platform for investment in Africa. Over the past two decades, the panelists explained that Morocco has launched many infrastructure and logistic development projects, strengthening Morocco’s position as a production and commercial platform for international investors looking for positioning in Africa. Moroccan businesses cover more than 70% of African countries in various strategic sectors.
In addition, Morocco itself provides a suitable environment for investment due to its ultra-modern infrastructure, rapid industrialisation, green energy development as well as free trade agreements concluded with major economic powers, revealing Morocco’s increasingly strong willingness to play its role as a growth lever in the continent and as a hub at the crossroad between Europe and Africa.
The ECA Office for North Africa presented on Thursday, June 3rd in Rabat (Morocco) its analysis report on migration statistics in Morocco, an initiative taken as part of its efforts to increase African countries’ capacity to design evidence-based migration policies and programs that are consistent with international and African protocols and frameworks.
“We aim to support morocco, our pilot country for this program, in its efforts to set up a harmonized, national system for migration related statistics. To do so, our team has established a diagnosis of this country’s existing migration statistics and the systems its various ministerial departments are using to collect and analyse such data. This approach will help us identify avenues for improvement and come up with a capacity building plan adapted to the national needs,” said Khaled Hussein, Director a.i. of the ECA Office in North Africa at the opening of the meeting.
Extensive reforms are required to translate the government’s education vision into a concrete set of programs and projects to accelerate economic recovery and reduce socioeconomic disparities, the Zimbabwe Higher and Tertiary Education Sector Analysis Report found. The macro economic challenges in that last two years have however seen significant decline in education spending both as a percentage of total government expenditure and as a percentage of gross domestic product. “As we are fully cognizant of the ever-changing world in which we operate we now seek to transform our Tertiary Education to meaningfully impact economic productivity and workforce skills development,” said Professor Fanuel Tagwira, Permanent Secretary, MHTIESTD.
Private Sector participation in the regional pharmaceutical and medical value chains in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is expected to improve under the Support to Industrialisation and the Productive Sectors (SIPS) joint action. SIPS is a SADC Programme supported by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to facilitate expansion of regional value chains and promote dialogue between the private and public sectors. The German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), will oversee Result Area 2 and 3 which have been allocated €10 million from the EU and €2.83 million from BMZ. Result Area 1, to be administered by SADC, is funded to the tune of €8 million.
SADC will implement enhanced policy, regulatory and the business environment on national and regional levels for development and sustainable operation of the regional value chains for selected products in the agro-processing and pharmaceutical sectors, while GIZ, a key implementer of SIPS, will enhance participation of the private sector in the ARV, COVID-19 relevant Medical and Pharmaceutical Products (CMPP) and leather value chains.
Morocco-Egypt vs South Africa-Nigeria: A race for vaccines on the continent (The Africa Report)
In the wake of the pandemic, African policymakers have realised the need to develop their pharmaceutical industry. Hopes were fuelled by a high-level virtual conference, which was organised on 12 April by the African Union’s African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Its director, John Nkengasong from Cameroon, would like to see the continent producing more than half of the vaccines it consumes within 20 years, up from 1% today. At the same time, the African vaccine market is expected to grow significantly, from $1.3bn a year today to between $2.3bn and $5.4bn by 2030, according to US strategy firm McKinsey.
Afreximbank Announces an African Medical Centre of Excellence in Abuja, Nigeria (African Export-Import Bank)
Afreximbank has announced the commencement of its African Medical Centre of Excellence (AMCE) project in Abuja, Nigeria. It will provide world-class care to both low and high-income patient groups across the continent. Construction of the Abuja AMCE is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021 and commissioning is scheduled for the first quarter of 2024. Nigeria was selected in 2017 as the host country for the first AMCE following a competitive bidding process in which Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania also participated. The four countries had previously been identified as prospective host countries by a pre-feasibility study commissioned by Afreximbank and conducted by KCH in 2015.
There is a real threat that the Covid-19 pandemic may have reversed progress made on the world’s efforts to combat food insecurity and hunger affecting 130 million or more people globally. As the world clambers to rebound after the pandemic, this article outlines four policy levers that African leaders should pull for improved prioritisation and planning of food and agriculture policies in 2021 going forward. There can be no disagreement to the commonly held view that agriculture has been a boon for economic and social development in developing countries, and yet it remains largely underfunded. Policymakers in Africa ought to act fast and simultaneously adopt strategic interventions that make the best use of the meagre public purse.
