Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

Transnet says rail volumes recovered slightly in the last quarter of 2023 (Engineering News)

Transnet says it has witnessed signs of recovery on the North Corridor, which was able to improve RBCT export coal volume tonnages from below one-million tonnes weekly on average to 1.1-million tonnes by December 2023. Transnet is forecasting railing 49-million tonnes of export coal to RBCT against a declared capacity of 60-million tonnes for the financial year ending March 2024.

Capacity gaps slow competitiveness of South Africa’s ports (Africanews)

As container ships re-route their voyages away from the Red Sea, a windfall was anticipated for South Africa’s ports. Instead, capacity challenges mean there is not enough space for ships to dock, let alone refuel. South African container ports rank among the most inefficient according to the World Bank, owing to infrastructure gaps. Port operator Transnet saw its losses top $300 million in 2023, with port and rail failures estimated to be costing the economy up to $19 billion a year.

Energy community must scrutinise IRP 2023 (Engineering News)

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is urging the energy community to critically analyse the revised draft Integrated Resource Plan 2023 (IRP 2023) to provide constructive inputs that will improve the country’s energy future. SAWEA says it appreciates the information sessions hosted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to delve deeper into the plan and its underlying assumptions, which have provided much-needed context and additional information, ensuring a common understanding across various interpretations.

“South Africa needs to adopt a holistic approach to energy planning, integrating multiple technologies that make sense for the country’s energy needs. This requires the system operator to redefine business strategies to ensure an affordable, safe and reliable energy supply, not only for the present but for generations to come,” SAWEA CEO Niveshen Govender says.

Sugar price cap brews a storm in Tanzania (The East African)

Tanzanian sugar regulators are embroiled in a feud with producers as they seek to enforce price caps on the commodity, amid a nationwide shortage. Retail sugar prices have gone up twofold from an average of Tsh2,300 ($0.91) in November to between Tsh4,000 ($1.58) and Tsh6,000 ($2.37) per kilogramme, with fingers being pointed at factory owners, importers and traders for the artificial shortage.

Across the EAC, sugar prices average about $1.30 per kilo in Kenya, despite a government waiver on import duty from January last year; $1.35 in Uganda, $0.44 in Rwanda, $0.83 in Burundi, $1.92 in DR Congo, $2.36 in South Sudan and $3.14 in Somalia.

Kenya’s agricultural sector is underfunded, experts say (The Standard)

Kenya has lagged behind in achieving the Maputo Declaration to allocate at least 10 per cent of the national budget to agriculture. Agriculturists and lawmakers meeting in Mombasa on Friday said the country’s agricultural sector was underfunded, off track, and made no efforts to achieve the 2003 continental commitment.

The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Livestock chairperson Dr John Mutunga said Kenya’s agriculture sector requires an annual budget of Sh360 billion to be sustainable and address food security. He said Kenya’s current annual budget of Sh60 billion to the sector was insufficient to ensure sustainable food and crop production. Mutunga spoke in Mombasa during a national parliamentary retreat in Mombasa hosted by AGRA that brought members of the Senate National Assembly Committees to deliberate on the Maputo and Malibu declaration.

Dr Mutungu, MP for Tigania West, said that Kenya’s agricultural sector needs a 10 per cent increase in funding to increase production of food commodities instead of importing. “Kenya has been off-track so far in the implementation of the Maputo declaration and has only been able to meet one of two targets every year. We have countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania which have invested in agriculture, and their economies are growing by double digits,” said Dr Mutunga.

Kinshasa reviews mining deal with Chinese firms to seal loopholes (The East African)

The Congolese government says it has rectified a controversial mining deal it had signed with China, potentially upending what had looked like a source of bad relations between Kinshasa to Beijing. The new deal, officials said this week, is a result of open negotiations with Beijing. It came 16 years after the two sides signed what the Congolese authorities had called “the contract of the century.”

But since 2008, especially under the President Felix Tshisekedi administration, officials have often accused China’s of exploitation, arguing they mined critical metals from the DRC without being compelled to give back to local communities. On January 29, officials said the contract had been amended to provide specific obligations to Chinese mining firms, including improving local infrastructure for the Congolese.

