Building capacity to help Africa trade better

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Wamkele Mene: South Africa’s jitters about free trade rules are ‘not supported by evidence at all’ (Daily Maverick)

South Africa’s small and medium businesses have nothing to fear when trading finally starts under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), says Wamkele Mene of the free trade area’s secretariat . Some feel they could be swamped by the asymmetrical rules that will be applied in the first 15 years to protect less-developed countries – of which South Africa isn’t one. “It is not supported by evidence at all,” Mene tells DM168 in his office in Accra, with reference to the free trade that already exists between South Africa and its neighbours in the Southern African Development Community. “If your market is not swamped by products from within your free trade area, who is going to swamp your market from outside your proximity [when you extend duty-free access]?” he asks.

Fruit exports: Russian trade gap now a major advantage (Food for Mzansi)

Many South African citrus growers who exported to pre-war Russia have already found alternative markets. But one leading export and distribution company has pushed through the chaos and maintained trade relations. As a result, Pomona Fruit has benefited from a lucrative gap in the Russian market. Owner Francois Hugo tells Food For Mzansi that a window of opportunity was created when Mzansi’s citrus trade with Russia – South Africa’s fifth biggest export market – was blocked due to the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions. When trade resumed a few weeks later, a number of exporters had suspended dealings with Russia because of payments, shipping delays and spiralling shipping costs. “Unlike other export companies, our company’s strategy was to push through the chaos instead of identifying alternative markets,” says Hugo. “The other exporters who diverted left a gap in the market, thus creating a much higher demand for fresh produce.”

Namibian exports shrink (New Era)

The value of exports in April 2022 decreased by 36.4% to N$5.5 billion from N$8.7 billion reported in March 2022. In addition, when compared to N$6.5 billion recorded in April 2021, exports decreased by a notable 15.4%.According to the Namibia trade statistics bulletin for April 2022, imports stood at N$8.8 billion, reflecting a decrease of 5.2% month-on-month and an increase of 43.1% when compared to the same month the previous year. Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) released the bulletin last week, adding that following these movements in both flows, Namibia’s total merchandise trade (exports plus imports) with the rest of the world decreased by 20.3% from its March 2022 level of N$18 billion. When compared to the same month the previous year, total trade increased by 13%.

Looking at the trade balance, according to NSA, during the month under review, Namibia recorded a trade deficit to the tune of N$3.3 billion. This reflects a worsened deficit when compared to the N$619 million recorded the previous month and an inferior trade deficit when compared to a surplus of N$365 million recorded in the month of April 2021. The trade balance compares the country’s trade flow with the rest of the world in terms of export earnings and expenditure on imports. Over the period (April 2021 to April 2022), Namibia recorded a deficit averaging N$2.5 billion and only recorded a trade surplus in April 2021.

Namport records a 6% cargo increase amid global challenges (Namibia Economist)

Namibia’s Port Authority (Namport) said the total year on year cargo handled amounted to 6.5 million tons, indicating an increase of 6%, amid challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, global container shortage and blank sailings. This was confirmed by Namport CEO, Andrew Kanime in a Namport bulletin released last week Friday, where he also highlighted that vessel visits also increased by 289 vessels or 22%. “The increase in vessel calls was predominantly due to an increase in petroleum vessels, Namibian and foreign fishing vessels, foreign tugs as well as research vessels,” Kanime added.

Kanime said this increase was mainly due to increased containerized commodities such as copper, charcoal, frozen fish, marble, frozen poultry, sugar, chemicals, scrap steel and wooden products.

Zimbabwe’s US$3bn platinum deal all but collapses in a shambles (Bulawayo24)

IT was noisily touted as a game changer for Zimbabwe’s mining sector, and the economy; a centrepiece of government’s ambitious yet unrealistic US$12 billion target for the industry by next year and catalyst to transform Zimbabwe into a knowledge-driven industrialising upper middle income economy by 2030.In its Vision 2030 document, titled Towards a Prosperous & Empowered Upper Middle Income Society by 2030, government says: “This will be realised through support for local processing of Zimbabwe’s diverse mineral resource endowment, with thresholds for beneficiation and value addition spelt out. Envisaged investments involve beneficiation of such minerals as platinum, chrome, lithium, nickel, diamond cutting and polishing, copper, gold and coal, with strengthening of linkages along the mineral value chain.

 However, the Great Dyke Investments (GDI) project in Darwendale, 65 kilometres west of the capital Harare, which has the potential to become one of the world’s biggest platinum mines with capacity to reboot Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy, has stalled and now faces collapse for myriad reasons.

