Building capacity to help Africa trade better

tralac Daily News


tralac Daily News

tralac Daily News

Full Quarterly Bulletin - No 311 (South African Reserve Bank)

The real gross value added (GVA) by the primary sector contracted further in the fourth quarter of 2023 due to a further sharp contraction in agricultural output as the production of field crops as well as horticultural and animal products decreased. By contrast, mining output reverted to an increase in the fourth quarter as the production volumes of especially platinum group metals (PGMs), coal, chromium ore and diamonds increased.

South Africa’s trade surplus with the rest of the world narrowed to R88.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 from R181 billion in the third quarter as the value of merchandise imports increased at a faster pace than the value of merchandise and net gold exports. The increase in the value of merchandise imports reflected higher volumes and prices, while that of exports reflected higher prices. South Africa’s terms of trade deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2023 as the rand price of imported goods and services increased more than that of exports.

The value of merchandise exports increased by 0.8% in the fourth quarter of 2023 as increases in the value of manufacturing and agricultural exports outweighed the decrease in mining exports. The lower mining exports reflected a decrease in the export values of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones as well as base metals and articles thereof, which outweighed the higher export value of PGMs. The value of manufacturing exports increased for a sixth consecutive quarter in the fourth quarter of 2023, mainly reflecting higher exports of chemical products; prepared foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco; and paper and articles thereof. Agricultural exports were boosted by the increased exports of fruit, in particular grapes, in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The value of merchandise imports increased by 5.6% in the fourth quarter of 2023 as the value of mining and agricultural imports increased. Mining imports were buoyed by mineral products, reflecting further increases in the imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products, especially distillate fuel (diesel). The value of crude oil imports surged by 85.4% in the fourth quarter of 2023 as both the physical quantity and the realised rand price thereof increased. The value of manufactured imports decreased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2023, largely due to lower imports of machinery and electrical equipment.

Government to work with transport sector for economic growth (SAnews)

“From roads and highways to railways, airports, and seaports, a well-established transportation network not only facilitates the movement of goods and people but also acts as a catalyst for economic development,” Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga said on Tuesday. “It is imperative that policymakers, businesses, and communities work together to prioritise sustainable infrastructure development that meets the needs of present and future generations. Only through concerted efforts can we build a transport infrastructure that drives inclusive and sustainable development for all,” Chikunga said.

Release of Gas Master Plan approved at Cabinet’s last official meeting ahead of May poll (Engineering News)

Cabinet approved the publication of the long-awaited Gas Master Plan for public comment during what was the last formal meeting of the executive ahead of the May 29 election. However, Minister in The Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni indicated that special Cabinet meetings could still be convened should the need arise.

The master plan, Ntshavheni said, was supportive of government’s commitment to diversifying the country’s energy mix away from coal-fired power plants. She added that the document would be used as a policy instrument to guide gas investment in the country, which currently imports gas through a pipeline from southern Mozambique, from fields where production is set to taper before the end of the decade.

“The master plan will enable a natural gas economy that is favourable to investors and can provide an alternative source of energy for the country’s electricity sector.” The Gas Master Plan has been published amid warnings of a “gas cliff” for industrial consumers in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal from mid-2026, at which date Sasol will divert the remaining gas imports from its wells in Mozambique towards its own facilities in Secunda and Sasolburg to help reduce its use of coal and, thus, its carbon emissions.

See also: Metals and engineering industry must find common purpose in negotiations (Engineering News)

State moves to address concerns raised by Nairobi traders (The Star)

The Ministry of Trade has moved quickly to address the recent tax concerns raised by traders in various parts of Nairobi announcing a raft of measures to unlock the stalemate. In a meeting chaired by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at his Karen residence Thursday, the ministry announced that going forward, no further tax increments will be made without consultations with the traders. This comes as a huge reprieve for the traders who have in the past accused the government of imposing taxes without consulting them.

To deal with the issue of counterfeits, the meeting agreed to streamline pre-shipment inspection and how it will be done. Anti-counterfeit Authority (ACA) was also directed to work closely with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to enrich the Certificate of Conformity. In what is also a huge relief for the traders, ACA was directed to release all seized goods within 2 weeks upon verifications.

