Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

Settling on funding solutions for expedited grid infrastructure set as a Just Energy Transition Investment Plan priority (Engineering News)

Finalising funding solutions for the expedited expansion of South Africa’s electricity transmission grid has been identified as a key priority for the Just Energy Transition (JET) project management unit (PMU), which is located within the Presidency. The unit is overseeing the implementation of the country’s JET Investment Plan (JET-IP), which was approved in 2022 with the goal of stimulating R1.5-trillion (about $80-billion) in clean electricity, new energy vehicles and green-hydrogen investments, while also supporting workers and communities whose lives and livelihoods will be made vulnerable by the transition.

The JET-IP has received grant and concessional-loan pledges worth $11.6-billion from several developed countries. However, there is growing criticism over the lack of visible projects, with most of the concessional debt having flowed into the general fiscus in the form of policy loans and the bulk of the grant funding approvals having been made in favour of consultants rather than communities.

NLC protests: Why Nigeria’s economy is in such a mess (BBC)

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation, leading to widespread hardship and anger. The trade union umbrella group, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), held protests in the main cities on Tuesday, calling for more action from the government. Like many nations, Nigeria has experienced economic shocks from beyond its shores in recent years, but there are also issues specific to the country, partly driven by the reforms introduced by President Bola Tinubu when he took office last May. Overall, annual inflation, which is the average rate at which prices go up, is now close to 30% - the highest figure in nearly three decades. The cost of food has risen even more - by 35%.

New Malawi Economic Monitor Calls for Commitment to Economic Reforms to Sustain the Emerging Recovery (World Bank)

Malawi’s medium-term growth outlook is improving because of bold reforms undertaken by the government in 2023 to stabilize the economy, although other numerous downside risks related to climate change, continued foreign exchange challenges, delays in the implementation of key macro-fiscal and structural reforms persist. Growth is therefore expected to increase only moderately in 2024, according to the latest World Bank Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM). The MEM includes a set of recommendations, including creating the foundations for export-led growth by investing in agricultural commercialization, continuing reforms to the Affordable Input Program, and policy support for exporting industries.

Plan to Turn EAC Into a Confederation With One Constitution Revealed (Kenyans.co.ke)

The East African Community (EAC) Affairs Principle Secretary (PS) Abdi Dubat has revealed that a plan is underway to transform the East African Community states into a political confederation. Speaking during an interview at Spice FM on Tuesday, February 27, Dubat stated that EAC was in the process of formulating a Constitution to govern the confederation. According to the PS, a committee was tasked with gathering information and conducting stakeholder engagement in all the member states, before making the first draft of the Constitution.

African Development Bank approves $150 million Regional Trade Finance Unfunded Risk Participation Agreement facility for Eastern and Southern African Trade & Development Bank (TDB) (Africa.com)

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved a $150 million Trade Finance Unfunded Risk Participation Agreement facility between the African Development Bank and Trade & Development Bank (TDB). The agreement is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, promote regional integration and contribute to the reduction of the trade finance gap in Africa, in line with the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

African Development Bank will provide guarantee cover of 50% and up to 75% for transactions in low-income countries and transition states on a risk share basis with TDB to a number of qualifying local and regional banks in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, which are active in the trade finance sector. The facility is expected to support about $1.8 billion of trade over the next three years.

ECOMOF 2024: UBA Affirms Pledge to Stimulate African Economic Expansion (UBA)

Africa’s Global Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to spearhead economic growth across the continent through targeted policies aimed at maximising the benefits derived from the mining and oil sectors. According to Chief Executive Officer, UBA Africa, Abiola Bawuah, who spoke at the just concluded 4th ECOWAS Mining and Petroleum Forum (ECOMOF 2024), by formulating and advocating investor-friendly policies by the sovereigns and financial intermediation and supports provided by UBA, the mining sector would be catalysed and transformed into robust economic pillars contributing substantially to the country’s gross domestic product.

Local reactions to the withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger from ECOWAS (Global Voices)

A few weeks before withdrawing from ECOWAS, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, all currently governed by military regimes and at the time under sanction by ECOWAS, had announced the creation of a military bloc called the Alliance of Sahel States (AoSS, or AES in French). January 28, 2024 marked the beginning of a major diplomatic crisis at the heart of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as three of its member states— Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger —withdrew from the institution with immediate effect.

