Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News


Treasury notes IMF concerns (SAnews)

The National Treasury says the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) concerns over the South African economy are aligned with government’s response programme to stimulate growth, which is guided by South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

In a statement on Wednesday, Treasury said the objective of consultations was to conduct economic and financial assessments of government policies and provide policy recommendations.

Treasury said the IMF staff’s preliminary findings pointed to a lack of progress in the implementation of structural reforms and continued weaknesses in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). It identified key risks and proposed policy recommendations.

South African Business Mood Worsens After Covid Curbs Hit Trade (BNN)

South African business confidence weakened in November as trade flows fell after a new wave of Covid-19 infections led to renewed restrictions among the nation’s major trading partners. A confidence index compiled by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry dropped to 92.8 in November from 94.9 in the previous month, the group said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “The foreign trade account was the main malefactor that pulled the BCI down -- month-on-month and year-to-year,” the chamber said. “Less merchandise import volumes and merchandise export volumes contributed to the decline in foreign trade.”

Govt to address business constraints (The Herald)

GOVERNMENT will deal decisively with any bottlenecks in the business environment to ensure the private sector operates effectively and efficiently in efforts to turnaround the economy, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga has said. Officially opening the Buy Zimbabwe-Buy Local summit in Harare yesterday, VP Chiwenga said the Government was implementing ease of doing business reforms, which seek to improve the business operating environment to positively impact on the country’s global competitiveness. “The economy of Zimbabwe will be led by the private sector, the role of the Government is to pronounce and make policies which will enable the private sector to carry out their business activities well.

The Buy Zimbabwe Summit was held under the theme ‘Anchoring Economic Growth on Local Content’, a thust VP Chiwenga said seeks to promote domestic production and consumption in line with the Local Content Strategy and the Zimbabwe National Industrial Development Policy 2019-

Zim targets value added agric exports to China (Chronicle)

ZIMBABWE is keen to secure joint venture partnerships with Chinese companies aimed at boosting agricultural production targeting selected crops, which will be processed locally and exported to the giant Asian market. China has committed to undertake 10 poverty reduction and agricultural projects for Africa under the broader China-Africa Cooperation drive.

On Tuesday Cabinet discussed the range of opportunities for Zimbabwe through this framework among other strategic partnership gains.

“The Government of Zimbabwe will ensure that Chinese companies work together with local farmers in joint ventures to grow crops such as soyabeans, cotton, groundnuts and tobacco, which are in demand in China,” said Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa in a post Cabinet media briefing. “These crops will be processed before export in line with the Focac Vision 2035 on promoting secondary industry in Africa.”

Hope for Kenya–US trade deal as ministers hold talks (The Star, Kenya)

Kenya and the US have revisited discussions on trade policies, giving hope to the stalled Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that started more than a year ago. This, as the Kenya remains keen to secure a free trade pact ahead of the lapse of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2025, which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations. Negotiations for a FTA commenced on July 8 last year, during former President Trump’s administration, but were put on hold when the US went into elections in November, that saw President Joe Biden elected. Biden’s administration later opted to review modules that had been agreed, Kenyan trade experts note, a move expected to bring in fresh proposals for the trade deal.

“Trade ministers from the two countries guided their senior teams in the identification of creative approaches to key issues that would align the ongoing relationship to the worker-centered trade policy in the US – Kenya trade and investment relationship,” Kenya’s trade ministry said in a statement.

According to trade CS Betty Maina, Kenya is keen to tap at least five per cent of the US market, which has the potential to earn the country more than Sh2 trillion in export revenues annually. More than 70 percent of Kenya’s exports to the US are duty-free under AGOA. The Free Trade Agreement seeks to ensure fair, balanced, and reciprocal trade between the two countries, increase transparency in import and export licensing procedures, and secure comprehensive duty-free market access for each country’s products. The US is keen to secure comprehensive market access for its agricultural goods in Kenya by reducing or eliminating tariffs. The two countries also seek to develop rules of origin to ensure that the benefits of the agreement go to products from the United States and Kenya.

Mobile money transactions growth hits 10-year record (Business Daily)

Mobile cash transactions are on course for the highest annual growth in a decade, highlighting the economic recovery and the increasing use of cashless payments platforms. Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Airtel Money and Telkom’s T-Kash agents handled Sh5.64 trillion in the 10 months to October, a 38 percent jump from the corresponding period last year. This is the fastest growth in cash handled by agents in the January-October period since 2011 — when it grew 60 percent to Sh938 billion — with monthly transactions likely to remain high this month due to the Christmas festivities that are characterised by heavy spending.

