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US Investors to Explore Opportunities in AfCFTA

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US Investors Opportunities in AfCFTA

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

United States investors are looking to explore the several opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a policy signed by African countries to make the continent a single market.

Speaking at the 13th US-Africa Business Summit organised by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a leading reputable American business association, the investors said there are ways the continent can benefit from them, including in sectors like pharmaceuticals, automobiles, agro-processing and financial technology.

The US government and private sector leaders, together with African political and corporate business leaders, have been working consistently over these years to share insights on critical issues and policies influencing the US-Africa economic partnership.

The three-day summit held virtually included five plenaries and 12-panel sessions highlighting key economic recovery strategies and focused on a range of sectors and issues, including health and vaccine access, trade, digital transformation, infrastructure, financing, small and medium scale enterprises, tourism, women’s leadership and investment opportunities in various African countries.

The high-level dialogue set the scene for reviewing the opportunities for the United States and African public and private sector leaders, how to strengthen the economic partnership between the United States and Africa. Prosper Africa, investments in key sectors such as gas, exploration of possible new bilateral trade agreements, extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Driving Inclusive Recovery

The United States said it will drive a pandemic recovery and put women at the forefront. It has contributed 25 million vaccines for Africa. It implies making sure to incorporate women’s perspectives in their efforts. “When women are empowered, they empower their families, they empower their communities and they empower their countries.”

Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said that there are six critical things for women to benefit from AfCFTA.

These include: closing the gender gap as it relates to access to finance, empowering women in the export sector, regional value chains and procurement and ensuring that we include the voice of women in the AfCFTA implementation efforts.

Strong US-Africa Trade Relationship

The US investors hope to focus on a range of issues, from implementing the AfCFTA, boosting Africa’s trade with the US including through AGOA, pursuing agreements that go beyond AGOA, such as the US-Kenya FTA. It will be pursuing public-private partnerships that support the US and African businesses, including women-owned and led SMEs.

The US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, noted that this is among the top priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration the defeat of COVID and helping facilitate a robust global economic recovery.

She pointed to trade as a key part of that effort and the determination to implement policies that benefit not only those at the top but foster inclusive and sustainable development, supports regional integration, and ensure that all citizens benefit from the global economy.

At the event, Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, highlighted the significant progress that has been made in advancing the AfCFTA — with 40 countries that have now ratified the agreement, Phase 1 covering trade in goods and services concluded, and 86% of the rules of origin completed.

He noted that “AfCFTA has unlocked value chains for investors – especially US investors – in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automobiles, agro-processing, and financial technology.”

On his part, the Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Mr Tewolde GebreMariam, noted that as the largest air cargo carrier in Africa with hubs in countries across the continent and the airline is successfully connecting Africa with the rest of the world – both for cargo and for passengers and tourism. He urged, though, that more be done to facilitate increased investment, trade and tourism in Africa and to support the AfCFTA vision and goals.

The Assistant US Trade Representative, Ms Constance Hamilton, noted that the US trade policy now transforms beyond AGOA, noting that under the Biden-Harris Administration, they will be ramping up engagement with the AfCFTA Secretariat to support African regional integration, while looking to build stronger relationships with willing African nations through bilateral engagement.

She noted the plans to hold a Trade Ministerial conference in 2021 and to engage with a range of stakeholders to explore ways to enhance the US-Africa trade relationship.

Infrastructure Development

At the event, participants highlighted the growing financing gap in Africa and the importance of renewed public-private partnerships in the development of infrastructure projects.

Minister de Lille of South Africa and Serge Ekue of the West African Development Bank and other panellists suggested that a way to address those flaws is to “implement rigorous master planning that will first help identify bankable projects and then prepare them efficiently while raising local capacity.”

“Infrastructure is not just about the value of the money. It is about the value of the social impact on our communities. These indicated that countries pursue ways to bridge financing infrastructure in Africa,” they submitted.

Beyond COVID-19

Stakeholders at the seminal agreed that it was important to invest in sustainable approaches that bring services close to the patients. These include strong primary healthcare (PHC) as the foundation for strengthening health systems, including the integration of services with a multi-disciplinary team.

Looking forward, it was said that there are opportunities for impact investing in health in Africa by deploying financial resources that can have financial returns/commercial opportunities while improving health outcomes.

Closing Trade Finance Gap

The event gap participants the avenue to discuss the trade finance gap with African, Diaspora, SMEs and women-owned businesses and how organizations can contribute to reduce (or eliminate) the gap.

Participants discussed the impact of the pandemic on their organizations and initiatives contributing to economic activity recovery, as well as improving business operations. Panellists also highlighted the importance of diversifying both suppliers and clients, in addition to looking beyond the immediate market to new partnerships.

