tralac Daily News
South Africa could lose foreign investments due to strict visa regime (Ventures Africa)
In a recent news report, data released by the office of South Africa’s Presidency indicates that the country approved less than half of its visa applications from 2015 to 2021. Notably, South Africa (SA) rejected 52% of critical skills visa applications during this period. The application process, which some applicants have criticised, typically spans approximately 48 weeks, leaving many applicants disappointed after enduring a lengthy wait only to face visa denial.
This prolonged and uncertain timeline has raised concerns, especially among businesses and organisations. One such instance was reported by SA-based media company, BusinessTech, where a prominent business organisation, comprising car giants Volkswagen AG and BMW AG, expressed apprehension. They warned that these extensive delays, lasting up to 48 weeks for a visa application to be accepted, pose a significant threat to their expansion plans, investments, and job creation initiatives in South Africa. This situation is particularly worrisome in a country where the unemployment rate hovers at almost 33%.
Amidst South Africa’s economy enduring significant economic losses caused by frequent power outages leading, its restrictive visa policies have become another pressing issue. These policies have given rise to a slew of economic challenges. Foreign investors are considering relocating their businesses elsewhere due to the stringent visa regulations imposed by the country.
SA marks agricultural milestone after first soybean export to China (Eyewitness News)
South Africa marked a significant trade milestone in the agriculture sector after the country’s first soybean export to China. In 2022, the Department of Agriculture signed an export agreement with its biggest trade counterpart, China, which is the biggest consumer and importer of soybeans in the world.
The department said the shipment was evidence of other possibilities for growing the cereal and oilseed sector. It added that the transaction was in line with the recent BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit mandate held in Johannesburg in September.
Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo: “China is the biggest consumer and importer of soybeans in the world. This year, it is expected to import 97 million tons of soybeans compared to South Africa’s export potential of not even 1 million tons.”
The ongoing rapid automation of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) systems risks hurting compliance by individuals and businesses by locking out large groups of disadvantaged people such as the visually impaired, those without smartphones, internet connectivity, and limited technological know-how.
The taxman has recently gone big on automated systems including the filing of tax returns and real-time monitoring of sales transactions through electronic invoicing in a bid to maximise revenue collections. The World Bank, however, cautioned that the shift to automated systems risked secluding sizeable groups of taxpayers with negative consequences on compliance.
“Automation of tax measures will potentially lock out segments of the public including VMGs (vulnerable and marginalised groups) and other disadvantaged groups, due to digital illiteracy, lack of smartphones, poor electricity, and internet connectivity.
Fast-moving-consumer goods (FMCG) makers are turning to digitisation of supply channels to ensure the right commodity is available to clients at the right time and quantities in the face of stiff competition. FMCG companies such as food processors, beverage manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, tobacco processors, personal care products firms, and household items makers use one or a combination of various methods to reach their customers, which are known as Route-To-Consumer (RTC) channels.
In recent decades, however, major shifts have taken place in the FMCG market, with companies increasingly shifting to the use of technology to reach their markets directly especially through e-commerce. Employing technology ensures that firms are able to track, in real-time, the products that are most in demand, the most lucrative locations and demographics as well as changes in consumer demand.
Value Addition On Domestic Products: Government unveils grand plan (Tanzania Daily News)
The government will today unveil a grand plan for value addition of domestic products seeking to generate higher export returns and contribute to economic development. The move comes at a time when demand for Tanzania’s products particularly food items in the East African Community is on an upward trend. Thus, the government initiative that will be tabled today in Parliament by the Minister of the State in the President’s Office responsible for Planning and Investment Professor Kitila Mkumbo, seeks to increase the benefits earned from exports of locally made products which are mostly traded in raw form.
“Value addition on domestic products will guarantee producers higher return, allow penetration of a new, potentially high-value market and extend the production season,” he told ‘Daily News’ in a telephone interview from Dodoma at the weekend. “Despite the increased exports of its domestic products in recent years, Tanzania has been gaining little because most of the goods are in raw form,” he noted.
On 3 November 2023 in Abidjan, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group approved the 2023-2028 Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for Congo. Over the next five years, the institution will provide support to the country to develop sustainable infrastructure that will help strengthen value chains with high growth potential and improve human capital. In addition, it will underpin financial and economic governance, thereby enhancing the business climate in Congo.
