Current Trade News

According to Neil Ford, Japan is seeking to diversify the range of its trade partners in Africa and encouraging SMEs and startups to invest in the continent.
On the back of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Japanese cumulative FDI in Africa increased from $3.9bn in 2007 to $10bn in 2016.
The big challenge will be diversifying the range of the country’s trade partners in Africa beyond the handful of countries that currently dominate Japanese trade relations with the continent – South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.
In 2017, Japan exported goods worth $7.5bn to Africa, including $2.5bn to South Africa, and imported $8.3bn, of which 57% came from South Africa, including iron ore and platinum.
The two biggest sectors for Japanese investment in Africa are mining and hydrocarbons, particularly in Mozambique, where Mitsui & Co has invested billions of yen in coal and gas projects.
Such investment is backed by the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), which works to ensure “a stable supply of natural resources to Japan”.
Although commodity investments have become more uncertain since the commodity price downturn of 2014-17, they are still likely to lead the way on Japanese investment in Africa for the foreseeable future.
The most important Japanese exports to Africa over the past decade have been motor vehicles. Toyota and Nissan dominate the roads from Cairo to Cape Town. Japanese electronic goods, particularly TVs are also hugely popular in the continent.
There is also a thriving business in quality second-hand cars, particularly in the countries of Anglophone Africa, which like Japan use right-hand drive vehicles.
In addition, Japan has been the biggest Asian project finance sponsor in Africa over the past five years. M&A activity by Japanese firms in Africa has generally been fairly limited, although Nippon Telegraph and Telephone bought South Africa’s Dimension Data for $3.2bn in 2014.
Tokyo is encouraging the expansion of Japanese SMEs and startups in Africa (see below), but the number of big Japanese firms investing in Africa is also increasing, from NTT in the IT sector to Kansai Paint in the paint and coatings sector.
Toyota Tsusho Corporation has one of the most comprehensive networks on the continent, with a sales network covering 53 African countries and a variety of sectors in addition to the automotive industry.
Japanese firms still tend to be reluctant to invest in a region where they have little experience.
As Katsumi Hirano, executive vice president of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), told the African Law & Business website in March: “[Japan] enjoyed a long historical economic relationship with our neighbour nation countries. So [Japanese companies] see much more potential still in the Asian region. That is one reason why the Japanese commitment in Africa is so low”.
However, in the run-up to TICAD 7 more and more Japanese companies are becoming interested in Africa. The Japan Business Council for Africa has been created as a platform for the private sector.
Made for Africa products
The number of Japanese companies operating in Africa has increased from 520 in 2010 to 796 in 2017, but the Japanese government hopes to greatly increase that figure in the near future.
“There are, of course, Japanese companies that have built up robust business foundations in Africa,” said Hirano in a recent article published by the Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies. “A distinctive feature of these companies is that they have secured human resources through aggressive M&A. The problem lies in the small number of such global Japanese companies.”
He said that while the number of global Japanese companies dropped off after the resource boom came to an end, “the outcomes of up to 1,000 new investments made in Africa each year greatly impact the level of presence of companies from around the world, and this is where the investment efforts of Japanese companies are vulnerable.” As a result, Tokyo is encouraging Japanese SMEs and startups to invest in Africa.
Some ventures have been launched as development projects with donor support but with the expectation that they will operate commercially in the longer term. For instance, Nippon Biodiesel Fuel, a Japanese startup, last year launched AgriNet in parts of Asia and Africa to connect farmers with banks and a wide range of stakeholders in the agribusiness sector. Farming villages in Mozambique can also secure financing through the website.
The UN’s World Food Programme is investing $3.5m in the project in Mozambique over three years but Nippon Biodiesel expects the venture to be operating commercially after that time.
Farmers within a single village can also band together to sell their crops via the AgriNet platform, once they have established themselves as reliable partners on the website.
Microfinance providers can supply the data needed to establish a potential client’s creditworthiness. Payments are made by money mobile and it is hoped that the income of participating farmers will increase by at least $1,000 a year.
Japanese energy startup WASSHA provides off-grid electricity through solar PV kiosks operated by local partners that allow solar lamps, mobile phones, tablets and radios, among other devices, to be charged for those without access to electricity at home.
The kiosks are equipped with a PV panel, battery, the WASSHA power device with USB ports and a smart phone as a controller. Customers can buy power through mobile money, meaning that no physical money actually changes hands, while agents lease rather than buy kiosks and the associated technology, removing the need for upfront investment.
WASSHA’s technology allows agents to check all transactions, including sales and customer information, via remote management, while the level of charge in the kiosk battery can also be monitored remotely.
Yamaha Motor has developed a water purification system following research and development in Africa and Asia over a decade. The Yamaha Clean Water Supply System requires no replaceable filters, high power consumption or maintenance by skills technicians.
Water is stored in a pre-treatment tank where silt, mud and other debris are removed. A chlorine solution disinfects the water, before metals and bacteria are removed by sand filtration and a microbial biofilm.
The system is already being used in Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo and Ghana. Some of the villages with the system are able to sell their surplus potable water to neighbouring villages.
Major infrastructure projects
At TICAD VI, Tokyo committed to supporting $30bn in public private investment in infrastructure between 2016 and 2018.
Infrastructure projects funded by Japanese aid and undertaken by Japanese companies generally have a reputation for the high quality of the construction and engineering work undertaken.
The transport sector in particular has benefitted from this injection of capital. Last October, the new $140m bridge over the Nile was completed in Jinja, Uganda, with lending from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The bridge is located on the main highway that links inland countries of East Africa such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with the Port of Mombasa in Kenya. Ensuring the bridge’s construction had long been a priority for the government of Uganda, as a lack of capacity on the existing Nalubaale Bridge had caused congestion.