The diverse panel emphasized the growing trend of digitalization of SMEs and African business operations. Moving to digital and connected operations will help businesses not only simplify operations but also allow them to reach customers in places they were not able to operate before. This also will positively impact the relationship between Diaspora businesses and businesses on the continent.

They concluded that implementing strategies that will enable African SMEs to grow, build capacity, find new U.S. partners, and access cheap and easily available capital will be crucial to close the trade finance gap.

Sustainable Agribusiness Ecosystem

Participants at this meeting agreed that diversification was the way to improve the agribusiness sector. Collaboration between US and African companies will help achieve sustainable development through increased access to investment financing and access to global markets for African companies, they opined.

However, it was stressed that achieving diversification will require producing more value-added products, which will be achieved through investment in industrialization, R&D, and technology.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and favourable government policies will be key to funding these efforts, they further stated, noting that investing in SMEs will be vital to improving agribusiness value chains since SMEs are deeply integrated at every level from retailers to crop transporters while helping scale up these SME’s make the value-chains more productive and improve the sector’s output.

Digital Transformation

Speaking at the programme, the South African Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, noted that digital technology remains a critical tool and a critical enabler to build economic growth and economic opportunities.

The Minister said digital technologies will help create new products and new markets for millions of Africans. Policymakers, corporations, and entrepreneurs have a unique partnership opportunity to develop digital infrastructure, skills, and ecosystems.

Minister Patel invited the private sector to share ideas and suggestions to make the AfCFTA e-commerce protocol fit for its purpose.

It was agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the digitalization of life and work. As a result, technology companies are developing lifesaving products and services.

For example, Google and Apple developed exposure notification technology, which helps slow the spread of COVID-19. Google also developed a range of products for remote education.

As African businesses and consumers have shifted towards e-commerce and digital payments, companies like Visa have accelerated the rollout of payment infrastructure.

For digital trade and the digital economy to work effectively, panellists recommended that the AfCFTA be implemented to establish a continent-wide harmonization of business-friendly rules and regulations.

Future of Energy in Africa

During the summit, high-level participants from the US government, African countries and the private sector discussed the need for public-private sector collaboration on energy transition in Africa and innovative thinking on the critical need to address energy poverty and access to electricity in Africa while advancing the urgent fight against global warming.

Joining US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, from the USG were senior US government officials from the Departments of Energy and State, and the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

Also participating in the dialogue were Ministers of Energy and senior African officials from Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal, as well as CEOs and other top executives from a range of U.S. and African oil, gas, and power companies and major investors in the sector.

In his presentation, Mr Kerry stated that tackling climate change is a top priority for the United States and reiterated the US government commitment to encouraging other countries to achieve their respective climate and clean energy goals.

It was noted that more African countries need to sign on to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change as it is important that all countries work together to address global climate change.

Other US government officials acknowledged energy poverty in Africa and noted that improving energy access in Africa is paramount to the US government as it continues to invest in electricity systems in Africa through initiatives like Power Africa.

They also noted that even while the United States is pushing for a strong political commitment from African to prioritizing and meeting climate change goals, the US government will continue to support and finance energy projects (including some in gas) in Africa, particularly where renewable energy options may not be viable.

African Ministers and government officials shared the strategies they have adopted in their respective countries to both adopt clean energy technologies in oil and gas, while also investing in renewable energy options.

In Senegal, Egypt and Angola, renewable energy is at the forefront of energy transition strategies and initiatives, and it was noted that collaborations with international partners are essential to achieving long term energy and climate change goals in Africa.

CEOs and senior executives of companies with operations in Africa who participated in the session highlighted that they are actively working on energy access in Africa, see gas (particularly abated gas) as a medium-term, low-cost transition option to address climate change, while some are also investing in and financing renewable energy projects in Africa.

There were calls for fair treatment of Africa, in terms of climate change, as well as for the US government to prioritize development over climate change when it comes to Africa, and to continue financing gas projects in Africa for the next 5-7 years, which some thought could actually help meet climate goals faster as Africans (especially those in rural areas) shift from wood burning to use of gas to cook.

Noting the complexity of these energy issues, many agreed that public-private partnerships are crucial to renewable energy transitions, and thought that further dialogues like this one leading up to the COP 26 talks scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2021 would be crucial in the US and Africans reaching a common understanding about the way forward on the future of energy and climate in Africa.

Looking Forward

The US government said the Biden-Harris Administration was prioritizing economic relationships with Africa.

Dana Banks, White House Senior Director for Africa, announced the White House Administration made a request for $80 million in additional funding to push for the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign that will drive billions of dollars of investment in Africa, build new markets for American products and create thousands of jobs for African and American workers.