Traders, truckers seek protection from attacks in South Sudan (The East African)

AfDB lends $40 mn to Mozambique for Maputo rail corridor (Africa Aviation News)

The African Development Bank (AfDB) approved a $40-million corporate loan to the state-owned enterprise Mozambique Rail and Port Authority (CFM), to enable CFM to finance the purchase of rolling stock (locomotives, wagons and tank containers) for its main corridor, the Ressano Garcia railway line, which generates more than 90% of rail traffic volume and comprises 70% of CFM’s overall rail transport volume. It will strengthen intra-African trade and regional integration by increasing capacity and the volume of goods transported from neighbouring countries by the most efficient route, with Mozambique serving its neighbouring countries of South Africa, Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, providing them with a port for exporting their products and importing goods.

Angola: Growth of non-petroleum exports and 36,000 new businesses thanks to African Development Bank support (AfDB)

Institutional Capacity Building Project for Private Sector Development, which was implemented in Angola between 2014 and 2023, delivered better-than-expected outcomes as shown in the recent Project Completion Report published in January 2024. The growth rate of Angola’s non-oil exports, a key project target, reached 5.9% in December 2022 and 4.9% in June 2023 against targets of 2.8% set in 2018 and 5% (revised) set in 2020.

Financed by a USD 24 million loan from the AfDB Group, the project was designed to assist private sector growth and diversification of the Angolan economy. Along with a rise in non-oil exports, the project also drove a remarkable surge of business start-ups in Angola, which rose from 2,700 in 2012 to 38,715 in 2022. During the same period, the number of cooperatives with access to services rose from 240 to 12,870. In addition, 23,776 farmers, including 3,148 women, worked in coffee production.

GRA pushes simplified tax regime for informal sector (The Business & Financial Times)

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is pushing a simplified tax regime for the informal sector. The objective is to streamline taxation for the sector, making it easier and more convenient for small businesses – especially those operating in rural and remote areas – to fulfil their tax obligation to the state, according to officials of the tax collection agency.

The matter came up at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing last week, when GRA appeared before the Committee to address infractions in the Auditor-General Report on the Public Accounts of MDAs for the year ended 31st December, 2022. Commissioner-Domestic Tax and Revenue Division, GRA, Edward Apenteng Gyamerah, told the Committee that the authority had difficulties in collecting tax and recovering tax debts in some instances.

“I think it is one of the reasons we are considering simplification of our tax laws, so as to deal with issues of these nature in the informal sector. Currently, as a country we have only one law dealing with all sectors – and it is an issue we are seeking to address. We need the support of us all to come up with simplified tax laws to deal with the informal sector,” Mr. Gyamerah told the Committee.

Ghana wants to make importing food like rice and tomatoes more costly: expert explains why it’s a bad idea (The Conversation)

Ghana, like many other developing nations, relies heavily on imports of food and consumer goods to feed its population. For instance, Ghana imports 55% of the rice that is consumed locally. The country’s import dependence is primarily a consequence of the production of low-value primary products without substantial value addition.

To forestall over-dependence on foreign goods, the government has proposed a trade restrictive policy via a legislative instrument on 22 major items. It has justified the policy on the grounds that it wants to reduce Ghana’s dependence on foreign goods by making locally produced goods more attractive from a price perspective. In turn, the idea is that this will drive up domestic production.

The list of items includes essential food products such as rice, offal, poultry, cooking oil, fruit juices, noodles and pasta, fish, sugar and canned tomatoes. All are commonly consumed in most Ghanaian households. But imposing constraints on these food items has the potential to escalate food prices, as set out in my recent paper, prompting concerns about potential threats to food security. Restricting imports without ensuring high-quality and competitive domestic products will not lead to consumer preference for locally made goods. What Ghana’s industries need are fewer production constraints and more incentives to compete domestically.

Nigeria’s latest devaluation may be ‘turning point’ in currency reform drive (ZAWYA)

Nigeria’s second currency devaluation in less than a year and new forex rules suggest the central bank is gearing up to let the naira float freely, but a huge backlog of orders for dollars and low liquidity may stall reform momentum, investors and analysts said. Foreign investors in particular will need more convincing that Africa’s biggest economy is finally ditching the controls that have for long distorted its currency market, making the country of 200 million people less attractive to foreign capital.

