Malawi government, through the Ministry of Trade, has defended its decision to export maize, claiming the move will not affect food security of the country.
Government has since started issuing maize export licences to allow the economy off-take excess stocks of maize from last year's harvest for export and to create storage for this year's harvest.
Secretary for Trade, Christina Zakeyo, claims that the exportation of maize will not affect the country's food situation, thanks to a projected bumper maize harvest for 2020/2021 farming season following the successful implementation of the Affordable Input Programme (AIP).
Zakeyo, therefore said the maize export licences will only be issued to exporters with proof of verifiable maize stocks from the previous agricultural season. "The licences to be granted will have a validity of three months from the date of issue.
"The exporter will be required to undertake a commitment to inform the Ministry about the export proceeds received after 180 days from the date of export," said Zakeyo. Under the Control of Goods Act of 2018, maize is a controlled commodity and the export of which requires a licence.
Traders intending to export maize will have to submit applications for the licence to the Ministry with the following supporting information--physical address of the business and warehouse where the maize is stocked; business registration certificate or certificate of incorporation; business residence permit or permanent resident permit for non-Malawians; identification document and a letter of authority to export from the Ministry of Agriculture stating source of maize, quantity and destination country.
In February this year, Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe disclosed that this year's maize harvest projection is at 4 million metric tones. Lowe equally attributed this to AIP as well as good rains this country is receiving.
He also said government has already sourced 150 thousand metric tons of fertilizer for the next AIP. According to him, government wants to roll out the program for the 2021/22 farming season in good time.
Lowe claimed that currently the ministry is ironing out problems that affected the program in the 2020/2021 rainy season.
The expansion of trade among sub-Saharan African nations holds the key to faster growth and development to the benefit of all its citizens. To unlock this potential, countries will have to focus more on trade facilitation, including the simplification and modernization of trade procedures.
Sub-Saharan African countries have the lowest trade among themselves compared with other regions. Intra-regional trade is estimated at about 10% compared with 40% in North America and 60% in Western Europe.
Among the factors holding back growth are non-tariff trade barriers. Excessive document requirements, burdensome customs procedures, inefficient ports and poor infrastructure add to the cost of exporting and importing goods. Firms benefit more from a 10% reduction of these costs than from a similar cut in tariffs.
This is why there has been a major focus on reducing red tape and other non-tariff trade barriers.
Implementation of trade facilitation measures can reduce the cost of moving of goods across borders by between 12.5% and 17%. It can boost exports too by making it cheaper for firms to import materials they can transform into finished products for sale in other countries.
Trade facilitation can also create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment. And red tape harms poor producers the most, so trade facilitation is especially beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses. This is very important in the case of African countries.
A number of African countries have been implementing measures aimed at easing the flow of goods across borders. A guide to what needs to be done is set out in the Trade Facilitation Agreement earlier signed by World Trade Organization members in 2013. The agreement outlines measures for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods at borders.
A few sub-Saharan Africa countries have started working towards the implementation of a "single window" system - a collaboration between all state entities involved in the regulation of international trade.
For example, Ghana initiated a single window operation in 2002 following concerns about slow and expensive border procedures. It standardized information through a single administrative document for all its customs operations though implementation is not yet fully functional and automated.
Another measure involves the creation of one-stop joint border posts. An example of this is the Chirundu border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since traffic only stops once for the country being entered, the time it takes to cross the border is greatly reduced.
A few sub-Saharan Africa countries have started working towards the implementation of a "single window" system - a collaboration between all state entities involved in the regulation of international trade.
After the implementation of the one-stop border post, trucks are electronically scanned - which takes much less time. Another initiative, the African Union Border Program, initiated in 2007 with the goal to have all borders in Africa delimited and demarcated by 2017, has also made progress. But there is more that countries can to do to ease the flow of goods across their borders.
They should harmonise procedures. These should be made simple and then they should be aligned - first within regions and then across the continent. The alignment should be backed by appropriate legal and institutional frameworks.
Countries should also be standardizing documents through a national and later regional single window system. This will resolve challenges with bureaucracy, corruption and delays in processing trade documents.
The capacity of customs should also be enhanced in terms of electronic data management. This will improve risk management and revenue generation. For example, the Philippines' computerized customs management systems reduced corruption in its bureau of customs.
A study by UNECA on regional integration during COVID-19 says EU takes biggest share
African countries continue to trade more with the outside world than among themselves, according to findings of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) assessment report on progress made on regional integration in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report was presented during the 39th ECA Committee of Experts of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development that opened yesterday (17 March 2021) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The European Union, the report says, is taking the largest share of the market accounting for 29.8% of total trade in 2018. The trend is, however, changing following Brexit and also due to increasing trade between China and Africa.
Stephen Karingi, the director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA, while presenting the report findings said COVID-19 had severely disrupted the implementation of regional integration initiatives, including the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), particularly trade through national border closures.
"Most of the communities are lagging in terms of intra-regional intermediate exports and imports." - Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional Integration and Trade Division at the ECA.
