tralac Daily News
For South Africa — like elsewhere around the globe — maintaining trade flows during the COVID-19 pandemic has been crucial. The import and export of essential food, medical items, and maintaining international supply chains have helped cushion some of the pandemic’s heavy impact on lives and businesses. Traditionally, South African traders have suffered high costs and delays due to complicated and inefficient border procedures, especially at the land borders accessing main corridors – and at seaports serving continental markets. Several efforts have been made to reduce these burdens and make it easier for South African businesses to trade and integrate into regional and global supply chains. However, there is more work that can be done to further enhance the trade environment and ensure that the benefits of trade facilitation are equally afforded to men and women. To identify specific challenges that men and women face in cross-border trade and determine where further reforms can be made, the World Bank Group completed a study on Trade Facilitation and Gender Dimensions in South Africa. Traders, customs brokers and freight forwarders were interviewed.
Heaviest Downpour in Six Decades Shuts Key South African Port (BloombergQuint)
South Africa suspended shipping at its main port in Durban after the heaviest rains in more than six decades and resultant flooding damaged roads leading to the harbor. Operations at Durban Terminals were suspended on Monday night, Transnet SOC Ltd. said in an emailed statement. The harbor is a key trade route for South Africa and its landlocked neighbors including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. “Shipping has been suspended until further notice as a result of environmental damage caused by the adverse weather, and vessels on berth are on standby,” Transnet spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said in statement. “There have been no major incidents reported at the terminals thus far.”
Nam-Zambia rail line gets green light (Namibian)
IT has officially been proven that extending Namibia’s rail line to connect Namibia and Zambia is commercially and environmentally viable, and would have various economic benefits. This comes following a feasibility study on the extension of Zambia’s rail network to Namibia, which is expected to cover 770km. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Works and Transport and carried out by Mumbai-based consultant MR Technofin.
The main aim of the project is to stimulate the development of mining activity along the corridor between Walvis Bay and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).This would allow Zambia, Namibia and the DRC to export copper and other minerals to buyers in China, Europe and America. Namibia has been instrumental in the copper trade – especially of the landlocked Zambia and conflict-stricken DRC.
Last year alone, Namibia exported huge amounts of copper through Walvis Bay.
Deputy director of industrialisation and trade Michael Humavindu says any opportunity to extend trading infrastructure within the Southern African Development Community, the Southern African Customs Union area and Africa is welcome. “Specifically with Zambia, copper and hopefully animal feed will be vital for our downstream sectors. We can also collaborate with them in terms of sugar production. If indeed it is viable, let us explore the option of financing by the private sector. There are models that allow such options,” he says. Namibia Trade Forum chief executive officer Stacey Pinto says while the rail line was targeted to enable the mining sector, there are other industries which can be positioned along the railway line, which would help facilitate trade across borders.
A new focus report, produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Sugar Association, explores the positive impact that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to have on the country’s sugar industry by providing access to untapped markets across the continent against a backdrop of rising demand. Titled “Sugar in Zimbabwe: Focus Report”, the report provides in-depth analysis of the local industry’s history, operations, strategic and social importance, and broader growth story, in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format, focusing on key data and infographics. The study examines the challenges that local producers face, which range from an unpredictable water supply and outdated ways of working to a difficult broader economic landscape.
Mombasa port transshipment business grows (Business Daily)
Different shipping lines have opted for Mombasa port due to what they claim are delays at the Dar es Salaam port. The Port of Mombasa is recording increased transshipment business as more ships evade berthing “delays and waiting” at the Dar port. Over the past month, Mombasa has handled more than 10 feeder ships transshipping Port of Dar es Salaam containers advancing her opportunities for a regional transshipment hub. MSc Shipping Line, the second global liner, has confirmed using the port of Mombasa until the situation normalises in Dar es Salaam. Others include CMA CGM and Maersk Shipping Lines.
Kenya Airways cargo volume up 29pc on capacity revamp (Business Daily)
The volume of cargo transported by Kenya Airways (KQ) went up by 29 per cent in the year ended December 2021 compared to a similar period in 2020 mainly on the introduction of more cargo capacity by the carrier at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. KQ, as the airline is known by its international code says in its latest annual report that cargo tonnage on both passenger belly and freight aircraft increased 29 percent to close at 63, 726 tonnes as at December 2021, up from 49, 419 tonnes in December 2020. Last year’s performance translates into an average of 5, 310 tonnes per month compared to an average of 4, 118 tonnes per month in the year ended December 2020.
