tralac Daily News
SA’s agricultural exports hit a new record high (Cape Business News)
The need to improve logistics efficiency and curb the deterioration of infrastructure remains a topical issue in South Africa’s agriculture. Farming communities and agribusinesses might work to improve productivity on the farms, but the ultimate goal for some agricultural commodities producers is to reach export markets. However, achieving this is not only a function of output, but also the various trade agreements that South Africa has with other countries and the efficiency of logistical infrastructure locally. In 2021, the cyberattacks at Transnet, vandalism of rail infrastructure, poor road networks across the country, which the heavy rains have now exacerbated, and inefficiencies at the ports at various periods were the key risks to South Africa’s agricultural export drive. The agriculture and agribusiness industry has since firmed its relationship with Transnet to focus on the short-term challenges of ensuring that the perishable products already harvested are exported efficiently while also not forgetting the long-term collaboration for improving the port efficiencies. The latter aligns well with the agriculture expansion strategies, aimed at boosting production, destined for the export market as the sector is already export-oriented.
Stakeholders in the South African fruit industry have adopted the Fruit Industry Social Accord, which commits them to work together to achieve socio-economic growth to best position the fruit industry as a world leader.
Poultry industry improvements should alleviate challenges (Engineering News)
The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) has made some “decisive improvements” to the poultry sector after a difficult year, it said on February 22. The effects of these improvements were aimed at alleviating problems experienced throughout the entire poultry value chain by the industry over the last couple of years, such as chicken dumping, illegal imports, avian influenza and Covid-19 lockdowns.
South Africa sees lower debt peak as mining lifts revenue (PMN News/Reuters)
South Africa forecast public debt would peak sooner and at a lower level than earlier thought when it unveiled its annual budget on Wednesday, with mining tax receipts expected to keep supporting revenues and spending seen growing only modestly. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is trying to stabilise the public finances of Africa’s most industralised economy after years of rapid debt accumulation under his predecessor Jacob Zuma. The COVID-19 pandemic initially disrupted those efforts, widening the budget deficit and driving unemployment to a record above 30%. Last year, however, the economy rebounded quicker than expected as the mining sector capitalised on strong prices of key exports like metals and coal. The National Treasury said in its budget review that while the boost from commodities would fade somewhat, it would still produce “significant additional revenue over the next three years”. This year’s tax collections are seen 182 billion rand ($12.10 billion) above the 2021 estimate largely due to mining.
After COVID-19 exposed some challenges bedeviling the BRICS countries, there is a need to re-examine its strategies and integrate and expand its scope, said South African experts on Wednesday at the webinar “South Africa and the BRICS: Revisiting developmental priorities. “The Witwatersrand University School of Governance lecturer Lihle Ngcobozi said COVID-19 showed the problems of patents and vaccine nationalism that BRICS should address. “BRICS should lead and be trend or policy setters. They should lead in vaccine democratization,” she said.
She pointed out that BRICS countries have a potential influence on global decisions such as climate change and COVID-19. It should have a blueprint on infrastructure development, economic reforms, fiscal prudence, and post-economic recovery while respecting the sovereignty of the countries.
Kenya’s trade deficit grew by a third in December driven by higher fuel and machinery imports even as earnings from exports rose marginally. This has pushed the country’s total trade loss for the year, which had hit Sh1.2 trillion in the 11 months to November, up to Sh1.36 trillion in 2021—a record high. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows Kenya’s trade deficit increased 32 per cent as imports shot up to Sh235.23 billion in December while exports increased slightly to Sh66.35 billion. The Sh168.88 billion trade deficit in the month is a significant jump from the Sh127.6 billion deficit in November when imports hit Sh191.81 billion as exports stood at a modest Sh64.21 billion. “Domestic exports by Broad Economic Category (BEC) indicated that food and beverages were the main export category in December 2021 accounting for 43.79 per cent of the domestic exports, while non-food industrial supplies accounted for 26.74 per cent of the domestic exports,” KNBS said.