Traders in Kenya feel pain of dollar shortage (The East African)

Relentless depreciation of the Kenyan shilling is raising concern among importers and businesspeople who are experiencing first-hand the pain of a dollar shortage that has seen them part with up to Ksh120 per dollar against the quoted rate of Ksh116.The Kenya Association of Manufacturers on May 30 expressed worries over the dollar shortage, claiming members, who mainly rely on imported raw materials, cannot access dollars at the official market rates.

In the past year, the shilling has fallen by $0.0007 from about $0.0093 to $0.0086, meaning that what Kenyans could buy at $100 previously now costs at least $8 more, without factoring in inflation.

Kenyan economist Kwame Owino told The EastAfrican that the higher depreciation rate of the shilling could be due to internal policies and regulations constricting the inter-bank forex market.

URA eases restrictions on the importation of used cars (New Vision)

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has reviewed restrictions imposed on the importation and warehousing of old cars in the country. According to the URA Commissioner General, John Rujoki Musinguzi, the move to review the warehousing restrictions on old motor vehicles has been occasioned by the current global economic trends and inflation. “Considering the current global economic, geo-political trends that caused creeping inflation in Uganda, URA has adopted a more gradual but progressive approach to the restriction of warehousing of used motor vehicles,” Musinguzi said during a meeting with leaders of used motor vehicle importers and car dealers. The new measure, URA officials said, will take effect on July 1, 2022.

ECA and partners support interbank market development in Zambia (UNECA)

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in collaboration with Bank of Zambia (BOZ), and Stichting Frontclear Technical Assistance Program (Stichting FTAP), a foundation for money market development initiatives and partner of ECA, organized a 2-day workshop to kick-off the Tradeclear Feasibility Study in Zambia.

Money markets in many African countries face the challenge of segmentation and are underdeveloped. Tradeclear is an Umbrella Guarantee Facility that would mitigate the counter-party credit risk in interbank transactions and improve market participation, depth, and liquidity. It is designed to resolve market segmentation and build trusted credit lines. By doing so, funding and risks are better distributed in the financial system, improving monetary policy transmission, and contributing to the overall resilience of the economy.

It is against this backdrop that ECA launched the technical assistance project on Tradeclear feasibility study for Zambia, in collaboration with Frontclear. The workshop was an opportunity to introduce the concept and structures of Tradeclear to over 40 participating bank stakeholders and to begin data and information gathering.

Rising cost of doing business, production could hamper Ghana’s AfCFTA benefits – AGI (GhanaWeb)

The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has cautioned Ghana could likely miss out on the expected gains from the implementation African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). According to the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Association, Tsonam Akpeloo, the increasing cost of doing business and production in the country could hamper Ghana’s efforts in the free trade regime.

Speaking in an interview with Citi Business News, the AGI regional Chairman called on government to adopt pragmatic measures to help drive down the cost of doing business and production citing an example such as countries like Kenya.

“Dividends from the recent increase in excitement around the AfCFTA may not be realized. This is because producing locally in Ghana is not competitive compared to other African countries. The cost of inputs is increasing at a rate that can’t be compared to anywhere else in the sub-region,” he is quoted by Citi Business News

For us to be competitive and for us to favourably trade and benefit from the AfCFTA we need to make sure steps are taken to produce cheaply because at the end of the day consumers in the open market will only consider price and quality. Our competitors in other countries like Kenya are receiving massive support which makes us uncompetitive,” Tsonam Akpeloo added.

UNCTAD organizes workshop on contribution of SEZs to boost economic diversification in Africa (BusinessGhana)

UNCTAD in collaboration with African Union and German corporations has organized a two-day workshop on the contribution of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The symposium is to boost economic diversification in Africa in the context of AfCFTA. The programme was organised at Labadi Beach Hotel on June 2nd and 3rd. The workshop dubbed “Special Economic Zones In Ghana As A Tool For Industrialization And Diversification” was aimed at sharing best practices on special economic zones development and to contribute to the process of the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The workshop presented the main lessons learned from the development of SEZs in Africa and the implementation of SEZs-targeted policies. It addressed the key factors that contribute to the success of zones through the evaluation of key success stories in the continent.