The freighters helped the airline capitalise on the cargo business on some of the regional routes where it operates the much smaller Embraer jets, which provide reduced belly cargo capacity. The move was meant to see KQ increase the available capacity at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by over 100 tonnes, coming as a boost to exporters, especially horticulture farmers.
Cargo accounted for 19 per cent of its Sh70.22 billion sales in the year to December 2021. In the year ended December 2020, cargo accounted for Sh9.01 billion of the airline’s Sh52.80 billion sales.
State punishes fuel marketers for exporting oil amid crisis (Business Daily)
Oil marketers that increased fuel exports from last month will have their allocations slashed and handed over to dealers who recorded increased sales locally in a bid to ease the ongoing fuel shortage. Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) said the changes will be effected in the next three import cycles as the State moves in to punish dealers behind the ongoing nationwide shortage of diesel and petrol. EPRA says investigations have revealed that several dealers gave priority to the export market in quiet protests over delayed compensation from the State for the unchanged prices. Oil marketers traditionally allocate 65 percent of their fuel imports to the local market and 35 percent to the transit market.
A number of the marketers increased the share of fuel they sell to the neighbouring countries to over 60 percent to ease their cash crunch given that they are paid instantly unlike in Kenya where the State compensation delays.
Six forces pulling down Nigeria’s economy (Businessday)
Economists have painted another unsavoury picture of the Nigerian economy and their prognosis isolates six factors that are piling woes on already beleaguered businesses and households, according to a report analysed by BusinessDay. Firstly, they said Africa’s largest economy, which is yet to recover from the destruction caused by two economic contractions in five years, will face more slowdown in growth, with the next round of GDP figures projected to come in below population growth levels. Nigeria recorded a real GDP growth of 3.4 percent in 2021 but with agriculture, the single largest contributor to GDP, and oil and gas, as well as industry, challenged, the outlook for the whole economy in 2022 is poor. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in a March 23 report expects Nigeria’s economic growth to slow more than expected in 2022 as power-supply issues, high inflation and expected monetary tightening hurt output.
Vehicle importers kick as Customs implements ECOWAS common tariffs (The Guardian Nigeria)
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has commenced the implementation of the new version of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Common External Tariff, (CET) 2022-2026 on imported vehicles. According to the NCS, the migration from the old CET (2017-2021) to the new version, which is in line with the World Customs Organisation (WCO), takes immediate effect. In a statement, yesterday, the Customs spokesman, Timi Bomodi, said the new rates apply to both new and used vehicles imported into the country. New and used vehicles are subjected to a National Automotive Council (NAC) levy of 20 and 15 per cent respectively. The Service also confirmed the reduction of import duty on imported vehicles from 35 to 20 per cent.
UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, will announce the partnership today. The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is in Rwanda, where she will sign and announce, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta, what has been termed as the “Rwanda-UK Migration and Economic Development Partnership”. In a statement seen by KT Press, to be issued later today, both countries say deep global inequalities are driving millions of people from their homes in search of opportunity, at the same time as millions are forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution, and other threats to safety.
It is believed that by relocating migrants to Rwanda and investing in personal development and employment for migrants, the two nations are taking bold steps to address the imbalance in global opportunities which drives illegal migration, while dismantling the incentive structures which empower criminal gangs and endanger innocent lives.
Egypt’s trade balance decreased by 32.3% in January 2022: CAPMAS (Egypt Daily News)
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics issued on Wednesday a monthly bulletin on foreign trade data for January 2022, in which Egypt recorded a deficit value in trade balance reaching $2.44bn in January 2022, down from January 2021’s $3.60bn — a decrease of 32.3%.
However, the value of exports increased by 34.5%, reaching $3.99bn, up from $2.97bn, due to an increase in the value of some commodities such as petroleum products by 107%, crude oil by 66.5%, ready-made clothes by 46.8%, and plastics in their primary forms by 76.3%. On the other hand, the value of other exports decreased in January 2022, with fertilisers decreasing by 32.6%, fresh oranges by 13.6%, furniture by 8.5%, and ceramic tiles and sanitary ware by 14.3%.