“Leading economic indicators point to a continuing recovery in the second half of 2021 also boosted by the full reopening of the economy,” said CBK governor Patrick Njoroge last week.

Kenya paid China Sh29bn to ease debt repayment standoff (Business Daily)

Kenya wired Sh29.86 billion to China in the quarter to September 2021 to ease a standoff over debt repayments that delayed disbursements to projects funded by Chinese loans. Treasury documents reveal that Kenya paid the billions in a period when Chinese lenders, especially Exim Bank, had opposed Kenya’s application for a debt repayment holiday. Kenya asked for an extension of the debt repayment moratorium from bilateral lenders, including China, by another six months to December 2021, saving it from committing billions to Beijing lenders. The moratorium started in January 2021.

Kenya’s plan to toll new Nairobi-Mau Summit highway faces opposition (The East African)

Kenya is seeking alternative routes for the Northern Corridor road network from Nairobi to Mau Summit through Nakuru as traders raise concerns over the expected increase in the cost of doing business in the East African region as the highway will be subject to state tolling. Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Mwangi Maringa told The EastAfrican that the tolled road network will be optional, and motorists who cannot afford the pricing will be provided with alternative routes. Maringa, however, did not specify the alternative route for the 181-kilometre road from Rironi (Nairobi) to Mau Summit through Nakuru.

The Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit Highway is part of the Northern Corridor that is used in the transport of goods and passengers from the port of Mombasa through Nairobi to counties in western Kenya and Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DRC.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers noted that despite the benefits of tolled roads, the government’s plan to levy the Nairobi-Mau Summit Highway will lead to a high cost of doing business. “Transport and logistics play a critical role in the manufacturing sector. It is critical to ensure that such costs are reduced to enhance business competitiveness both locally and regionally,” Phyllis Wakiaga, the association’s chief executive told The EastAfrican.

We’ll help small businesses to understand AFCFTA - Catherine Afeku (GhanaWeb)

Former Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Catherine Ablema Afeku, has been appointed to lead Strategic Communication of the National Coordination Office of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. For the next year, her mandate includes ensuring that a lot of Ghanaian entrepreneurs gain maximum knowledge on the biggest trade deal in order for the country to make the necessary gains. The Ghana Coordination Office is part of the government’s policy measures to bridge the trade information gap on the agreement.

She stated that the AfCFTA is the game-changer for industrialisation in Africa and the growth of local SMEs adding that even though it will take time to fully grasp the dynamics of the trade deal it is achievable.

‘AfCFTA will grow states’ export capacity by $1.2b yearly’ (The Nation)

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters and the Secretary, National Action Committee (NAC) on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Francis Anatogu has said the first goal of the implementation plan is to grow export capacity of every state to $1.2 billion focusing on specific products and service chains.

This, he said, will make every state and community in Nigeria economically viable and resilient through intra-Africa trade.

Anatogu who presented the keynote address yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 29th mandatory Continuous Professional Development Workshop of the Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN) with the theme: Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): The Crucial Role of Quality Assurance of Products.

For Madagascar, a Stronger, More Inclusive Private Sector Could Speed Growth (IFC)

Madagascar can create jobs, speed economic and fiscal recovery from COVID-19, and build a stronger future by introducing private sector reforms, improving the financial inclusion of smaller businesses, and strengthening competitiveness in key sectors, according to a World Bank Group report published today. The Madagascar Country Private Sector Diagnostic (CPSD) report, prepared by the World Bank and IFC, highlights the need for Madagascar to strengthen its business environment and increase competitiveness to attract investment, including into its high-potential agribusiness, apparel, and tourism sectors. The CPSD also outlines ways the country can alleviate constraints holding back productivity and investment in its energy, transport, and digital infrastructure sectors.

Senegal Drives Oil and Gas Trade Through Maritime Logistics Improvements (Energy Capital & Power)

Strategically located within regional and international trade routes, and forming part of the Trans-Saharan trade route, Senegal has managed to position itself as an African trade hub. The country’s trade industry relies predominantly on its ports, with the main Dakar port serving as a ‘gateway to Africa’ for global traders. For decades Senegal has been able to maintain a strong trade economy with the export of fish, phosphates, and groundnuts. Now, with the discovery of approximately 450 billion cubic meters natural gas, Senegal’s maritime logistics serve a critical role in the country’s energy sector expansion, scaling up distribution and trade.

