By Kester Kenn Klomegah
With the headquarters situated in Accra, the capital city of the Republic of Ghana, the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is now attracting a special business focus for both African countries and foreign countries.
For foreign countries, it is a time to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and install joint manufacturing clusters inside Africa.
Some African countries are focusing on combining resources to step up production and distribution of high-quality commodities, as under the designed regulations goods and products can be circulated across borders with taxes – one of the conditions under the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In that direction, Ghana has witnessed an unprecedented number of high-powered foreign visitors. Early August, it hosted a huge business forum during the three-day official visit of President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço of Angola.
That oil-rich country is located on the west coast of Southern Africa. It is the second-largest Portuguese-speaking country in both total area and population (behind Brazil) and is the seventh-largest country in Africa.
According to official documents, President João Lourenço visited at the invitation of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. It was a reciprocal visit for President Lourenço, as in August 2019, he first invited President Akufo-Addo.
During their meeting at the Jubilee House, the seat of the presidency, both leaders expressed the highest desire to strengthen and deepen their bilateral ties between both countries.
The agreement signed allows for a consultative mechanism for Ghana and Angola to interact regularly on areas of mutual interest, particularly in mining and hydrocarbon industry development, agriculture, education, tourism, transportation, and maritime security.
Angola looks to explore Ghana’s vast experience in the mining and cocoa sectors, whilst Ghana seeks to benefit from Angola’s rich knowledge in the oil and gas sector. The two leaders vowed to jointly fight threats to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Under the auspices of the Secretariat of the AfCFTA, the business forum that brought President João Lourenço to Ghana, was held and aimed at expanding bilateral business relations through the promotion of two-way investment and mutually complementary partnerships in the relations between the two countries.
It was additionally focused to drive networking for investment opportunities, attempted at exploring ways to boost trade and to discuss concrete solutions to roadblocks hindering investment and increase two-way exports between Angola and Ghana.
Wamkele Keabetswe Mene, the first Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat elected in February 2020, reiterated during the opening that the AfCFTA was set to effectively harmonize trade in goods and services in addition to improving the business environment by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers on the continent.
In addition, the move marks a new trade and investment era for Africa and offers a wide range of possibilities for businesses across various sectors in the member states.
Resultantly, this new dawn of continental integration presented a wide spectrum of opportunities for both Angolan and Ghanaian companies in multiple sectors including agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, petroleum and hydrocarbon activities, environment, science and technology, and tourism.
“With harmonized trade regulations and better movement of goods and services across the continent, the case for production in Africa for Africa is now a reality, where business operators in the member states can play a significant role,” Mene told the forum and added further that by consolidating Africa into one trade area provided great opportunities for entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers across the continent, unlocking trade and manufacturing potentials, enhancing industrialization in Africa.
With wide work experience in diplomacy including a previous position as the Chief Director for Africa Economic Relations in South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry and South Africa’s lead negotiator in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Wamkele Mene made a strong case for investing in Africa.
Compared to previous times, Africa is gradually becoming a more competitive investment destination for decades to come because of its improving relative risk profiles, demography, and continental integration.
“My message today is very simple: Africa is open for business. The business potential of the continent is tremendous in various sectors, including agriculture, energy, infrastructure, natural resources, and information and communications, offering opportunities for entrepreneurs,” Mene asserted in his speech and urged the business community to scale up entrepreneurship and turn challenges into springboards.
Alan Kyerematen, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, similarly reiterated that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), provides a unique platform to guide the continent’s industrialization, trade and economic recovery effort.
Angola and Ghana have a lot to gain from working together in fields such as agriculture, fisheries, livestock, industry, oil and gas, the petrochemical industry, value addition to their mineral resources, development of energy resources particularly renewable energy, financial technology and the industry.
Africa is shifting from one of the challenges and gaps to one about opportunities and prospects. The continent is now receiving a high level of interest as an investment destination from investors from across the globe. Indeed, it has a new narrative that should inspire the African diaspora to explore opportunities on the continent and invest in the various sectors.
Businesspeople from Ghana, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, among other guests, participated in the business forum held at the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area, where the Angolan head of State encouraged investment in Angola.
Later at the Legislative Assembly session, the Speaker of Parliament Rt Hon Alban S. K. Bagbin, in his welcome speech urged Africa countries to direct their energies towards building stronger institutions and systems and further argued that globally, countries that have succeeded in this endeavour, tend to discharge their mandates for the benefits of their people. Speaker Bagbin commended President João Lourenço for his dedication to tackling corruption head-on and reducing economic graft in his country.
On his part, while addressing the parliamentarians, João Lourenço commended the Parliament and Speaker Bagbin’s leadership, for being able to steer the affairs of the house despite its unique nature. He called for deeper cooperation between the two countries in building a formidable energy sector, parliamentary diplomacy and good governance.
With the inception of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), there is now increased and diversified opportunities to promote trade and attract foreign direct investment, create businesses and spur entrepreneurship, transfer new knowledge and skills within the entire African market space.
Currently, almost 70 per cent of countries that have signed the agreement have deposited their instruments of ratification, which means they have legally accepted the obligation to open their markets, reduce their barriers to trade, reduce barriers to investment and adhere to this single set of rules for trade and investment on the African continent.
