Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

Trade statistics for April 2023 (South African Revenue Service)

South Africa recorded a preliminary trade balance surplus of R3.5 billion in April 2023. This surplus is attributable to exports of R163.8 billion and imports of R160.3 billion, inclusive of trade with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN).

The year-to-date (01 January to 30 April 2023) preliminary trade balance deficit of R3.5 billion is a deterioration from the R78 billion trade balance surplus for the comparable period in 2022. On a year-on-year basis, export flows for April 2023 were R163.8 billion, which were 7.4% higher compared to R152.6 billion for April 2022. Import flows were 17.8% higher having increased from R136.1 billion in April 2022 to R160.3 billion in the current period.

The trade data excluding BELN for April 2023 recorded a preliminary trade balance deficit of R5.6 billion, with export flows at R149.9 billion and import flows at R155.5 billion.

Without AGOA South African citrus loses its edge in the US (FreshPlaza)

South Africa’s citrus exports to the United States have over recent years grown to a value of almost R1.7 billion (close to 808 million euros), a consistent performer during the past few turbulent seasons – but it is at risk if the United States decides not to extend their free trade agreement with South Africa due to the latter’s recent closeness to President Putin.

“The current US tariff on citrus for countries without any trade arrangement is within the range between $1.5/kg to $2.5/kg. That would be approximately between R30 and R50 per kg but of course, currently South African citrus does not face those tariffs in the United States,” Dr Mmatlou Kalaba of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy says.

“South Africa is in a more advantageous position than other AGOA beneficiaries in the sense that we are able to produce and export a whole range of products, close to 50 different products plus processed products like cheese which gives the country the benefit of scale.”

South Africa’s participation in AGOA – due to be extended (or not) in 2025 – is under discussion because last year South Africa hosted Russian vessels currently under UN embargo at South African ports for reasons the South African government has not been willing to divulge.

Pressure mounts on Kenya to end row over Uganda’s milk imports (The Standard)

Pressure is mounting on Kenya to review non-tariff barriers involving Ugandan milk products entering the local market. Sources in the government have confided that the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) is committed to resolving the matter in the next few days.

Uganda dairy exporters have raised the alarm over a move by the Kenyan dairy regulator to stop issuing permits for Ugandan dairy products in the KenTrade system from last March. The suspension of the issuance of permits was implemented despite the State Department for Livestock Development rescinding a notice banning dairy imports issued by KDB.

Dairy Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director Samson Akankiza told journalists that Nairobi is only issuing about 20 per cent of entry papers to exporters of its powdered milk. Sources within the industry in Kenya are, however, optimistic that the matter of export permits for Uganda firms will be amicably addressed in the next few days. “There is a lot going on within both the diplomatic and trade circles. Very soon, this matter will be amicably resolved as Kenya also needs its neighbours in its trade agenda,” a source privy to the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Kenya and Russia to sign trade pact, President Ruto says (TimesLIVE)

Kenya will sign a trade pact with Russia aimed at boosting co-operation between businesses, President William Ruto’s office said on Monday, after hosting Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Nairobi.

Russia has stepped up its drive to boost economic ties with Africa to help offset a big chill in relations with the West prompted by its invasion of Ukraine, and plans to hold an Africa-Russia summit in St Petersburg in July.

Kenya’s presidency said in a statement that bilateral trade with Russia was still low despite the potential and the pact would give business the “necessary impetus”. It did not say when the pact might be sealed or give details on what it might encompass. Russia currently sells mostly grain and fertilisers to Kenya.

Kenya to scrap visa fees for Africa traders (The East African)

President William Ruto has announced plans to remove visa requirements for African nationals travelling to Kenya for business as a first major step to remove barriers to intra-Africa trade.

The announcement was a continuation of Kenya’s policy for the integration of Africa, which began gathering steam during the reign of immediate former president Uhuru Kenyatta.

“For my fellow Africans, the free movement of people on our continent has always been a cornerstone of Pan-African brotherhood and fraternity. The freer we are to travel and live with one another, the more integrated and appreciative of our diversity we will become,” said Kenyatta on November 27, 2017.

Nairobi has for years been championing the removal of trade barriers amongst African countries to ease the movement of goods, services and labour through the integration of regional trading blocs.

Kenya was among the countries selected to participate in the pilot phase of the AfCFTA Initiative on Guided Trade last year as part of the efforts to encourage the movement of goods under preferential trading launched on January 1, 2021.

Africa’s under-developed transport networks have been blamed for raising cost of goods and services as much as 40 percent, rendering intra-African trade uncompetitive compared with trade with developed continents such as Europe.