Reactions from political actors such as civil society in the remaining ECOWAS countries were swift and varied. In an article in the Ivorian news site Koaci, former Nigerian senator and human rights activist Shehu Sani was quoted as expressing regret at the decision by these military regimes, which, in his view, reflected a lack of understanding among the leaders.

See also: How will Niger benefit from lifted ECOWAS sanctions? (DW)

African leaders demand financial systems reform; launch ‘Africa Club’ at 37th African Union Summit (Down To Earth)

The final leg of the 37th African Union Summit concluded on February 18, 2024. Heads of states and governments of the member countries of the African Union (AU) convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to deliberate upon issues of education, climate, economy and more.

It is widely known that countries from Africa have made minimal contributions to today’s climate crisis, yet suffer disproportionately from its impacts. African governments have increasingly relied on using public finance for mitigation efforts, often at the cost of other pressing national priorities, including the implementation of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The need to increase access to better quality finance for climate and development efforts in developing countries has grown in recent years. For the same, there has been growing recognition of the need to make changes to the global financial system, which includes the interlinkages between various actors such as international financial institutions, economic governance and financial regulatory structures, and make them fit for purpose, especially to address the financing needs of developing countries.

President Oramah delivers 8th Goddy Jidenma biennial lecture (Afreximbank)

Delivering a lecture titled “The Trade Route to Poverty Reduction in Africa in a De-globalising World” at the Eighth Biennial Lecture of the Goddy Jidenma Foundation in Lagos on Friday, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank, noted that “the world is de-globalising at an unprecedented pace, and the implications for developing countries could be dire.”

Prof. Oramah told guests that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provided an opportunity for Africa to take its destiny into its own hands by opening regional supply chains that would foster economic growth and development. As a solution to the 42 fragmented payment systems across Africa, Afreximbank, in partnership with the AUC and the AfCFTA Secretariat, had launched the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), which domesticates all intra-African trade payments. Afreximbank was supporting that system with a $3-billion settlement fund. By May 2024, an African currency trading platform would also be launched under the auspices of PAPSS.

GBIS 2024 Opening Remarks Underscore Role of Collective Progress (Global Black Impact Summit)

There is a need for inspirational leaders who can guide the global Black community during times of crisis, Bermuda’s Minister of Economy and Labor Jason Hayward stated during the opening of Global Black Impact Summit (GBIS) on February 27 in Dubai. Delivering the opening remarks, Minister Hayward emphasized the importance of collective progress, stating, “True liberation and empowerment can only be achieved through collective progress. We must find a way to uplift the entire community.”

African Energy Transition Takes Center Stage at GBIS (Energy Capital & Power)

At the Global Black Impact Summit in Dubai on February 27, a panel discussion on energy transition, moderated by NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, focused on Africa’s pivotal position in the global energy arena. The dialogue commenced with an exchange between Ayuk and Energy Analyst Amena Bakr. “In energy, we have to tell our own story,” stated Bakr, highlighting the need for African countries to assert their right to develop renewable energy resources while balancing concerns about oil and gas exploitation. She pointed out the disparity in emissions between more developed countries and Africa, where only 3% of global emissions originate.

Reversing the decline in LDCs’ services exports post-pandemic (Trade for Development News)

Although the services sector has emerged as a new engine of economic growth, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have severely affected services exports from the least developed countries (LDCs), with an approximate loss of almost USD29 billion in foregone exports over the past three years. While global services exports have rebounded from the shock of COVID-19, the recovery in the LDCs is lagging. Urgent actions by the LDCs and their trading and development partners to improve utilization of the WTO Services Waiver, incentivize foreign direct investment (FDI) and technology transfer, promote regional trade initiatives, leverage Aid for Trade, and address the digital divide can help reverse this trend, enabling the LDCs to benefit from a services-led transformation.

Bangladesh’s upcoming graduation from LDC status, its amended provisions for the protection of Patents and its ongoing use of the WTO TRIPS flexibilities (tralac)

Graduation from LDC status represents an important milestone in the development of LDC countries. LDCs have however at the same time pointed out the challenges they face trying to integrate into the global economy while international support measures are being phased out. The WTO’s LDC group has therefore been pursuing a smooth transition mechanism in the WTO. The aim of this is to extend LDC-specific preferences, provisions, waivers and exemptions after graduation. 