Kenya ends oil import feud with Uganda (The East African)

Kenya will finally license the Uganda National Oil Company (Unoc), ending months of a major feud that spilled over to the regional court and hurt diplomatic ties between the two countries. Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir on Wednesday said that work is in progress to issue a permit that will allow Unoc to import fuel directly through Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

“You will see Unoc getting a licence and then we will see how to work together because usage of our pipeline is an opportunity for us,” Mr Chirchir said. “They will employ Kenya Pipeline Company’s infrastructure so there will be no loss of opportunity, the transporter will remain to be KPC. We are working closely with Uganda to resolve the challenge.”

Uganda went to the regional court in December last year to fight for the licence that would allow the use of KPC’s infrastructure. The case is yet to be determined but issuing the license is likely to end the case at the regional court as the two countries move to avert a diplomatic fallout.

Government launches digital media campaign to position Kenya as top tourism and tech hub (TechTrendsKE)

The Kenya Government has launched a digital media campaign dubbed, “Let’s Go to Kenya”, to promote the country as a premier destination for tourism, technology, innovation, and investment. The campaign, launched today will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Information Communication and Digital Economy (MoICDE), in collaboration with Konza Technopolis and ICT Authority.

Speaking at the launch event in Nairobi, Permanent Secretary, State Department for Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Digital Economy, Eng. John Kipchumba Tanui said the campaign will highlight Kenya’s scenic beauties, Kenya’s burgeoning tech sector, investment-friendly environment, and the opportunities available for entrepreneurs and investors in tech and tourism. “The Government through the Ministry of ICT and Digital Economy is embarking on a mission to elevate the awareness of Kenya as a premier destination for tourism and investment. We aim to achieve this through the power of technology, working with our partners specifically harnessing the capabilities of digital media platform that’s why we’ve launched the hashtag #LetsGoToKenya digital campaign,” Eng. Tanui said.

New Digital Trade Hub to boost Zambian businesses online (ITC)

The programme, a collaboration between the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Absa Bank Zambia Plc, aims to unlock the potential of online business for growing trade. ‘The initiative represents a significant milestone in our efforts to foster economic development and empower our local entrepreneurs,’ Livingstone Mayor Constance Muleabai said at the launch on 14 March. ‘Our city is also home to a vibrant community of small and medium enterprises striving to succeed in an increasingly digital world,’ she said. ‘Today we take a bold step forward in supporting these businesses on their journey towards ecommerce excellence.’

Ethiopia eyeing e-government, e-commerce for digital transformation (Ethiopian Herald)

Among the digital strategies, e-government and e-commerce are highly contributing to the success of the country’s digital transformation, the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) said. MinT Minister Belete Molla (PhD) made the above remark during the panel discussion held on Tuesday in relation to the performance evaluation forum on mid-term digital transformation 2025.

“Various infrastructure development activities are also made by prioritizing legal frameworks, strategic planning, institutional development, telecom infrastructure expansion in the past three years, thus, attracting a huge amount of local and international investments,” he pointed out. Moreover, issuing digital ID, applying digital payment systems and delivering financial technology services are among the achievements of the strategy, he added. The Ministry has launched over 587 e-governance service and e-commerce platforms, Belete said, adding that currently, pertinent institutions are offering reliable and fast services through deploying digital infrastructures.

Ethiopian officials discuss development of infrastructure projects (TV BRICS)

The country plans to achieve middle-income status by 2030. Speaking on the subject, Ethiopia’s Minister of State for Urban Planning and Infrastructure, Wondimu Seta, emphasised the country’s efforts to ensure building a more resilient and sustainable future, such as developing a regulatory framework that also takes into account the effects of climate change. Seta drew attention to the many ongoing projects that serve as a foundation for future social and economic transformation and should meet current development needs while ensuring long-term sustainability.

Nigeria to grant mining licences only to locally processing firms (The East African)

Nigeria will only grant new mining licences to companies that present a plan on how minerals would be processed locally, under new guidelines being developed, a government spokesperson confirmed on Thursday. This signals a shift from Nigeria’s decades-old policy of exporting raw materials as African governments take steps to extract more value from their solid mineral deposits.

