Current Trade News

POST Covid-19 life has begun with smooth trade across Tanzania-Kenya borders after the East African Community (EAC) partner State leaders- Dr John Magufuli and Uhuru Kenyatta initiated a diplomatic gesture.

In sight, the regional apex body of private sector associations and corporate - East African Business Council (EABC) has confirmed that the initiatives by the two leaders were paying with witnessed resumption of smooth trade between the two countries.

Commenting on the flourishing business, EABC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Peter Mathuki, said yesterday that agreements struck at a bilateral meeting of ministers from both sides at Namanga, following the presidential talks are commendable for they have reduced the clearance of cargo at the frontiers.

"The sustainable way to combat the Covid-19 as a region was to deploy an EAC coordinated approach and also economic recovery strategy. If partner states of the EAC work in isolation on Covid-19, it will be costly and take us longer to flatten the curve," pointed out Dr Mathuki, who is also a former East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) member.

At the meeting, the leaders resolved that truck crews first be tested using World Health Organization (WHO) standards in their countries of origin and issued with a 14-day Covid-19 free certificate that one would show during one's journey into another state.

Dr Mathuki also lauded the EAC partners for the increased intra-trade in the bloc, where member states have taken to sourcing final products and raw materials in wake of the disease that was disrupting global business supply chain.

"The EABC appreciates President John Magufuli of Tanzania and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya for reiterating their commitment to the EAC regional integration agenda," said the CEO.

It was President Uhuru, who phoned his Tanzanian counterpart for amicable talk as trade tiff between the two neighbors escalated over Covid-19 testing at the borders.

In the course, the leaders agreed and directed their officials to meet at Namanga on May 22, where they resolved to facilitate a seamless cross-border movement of goods and people to end the stand-off that had led to sanctions imposed on both sides' merchandises.

However, the ministers agreed that each country should create conducive places where the truck drivers could stop for a rest and that such places be equipped with necessary amenities.

They also agreed that the two countries undertake random Covid-19 screening at the designated resting places, said the communique, adding that the testing be done in a transparent manner.

The parties equally resolved that in case of a truck crew tested positive of the disease, the owner of the truck would be allowed to replace the team that would also be screened and their journey allowed to proceed.

At the same time, they reached a consensus to release to the public data on the status of Covid-19 without mentioning the nationality of the infected person.

Tanzania was represented by Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Engineer Isack Kamwelwe, while Kenya was represented by Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works, Mr James Macharia.

Dr Mathuki said that the Namanga one-stop border post remains a strategic entry point for East and Central Africa and termed the diplomatic intervention a positive gesture.

Through its 'EAC Administrative Guidelines to Facilitate Movement of Goods and Services During the Covid-19 Pandemic', the EAC Secretariat urged EAC partner states to treat truck drivers and crew, who test positive for Covid-19 in the host partner state, rather than deport them to the country of origin as that would result in further spread of the disease.

The Secretariat called on partner states to enforce mandatory screening or testing of truck drivers and their crew at border posts, and as well undertake mobile monitoring during transit at selected inland points.

Source: allafrica.com

THE fifth phase government has been setting up a strategy to restore and strengthen key crops in efforts to enable farmers have a wide choice of cultivations, which can boost their economy.
That was said yesterday here by Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa while launching Mkonge House in Tanga region, citing the strategic crops as cotton, coffee, tobacco, and cashew-nuts. The Premier further said: "We have now added sisal and palm crops.
I direct all regional authorities to support potential small, medium and large sisal farmers by counselling and motivating them, so that they fully engage in productive cultivations.
"In the 1960s, Tanzania ranked number one in sisal production in the world, producing over 235,000 tonnes... ... and earned about over 65 per cent of the foreign currency."
According to him, the production dropped to 36,000 tonnes and hence, forces the government to take appropriate measures, which would regain the crop's growth lost glory.
Attending the Mkonge House launch, a facility of the Sisal Board of Tanzania handed back to the citizens, the body informed the Prime Minister that they have been using the media to educate the public on best ways to grow the crop.
They noted to him that their campaign had also been educating the farmers on advantages and opportunities to exploit in sisal production areas of Tanga, Morogoro, Coast, Kilimanjaro and Shinyanga in order to raise their incomes.
Source: allafrica.com
The Rwandan business scene has grown over the last 4 years with about 800,000 Rwandan adults owning a business, the recently released 2020 FinScope Survey Report shows.
The survey established that the number of Rwandans who own businesses had grown by 200,000 from 2016.
Going by the survey's assessment that there are 7.1M adults in the country, it means that 1 among every 9 Rwandan adults owns a business.
Though 53 per cent of the businesses are not formally registered, the report's authors pointed out that the growth in business owners and businesses may indicate the attention given to developing the micro, small and medium business (MSMEs).
The growth of businesses and enterprise is key as small business are key contributors to job creation, value chain development as well as economic growth.
"It is widely acknowledged that MSMEs are significant contributors to job creation, development, and economic growth. Given the crucial role of MSMEs in the national economy, it is in the interest to harness and optimise on this potential by putting into place strategies to mobilise and enable MSME growth and development through access to finance and markets," the report read in part.
Already, the 800,000 business owners are creating jobs for people other than themselves with the survey estimating that they employ a total of 1.2 million people, excluding the business owners themselves.
"Further it contributes to poverty alleviation as survivalist businesses play an essential role, especially as a buffer against slipping into deeper poverty and as such reducing individual and household vulnerability," the report read further.
 