Senegal Joins the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) as the 20th Member State on ATI’s 20th Anniversary (Africa Newsroom)

The Republic of Senegal joins the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) (ATI-aca.org) as its 20th member state on its 20th Anniversary. Senegal joins with a subscribed capital contribution of EUR15 million, following financial support from the European Investment Bank (EIB); With the addition of Senegal’s contribution, ATI’s total equity stands at approximately US$473.8 million, a 15% increase since December 2020; ATI is working with the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Finance and Budget and key partners of the Private Sector of Senegal to identify key support areas towards supporting Senegal’s National Development Strategy of an Emerging Senegal (PES) by 2035. In the short term, ATI expects to support projects valued at over US$ 1 billion in the Financial, Energy and Infrastructure sectors.

Mali suspends exports to protect food supply (World Grain)

The Western African nation of Mali has indefinitely suspended grain exports to protect its food supply as the United Nations said hunger is worsening in the area, Reuters reported, citing the Mali minister of trade and industry. Mali is a major exporter of grains to neighboring countries, exporting between 10% and 15% of its production. The suspension comes on the heels of a bad growing season and a shortage of rice and other grains on the international market.


Africa’s free trade area can deliver considerable inclusive economic growth for the continent (UNCTAD)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could reduce COVID-19-induced growth contraction, poverty and inequality trends and spur sustainable and inclusive growth on the continent if stronger support measures targeting women, young traders and small businesses are implemented, according to UNCTAD’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2021 published on 8 December. The report shows that trade policies alone are unlikely to support inclusive economic growth on the continent. Other measures needed to increase potential distributional gains from regional integration and help ensure inclusive development are cooperation in promoting investment and competition policies, accelerating financing of infrastructure that facilitates rural-urban linkages and providing equal access to socioeconomic opportunities and productive resources.

The report says trade liberalization, whether bilateral, regional or multilateral, entails some losses of tariff revenues and has redistributional effects. However, more international trade can also generate interregional knowledge spillovers, which could increase efficiency, diffuse technology and redistribute wealth. Intra-African trade is currently low at 14.4% of total African exports. It’s comprised of 61% processed and semi-processed goods, suggesting higher potential benefits from greater regional trade for transformative and inclusive growth, the report finds.

New ECA Report reveals AfCFTA’s impact on investment (UNECA)

The Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) today launched a publication entitled: “Towards a Common Investment Area in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Levelling the Playing Field for Intra-African Investment”. The report, launched on the sidelines of the Second Session of the Committee on Private Sector Development, Regional Integration, Trade, Infrastructure, Industry and Technology, provides concrete evidence and data to policy makers, media and business-owners on how they can take advantage of the economies of scope and scale of the envisioned AfCFTA Investment Protocol to attract investment. Presenting the report, Mr. Joseph Baricako, speaking on behalf of the Director of the Regional Integration and Trade Division (RITD) of the ECA, Mr. Stephen Karingi, said: ”To attract new FDI during the post-pandemic recovery and rebuilding stage, the upcoming AfCFTA negotiations should serve as a platform to harmonize investment rules and create a level playing field for investors.”

Connecting the world though trade (Construction Business News)

Africa has always been a strategic market for DP World, the Emirati multinational logistics company has been investing in the continent for a few years now. Earlier this year in April, it announced the launch of DUBUY.com, a global wholesale eCommerce platform, available first in Rwanda and Ethiopia with plans to expand across Africa and eventually around the world.DUBUY.com adds digital trading corridors to the physical corridors DP World has built across the African continent with its investment in ports, terminals, and logistics operations. “The marketplace represents a new model of partnership with the UAE, designed to strengthen the existing potential in Africa,” says Mahmood Al Bastaki, Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Trade World. “This technology allows home grown businesses to become international manufacturers and exporters – by linking them with new markets in Africa, the Middle East and eventually the rest of the world,” he adds.

Special Economic Zone Remain Pivotal To Africa’s Industrial Transformation (News Ghana)

Speakers at the sixth annual meeting of the Africa Economic Zones Organisation (AEZO) held in Accra, have reiterated the relevance of Special Economic Zones to the continent’s industrialization journey and the quest to connect Africa through trade.