Nigeria is struggling with a record amount of government debt, high unemployment and power shortages that have contributed to years of anaemic economic growth. Oil output is shrinking, and rampant insecurity means swathes of the countryside are outside government control.

In his first days in office last year, President Bola Tinubu scrapped a costly fuel subsidy and lifted some forex controls. But the reform drive appeared to lose steam as the naira continued to weaken without central bank intervention.

Nigeria and Angola to strengthen trade ties (Voice of Nigeria)

As Africa continues to seek ways to boost intra-Africa trade, the need to address trade barriers and streamline visa processes has been emphasised to foster smoother trade ties between Nigeria and Angola. The President, Angola-Nigeria Business Council, Mrs Fifi Ejindu, stressed this at the Angola-Nigeria Diplomatic-Business Investment meeting in Lagos, South West Nigeria.

Mrs. Ejindu, emphasised that more active and creative economic and commercial relations between the two countries, reinforces the potential for progress for mutual benefits. Ejindu said that “the engagement of Nigerian investors and the anticipated business activations in Angola indicated growing interest and participation in the trade initiatives discussed.”

Can Romania-Tanzania alliance grow Dar’s trade in Europe? (The Exchange Africa)

A fresh alliance, Romania-Tanzania, is taking shape, with the European country betting on the East African nation to grow its presence and influence on the continent significantly as it forges “strategic approaches to Africa.” President Klaus Iohannis made the assertion during his recent visit to Tanzania. In a four-day state tour, he engaged with the government and investors in Tanzania’s mainland and the island of Zanzibar. During his visit, at least two Romania-Tanzania agreements were signed by President Iohannis and his counterpart, Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan.

The European country has recently adopted a “National Strategy for Africa” policy, and this maiden visit by President Iohannis seeks to “intensify political and diplomatic dialogue and open up new prospects for cooperation,” he told the media.

Indaba to place spotlight on local mining industry (SAnews)

The 2024 Investing in African Mining Indaba will place the spotlight on the significant potential of the mining sector in fostering economic expansion and employment opportunities, said President Cyril Ramaphosa. “This week’s Mining Indaba in Cape Town will showcase the enormous potential of the mining industry to drive economic growth and job creation. The actions underway to improve the logistics system will help us to unlock this potential, given that mining companies depend on the rail network and ports to compete in global markets.

“From the work already underway, we have shown that it is possible to overcome the barriers to growth by working together in partnership. We are building momentum and have begun to see the results,” the President said in his weekly newsletter on Monday. He emphasised that “as more and more of our products leave the country’s shores, whether to the African continent or other parts of the world,” more companies will thrive, more investment will be made and more jobs will be created.

World Bank Urges Action for Gender Equality in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (World Bank)

Women account for about one-third of the artisanal and small-scale mining workforce, which supplies minerals essential to modern technologies and the global energy transition.

Launched today at the annual Mining Indaba Conference, the 2023 State of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector report, a collaboration with the international development organization Pact, details gender inequalities in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and highlights actions to improve gender equality and advance women’s participation. It reviews mining laws in 21 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America, and draws on primary data from 1,900 participants, contributing unique insights about the deep-seated barriers women face in fully participating in ASM activities and opportunities toward gender equality.

The report advocates for gender-responsive legislation to safeguard women’s rights in mining and build a more sustainable sector. This includes improving mining codes—which often lack provisions to enhance women’s participation—and changing discriminatory property laws and land tenure agreements that hinder women’s ability to own land and access mineral resources for artisanal and small-scale mining.

Fixing logistics architecture key to successful AfCFTA: Ramaphosa (SABC News)

President Cyril Ramaphosa says in order for local companies to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by exporting goods to the rest of the continent, more focus should be put on fixing the logistic architecture of South Africa. The President encouraged more South African companies to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area and participate in exporting goods into the whole African continent.

Importation of finished goods into Africa slows down AfCFTA takeoff (The East African)

African countries will only benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) if the continent invests in value addition. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa wondered why Africa is still exporting raw products and importing finished goods that can be produced on the continent.

