Connect with us

Economics

Africa’s changing economic and business environment with continental free trade; Key opportunities and challenges

Published

on

AFCFTA LOGO

Economic development is work in progress for most African countries. However, a significant milestone that could propel further growth is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which was signed by 54 out of the 55 African Union Nations in March 2018. This agreement resulted in the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) believed to be inclusive of 1.3 billion people across Africa with a combined GDP of 3.4 billion USD. 

The AfCFTA aims to boost intra-African trade by providing a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among the member states. The agreement covers trading of goods, services, investments, intellectual property rights and a competition policy. Trading under the AfCFTA started in January 2021, and with phase two of the AfCFTA being implemented, various macro-economic prospects for Africa’s growth and development have been projected. Based on the eight strategic objectives of the AfCFTA, it could be a gamechanger for doing business and investing in Africa, although some challenges are imminent. 

Intra-African trade has been low in the past. In 2018 for instance, intra-African exports accounted for only 15% of Africa’s world exports. Also, between 2017 and 2018 intra-African exports increased by only 1%, while Africa’s exports to the rest of the world increased by 22%. Africa has not been trading with itself. However, with access to a market of 1.3 billion people through the removal of tariffs from 90% of goods, it is expected that intra-African trade will be boosted by 50%. It is expected that lesser tariffs will imply competitive pricing; thus, promoting demand for goods produced and traded within Africa. It will also enable small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and large corporations to set up assembly firms in other African countries to access cost effective means of production and thereby increase their bottom lines. The elimination of tariffs will further provide a cheaper source of raw materials from other African countries for these industries. This will be particularly achievable where a conscious effort or policies are enacted by African Governments to promote the demand for ‘Made in Africa’ goods.

The creation of a single market through the AfCFTA is an opportunity for economic integration and development of member countries. Historically, more than 75% of African exports outside of the continent consisted of extractive commodities. Manufacturing represents only about 10% of total GDP in Africa, on average. The AfCFTA is an avenue for African countries to pursue an industrialization agenda to transform their economies with substantive investment in the manufacturing sector. Africa’s manufacturing sector is projected to double in size with the potential to create over 14 million jobs. The size of access market implies that industries can take advantage of economies of scale if they increase production levels. Employment opportunities and income levels can grow as projected by a World Bank Report that the pact could lift 30 million people from extreme poverty by 2035.

Additional benefits based on the objectives of the AfCFTA include increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) through the protocols on investment, protecting intellectual property, and protecting women traders by enabling them to trade through formal means.

Despite the prospects for economic growth in Africa, poor infrastructure may hamper efforts at deriving economic prospects through the AfCFTA. Estimates from the African Development Bank (AfDB) indicates that the continent requires substantive investments in infrastructure to make up for the deficit. A thriving single market rides on the availability of effective transport networks, electricity, water, information, communication, and technology systems to facilitate the movement of goods across borders. However, Africa’s infrastructure paradox is a reality which needs to be addressed to achieve the economic benefits of the AfCFTA. The implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is ongoing since 2012, but it needs to be facilitated to develop enhanced infrastructure to propel a conducive environment for doing business in Africa and attracting foreign direct investment.

The widened gap between countries with large manufacturing bases and enabling physical and industrial infrastructure compared with those with little infrastructure could hamper efforts at attaining unified benefits from the AfCFTA. Countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, and Ethiopia are in a better position to gain the expected benefits of the AfCFTA due to their advanced state of economic development and integration, and since investors will be drawn to investing in these already established industries. Where smaller economies do not move to develop their infrastructure, the cost of lost revenue from the elimination of trade tariffs may not be replaced by increased investment or trade with these smaller nations. 

As the phase two on the implementation of the AfCFTA is ongoing, the potential economic and business landscape is changing with endless opportunities for doing business in Africa. The AfCFTA is an incentive for SMEs as well as large corporations in Africa to re-structure their operations, engage in consultations to identify business opportunities, break barriers, establish strategic partnerships with other business entities within their value chains, and develop new markets to expand their presence and brands. 