Weak logistics systems deny Kenyan firms trade favours (The Standard)
Few Kenyan companies have qualified for a regional trade programme that gives firms preferential treatment on clearing cargo at border points due to their weak logistical systems. The programme called Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs), identifies companies whose systems of importing or exporting goods are very robust — having sound logistics systems and sourcing their goods from trusted international markets. These systems must also be well protected and cannot be infiltrated by corrupt cartels to allow counterfeits or tax evasion. These companies, therefore, are put together under the wing of the East African Community (EAC) and are treated favourably by tax bodies of the partner states whenever they want their goods cleared.
A study by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) reveals that only 99 cargo agents are registered in the programme. This number is low considering Kenya has over 1,000 clearing agents registered with the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association.
Kenya to spend $1 billion more on Covid vaccination, draft budget shows (The East African)
Kenya is expected to spend Ksh121 billion ($1.06 billion) more on enhanced Covid-19 vaccination in the next financial year as it gears up to set the trend in the post-pandemic recovery within the East African region. The details are contained in a draft budget statement which will this year come early in March to free other funds for the General Election due in August. Besides the vaccination funds, the country had already set plans to operationalise the Kenya Biovax Limited to ‘form and fill’ and eventually manufacture her own Covid-19 vaccine by the Easter of 2022. The allocation is meant to facilitate 100 percent Covid-19 vaccination rollout among Kenyans in a bid to attain the macroeconomic objectives. The vaccination campaign is a gradual step in the war against the pandemic – moving from the purchase of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) that was employed at the initial stages of the pandemic. The 2022-2023 Budget Policy Statement (BPS) document is currently before parliament.
The East Africa Community (EAC) treaty requires all its member states to read their budgets simultaneously. Harmonisation of the budget presentation helps the member states in the timely implementation of EAC projects such as infrastructure and energy. It also takes away the possibility of governments applying punitive tax measures against other member states.
Dar Port to handle South Sudan cargo (Dailynews)
TANZANIA Ports Authority (TPA) is looking forward to start receiving South Sudan consignments through the Dar es Salaam Port. TPA expressed its readiness to start handling freight destined to Africa’s youngest nation subject to relevant institutions holding a grip in assuring that all other supporting infrastructures are working properly. The freight to South Sudan will be transported through the central line railway to the shores of Lake Victoria, then through a cargo ship to Port Bell in Uganda where it would continue by road to the final destinations.
Road projects commence in Tanzania (World Highways)
New road works are getting underway in Tanzania and will help boost transport in the country. Work is underway on the 112km road project that will improve transport in and around the capital city of Dodoma. The project is costing a total of US$213.6 million and will help deliver the necessary transport upgrades for the city. The Tanzanian Government is supplying $34.5 million for the work. Meanwhile, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is supplying $137.3 million and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is supplying $41.8 million via the Africa Growing Together Fund.
A Principal Revenue Officer at the Customs Policy and Programmes Unit, Smile Agbemenu has disclosed that the digitalization of customs clearance processes at the Ports has brought about a high level of compliance from importers. He said customs has been able to obtain data which has enabled them profile importers into different categories depending on their compliance levels. He was optimistic that the data obtained will aid in the planning of the division.
President of the Association of Customs House Agents Ghana (ACHAG), Yaw Kyei indicated that the digitalization of customs processes at the ports has reduced challenges that hitherto affected the clearance of goods at the Ports. Yaw Kyei stated that the agitations that characterized the digitalization drive of port processes are a result of the fact that people were apprehensive about job losses and because stakeholders were not duly consulted. However, he said stakeholders are now satisfied and happy with the level of digitalization at the Ports after the rollout. He said one doesn’t need to be in the port physically to get his or her goods out. “Because we have understood the system now, everybody is happy about what is going on now. It is even possible to take delivery of a consignment without seeing a customs officer or terminal operator,” he said.
Stakeholders in agriculture brainstorm to tap benefits of AfCFTA (BusinessGhana)
The discussions formed part of the “Strengthening structures and framework for the agriculture sector to participate competitively in the AfCFTA” project being implemented. It was jointly organsied by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the AfCFTA secretariat.
