Corporate Council on Africa and the U.S. Mission to the African Union hosted the U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Forum on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa on February 11-12, 2019. The Forum is designed to be a high-level event geared towards supporting private sector engagement on the AfCFTA and driving greater U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and business engagement.
The Forum – linked to the AU and the broader African continental and global trade agenda – will complement the AU Summit by engaging the private sector – both African and U.S. – and will fill an important void. Currently, the AU runs an African Continental Free Trade Business Forum for African companies, and the EU has held six EU-African Business Forums. Africa is an important economic partner of the United States, yet there is no continent-wide event with American businesses and the AU, despite the leading role that American companies play as major investors in Africa's fastest-growing economies and sectors
The Forum aimed to:
- Provide a platform for a public and private sector dialogue among U.S. and African government officials and private sector leaders
- Expand opportunities for partnerships between businesses from the United States and Africa through meeting facilitation
- Create an avenue for U.S. and African businesses to engage on and support the implementation of the AfCFTA
- Explore the future of U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship,the final years of AGOA, the implications of the new U.S.-Africa strategy and the potential impact of the proposed free trade agreements (FTAs).
- Support and facilitate CCA members' interests on the continent
Briefing journalists, U.S Ambassador to the African Union, Mary Beth Leonard, recalled the long history of trade ties between the United States and Africa and expressed the desire to further deepen them.
She added that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement has become a reality and is a real game changer for the way that international and U.S business looks this continent by creating more opportunity to both.
President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa, Florizelle Liser, said on “we have a stake in supporting African regional integration in creating larger market and businesses that allow them to take advantage of economies of scale and to draw Africa into regional and global value chains.”
A lot is happening here in Ethiopia and the export range products to the US market is an example to what Africa can do and is doing across the continent, she added.
AU Trade and Industry Commissioner, Albert Muchanga said work is underway to develop regional value and supply chains as well as creating more stable and predictable policy framework to guide business decision and strategies on investing and trading in Africa.
He pointed out that work is advancing on liberalization of trade in goods and services as well as establishment of a payment and settlement platform that will give operational content to the agreement coming into force.
“Through the African Continental Free Trade Area, we are offering large economies of scale and scope to the private sector,” he said, adding that the content trade liberalization and continental integration gives the incentives to invest in larger scale and longer period.
Some forty-nine countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, and 18 of the 22 needed to bring it into force have already ratified it.
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The leadership of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) elected Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh, last Friday as its new president, replacing Nana Dr. Appiagyei Dankawoso I from Ghana, whose tenure expired. Friday’s successful election was hard fought with four Chamber of Commerce leaders vying for the presidency.
Those elected as members of the Executive Council include Engineer Melaku Ezezew (Ethiopia), Farman Toure (Cote d”Ivoire), Dr. Appiagyei Dankawoso I, Olivier Bastienne (Seychelles), Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (Nigeria), Jean Ibombot (Congo), Mohamed Drissi (Morocco).
A statement issued late Friday night by the PACCI Executive Director, Kebour Ghenna, said the new leadership took over immediately after announcing the election results.
Mr. Kebour said as per the Executive Council mandate, and in keeping with the By-laws of the PACCI, the 2019/2021 Executive Council will serve from February 1, 2019 to January 31 2021.
PACCI works closely with regional and continental organizations, such as the AUC to act as an effective intermediary between business and trade experts and international and UN trade organizations. PACCI and the Chamber network are active in promoting a range of key business related policy initiatives and in developing concrete activities and projects related to those policies.
While making his opening remarks, President Kagame welcomed to the Assembly, the new leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo i.e. H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, and of Madagascar, H.E. Andry Rajoelina. President Kagame commended Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia for signing the instrument for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during this Summit, and encouraged those signatories who have not yet ratified to do so, at the earliest opportunity.
Regarding the efforts made towards sustainable financing of the Union, President Kagame remarked that, the relaunched Peace Fund now stands at $89 million dollars, with 50 Member States contributing. “This demonstrates the force of our collective resolve and ability”, he commented.
Today marked the end of Rwanda’s chairpersonship of the Union and President Kagame handed over to President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt during the opening ceremony.
President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi called for creation of more job opportunities, and encouraged investments. The Chairperson of the African Union emphasized the need to resolve the ongoing challenges in Africa, particularly terrorism and extremism.
On his part while speaking at the opening ceremony, the AUC Chairperson Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that the Commission is excited to build on the continental priorities under Egypt's leadership. The Chairperson noted progress in democratic practices across the continent. He stated that in all elections in Africa, the Commission has endeavoured to provide the necessary support and to ensure the best possible accompaniment to Member States engaged in often difficult electoral processes. The AUC Chairperson expressed his satisfaction with the recent Peace Agreement and peace-building efforts between the Central African Republic’s Government and armed groups under the umbrella of the African Union.
Talking about the institutional reform of the AU, the Chairperson of the Commission noted steady progress towards financial autonomy and accountability within the Union.”Reform is irreversible”, he said.
The Assembly was addressed by the UN Secretary General António Guterres who remarked that the AU and UN are working together successfully across the continent, with Africa firmly in the lead, and there was a need to do more to strengthen the partnership. Mr. Guterres further stated that “Africa hosts nearly a third of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. Despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, Africa’s governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need”.