At the opening ceremony, Yutaka Fukase, the chief representative of the JICA Uganda office said that JICA had emphasized safety, the environment and social concerns on the construction project.
A large slice of infrastructure funding has been directed at the port sector. JICA has financed the construction of new container terminals at the ports of Nacala in Mozambique and Mombasa in Kenya in the form of both loans and grants. Japanese interest in Mozambique is partly driven by demand for coal and so port development has been complemented by financing for the associated coal railway.
Two Japanese companies, Penta-Ocean Construction Co Ltd and Toa Corporation, have been awarded a series of contracts to develop the Port of Nacala, including one for Y25.6bn ($232m) last year to dredge the access channel, reclaim land for the new container terminal and provide rail access. Nacala is reputed to have the deepest natural harbour anywhere on the east coast of Africa.
Japanese interest in Southern African coal increased after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster saw nuclear power production fall and coal imports rise as demand for thermal power production increased.
Mozambique is doubly of interest because it will become a globally important liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter within five years: aside from nuclear power, coal and LNG are the bedrock of the Japanese generation mix.
In 2013, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry identified Mozambique as one of its most important potential energy suppliers. Apart from the power sector, Brazilian firm Vale’s Moatize mine supplies Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal with coking coal for steel production.
Investing in the full food chain
There has been a succession of big agribusiness investments by Japanese companies in Africa over the past few years, often by buying stakes in established operators. They have been attracted by Africa’s increasing population and particularly the growing number of middle-class people. In 2015, Mitsubishi bought a 20% stake in agri-trader Olam International for $1.1bn. The Singapore-based firm, which trades in a wide variety of commodities, including rice, coffee and cocoa, selected Mitsubishi in a competitive bidding process because it hoped that the Japanese company’s processing and manufacturing operations would dovetail with its trading network.
Japan’s Sanyo Foods took a 25.5% stake in Olam’s instant noodles business in 2013, then 25% equity in Olam’s packaged foods business for $187.5m the following year. Its packaged foods operations cover a wide range of goods, including fruit juices, biscuits, tomato puree and seasonings. The two companies are seeking to make use of their respective distribution networks.
In particular, Olam and Sanyo are seeking to build market share in Nigeria. Mahadevan Ramanarayanan, Olam’s president and global head of packaged foods, said: “With Sanyo’s noodle expertise this meant we could grow the instant noodles business at a much faster rate, bringing out new flavours and new products. In particular, we focused on developing flavours that corresponded to well-loved Nigerian local dishes, coming up with innovative formats in the noodle cake and also how we could make the product more convenient given the Nigerian and Sub-Saharan context. “
In March 2018, Mitsui & Co bought a 30% stake in Dubai-based ETG, which trades in agricultural produce, fertilisers, seeds and agricultural chemicals, predominately in East Africa but also more generally on the continent. The $265m acquisition will allow Mitsui to market seeds and fertiliser specifically designed for local soil conditions, as well as its irrigation systems. ETG also has storage, processing and manufacturing operations in 36 countries. Mitsui is attempting to position itself as one of the biggest players in the global agricultural commodity trading sector. It has already bought a 50% stake in US soy company Bluegrass Farms and taken over global vegetable seed firm Top Seeds 2010.
In the same way, Toyota Tsusho completed its first fertiliser blending plant in Kenya in 2016 to produce a balanced blended fertiliser designed for Kenyan soil types to avoid low harvests and the acidification of farmland. Toyota Tsusho Fertilizer Africa worked with Moi University and several NGOs to produce what is now called Baraka Fertilizer. The factory in Eldoret, in western Kenya, is designed to reduce the 600,000 tonnes of fertiliser that the country imports every year, as well as boosting agricultural production. It is now also developing specific fertilisers for sugar cane and legumes, and is seeking to expand its operations in Uganda and Tanzania.
A first for Sumitomo in Africa
Sumitomo Corporation has invested in its first independent power producer (IPP) in Africa – the 350 MW Kpone IPP in Ghana’s biggest port city, Tema. When completed, Kpone will be a combined cycle gas turbine plant accounting for about 10% of total Ghanaian power production, but it could also run on diesel or fuel oil. Ghana’s economy has grown rapidly over the past decade and more generating capacity is needed to ensure that domestic and industrial power supplies are maintained.
Total project costs are put at $903m, although this figure could include transmission infrastructure, out of which the private sector is contributing $685m, including $447m in the form of debt. Sumitomo was the second biggest equity investor with $69.7m, alongside partners Cenpower Holdings, the Africa Finance Corporation, Mercury Power and FMO, which is the Dutch development agency.
Funding for the project also came from two facilities managed by the multi-donor Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG): InfraCo Africa and The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), plus the Technical Assistance Facility (TAF) Cenpower Generation Company is the special purpose vehicle set up to develop the project. In a statement, Cenpower said: “It will be amongst Ghana’s most fuel-efficient thermal power stations and once in production, the power plant will become a critical base load component in meeting Ghana’s growing electricity demand.”
Construction of what will be the first licensed IPP in Ghana began in 2015 and was originally scheduled for completion in 2017 but a dispute with Group Five Power Projects, which was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract and claims over contaminated fuel have held up development. The EPC contract was eventually cancelled in December 2018. All output from the plant is to be sold to the Electricity Company of Ghana for nationwide distribution.
At the other end of the scale, Sumitomo Corporation Africa bought an unspecified stake in M-Kopa, a “pay-as-you-go” solar PV business in December 2018. Customer pay a small weekly fee via mobile phone in return for a solar panel, battery and charging connections to provide electricity for light bulbs, mobile phones, radios and laptops. Larger systems can even power fridges and TVs. Electricity has been provided to millions of people living off-grid in rural areas or city suburbs that are unconnected to their national grids, particularly in East Africa.
Source: African Business Magazine