Furthermore, the value of imports decreased by 2.2%, reaching $6.43bn, down from $6.57bn, due to a decrease in the value of some commodities such as crude oil by 0.6%, soybeans by 16.4%, wheat by 42.6%, and corn by 37.1%.
The Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC), which affiliates with the cabinet, released on Tuesday a video on the government’s efforts in reducing climate change impacts. The Ministry of Environment via the Project of the Sustainable Management of Persistent Organic Pollutants succeeded in getting rid of more than 2,000 tons of high-risk stagnant and abandoned pesticides and oils contaminated with PCBs, which are listed on The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Egypt was one of the first signatories to this convention, confirming its commitment to international conventions.
The Tunisian Ministry of Trade and Export Development will organise on Friday 15 April 2022 a workshop to validate the national strategy for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This meeting will be an opportunity to present the national strategy developed by the Tunisian Ministry of Commerce and Export Development with the support of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the European Union. The strategy analyzes the comparative advantages of Tunisia to better promote the diversification of its economy and the development of value chains, with the aim of enabling the country to make the most of opportunities brought by the AfCFTA and bring new dynamism into Tunisia’s economic integration in intra-African trade. This workshop is being financed by the European Union. Participants will include Tunisian officials as well as national and international experts in a range of fields including customs, international transport, foreign trade, regional integration, as well as private sector and civil society.
From 28 February to 3 March 2022, an ECA SRO-CA team, in cooperation with the African Union Commission and with the financial support of the European Union (EU), organized an awareness mission in Sao Tome on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and held discussions on prospects of partnerships for the promotion of economic diversification and sustainable development with the Government of Sao Tome and Principe (STP).
African trade news
African Development Bank (AfDB) says it has signed a protocol of agreement with the African Union (AU) to strengthen the implementation of Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.
According to a statement issued on Tuesday by the communication and external relations department in Abuja, the agreement is also to implement the AU’s institution capacity building project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “The project is expected to bolster the AU’s efforts to implement Agenda 2063. Adopted in 2015, Agenda 2063 is the African Union’s vision for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa driven by its citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena,” the statement reads.
“The project cost, amounting to $11.48 million, is being supported with a grant from the Bank Group’s concessional financing window. It was approved by the board of directors in February 2022. The signing of the protocol of agreement signals the start of the implementation phase of the project.”
Eyes on AfCTA to steer Africa’s economic rebound from disruptions (The East African)
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement could be the continent’s Marshall Plan for recovery as the region faces a further economic disruption from the Russia-Ukraine war. Economists from the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) say the continent must now implement the agreement fast as it presents insurance for the future. The experts had this week gathered for a webinar convened by the East African Business Council (EABC) to discuss the turmoil caused by Covid-19 as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Mama Keita, the director of ECA sub-regional office for Eastern Africa noted that “Africa’s recovery has been hindered by higher inflation, tighter global financial conditions, rising interest rates and the Ukraine crisis further compound the situation.” ECA says the Ukraine crisis has exacerbated the economic and social vulnerabilities of African states, with food, oil and fertiliser prices reaching 14-year highs.
UK government to support AfCFTA with 35m pounds (News Ghana)
United Kingdom’s International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Travelyan, has announced a new UK government programme to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Through the AfCFTA Support Programme, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office will provide up to 35million pounds to provide trade facilitation and trade policy support to the AfCFTA Secretariat and member states through Trademark East Africa, Overseas Development Institute and other development partners. The fund will go to support AfCFTA negotiations and agreement implementation making it easier for nations across Africa to trade and grow together. According to Travelyan, the AfCFTA is a shining example of the power of African unity and the power of trade as a force for good aside helping to overcome barriers to trade whilst promoting investment and unlocking growth.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana on Tuesday urged members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) to work together in finding solutions to global challenges.
SACU countries, namely Botswana, South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia, continue to face social and economic impacts of COVID-19, which resulted in the overall weighted growth contraction of 6.3 percent in 2020 for the region compared to a positive growth of 0.3 percent in 2019, according to Masisi.