Dar turns up the heat on Kenya in race for EAC dominance (The Standard)

Kenyans have always looked at Tanzanians as slow and courteous. A somewhat condescending view compared to their perceived abrasive nature and go-getter attitude. Kenya’s tag as the region’s biggest economy by foreign corporations and aid organisations has fed into the ego of Kenyans so much so that they do not regard Tanzania as a formidable rival in the race for regional dominance.

But in recent years, Tanzania has made remarkable progress, threatening to topple Kenya as the regional economic giant. The signs are all over, from Tanzania tripling its exports to Kenya in the four years to 2022 and its ports toppling the Port of Mombasa as the preferred route for regional importers to mega infrastructure projects that dwarf Kenya’s and a well-thought-out Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that will seamlessly connect to its neighbours.

The recent World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) is perhaps the most recent pointer that Tanzania could be a giant awakening. The survey ranked the Port of Mombasa at position 326 globally ahead of the Dar es Salaam port at position 312 in 2022.

And last week, manufacturers warned of how unfriendly Kenya has become to businesses. They noted that unlike in the past when local manufacturers would opt to close down as they did not have the muscle to move to Asia or Egypt like their multinational counterparts, today they can easily move their operations across the border.

Make Agriculture a business sector – AfDB Boss (Voice of Nigeria)

The President of, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has tasked the incoming administration to make agriculture a business sector. Akinwumi stated this while delivering his speech at the inaugural lecture for the new president of Nigeria on Saturday, May 27th, 2023, in Abuja. He also urged them to focus on fixing the country’s current insecurities bedevilling her economy against the backdrop of an industry amidst global challenging factors.

Speaking on inclusive development, he urged that Nigeria must completely revive its rural areas through agriculture transmission and reformation.

“The AfDB is currently working with Central banks all across Africa to design and support the establishment of Youth entrepreneurship investment banks which will be run by young professionals, highly competent and expert bankers who will develop and deploy new financial products and services for businesses and ventures of young people.” “Several African countries have agreed to set up this initiative. Hence, there is a need for Nigeria to tap into this initiative”, Adesina said.

The AfDB boss added that Nigeria’s economy needs to soar and must shift away from just import substitution to export-focused industrialization as this will unlock the bottlenecks hampering 85 per cent of its economy. “The solution, therefore, is to unlock the bottlenecks that are hampering 85 per cent of the economy. These include; low productivity, poor infrastructure and logistics, epileptic power supply, and inadequate access to finance by SMEs. Nigeria must shift away from just import substitution to export-focused industrialization. This is how our economy can thrive”, Adesina said.

Ghana remains competitive but losing ground in FDI to Senegal and Ivory-Coast (Ghana Business News)

The Ghana Netherlands Business and Culture Council (GNBCC), and the European Chamber of Commerce have affirmed Ghana’s position as the leading destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and trade with the highest competitiveness score in West Africa.  These organisations, however, noted that Senegal and Ivory Coast were fast gaining ground and Ghana had to redouble her efforts to remain competitive.

Mr. Tjalling Wiarda, General Manager of the Ghana Netherlands Business and Culture Council, and Mr. Nicholas Gebara, Executive Director of the European Chamber of Commerce were speaking during an expert panel webinar to mark European Union Day held at the Institute of International Affairs, Ghana (GhIIA.org). 

Mr. Gebara said, “What any European company is looking for is ease of access to large markets in Africa. So, if I can trade with Ghana, and through that gain access to the 300 million ECOWAS market as well, it will be attractive.”

FG adopts Strategy for Direct Investment Promotion (Premium Times Nigeria)

To mobilise direct investment at all levels, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has held a retreat and workshop to unveil its new policy, the Federal-State Investment Strategy (FSIPS).

To be implemented by federal and state governments, their ministries, departments, and agencies, FSIPS was authored by renowned global Investment strategy expert, Nicky Okoye.

The policy, designed and developed over the last three years, forms an integral part of his work on the “National Investment Strategy”, which has been implemented by several African Countries and sub-national authorities.

He noted that the drive by the Ministry to expand its collaboration with stakeholders for repositioning Nigeria’s direct investment landscape is yielding positive results, especially as is evident by its current partnership with the African Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Institute founded by Mr Okoye.

Guided Trade Initiative: Inside CS Kuria’s Agreement With 6 Countries (Kenyans.co.ke)

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria on Monday, May 30, explained how a new deal known as Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) had impacted export businesses between Kenya and six other African nations.