“Recently, I saw a neighbouring country that had imported bottled water from Switzerland. I said, there is still a long way to go to show that we really trade with ourselves,” President Ramaphosa said on January 31 while launching the AfCFTA Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) in Durban. “A continent that is so endowed with various sources of water, but we still rely on water that we import from elsewhere!” He said the task ahead for the African countries to benefit from Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is to export value-added products.

“This is the task that we have; the reason for this is clear. We are principal exporters of many other things that we should not be exporting. We export raw materials, and I often say we export dust, rocks and soil. And we sell this to the world and instead of harnessing our oil and minerals for industrialisation,” he said. “We should be saying that we will not be buying all these raw materials from you. You should now be insisting that the raw materials be turned into finished goods so that we buy finished goods from you.”

Tanzania’s Trade Minister Ashatu Kijaji called on countries to co-operate in completing key protocols and other important issues related to dispute resolution when doing business in Africa, when she chaired the two-day 13th meeting of AfCFTA Trade ministers held in Durban.

Measures to kick-start seamless trading under AfCFTA imminent (The Business & Financial Times)

Continental trade agreement to restore historic trade routes (IOL)

PwC outlines six ways to boost intra-Africa trade (Businessday Nigeria)

Olusegun Zacchaeus, partner, PwC Strategy and Practice, West Africa, has highlighted six key ways to transform intra-Africa trade. They are improving the continent’s infrastructure, which requires $130-170 billion annually, strengthening institutional frameworks, investing in upskilling and education at a large scale, promoting well-functioning markets and regional integration, rebuilding fiscal buffers and addressing non-tariff barriers. This was revealed at BusinessDay’s Africa Trade Summit and Investment Summit themed “Reimagining Economic Growth in Africa” on Thursday.

During his presentation, he said one critical factor to both enhance and get the benefit of trade in the continent, is enhancing the quality of infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure, which requires $130-170 billion annually. “A very key imperative to transforming intra-Africa trade is enhancing the quality of infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure. This will require $130-170 billion annually,” he said.

He identified other critical factors including strengthening institutional frameworks, investing in upskilling and education at a large scale, promoting well-functioning markets and regional integration, rebuilding fiscal buffers, and addressing non-tariff barriers. “Trade is a pathway to prosperity for Africa, but in the last 10 years, Africa has grown at an average of less than three percent.”

Julie LeBlanc’s Keynote Address at the Business Day Africa Trade and Investment Summit (U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria)

In 2023, the United States supported and finalized 547 new deals, amounting to an estimated $14.2 billion in two-way trade and investment with African countries. This marked a remarkable 60% increase in both the number and value of deals compared to 2022. These investments have led to tangible benefits for both American and African communities, creating inclusive growth, supply chain resilience, and quality jobs.

Beyond AGOA, the U.S. has initiated several programs to enhance trade and investment with African countries, such as the Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership with Kenya and the $15.7 billion in new investments announced at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

East Africa braces for further rise in food, fuel prices over Red Sea crisis (The East African)

East African countries are staring at a fresh rise in food and fuel prices due to the escalating conflict in the Middle East, which continues to disrupt the flow of goods through the Red Sea.

The on-going war between Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have intensified insecurity in the Red sea, a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean lying between Africa and Asia. This is forcing ships to seek alternative but longer and expensive routes away from the Suez Canal, a 193.30-kilometre water canal in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

Last year, the Suez Canal Authority announced that it would raise the transit fees for ships passing the canal by five percent to 15 percent from January 15, 2024. According to the regional business lobby East African Business Council (EABC), the economic impact of the Middle East conflict to the region is going to be “substantial.”

South Sudan to issue East African Community e-passports (Radio Tamazuj)

South Sudan’s Inspector General of Police, General Atem Marol Biar, has directed Maj. Gen. Simon Majur Pabek, the newly appointed Director General for the Directorate of Nationality, Civil Registry, Passport, and Immigration, to initiate the printing of East African Community (EAC) e-passports within the country. Speaking at the reception ceremony for the Immigration chief on Thursday, IGP Gen. Marol stated that the passport samples are ready, urging the directorate to commence the issuance of the EAC digital passport.