In his remarks during the SACU investment roundtable in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital, Masisi said life was filled with harrowing experiences such as the closure of many businesses resulting in losses of jobs and incomes for workers and reduced corporate tax revenues for governments within the SACU region. Masisi, however, said the challenges arising from the pandemic also present an opportunity for the region to create and develop production capacity that will fill the commodity gaps and allow for increased production in the affected sectors. “Therefore, it is of critical importance for SACU members to work together to advance regional integration’s objectives and find solutions to these global problems and challenges facing us,” said Masisi.
Fully integrating South Sudan into the East African Community (EAC) Customs Union is a process, the trading bloc’s Secretary General Peter Mathuki, has said, confirming the secretariat was doing its best to make it happen. Mathuki made the disclosure on Tuesday, April 12, as he addressed a virtual press conference from his offices in Arusha, Tanzania.
Last month regional lawmakers raised concerns over the slow pace of integrating South Sudan into the EAC Customs Union ever since the country was admitted into the six-member bloc six years ago. “There is a roadmap that actually defines how we are going to fully integrate them. The roadmap is still in progress. We are trying our level best to fully integrate them,” Mathuki said.
Plans are underway to establish a regional Agricultural Commodity Exchange Centre as part of the implementation of the 2021-2031 strategy for the Alliance for Commodity Trade in East and Southern Africa (ACTESA). The centre shall link small-scale farmers to national, regional and international markets within the Common Marker for Eastern Africa (COMESA) the East African Community (EAC and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) tripartite framework and later the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). According to the Chief Executive Officer of ACTESA, Dr John Mukuka, the centre will provide a platform for buyers and sellers to conduct business of their agricultural products through a team of brokers. Once established the commodity exchange will reduce transaction costs, by accommodating people active in the production, trade, processing and consumption of commodities.
As the Sub-Saharan African economy struggles to recover from the 2020 recession induced by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the region now faces new economic growth challenges, compounded by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The World Bank’s latest Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term regional macroeconomic outlook, estimates growth at 3.6 percent in 2022, down from 4 percent in 2021 as the region continues to deal with new COVID-19 variants, global inflation, supply disruptions and climate shocks. Adding to the region’s growth challenges are rising global commodity prices, which are increasing at a faster pace since the onset of the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. As top world exporters of food staples, Russia—the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers—and Ukraine account for a substantial share of wheat, corn and seed oil imports, all of which may be halted if the conflict persists. While Sub-Saharan economies are also likely to be impacted by tightening of global conditions and reduced foreign financial flows into the region, the analysis notes that the high fuel and food prices will translate into higher inflation across African countries, hurting poor and vulnerable citizens, especially those living in urban areas. One point of concern is the increased likelihood of civil strife as a result of food and energy-fueled inflation, particularly in this current environment of heightened political instability.
“As African countries face continued uncertainty, supply disruptions and soaring food and fertilizer prices, trade policy can potentially play a key role by ensuring the free flow of food across borders throughout the region. Amid limited fiscal space, policymakers must look to innovative solutions such as reducing or waving import duties on staple foods temporarily to provide relief to their citizens,” said Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa.
Africa House notes investment potential in Uganda, Guinea projects (Engineering News)
Research and consulting company Africa House will from May 15 to 20 host a delegation of investors and business leaders in Uganda to better understand the opportunities for investment and the rationale for setting up a local presence in the country. The country is poised for immense economic growth once more phases of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) are developed. The pipeline will comprise upstream operations, with the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil extraction sites being developed jointly by fuels company Total Energies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, through a $10-billion development agreement, as well as midstream – transport, refinery and gas processing – operations and downstream operations, including distribution, marketing and sales.
The pipeline will connect a new oil export terminal, to be built north of the port of Tanga, in Tanzania, to the Lake Albert Oil Development, in Hoima, Uganda. The bulk of the project is based in Tanzania, with 296 km of pipeline in Uganda. Discussing other prominent investment opportunities in Africa, Bonnett and Van Tonder mention the Nimba and Simandou iron-ore projects, in Guinea.