There is a need for increased investment by governments in infrastructure and technology to create an enabling environment for domestic and foreign investment in various sectors within the value chain. For instance, in Ghana, the ;1 District, 1 Factory’ (1D1F) policy, free zones enclave, and the industrial policy for the automotive industry are policies aimed at attracting investors into the country to propel industrialization. Businesses that take advantage to produce for the African market are in the best position to maximize the benefits of the AfCFTA. There should also be a focus on promoting the consumption of ‘Made in Africa’ goods to grow the market base for increased intra-African trade. Although some African countries are yet to ratify the AfCFTA agreement, it will no doubt transform the dynamics for doing business and investing in Africa as well as achieve economic integration for the continent with time. Indeed, as Chief of Staff at the AfCFTA Secretariat Silver Ojakol said, “Economic integration is not an event. It’s a process… We must start somewhere.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Crime

At least 30 people die in recent violent protests in Baghdad, Iraq

Published

on

iraq protesters muqtada al sadr

On August 29th, Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his withdrawal from political activity via Twitter, criticising the failure of fellow Shiite leaders to reform a corrupt government. He also announced the closing of all his offices nationwide. Al-Sadr’s announcement was followed by violent protests in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, which resulted in at least 30 deaths and 200 injuries.

The protests were started by Al-Sadr’s supporters, who stormed the Republican Palace in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that serves as the headquarters of Iraqi regimes. Both foreign embassies and the government are housed there.  But Al-Sadr’s supporters fired rocket propelled grenades and machine guns from there as well.

Due to the protests Iraq’s current Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi has now put off all government meetings until further notice. Al-Khadimi has also urged Al-Sadr to “help call on the demonstrators to withdraw from government institutions”.

According to some reports Al-Sadr’s supporters had been occupying parliament buildings for a while now. They then charged at the headquarters in the Green Zone. Pictures showed exultant Al-Sadr supporters cheering in the Republican Palace swimming pool,, waving around the Iraqi flag and a photo of Al-Sadr. 

In response to the protests the Iraqi military said they are practising “the highest levels of self-restraint and brotherly behaviour to prevent clashes or the spilling of Iraqi blood.” However, according to reports hundreds of protesters were pushed out of the Republican Palace by tear gas and bullets used by Security forces.

The military also introduced a strict curfew, restricting the movement of vehicles and pedestrians as well, which was in place until further instructions by the government. In Baghdad the curfew was introduced from 3.30pm local time. Later, a nationwide curfew was introduced as well with the aim to urge protestors to leave the Green Zone.

As a response to the violent outbreaks, UN chief Antonio Guterres asked all parties to “take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation.” Stephane Dujarric, his secretary-general, also added in a statement that he “appeals for calm and restraint and urges all relevant actors to take immediate steps to avoid any violence.”

A day later, on Tuesday August 30th, Al-Sadr released a statement via television, apologising for the violence and saying, “the spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden.” In his statement he also threatened his supporters that “if in the next 60 minutes they do not withdraw, as well as from parliament, then I will abandon these supporters.”

The nationwide curfew was lifted after the new statement.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Economics

America stands with Taiwan: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid tensions with China

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, 2nd August despite the strained relationship between Taiwan and China. As a result, the tension between China and the US has also increased.

Published

on

America stands with Taiwan: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan amid tensions with China

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, 2nd August despite the strained relationship between Taiwan and China. As a result, the tension between China and the US has also increased.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory but Taiwan asserts its independence as a self-governing island. Thus China/Taiwan and international relations are very delicate.  If the island is visited by another nation like the US, it suggests a certain recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty. The US does not currently officially recognize Taiwan as an independent country but is still required to help the country defend itself if necessary. 

Before Pelosi’s trip to Asia, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian already warned, “There will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit [to Taiwan],” but he did not spell out any specific consequences.  “The People’s Liberation Army [PLA] will never sit idly by. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. 