“The Guided Trade Initiative acts as a springboard to promote trade under the AfCFTA, creating a multiplier effect, more opportunities for SMEs, youth, and women in trade, and ultimately achieving inclusive & sustainable economic development,” Moses Kuria stated.

Speaking while addressing a delegation at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Nairobi, Kuria noted that the seven countries that make up the Guided Trade Initiative had agreed to remove non-tariff barriers that had previously caused a lot of delays in the movement of goods and people.

“The GTI also aims to increase opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), youth and women in trade,” Kuria told AfCFTA delegates.

Kuria noted that the Guided Trade Initiative can help to reduce the cost of doing business by simplifying customs procedures and providing technical assistance to businesses.

“Guided Trade Initiative helped to increase trade by creating a more predictable and stable trading environment. It can help to promote economic development by creating jobs and stimulating investment,” Kuria noted.

It was noted Guided Trade Initiative is a new initiative, and it is too early to tell what its full impact will be. However, it has the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of intra-African trade and to the economic development of the continent.

National consultations for Drafting the Constitution for the EAC Political Confederation concludes in Kenya (EAC)

National consultations for Drafting the Constitution for the proposed East African Community (EAC) Political Confederation concluded in Machakos County, Kenya over the weekend.

The 20-day consultations launched in Mombasa on 9th May, 2023 saw the Committee of Constitutional Experts for Drafting the EAC Political Federation Constitution hold consultations with civil society, local leaders, opinion leaders and the business community, among other stakeholders, to seek their views on what kind of a Political Confederation they would desire for the EAC.

Kenya was the third Partner State where national consultations were conducted after Burundi in January 2020 and Uganda in April 2021.

Speaking during a media briefing held after the conclusion of the consultations, EAC Secretary General Hon. (Dr) Peter Mathuki said the views gathered during the consultations will not only form the basis of drafting and promulgating the Constitution for the EAC Confederation, but also lend credibility and legitimacy to the process and the Constitution itself.

Dr. Mathuki said that some of the issues recommended by the different stakeholders during the consultations to be included in the proposed Political Confederation were: the elimination of borders to allow complete free movement, residency and trade; a common EAC identity document, and; the Confederation to create structures to handle cross-border security.

AfCFTA investment protocol a potential game changer for the continent (The Herald)

On 19 February 2023, the African Union Heads of State adopted the Protocol on Investment (“Protocol”) to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

Investment protection on the continent is regulated by a web of instruments on a national, bilateral, and regional level. Of the 852 bilateral investment treaties concluded involving African states, 515 are currently in force, and 173 are intra-African. These bilateral instruments, alongside national investment laws and regional initiatives, regulate foreign investment across the continent.

The Protocol will govern investment in the free trade area and define the rights and obligations of investors and Member States. The draft protocol however notes that it will not apply to certain matters such as lawful taxation measures and property acquired for non-business purposes (Article 3.4).

Its stated objectives include the protection of sustainable investment, balancing of investor and state interests, protection of indigenous communities, and efficient dispute resolution (Article 2).

Notably, the draft protocol seeks to replace bilateral investment instruments between Member States and requires that Member States align all regional instruments with the Protocol (Article 49).

SACU focuses on free trade opportunities (New Era)

The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) Secretariat, in collaboration with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will host an information sharing workshop on the AfCFTA and a regional dialogue on emerging market opportunities for the SACU region. This initiative follows collaboration between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Team Europe Technical Assistance Facility (EU-TAF) to support the AfCFTA and Continental Economic Integration.

The two-day event is scheduled to take place on 1 and 2 June 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event aims to disseminate information to relevant stakeholders within the SACU region, thereby creating synergies for the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. The outcomes of this seminar will also be used as insight for the ongoing work of sensitising the business community on the trade agreements concluded by SACU.

SACU regards the AfCFTA as a strategic continental instrument; hence, the implementation and leveraging of the AfCFTA has been prioritised as one of the pillars that underpin the recently approved SACU Strategic Plan for 2022–2027.

SACU members sign mutual recognition arrangement (South African Revenue Service)

Accredited traders in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa will benefit from lower trade costs and quicker turn-around times for imports and exports, because of a Mutual Recognition Arrangement signed today by the five Member States of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

The Heads of Revenue Administrations in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, have agreed to recognise each other’s importers and exporters who have been granted the status of an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). Traders who are AEOs across the SACU region will benefit from fast-tracked controls and reduced administration costs for customs clearance.