The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area is an independent organ of the African Union System in charge of the negotiations and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area started in earnest on 1st January 2021, following a five-and-half-year period since negotiations were launched on 15th June 2015.
Russia Proposes Complete Ban on Cryptocurrencies
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Russian central bank has proposed a complete ban on cryptocurrencies in the country.
The proposal emphasized that crypto is extremely volatile and has helped to spread fraudulent activities in the country, adding that it is also a potential risk to the country’s national economy.
Director of the Bank of Russia, Ms Elizaveta Danilova, during a presentation, said that a complete ban would mean no mining, trading, or usage of crypto in the country.
However, owning cryptocurrencies would still be legal.
The report also suggested that the government should introduce punishments for individuals who buy or sell products/services using crypto.
The central bank, which is planning to issue its own digital currency, said crypto assets becoming widespread would limit the sovereignty of monetary policy, with higher interest rates needed to contain inflation.
This isn’t the first time the Bank of Russia has gone after cryptos as it had banned mutual funds from investing in any cryptocurrencies.
In 2019, the country blamed cryptocurrencies for spreading money launching and terror financing.
However, the government legalized crypto in 2020, although banning their use as payments.
The move is the latest in a global cryptocurrency crackdown as governments from Asia to the United States worry that privately operated and highly volatile digital currencies could undermine their control of financial and monetary systems.
With the total ban of the asset by China, Russia witnessed a rise in crypto mining and this move has already triggered investors to dump their coins.
In September, China intensified its crackdown on cryptocurrencies with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, hitting bitcoin and other major coins and pressuring crypto and blockchain-related stocks.
Market analysts note that although the Bank of Russia’s proposal can cause significant worry for its crypto traders and miners, it’s still not confirmed if the government will follow through with a total ban.
Proposed Amazon Headquarters in South Africa Under Threat
By Adedapo Adesanya
Plans by Amazon to establish its Africa headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa, could hit a snag if a legal challenge by indigenous activists is allowed to proceed, a Cape Town court heard on Thursday, January 20.
According to reports, construction is already underway for Amazon’s $262 million African headquarters on land that Khoisan communities hold sacred as a site of their early resistance to European colonisers in 1510.
Several Khoisan groups threw their support behind the project after the developers agreed to build a heritage, cultural and media centre that will be operated by indigenous groups.
However, the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and a neighbourhood association have asked the Western Cape High Court to halt construction.
A lawyer for the property developers, the Liesbeek Leisure Property Trust, told the court that Amazon has signalled it will pull out of the project if the delay is granted.
According to an advocate, Mr Sean Rosenberg, “If Amazon has indicated, even directly, that it’s not going to tolerate any further delays, that’s not hearsay evidence.
“That’s direct evidence of what Amazon’s intentions are.”
“The much more likely possibility is that this project will not go ahead, given what has happened up until now, given Amazon’s impatience, given Amazon’s indication,” he added.
Amazon itself is not named in the case but the hearing is expected to conclude Friday.
Once hunter-gatherers, known under the now-discarded label of Bushmen, the Khoisan suffered deeply under colonisation and apartheid.
Many in their community say they still endure wide social inequalities and economic opportunities today, and their past remains overlooked.
DR Congo Raises Stake in Shelter Afrique 2.46%
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased its shareholding in Shelter Afrique to 2.46 per cent, up from 1.68 per cent held previously.
This followed the payment of $1.7 million capital arrears in the pan-African housing development financier on December 22, 2021, to add to the initial $2.5 million.
DR Congo has now joined Tanzania, Morocco, Mali, Lesotho, Namibia, Togo and Zimbabwe as Shelter Afrique Class A shareholders who have fully paid their capital obligations.
“We are grateful to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as this is a show of strong belief in the role and mandates of Shelter Afrique in the provision of affordable housing in Africa, and particularly the DRC.
“We are particularly appreciative of the roles played by the Minister for Urban Planning and Housing, Mr Pius Mukala and the Minister for Finance, Mr Nicolas Kazadi, for making the disbursements,” the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Shelter Afrique, Mr Andrew Chimphondah said.
“We wish to show our gratitude to the eight shareholders who have fully paid their capital subscriptions and to those who continue to increase their stakes in the company – it is a huge vote of confidence in our board approved strategy which is being implemented successfully by the management,” Mr Chimphondah added.
In the recent past, DRC has enhanced its engagement with Shelter Afrique. Consequently, the company has ramped up its activities in the country by actively pursuing large-scale, low-cost housing projects in DRC through public-private partnerships and equity investments.
Recently, Shelter Afrique approved a line of credit worth $11.4 million to a financial institution to finance 285 mortgages in the country.
Shelter Afrique is also keen on supporting urban regeneration projects in Lubumbashi and Goma, which is expected to develop 500 housing units – the company has set aside $20 million, pending board approval.
“Additionally, under our social housing plans, we are currently reviewing a housing project in Goma that seeks to develop 1000 housing units for families displaced by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo and Kanyaja, which occurred in May and June 2021. When approved, we will invest $1 million in equity for a period of 7 years,” he further stated.
Other projects so far financed by Shelter Afrique in the DRC include Devimco’s 7-floor office building for rental purposes, La Tradition, Le Concorde, L’Ambassadeur; Azda; and a 10-storey building in Kinshasa developed by ELOLO SPRL.
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