Bangladesh’s graduation from LDC status is scheduled for 26 November 2026. The new Bangladesh Patents Act is a significant development which both developing countries and LDCs should follow with interest. In the context of the WTO and the TRIPS Agreement, there appears to be a possibility that challenges may be raised in respect of both the content of the new law and the manner in which its provisions will be applied in practice. The fact that it appears to have been based on the need to protect a specific national industry (pharmaceuticals) could be a complication factor.

Digitalising MC13: Global institutions sign pact to promote digital trade (Trade Finance Global)

A group of leading global institutions signed an agreement to promote a unified goal of developing a neutral, open, non-profit, and inclusive digital platform for sharing trade data. This initiative aims to dismantle existing barriers and enhance inclusivity and participation by significantly reducing the costs and time involved in cross-border trade. The agreement, known as the Teaming Agreement, was finalised during the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the WTO in Abu Dhabi. If implemented effectively, the economic impact of this agreement could be significant, potentially reducing trade transaction costs by 80%, narrowing the trade finance gap by 50%, shortening some cross-border processing times from 25 days to just one day, and boosting SME efficiency by 35%.

New disciplines on good regulatory practice for services trade enter into force (WTO)

The entry into force of new disciplines on services domestic regulation, announced at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on 27 February, is expected to lower trade costs by over USD 125 billion worldwide. WTO members participating in the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation began incorporating the new disciplines on good regulatory practice into their existing services commitments once the disciplines were successfully concluded in December 2021. The certification process for these disciplines has now been completed for 52 WTO members, with more expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

WTO members seek convergence on fisheries subsidies and agriculture at MC13 (WTO)

WTO members today (27 February) engaged in intense discussions to get closer to meaningful outcomes on fisheries subsidies and agriculture at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi. Ministers participated in dedicated meetings on both issues followed by convergence-building sessions to seek to bridge the remaining gaps. Members also endorsed the entry into force of new disciplines on services domestic regulation and advanced work on plastics pollution, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and environmental sustainability.

Members of three environmental initiatives share plans for next phase of work at MC13 (WTO)

Co-sponsors of the three environmental initiatives at the WTO presented on 27 February, at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi, the next steps they are taking to advance work on plastics pollution, environmental sustainability, and fossil fuel subsidy reform, building on the extensive analytical work and experience sharing they have conducted since MC12.

“I welcome the substantive work carried out by the initiatives over the last two years, with the support of stakeholders and experts in the environment community. They are an example of how ambitious WTO members are finding innovative ways to reinforce the WTO’s deliberative function to address 21st century challenges,” DG Okonjo-Iweala said in remarks released to mark the launch of the MC13 outcomes by the three environmental initiatives — the Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Sustainable Plastics Trade (DPP), the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), and the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (FFSR) Initiative.

“Each of the three environmental initiatives are exploring the interaction between trade and sustainability in their respective areas of work. Yesterday we had a conversation with the full membership about trade and sustainable development, including trade and industrial policy and policy space for industrial development. Fisheries subsidies is another sustainability item we are dealing with. There are a lot of complementarities among these initiatives and the ongoing work at MC13,” DDG Paugam said at the close of the three back-to-back press conferences conducted respectively by each group.

PH backs advancement of sustainable trade at WTO meet (Philippine News Agency)

The Philippines supports the endorsement of the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate’s Framework on Voluntary Actions to address trade-related climate challenges at the World Trade Organization (WTO) 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in the United Arab Emirates. “We believe that the work of the Coalition complements the existing work at the WTO on trade and sustainable development. Thus, we welcome discussions and thematic sessions on the transfer of goods and technologies that support climate adaptation and mitigation. In line with this, we must also ensure a fair and just transition towards achieving our climate goals so that no one will be left behind,” Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, who is leading the Philippine delegation at the MC13, said. The Coalition was established in 2023, with the Philippines as one of its founding members. As of this month, it has 34 member countries.

Second Ministerial meeting of the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate (COTMC)

A key outcome of the meeting was the endorsement of a communiqué, accompanied by a Menu of Voluntary Actions, with a clear message for the WTO to pursue ambitious commitments in support of the global response to the climate crisis. It also calls upon all WTO Members to accept the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, underscoring the critical role of sustainable practices in trade.

