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China’s Trade With Africa Reaches Record Highs

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China's Trade With Africa

By Virusha Subban

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, trade between China and Africa increased by 40.5 per cent year-on-year in the first seven months of 2021 and was valued at a record high of $139.1 billion.

The Ministry noted that African products were increasingly being recognised in the Chinese market and that imports from Africa into China increased by 46.3 per cent between January and July 2021.

Further, the import of agricultural products, such as rubber, cotton and coffee from Africa into China doubled when compared to the first seven months of 2020.

Data from the Ministry further revealed that over the last 20 years, China’s trade with Africa has risen 20-fold, showing that China is Africa’s biggest bilateral trading partner.

A recent report by Economist Corporate Network, supported by Baker McKenzie and Silk Road Associates, BRI Beyond 2020 (Economist report), showed how these strengthening trade links are, in part, a result of favourable financial incentives offered to African jurisdictions by China. According to the Economist report, 33 of the poorest jurisdictions in Africa export 97 per cent of their exports to China with no tariffs and no customs duties.

This report noted that bilateral trade was still heavily centred on China’s import of Africa’s natural resources. However, in recent years China had increased its import of manufacturing products from more diversified economies such as South Africa.

A Baker McKenzie report with Oxford Economics – AfCFTA: A Three Trillion Dollar Opportunity (AfCFTA report) – revealed that over three-quarters of African exports to the rest of the world were still heavily focused on natural resources, but that on the import side, manufactured goods accounted for more than half the total volume of imports into African jurisdictions.

Africa’s most important suppliers of manufactured goods were listed as Europe (35 per cent) China (16 per cent) and the rest of Asia, including India (14 per cent).

Africa’s strong reliance on foreign jurisdictions for its manufactured goods shows that for intra-regional trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to fully succeed, more jurisdictions in the region must develop their manufacturing bases and reduce their reliance on natural resources.

As such, reliable transport infrastructure is vital for businesses in Africa to be able to scale up production for regional export. The continent also needs to redouble efforts to ensure that an adequate supply of water and electricity is available.

Additional investments in utility infrastructure will have the added benefit of incentivising foreign companies to set up production facilities on the continent.

To aid Africa with these massive infrastructure needs, China has provided significant capital for key infrastructure projects in Africa in the last few years.

A further Baker McKenzie’s report – New Dynamics: Shifting Patterns in Africa’s Infrastructure Funding (infrastructure report) – showed that lending by Chinese banks into energy and infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa saw a small uplift in 2020, despite the pandemic, although deal values were well below their 2017 peak.

In 2017, Chinese banks lent $11 billion to African infrastructure projects, which decreased to $4.5 billion in 2018, $2.8 billion in 2019 and $3.3 billion in 2020.

Overall, the numbers show that there has been a slowdown in the number of infrastructure deals from China, although they are by far still the biggest investors in the region. In the short term, the report noted that more targeted lending from China is expected.

Further, the Economist report pointed out that political and policy commitments between China and Africa have strengthened and expanded in their scope in recent years.

During the 2018 Forum on China Africa Cooperation, an official forum between China and all states in Africa, Chinese President Xi proposed eight major areas for nations to collaborate on: industrial promotion, facility connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health and hygiene, humanities exchanges, and peace and security.

Chinese companies recently supported the construction of three major economic zones in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Zambia-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, the Eastern Industrial Zone in Ethiopia and the China-Nigeria free trade zone. Such investments have been helping to create jobs, develop local industries and facilitate trade.

However, as Africa reduces its over-dependence on natural resources and increases its manufacturing capacity, it must also ensure it develops other industries in a sustainable way.

To this end, the Economist report outlined how China and Africa have agreed to work together on improving Africa’s capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development, and to roll out more than 50 projects on clean energy, wildlife protection, environment-friendly agriculture and low-carbon development. The trade in sustainable goods and services is also expected to reap benefits for the African continent in future years.