Richard Twumasi-Ankrah, the Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of MOFA and national coordinator for the project, said Ghana’s food system which relied on the export of most food in raw forms required drastic interventions. “The introduction of the AfCFTA as envisaged will boost intra-Africa trade, improve value chain development as well as create and improve SME development,” he said. He added that the AfCFTA had come at the good time, as Ghana had taken giant strides to improve its industrial drive backed by strong export-diversification intervention.
The arduous task of raising US$60.9 million annually for interventions under the National Export Development Strategy (NEDS) is raising uncertainty over the country’s ability to increase Non-Traditional Export revenue from US$2.8 billion in 2020 to US$25.3 billion in 2029. The strategy, which was launched in 2020 has a 10-year funding component of US$30 million annually from the Ghana Exim Bank (GXIM) and a US$20.9 million from the Petroleum Heritage Fund. A financing gap of US$10 million is to be filled annually from multiple sources such as soft loans and grants from development partners, budget allocations to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA), leveraging venture capital funding to support startup companies as well as stimulus fund provided by GEXIM bank and government.
The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has approved a two-year update and extension of Zambia’s 2017-2021 Country Strategy Paper through to 2023, according to a report released on 14 January 2022. According to the report, “an update of the CSP and its extension is necessary as Zambia’s new medium-term development plan, the 8th National Development Plan, is still under preparation and could be completed in the first quarter of 2022. It is also important to await possible policy changes that may occur after the country’s general elections held on 12 August 2021.”
The document’s main objective is to reduce poverty and vulnerability through a dynamic and sustainable private sector that creates jobs. The paper has two priorities: support for infrastructure development and private sector development.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the country has been able to save 1 billion USD by substituting import goods during the first six months of the budget year. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared at the 3rd Extraordinary Session of the House of People’s Representatives today to present his government performance over the last six month and answer questions raised to him by Members of the parliament (MPs) regarding the current situations in the country. During the session members of the House have asked explanations on several issues including the current situation of the country, the existing economic challenges, ongoing drought in some parts of the country among other things. In his briefing about the economic performance of his government, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the economic progress in the last six months should be weighed in light of the war in the North, droughts and floods, as well as the impacts of COVID.
The African Economic Commission Development (AECD) has disclosed that the continent was planning to roll out Made-in- Africa goods standards for Africans to improve intra-trade market and boost the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Commissioner of Economic Commission Development (ECD), Industry, Trade and Mining, His Excellency, Albert Muchanga, disclosed this during an AfCFTA webinar in Cairo, Egypt, where he stated that ministers of industry, trade and investment on the continent have approved to present a draft on African private sector policy that will see the birth for the criteria on Made-in-Africa goods, in line with the continental trade agreement. Muchanga said the Made-In- Africa goods standard is also going to remove the abnormalities and barriers to trade in the continent that have been an impediment to trade growth and GDP.
The African ECD commissioner noted that the continent’s ministers of industry, trade and investment have approved that each country in the continent will be given the liberty to be able to meet the criteria and standardisation to use the labels ‘Made-in-Africa’ for its manufactured goods that are expected to be traded in the continent. According to him, the proposed Made-in-Africa standards will mean that the goods and services each country is producing and trading will find it much easier to move within African countries seamlessly to boost trade facilitation in the continent. He explained that the Made-in- Africa goods will make the continent’s market competitive and attractive.
Global supply-chain turmoil to persist into 2023 – SAAFF (Engineering News)
Global pandemic-induced supply-chain woes are set to continue for much of the year, including elevated demand, staffing shortages and global port congestion, says South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) CEO Dr Juanita Maree. Indeed, moderation, or a return to normal – albeit a new, adjusted normal – will only occur around the Chinese New Year in 2023 (late January).