5 things you should know about ‘clean energy’ minerals and the dirty process of mining them (UN News)

Although many will argue that we’re not moving fast enough to deal with the climate emergency, the energy sector is starting to turn away from energy sources that rely on big, dirty power stations, sending plumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and turn to cleaner sources such as solar and wind. However, to power a low-emission world, we will need to mine a lot more minerals, and this is often a dirty process. Here is what to know about “energy transition minerals” and how we can limit the damage caused by getting them out of the ground.

World unites at UN Environment Assembly to combat ‘triple planetary crisis’ (UN News)

The latest meeting of the “world’s parliament on the environment” opened in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday with a clear call for stronger global action to address the “triple planetary crisis” of  climate change,  nature loss and pollution. More than 7,000 delegates from 182 countries are scheduled to take part in the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) which runs through Friday. Delegates are convening in the Kenyan capital as climate change intensifies, a million species face the risk of extinction, and pollution remains among the world’s leading causes of premature death.

Financing Nature-based Solutions for a better future (UNEP)

The world has gathered here in Nairobi to seek inclusive multilateral solutions to the triple planetary crisis: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss and the crisis of pollution and waste. Globally, protection-related Nature-based Solutions represent roughly 80 per cent of additional land area needed by 2030 but require only 20 per cent of additional finance.

Africa workshop brings together key players to pool knowledge and better tackle illegal wildlife trade (EIA)

Sessions during the first day included a presentation by an EIA Senior Intelligence Analyst on the state of wildlife trafficking in West and Central Africa, an open and lively discussion by attendees on their own experiences of tackling illegal wildlife trade – especially the key role played by corruption – and a presentation on illegal trade in the Republic of the Congo by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Welcoming attendees on Monday, Justin Gosling, EIA Senior Project Coordinator (Securing Criminal Justice in West and Central Africa), outlined how East Africa was previously a continental hub for the trafficking of wildlife contraband such as elephant ivory and pangolin scales, but that improved enforcement in that region spurred much of the criminal activity to relocate elsewhere.

Brazil’s Lula spotlights Global South in G20 presidency (SaltWire)

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has set his sights on giving the Global South a larger voice in world decision-making, using his country’s presidency this year of the G20 group of largest economies. Lula’s call for reform of global governance and the updating of the eight-decades-old United Nations system was amplified at last week’s meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had already taken strides in this direction by insisting that the African Union should be a formal member of the G20, citing the example of the European Union. The AU will participate fully in this year’s G20 on behalf of African nations. The push continues this week as G20 finance ministers meet in Sao Paulo.

G-20 Surveillance Note: G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting, São Paulo, Brazil, February 2024 (IMF)

The global economy appears on track for a soft landing, but activity and growth prospects remain weak. The cyclical position of G-20 countries has proven stronger than previously anticipated as disinflation has so far proceeded without triggering recession and emerging market economies have demonstrated improved resilience.

Looking ahead monetary policy is expected to loosen somewhat in 2024. However, medium-term growth prospects remain subdued—reflecting secular trends and challenges including weak productivity growth, ageing, geoeconomic fragmentation and climate vulnerabilities. These trends also undermine income convergence and increase the vulnerability of economies to external shocks.

With the economic recovery on firmer footing, risks to the outlook are more balanced. On the upside, global growth could be higher than expected if the pace of disinflation is faster than anticipated and brings forward monetary easing, or fiscal consolidation is more gradual than initially envisaged. On the downside, additional commodity price spikes, persistent labor market tightness, or renewed supply chain tensions would reignite inflationary pressures.

Climate vulnerabilities also weigh on medium-term global growth prospects, falling disproportionately on Africa, where meaningful demographic dividends have yet to be realized. Even though the pace of globalization has slowed, growth opportunities remain—including from trade in digital services,

Universal connectivity gets a $9 billion private sector boost (UN News)

Around 2.6 billion people remain offline worldwide, according to data from the specialized UN agency, which drives innovation in communications technology. As telecommunications infrastructure forms the backbone of connectivity and digital transformation, it is vital for closing the global digital divide and overcoming development impediments in areas from education and health to government services and trade, the agency said.

To achieve that, ITU has called for $100 billion in overall investments by 2026 to provide the expertise and resources required to extend universal, meaningful connectivity and sustainable digital transformation to every corner of the globe. ITU also launched Partner2Connect in 2021 to reach this goal. Today, more than 400 organizations have committed to investing over $46 billion in the coming years to realize this shared vision.


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