In raw numbers, the European Union and its members provide the most development aid in the world, about €75 billion in 2019 alone. About one-third of that aid currently goes to Africa. With historical inequities keeping African nations at a disadvantage in negotiations, EU countries often use development funds as levers for their own political agendas. In recent years, migration control has been at the forefront of these efforts.
Africa has been the focus of Western European development policy since the precursors to the EU were established in the 1950s. With large parts of Africa still colonized by the inheritor states of the European empires, structures such as the European Development Fund aimed to continue the development policies of the former empires, historian Sara Lorenzini said: “The idea was to build European-style welfare states in the colonies and for Europe to retain geopolitical weight as a third force during the Cold War.”
Political agendas continue to shape where aid goes — and which projects get prioritized. “The main agenda in Africa continues to be geopolitical,” said Jan Orbie, the director of the Centre for EU Studies at Ghent University. “In the past 10 years, development policy has become more connected to migration, to energy policy, to trade.”
One instrument that exemplifies the European Union’s focus on migration control is the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which just concluded its six-year funding period. After large numbers of irregular migrants reached the European Union in 2015, EU policymakers were eager to prevent a repeat. A result of the ensuing negotiations was the now roughly €5 billion in “emergency” project funding for the EUTF, largely redirected from existing development funds. Its purpose was to dispense money quickly — without much parliamentary oversight and the bureaucracy it would bring. “The trust fund illustrates that the EU can act very quickly, efficiently and cohesively when it wants to,” Orbie said. “Whether that’s a good thing is another question.”
The funds are officially meant to “address root causes of irregular migration” in the recipient countries. But the priority of policymakers seems to be to prevent migrants from arriving at EU borders, as an Oxfam report found. In one board meeting, the head of the Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Christian Danielsson, happily asserted how the EUTF for Africa had “confirmed its value in supporting an effective management of migration flows from, to and within” North Africa.
Afreximbank Fast-Tracks Africa Trade Exchange on War in Ukraine (Bloomberg Tax)
The African Export-Import Bank plans to accelerate the launch of an Africa Trade Exchange that will improve access to food and fertilizer at more favorable rates at a time of rising prices. The lender is developing the exchange alongside the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and it can start operating in three weeks, President Benedict Oramah said in an online briefing Tuesday. That’s in addition to a $4 billion trade-financing program initiated last week to manage the impact of Russia’s war with Ukraine on African economies and businesses.
The meeting, which took place on 17th March 2022 in Agiers, also sought political guidance from the Ministers and their governments on how to support and to ensure National Energy Information System (NEIS) effectively functions to process national data, with the view to resolve energy data demand and disparity across the continent. The African Energy Information System (AEIS) is a continental energy database which was developed in 2012 as part of the member states energy data demand. In her key note address, H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission said, ‘‘we have been striving to harmonise our energy data on the continent as well as ensure that we have a hosting environment for Africa’s energy data. These efforts have been reinforced and improved through the existing African Energy Information System (AEIS), which was revamped in 2020. The revamp eliminates a lack of credible and quality energy data which is currently a big challenge on our continent’’.
Currently, AFREC is also supporting eleven (11) AU Member States namely: Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Congo, Gabon, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia, to establish or improve national energy information system and provide capacity building.
With over 600 million without access to electricity in Africa in 2022, urgent solutions are required. In this regard, signing deals to expand energy production is key to addressing energy poverty and the continent’s energy market stakeholders need to ensure they push for local content and address issues such as gender diversity to unlock the full potential of the energy sector. At the same time, collaboration among African governments to address a lack of adequate funding within the sector and to bring deals into concrete projects that create jobs and address energy security is also vital. These were the main messages by industry stakeholders participating in a webinar hosted by the African Energy Chamber (AEC) (www.EnergyChamber.org), on Wednesday, April 13, 2022.
“Africa has the money to build its own infrastructure, it is getting half a billion US dollars by selling oil and gas per day. We just need to direct that money towards infrastructure development. At the same time, Africa also needs to improve its taxes on energy to attract investments and to avoid majors exiting the market. Chevron and other big firms are leaving the west African market because fiscal terms are not making sense, there are high taxes,” stated Leoncio Amada Nze Nlang.