 

Hon. Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania on 13 August 2019 assumed the Chairpersonship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers, taking over from Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of Namibia.
In his acceptance speech, Hon. Prof. Kabudi expressed gratitude to Outgoing Chairperson of SADC Council of Ministers for steering activities of SADC over the last one year and pledged to build on the remarkable achievements made under the leadership of the Republic of Namibia.
Hon Prof. Kabudi said, in the course of operationalization of the theme, A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation, the United Republic of Tanzania will place emphasis on the need to access and improve the region’s investment and business environment in the light of industrialization.
The Outgoing Chairperson, Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, congratulated Hon. Prof Kabudi on assuming the Chairpersonship of the SADC Council of Ministers and expressed Namibia’s readiness to work with him in steering SADC to greater heights. She also thanked the SADC Secretariat, under the leadership of Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax for the cooperation and support during her tenure.
She said industrialization remains at the core of the integration agenda of SADC and central to the diversification of regional economic growth and called on the region to prioritise trade facilitation with regard to infrastructure such as roads, rails and harbors, while finding ways of reducing transport costs and transit delays in the region.
She highlighted that, in line with the 38th SADC Summit theme, Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development, the Republic of Namibia championed youth empowerment programmes, recognizing that the youth are the most valuable asset needed to drive industrialization in the region. On this note, Hon Nandi-Ndaitwah emphasized the need to implement the SADC Regional Programme on Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship which seeks to accelerate youth development and empowerment through active youth participation.
On her part, H.E. Dr Tax thanked the Outgoing Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers for her guidance and dedication in pushing forward SADC development and integration and for leading the Council of Ministers with passion and sense of purpose during her tenure.
H.E. Dr Tax assured, Hon. Prof. Kabudi, of the Secretariat’s firm commitment and support to facilitate his work during his tenure as the Chairperson of Council. She expressed optimism that the Council of Ministers, under the leadership of Hon. Prof. Kabudi will continue to advance SADC values and principles.
The SADC Executive Secretary underscored that the SADC region will remain seized with the implementation of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, whose milestones in the 2019/2019 financial year include the long-awaited profiling of the regional agro-processing value chains whereby 14 product-specific value chains were selected; the launch of SADC Business Council, development of a Regional Mining Vision and draft Protocol on Industry.
During the opening ceremony, the SADC Council of Ministers and invited guests observed a moment of silence in memory of over 70 people who lost their lives on 10 August 2019 following a tragic fuel tanker accident in Morogoro, the United Republic of Tanzania.
Source: SADC 2019