“We have partnered with a company to print the East African passport, but it faced sabotage by some individuals. Now is the time to begin printing the passports. Our President is the chairman of the East African Community, and this should be our priority. The samples are available, and they need to be printed. You will receive instructions from the Minister of Interior in line with the President’s directive to commence printing the East African passport,” Marol emphasized.

43rd Meeting of the Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment underway in Arusha, Tanzania (EAC)

A Boost To East Africa’s Grain Trade As Pioneering Aflatoxin Decontamination Plants Are Unveiled (Africa.com)

EAC upbeat on local production of antibiotics (The Citizen)

COMESA and IOC Renew Cooperation (COMESA)

World Bank, ECOWAS fund 2m broiler production; initiative to create 300,000 jobs (The Business & Financial Times)

The World Bank and ECOWAS will this year fund the production of two million broilers to reduce Ghana’s poultry imports – which are in excess of US$600million per annum. The programme is being implemented by the West Africa Food System Resilience Programme (FSRP), aimed to increase local poultry production while striving for self-sufficiency in the sector. The project implementer, FSRP, indicates it is currently finalising the review of submissions received under the auspices of ECOWAS, and successful poultry farmers will soon receive support to enhance production.

Approximately three hundred thousand Ghanaians are expected to directly benefit from the project, with over one million estimated as indirect beneficiaries of the US$150million ECOWAS project. The five-year project addresses common natural phenomena affecting food production in the sub-region, aiming to strengthen food system risk management in collaboration with ECOWAS and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA). Ghana currently controls 15 percent of national poultry needs, with locals providing slightly in excess of 50,000 tonnes annually.

Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali to decide fate of Ghanaian traders following ECOWAS ‘exit’ (MyJoyOnline)

There’s a looming diplomatic row as Burkina Faso’s Military leader Ibrahim Traoré has disclosed that his country will consult Mali and Niger to take a final decision on whether to allow Ghanaian traders and other West African nationals to do business in their countries. He said a final determination would be made on the matter as consultation would first have to be made by leaders of Niger Mali and Burkina Faso.

The three nations officially announced last week that they were departing from the sub-regional ECOWAS trading bloc. This raised fears from the Ghana Union of Traders (GUTA) which said its members import vegetables and other livestock from Mali Burkina Faso and Niger would be affected. “This thing is going to affect us more than the other member states. We should bypass the ECOWAS to find an immediate solution,” Dr Joseph Obeng, President of the Union told Joy News.

He added “the cross border trading activities that goes on is going to be impacted negatively. Look at the cola nut that we ship to Niger, the onions that we bring from there and the tomatoes that we bring in. “Also consider the bulk of things that the Burkinabes come to buy from us [in Ghana] so definitely it’s going to have a negative impact”.

ECOWAS to lose almost 69 million euros annually due to withdrawal of three countries (Azernews.Az)

The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) will lose over about 45 billion West African CFA francs (more than 68.6 million euros) each year due to the withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from the union, Azernews reports, citing the Minister of Economy and Finance of Burkina Faso, Abubakar Nakanabo. “ECOWAS will also suffer because the transition from 15 to 12 countries [within the association] will inevitably lead to a loss of income,” the minister said in an interview with the AIB news agency.

Investment Policy Review of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UNCTAD)

Dr Christian Sewordor Mensah: Assessing the African Union’s Achievement of Food Security Objectives (MyJoyOnline)

Food security has been an enduring challenge for many African countries due to a variety of factors such as climate change, limited access to modern agricultural technologies, inadequate infrastructure, and political instability. Recognizing the urgency of addressing this issue, the African Union (AU) has established food security objectives to promote sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agricultural systems. This essay aims to assess the progress made by the AU in achieving its food security objectives, examining the interventions implemented, successes achieved, and areas where further improvement is required.

Laying foundation for digital revolution in Africa’s food systems (Africa Renewal)

According to the 2023 Africa Agriculture Status Report, “Empowering Africa’s Food Systems for the Future,” digital technologies will be key in addressing the three persistent problems in Africa’s agricultural industry — inefficiency, exclusivity, and unsustainability. The report is by AGRA (Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa – an Africa-led organisation that seeks to catalyze agriculture transformation on the continent through innovation.