When African Ministers of Environment voted to adopt a green stimulus initiative in December 2020 that tied environmental incentives to economic and social recovery in a post-COVID-19 world, the mandate to build back better following the pandemic sprang to life. The project recently got a $14 billion pledge from donors including France, the World Bank, European Union, African Development Bank, and other funders, and aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million jobs across 11 countries. “Africa’s environmental health is essential for the future of the region and the planet. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration offers an opportunity for the continent to further consolidate its efforts in protecting nature and the planet.”
UNEP: Plastic waste a ticking time bomb (The East African)
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office of Africa is recommending that Africa cushions itself from the unfolding plastic menace by adding all forms of plastics to Annex 1 of the Bamako Convention that prohibits and regulates importation and trans-boundary movement and management of hazardous wastes within Africa states. UNEP said it was particularly concerned about future reversal of the gains against plastic pollution in some countries. “Kenya, with one of the world’s strictest bans is now in talks for a bilateral trade agreement with the US (that) seeks to dilute the domestic laws on plastics with pressure from the US chemical and plastics industry,” said the UNEP, in a policy brief. “With growing internal trade and porous borders, this could render the efforts of other African countries ineffective,” the document says and advises Africa to join like-mined World Trade Organisation member states to launch a “Make trade work against plastic pollution” campaign on plastic pollution at the upcoming November-December 2021 WTO Ministerial Conference.
DG Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the impact COVID-19 was having on LDCs’ services trade. The pandemic has severely affected services that require in-person contact between suppliers and consumers, most notably the tourism and transport sectors, where LDCs have a relatively high footprint in global trade. In 2020, LDC exports of travel/tourism and transport services fell by 69% and 16%, respectively, with total services export revenue loss of nearly US$17 billion. “Decreased export revenues mean job losses and economic distress for people, along with increased financial and debt pressures for governments,” she said. “Against this background, restoring and increasing the export performance of LDCs in services takes on even greater urgency.” “Services can help LDCs increase and diversify exports from more traditional agricultural products and commodities, reducing exposure to price volatility,” she added.
The European Union put forward a plan on Wednesday it believes will help boost the production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States. Under pressure from developing countries demanding a waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU presented an alternative focused on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and the flexibility of existing World Trade Organization rules. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday the world has reached a situation of “vaccine apartheid”, with poorer countries that make up half the population receiving just 17% of vaccines. EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told the European Parliament that universal and fair access was the global community’s number one priority. In a debate on global vaccine access, Dombrovskis told lawmakers the European Union was ready to engage in examining the extent to which temporarily waiving the WTO’s TRIPS agreement contributed to making vaccines more available.
Seven Reasons the EU is Wrong to Oppose the TRIPS Waiver (Human Rights Watch)
As the Covid-19 pandemic has devastating human rights, social, and economic consequences across the globe, European Union (EU) representatives have repeatedly stated their commitment to the idea that Covid-19 vaccines should be a universal common good and that no one is safe from Covid-19 unless everyone is safe. Yet the EU has consistently opposed India and South Africa’s proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rules under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), a measure that would expand access to lifesaving vaccines and other health products. The arguments used by the European Commission to justify its opposition are inaccurate, misleading, and misguided. We address them individually here, focusing on the following seven truths:
“The coronavirus pandemic will not end until everyone has access to vaccines, including people in developing countries. Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery. We call on governments, pharmaceutical companies, and organizations involved in vaccine procurement and delivery to help increase transparency and build greater public information regarding vaccine contracts, options and agreements; vaccine financing and delivery agreements; and doses delivered and future delivery plans. We also urge vaccine manufacturers to prioritize the scale up of vaccine production, providing increased access for developing countries. Distributing vaccines more widely is both an urgent economic necessity, and a moral imperative.”
Process Launched to Boost Support for Least Developed Countries (UN Climate Change)
A United Nations-led process has been launched to kick-start negotiations for the next Programme of Action to support the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), which is expected to contain renewed partnerships between the LDCs and their development partners to help the LDCs overcome structural challenges, eradicate poverty, achieve the internationally agreed sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ultimately, to graduate from the LDC category. “Only few least developed countries have produced a national adaptation plan to increase their resilience in the face of climate change since the process was established in 2010,” said H.E. Ms. Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar. H.E. Mr. Perks Ligoya, the Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations and Chair of the LDC Group under the UN General Assembly, also informed one of the conference events that “we are leaving the LDCs behind”.