While western nations are calling for the abrupt end to fossil fuel utilization in Africa, countries such as the UK and Norway continue to hold licensing rounds intended to scale-up exploration and production. With Africa’s socioeconomic development hinging on the exploitation of the continent’s oil and gas resources, this hypocrisy could spell travesty for Africa. As western organizations such as Greenpeace move to end African hydrocarbon investment in the name of climate change, shouldn’t European nations move to decarbonize first?
According to the Eurostat, the EU operates a single market made up of 27 countries; total GDP in 2019 equated to €16.4 trillion; the EU accounted for 15% of the world’s trade in goods; and economic growth is projected to increase by 4% in 2022 and 2.8% in 2023. However, countries in the EU are also responsible for approximately 18% of global carbon dioxide emissions produced since the industrial revolution began.
despite holding some of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal reserves – estimated at 125.3 billion barrels of crude oil, 620 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 16.4 billion short tons of coal -, Africa’s development has been slow, largely due to natural resource exports, refined product imports, the lack of adequate infrastructure and the lack of adequate investment and reinvestment in key sectors. Representing the world’s fastest growing population; the youngest population; and holding some of the world’s fastest growing economies, Africa has the chance to accelerate development across its entire economy, driven by the exploration, production and utilization of its oil and gas reserves.
Areas affected by conflict and fragility in Africa are still being left behind. Countries that have experienced long-running fragility face higher poverty and food insecurity, wide gaps in infrastructure and public services, low economic diversity, and deep institutional deficits. They are vulnerable to multiple crises, including conflict and political instability, economic shocks, health threats and climate disruption.
Global economy news
The demand and supply shocks unleashed by the pandemic were expected to lead to a dramatic collapse in trade, but international commerce has proven more resilient than during previous global crises.
While goods trade fell sharply in the second quarter of 2020, it bounced back to pre-pandemic levels later in the year. The decline for services in 2020 (such as tourism) was worse, and has recovered more slowly, given persistent restrictions to contain infection in some countries. Factors specific to the pandemic help explain these trade patterns.
Multinational pharmaceutical companies have criticised the push by SA and India to introduce an intellectual property (IP) waiver on Covid-19 vaccines. They say that lack of infrastructure rather than patent barriers stand in the way of Africa’s access to jabs. SA and India launched a campaign 18 months ago for the World Trade Organization to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, to enable large-scale production of cheap generics. Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said on Wednesday that vaccine nationalism, export bans and lack of support for international vaccine-sharing mechanism Covax were responsible for last year’s inequitable distribution of shots, which saw Africa sent to the back of the queue.
“These were the causes of vaccine inequity last year, and not as many would wish you to believe, something that can be solved with a waiver on IP on Covid products,” he said in an online press briefing. The problem had now shifted as Covid-19 vaccines were in plentiful supply, but poorer countries lacked the capacity to administer the jabs, he said.
TradeTech such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the internet of things (IoT) all offer the potential to facilitate trade by improving efficiency, reducing costs and providing greater resilience in supply chains, the publication notes. But international policy coordination is required, in particular the development of explicit rules through trade agreements to provide legal certainty on a variety of emerging issues related to the digital field. “The publication we’re launching today builds on extensive consultations with private sector experts and is a fantastic example of public-private collaboration,” WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said at the launch of the report. “It identifies the five key building blocks of trade digitalization and discusses how trade agreements could be leveraged to further advance them.” “Advanced technologies have the potential to make trade more efficient and more inclusive, but for this to happen policy action needs to keep pace with technological developments,” the Director-General added. “We hope that this publication will help advance thinking and catalyse action to unleash the potential of TradeTech to the benefit of everyone.”
In welcoming the initiative, WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala said the Platform “takes our trilateral collaboration to the next level: a one-stop shop for members to seek and receive support from the three organizations on all available tools including intellectual property flexibilities to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines, medicines, and related technologies.”
The new Platform for COVID-19 related technical assistance provides WTO members and accession candidates an overview of technical assistance activities offered by the three organizations. It supports members and accession candidates seeking to address their needs for COVID-19 vaccines, medicines and related technologies and facilitates requests for the provision of timely and tailored technical assistance with a view to making full use of all available options.