Africa’s Unfinished Trade Agenda by Hippolyte Fofack (Project Syndicate)
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which entered into force on January 1 last year, promises to accelerate the diversification of the region’s economies and reduce the impact of commodity-price cycles on growth. Whereas Africa’s external trade is dominated by primary commodities and natural resources, the first shipment under the AfCFTA – from Ghana to South Africa – comprised manufactured goods of the sort that largely drive intra-African trade. Many therefore hope that the AfCFTA – by creating a single market of 55 countries with a total population of more than 1.3 billion and a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion – will catalyze industrialization as firms take advantage of economies of scale to spread the risk of investing in smaller markets. To that end, the trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on 90% of goods (the ultimate goal is 97% liberalization). The AfCFTA will likely boost foreign direct investment across Africa – empirical evidence elsewhere shows that joining a free-trade area could increase it by around a quarter – and shift its emphasis from natural resources toward labor-intensive manufacturing industries. Moreover, the pact has the potential to transform African economies, significantly increase the continent’s share of global trade, and strengthen its bargaining power in international trade negotiations.
Africa-focused agribusiness firm AgDevCo raises $90m (Engineering News)
AgDevCo, an investor in early-stage African agriculture businesses, said on Thursday it has raised $90-million from British, US and Norwegian funds to shore up investments that will help small farmers raise yields and reduce waste. Small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa lack credit for seed and fertiliser, keep losing parts of their harvests because of a lack of proper storage and ready access to markets while they also grapple with droughts and floods.
PIDA is the strategic framework for infrastructure development, guiding the African Union’s infrastructure development agenda, policies, and investment priorities. It provides a framework for engagement with Africa’s development partners on the provision of regional and continental infrastructure, and facilitates the physical, economic and social integration of the continent in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The 7th PIDA Week takes place amidst the backdrop of continued global economic and social uncertainty occasioned by COVID 19 pandemic. According to a statement from the event organizers, the prolonged COVID 19 pandemic has had devastating multifaceted economic and social consequences that have disproportionately affected Africa on human development indicators, economic interdependence, growth and resilience patterns.
It noted that African Governments in response have prioritized their spending commitment mainly focusing on vaccinating their population and building resilience considering the pandemic, therefore increasing their recurrent expenditure. “This could impact the annual gap in infrastructure investment in the short to medium term. The pandemic has also had a negative impact on cross-border trade. The African Union has also been affected with member states forced to shut down borders and, in some cases, applying trade restrictions that have affected supply chains inbound and outbound within the regions and as a result recording trade deficit in volumes, exposing Africa’s over-dependence on external supply chains,” the statement said.
76% of global investors look set to grow their African investments – New study (The Business & Financial Times)
Global investors are set to see a significant increase in their African investments, with 76% either studying the markets, preparing for entry or readying to deploy additional investments into the continent. This is according to the ‘World to Africa’ report – an industry-wide study conducted by Standard Bank Group and the ValueExchange in cooperation with the Bank of New York Mellon, Africa Venture Capital Association (AVCA), South African Venture Capital Association (SAVCA), Global Custodian and MiDA.
Investing in Africa is already a core activity for almost half of all global investors, particularly those in Europe. A further 36% of global investors are readying themselves to enter African markets – either through planned market entries or account activation in the region – highlighting the growing appeal of African markets to overseas investors. The fact that this development is driven mostly by long-term, institutional investors is evidence that this growth is strategic more than opportunistic.
Regional integration will encourage the spread of technical innovation and allow nations to compete on the global market with more sophisticated economies. It also has the potential to drive more strong and fair economic growth, as well as reduce poverty and unemployment in Africa. These were part of the findings of a monthly survey carried out by the Ghana International Trade and Finance Conference (GITFIC) and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Wednesday.
“Giving African manufacturers access to regional markets and connecting them to more complex regional value chains would boost their competitiveness and capability for advancement into more competitive global niches. When seen in this light, regional integration is critical to increasing productivity and creating long-term gains in living standards,” Mr Gerald Ekow Woode Lead-Research Fellow (Policy and Advocate) of GITFIC. said.