Foreign and private companies have joined the shove to grow and export marijuana in Uganda, even before the authorities in government complete consultations on the medical and financial benefits of cannabis.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 that was passed by Parliament, has triggered a gold rush among prospective local and foreign marijuana entrepreneurs, who are keen to invest in the medical marijuana industry.
Even when the authorities are still grappling with the idea of how to regulate the growing of medical marijuana, Daily Monitor understands that the number of people and private companies seeking to grow and export weed for medical purposes has increased from 20 in April to 50 in July.
The government is also under pressure from the various marijuana dealers to explain why they allowed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company working with another Israeli-based cannabis firm to grow marijuana in Kasese and "frustrated" others through "delaying tactics".
Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng has for more than three months been ambivalent on how to proceed on a matter.
When contacted to explain the status of the government consultations, Dr Aceng yesterday asked Daily Monitor to leave her alone.
The minister vowed not to comment about 'marijuana things' anymore and without divulging details, confirmed writing to all the competing companies.
"I'm tired of responding to the issue of marijuana, please leave me. I am tired. I don't know what else you people want me to tell you that I have not already told you... Forgive me [but] I am tired and am not going to discuss that subject anymore. Go to the companies [and] ask them to give you the minister's response and I responded to nearly 50 of them," Dr Aceng said.
In view of continuous calls from ganja planters wanting to know the fate of their applications and those seeking information about marijuana business, sources said Dr Aceng on July 3 wrote to all the 50 marijuana companies and alleged that Uganda had not yet started issuing operational permits for companies to grow and process marijuana for medical purposes.
Although the minister told companies that government had not yet started issuing marijuana permits, in April this year, Daily Monitor broke a story with details on how Uganda on December 7, 2017, exported unrefined cannabis buds/ flowers to South Africa's National Analytical Forensic Services in Pretoria.
Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private firm working with an Israel company, Together Pharma Ltd, is currently growing and processing marijuana from its Kasese facility. The company was given the license in 2016.
The company is also in the process of exporting marijuana, Cannabinol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with mixture of 2.7mg THC and 2.5mg CBD for Sativex drugs approved in USA, Europe and Canada. Oil Risin contain Dronabinol for making Marinol and syndros capsules and CBD enriched creams for various skin disorders.
Minister's letter
In one of the letters to marijuana firms applying to grow and process cannabis for medical purposes in Uganda, Dr Aceng wrote: "The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health is still in early stages of carrying out wide consultations on this nascent area to understand the economic benefits of cannabis, its medical value based on scientifically proven evidence including the challenges of regulation so that we can formulate a way forward."
She added: "In line with the above, we have not yet progressed to the stage of granting operational permits for entities to grow and process cannabis for medical export in Uganda. However, we welcome more information and input on the subject matter."
Reactions
Mr Edie Kwizera, the former Bufumbira legislator who described himself as "a strategic consultant" for a consortium of UK-based companies, seeking to grow and process marijuana in Uganda, yesterday accused Dr Aceng of frustrating investments and playing politics yet Section 11 (I) of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 mandates her to issue written consent.
"The minister could be dillydallying because she is a Born-Again Christian but the law allows growing and processing of marijuana for medical purposes," Mr Kwizera said.
"Many investors are stuck, they are losing business because she has refused to act. Let the minister ask Parliament to repeal the law if she doesn't want people to invest. She is hiding behind wide consultations on the matter yet the same government in 2016 licensed some companies to grow the same crop. These are double standards," he said.
What is medical marijuana?
Relevance. The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions.
According to World Health Organization, several studies have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and Aids.
For instance, dronabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol) has been available by prescription for more than a decade in the USA.
Other therapeutic uses of cannabinoids are being demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma, as an antidepressant, appetite stimulant, anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine even though scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.
Source: Allafrica.com

Cape Town — The African Trade and Opportunities Act (AGOA), established by the United States government on May 18, 2000, has been described as the cornerstone of the U.S. economic engagement with sub-Saharan Africa, where it has invested more than U.S.$7 billion towards trade capacity initiatives. Some say AGOA was the U.S. government's answer to China's growing presence on the African continent. But what is the U.S. strategy as AGOA nears its end, and the impact of Africa's "growing youth tsunami" as the African Continental Free Trade Area starts being realized?