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Africa Gets Just 12% of Climate Change Financing

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Climate Change

By Adedapo Adesanya

A new report from Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) has said that Africa is getting just 12 per cent of the finance it needs to manage the impact of climate change.

It, however, raised pressure on rich nations to do more in the run-up to global climate talks at COP27 in November.

CPI said that around $250 billion is needed annually to help African countries move to greener technologies and adapt to the effects of climate change, yet funding in 2020 was just $29.5 billion.

Wealthy countries have faced growing criticism for failing to meet a pledge made in 2009 to provide $100 billion annually to help poorer countries and the issue is likely to be central to discussions at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt.

According to the International Energy Agency, Africa has about a fifth of the world’s population but produces less than 3 per cent of its carbon dioxide emissions.

“Harnessing climate investment opportunities in Africa will require innovation in financing structures and strategic deployment of public capital to ‘crowd-in’ private investment at levels not yet seen,” the CPI report said.

It cited a lack of skills, infrastructure, data and financial markets depth, governance issues, and currency risks as holding back climate investment to varying degrees in African countries.

The barriers were most numerous in central African countries, where infrastructure and access to credit are lacking and there are high risks of political and regulatory issues hampering investment, the report said.

“While these barriers are real, the perception of risk linked to investments in the African continent is often aggravated by a limited understanding of national contexts by private investors,” it said.

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Australia Begins Process to Introduce Central Bank Digital Currency

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australia central bank digital currency

By Adedapo Adesanya

As more countries gravitate towards a digital currency, Australia joined the cadre as it announced the beginning of a collaborative effort to review the case for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the country.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Treasury, and other agencies will oversee the research effort designed to explore the potential economic benefits of introducing such a currency in Australia, the RBA said in a statement Tuesday. The project is expected to run for about a year.

Speaking on this, the RBA’s Deputy Governor Michele Bullock said the work “is an important next step in our research on CBDC. We are looking forward to engaging with a wide range of industry participants to better understand the potential benefits a CBDC could bring to Australia.”

The central bank reiterated the research comes in the context of Australia already having “relatively modern and well-functioning payment and settlement systems.”

The RBA is collaborating with the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre in the project, while Treasury is participating as a member of the steering committee. The work will involve the development of a “limited-scale pilot that will operate in a ringfenced environment for a period of time.”

Over the course of the next 12 months, interested industry participants will be invited to develop specific use cases that demonstrate how the digital currency could be used to provide innovative and value-added payment and settlement services to households and businesses, the RBA added.

A report on the findings, including an assessment of the various use cases developed, will be published at the conclusion.

Central banks worldwide are acting swiftly to ensure they don’t fall behind as money edges toward its biggest reinvention in centuries with alternative concepts like cryptocurrencies taking hold.

Nigeria is one of the countries at the forefront of a CBDC with the introduction of the eNaira in 2021 with the Digital Euro still under investigation phase while Jamaica began its own testing phase in May. China’s Digital Yuan has been in testing since 2020.

Blockchain technology, as well as events like the coronavirus pandemic, are among the forces pushing consumers to go cashless.

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Mozambique Risks Economic Stability Over Russian Oil

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Mozambique Risks Economic Stability

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Mozambique risks destabilizing its economy and further losing western development finance if it goes ahead to purchase sanctioned oil from Russia.

With the return of western development finance institutions such International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the USAID, and currently showing tremendous support for sustainable development projects and programmes, Mozambique would have to stay focused and stay clear of the complexities and contradictions of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Mozambique needs to seriously concentrate on and pursue its plans of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), extracted from the Coral South field, off the coast of Palma district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, possibly starting this October. It marks an economic turning point and opens a new chapter for its revenue sources.

According to our research, Mozambique will become the first country in East Africa to export LNG. It will be produced on a floating platform, belonging to a consortium led by the Italian energy company, Eni. The platform, built in a Korean shipyard, arrived in Mozambican waters in January and is now anchored in Area Four of the Rovuma Basin, some 40 kilometres from the mainland.

This is the first deep-water platform in the world to operate at a water depth of about two thousand meters. The Coral South project is expected to produce 3.4 million tons of LNG per year over its estimated 25-year lifespan.

A second project is planned for Area One of the Rovuma Basin, where the operator is the French company TotalEnergies. The planned LNG plants for this project, are onshore, in the Afungi Peninsula of the Palma district. The jihadists seized Palma town in March 2021, and TotalEnergies withdrew all of its staff from the district. Subsequently, the Mozambican defence and security forces and their Rwandan allies drove the terrorists out of both Palma and the neighbouring district of Mocimboa da Praia.