Google on Tuesday launched the “Africa Developer Ecosystem Report 2021” saying that, despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, the continent’s developer ecosystem is on the rise. The report was based on findings of a study conducted across 16 Sub-Saharan African countries. According to the report, demand for African developers reached a record high in 2021 against the backdrop of a global economic crisis and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While Africa’s tech innovation sector is making great strides, global tech companies, educators and governments can do more to ensure that the industry becomes a strategic economic pillar, Nitin Gajria, Managing Director, Google in Africa said. “At Google, we are intent on further igniting training and support for this community by bridging the existing developer skills gap and concentrating our efforts in upskilling female developers who face pointed challenges,”
How economic disparities undermine East Africa’s growth (The East African)
East Africa remains among the most unequal places on the continent, with the richest 10 percent of the population earning more than half the population of 415 million citizens, says a new report. According to The inequality crisis in East Africa: Fighting austerity and the pandemic by Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI), the huge economic inequalities have undermined the region’s growth. While income is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 200 million people are struggling to meet basic needs such as education and healthcare. “South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda are the most unequal, ranking among the world’s 40 most unequal countries. Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Somalia are in the most unequal third of countries. Only Ethiopia has below-average inequality,” the report states. The inequality has made it impossible for the region to eradicate poverty by 2030.
DRC: Why Kenya is so keen on Kinshasa joining the East African Community (The Africa Report)
As the DRC moves closer to formal admission to the East African Community (EAC), Kenya organised a 200-member trade mission to the central African country in November 2021. According to Equity Group, the 15-day trade mission to the DRC (between November and December 2021) was aimed at deepening trade relations between Nairobi and Kinshasa. The idea for the Kenyan banking giant was to “highlight trade and investment opportunities in the DRC” and this “as part of a government programme to foster regional trade and stimulate business growth by unlocking investment opportunities in East and Central Africa”.
President Buhari has called for balanced trade between the European Union and Africa, citing that agriculture exports to EU farmers has made African food exports uncompetitive. This was disclosed in a statement by the Presidency after the just-concluded EU Africa summit.
The President said the relationship between Africa and the EU must be balanced to power job creation and alleviate poverty. According to Buhari, “Unfortunately today’s arrangements do just the opposite, where some claim preferential trade policies with the EU lend a helping hand to Africa the real picture is different.” He added that the Everything but Arms Scheme grants 32 African countries tariff-free access to European markets, but it still excludes many of Africa’s 54 nations, as there remains barriers to Europe’s markets even for countries that qualify. He warned that Agricultural subsidies to EU farmers make Africa’s exports uncompetitive as European farmers have access to huge loan investments.
Museveni pushes for access to European Union market (New Vision)
President Yoweri Museveni has called on the European Union (EU) to open up its market to Africa’s food products and improve farmers’ incomes for sustained food security on the continent. “If you can help us with the European market; remove the distortion that was introduced by the European Union when they introduced European Agriculture Policy where you maintain artificial farmers in Europe with subsidies. Here, we don’t need subsidies. I am a farmer, I have never got any subsidies from anybody and I produce food cheaply for Ugandans. You wonder why the Europeans could not get cheap food from here instead of having that distortion,” he said.
The recently concluded Addis Ababa-Djibouti Standard Gauge Railway has been linked to the booming of trade and regional integration across the Horn of Africa, further promoting cooperation among nations. Participants including officials and independent experts who attended a seminar earlier this week discussed how Africa’s first fully electrified transboundary railway contributed to regional integration and the betterment of communities along the way. Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia’s minister of transport and logistics, said the 752-km railway which was a flagship project of Belt and Road demonstrated that African countries can make tremendous progress by improving infrastructure.
“The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, as a flagship project of China-Ethiopia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has made important strides in all aspects since starting operation more than four years ago,” the Chinese ambassador said.
The electrified railway has cut the transportation time for freight goods from more than three days to less than 20 hours and reduced the cost by at least one-third. Zhao said the railway has been a way of development, driving economic growth and industrialization, and serving as a lifeline of transportation for essential goods such as fertilizers, grain, cement, steel, and anti-pandemic materials.