Other leaders to address the Assembly included by Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States and the President of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. Invited guests who addressed the meeting were Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Mr Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mr. Gianni Infantino, FIFA President.
The results of the election for the Bureau of the Assembly for 2019 were announced as follows:
1. AU Chairperson: Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt;
2. 1st Vice Chairperson: Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa;
3. 2nd Vice Chairperson: Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
4. 3rd Vice Chairperson: Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of the Niger;
5. 4th Vice Chairperson: Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda (Rapporteur).
The Chairperson of the African Union for 2020 will be H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa.
The Summit was being held under the 2019 theme; “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced displacement in Africa”.
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It is refreshing to see that South Africa has finally articulated its resolve through approving the agreement for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area. The country will continue to champion the socio-economic transformation of Africa.
On 6 December 2018, the South African Parliament assured the 54-member states of the African Union that it is committed to promoting intra-African trade which will be based on equal partnerships and mutual opportunities. The country becomes one of the recent African states to ratify the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The country’s position on the continent is perceived to be one of leadership through its economic dominance, thus the approval by Parliament of the transcontinental free trade area agreement will inspire countries which are part of its trade regimes (such as the Southern African Customs Union and Southern African Development Community countries) to ratify the agreement. At present, SADC countries such as Seychelles have already begun domestic consultations with key stakeholders such as the private sector on the agreement.
To date, 49 countries out of 55 have signed the agreement for the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area. And 18 countries out of the 49 have either deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission chairperson or have had parliamentary approval and will deposit their instruments in 2019. The 15 countries are as follows, according to regional or geographic representation (not Regional Economic Communities membership representation):
Southern Africa: (1) eSwatini*, (2) Namibia, (3) South Africa*, (4) the Democratic Republic of Congo,
East Africa: (5) Djibouti, (6) Kenya*, (7) Rwanda*, and (8) Uganda*,
West Africa: (9) Cote D’Ivoire, (10) Ghana*, (11) Guinea, (12) Mali, (13) Mauritania; (14) Senegal, (15) Sierra Leone; (16) Togo;
Central Africa: (17) Chad* and (18) Niger*
North Africa: None has ratified, and only some are signatories of, the Kigali Declaration on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
(*Denotes countries that have deposited their instruments of ratification with the African Union Commission chairperson.)
For the African Continental Free Trade Area to be implemented 22 ratifications are required, and the African Union Commission is optimistic that this will be attained by March. The achievement of above 80% turnout in the first year of signing ratifications signifies an important milestone towards realising the objective of creating one African market.
Despite a plethora of scholarly literature on the potential benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area, it is too early to evaluate whether the agreement will be feasible or if it offers the economic prospects the African Union Commission claims it will yield considering the current transcontinental infrastructural position. Worthy of note is that, at present, there is a “basket” of several multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements in sub-Saharan Africa, which have lowered trade tariffs among countries and regions. However, due to overlapping membership, some of these agreements are not yielding the envisioned economic and trade-related-outcomes.
Overlapping membership refers to countries having membership in two or more regional trade agreements with concurrent goals of trade and economic liberalisation. This a prevalent phenomenon in Africa, which is affecting the implementation of rules of origin, which are legal mechanisms that regional trade agreements articulate to enhance intra-regional trade agreement trade. The African Continental Free Trade Area “contains a rendezvous clause in which the state parties undertake to continue negotiations in the outstanding areas”.
There is an incorporated schedule for negotiations on tariffs, rules of origins and the priority services sectors, which are yet to be agreed upon and approved by member states. It appears that for the foreseeable future, the regional economic communities will continue to implement their own regional agendas.
Academics, NGOs, governments and diverse businesses are trying to stem food loss in sub-Saharan Africa, while creating conditions for farmers to make a decent living.
Annual food losses for fruits and vegetables are an estimated 40 to 50 percent.
These losses have devastating ripples through rural communities. In addition to causing low farmer incomes, it is a major reason why hunger, malnourishment and broader economic poverty are endemic in rural Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest concentration of poor people in the world, most of them agriculture-dependent populations living in rural areas.
Yet, despite these sobering statistics, relatively little has been done to curb post-harvest food losses in Africa in recent decades. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 95 percent of agricultural research investments in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 30 years have been directed to increasing productivity, with only five percent aimed at reducing food losses.
“For too long, food losses have been a blind spot in the development agenda,” says Toby Peters, an expert on food cooling technologies and Professor in the Cold Economy at the UK-based Birmingham Energy Institute.
But slowly, momentum is shifting. Advances in affordable off-grid cold storage technologies, combined with new initiatives to help rural farmers pool their resources, are creating ripe opportunities to reshape Africa’s rural food systems and cut food losses. Academics, NGOs, governments and diverse businesses — ranging from corporate giants like Coca-Cola to startups like InspiraFarms and Twiga Foods — are all jumping in.
It is a two-step effort. The first step is helping rural farmers gain access to cooling technologies — many running on solar power. The second is helping farmers use scale — by pooling and cooling their crops — to gain critical leverage in deciding when and to whom they sell their goods.