 
According to a study by African Development Bank, 22 per cent of Africa's working-age population are starting businesses in response to projections that Africa will need 122 million new jobs by 2022.
Growth in enterprises and business is expected to enable countries reduce pressure on the government as well as traditional sectors for employment.
In Rwanda, to support enterprises, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has developed an Entrepreneurship Development Policy (EDP) to serve in fostering enterprises growth and create impact such as job creation, products diversification among others.
Samuel Kamugisha the Director General of Industry and Entrepreneurship Development at the trade ministry said that the policy which was approved by cabinet in April 2020 supports entrepreneurship, innovation, and enterprise growth and graduation at all stages of the enterprise growth lifecycle, from start-ups to existing MSMEs and large enterprises.
"It aims at developing an effective entrepreneurship support ecosystem that creates the necessary conditions and enablers for Rwandan start-ups, MSMEs, and large enterprises to unleash their entrepreneurial potential and grow dynamic and competitive enterprises that will drive economic growth and job creation contributing therefore to our national economic transformation agenda," he said.
The ministry is currently in the process of identifying potential stakeholders to work with.
Among the plans outlined in the policy include, improve business governance by developing short guides and courses on basic business governance for MSMEs as well as increasing availability of technical skills training outside of formal education.
The strategy also seeks to improve access to tailored business consulting services and high-quality business consultants.
Local emerging businesses will also be linked with international business support institutions as well as benefit an initiative matching business owner to angel investor culture, crowd funding as well as fellowships or stipend fund for entrepreneurs.
Source: allafrica.com
Nairobi — President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the Ministry of Education to expedite ongoing consultations on the safe reopening of schools ahead of the anticipated relaxing of movement restrictions on Saturday.
Speaking when he delivered his Madaraka Day address, President Kenyatta asked the ministry to formulate a calendar on the gradual reopening of learning institutions which were shut in mid-March in a bid to avert the unrestrained spread of COVID-19 which has infected 1,962 people.
"I am hereby directing that the Ministry of Education fast tracks and finalizes ongoing consultations with all stake holders that will provide us with an appropriate calendar for the gradual resumption of education in the country," he said.
While acknowledging concerns expressed by parents and guardians of candidates sitting for national examinations, Kenyatta however emphasized on the need to put protocols in place to ensure safety of learners and teachers once schools reopen.
"I appreciate the anxiety weighing heavily in the minds of children and parents, especially those preparing for national exams but the guidelines should also include protocol to guarantee safety of children , parents and grandchildren," the Head of State said.
President Kenyatta's remarks come at a time the education ministry is reviewing a preliminary report on the reopening of schools ahead of further guidelines on current COVID-19 containment regulations expected to lapse on June 6.
Last week Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha received a report from the Education Response Committee on COVID-19, a nine-member team established to advise the government on the modalities of re-opening schools.
He said the ministry's decision on whether of not to reopen institutions of learning will be guided by advisories issued by the health ministry under the National Emergency Response Committee on COVID-19 .
"All stakeholders should therefore be prepared to face the reality of a likely extended closure of our schools, given that out government will never sacrifice the health of our children at the expense of an education that can wait to be offered at a later time when the safety and health of children can be guaranteed," he said.
The recommendations captured in the interim report will be tabled before the National Emergency Response Committee on COVID-19 for further consultations.
Source: allafrica.com
The Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, Mr. Wamkele Mene, has described an efficient implementation of the intra-African free trade agreement as a critical tool in the hands of the continent's leaders to stimulate and re-inject dynamism into Africa's post COVID-19 economy.
Mene, who participated as the guest speaker in a virtual conference that was hosted by the American Business Council (ABC), Nigeria, in Lagos, at the weekend, said the AfCFTA remains the continent's hope for economic recovery.
He, stressed that no African country has the financial muscle to initiate a significant economic stimulus package the way the United States of America has done when it launched more than $1 trillion as stimulus package.
He added: "I believe that even with the challenges of COVID-19, which I see as a crisis with an opportunity, most developed countries have introduced economic relief packages to re-inject dynamism and growth in their own economies.
"The United States of America introduced over $1 trillion stimulus package. The European Union has introduced $500 billion and may increase it to close to a $1 trillion.
"The USA also packaged $60 billion to its aviation sector in form of grants and loans. But many African countries do not have the monetary policy space, neither do they have the fiscal policy space to provide such substantial economic relieve packages, which means that for us as Africa, the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement is our own stimulus and economic relief package."