The Bank Group’s support will be concentrated in four different sectors: agriculture, transport, financial and economic governance, and human capital. An emphasis will also be placed on cross-sector issues, such as employment, climate change and gender. There will be an additional focus on improving efficiency, be it in the implementation of operations, increasing the synergy between human capital reforms and business climate reforms, or private sector development within agricultural value chains.
Tunisia’s economic recovery slowed in the first half of 2023 as the country continued to grapple with persistent drought, external financing challenges, increasing domestic debt build-up of important public service enterprises and regulatory obstacles, according to the World Bank’s Fall 2023 Economic Monitor of Tunisia.
Despite some encouraging developments, including improvements in trade terms and a resurgence of tourism, Tunisia’s GDP growth for 2023 was forecast to be around 1.2 percent, a modest recovery when compared to counterparts in the region and half the growth rate of 2022. A growth forecast of 3 percent in 2024 is subject to risks created by the evolution of the drought, the financing conditions and the pace of reforms, the report said.
“Tunisia’s economy shows some resilience, despite ongoing challenges. Increased exports in textiles, machinery, and olive oil, coupled with growing tourism exports, have helped to ease the external deficit,” said Alexandre Arrobbio, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Tunisia. “Strengthening competition, increasing fiscal space and adapting to climate change are crucial actions to restore economic growth and build resilience to future economic and climatic shocks” He added.
Somalia now eyes IMF funding as budget goes past $1bn mark (The East African)
Somalia is eyeing funding from the International Monetary Funds as budgetary estimates reach $1 billion mark for the first time in history. According to financial proposals endorsed by the country’s Council of Ministers this week, the budget for the next fiscal year will reach $1,025,687,991, exceeding last year’s, if the federal parliament approves the estimates.
Somalia Minister for Finance Bihi Iman Egal indicated that the budgeted amount for 2024 fiscal year will be raised through domestic revenue and international grants. Last year, parliament passed a budget of $973,985,805.But Egal said it was subsequently increased “due to allocations for government healthcare services, education, and security”.
11 African central banks join Afreximbank’s continental payment system, PAPSS (Business Insider Africa)
PAPSS, a collaboration with the African Union, offers an alternative in which participants can conduct transactions in their currencies, eliminating the necessity for a third-party currency such as the U.S. dollar. “Trade goes well where payments can be made easily, and this is why we can only see trade pick up if we see improvement in efficient payments,” John Bosco Sebabi, PAPSS deputy CEO stated in an interview with CNBC.
Afreximbank estimates that more than 80 per cent of intra-African payments currently pass through either European or U.S. channels, incurring costs of up to $5 billion in fees and compliance expenses. The primary participants in the PAPSS’ system are central banks, which will serve as regulators and clearance agents, commercial banks, fintech companies, payment service providers, and their customers, including businesses operating throughout the region.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) through its New Partnership for Africa’s Development and Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) has approved US$1.4 million grant to EAC for the feasibility study of the Multinational Kenya/Uganda: Kisumu-Kisian-Busitema-Busia Expressway Project.
Kenya-Uganda Expressway project is part of the Northern Corridor that runs from Mombasa to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda through the port of Mombasa. It is the main corridor that transports the bulk of cargo that lands at the Indian Ocean ports inland to the five landlocked EAC Partner Sates.
The objective of the feasibility study is to determine the economic viability of upgrading the existing multinational road sections from single carriageway to expressway standards. The project has been prioritised by the respective Partner States and is expected to contribute to the delivery of economic infrastructure necessary for achieving tangible development outcomes for the region.
Africa’s Green Economy Summit taking place from 21-23 February 2024 in Cape Town builds on the success of this year’s inaugural event with a line-up of distinguished participants from across the continent.