Experts urge removal of barriers to AfCFTA (The Guardian Nigeria)

The African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (AIEDP) and ambassadors of the African diplomatic corps have called for speedy implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), urging member countries to show more commitment to removing barriers in the implementation of both projects.

They spoke at a high-level roundtable on the status, challenges and prospects of AfCFTA and SAATM, under the theme, ‘The Year of the AfCFTA: Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.’

Both parties said they aim to generate a greater political commitment to trade as a development agenda for Africa, with a view to building linkages with member states, African Union (AU) organs, private sector actors, development partners and other stakeholders, who have important roles to play in accelerating AfCFTA’s implementation.

Africa needs to digitalise its borders to stimulate intra continental trade and travel (Engineering News)

International air transport industry-owned multinational information technology company SITA (not to be confused with South Africa’s State Information Technology Agency) senior VP: SITA at Borders Jeremy Springall has urged African countries to digitalise their border management systems. This would make it easier for people and goods to cross their borders while allowing them to protect themselves from crime, trafficking, terrorism and pandemics, yet preserving the data privacy of travellers.

“Africa’s immense potential to become a global powerhouse is undeniable,” he highlighted. “It has all the ingredients including a market of 1.2-billion consumers (rising to 1.7-billion by 2030) and a combined [gross domestic product] worth $2.5-trillion.”

Yet, despite African countries all having recognised the benefits of the African Union’s flagship African Continental Free Trade Area, Single African Air Transport Market and Free Movement of Persons Protocol programmes, these all remained far from full implementation. He reported that, at the recent SITA Borders Management Africa Summit, in Nairobi, Kenya, speakers and delegates highlighted that the biggest single hindrance to truly implementing these programmes was the lack of efficient intra-African borders to allow people and goods to move frictionlessly from country to country.

African E-Trade Group Says Working To Enhance Digital Intra, Inter Trade in Africa (ENA)

The African E-Trade Group ((Ae Trade) is working to enhance intra-and inter-trade in Africa. The African E-Trade Group (AeTrade) is a multi-stakeholder group of African professionals and business people with a vision to develop and implement e-empowerment program that will enhance intra-and inter-African trade. AeTrade Group organized a sensitization forum on Africa job creation today at the UNECA, under the theme ‘Accelerating Job Creation, Digital and Financial Inclusion in the implementation of the AfCFTA’.

Speaking on the occasion, AeTrade CEO, Mulualem Syoum, said the group brings together the public and private sector partners to develop projects that leverage the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the benefit of Africa’s present and future entrepreneurs.

Following the AU decision to accelerate digital and financial inclusions and work together with all stakeholders, the Africa diaspora initiative is helping to create one Africa market, he said.

Trade is going to be knowledge based in the near future, he said, adding its platform will create enabling environment for SMEs where they can be able to know about the place of the surplus, and the shortage.

East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline will transform trade in the region (Monitor)

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is a critical infrastructure project that is set to transform the national, regional, and global trade landscape. The EACOP project will enable the transportation of crude oil from Uganda’s oil fields to the Tanzania port of Tanga, where it will be exported to international markets.

The project is expected to stimulate foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region, as it creates a favorable environment for investors looking to capitalize on the growing oil and gas industry.

The project’s completion will open up new local business opportunities, particularly in the telecommunications, transport, and service sectors. This project is expected to have a significant impact on the economies of Tanzania and Uganda, as well as the greater East African region.

Let’s tap the private sector to change the “Horn of Africa narrative” say Finance Ministers (AfDB)

Finance ministers from six Horn of Africa countries gathered for the 17th Ministerial Roundtable of the Horn of Africa Initiative on the side-lines of the African Development Bank’s 2023 Annual Meetings and expressed strong consensus on the need for greater private investment and closer trade integration to increase resilience in the region.

“Regionally, we will need to focus on how the private sector can contribute to trade integration and the financing and resource gaps to support regional infrastructure without compromising debt sustainability,” said Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Ahmed Shide, who chaired the meeting.

In her opening remarks, Akin-Olugbade commended the initiative’s progress in the face of many challenges. The region has been hard hit in recent years by political instability, locust swarms and persistent drought. These compound wider constraints, including high levels of debt, and food and fuel price spikes.

The Roundtable also witnessed the signing of a $72 million financing agreement for the Djibouti-Somalia Corridor project, which the African Development Bank is supporting.

Africa should be manufacturing hub, source of ingredients – Ruto (The Star)

President William Ruto has said the African continent has a greater potential in being a source of all ingredients. Speaking during the African Private Sector Dialogue Conference on Free Trade Area, the head of state said the ambition should be realised to cut down the cost of medicines and address our quality of healthcare.