In a briefing with Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Ambassador Tibor Nagy and Constance Hamilton, the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, the U.S. government stressed that Africa is a top priority. "We see tremendous opportunities in this relationship. We want to work with our partners to unlock these gains," Nagy said.
Increasing trade and investment with the continent would be the mechanism for growing the continent's prosperity and providing jobs - for what he called the "Africa's growing youth tsunami" - who are in need of well-paying jobs.
Hamilton said, "Only by easing the ability of the private sector to start and grow their businesses can African countries hope to provide the jobs for Africa's youth and maximize the potential of the youth bulge."
Countries need to take an active role in creating competitive conditions in which companies, entrepreneurs and farmers can thrive, Hamilton urged. "By easing the way for private sector to operate and do business would also assist in creating jobs for youth, as well as easing of constraints for small businesses," she said.
Hamilton acknowledged the strides made by AGOA, but said that there were shortcomings. Hamilton said AGOA benefits are "uneven, and more needed to be done to realize the full potential of U.S., Africa Trade. The benefits, she said, have not been broadly shared by all the countries that are part of the program". Trade diversification was another concern raised, where petroleum products accounted for 67% of the AGOA trade imports.
When questioned on Nigeria's participation in AGOA, Hamilton said "I think that Nigeria has not taken advantage of AGOA because they send us mainly oil, so in a certain extent, they actually are taking advantage of it, probably more than some of the other countries but it is petroleum. And oil doesn't really create the kind of jobs or other benefits from trade that I think that countries are looking for. So I think that Nigeria, and I think the new government is talking about trying to expand and go beyond just petroleum production and get into other things, but that really is a question for what Nigeria wants to see happen," Hamilton said.

Nagy and Hamilton, speaking on AGOA and its end date of 2025, confirmed that discussions are under way on replacing it. "We're starting the conversations now with our partners to talk about what comes next. We do think that a free-trade area agreement builds on the success of AGOA in ways that it helps lock in the benefits the countries have already with AGOA, but it also provides the incentive to U.S. investors to do more on the continent," Hamilton said.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA, was founded by the African Union to bring African regions closer, to encourage intra-Africa trade and make the continent stronger within itself. But will the AU's plan for free trade between the continent's countries, and the ECOWAS single currency creation program for the Francophone West African nations, enhance the AGOA's goals, or create barriers or conflicts? Hamilton said the government supports "a lot of the objectives of the AfCFTA".

"We do believe that lowering barriers to trade and investment and boosting competitiveness, attracting investment, those are things that we have long supported in our own engagement with the continent, so we are very pleased about the progress that they're making. We compliment the African Union, its partner states, all the stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to get this thing launched. We think this is something great for the continent."
Nagy said that the plan for ECOWAS is to introduce an ECOWAS currency in 2020: "They had planned that several times in the past, and they've had to delay the implementation, and we'll just see what happens in 2020. Obviously, the United States of America supports the sub-regional trade blocs and organizations like ECOWAS in Africa, but that is purely a decision for ECOWAS to make regarding its own economic interests."

Nagy, on a question on the US engagement efforts with Zimbabwe through the U.S. embassy in Harare, whether Zimbabwe would meet the remaining need-gap to becoming AGOA-eligible for 2020, he explained the AGOA membership process in some detail. "What happens is we in Washington get a considerable amount of information about each of the countries. Some comes from our embassy, some comes from independent sources, NGOs and various other sources. Then we get an inter-agency government team together that is chaired by the U.S. Trade Representative, and we discuss each of the countries. We discuss whether or not they meet the criteria. We discuss special concerns, problems that the countries may have, and it is a remarkably consensus-oriented process. Up to now there has never been really a dispute between U.S. government activities as to who does, who does not meet it.
"Then the recommendations go to the White House. The president will announce the eligible countries on January 1st. One other consideration is if there is a change in status, right, in any of the countries, then the president needs to notify Congress 60 days in advance of that. So, it's a very thorough process, but it's remarkable that oftentimes - well, in government there are different points of view on a number of issues - but on this one there has been just remarkable consensus in how we view the eligibility criteria of the various African countries."
Zimbabwe has had sanctions imposed on it by the United States for what it says are 84 individuals engaged in corruption, the violation of human rights and undermining democratic institutions.
Gambia's Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has opened hearings into abuses carried out during former president Yahya Jammeh's more than two decades in power. He is accused of killing journalists, torturing and killing political opponents, and sponsoring a campaign that allowed "witch doctors" to abduct hundreds of people and force them to drink unknown substances. Yammeh's family has also been banned from entering the United States.