The 2024 programme released this week deepens the continents participation, with extensive representation from key regions and role-players across a variety sectors. Africa’s Green Economy Summit is a vital link between global capital and sustainable projects in the continent. The Summit unites investors, project leaders, and policymakers, fostering connections and paving the way for an inclusive green economy and a sustainable future for all, said Dr MallFofana, Head and Africa Regional Director, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), C d’Ivoire. The strength of the African contingent for next year’s event is also underlined by the participation of the African Union Commission (AUC), which will be joining the Scaling Up Green Investments to Address Climate Change roundtable as part of the Green Recovery Action Plan (GRAP) programme.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has urged African leaders to prioritise the blue economy, stating that the blue economy holds the key to Africa’s prosperity. Tinubu, while speaking in Lagos at the 43rd Annual Council of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) conference on Monday, underlined the critical role of the blue economy in the collective prosperity of African nations, emphasising that the sector holds immense potential for the entire continent.
“We must acknowledge the maritime sector as a central driver for the sustainable development of our nations,” he remarked.
The President went on to stress the interconnectedness of African countries through their maritime endowments even as he discussed the formation of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, which highlights the Nigerian government’s commitment to unlocking the potential of the Blue Economy.
From November 1st to 2nd, 2023, AU-IBAR coordinated the Fourteenth Pan African National Codex Contact Point Officers Meeting. The primary objective of the 14th National Codex Contact Officers meeting was to engage in discussions concerning food safety, trade practices, and consumer health while ensuring that Africa’s perspective is well-represented on the global stage. The participants at this gathering included all National Codex Contact Point Officers and selected experts who contribute to various AU Expert meetings on Codex and AU-IBAR initiatives.
Codex Standards serve as a global benchmark for best practices in food safety, helping countries adopt these practices to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensure consumer well-being. By guaranteeing the safety and quality of food products, Codex standards instill confidence in consumers while aligning with Africa’s commitment to ending hunger by 2025, recognizing the pivotal role of food safety in achieving food security.
Furthermore, these standards promote fair trade by harmonizing international food standards, ensuring a level playing field. They also support Africa’s goal of tripling trade by 2025 and align with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), addressing trade-related health standards, thus contributing to a safer and more prosperous future for the continent.
President Museveni hits back at US over trade pact removal, says Uganda can thrive without AGOA (Business Insider Africa)
Museveni responded yesterday evening, reassuring Ugandans that the country can continue its progress without Western support. “I need to advise you not to be overly concerned about the recent actions taken by the American government to discourage their companies from investing in Uganda and removing Uganda from the AGOA list,” Museveni said on X, formerly Twitter. “Some of these actors in the Western world overestimate themselves and underestimate the freedom fighters of Africa,” the president added.
Last week, President Biden announced the removal of Uganda, along with three other African countries, including the Central African Republic, Gabon, and Niger, from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants exports from qualifying countries in Sub-Saharan Africa duty-free access to the U.S. market. The United States explained that the decision to exclude Uganda was due to the implementation of an anti-LGBTQ law, which was deemed a “serious violation” of internationally recognized human rights.
President Cyril Ramaphosa noted on Monday that if extended beyond 2025 for a lengthy period, and if used more effectively, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) can contribute significantly to the further diversification of African economies. Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter to the nation that Agoa is an important instrument for growing and transforming South Africa’s economy with the benefits felt through increased economic activity and the jobs created from this.
The US trade initiative, which came to be in 2000, is set to expire in September 2025. It has been renewed twice since it came to pass. Last week South Africa hosted the twentieth Agoa Forum, in Johannesburg, where the case for the extension, or reauthorisation, of Agoa beyond 2025 was made. Ramaphosa said the latest extension of Agoa, could enable countries to produce a wider range of products using the abundance of minerals, metals and agricultural goods produced.
US Trade Envoy Tai Talks Trade Policy in Africa as Summit Ends (Voice of America)
The annual summit of the African Growth and Opportunity Act — a program that has provided eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the U.S. economy since 2000 — wrapped up in South Africa on Saturday. Under AGOA, total goods imports into the United States were worth about $10 billion in 2022, compared with $6.8 billion in 2021. African leaders are asking the U.S. Congress to renew the trade policy for another 10 years or more before it expires in 2025.
To be eligible for AGOA, nations must respect the rule of law and protect human rights. On Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said four countries would be dropped from AGOA: Niger and Gabon for coup d’etats, and the Central African Republic and Uganda for human rights violations.
Agoa: Fading opportunities? (Moneyweb)