“Africa should be a hub for manufacturing. For example, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), which are the main inputs for drugs and medicine, are plenty in our continent. Africa can be the source for all APIs,” he said.

Ruto also noted that leaders should proactively seek a resolution to the disparities in currencies and the consequential impediments it poses to intra-African trade.

“Trade cannot take place without efficient and unified payment systems. Although there has been the introduction of several regional payment infrastructures in the continent, we lack a single system that seamlessly facilitates trade among our nations, eliminating the obstacles posed by varying currencies,” he noted.

“Lack of efficient transport networks increases the price of goods traded among African countries by 30% to 40%, rendering Africa effectively uncompetitive.”

EU programme falls short in promotion of export farming (Nation)

The European Commission is adopting intermediate proposals in its international climate policy, outlined in the European Green Deal that provides a road map for a socioecological transition to a low-carbon future and building blocks for a green economic growth strategy to address climate change, energy and biodiversity.

However, the implications of the EU Green Deal (EU GD) for Africa are multifaceted. Most prominently, the stringent policies outlined in the Farm to Fork (F2F) and Chemical Sustainability Strategies will greatly affect global trade in agricultural inputs and outputs, and by extension the economies of African countries that greatly depend on agriculture.

Implementing this EU GD comes will increase costs on overburdened farmers who are buying inputs at an all-time high price precipitated by the Russian-Ukraine war and high inflation rates, which have not only impacted farm productivity and profitability but increased other costs like freight and local logistics.

Economic evaluations show an introduction of a unique array of “sustainability” requirements whose compliance costs will be borne by the farmers as implementation gets underway.

Do not leave us behind, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), plead (UNECA)

Landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) need global support to turn around their social and economic fortunes to achieve sustainable development in line with the goals of the Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA).

A High-level Africa Regional Review of the Vienna Programme of Action for the Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014–2024 which ended in Gaborone, Botswana, concluded that African LLDCs should not be left behind in attaining sustainable development.

Botswana’s Acting Minister of Trade, Mabuse Pule said LLDCs should be part of an inclusive and sustainable future. He urged that current partnerships between LLDCs and transit countries should be further strengthened.

“I implore the transit countries, development partners, relevant UN agencies and other organizations to continue this pact in the lead up to the 3rd UN Conference on LLDCs. We really need to join forces to ensure that no LLDCs are left behind as we strive towards a future that is inclusive, sustainable and prosperous for all in the next decade,” said Mr. Pule.

The two-day meeting held under the theme, “From Vienna to Kigali: towards a new decade of partnerships for a transformative Programme of Action for LLDCs’ reviewed the implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action in Africa. It discussed achievements, constraints, emerging challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable development and SDGs and Agenda 2063 in LLDCs.

Call for accelerated action to support structural transformation of Landlocked Developing Countries

Specialised Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning & Integration: “Sub-Committee on Tax and Illicit Financial Flows” (AU)

The digital economy has experienced unprecedented growth over the past few decades, transforming the global economic landscape and reshaping the way businesses and individuals interact. This phenomenon has been driven by rapid advancements in technology, widespread internet access, and the increasing penetration of smartphones and other digital devices. This includes increased consumption of digital goods and services, such as streaming platforms, e-commerce, and online advertising. The application of traditional tax principles (Nexus rules) for income tax and in the context of Value Added Tax (VAT).

These developments impact Africa’s ability to mobilize revenues while influencing tax policies and the protection of tax bases. As a result, Africa’s position in the global tax debate requires a renewed approach to tax policy initiatives, including the United Nations Resolution for a Tax Convention and the incoming international tax rules proposed by the OECD Inclusive Framework’s Two-Pillar solution. At a practical level, countries will also be confronted with the collection of revenue from digital sales of goods and services and the allocation of taxing rights on a global minimum effective tax rate.

As African countries continue to grapple with low tax collection and ever-increasing revenue demands, particularly building back from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to address these issues and ensure that the African interest is protected in the design and implementation of the global tax rules. It ought not to be the case that the highly profitable large businesses keep profits that belong to countries – and their people.

The key to better trade with Africa after Brexit (LSE)

The high-income countries of the Asia-Pacific region were the UK’s primary target since trade deals with the US and China, the world’s largest and second largest economies, are not immediately possible. For the US, the Biden Administration is not making new trade deals as it manages the tricky politics of trade pessimism. For China, current geopolitics are not conducive. By the spring of 2023, the UK had concluded bilateral deals with Australia and New Zealand and acceded to the regional Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade area of 11 Pacific rim countries that includes Japan, the world’s third largest economy.