Sudan has seen the ouster of Omar al-Bashir as president and a transitional government consisting of the military and civil society established. Al Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and the killing of hundreds of Sudanese people during his presidency.

South Sudan, Africa's youngest country which split from Sudan after conflict that was largely about the former's oil, has also been at the centre of political wrangling between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar who served as inaugural vice president of the country from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013. All four countries are looking to join AGOA Hamilton said that The Gambia is eligible for AGOA.

"It's been brought back into the program. Countries like Zimbabwe and South Sudan ... we are very transparent in the concerns that we have when a country is not in AGOA. We don't always publicly notify, you know, put something in the press about this, but we make sure that the governments understand exactly where the shortcomings are and what we're looking for. So, when we do the review, looking at a country like South Sudan or looking at a country like Zimbabwe, we make sure that we communicate with the government where the problems are and what we're looking for in terms of what they need to do to get eligibility.

"So, we're very clear that we don't want governments to try to guess what they have to do. We want to make sure that they're very clear about the concerns that we have, and the concerns are always based around the eligibility criteria. Market access, human rights, labor issues, all of those are things that are important in this process, because without those in place, being in a program like AGOA is not going to make any difference. You're not going to be able to use the program, really, anyway."
Hamilton is looking to discussing "new trade initiatives" at the forum being held in Abidjan in August. "I think there's going to be interesting conversations with the trade ministers to make sure that they can utilize these new initiatives in the best possible way. AGOA's been around for almost 20 years, and as we continue to have this conversation and discussion during the forums, we all need to think about what should come next, and hopefully part of the conversation will focus on that as well. But we are looking forward to a very productive and informative AGOA forum, and Ambassador Lighthizer is looking forward to being there, as well as all of the U.S. delegation."
Source: Allafrica.com