As soon as Pelosi visited the island, she tweeted, “Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan: a robust, vibrant democracy and our important partner in the Indo-Pacific.”

In retaliation, Lijian stated, “This will definitely not have a good outcome … the exposure of America’s bullying face again shows it as the world’s biggest saboteur of peace.”

Shortly before her visit, Chinese Su-35 jets crossed the Taiwan Strait, a river bordering the Island with China, with no distinct purpose. Similarly, on the day that Pelosi landed, unidentified hackers cyberattacked the Taiwanese Presidential official website so it could not be accessed. Clearly rattled after her visit, China held its biggest-ever show of military force in the air and seas around Taiwan, which included the firing of ballistic missiles.

Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based political analyst, and lawyer told Al Jazeera that this kind of antagonistic behaviour by China after the visit could be a one-off event but it could also “become part of a sustained pattern of aggression.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

Published

on

millions-of-afghans-face-hunger-economic-crisis

“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Daily Brief

Concerns Rise As US Teeters on the Brink of Recession

Published

on

US Stock Market Investing in the United States
  • The US economy declines for the second quarter in a row, causing, what other countries would consider, an economic recession. 
  • The prices for groceries, gas, and other basics are rising at the fastest pace since 1981. The US Central Bank is quickly trying to raise borrowing costs in order to cool the economy and ease the prices on goods, but with the contraction, at the annual rate of 0.9% in the 3 months to July, many are still getting concerned. 
  • President Biden struggles to convince the public that the economy is sound, with the unemployment rate at a low 3.6%. But with inflation in the US hitting 9.1% in June, the fastest price appreciation in 4 months, consumer spending has slowed at an annual rate of 1%. 
  • Many other countries, such as China and the UK, have been hit harder by the surge in energy prices and the War in Ukraine, causing risks from abroad. Other countries are facing much more serious problems and once they’re hit, their problems can spill over and affect the US. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Economics

Is Cryptocurrency the Hedge Against Inflation?

Published

on

Bitcoin.svg

With the world in economic turmoil through wars, food insecurity, gas and energy prices skyrocketing, some have been flocking to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation.

Cryptocurrency, a digital currency, is an alternative payment form which is created through encryption algorithms. It functions as both the currency and a virtual accounting system. A cryptocurrency wallet is needed to use cryptocurrency, which can be cloud-based, on a computer or mobile device. 

Cryptocurrencies are still very new and the market for these currencies are very volatile with the risks still being studied. Because cryptocurrencies are not regulated by a third party and do not use banks, they are uninsured and typically difficult to convert into tangible currencies. As they are technology based and intangible assets, they can be hacked. These currencies are not stored in a bank, but a digital wallet, so if that wallet is lost then the entire crypto investment is lost. 

Although many people looked to cryptocurrency as an inflationary hedge, the crypto market seems to be dropping instead of rising. In June, one of the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, dropped by 40%, bringing it down to a low of below $18,000. Another popular cryptocurrency, Ethereum, dropped by almost 50% last month hitting a low of nearly $900.

High inflation will likely rise into 2023, through the Fed’s interest rate hikes, continued conflicts abroad and supply chain disruptions. It still remains to be seen how the rising inflation will continue to affect cryptocurrencies, but experts believe the market will continue to be volatile.

In theory, cryptocurrency was seen to be uncorrelated with the stock market, and looked at as an asset similar to fine art or precious metals. However, the crypto market has increasingly tracked with the stock market. This past May, a stablecoin, known as Terra, crashed, bringing down $400 billion in crypto market capitalization in just a few days.

Chief operating officer at Defi lending protocol Euler and a former trader at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Brandon Neal, shared his thoughts saying Crypto is too young of an asset class to know for sure how inflation will affect it. He said “It might not have necessarily been true that crypto was a good inflation hedge. It may have just been coincidental and that, up until now, crypto merely looked like it was a good inflation hedge.”

Bitcoin was launched in 2009, giving us only 13 years worth of data during a period of historically low interest rates. There is no way to tell how the market will respond to changes in global circumstances. 

