News digest: Policy


UNEP Adaptation Gap Report focuses on nature-based solutions

Capping a year that was one of the three warmest on record, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released its fifth Adaptation Gap Report, finding that although many nations have advanced in adaptation planning, developing countries face a significant gap in adaptation finance (IISD, 25 January). The report places special focus on nature-based solutions that promote protection, sustainable management and restoration of ecosystems. It finds that nature-based solutions must receive significantly greater funding and attention, given the low-cost benefits they bring to climate change adaptation, society and biodiversity.

Future of food systems

A new series from Devex on the Future of Food Systems explores the trade-offs in the face of demand to produce more, faster, despite the threat of climate change, environmental demise and a growing global population living longer, and how food systems can work better. Recent contributions include Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit 2021, on Making food fair and healthy for all. She discusses how food systems can be transformed by sharing platforms, ideas and learning on a global level. And Helen Castell considers whether, With Covid-19 blamed for the surge in food prices, can trade facilitation efforts help? – such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).


After Cotonou: Towards a new agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states

In the context of Covid-19, the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement have been extended until the end of 2021 (European Parliament Think Tank, 20 January). After two years of negotiations a political deal was reached in December 2020, including on the most complex issues. The European Parliament succeeded in maintaining the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly; in addition, three regional parliamentary assemblies will be created in the future institutional set-up of the partnership. Read the full Briefing here.

Africa-EU partnership

Strategy for a new EU-Africa partnership
The European Parliament has voted for a wide-ranging strategy on a new EU-Africa partnership (European Parliament News, 28 January). The strategy emphasises the need to go beyond simply cooperating on issues such as the green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance and migration. The Development Committee says that Europe and Africa must move away from a donor-recipient relationship, outlines its vision for a relationship between the two continents.

Africa-EU partnership must reflect ‘realities of African agriculture’
During a recent event on sustainable food systems and trade, stakeholders highlighted that future agri-food partnerships between the EU and Africa must take into account the realities of farming in Africa, especially in the context of a drive for a greener transition (Euractiv, 8 February). One way in which differences must be acknowledged between the two continents is in climatic and pest pressures. Highlighting the difficulties that Kenyan producers face in adapting to changing regulatory frameworks elsewhere in the world, Okisegere Ojepat, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, said that for Kenyan farmers, any limitation or withdrawal of certain plant protection products without offering alternatives can leave the farming sector vulnerable.

OECD and African Union launch report on digital transformation

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre and the African Union Commission have published the 2021 Africa’s Development Dynamics report, Digital Transformation for Quality Jobs (European Commission, 20 January). The report suggests that new technologies such as smart contracts, real‑time payments solutions and distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) can fundamentally transform the agricultural sector and help address the specific challenges of smallholders.

African Development Bank and European Investment Bank sign joint plan

The AfDB and the EIB have signed a joint partnership action plan highlighting their strengthened cooperation and mutual development priorities, and a strong shared emphasis on boosting public and private sector investment in Africa (EIB, 20 January). Key themes include, among others, climate action and environmental sustainability, and financial inclusion with a gender lens.


African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

AfCFTA in effect but lifting non-tariff barriers is still problematic
On 1 January the AfCFTA came into effect, eliminating tariffs on 90% of goods produced on the continent (Global Trade Review, 13 January). All African Union members except for Eritrea have signed the AfCFTA deal, and 34 out of 54 signatories have ratified the agreement. However, for the agreement to be successful, countries must address more nuanced non-tariff barriers. More attention should also go to building regional value chains. Read an analysis from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (1 February) as the AfCFTA completes its first month of trading.

AfCFTA presents opportunities for pan-African private sector and SMEs
The pan-African private sector, under the umbrella body of the African Business Council (AfBC), has said the start of trading on the basis of the AfCFTA offers enormous business opportunities for the sector, small businesses, women and youths (The Sun Nigeria, 4 February). Dr Ahmed Mansur of the AfBC said “It is time to feed Africa through agriculture, manufacturing and promoting value chains. It is only through a united voice that we can have transformation in Africa.”

International Economic Forum on Africa

The 20th International Economic Forum on Africa will be held on 22 February (10.00–14.00 GMT), and will focus on “Investing for a sustainable recovery in Africa”. Session 1 – Accelerating productive transformation and regional integration to achieve Agenda 2063 – considers how we can take full advantage of the digital momentum in Africa to accelerate the transition to modern food supply chains that will in turn create more stable jobs.

African Union Commission elections

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union has re-elected Moussa Faki Mahamat from the Republic of Chad as the African Union Commission Chairperson for another four-year term from 2021–2024 (African Union). Mr Faki will be deputised by Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa from Rwanda, the first female to occupy the position of Deputy Chairperson. Commissioners elected by the Executive Council include Ms Josefa Sacko (Angola), re-elected to head Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, and Amb. Albert Muchanga (Zambia) re-elected to head Economic Development, Trade, Industry and Mining.

African economies in 2021: Reasons for optimism

The French Development Agency (AFD) has just published its second outlook for Africa (AFD News, 21 January). Despite Covid-19 and the global economic crisis, some indicators look very robust, and there are plenty of reasons for optimism in 2021. The publication, L’Économie africaine 2021 [currently only available in French], notes that many countries in Africa share distinctive economic features – a high level of small-scale entrepreneurship, informal jobs on a massive scale, a youth population explosion, and a predominant agricultural sector – that enable them to look towards a better future. The countries of Africa have so far been able to withstand the unprecedented shock of Covid-19. Although Africa’s decline in economic activity (–2.6%) marks a break with the growth of previous years, it is much less severe than what is seen globally (–4.4%).