In a meeting of the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures on 18-19 July 2019, WTO members discussed eight new specific trade concerns regarding food safety, animal and plant health and 16 previously raised concerns. Members elected Daniel Arboleda of Colombia as the new chair of the committee. At an earlier workshop, members also discussed ways to improve the transparency of import measures
Members highlighted a range of measures regarding food safety and animal and plant health, with many exporting countries saying that import requirements are too stringent. This is especially detrimental to the export opportunities of farmers in developing countries, they said. Eight new specific trade concerns (STCs) and 16 previously raised concerns were addressed at the committee meeting and a large number of WTO members and observers contributed to the discussions.
The European Union provided information regarding the resolution of an STC about the Russian's Federation import restrictions on certain animal products from Germany, first raised in the committee in June 2016.
New specific trade concerns (STCs)
EU amendments of MRLs
Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador voiced concerns about the European Union amendments to maximum residue levels (MRLs) for imazalil - a widely used fungicide used in the cultivation of citrus fruit and bananas. These members said that the amendments are a matter of great concern to many producers, particularly to producers of bananas, as no efficient alternatives to imazalil are currently available. They criticized the EU for following a precautionary stance in taking its decisions and for disregarding scientific evidence presented by relevant international organizations recognized by the SPS Agreement.
The European Union, in its response, said that its studies did not exclude that residues of imazalil posed a risk to some consumers and informed members that the new MRLs were expected to be applicable from April 2020 onwards, allowing food business operators time to prepare for the new requirements that will result from the modification of the existing standards.
EU maximum levels for certain contaminants
Colombia raised concerns about the EU regulatory process for determining maximum levels of certain contaminants (such as glycidyl fatty acid esters, 3-monochloropropanediol) in foods or food ingredients, such as refined oils and refined oil products including palm oil. Several members noted that the EU has not notified the measure for comments despite the repercussions this could have on the international palm oil market. They also referred to the ongoing work on risk management through the elaboration of a code of good practices within the framework of the Codex Alimentarius to reduce these contaminants.
The EU replied that discussions on the appropriate regulatory measures for these contaminants are ongoing and indicated that draft measures will be notified under the SPS Agreement and would take into account comments by WTO members before finalizing the proposal.
EU MRLs for tea pesticide
China raised concerns regarding the new EU proposed MRLs for the pesticide lambda-cyhalothrin in tea and other products, lowering it from 1mg/kg to 0.01 mg/kg. According to China, this measure is not based on risk assessment results but on an alleged lack of relevant data. China asked the EU to further evaluate the potential health risk to consumers and to consider a transition period of at least one year for Chinese tea producers to adjust if the EU finally decides to implement a new limit standard.
The European Union responded that the legislation setting MRLs for lambda-cyhalothrin in tea and other herbal infusion at the level of determination (LOD) of 0.01 mg/kg is based on available scientific data. The new regulation grants a transitional period that would allow keeping products already on the market, the EU said, but without prejudice to the obligation of ensuring a high level of consumer protection.
China's restrictions on beef
The United States voiced concerns regarding China's restrictions on imports of US beef, recalling that the US was recognized as a territory with negligible risk for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease" by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Current conditions of beef trade with China fall short of full alignment with OIE recommendations for negligible risk countries, the US said.
In its reply, China said it resumed importing deboned and boned beef under 30 months of age from the United States in June 2017 after carrying out a risk assessment. However, China noted that in order to ensure the safety of its cattle industry and public health, it has not imported beef over 30 months of age from members with a record of BSE.
Turkey's restrictions on live cattle
Argentina raised a new STC regarding Turkey's foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD) related import restrictions on live cattle, saying that there is no scientific evidence to justify this measure and recalling that the OIE has recognized Argentina as an FMD-free zone area, with and without vaccination. Argentina indicated that Turkey allows for the importation of live cattle from other territories with similar sanitary conditions and requested the country to eliminate what it considered a "non-equitable and discriminatory" measure.
In its response, Turkey stressed that following the detection of new FMD cases in Turkey as a result of animal imports, and in view of its candidate country status to join the European Union, it has updated its regulation on the importation of live cattle. Negotiations with Argentina are ongoing to find a solution to re-initiate trade, but the Argentinian alternatives proposed so far fail to meet FMD requirements established in the new national legislation, Turkey said.
Viet Nam's general restriction on imports
Brazil took the floor to voice concerns about Viet Nam's general restrictions on several products such as melons, live cattle, beef, and meat and bone meal through undue delays in the process of negotiating International Sanitary Certificates and requests for more information than what is scientifically needed in order to perform risk analysis. In Brazil's view, the procedures undertaken by Viet Nam illustrate how disregard for the SPS Agreement can raise unnecessary and unjustified barriers to trade.
Viet Nam responded that as a result of the fast increase in agricultural imports in recent years it has had to adjust its legislation to ensure an appropriate level of protection of human, animal or plant life and health. All these changes have been duly notified to the WTO, Viet Nam said, and the new measures are not discriminatory and follow the guidelines set by international standard setting bodies.
Ukraine's restrictions on swine products
Brazil raised concerns about Ukraine's restrictions on swine products. According to Brazil, Ukraine is the only member that has imposed an embargo on all Brazilian swine products following a case of classical swine fever in October 2018 after one decade of no records of the disease in the country. Moreover, Brazil added, the case happened in an area which does not export and all the technical explanations and bilateral efforts with Ukraine to resolve the issue have not yielded results.
Ukraine took the floor to regret that despite several requests at bilateral meeting as well as official letters, Brazil has not submitted the requested information in order to carry out a proper assessment of the situation. Ukraine said its actions were based on international standards and regulations and pointed out that new cases of the disease in Brazil were registered in July 2019. Ukraine said it is ready to engage in a more effective dialogue with the Brazilian authorities on this issue.
Japan's restrictions on avocados
Brazil raised this STC on what it considers Japan's undue delay in concluding a pest risk analysis before opening its market to Brazilian avocados. Brazil noted that all the requisites of Japan's risk assessment process have been fulfilled, and that it has provided all the scientific information needed to assure Japan of the high sanitary standards of Brazilian avocado exports. Therefore, there are neither technical nor legal reasons that justify Japan not opening its market to Brazilian avocado.
In its response, Japan noted that based on the scientific knowledge that avocados can be infested with the Mediterranean fruit fly, Japan has held constructive consultations with many countries, including Brazil, lifting import bans in some cases. However, Brazil has not provided sufficient information on the phytosanitary measures applied to avoid the spread of this pest. Japan said it is ready to have constructive discussions with Brazil to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Issues previously raised
STCs previously brought up in the SPS Committee included six EU SPS-related policies: maximum residue levels of certain pesticides; legislation on endocrine disruptors; France's dimethoate-related restrictions; transitional periods for MRLs and international consultations; the new definition of the fungicide folpet; and the EU Commission Decision on animal products.
The EU also raised previously addressed issues, including the Russian Federation's import restrictions on processed fishery products from Estonia; South Africa's import restrictions on poultry due to highly pathogenic avian influenza; Indonesia's approval procedures for animal and plant products; US import restrictions on apples and pears; and general import restrictions due to BSE.
In addition, the Committee heard concerns regarding China's import restrictions due to highly pathogenic avian influenza; Guatemala's restrictions on egg products; Indonesia's food safety measures affecting horticultural products and animal products; China's official certification requirements for food imports; and China's proposed amendments to the implementation regulations on safety assessment of agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Transparency and coordination
As part of the Fifth Review of the SPS Agreement, a Workshop on Transparency and Coordination took place on 15-16 July with the funded participation of over 40 government officials from developing country members and observers. The objective of the workshop was to bring together officials, as well as experts from regional and international organizations, to exchange experiences with transparency-related coordination, and with broader domestic coordination mechanisms. An area of focus was on the difference in scope between the SPS Agreement and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, and on notification of measures containing both SPS and TBT elements.
Members shared experiences in handling and coordinating SPS/TBT notifications and institutional arrangements, including having separate SPS and TBT agencies or one "single window" covering both matters. The WTO Secretariat provided an overview of SPS/TBT sources of information, including: WTO Documents Online and the e-Subscription service for delegates to receive WTO official documents; the SPS/TBT gateways on the WTO website; and the SPS/TBT Information Management Systems for searches and reports on notifications, STCs, and contact details of enquiry points and notification authorities. In addition, the Secretariat provided an update on the ePing system, which includes two main functionalities: an email alert mechanism to track relevant notifications and a communication platform to facilitate domestic and international discussion and coordination on distributed notifications.
Participants also discussed how to incorporate experiences from the trade facilitation area, recalling that unlike the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the SPS Agreement does not require the establishment of national committees. However, many members found it useful saying that they could play a role in facilitating the implementation of the SPS Agreement, by creating awareness and promotion of reporting requirements.
The workshop also benefited from presentations about domestic coordination mechanisms for purposes broader than transparency, such as coordinating positions to prevent and resolve specific trade concerns.
Next meeting
The next meeting is scheduled for the week of 4 November 2019, with a Thematic Session on Approval Procedures on 5 November, an informal meeting on 6 November, and the regular Committee meeting on 7 and 8 November.
Source: WTO