The managing director and senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson, Chris Brendler, believes that Bitcoin could be a good hedge against inflation over time, due to the fact that it is decentralized and not tied to any central bank. At the same time, he says the current speculation and volatility in crypto markets is overpowering bitcoins value as it is still a new asset. 

Brendler said “If there’s a lot of money printing going on, bitcoin should hold its value [over time],”. “What we don’t know is how much of it is speculation, and we’re continuing to see that come out. I think it will be proven over time to be an inflation hedge, but not this time.”

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, had been a proponent of cryptocurrencies in the past, especially Bitcoin and Dogecoin. At one point, he even allowed customers to use Bitcoin to purchase his company’s electric vehicles, although later suspended that option citing environmental concerns over Bitcoin mining.

Back in February 2021, the price of Bitcoin went skyrocketing when Tesla announced a $1.5 billion cryptocurrency investment. However, on Wednesday, Tesla sold 75% of its massive Bitcoin stake amid a severe slump in the cryptocurrency markets, furthering the fall of the cryptocurrency. 

Whatever your thoughts on cryptocurrency, before converting real dollars into cryptocurrency, one should make sure to understand how it works, how to exchange it and where it can be used. One should also be sure to do research into choosing a well known digital wallet that is right for them. Lastly, have a backup strategy, in case your computer, mobile device or wherever you have your wallet stored is lost or stolen. Without a back up plan for a lost device, the entire cryptocurrency investment will be lost.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Economics

“Sociocultural attitudes” does not cause high Muslim unemployment, study finds

Published

on

diverse ppl working scaled

Muslim men and women are consistently among the groups of people who are at a higher risk of being unemployed. Previous research has explained the trend due to “sociocultural attitudes” within the Muslim community. However, recent research has rejected this rather, it is anti-Muslim discrimination within the British labour market which drives high unemployment rates within Muslims.

The paper published in the Ethnic and Racial Studies Journal used data from the first ten years of the UK Households Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS), an annual survey which collects data mostly from face-to-face interviews of participants socio-economic situation.

Previous research has found that ethnic differences have impacted “labour market outcomes” in the UK, this could mean significant pay gaps between different ethnic groups, the time of unemployment being significantly longer for those who come from ethnic minority backgrounds and the probability of unemployment increasing when you are an ethnic minority. This is what has been described as an “ethnic penalty.”

The ethnic groups more worse off are, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Black Africans, and Caribbean’s. Indians are less penalised compared to any other minority ethnic group. There is also a “Muslim Penalty.” Research has found that Muslims are the most disadvantaged out of any other types of religions within the labour market. Thus, showing that people’s labour market outcomes can be affected by religion and ethnicity.

Some researchers have found that these penalties have existed due to the discrimination Muslims and ethnic minorities face. However, some research has also found that these penalties have existed within the British Labour Market due to ‘sociocultural variables’ and these variables disproportionately effect women more than men.

The Muslim penalty in particular, is believed to have existed due to commitment to ‘traditional gender norms’ which is assumed to have stemmed from religion. Thus, Muslim women’s poor outcomes within the labour market are due to traditional gender norms of women having to prioritise childrearing and household work leading to less time to find employment.

However, recent research conducted by the Samir Sweida-Metwally, a doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol has found that although a Muslim penalty is acknowledged to exist, this is not due to ‘sociocultural variables’ that has previously been found to be the factor of the existence of a Muslim penalty.

Instead, the study finds that ‘sociocultural variables’ is “not a convincing source of the unexplained ethno-religious differences in labour market participation and unemployment among Muslim men and women.” Rather, the paper finds that the Muslim penalty is due to “anti-Muslim discrimination” which creates a “significant barrier” to the labour market.

The study goes further and states that the there is a ‘country of origin penalty’ too. White British Muslims were not more likely to be unemployed than White British Christians. However, Arabs with no religion experienced the highest likelihood of unemployment.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Recent Comments

Articles