Importance of digitalization
"Implementation of regional integration continues to be hampered by governance, peace and security challenges," said Mr. Karingi, adding: "Digitalization is key in maintaining trade competitiveness and enabling effective participation in cross border e-commerce."
The report shows that in 2018, Africa accounted for only 2.6% of global trade which is a slight increase from 0.2% from 2017.
Intra-African trade increased to 16.1% in 2018 ($159.1bn), up from 15.5% in 2017. Globally, output slightly decreased to 3.6% in 2018 from 3.8% in 2017.
While progress continues to be made in pursuit of the continent's regional integration agenda throughout the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs), challenges to the achievement of deeper integration remained. In particular, most RECs and member States are struggling to achieve progress in the area of productive integration.
Mr. Karingi noted that before the COVID-19 pandemic there was a rise in intra-trade in Africa, but compared to other regions, it remained low.
"Trade, economic movement of people and services, infrastructure, governance, peace and security are the key pillars of regional integration," he noted, adding that many countries were doing a lot to implement the ACFTA.
Mr. Karingi said peace and security "create environments conducive to the pursuit of regional integration and the attainment of broader continental development objectives," noting that progress on integration was uneven, adding the free movement of people was critical for the realization of the ACFTA.
The report presents an assessment of progress on regional integration in Africa with a particular focus on progress made by RECs in key dimensions of regional integration, including macroeconomic integration; productive integration; trade integration; infrastructure integration; the free movement of people; and governance, peace and security.
In all the RECs, Mr. Karingi said, productive integration was their poorest performing dimension of regional integration.
"Most of the communities are lagging in terms of intra-regional intermediate exports and imports, and are recording a very low merchandise trade complementarity index," he said, adding that productive integration was central to enhancing industrialization and trade. "Productive integration is also critical to integrating African economies into regional value chains and global value chains, as envisioned in Agenda 2063."
According to the report, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and East African Community (EAC) are taking the lead in productive integration, with index scores of 0.449 and 0.434, respectively, while ECOWAS is the least integrated regional bloc in the productive integration dimension, with an index score of 0.220.
Despite the low performance of the majority of the RECs on productive integration, there were several initiatives being carried out to improve the situation, including some that are supported by ECA.
Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and EAC are the highest-performing communities in terms of macroeconomic integration, with scores of 0.684 and 0.660, respectively, on the index
Mr. Karingi said the ECA would continue to support RECs in mainstreaming and boosting intra-African trade in their programmes and policies, building on the collaborative work on regional industrialization, as has already been initiated in SADC and ECOWAS; broaden its capacity-building programme on the use of macroeconomic and forecasting models in economic planning and development, to empower member States and RECs; support the AfCFTA ratification drive and implementation, including through awareness-raising programmes and developing national implementation strategies.
Zimbabwe now has the capacity to produce enough fertilizer adequate to cover an annual cropping season. Over 100 000 tonnes of top dressing and basal fertilizer for 100 000 hectares of land under winter cropping is currently being manufactured. This manufacture of fertilizers is expected to significantly reduce the import bill.
Speaking during a tour of Zimphos and Chemplex yesterday, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said the visit was a clear testimony to local production which is in line with the Second Republic's thrust of local content policy and import substitution.
"Our objective is to increase local production therefore, creating employment. What has also happened is testimony to the effectiveness of the foreign currency auction system," she said.
"ZFC is now able to import the raw materials that they need to produce this fertilizer. There is also a synergy between the manufacturing sector and the agricultural recovery programme," said Minister Nzenza.
The East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) has moved to court seeking suspension of more sections of the newly enacted Tea Act arguing that they are discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The association, which manages the weekly tea auction in Mombasa says implementation of the law will destabilize production and export of the beverage in Kenya.
The High Court has already issued orders suspending sections, which barred direct tea sales and implementation of the tea levy, following a petition by 15 tea estates.
In the EATTA petition, the association says tea sector accounts for 22 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings, yet has been subjected to more taxes.
Among the sections targeted by the EATTA is 34(4), which it said is silent on the percentage of payments to be borne by tea buyers and factories to pay the brokerage commission.
The section caps brokerage fees but fails to indicate how the fees will be paid, EATTA argues.
The association wants the court to interpret and determine whether sections 5(l), 32(3)(b), 32(4), 34(3)(b), 34(4)(5)(6), 36(1),48 (1) and 53 of the Tea Act are constitutional.
The enactment of Section 53 of the Act on provision of tea levy, the association adds, shall be ultimately borne by the farmer or producer of tea.
"The provision is in utter contravention of the Constitution that provides for freedom from discrimination and equality before the law, which shows how the tea sector has been singled out and subjected to further taxes," said lawyer Maureen Cheruiyot.
The association said it runs and conducts the weekly Mombasa Tea auction from 10 countries. Its interests include tea producers, buyers (exporters), brokers, packers, and warehousemen and tea producers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Malawi.
On Monday, the High Court temporarily suspended collection of tea levy and sections of the Tea Act, which compels processors and manufacturers of tea, save for orthodox and specialty, from direct sales.
The case will be heard on February 22.