There is already evidence that Africa’s agriculture is on the way to becoming more efficient, inclusive and sustainable, the report observes. But, in spite of the technological gains, food insecurity is worsening in Africa as chronic undernourishment increases and numerous countries face acute food shortage triggered by a combination of factors, including the Ukraine crisis and climate change. The report itself aptly captures this situation. In 2022, for instance, the prevalence of under-nutrition in Africa was 19.7 per cent, a slight increase from 2021, the report shows.

Onafriq’s vision for a borderless financial world takes root (The Business & Financial Times)

In the ever-evolving landscape of financial technology, Onafriq is at the forefront, championing the vision of a borderless world for financial transactions. This ambitious goal aims to simplify cross-border payments, making them as effortless as local calls. In the heart of this revolution is Ghana, where Onafriq is implementing its mission to eliminate barriers to cross-border transactions.

Working hand in hand with partners, Onafriq is providing a comprehensive platform for clients with business interests spanning not only within Ghana, but also in East Africa. “Our goal is to break down the barriers that have traditionally limited cross-border transactions, allowing businesses and individuals to transact seamlessly across different geographical locations,” says Ike S. Anison, the Country Director of Onafriq, in an exclusive interview with the B&FT.

De-risking investments in Africa to unlock the continent’s full potential of public private partnerships (UNECA)

Claver Gatete, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has called for a shift in perspective and a more “intentional and targeted use of foreign direct investments and official development assistance, if Africa’s partnership with Europe is to deliver on the promises of shared prosperity.”

Speaking at the 5th European Corporate Council on Africa and the Middle East (ECAM Council) Summit on the margins of the Italy-Africa Conference in Rome, Italy, Mr. Gatete said this shift should include de-risking investments in key sectors that can unlock the full potential of public private partnerships. The Summit was held on the theme: “Creating a better present to build a greater future for Africa: the role of healthcare and investments.”

“Up to 80 per cent of the initiated infrastructure projects across Africa fail at the feasibility and planning stages. African countries are also faced with unfair risk perceptions that deter investors. We need to reverse this trend,” he noted, adding that to address the current severe fiscal pressures that countries are confronted with, new and innovative financing sources that target investments better to get the most of each dollar or Euro invested are necessary.

A 2023 Report by UNCTAD shows that between 2011 and 2022, combined public-private partnerships resulted in lowering interest rates spread by up to 40 per cent in renewable energy projects in developing countries. However, Africa still only attracts 2 per cent of global renewable energy investments today because the business environment remains unfavorable. “De-risking investments in Africa will make the region a globally competitive investment destination with mutual benefits to Europe, Africa, and the rest of the world,” said Mr Gatete.

Africa carriers beat Americas, European peers in traffic growth (The East African)

African carriers’ traffic grew 38.7 percent in 2023, compared with the year before, ahead of Latin and North American and European airlines. According to the International Air Transport Association (Iata) data, the year was marked by a strong industry-wide recovery, with a rebound of domestic and international travel.

“Despite political and economic challenges, 2023 saw air cargo markets regain ground lost in 2022 after the extraordinary Covid peak in 2021. Although full-year demand was shy of pre-Covid levels by 3.6 percent, the significant strengthening in the past quarter is a sign that markets are stabilising towards more normal demand patterns,” said Mr Willie Walsh, Iata director-general. “That puts the industry on a very solid ground for success in 2024. But, with continued —and in some cases intensifying — instability in geopolitics and economic forces, little should be taken for granted in the months ahead.”

It’s time for African countries to shape the WTO, not just sit in it (African Business)

At the 50th anniversary celebration of the origins of the international trade system in 1998 in Geneva, Nelson Mandela in his speech said: “The developing countries must accept that we want to be fully part of the WTO, and that includes improving the management of the world trading system to ensagrure that our economies do develop.”

Currently, 44 African countries are members of the WTO, with nine further countries holding “observer status”; only two are not affiliated with the WTO at all. African countries currently account for 27% of full members. Notably, the vast majority of these countries joined the WTO before China, which became a member in 2001.

Despite this, not much has changed for Africa within the world trading system over the past 30 years. If anything, it has worsened. In 2023, the African continent accounted for 2.7% of world exports. Back in 1973, that share was 4.8%. Meanwhile, the continent’s share of world imports is higher than exports today at 2.9%, but in 1973 it was lower at 3.9%.