Crude oil, urea, cocoa beans, electricity top Nigeria’s export list in Q1 2022 (Nairametrics)

Nigeria exported merchandise worth N7.1 trillion in the first quarter of 2022, rising by 23.13% compared to N5.77 trillion recorded in the previous quarter and 137.88% higher than the N2.98 trillion recorded in the corresponding period of 2021. This is contained in the foreign trade report, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The increase in Nigeria’s export earnings turned the foreign trade balance in favour of Nigeria for the first time since Q2 2021 and the highest since Q3 2019. Notably, Nigeria recorded a foreign trade surplus of N1.19 trillion in review quarter compared to N173.96 billion deficit recorded in Q4 2021.

Chad Economic Update: Harnessing Agriculture and Livestock Value Chains to Foster Economic Diversification and Increase Potential Growth (World Bank)

Chad experienced a second consecutive year of recession in 2021. The country has struggled to fully recover since the 2016 recession that followed the 2014-15 oil price shock. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the related oil prices fall hit Chad, throwing it off the growth recovery trajectory it had been on since 2018. The COVID-19 crisis has had an impact on the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable households. According to the high frequency phone surveys conducted in 2020, two-thirds of households reported a loss in their total income, 57 % of households receiving transfers saw a decline in this source of income, and a fifth of households seeking health care were unable to access it.

The report states that a gradual economic recovery is projected as oil prices peak in global markets and international trade and economic activity recover in agriculture and industry. Moreover, a successful debt restructuring process under the G20 Common Framework would provide substantial relief to Chad by helping restore a sustainable fiscal balance, which in turn would allow the country to increase social and investment spending over the long term.

Egyptian government signs agreements to support exports (Egypt Independent)

Egypt’s government signed some action programs, documents and memoranda of understanding with international institutions to support exports and enhance the role of the Egyptian export sector. Egypt plans to establish an export academy to increase exports to US$100 billion annually. On the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Islamic Development Bank 2022, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly witnessed the signing of a work program between the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit, and the African Export-Import Bank, in favor of Egypt. This comes under the Bridges Program for Arab-African Trade, as part of a framework to implement projects that support the economy and enhance the export sectors during 2022-2023.

The work program aims to enhance the benefit of the Continental Free Trade Agreement; the proposed activities of the program include organizing trade missions to several African countries.

The program also aims to support the participation of companies in economic forums and trade fairs in the countries of the continent, secure exports and investment projects in Africa, and provide financing and guarantees for exports.

African trade and integration news

pdf Implications of the African continental free trade area for demand for transport infrastructure and services (32.68 MB) (UNECA)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement entered into force in 2019. It aimed to increase intra-African trade by eliminating import duties. Its planners hoped to double intra-African trade if non-tariff barriers were also reduced. It was a major milestone in the continent’s regional integration. Inadequate transport infrastructure and services could hamper the realization of AfCFTA’s benefits. The urgent need to improve transport connectivity in Africa in the context of AfCFTA has created new research demands. This report explored the effects of AfCFTA on trade flows in the African region and asked how the AfCFTA signatories could reap the agreement’s full benefits through the integrated planning of trade and transport. The report’s specific objectives were to forecast the demand for different modes of transport—road, rail, maritime and air because of AfCFTA; Estimate the infrastructure investments required for different modes of transport; Estimate the impact of improvements in transport infrastructure and services on the volume of intra-African trade; Forecast the demand for equipment for different modes of transport—trucks for roads, rolling stock for railways, aircraft for air transport and ships for maritime transport—because of AfCFTA. The study constructed four scenarios based on the factors that have the highest impacts and are most uncertain. Such factors fell into two categories: AfCFTA implementation and socio-economic development; Transport services and infrastructure.

AfCFTA: Diverse Payment Channels are the Foundation of Enhanced Intra-African Trade (TechEconomy.ng)

Eighteen months since the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and despite less than ideal circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 43 African states have ratified the agreement. What’s more, nearly 90 percent of negotiations on product-specific rules have been concluded, covering more than 70 percent of intra-African trade. But while the foundations for enhanced exchanges between African markets may be laid, the emphasis is now on implementation, which demands that attention be placed on the continent’s payment landscape.

Private sector calls EA to harmonise rules of origin with Africa FTA (The East African)

Private sector players want the criteria used to determine the origin or nationality of a product under the East African Community reviewed in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. According to the East African Business Council, the rules of origin could be a game changer for the continent as long as they are simple, transparent, predictable and business friendly. Despite the region having adopted EAC Tariff Offer for Category ‘A’ products, amounting to 90.2 percent, the region is yet to trade with the rest of the continent under the AfCFTA that came into force last year. The rules of origin define the conditions that firms must comply with in order to authenticate that their goods originate from the Free Trade Area (FTA) and are thus eligible for preferential treatment.