He also explained that an effective implementation of the free trade area agreement would significantly boosting intra-African trade and investments and stave off the severe contraction in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of between 2.5 and five per cent of the GDP that was predicted for the continent by the World Bank.
Mene added: "The AfCFTA is actually the driver of economic growth in Africa and a critical tool that we have in our disposal. As I said there are very few countries in Africa that can put on the table the substantial amount in stimulus packages that we have seen elsewhere. So this AfCFTA is Africa's stimulus and economic recovery plan."
He stated that the AfCFTA would liberate the continent from inhibitive trade policies of the western world that has consigned African countries as the producer and exporter of primary commodities with the imposition of 1000 per cent tariffs or more on the export of processed primary products like leather from Africa.
He also said the agreement would ignite industrialisation in the continent by encouraging member states to add value to their primary products and sell them within the continent at zero tariffs.
"What we require is an action plan for the implementation of an industrial development plan strategy across Africa in a disciplined manner over a number of years. This, to me, is the important factor as we implement the free trade agreement," he said.
He, however, stated that he was concerned about the difficult challenges member countries would face while implementing the agreement and playing by its rules in spite of the optimism and political will shown by African leaders at African Union's session about the AfCFTA.
"What I worry about is the inability or willful lack of compliance because sometimes conditions are difficult. The worry I have is the implementation and compliance with the rules.
"Where the bigger challenge will be is from the border (custom) officials in the remote parts of the member states and whether or not the officials will adhere to the rules that required them to apply the AfCFTA procedures. This is the number one concern for me," he said.
The secretary general of the AfCFTA secretariat said that the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has set aside $1 billion facility to assist countries that are state parties to the agreement, to cushion revenue losses they might suffer due to the implementation of the agreement.
The facility, according to him, would help countries to make the adjustments required by the transition and cushion the loss from revenue forgone from duties and tariffs, noting that "there will be winners and losers.
"There would be immediate winners from countries that already have industrial development capacity. Some countries will experience short to medium term revenue losses as a result of liberalising their trade, reducing tariffs and allowing imports into their markets.
"The Afreximbank has offered an adjustment facility of about $1 billion that will assist them," he said.
The virtual conference, according to the President of ABC, Mr. Dipo Faulkner, was called to address the concerns of private sector stakeholders as the continent marches toward the implementation of a free trade agreement.
Source: allafrica.com
East Africa stands to benefit from the drop in crude oil prices at the international market as it would ease pressure on widening current accounts and arrest a surge in inflation. The cost of consumer goods could also reduce as manufacturers are some of the heaviest consumers of fuel.
However, lack of strategic reserve facilities means the region can't take full advantage of the low prices--caused by the Covid-19 pandemic--and build up their stockpiles, which would guarantee the benefits last longer even when prices at the international market rebound from the current low levels of $26.10 per barrel.
"The East African region has missed an opportunity for stockpiling because there are no facilities," George Wachira, an oil industry expert, told The EastAfrican.
Kenya recorded the biggest drop in fuel prices in over a decade last week on May 14 after the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) unveiled new maximum wholesale and retail petroleum prices with the cost of diesel and petrol coming down drastically.
In the latest review, the cost of diesel reduced by Ksh19.19 ($.17) per litre to retail at Ksh78.37 ($.72) while the price of super petrol declined by Ksh9.5 ($.08) to retail at Ksh88.33 ($.82).
The changes are based on the average landed cost of imported super petrol, which decreased by 38.94 per cent from $309.03 per cubic metre in March to $188.07 per cubic metre in April.
Diesel decreased by 44.04 per cent from $432.70 per cubic metre to $242.13 per cubic metre.
The review shows that free on board prices of murban crude oil imported in April were at $17.64 per barrel, a decline of 50.42 per cent from $35.58 per barrel in March.
"The computation of the pump prices has taken into account the changes effected by the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act of 2020 that made taxes and other levies part of the vatable amount in the calculation of VAT for petroleum products," said Robert Pavel Oimeke, EPRA director-general.
Kenya's petroleum import bill in 2019 stood at $2.9 billion, a decline from $3 billion in 2018 according to the Economic Survey 2020 while in Tanzania it stood at $1.8 billion and Uganda $874 million.
Savings on import bills would have ripple effects on the current accounts deficits that regional nations are struggling to narrow in the wake of a decline in exports and remittances.
In Tanzania, the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority announced a reduction in retail prices for the month of May in which the cost of super petrol declined by 10.5 per cent while that of diesel went down by 7.17 per cent.
The low prices at the international market mean that countries in the region will record a drastic decline in petroleum import bills.
Source: allafrica.com