The current global economic situation is changing, and competition and rivalry for markets are also at their height. During the past months, Russia has cut its export of gas as a reciprocal action against European Union members and has redirected its search for new clients in the Asian region. It has already offered discounted prices to China and India, and now looking beyond Africa.

United States Special Envoy to the United Nations, Thomas-Greenfield, has made one point clear in her speeches with African leaders that “African nations are free to buy grain from Russia but could face consequences if they trade in U.S.-sanctioned commodities such as oil from Russia.”

“Countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. But she added that “if a country decides to engage with Russia, where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions. We caution countries not to break those sanctions because then … they stand the chance of having actions taken against them.”

Russian Ambassador to Mozambique, Alexander Surikov, after a meeting with the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), had proposed that the Mozambican authorities could buy Russian oil in roubles after Moscow presented the option to Maputo. Ambassador Surikov further expressed Russian companies’ continuing interest in investing in Mozambique. Likewise, the possibility was raised of Russia opening a bank in Mozambique focused on supporting bilateral trade and investment.

Russia previously had a VTB bank in Maputo, later involved in opaque deals. It was a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, relating to illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza. Until today, it is popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving US$2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal that happened in 2013.

In the aftermath, financial institutions exited, projects were abandoned and this southern African country has struggled to rebound economically. Now they are returning with new financial assistance programmes that would promote sustainable and inclusive growth and long-term macroeconomic stability.

In the context of the current cereal crisis, one other issue that the ambassador raised was how Mozambican companies could have direct access to Russian wheat suppliers. In this regard, it was not clear how Russian wheat would enter the market and how it would be paid for because Mozambique uses principally the US dollar in its foreign transactions, and Russia cannot conduct transactions using the US currency due to the sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine.

“The rouble and the medical are worthy currencies that do not need the benevolence of some other countries that control the international system,” the Russian diplomat explained, adding that Moscow wanted to strengthen cooperation with Maputo.

Nonetheless, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique, Carlos Zacarias, admittedly the possibility of buying Russian oil in roubles. “I am sure that we will study and verify the feasibility of this offer from Russia. If it is viable, for sure Russian oil will be acquired in roubles,” Carlos Zacarias said.

Mozambique’s receptivity to the Russian proposal stems from the fact that the world is experiencing a peculiar moment, characterized by great volatility in oil prices on the international market as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Mozambique was among the countries that abstained on two resolutions that were voted on by the General Assembly of the United Nations, one condemning Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as a consequence of the war and the other suspending Moscow from the Human Rights Council.

The Mozambican Liberation Front (Frelimo, the ruling party) was an ally of Moscow during the time of the former USSR and received military support during the struggle against Portuguese colonialism and economic aid after independence in 1975.

Mozambique and Russia have admirable political relations. Mozambique has to focus on trade and economic development with external partners. According to data provided by CTA, the annual volume of economic transactions between Mozambique and Russia is estimated to be, at least, US$100 million (€98.5 million at current exchange rates).

Experts aptly point to the fact that there is a tremendous opportunity window for Mozambique. With partners including ExxonMobil Corp., China National Petroleum Corp. and Mozambican state-owned Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos, Mozambique has to move towards its own energy development. These past few years, experts have also reiterated adopting a suitable mechanism, mapping out strategies and utilizing financial support for sustainable development.

Mozambique has considerable gas resources and the right decision is to move toward both an onshore concept and an offshore concept. The ultimate goal has to establish connectivity between its resource exploration and national development. The idea is to foster economic relations based on its domestic development priorities. And consequently, it has to determine influential external investment partners ready to invest funds and, in practical terms, committed to supporting sustainable development in the country.

The Mozambique LNG offshore project, valued at around $20 billion, aims to extract about 13.12 million tonnes of recoverable gas over 25 years and generate profits of US$60.8 billion, half of which will go to the Mozambican state.

The process to achieve this task has started and would generate 14,000 possible jobs in phases – first creating 5,000 jobs for Mozambicans in the construction phase and 1,200 in the operational phase, with a plan to train 2,500 technicians and so forth. These projects also have a great capacity to create indirect jobs, with foreign labour decreasing throughout the project and Mozambican labour increasing. Most of these jobs are expected to be provided by contractors and subcontractors.

Several corporate projects came to a halt due to armed insurgency in 2017 in Cabo Delgado province. The entry of foreign troops to support Mozambican forces in mid-2021 has improved the security situation. Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops was fixed, with the support of Rwandans and later by the Standby Joint Force consisting of forces from members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Cabo Delgado province, located in northern Mozambique, is rich in natural gas. Although the gas from the three projects approved so far has a destination, Mozambique has proven reserves of over 180 trillion cubic feet, according to data from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with natural resources. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

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