They are a “passport” enabling goods originating within the FTA to circulate duty-free in the area.

Regional assembly roots for business friendly laws (Dailynews)

THE East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has laid emphasis on creating laws that will improve the business environment in the region. Speaking during the courtesy visit to East African Business Council (EABC) recently, EALA Chairperson Christopher Nduwayo noted that the regional assembly was committed to formulating business-centric laws to spur intra-EAC trade and investments.

In his rejoinder EABC Policy and Trade advisor, Adrian Njau applauded the EAC partner state for adopting 35 per cent tariff as the fourth band of the EAC Common External Tariff a move set to boost regional value chains and industrialisation. Mr Njau further expounded that tax distortions impede the free movement of goods, services, service suppliers, labour and capital and urged the MPs to champion ratification of the ‘EAC Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income’ in a bid to reduce the cost of doing business and attract more investments. “Non -Tariff Barriers continue stifling intra-EAC trade and arise from protectionist measures by partner states,” he stated.

According to Mr Njau, overdue operationalisation of the EAC Trade Remedies Committee tasked to handle matters relating to the application of Rules of Origin and trade disputes, anti-dumping measures, subsidies and countervailing measures, safeguard measures has aggravated the problem of resolving NTBs in the region.

Costs, competition drive truckers to innovate (The East African)

Stiff competition from the standard gauge railway (SGR) coupled with the increasing cost of fuel, taxes and insurance premiums has forced Kenyan truckers to be innovative to remain afloat. The government directed that all cargo delivered at the Mombasa port be exclusively railed inland to Nairobi via the SGR although this is being contested in court. Some truck owners have converted their vehicles into specialised trucks to ferry out-of-gauge cargo that could not be hauled by the SGR while others have moved to neighbouring countries where there is still business.

Among businesses that have taken advantage of the heavy infrastructural developments in the region to transport out-of-gauge cargo such as oversize containers and reefers is Transtrailers, Simpet Global Logistics and Seven Stars, which have invested heavily in modern technologies for handling over-size cargo.

East Africa’s economic recovery prospects facing headwinds (The East African)

East African countries face more hurdles in efforts to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, signalling hard times for households and businesses. Rising public debt, mounting inflationary pressures, falling revenue collections, weakening currencies, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have combined to slow down the pace of economic recovery. East Africa’s situation is compounded by rising political temperatures in Kenya ahead of the August 9 General Election, as neighbouring countries fear possible disruption of the supply chain on the Northern Corridor linking the landlocked Great Lakes Region with the seaport of Mombasa.

According to the Uganda central bank, private sector credit growth remains weak and below historical trends despite the full reopening of the economy in January as rising commodity prices continue to dent consumer0s’ perception of the economy and its near-term outlook.

Ministers meet to give Congo entry in EAC nod (The East African)

The East African Community Council of Ministers will meet on June 8 to finalise admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo into the bloc. The 42nd Ordinary Meeting of the Council of Ministers scheduled from June 8-11 is also expected to discuss the deployment of an election observer mission to Kenya, make a decision on who will host the East African Monetary Institute, and receive EAC Audit report. The EAMI whose role is crucial for the implementation of the Monetary Union protocol. The DRC formally joined the EAC on April 8, 2022 when President Felix Tshisekedi signed the deed of Accession to the Treaty establishing the EAC. The draft roadmap for DRC integration features three more major priorities across the organs and institutions of the EAC.

“The EAC is developing a roadmap that details how the DRC will implement various EAC commitments such as Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and Political Federation and join various areas of cooperation,” said Dr Peter Mathuki, EAC Secretary General.

Create enabling environment for agribusiness to thrive – ECOWAS (Blueprint Newspapers)

The Head of Agriculture Division in the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Ernest Aubee, has stated that, agribusiness development in Africa requires provision of enabling policy, legal and economic environment. This is even as he said increased public and private sector investments in the continent is critical. Aubee stated this recently while presenting a paper with the title, “Sustainable Agribusiness in Africa”, during an Africa agribusiness webinar”.

He said agriculture in the continent remains one of the most important sectors, saying the share of agriculture in continental GDP increased to 19.9% in 2020/2021 from 17.8% in 2019/2020 with agribusiness contributing approximately 25% of Africa’s GDP and 70% employment while agriculture based products accounts for over 50% of all exports from Africa. According to him, agribusiness has the potential to drive socio-economic development on the Continent.

