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
World Bank Gives $300m Budget Support to Mozambique
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
By June, the World Bank plans to provide $300 million to support the national budget of the Republic of Mozambique, according to the World Bank country director for Mozambique, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough.
After a meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Economy and Finance, Max Tonela, the global lender’s country director said that priority sectors would include health, education, energy and agriculture. The budget support proposal will be presented to the World Bank board by June.
“We are talking about the first instalment of 300 million dollars, which we hope to take to our administration for approval by 30 June this year. Then we can consider other windows of financing for 2023 and 2024”, said Pswarayi-Riddihough.
International organizations and financial institutions have returned after the Government of Mozambique started to undertake necessary reforms.
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also returned with a set of new funded programmes to Mozambique, six years after the lender halted its previous deals in the wake of a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza.
Popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving $2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal happened in 2013, and the case has since left an image of a corrupt country and brought high-level government officials to testify as witnesses in the controversial judicial trial. It prompted 14 foreign donors, including IMF, to cut off aid and simultaneously sparked a currency collapse and debt crisis.
The IMF said in a report that its funds would be used to support sustainable, inclusive economic growth and long-term macroeconomic stability, in the world’s third poorest country measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The programmes will address transparency in debt management and the natural resource sector.
Unlike many of Mozambique’s other partners, the World Bank did not cut off financial assistance entirely after the scandal of Mozambique’s “Hidden Debts” became public knowledge in April 2016. World Bank aid continued, but in relatively small amounts, project by project.
Now the bank seems prepared to return to the modality of direct budget support. Pswarayi-Riddihough said that the improvement in good governance supposedly recorded in recent years contributed to the resumption of World Bank support. She claimed that this was an important step toward regaining the trust of the country’s partners.
Major work had been undertaken around questions of transparency and good governance, she alleged – but admitted that Mozambican civil society is continuing to demand greater advances in these areas. Mozambique’s new programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she added, could give a strong signal to the market. Indeed, it will send a strong signal to all of Mozambique’s partners.
The agreement between Mozambique and the IMF, approved by the IMF Executive Board, will make $456 million available to the country. An amount of $91 million will become available immediately. At the time, Tonela said the agreement with the IMF marked the start of a new phase, leading to the resumption of sustainable growth of the Mozambican economy.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Adesina Seeks US Support to Fund $1.5bn Africa Food Plan
By Adedapo Adesanya
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has appealed to the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan which seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mr Adesina was part of a team that testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) also participated in the hearing.
Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding, saying, “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe.”
On his part, Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.
Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Mr Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.
“The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.
He explained that the plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers and with the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.
Speaking further, the AfDB chief said the lender would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called on the US to make up the funding balance.
“With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the bank’s Board of Directors for approval.
Also providing testimony were Mr David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.
Ms McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
Mr Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “COVID comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
Mr Adesina, then, emphasized that the African Development Bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.
“One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said
The bank’s president also said the AfDB was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs.
“If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem.
According to him, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity.
The initiative will “drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.”
Elon Musk Puts Twitter Acquisition on Hold
By Adedapo Adesanya
In a new turn of events, Elon Musk on Friday put his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter Inc temporarily on hold.
The world’s richest man is carrying out the decision to put the Twitter acquisition on hold citing pending details in support of the calculation that spam and fake accounts indeed represent less than 5 per cent of users.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Mr Musk tweeted on Friday.
This latest move sent the shares of the social media company falling 18 per cent to $37.10 in premarket trading, their lowest level since he disclosed his stake in the company in early April and subsequently made a best and final offer to take it private for $54.20 per share.
Twitter had earlier this month estimated that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter when it recorded 229 million users who were served to advertise.
Mr Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, had said that one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform.
This is the latest drama ensuing from the deal after its General Manager of Consumer, Mr Keyvon Beykpour, was relieved of his job on Thursday as part of a major shake-up in the company heralding Elon Musk’s takeover.
The disappointed Beykpour took to the social medial platform to announce the termination of his appointment and said he got the shocking message while still on paternity leave.
According to him, the CEO of Twitter, Mr Parag Agrawal asked him to leave “after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.” Mr Beykpour, says he never imagined leaving Twitter in such a manner and time.
Mr Musk has other specific plans for Twitter products like verifying users who pay for Twitter Blue subscriptions, charging for embedded tweets, and other changes designed to grow Twitter revenue and users.
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