Tag Archives: trade

The Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum 2013

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Optimising Africa’s transportation infrastructure in order to increase international trade was top of the agenda at the 12th United States-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA 2013) held last week at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa and to facilitate the region’s integration into the global economy.

Since the inception of AGOA, there has been a 300 % increase in total two-way trade between the United States and the African continent, and 2012 was proclaimed to have been the most successful year thus far.

With the current Act expiring in September 2015, this year’s Forum concluded that for the initiative to remain successful, Africa’s top priority is now to expand its trade infrastructure. Especially landlocked countries are currently unable to take full advantage of the opportunities that AGOA offers. Most of the roads connected to ports are congested, creating transportation bottlenecks not seen anywhere else in the world. For instance, it takes 24 days for a container to travel from Mombasa to Kigali and 20 days for a container to be cleared at the port of Dar es Salaam.

An integrated transportation network is therefore so crucial that according to some delegates Africa’s continued success depends almost entirely on it. A call to extend the Act for another 15 years has already been proposed by the African Union, and President Obama’s office has vowed to better communicate the enormous potential that this could mean for investors worldwide.

 

Reinforcing North-South Trade

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

At a time when South-South trade is becoming a force to be reckoned with, the North is jumping into action. Is it too late? In this global and growing world, there might just be room for everyone, and I expect that both the US and the EU will regain some footing in Africa in the years to come.

Power Africa, President Obama’s initiative to increase access to low cost energy, and Trade Africa, the initiative to boost trade with and within Africa, have both been written about extensively since Obama’s visit to the continent recently.

President Clinton’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) however seems to have been ignored somewhat. And yet, the 2012 Presidential Directive on Sub Saharan Africa, talks about a new and enhanced AGOA, with the potential of making the U.S./Africa trade relationship as significant as the one between the U.S. and the European Union. (The Africa-EU Partnership has also announced that they are entering into “a new phase” with an increase in Trade agreements).

Next month, Washington D.C. will host the 2013 U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum in Addis Ababa.  Trade and investment-related issues are top of the agenda and it is expected that the “new and improved” AGOA will finally be revealed in all its glory.

I guess we should therefore expect extensive (although belated) coverage soon.

Obama’s African visit

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

President Obama’s long-awaited trip to Africa is coming to an end, and he didn’t manage to hide the real reason he was there.

Many Presidents are visiting the continent these days, but the fact that Obama is half white American and half black African means that, in Africa itself, his visit has generated a lot more interest than when (for instance) China’s new president embarked on a trip less than two weeks after taking office earlier this year. What also differentiates Obama from the others is that he makes great speeches, and I especially liked his ideas for a “Power Africa” initiative and “sustainable” African energy strategy.

All through his trip, the President has looked happy, relaxed, and “at home”, despite all the security that he has surrounded himself and his family with. What seems to have been most significant to those he went to visit is that, in all three countries (Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa), Obama emphasised that he welcomes world economies turning their sights to Africa. However, as his trip matures, his real views are increasingly being felt.

African leaders should “pick their international partners carefully”, and “push back against countries that bring in their own workers”, a clear criticism of China. Another clear criticism of China was Obama’s “wildlife and importance of tourism speech”, condemning illegal trafficking. The White House has already issued a statement this morning regarding the launch of a new anti-poaching initiative in Tanzania as of next month.

From the cheers heard yesterday in Dar es Salaam however, it is clear that the word “partnership” is the magic word in Africa these days. When Obama said the West’s goal is to “partner” with Africa, the crowds went wild.

It is important to note that both the USA and Europe are home to large communities with strong African heritages and that Africa and America/Europe often share a common language, making training and technology transfer much more straightforward. Africans know this, and they clearly want it. We also have a common history, for better or for worse. It is Europe’s common history (mostly violent) that unites them now within a European Union that, even though it is still in its infancy, seems to be doing alright despite some teething problems.

The younger generation in Africa, Europe and America have a lot in common through a shared history, that we are coming out of together, and the significance of this cannot be trivialised. This does not mean that partnerships with China are a bad idea.  In fact, Africa has already partnered successfully with many countries in Asia, forming the bulk of the South-South trade. Obama’s words should however be a warning to China, one that I’m sure they’ll heed given the investments they’ve made on the continent in the last decade.

The bottom line is that the whole African continent is full of promise. I would therefore like to reiterate what I wrote in my previous blog: A united Africa will be stronger, but I agree that it must choose its partners well. Yesterday afternoon, Obama revealed a venture, dubbed ‘‘Trade Africa,’’ that aims to increase the flow of goods between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. The initial phase will focus on East Africa — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania — and in a couple of years, the phase will be extended to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Let’s hope that this will be a partnership made in heaven, and just one of many.

 

Africa invests in Africa

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

A growing number of African countries are rapidly joining the ranks of prominent investors across the continent.

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the rate of FDI projects from emerging markets has grown at a healthy compound rate of over 21% since 2008 (triple the amount from developed markets). The top investors were still India, the United Arab Emirates and China at the start of 2013, but intra-African investment has become very impressive since then. Nobody knows Africa better than Africans, and continued political stability across the continent is making them trust their own. The beauty is that increased economic stability and growth is allowing them to help accelerate the African success story through rapidly increasing cross-border investments.

SA has been at the forefront of the growth in intra-African trade but Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria are also investing heavily this year. From 2014, it is expected that countries like Angola and Mozambique will join their ranks.

The star performers, so far, in 2013, are Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Namibia, Botswana, Angola and South Africa.

THE World Bank’s investment arm will increase lending to sub-Saharan Africa by up to a quarter in 2014 as private sector companies continue to flock to the region. The IFC is expected to make new investments of USD 5bn and Japan will provide USD 2bn worth of financial support over the next five years to back Japanese-owned development projects on the continent. Europe and the United States are also expected to increase their investments dramatically according to the World Bank, which sees Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP accelerating to almost 6% over three years, driven by investment and commodity prices.

Roughly half the IFC’s annual lending in the region goes to financial markets and institutions to help improve the flow of credit to smaller businesses, which employ most of Africa’s workers. Another third goes to infrastructure projects and natural resources investments. The expanding sets of SMEs is bringing real economic diversification and are giving rise to internationally competitive companies, thereby providing access to global markets, and consequently higher wages and salaries. This, in turn,  leads to the rapid growth of the middle-class and further political stability.

Even the most cautious investors have to admit that all the excitement surrounding Africa is grounded on solid analytical soil. The evidence might be that within a decade Africa will be its own biggest investor. I honestly cannot wait.