They unanimously agreed that the effective of the SEZ regimes across the continent would create the much-needed jobs and open up Africa to investments.

Reports indicate that since its inception, African Economic Zones have given a significant boost to FDI flows by creating an attractive investment condition and supporting job creation. Most of Africa’s Special Economic Zones are found and well developed in 47 of the 54 economies on
the continent with the highest number in Morocco and Nigeria with the likes of Ghana speedily catching up.

Industrial policy makes a comeback in Africa (Brookings)

Industrial policy is seeing a revival in Africa and beyond. In fact, governments across the continent are now explicitly using a variety of industrial policy tools to promote industrialization through agro-processing, labor-intensive light manufacturing, natural resource extraction and value addition, some knowledge-intensive manufacturing, and “industries without smokestacks” such as high-value agriculture and tradable services.

This revival is driven by three main trends: Across the continent, countries are utilizing industrial policy tools; Industrial policy is seen to fail more often than it succeeds; Nevertheless, industrial policy often fails even to facilitate this learning by doing: That is because it is uniquely difficult to do well.

Leadership nuggets to drive the implementation of industrial and economic diversification strategies in Central Africa (UNECA)

A high-level debate on the role of transformative leadership in implementing industrialisation and economic diversification strategies in Central Africa ended at the Kintele International Conference Centre near the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, Monday, with appeals for political predictability, adequate infrastructure, especially in energy provision, and a better segmented private sector.

“Central African and other countries of the continent already have abundant natural and human resources but the real leadership challenge is having the right regulatory frameworks for them to trade in goods and services with ease,” Said Margaret Oghumu, Associate Vice President for Power and Renewables at Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

“We have a weak financial ecosystem that can support mostly short-term credits, and this is not appropriate for consequential investments for structural transformation,” she maintained. “We cannot industrialise without adequate access to energy,” Jean Luc Mastaki, Officer in Charge of ECA’s Subregional Officer for Central Africa, agreed.

“We cannot keep producing what we do no consume, while consuming what we do not produce” Mastaki lamented, while advancing the point that leaders should incentivise the private sector to engage in the production of items in demand in the subregion.

Third round of regional workshops on the WTO TFA continues with the WCO East and Southern Africa/ West and Central Africa Regions (WCO)

Over 90 registered participants from 30 Member administrations, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and WCO Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCBs) participated in the WCO East and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA) Regional Online Workshop on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which took place from 1 to 3 December 2021. The Workshop was organized with the financial support of the United Kingdom (UK) Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), under the framework of HRMC - WCO-UNCTAD Programme.

This Workshop is the second one in the new round of regional workshops, since the entry into force of the TFA in 2017. The Workshop kick-started with updates on the latest developments regarding the TFA. It also focused on the success stories and the challenges Members are facing in implementing the TFA, as well as forms of support provided through the WCO Mercator Programme. Furthermore, the Workshop explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the international trade facilitation agenda and which measures are particularly relevant for the successful movement of essential goods, including vaccines, across borders. Participants had the opportunity to discuss the implementation monitoring methods at national level by using WCO tools such as the Mercator Maturity Model and the Time Release Study.

Digitalizing Africa’s mines (Brookings)

Mineral resources are a critical source of revenue for Africa. In 2019, minerals and fossil fuels accounted for more than a third of exports from at least 60 percent of African countries. The continent produces around 80 percent of the world’s platinum, two-thirds of its cobalt, half of its manganese, and a substantial amount of chromium, leaving it in a strong position to benefit from growing demand for these minerals. Moreover, Africa is believed to have some of the world’s largest untapped mineral reserves. Unfortunately, a lack of systematic geological mapping and exploration means that the full scope of the continent’s resources remains unknown. To unlock mineral-rich African countries’ full potential, mining companies and African governments must embrace Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and big data can help mining firms limit damage to the environment, improve working conditions, reduce operating costs, and boost productivity.

As mines become more productive—and more profitable—national governments will have more revenue to spend on investment in infrastructure, like roads, schools, and health clinics.

Vaccine hub will be a game changer for Africa (SAnews)

The African continent’s first messenger RNA (mRNA) technology transfer hub for COVID-19 vaccines will be a game-changer for the continent. “When outbreaks like COVID-19 happen, the whole world rallies around developing new technologies and vaccines. But we don’t know that we will have the same response if there is an outbreak that is only ravaging the African continent. So if we don’t build our own capabilities, then we will have a problem.”