COMESA Business Council backs digital financial inclusion for small businesses

As the private sector struggles to adjust business models to the growing challenges presented by Covid-19, it has become clear that digital transformation is integral to the survival of industries (The East African, 3 February). It is against this background that the COMESA Business Council, in partnership with Eastern and Southern Africa Trade and Development Bank, hosted a public-private dialogue, “Towards the COMESA Digital Integrated Common Payment Policy for Micro Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs)”, on 20 January in Kigali, Rwanda. The one-day meeting validated a draft digital Common Payment Policy for MSMEs. The meeting noted that particularly in this pandemic period, the private sector, as a strong advocate for enterprise growth and development of local and regional markets, had the responsibility and opportunity to mobilize the resources needed to boost MSMEs’ capacity to trade online.

ITC report analyses Africa’s e-commerce potential

The International Trade Centre (ICT) has released a report, Business and Policy Insights: Mapping e-Marketplaces in Africa, that analyses opportunities for integrating online marketplaces in Africa with African economies. The report finds an increase in Africa’s use of digital trade in response to Covid-19 restrictions, and emphasises the “vast untapped potential” of online marketplaces in Africa. It also finds that ten countries are responsible for 94% of all online business in Africa. South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya together account for 78% of total marketplace traffic.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Agriculture as a buffer in Covid-19 crisis

Governments of five Sub-Saharan Africa countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda), in collaboration with the World Bank, are implementing several rounds of high-frequency phone surveys to monitor the socioeconomic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. The data show that agriculture continues to be the main source of livelihood for smallholder households in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the share of households involved in agriculture increasing since the start of the pandemic. More urban households are moving into agriculture compared to rural areas. While agriculture has been impacted by the pandemic, the effect seems less pronounced compared to other sectors. Read the full World Bank report here.

AfDB gives South Sudan $14 million grant to boost agriculture

The African Development Bank has signed an agreement with South Sudan to give Juba a $14 million grant to boost agriculture (The East African, 5 February). The Agricultural Markets, Value Addition and Trade Development five-year project, which aims to enhance agricultural productivity, will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close liaison with South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. Since 2015, agriculture has been severely neglected – according to FAO only about 5% of South Sudan is cultivated due to the civil war that started in 2013 and inadequate investment in the sector.

Senegal: €5.7 million financing agreement

As part of a support plan to address Covid-19 and climate change, Senegal recently signed a financing agreement in the framework of the FAO/IFAD/WFP/G5 Sahel + Senegal Programme. This programme of FCFA 3.74 billion (€5.7 million), which will be spread over 3 years (2021–2023), aims to support small producers (women and young people) located in cross-border areas – Kanel (Matam), Podor (Saint Louis) and Goudiry (Tambacounda) departments (CommodAfrica, 10 February).


The EU-Cariforum trade pact a decade later

More than a decade since the EU-Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement, or EPA, was negotiated and signed, the shape of global trade has changed dramatically (The Gleaner, 11 February). The recent publication of a report prepared for the European Commission to evaluate the outcomes to date analyses the present EU-Caribbean trade trajectory and asks whether post-pandemic thinking may accelerate the regional trend away from trade with Europe, and the potential impacts of Brexit.

Fast-tracking Caribbean Covid-19 recovery and resilience

In the Caribbean, Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc in 2021 (Caribbean Export, 8 February). Given that tourism accounts for 34–48% of total GDP in countries such as The Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, the effect has been massive. But there is also a unique opportunity to press the reset button on the region’s development agenda, with business becoming a key partner on the path to recovery and resilience. Caribbean Export has already started working to strengthen and improve the region’s capacities to attract foreign direct investment.


European Union provides €5.7 million to strengthen Pacific trade capacity

The EU and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) have signed a new project worth €5.75 million (equivalent to FJD 14.3 million) to enhance the trade capacity of Pacific countries (Loop Pacific, 28 January). The project, titled “Strengthening Pacific Intra-Regional and International Trade” (SPIRIT), aims at boosting and increasing intra-regional and international trade by strengthening institutional and technical capacity in the region. It will facilitate the implementation of trade agreements, in particular the Economic Partnership Agreement, and of the Pacific’s Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020–2025.


European Union: new name for DG International Partnerships

The EU’s Directorate-General International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) is now officially called DG International Partnerships (DG INTPA) (European Commission, 15 January). The new title, mission statement and structure reflect the important role of international partnerships in shaping a stronger role for the EU globally, in eradicating poverty, advancing towards the Sustainable Development Goals and promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Public consultation now open: EU geographical indications scheme

The European Commission has launched a public consultation inviting citizens and organisations, as well as national and regional public authorities, to contribute to the assessment of how to strengthen the geographical indications system in the European Union. The deadline for contributions is 9 April.

AFD: €1 billion for biodiversity

The French Development Agency (AFD) plans to double its financing for ecosystem protection (AFD News, 14 January). At AFD, the share of climate-related financing that has a direct positive impact on biodiversity, currently 20%, will increase to 30% by 2025. AFD has also undertaken to double its financing specifically targeting biodiversity, from €527 million devoted to biodiversity protection in 2020, to €1 billion per year by 2025.

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