To spur investment, Nigeria will offer investors incentives including tax waivers for importing mining equipment, make it easier to secure electricity generation licences, allow full repatriation of profits and boost security, Segun Tomori, a spokesperson for Nigeria’s minister of Solid Minerals development said. “In exchange, we have to review their plans for setting up a plant and how they would add value to the Nigerian economy,” Tomori said. He did not say when the guidelines would be finalised or come into effect. However, last week the minister of Solid Minerals Development Dele Alake said it was now government policy to make value addition a condition for obtaining licences so as to create jobs and help local communities.

Cocoa crisis plunges Ghana’s trade surplus; currency stability at risk (Norvanreports)

Ghana, the world’s second-largest cocoa producer, is experiencing a significant downturn in its cocoa sector, with export revenues plummeting by nearly one-third to $508.4 million. The decline comes despite a bullish trend in New York cocoa futures, propelled by production setbacks across West Africa due to adverse weather conditions, disease outbreaks, and fertilizer shortages.

The sharp contraction in cocoa export revenues has taken a toll on Ghana’s trade surplus, which contracted by 54% to $392.8 million for the first two months of the year. Coupled with a surge in imports by 26%, the widening trade deficit is putting immense pressure on the Ghanaian cedi, which has depreciated by 8.3% against the US dollar this year. The currency’s dismal performance positions it among the worst-performing African currencies, raising concerns about inflationary pressures, import costs, and foreign investor sentiment.

Navigating these multifaceted economic challenges demands a comprehensive and nuanced policy response. Strengthening cocoa productivity, diversifying export earnings, curbing import growth, managing public debt prudently, and bolstering the resilience of the financial sector are imperative.

Zimbabwe makes headway towards joining Brics bank (The Herald)

Zimbabwe’s bid for admission into the BRICS New Development Bank has been given a huge boost following the recent pledge of support by Russia, South Africa, and now Brazil. Currently, indications are pointing at Zimbabwe, together with Argentina and Saudi Arabia, being officially announced as new members of the NDB at the BRICS summit to be held in South Africa this August.

In an interview yesterday, Brazil’s Secretary for Africa and Middle East in the Ministry of External Relations, Ambassador Carlos Duarte, said Zimbabwe’s admission was an active issue which the bloc was seized with. He said Zimbabwe’s willingness to join the NDB would not affect its ultimate goal to become a full BRICS member and vice versa.

Stats SA has released its first-ever migration profile, which tracks the movements of labour migration in the SADC region (Voice of the Cape)

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has released its first-ever migration profile, which has tracked the movements of labour migration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Speaking on VOC’s In Conversation show on Wednesday, the Chief Director responsible for demographic and population Statistics Diego Iturralde, said the genesis of this report stems from the processes around the negotiation of the global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration, which South Africa signed in 2018.

“One of the objectives of the global compact was to improve data collection of migration in all its forms, and it was recommended that member states who signed the global compact should produce a migration profile report that is comparable in each respective country.”

Comesa installs Smart Gate at Mchinji One-Stop-Boarder-Post (Malawi Nyasa Times)

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has installed a state-of-the-art Smart Gate at Mchinji One Stop Border Post (OSBP) to fast track the clearance system. A Research Fellow at Comesa, Jane Kibiru said during a Media tour at Mchinji OSBP that the gate will address challenges faced by the border like reduce congestion of vehicles entering or exiting the border. “Once operational, the gate is going to help in reducing costs, congestion, as well as time spent by trucks due to overstay at the border,” she said.

“The gate will help in capturing information on traffic that comes into and out of the border,” she said. Mzunga said the gate is intended to be integrated with custom system that MRA uses. Adding that once the integration is done, it will be able to track down clearance of all goods that enter into the OSBP as well as be able to generate the collection of storage fees from motor vehicles or overstayed goods.

Small firms say AfCFTA tariff liberalisation may push them out of business (The East African)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to significantly boost intra-Africa trade when fully implemented, but small businesses in East Africa are not happy about it, as it may not bode well for them. A survey by the East African Business Council (EABC), a lobby for private-sector players in the East African Community (EAC), shows that small businesses in the region are worried that a full take-off of AfCFTA could edge them out of business, unless they change tack.