Those are the reflections of the Department of Science and Technology’s Deputy Director-General for Technology Innovation, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, in an interview with SAnews.

EU Covid travel bans against Africa are unfair: airline association (The East African)

European Union countries’ travel bans on African countries over the Omicron variant is discriminatory and will negatively affect the African aviation sector, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has said. AFRAA Secretary General Abdérahmane Berthé said the move by some Western countries amount to stigmatisation of Africa, especially South Africa which is among countries to detect the virus in its land.

COMESA Member States Meet to Validate Regional Resilience Framework (COMESA)

COMESA Secretariat has convened a regional meeting to validate the climate change Regional Resilience Framework (RRF) implementation plan and Resource Mobilization Strategy The meeting takes place on 8 – 9 December 2021 and provides a platform for Member States and key stakeholders to review the current draft RRF implementation plan and Resource Mobilization Strategy and provide inputs to the draft.

The meeting will discuss the implementation plan, financing opportunities and strategies for the regional resilience framework interventions.

CEMAC: Development bank BDEAC raises over XAF115 bln in the regional financial market for integration financing and economic recovery (Business in Cameroon)

The Development Bank of Central African States (BDEAC) recently concluded its bond issue baptized “ BDEAC 5.60% net 2021-2028 ” on the Central African regional exchange BVMAC. According to the results published in Brazzaville (Congo) on December 7, 2021, the BDEAC raised XAF114.8 billion during the operation, higher than the initial XAF100 billion it was sourcing.

The bank explains that the operation ran from November 15 to December 2, 2021, “involved every population group in the sub-region and the diaspora.” However, regional banks and microfinance institutions contributed the lion’s share of the funds raised by accounting for 89% of the whole envelope.

ECA and Partners release country reports on electricity market regulatory reviews (UNECA)

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the RES4Africa Foundation have jointly released a series of country regulatory reviews on electricity markets in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa and Ghana. The reports, which aim to support the crowding-in of scaled private sector investment in generation, networks and off-grid markets,were released on 8 December 20201 during an Expert Group Meeting on the theme “Enhancing Electricity Market Regulation in Africa to Accelerate Participation of the Private Sector in Infrastructure Investment,” The publications are a result of a productive partnership between ECA, through its SDG7 Finance initiative pillar area on energy sector governance, and the RES4Africa Foundation - through its Missing Links initiative.

In 2020 alone, the global energy market saw about $1.9 trillion in investments, of which emerging and developing countries attracted 1/5th. Africa captured only a fraction, signaling the crucial importance of addressing private sector investment participation challenges in the electricity market. Towards this end, addressing regulatory and policy challenges in the sector is essential.

Promoting energy access and trading in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESI Africa)

AMDA and COMESA have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote sustainable energy access and energy trading across Eastern and Southern Africa. AMDA CEO Jessica Stephens: “The signing of the MoU is part of our efforts as AMDA to create the right policy and finance environment that will help African nations meet their growing energy and climate resilience needs.”

This will be supported by AMDA’s overarching commitment to work with COMESA states across the regions, to develop and implement policies and regulations which support minigrids as a tool to help Africa achieve DSG67 of universal access to affordable and clean energy by 2030.

Uganda tops African Development Bank’s Electricity Regulatory Index for fourth consecutive year (AfDB)

For the fourth consecutive year, Uganda’s electricity sector is Africa’s best regulated across a number of key metrics, according to the African Development Bank’s 2021 Electricity Regulatory Index. Other strong performers include East African neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as Namibia and Egypt.

The 2021 Electricity Regulatory Index, an annual report, covered 43 countries, up from 36 in the previous edition, and assessed their impact on the performance of their electricity sectors. The index covered 3 countries in the North Africa region; 14 in West Africa; 6 in Central Africa; 7 in East Africa; and 13 in the Southern Africa region.

“The unprecedented participation of so many countries shows the commitment to strengthen the countries’ regulatory environment with a view to improving the performance of the respective electricity sectors,” said Dr. Kevin Kariuki, the African Development Bank’s Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth.