The group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members undertaking “structured discussions on trade and environmental sustainability” (TESSD) is moving ahead on its efforts to determine what its work may cover and how – including what they could include in a ministerial statement ahead of the Organization’s highest-level meeting in December. Going into the meeting, the TESSD coordinators circulated a workplan in early May to help structure the work in the lead-up to the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12), which is now only six months away. The event is set for 30 November – 3 December 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. In their submissions earlier this year on priority items for the TESSD, several participating WTO members had referred to the liberalization of environmental goods and services – along with related topics such as non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation – as an area of interest.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Negotiating Group on Rules continued discussions on a consolidated draft text on ending harmful fisheries subsidies in a series of meetings at the end of May. Members focused on special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries as addressed in the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing chapter of the consolidated draft text. Article 3.8 in the draft text states that the prohibition under Article 3.1 “shall not apply to subsidies granted or maintained by developing country members, including least developed country (LDC) members, for low income, resource-poor or livelihood fishing or fishing related activities within 12 nautical miles” measured from the baselines for a period of two years from the date of entry into force of the proposed instrument. Several developed and developing country members said they “could live with this text,” observing that negotiations “were in the end game,” and members should be prepared to make compromises.
Is the emerging world still emerging? (IMF Finance & Development)
Without COVID-19, GDP growth in the past decade would have been about 3.6 percent—just below the 3.7 percent experienced in 2000–09. Not bad given all the challenges, and contrary to the mood of pre-pandemic times. Indeed, each decade has witnessed stronger economic growth than the 1980s and 1990s, each about 3.3 percent. Hundreds of millions of people have been taken out of absolute poverty as a result, in part because of the growth miracle led by the so-called emerging markets, of which my beloved BRICs were front and center.
The details of the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting and the breakdown of its outcome by strategic analysts of respective member countries will take time to be out in public. But in the meantime, it appears safe to say that the virtual meeting between the five foreign ministers successfully concluded its agenda in the given circumstances. That the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant catastrophe were top on the agenda was evident. Held under the Indian presidency, the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting discussed the Covid-19 challenge threadbare. Its endorsement of India and South Africa’s proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines needs to be followed up and taken to its logical conclusion.
The US and the WTO were not very enthusiastic but earlier demands by India for such a waiver was strongly supported by a large section of the intellectuals including Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz. Doubts regarding the waiver being granted persist, as the global pharma lobby is not very supportive of such a move. Again, assuming that a limited waiver is made available, it will be a herculean task to set up state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in a short time and undertake mass production of vaccines. It is also surprising that two members of the BRICS, China and Russia, are vaccine manufacturers themselves, but never came forward to share the formula with or waive IPR regulations for other BRICS members. So much for the cooperation in the fight against the Covid pandemic!
Corporate tax deal tops agenda at G7 finance meet (Eyewitness News)
Group of Seven finance ministers are set to kick off talks on Friday, with the spotlight on ambitious plans for a minimum global level of corporate tax. British finance minister Rishi Sunak will host the meeting – which is being held in person after an easing of COVID restrictions – with counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. According to a draft communique seen by AFP, the finance chiefs and central bankers of the world’s seven richest nations will express “strong support” and a “high level of ambition” over a global minimum corporate tax. They then hope to reach broader agreement at a G20 finance meeting scheduled for July. Ministers also plan to commit to “sustain policy support”, or stimulus, for “as long as necessary” to nurture economic recovery, while addressing climate change and inequalities in society, according to the document. Furthermore, they will urge “equitable, safe and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines” everywhere in order to fully overcome the deadly pandemic.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the General Assembly’s first-ever Special Session against corruption via a video message, that before the COVID-19 pandemic, countries all over the world had been “roiled by huge anti-government demonstrations”. Corruption is often systematic and organized, a crime that crosses borders and “betrays people and democracies,” the UN chief said. “It steals trillions of dollars from people all over the world – usually from those most in need, as it siphons off resources for sustainable development”, he added. When powerful people get away with corruption, citizens lose trust in their governing institutions and democracies become weakened by cynicism and hopelessness. “Turning the tide against corruption is essential if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promote peace, and protect human rights”, Mr. Guterres spelled out.
As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home and work to end the pandemic worldwide, President Biden has promised that the United States will be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. To do that, the Administration will pursue several additional measures beyond our robust funding for COVAX: Donating from the U.S. vaccine supply to the world and encouraging other nations to do the same, working with U.S. manufacturers to increase vaccine production for the rest of the world, and helping more countries expand their own capacity to produce vaccines including through support for global supply chains.
The U.S. announced the proposed allocation plan for the first 25 Million doses. Based on the framework above and pending legal and regulatory approvals, the United States plans to send our first tranche of 25 million doses: Nearly 19 million will be shared through COVAX: Approximately 5 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union.