For trade with some 70 developing countries mainly in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, the UK replicated pre-existing EU trading arrangements. In Africa, specifically, UK versions of the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements, which are in essence free trade deals, were concluded with 29 African countries. In 2021, the UK announced a framework for concessional trade similar to the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences in the form of the UK’s Developing Country Trading Scheme. This embodies measures for partial or full removal of customs duties on the UK’s imports from developing countries and contain important improvements over the EU’s scheme.

There is now an opportunity for the UK to improve the structure of its trade engagement with developing countries.

BRICS expanding opportunities to influence global governance (Asia Times)

This week, the five foreign ministers of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will meet in Cape Town. On the second day of their meet they will be joined by 15 other foreign ministers representing Africa, the Global South, and “Friends of BRICS” nations. Among other things these deliberations will seek to firm up the agenda for the BRICS Summit to be held during August 22-24 this year.

Expanding intra-BRICS trade has been the primary tool for strengthening the forum. This has lately seen increasing focus on exploring alternatives to reduce their dependence on the US dollar, and creation of a BRICS currency is expected to be on top of their agenda this week.

BRICS is seen today as the most formidable voice for the Global South on the high table of major powers of the post-World War II US-led world order. With the Ukraine war widening that bipolarity, BRICS will have to tread with care.

For BRICS to overcome its internal disjunctions and harness its historic opportunities will require not just strong mutual understanding and trust but everyday diplomatic finesse and foresight for bold initiatives. And this will remain a work in progress, as an expanded BRICS will only makes consensus that much harder to achieve.

New Global Trade Data Portal offers real-time access to trade data (WTO)

The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent crisis in Ukraine have put supply chains to the test, raising serious concerns of possible supply chain disruptions and risks to food security. Disruptions are expected to become even more frequent in the future. In parallel, the complexity of global value chains requires more detailed monitoring of trade flows.

Responding to disruptions in a timely manner and better understanding the functioning of complex value chains requires timely and detailed data, which are now more accessible thanks to new information and communication technologies. The Global Trade Data Portal can be accessed here.

“Data are the foundation of informed decision making,” said WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in welcoming the launch of the Portal. “We need timely data to support timely policy action and rulemaking.”

Continuation of the Black Sea Initiative (UNCTAD)

The Black Sea Initiative, signed in Istanbul on 22 July 2022 to resume vital food and fertilizer exports from designated Ukrainian seaports, will continue for 60 days. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the news on 17 May at the UN daily press briefing in New York, following the confirmation by the Russian Federation to continue its participation in the initiative for another 60 days.

He said the importance of the initiative – and the parallel Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and the Russian Federation on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets – is clear. “These agreements matter for global food security. Ukrainian and Russian products feed the world.” Under the initiative, more than 30 million tons of grain and foodstuffs have been exported.

Over the last year, the agreements have helped stabilize markets and reduce volatility. Global food prices have fallen by 20% from the all-time high reached in March 2022.

Goods barometer stabilizes, indicating possible turning point for trade (WTO)

The value of the barometer index rose to 95.6 in the latest reading — up from 92.2 in March — but remained well below the baseline value of 100, suggesting a below-trend stabilization and the beginnings of an upturn in merchandise trade volumes. Mixed signals in the barometer’s component indices nevertheless suggest that the road to trade recovery may be bumpy.

The volume of merchandise trade in the fourth quarter of 2022 was down 2.4% compared to the previous quarter and 0.8% compared to the same period in the previous year. The Q4 slump was driven by several related factors, including the ongoing war in Ukraine, stubbornly high inflation in advanced economies, and tighter monetary policy globally.

Economic woes dash job prospects in low income countries: ILO (UN News)

In its new Monitor on the World of Work report, ILO shows that while in high-income countries, only 8.2 per cent of people willing to work are jobless, that number rises to over 21 per cent in low-income countries - or one in every five people.

Low-income countries in debt distress are worst affected, with more than one in four people who want to work unable to secure employment. The UN agency further indicated that Africa’s labour market had been hit the hardest during the pandemic, which explained the slow pace of recovery on the continent.

Unlike wealthy nations, debt distress across the continent and a very limited fiscal and policy space, meant that few countries in Africa could put in place the kind of comprehensive stimulus packages they needed to spur economic recovery, ILO explained.


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