Battered by a raft of challenges at home and dissatisfied with the progress in the elimination of intra-EAC trade barriers, the small businesses worry they may not withstand the competition from AfCFTA, which could force many of them to close down. “Intense competition arising from AfCFTA tariff liberalisation is likely to drive weaker enterprises out of business; unless they scale up their efficiency levels,” EABC says in the survey co-published with the African Export-Import Bank.

pdf Study on Opportunities and Threats of the AfCFTA to the EAC - Focus On Trade In Goods (1.43 MB)

10 longest bridges in Africa (Business Insider Africa)

Seamless transportation is still a challenge for trade in Africa, and the importance of bridges in addressing this issue cannot be overstated. By connecting previously isolated areas, bridges cut down travel times and costs, making it easier for businesses to move goods and people to access essential services. So it is no surprise that governments across many African countries pour finances in bridge construction projects, due to its role in facilitating trade and stimulating economic growth. Bridges in Africa come in various sizes, designs, and importance, each carrying its own significance for the communities they serve.

McDan Group CEO pleads for African ownership in logistics and transport sectors (The Africa Report)

Foreign dominance in logistics must be countered by local investment to guarantee African ownership over continental trade, says Daniel McKorley, CEO at McDan Group, a Ghanaian transportation and logistics company. While transport and logistics will be essential to realise the continent’s free trade ambitions, Africa’s trade landscape is dominated by foreign-owned air cargo and sea freight companies, perpetuating a cycle of economic dependence on more developed economies and missed opportunities for indigenous African businesses, says Daniel McKorley, CEO at Ghanaian transportation and logistics company McDan Group.

Empowering Africa’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) through Technology Adoption (Africa.com)

Nearly 70% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa invested in technology in the past 12 months to help boost growth and resilience – an indication that SMEs are embracing the positive impact of technology. There are numerous opportunities that unlock the full potential of digitalisation for these businesses and the continent, which means addressing barriers, such as infrastructure, connectivity, and the high cost of implementing technology, and developing best practice frameworks for better collaboration.

These are findings from a new report, titled ‘Levelling the SME Playing Field’, jointly launched by Vodacom Group, Vodafone Group and Safaricom. The report is the sixth research paper under the Africa.connected campaign, which aims to drive sustainable development by closing the digital divides in Africa’s key economic sectors through strategic partnerships.

China is Buying More Agricultural Products From Africa, But There Is Still a Lot of Room For Growth (The China-Global South Project)

Chinese consumers can now buy Kenyan coffee, tea, and avocados — all shipped tariff-free. The latest data show that China is buying more agricultural products from Africa, but for all the Kenyan farm produce heading east, Chinese garlic and fish are also increasingly heading in the opposite direction. In the context of overall China-Africa trade that hardly grew in 2023 while Africa’s trade deficit widened, the agricultural trade segment increased by over 6%, and China is the side holding the trade deficit.

Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman at the Africa Trade Desk Event (USAID)

Today, the African continent is a powerhouse of promise. This year, the continent is poised to be the world’s second fastest-growing region – Africa is home to 12 of the 20 fastest growing economies on the planet. And by 2040, Africa will have the largest workforce in the world – larger than China and India combined. The United States is eager to partner with Africa to harness this potential – helping generate broadly shared opportunity and prosperity that benefits families and communities across the continent, and sustainable growth that benefits economies across the world. To do this, we need to energize our efforts to mobilize the private capital that can advance Africa’s continued transformation.

That’s why the United States is proud to support Prosper Africa, a U.S. Presidential-level initiative to scale trade and investment in Africa. Prosper Africa is strengthening the strategic and economic partnership between the United States and Africa by catalyzing two-way trade and investment flows, forging new private-sector partnerships, and mobilizing large-scale private investment in Africa’s greatest opportunities.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Africa Trade Desk, a joint venture between Prosper Africa and Afritex ventures, which aims to bridge the gap between African agricultural suppliers and U.S. buyers, helping them surmount the physical and logistical hurdles that too often keep them from doing business together.

We’ve found that African producers are eager to sell to the U.S. market, but often lack access to networks of U.S. buyers. And U.S. retailers like Shopify, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Whole Foods are eager to carry a diverse supply of products from across Africa, but similarly lack established connections. The Africa Trade Desk addresses this problem.