Africa cocoa nations unite for fair prices as bad harvests and fertilizer shortages bite (Food Ingredients First)

Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and most recently Nigeria have allied in an effort to boost cocoa farmers’ incomes, denouncing foul play in the cocoa trading market. The move comes as the world’s largest cocoa-growing countries ramp up efforts for fair treatment, pay and to eliminate adverse practices in the industry, for good. The cocoa regulatory authorities in western Africa claim that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, some companies have been bypassing payments of a living income differential (LID) of US$400 per metric ton of cocoa beans. The LID initially came into effect in 2020 to level the playing field and ensure fair payment to cocoa farmers.

African Union holds the First Ordinary Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the African Medicines Agency (AMA) Treaty (AU)

The Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the African Medicines Agency (AMA) Treaty, held their First Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 1 to 2 June 2022. The meeting sought to establish the Conference of the States Parties’ Rules of Procedure as well as deliberate on the AMA Headquarters Assessment Report and make recommendations on the Agency’s host country. Representatives of the African Union Commission and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) participated in the meeting.

H.E. Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development representing H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment in providing all the necessary support to the States Parties to the AMA Treaty towards the operationalization of the AMA at the earliest. Furthermore, the Commissioner highlighted the importance of the first meeting to the operationalization of the AMA, in order to enhance the capacity of the States Parties and AU recognized Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to regulate medicines, medical products and technology. Thus, enhance their efforts in the fight and elimination of the sale, and consumption of falsified and substandard medicines, medical products and technologies.

The Seed Index to be introduced in the CAADP Biennial Review (BR) to improve tracking access to quality Seed in Africa (AU)

A call to introduce the Seed Index into the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Biennial Review (BR) process was unanimously endorsed at the 3rd Steering Group meeting of the African Seed and Biotechnology Partnership Platform (ASB PP), held from 23-25 May 2022 in Kampala, Uganda. It is to be recalled that the 40th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council held on 2-3 February 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia endorsed the African Seed and Biotechnology Partnership Platform and accompanying Operational Guidelines as the coordination mechanism for the implementation of the African Seed and Biotechnology Programme (ASBP): the strategic framework for the development of the seed sector in Africa

The deliberations were graced by Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate at the African Union Commission, as the Chair of the Steering Group. In his opening remarks, Dr. Bahiigwa noted that Seed sector development has been on the agenda of Heads of State and Government since 2005, who underscored access to quality seed in enhancing agricultural production and productivity. Hence, “the introduction of the Seed Index in the CAADP BR will allow us to report on progress made in seed sector development in Africa to the African Union Assembly,” he added.

Global economy news

DG Okonjo-Iweala: Time for members to show restraint and agree on texts for MC12 (WTO)

At an agriculture negotiating meeting for delegation heads on 1-2 June, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the chair of the agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta (Costa Rica), heard members’ feedback on three draft texts that emerged from an informal consultation process which the DG has led since early May. With the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) fast approaching, the DG urged members to restrain their comments to the extent possible so that “simple, short, beautiful and balanced” texts could be sent for ministers’ consideration.

The three texts include a draft ministerial decision on agricultural trade reforms, a draft ministerial declaration on trade and food security, and a draft ministerial declaration which would exempt from export bans food bought by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian purposes.

Devex Newswire: A critical moment for the TRIPS waiver (Devex)

Next week, negotiators will take another shot at an intellectual property rights agreement for COVID-19 vaccines. What’s the state of play? As negotiations within WTO over a compromise intellectual property waiver on patents for COVID-19 vaccines continue, activists have accused rich countries of trying to introduce further restrictions. That includes efforts by the U.K. government to extend the waiver only to finished products and not the ingredients and tools needed to produce COVID-19 vaccines, says Fatima Hassan, founder of Health Justice Initiative. A Geneva-based insider confirmed that delegates are still grappling over the scope of the waiver.

A group of U.K.-based civil society organizations issued a statement last week criticizing their government for refusing to clarify its position on the TRIPS waiver “beyond the repeated assertion that IP rules were responsible for the rapid development of COVID-19 medical tools and do not present a barrier to access.” Hassan is calling on supporters of the original waiver proposal to respond in kind.

Russia mulls easing wheat exports, sets stage for price drop (Business Daily)

The news that Russia may allow the resumption of wheat exports along the Black Sea has raised hopes that rising consumer prices of bread and flour in the local market will ease in the short term. The movement of grain along the Black Sea, which accounts for 34 percent of global wheat supply, was completely interrupted following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in March, locking out millions of tonnes from being exported to the world market. About 66 percent of wheat that Kenya imports come from the two countries and the current blockade has seen the price of a 400g loaf of bread rise to Sh55 from Sh50 with a two-kilogramme packet of flour retailing at Sh202 from Sh150 in April.