Kenya has launched Africa's largest wind power farm in a bid to boost electricity generating capacity and to meet the country's ambitious goal of 100% green energy by 2020.
The farm, known as the Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) will generate around 310 megawatts of power to the national grid and will increase the country's electricity supply by 13%, President Uhuru Kenyatta said at the launch of the project on Friday.
"Today, we again raised the bar for the continent as we unveil Africa's single largest wind farm," Kenyatta said. "Kenya is without doubt on course to be a global leader in renewable energy."
The project is powered by the Turkana corridor wind, a low level jet stream originating from the Indian Ocean and blows all year round, according to a government statement.
An international consortium of lenders and producers, which includes the African Development Bank, came together to install the 365 wind turbines, which cost around $700m, the largest private investment in Kenya's history, President Kenyatta said.
The 52-meter blade span windmills will take advantage of high winds in the remote area.
In the past years, Kenya has made progress in investing in clean sources of energy. According to the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report, the country is 9th in the world for its geothermal power generating capacity of up to 700 megawatts.
Around 70% of Kenya's national electricity comes from renewable sources like hydro power and geothermal.
State-owned power company KenGen produces approximately 80% of electricity consumed in Kenya, and of that, 65% comes from hydro-power sources, which it sells to Kenya Power, the country's main electricity transmission company,

Kenya's LTWP is not the only existing wind power project on the continent. Africa has fully operational wind farms in Morocco, Ethiopia, and South Africa providing sustainable energy.

In South Africa, wind energy is already boosting electricity. With five wind farms in place, the country has added a collective 645.71 MW to the national grid.
And in Ethiopia, two of its wind farms account for 324 MW of the country's total electricity output of 4180 MW.
While these projects will help build energy supply on the continent, the International Energy Agency has said sub-Saharan Africa needs to invest $300 billion in order to achieve universal electricity access by 2030.
Source: CNN