Changing tides for China-Africa cooperation: our key takeaways from the 8th FOCAC (ODI)

Historically the priorities of the FOCAC fora have mapped the changing tenor of the China-Africa relationship. Over the 2000s, this has shifted from natural resources trade, to investment, industrialisation and infrastructure. The 2010s saw a rapid expansion of official development finance from Chinese institutions, with pledged finance packages of $60bn USD announced via the FOCAC forum in 2015, and repeated (though with a slight reallocation) in 2018. Since then, however, there has been a clear slowdown in China’s overseas finance, prompted in large part by changing domestic conditions, but no doubt bolstered by the continued negative publicity around the false meme of Chinese ‘debt-traps’, and the very real contribution of Chinese loans to African debt service. As the dust has settled on FOCAC 21, what do the outcomes say about current China-Africa priorities?

Russia-Africa summit to prioritise economic, trade topics: Chad Foreign Minister (Devdiscourse)

The agenda of the 2022 Russia-Africa Summit will focus on economic and trade issues, Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif said in an interview with Sputnik. “I believe that this summit has already outlined a course under which it is necessary to increase economic and trade exchanges to promote the development of African countries. In this regard, I believe that economic and trade issues will occupy the central place on the agenda,” Cherif said.


Global merchandise trade exceeds pre-COVID-19 level, but services recovery falls short (UNCTAD)

UNCTAD’s Handbook of Statistics for 2021 published on 9 December nowcasts a strong increase of 22.4% in the value of global merchandise trade this year compared with 2020. The strong growth will push the value of world trade in goods about 15% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Trade in services, however, will still fall short of pre-pandemic levels despite the 13.6% growth nowcast for 2021 after a deep contraction recorded in 2020.

According to the report, world merchandise trade recorded a decline of 7.4% in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Global exports amounted to $17.6 trillion, a $1.4 trillion fall from the previous year. This was the biggest annual decline since 2009, when trade fell by 22%. The decline in global services trade value was much stronger, with a contraction of 20% in 2020 compared with 2019. This was the biggest decline in services trade since the beginning of its recording in 1990. In comparison, the value of trade in services fell by 9.5% in 2009 following the global financial crisis.

WTO report recommends ways to ease trade bottlenecks in landlocked developing countries (WTO)

“Easing Trade Bottlenecks in Landlocked Developing Countries” delves into the specific challenges that LLDCs face when trading internationally, including supply chain constraints, reliance on transit countries for imports and exports and the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on LLDCs’ economies. The study finds that LLDCs’ trade costs are 1.4 times higher than those of developing countries with a coastline. It also details LLDCs’ vulnerability to climate change but notes the benefits that trade in services and e-commerce can bring to these countries.

In her opening remarks, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala reiterated her commitment to promoting a more inclusive multilateral trading system: “LLDCs face particularly acute versions of realities that all members must grapple with, as complex emerging challenges, such as climate change, threaten development possibilities and future prosperity. We must leverage the potential of trade to meet these challenges. … We must also ensure that the gains from trade are equally distributed. Enhancing integration into regional and global value chains of women, youth and small businesses creates jobs and opportunities, and helps reduce inequality … In a world marked by the COVID pandemic, the paths that lead to economic growth cannot be separated from those that lead to inclusion.”

The Omicron shame: Why is the world punishing instead of helping Africa? (Middle East Monitor)

The decision by several governments across the globe to institute travel bans on seven African countries, starting on 27 November, due to the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, was perceived to be hasty in the eyes of some and fully justifiable on medical grounds, in the view of others. However, the matter is hardly that of a difference of opinion.

The swiftness of choking off some of Africa’s poorest countries, including Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, is particularly disturbing if placed within a proper context concerning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Global South, generally, and Africa, in particular.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” South Africa’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the travel bans were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”.

“What is going on right now is […] a result of the world’s failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent and speedy manner. It is as a result of hoarding [of vaccines] by high-income countries of the world, and, quite frankly, it is unacceptable,” Alakija said, adding that “these travel bans are based in politics and not in science”.

Internet Governance Forum promotes inclusive digital future for all (UN News)

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) brings together more than 7,000 innovators, big tech executives, young people, ministers and parliamentarians to spur efforts to build an open, secure and free digital future for all.

The global crisis has highlighted the life-changing power of the Internet, he said, with digital technology enabling millions to work, study and socialize safely online. Yet it has also magnified the digital divide and the dark side of technology, as evidenced by “the lightning-fast spread of misinformation”, for example.

Given the impact of the pandemic on the digital landscape, the IGF “could deliver its promise for shaping a digital future for the world - turning the COVID-19 crisis into opportunities,” said Liu Zhenmin, the UN Under-Secretary-General who heads DESA.


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