“We have seen some sorts of stability in the world market and it will be good news for consumers should the prices fall,” said Bimal Shah, chief executive officer of Broadways Bakeries. The price of wheat jumped 28 percent between April and May after India announced banning the export of produce to protect its local stocks.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers and a host of other stakeholders in the grain industry said the government should remove duty for the next year to cushion consumers from high costs.

WTO-World Bank publication stresses key role of trade in responding to health crises (WTO)

“This report underscores how trade is a force for good in terms of enabling access to medical goods and services – but also points to where we can improve,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said. “It is a timely reminder, a week ahead of our 12th Ministerial Conference, of how trade is part of the solution to many of the big challenges of our time, whether in public health or the environment.”

“A main lesson of the report is that trade plays an important role in ensuring access to medical goods and services both in normal times and, as the past two years have shown, in times of crisis,” DG Okonjo-Iweala added.

ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission urges faster global action on digital development (ITU)

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development met in Kigali, Rwanda, this weekend to pinpoint new actions that can drive faster progress towards universal meaningful access to digital networks and services. The high-level advocacy group came together for its annual Spring Meeting at the invitation of the Commission Co-Chair, H.E. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, ahead of the landmark digital development conference held every four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU): the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC).In his opening remarks to the meeting, President Kagame told Commissioners: “We are still living in tough times, economically, politically, and in terms of global public health. The immediate future is full of uncertainties and risks. But one thing is sure: All of the challenges we face can be handled faster, better, and more equitably, by investing in universal, affordable broadband.”

Commissioners and Special Guests representing government leaders, heads of international organizations and private sector companies, along with civil society and academia, discussed the power of digital transformation to create broad and positive socio-economic impact and looked at ways to rapidly increase access to broadband, foster innovative partnerships, empower youth, and build trust in online spaces. In particular, they confronted chronic connectivity challenges and discussed how to ensure affordable, sustainable, and equitable access to digital services across regions, especially in the world’s 46 Least Developed countries, where 17% of the population is still without a mobile broadband signal, and hundreds of millions more kept offline by high prices, lack of digital skills and awareness, and a dearth of usable, relevant and accessible content.

Enter the Platform World: What Are the Prospects for the Global South? (RIAC)

The regional integration projects of the Global South have advanced notably in the past several years with AfCFTA and RCEP among the most significant achievements. At the same time, there is tremendous scope for a far greater variability and diversity in the platforms that may be launched by Global South economies, the most sizeable and comprehensive of which could include the aggregation of CELAC (Latin America), African Union (Africa), SCO (Eurasia). A more diverse set of regional blocs that targets deeper integration could feature a BRICS+ platform that comprises the South African Development Community (SADC), MERCOSUR, BIMSTEC, China-ASEAN FTA, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

The world economy is entering a stage in which platforms are becoming key aggregation vehicles at the level of corporates, countries and regions. The Global South countries are starting to play catch-up vis-à-vis the advanced economies in building such platforms, with substantial advances made in building regional platforms in Africa and Asia in the past several years. The world economy needs greater platform diversity as well as greater optionality in trade/investment flows and an expansion in the array of reserve currencies something that could emanate from greater activism in this area coming from the Global South.

The regional integration projects of the Global South have advanced notably in the past several years with AfCFTA and RCEP among the most significant achievements.

World Environment Day: Earth ‘cannot keep up with our demands’ (UN News)

“It is vital we safeguard the health of its atmosphere, the richness and diversity of life on Earth, its ecosystems and its finite resources. But we are failing to do so,” said the UN chief. “We are asking too much of our planet to maintain ways of life that are unsustainable,” he cautioned, noting that this not only hurts the Earth, but also its inhabitants.

By providing food, clean water, medicines, climate regulation and protection from extreme weather events, Mr. Guterres reminded that a healthy environment is essential for people and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “It is essential that we wisely manage nature and ensure equitable access to its services, especially for the most vulnerable people and communities,” Mr. Guterres underscored.

The recent Stockholm+50 environment meeting reiterated that all 17 SDGs rely on a healthy planet to avert the triple crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. The Secretary-General outlined recommendations to activate renewable energy everywhere by making renewable technologies and raw materials available to all, cutting red tape, shifting subsidies and tripling investment.


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