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the head of the World Trade Organizer, is warning that skyrocketing global food prices as a result of the war in Ukraine could trigger food riots from people going hungry in poor countries. WTO Director General Okonjo-Iweala urged food-producing countries against hoarding supplies and said it was vital to avoid a repeat of the Covid pandemic, when rich countries were able to secure for themselves the bulk of vaccines. In an interview with The Guardian of the UK, the WTO director general noted the dependence of many African countries on food supplies from the Black Sea region. “I think we should be very worried. The impact on food prices and hunger this year and next could be substantial. Food and energy are the two biggest items in the consumption baskets of poor people all over the world,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “It is poor countries and poor people within poor countries that will suffer the most.”
On 14 March 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance (GCRG) to coordinate the global response to the widespread impacts of the war in Ukraine. The GCRG will ensure high-level political leadership to get ahead of the immense inter-connected challenges of food security, energy and financing, and put in place a coordinated global response to the ongoing crises. This brief is the result of the coordinated work of the Global Crisis Response Task Team, reporting to the Steering Committee of the GCRG. It proposes a series of immediate to longer-term recommendations to avert and respond to the triple crisis, including the need to keep markets and trade open to ensure the availability of food, agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and energy. It also calls for international financial institutions to urgently release funding for the most at-risk countries while making sure there are enough resources to build long-term resilience to such shocks.
While rich nations were able to support their pandemic recovery with record sums borrowed at ultra-low interest rates, the poorest countries spent billions servicing debt, thus preventing them from investing in sustainable development. COVID-19 pushed 77 million more people into extreme poverty in 2021, while many economies remained below pre-2019 levels, according to the Financing for Sustainable Development Report: Bridging the Finance Divide.
Furthermore, it is estimated that one in five developing countries will not see their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) return to 2019 levels by the end of next year, even before absorbing the impacts of the Ukraine conflict, which is already affecting food, energy, and finance across the globe.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed described the findings as “alarming”, given that the world is at the halfway mark for financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “There is no excuse for inaction at this defining moment of collective responsibility, to ensure hundreds of millions of people are lifted out of hunger and poverty. We must invest in access for decent and green jobs, social protection, healthcare and education leaving no one behind,” she said.
On 13 April 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched the UN Global Crisis Response Group’s first brief on the global implications of the war in Ukraine on food, energy and finance with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan. The war in Ukraine is setting in motion a three-dimensional crisis - on food, energy and finance - that is producing alarming cascading effects to a world economy already battered by COVID-19 and climate change, according to the new findings of the Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) published on 13 April. “We are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economies of developing countries,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “The people of Ukraine cannot bear the violence being inflicted on them. And the most vulnerable people around the globe cannot become collateral damage in yet another disaster for which they bear no responsibility.”
The ratification means more than 96 per cent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage is now covered by the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), which also applies to most countries that supply workers for the sector.
The ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, described the development as a milestone. He said Oman, a longstanding maritime nation, has shown the way forward for other countries in the region. “Indeed, Oman becomes the first member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to join the global efforts to ensure decent work for seafarers and fair competition for shipowners,” he added.
Combining them into one Convention makes it easier for countries to regulate and enforce consistent industry norms and standards worldwide, according to the ILO. The MLC brought together a large number of existing labour standards that no longer reflected contemporary working and living conditions, had low ratification levels, or inadequate enforcement and compliance systems.
Foreign aid from official donors rose to an all-time high of USD 179 billion in 2021, up 4.4% in real terms from 2020 as developed countries stepped up their help for developing countries grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, according to preliminary data collected by the OECD
Development Assistance (ODA) provided by members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2021 included USD 6.3 billion spent on providing COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, equivalent to 3.5% of total ODA. Excluding ODA for donated COVID-19 vaccines, ODA was up 0.6% in real terms from 2020. ODA for donated COVID-19 vaccines equated to nearly 857 million doses for developing countries. Within the USD 6.3 billion total, USD 2.3 billion (1.3% of total ODA), covered donated doses left over from domestic supplies (nearly 357 million doses), USD 3.5 billion went on doses purchased specifically for developing countries, and USD 0.5 billion went on secondary costs. All but one of the DAC’s donors followed an OECD recommendation to value 2021 donations of excess COVID-19 vaccines at USD 6.72 per dose, and to make any necessary adjustments if they paid less to ensure no overstating of ODA.