I will revive free-trade agreement among Commonwealth countries - Foreign Affairs Minister (Ghana News Agency)

Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has pledged to revive the Free-trade Agreement among Commonwealth countries if elected as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. She said a successful free-trade agreement among member states would enhance integration and participation in global and regional supply chains and boost their participation in the multilateral trading system.

The initiative could also be a model for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members for a synergic mix of regional and multilateral trade integration as the Organisation struggled to conclude agreements to ensure its revitalisation. Madam Botchwey said this in Accra at a lecture on the topic: “A Vision for a New Commonwealth in a Fast-Evolving World.”

African Union’s entry into G-20 led to debate on UN reforms, says Indian minister Jaishankar (The Straits Times)

India’s presidency of the G-20 grouping provided an opportunity for the developing world to unite at a global forum, said Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. He noted that a key achievement at the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi in 2023 was the admission of the African Union as a permanent member of the group, which focuses on global economic and finance governance.

Dr Jaishankar made the comments at the launch of a book, India And The Future Of G20: Shaping Policies For A Better World, by the Institute of South Asian Studies (Isas) at the National University of Singapore (NUS). “We are in a singular position of four developing countries having back-to-back presidency of the G-20. We hope to make the most of this,” said Dr Jaishankar at the book launch in New Delhi on Feb 2.

BRICS Driving Emerging New Global Architecture (Modern Diplomacy)

Italy to collaborate with the African Development Bank Group as it unveils its $5.95 billion strategic plan for Africa (AfDB)

Chair introduces draft text for agriculture negotiations in run-up to MC13 (WTO)

At a meeting of the agriculture negotiating body on 30 January open to all delegations, the Chair, Ambassador Alparslan Acarsoy of Türkiye, introduced a draft negotiating text for members’ consideration. Trade officials present welcomed the draft, which they said could serve as a useful basis for the negotiations among WTO members ahead of the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), from 26 to 29 February.

In the area of improvements to market access, the text again suggests that members agree on “modalities” by MC14, with a view to maintaining balance across different negotiating topics. The Chair recalled the mandate to negotiate a “special safeguard mechanism” and noted that members continue to differ on whether progress in this area should be linked to improvements in market access for agricultural goods.

Energy transition: Charting a fair course for fishing fleets (UNCTAD)

Global fishing fleets, powered mainly by fossil fuels such as marine diesel, emit between 0.1% to 0.5% of global carbon emissions, or up to 159 million tons annually, according to the latest available data.

The fisheries sector, crucial for the livelihoods of more than 40 million people worldwide, faces escalating threats from climate change. These include rising sea levels and warming waters that jeopardize fishing ports and deplete fish stocks. The risks are particularly high for developing countries, where small-scale and artisanal fishing prevails. Yet the fishing industry lacks comprehensive global targets and guidelines for transitioning to cleaner energy, a new UNCTAD report highlights.

The report covers a range of motorized fishing operations, from pre-harvesting to landing, and the infrastructure involved. It assesses the opportunities and challenges of adopting alternative fuels, emphasizing the need to ensure a “just” energy transition that doesn’t disproportionately affect vulnerable countries or fishing communities.

“The energy transition of fishing fleets presents a critical and urgent global issue as nations, and particularly developing countries, commit to net-zero targets and climate action,” says David Vivas Eugui, chief of UNCTAD’s ocean and circular economy section.

Growth continuing at a modest pace through 2025, inflation declining to central bank targets (OECD)

Global growth is holding up, while the pace of growth remains uneven across countries and regions, and inflation is still above targets, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook. The Outlook projects global GDP growth of 2.9% in 2024 and a slight improvement to 3.0% in 2025, broadly in line with the previous OECD projections from November 2023. Asia is expected to continue to account for the bulk of global growth in 2024-25, as it did in 2023.

“The global economy has shown real resilience amid the high inflation of the past two years and the necessary monetary policy tightening. Growth has held up, and we expect inflation to be back to central bank targets by the end of 2025 in most G20 economies,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said.

Unlocking new crisis response tools to build a more resilient future (World Bank Blog)

FAO Food Price Index down again in January led by lower wheat and maize prices (FAO)


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