Digital Press Briefing on U.S. Commitment to Economic Trade in Africa (US Department of State)
While still unfolding, the COVID-19 vaccine experience is a story of light in terms of speed and reach. Just over two years after the first cases of SARS-CoV-2 were detected, around 10.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally. But it is also a story of shadows. Profound vaccine inequity continues to limit access in low-income countries (LICs) where, even today, only 11.4 percent of people have received at least one shot. With 4.4 billion doses having crossed borders as of December 2021, trade has proven instrumental to the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines across the world. The global trading system, underpinned by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, has helped keep markets broadly open and supplies moving. Yet, greater trade cooperation in tackling geographic concentration, supply chain bottlenecks and regulatory divergences can strengthen preparedness for future pandemics. A recent study on the historical record in the development and deployment of vaccines finds that never has the world seen such a rapid development of a viable vaccine, a massive ramp up of production and a fast and effective rollout of vaccination (Figure 1). Significant investments and public-private collaboration bolstered the emergence of the COVID-19 supply chain in the middle of the pandemic. While insufficient jabs significantly hampered vaccine access in 2021, supply-side constraints have begun to recede, and 24 billion doses are now forecast to be produced by mid-2022.
Trade has been a force for good in fighting COVID-19. After a slow start, exacerbated by some trade policies, vaccine exports ramped up in the third quarter of 2021 to reach 4.4 billion doses by the end of the year (Figure 3). Such an outcome would not have been possible without the cross-border movement of dozens of specialized vaccine inputs along tightly knit supply chains. From vaccine core ingredients to vials and rubber stoppers to cold boxes, to consumables (such as specialized plastic bags), specialized machinery (such as bioreactors and cold chain equipment) and other products (such as dry ice and more), there is a high degree of trade interdependence between the ingredients and goods needed to produce, distribute, and administer vaccines. A stark lesson from 2021 is that trade is an indispensable conduit to vaccine access.
MC12 was due to take place from 30 November to 3 December 2021 but was postponed due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which led to the imposition of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Switzerland and many other European countries.
Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras, the chair of the General Council, noted that fixing the dates for the eagerly awaited meeting should provide impetus to the WTO’s work and focus for the discussion on ministerial outcomes. The exact dates of the meeting will be defined later, he noted.
“Let us work together, with the primary objective in mind, that the Conference will provide the WTO, and us here in Geneva, with an opportunity to demonstrate that the WTO can deliver,” Ambassador Castillo declared. “Let us make this count.”
Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki (Japan), co-convenor of the initiative and chair of the plenary meetings this year, said WTO members need to devote as many resources as possible to the topics they “show willingness to discuss”. This will help members achieve the goal set by ministers in December 2021 of securing convergence on the majority of issues by the end of 2022, he said. Ambassador Yamazaki urged proponents to ensure their proposals have broad support from members. He encouraged proponents to exercise flexibility on issues that do not gain a reasonable degree of support at meetings in the first half of this year.
The least developed countries find themselves at a crossroad. Beset by long-standing structural weaknesses, shortcomings in international support and widening inequalities within and among all countries, they have to confront new or intensifying problems worsened by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, climate change, the rapidly evolving character of globalization and the new technological realities of the digital age. Developing productive capacities is the key to unlocking the potential of the least developed countries achieving structural transformation to face these new realities. To be able to rise to both old and new challenges, the least developed countries need a new generation of international support measures that are fit for purpose in a fast-changing global environment. These new international support measures need to be effective, relevant and closely tailored to least developed country aspirations if international support measures are to change the course of the development trajectories of these countries.
The reigning paradigm of the past decades, if not centuries, has been the dominance of the largest countries/economies in shaping the course of history and global economic development. In recent decades this was reflected in the emergence of such projects as the BRICS (the largest emerging markets), the G20 (the 20 largest economies in the global economy) and the G7. But what if we were to entertain a different paradigm, in which rather than the largest economies exclusively forming the vanguard of global governance, a special role could be assigned to some of the smallest economies that demonstrate success in economic modernization and are active on the international arena in mediation efforts? What if we were to replace the standard quantitative approach towards country platforms with a qualitative approach that takes into account factors such as digital development and sustainability? And what would a grouping look like if it were almost the direct opposite of BRICS or the G20?