Successful regional trade under AfCFTA will connect the region’s wealthier and poorer nations, promote the growth of value chains and lay the foundations for increased international trade in the process. As free trade under AfCFTA takes hold, the existing strong trade ties that African jurisdictions already enjoy with China and the continent’s other major trading partners, are expected to be further boosted.

Virusha Subban is a Partner and Head of Indirect Tax at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg

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Trump Hopes to Rival Twitter, Facebook With TRUTH Social

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donald trump TRUTH Social

By Adedapo Adesanya

Former President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump, has announced plans to launch his own social media platform, TRUTH Social.

This was disclosed in a press release on Wednesday, which stressed that the app, to be available for pre-order on Apple’s App Store, will open to invitees in November and to the public in the first quarter of 2022.

TRUTH Social will be launched by Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), a recently created company that’s aiming to go public via a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company.

Speaking in the statement, Mr Trump said, “I created TRUTH Social and TMTG to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

Mr Trump’s announcement comes after months of speculation about his plans to create his own media operation following his controversial opinions that have drawn anger from different quarters.

The former US President has come under scrutiny after every major social media platform – including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – banned or suspended him for violating their policies.

In July, Trump sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, along with their chief executives, seeking the restoration of his accounts and punitive damages.

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American President has been silenced,” Mr Trump said.

The social media platform is the first of the three stages in the company’s plans, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts, and an entry to the cloud-computing space, according to the release.

Mr Trump, who was impeached by the US House of Representatives for his role in egging on rioters on January 6, but later acquitted of the charges in the then Republican-controlled US Senate, has been vocal about his desire to launch his own media platform following his presidency.

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Russia Strengthens Political, Economic Ties With Guinea-Bissau

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Russia Guinea-Bissau Economic Ties

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa have signed a memorandum on political consultations. This aims at strengthening political dialogue and promoting consistency in good cooperation at the international arena.

Russia expects trade and economic ties with Guinea-Bissau will continue developing; they must correspond to the high level of the political dialogue between the countries, Minister Lavrov said in his opening remarks with his counterpart from Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa.

“Probably, the next natural step will be to build up our trade-economic, investment cooperation in order to bring it to the level of our sound, confident political dialogue,” the Russian Minister added.

Speculation aside, the face-to-face diplomatic talks focus on effective ways for developing tangible cooperation in the most diverse areas in Guinea-Bissau. The meeting agreed to take a number of practical steps, including reciprocal visits by entrepreneurs both ways.

“We talked about more efficient ways of developing our trade and economic cooperation. We agreed to undertake a range of specific steps, including the trips of businessmen from Guinea-Bissau to Russia and then from Russia to Guinea-Bissau,” Lavrov said.

Last year, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Nuno Gomes Nabiam met with representatives of the Russian business community. The areas of interest mentioned in this respect included exploration of natural resources, construction of infrastructure facilities, as well as the development of agriculture and fisheries.

Guineans are keen on deepening bilateral cooperation in fishing. The five Russian fishing trawlers have recently resumed their operations in the exclusive economic zone of Guinea-Bissau.

As explained at the media conference, the topics discussed for cooperation included such spheres as natural resources tapping, infrastructure development, agriculture and fisheries

In terms of education, over 5,000 people have already entered civilian professions, and more than 3,000 people have acquired military specialities, which is important for Guinea-Bissau. In addition, a military and technical intergovernmental cooperation agreement is about to enter in force. According to reports, Russia would continue to pursue military cooperation with the country.

Both ministers reviewed the situation in Mali, the Republic of Guinea and some other African areas, with an emphasis on West Africa and the Sahara-Sahel region.

Lavrov and Carla Barbosa discussed preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit planned for 2022. With high hopes that the collective attendance will include President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo.

Guinea-Bissau, like many African states, has had political problems. In April 2020, the regional group of fifteen West African countries often referred to as ECOWAS, after months of election dispute finally recognized the victory of Umaro Sissoco Embaló of Guinea-Bissau.