By connecting African suppliers with Prosper Africa’s network of over 20,000 U.S. retail buyers, the Trade Desk simplifies the partnership process, making it easier for African and American enterprises to establish mutually beneficial trade relationships that serve both parties’ needs. More than that – the Trade Desk goes beyond just matching buyers with suppliers. It leverages its connections with freight and insurance companies to negotiate lower costs, and makes use of its access to market data to inform business recommendations – providing benefits that would not typically be available to small producers on their own.

How Business Builds Bridges Between the U.S. and Africa (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

The United States and the nations of Africa enjoy a vibrant, multifaced relationship focused on expanding partnerships, global cooperation, and shared prosperity. These countries also share another powerful bond: people. In the 2020 Census, more than 14.4% of Americans self-reported tracing their heritage to the African continent, and these cultural and familial ties provide a source of strength in building bridges through business.

Most small businesses do not export, but when they do, they tend to export to markets closest to them. The reasons to encourage small business owners, who make up 99% of all U.S. entrepreneurs, to consider new markets lie in a staggering statistic: 96% of the world’s consumers live outside the United States. Yet only one percent of all U.S. companies export, and when they do, these exporters are overwhelmingly small businesses, and nearly half of these firms sent the bulk of their goods to Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Japan in 2019. That makes the African diaspora a powerful force for building bridges and expanding our economic partnership with the fast-growing countries across Africa.

The U.S.-Africa Business Center’s mission to expand U.S.-Africa trade and investment led to the launch of Advance with Africa, with its goal of encouraging more U.S. companies—particularly diaspora-led ventures—to play a role in increasing commercial flows, educating them about doing business in Africa and equipping them with the tools to do so.

See also: AfDB, US forge strong partnership on African development (Nigerian Observer)

Members agree on timetable for market access thematic sessions, discuss trade concerns (WTO)

At a meeting of the Committee on Market Access (CMA) on 25-26 March, members agreed on a timetable for thematic sessions in 2024 focusing on supply chain resilience and on how to promote a greener Harmonized System (HS), the system used to classify traded goods, in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO). Members also addressed a high number of trade concerns and elected Mr Kenya Uehara of Japan as interim Chair of the Committee.

Applying digital supply-use tables in developing economies (UNCTAD)

Digitally focused indicators are absent within the System of National Accounts, the standard statistical framework for measuring economic activity. The Digital Supply–Use Tables (Digital SUTs) framework was created to improve the visibility of and information available on digital phenomena while being consistent with the existing national account statistics. The framework has been designed as a derivation from the Supply-Use Tables (SUTs). However, SUTs are not available in many developing countries and often come infrequently with significant time lags.

Riding the circular wave: Entrepreneurs tackle the waste crisis, redefine economies (UNCTAD)

In convenience stores across Chile, customers are bringing reusable containers to fill up on essential products like shampoo, soap and detergent, thanks to refill stations set up by Chilean start-up Algramo, which in Spanish means “by the gram”. Such services are key to tackling the world’s waste problem, including the reliance on single-use plastic products like bottles and containers.

Each year, cities worldwide produce between 2.1 billion and 2.3 billion tonnes of solid waste. The UN warns that a business-as-usual scenario would require two planets by 2030 to meet global production and consumption needs. The make-take-waste economy is closely linked to major global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the soaring costs of energy. The world needs to urgently transition to a more sustainable, circular model to keep products and materials in circulation as long as possible.

An UNCTAD report, “Entrepreneurs riding the wave of circularity”, spotlights companies like Algramo that are pioneering circular business models, reimagining humanity’s relationship with materials and natural resources.

Related: A new holistic view on circular value chains (McKinsey & Company)

Quick links

African island states take fresh step towards joint medicines procurement (WHO | Regional Office for Africa)

Africa is fueling India’s economic ambitions (Norvanreports)

The growth of the South in global finance: New bilateral data and stylised facts (CEPR)

Global Trade Finance in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities (Financial Express)

Is this a pivotal moment for the rise of the middle powers? (WEF)

Is the US Dollar losing its grip? The rise of alternative reserve currencies (Norvanreports)

G20’s Brasilia Meeting: Promoting Inclusive Growth & Gender Equality (EastMojo)

EU Commission proposes common agricultural policy revisions following farmer protests (FreshPlaza)


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