Perspectives for future development are immense in the country. The marine resources and other water bodies are an integral part of the livelihood. Steps to increase agricultural production are necessary. The economy largely depends on agriculture: fish, cashew nuts and peanuts are its major exports. Its population is estimated at 1.9 million, and more than two-thirds live below the poverty line.

Sharing borders with Guinea (to the southeast), Gambia and Senegal (to the north), Guinea-Bissau attained its independence in September 1973. Guinea-Bissau follows a nonaligned foreign policy and seeks friendly and cooperative relations with a wide variety of states and organizations. Besides, Eсonomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Guinea-Bissau is a member of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations.

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Empowering Women in the Changing World

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Empowering Women

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Women play an increasingly important role in resolving issues that society and the state encounter and in the modern world, they should not face the choice between family and self-fulfilment, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the third Eurasian Women’s Forum held in St. Petersburg on October 13-15.

“It is completely obvious that in modern conditions a woman should not face the choice between children and family or professional fulfilment. That is why in Russia the conditions are consistently created for a woman after childbirth to begin or resume her professional career at any moment, to become accomplished, to achieve growth in what she enjoys,” Mr Putin stressed.

The Eurasian Women’s Forum, held since 2015, is one of the largest international platforms uniting female leaders from all continents to examine and discuss the role of women in the modern world and work out new approaches to solving global problems.

The forum was organized by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS).

Speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, gave the opening speech at the plenary session. She stressed that the main goal of the global women’s community is to improve people’s quality of life as well as build mutual understanding and trust between countries and peoples in the name of peace and sustainable development.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Viktoria Abramchenko, noted in her speech that women are directly involved in implementing these tasks in Russia and on international platforms.

Vietnamese Vice President, Vo Thi Anh Xuan, made a video conference presentation. She said that the Forum is bringing together the majority of women around the world. “The role of women today is extremely important. We can make the world more just and help fight global challenges,” she said.

Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan Sahiba Ali gizi Gafarova believes that the topics discussed at the Eurasian Women’s Forum provide an opportunity to consider the most pressing issues of modern life and enhance women’s status around the world. Gafarova stated that fully unleashing women’s potential would be the foundation for building a healthy society.

Chairwoman of the Senate of Uzbekistan Tanzila Narbaeva noted that the forum once again demonstrated women’s growing role in resolving the socioeconomic issues facing their countries. The Forum demonstrates new approaches to the women’s agenda, she said.

Narbaeva stressed that Uzbekistan is ready to share its experience in various areas and is open to cooperation. She invited the participants to take part in the women’s forum during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in 2022, planned in Samarkand.

Chairwoman of the Lower Chamber of Parliament of Turkmenistan, Gulshat Mammedova, said the forum is an important platform for interaction between women and helps to harmonize efforts in addressing various issues of the changing world as well as exchange views and experience in promoting women’s rights.

Participation of African women was modest, that included for example President of the Senate of Gabon Lucie Milebou Aubusson, Liberian Dr Jewel Howard-Taylor and Zimbabwean First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa among a few others. President of the Assembly of Mozambique, Esperança Laurinda Francisco Nhiuane Bias, delivered a speech at the forum.

Zimbabwean First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, on the sidelines held a special working discussion with the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, focusing on developing inter-parliamentary relations, women in sustainable development, education and charity.

The First Lady and the Speaker snapshotted the possibility of greater participation of Russian economic operators in the development process in the southern African region. Both women have expressed an appreciation for cooperating on common questions on international platforms. Diplomatic relations between the two marked their 40th year.

On October 15, African women took part in an exclusive discussion solely on “the Role of Women in the Integrated Development of the African Continent” at the Tauride Palace. It was attended by women from international organizations, business circles, the scientific community and non-governmental organizations.

The entire third forum was held offline using modern formats such as video conferencing and online broadcast, intended to ensure extended outreach and provide audience engagement. The physical presence was organized in strict accordance with safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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