Tuesday, December 6

In your copy of The Exchange this month

  • Monopolising Africa’s food systems: Is Kenya’s GMOs adoption corporate-engineered?
  • DR Congo’s place in Africa’s manufacturing and economic potential 
  • How capital can eliminate hunger in Africa: The role of banks and financial services firms in ensuring food security.  
  • US, world powers jostle for a piece of Ethiopia
  • EU Hypocrisy: Bullying Tanzania, Uganda over oil

Zimbabwe’s decades old inflation has been worsened by the Russia-Ukraine war. Inflation in Zimbabwe remains one of the highest globally and the only country in Southern Africa with headline inflation above 50 per cent.

Prior to the war, rising inflation in Zimbabwe, low foreign direct investments, unsustainable foreign debt levels and corruption were among a plethora of problems plaguing Zimbabwe’s economy.

Zimbabwe’s economic problems started surfacing in 1997 when the regime of the late Robert Mugabe paid unbudgeted pensions to veterans of the country’s 1970s liberation war, leading to a currency collapse. The situation got worse in 1999 when Zimbabwe sent its troops to fight in Democratic Republic of Congo civil war that also drew armies from Uganda, Rwanda and Angola. A violent land reform programme that displaced nearly 5,000 commercial farmers, precipitating the crisis. Disputed elections and human rights violations led to the country’s economic isolation, which has taken a serious toll on the economy.

Textiles and clothing are an essential part of everyday life and an important sector in the global economy, and more so Textile in Africa.

According to a report titled Circular economy in Africa: Fashion and textiles, in sub-Saharan Africa, the combined apparel and footwear market is estimated at $31 billion. The textile industry in Africa is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 5 percent between 2019 and 2024. In addition, the production of cotton accounts for almost 7 percent of all employment in some low-income countries.

African countries boasted thriving textile industries in the 1970s and early 1980s. That was until the African market was flooded by what Kenyans call Mitumba (second-hand clothes), also called chagua in Rwanda, and salaula in Zambia, dealing the textile industry a blow leading to its deterioration.

The new administration under President William Ruto, is striving to set the economy in the right tempo having inherited a heavily indebted government.

Through debt restructuring among other key economic reforms, Ruto’s administration is committed to quell inflation and create a thriving economy for all Kenyans.

The recently published East Africa Economic Outlook report, indicates that Kenya is among the countries in the region that could face rising risks of debt distress, thus widening fiscal and current account deficits, largely due to structural weaknesses exacerbated by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

According to the 2022 African Economic Outlook (AEO), by AfDB inflation is projected to edge up to 7 per cent, close to the upper end of the target band at 7.5 per cent, caused by greater energy and food inflation. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), reported that the country’s inflation rate as of October 2022 stood at 9.6%, creeping up 0.4% from September’s all time high of 9.2%.

Libya’s economy has been teetering on the edge of a precipice since the ousting and killing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, as part of the protests that marked the Arab Spring. Once a progressive economy now a war-torn country, a playground for foreign powers rushing to satisfy their own interests, has left ordinary Libyan citizens to bear the brunt of a cycle of conflicts and civil wars, stagnating economic growth for a decade. The conflict birthed an unmatched refugee crisis, with thousands crossing the Mediterranean to seek greener pastures in Europe. Today’s Libya remains in electoral limbo as the political stalemate persists. Prospects for elections fade daily.

The situation in the country remains extremely volatile, rife with political uncertainty as to when a national government will be formed, and the formulation of a constitution thereof. Both presidential and parliamentary elections, slated to be held this year have been postponed several times with no exact date set.

The country awash with violent non-state actors where different militia groups vie for political power are being backed by foreign entities in a bid to control the country’s oil and gas sector. As the first anniversary of the postponed elections draws nigh, there is no clear end in sight. The UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily, warned against prolonging the interim period as Libya could become even more vulnerable to political, economic and security instability, as well as risk of partition.

Oil and gas exports from Senegal are scheduled to begin in earnest in 2023, spelling a new dawn for the economy of the West African country, popularly renowned as the ‘Gateway to Africa,’ located in the western most  point of the continent. The Grand Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) LNG gas project, will be a game changer for the country, radically transforming its economy, which  is projected to register robust growth in 2023, outshining other countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the recent World Economic Outlook forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Senegal’s economy will grow by 8.1 per cent in 2023, against the projected Sub-Saharan African growth of 3.7 percent.

In reiteration, the Africa Economic Outlook (AEO) published by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), indicates that Senegal’s economy has decelerated in 2022 to 4.6 percent, but is estimated to accelerate to 8.2 percent, due to public and private investments together with oil and gas exploitation. Currently, Senegal’s debt-to GDP ratio stands at 71.9 percent.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have both punctured the country’s economy. However, Senegal’s recovery from the pandemic shocks began in 2021, in part due to the Adjusted and Accelerated Priority Action Plan, with 6.1 percent growth against 1.3 percent in 2020.The AEO highlights that this was led by the resumption of the extractive sector, construction, and commercial activity connected to strong demand, as well as transport services. Agriculture which largely contributes to the economy, slowed to 4.6 percent growth in 2021, after a soaring rise of 23.4 percent in 2020.

For Africa, energy security should come first due to the fact that the continent is the least polluter but it bears a disproportionate burden wrought on by climate change impacts. From 1850-2020, according to analysts, Africa’s global emissions contribution have remained below 3 per cent. However, the continent lost about 5– 15 per cent of GDP per capita growth annually from 1986 – 2015. 

With the aggressive shift to clean energy, Africa risks even worse human and economic crises due to the multipronged dangers of climate change and the possible displacements caused by mining activities. 

Already, climate change-related catastrophes have triggered internal displacement of 2.6 million people going by 2021 estimates. Violence and displacement are some outcomes of climate-related disasters which leaves millions facing acute food shortages and increasing vulnerability. If mining in the DR Congo, and Africa at large, continues as it has for decades, then the displacements, hunger and violence ca only exacerbate. 

What globalists call clean energy is oblivious to what the cost is to Africa which is the source of all the materials needed for this clean energy shift. 

It is important to outline how the DRC stands to become a crucial investment hub in Africa. Foreign and domestic private entities reserve the right to establish business ventures across the nation and engage in all forms of remunerative operations, this is according to the US State Department as it outlines its engagement strategy with the country.

The DRC’s investment agency—the National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANAPI) provides essential facilitation services for initial investments over US$200,000 and is responsible for simplifying the investment process, make procedures more transparent, assist new foreign investors and improve the business image of the DRC—as the investment destination. 

The DRC has potential sectors that are essential for investment and boosting the nation’s economic landscape for the betterment of the region. The sectors do not only create enough revenue to expand the welfare of the population, but create sustainable systems that creates millions of job opportunities. 

Agriculture, banking, energy, housing, tourism, insurance, housing and real estate, forestry, transport and infrastructure. With an array of investment opportunities, it is important to notice how vast profits go when it comes to mutual benefits in all sectors.

COP27 outcomes were far and few for Africa, yet the UN announced an Executive Action Plan for the Early Warning for All initiative, which calls for initial new targeted investments of US$3.1 billion between 2023 and 2027, which is equivalent to a cost of just 50 cents per person per year.  

This warning system comes to address crucial issues of extreme weather conditions such as disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings.

A couple of the notable outcomes for Africa included the continent’s rainforest giant, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) collaboration with Brazil and Indonesia, to launch a partnership to cooperate on forest preservation after a decade of on-off talks on a trilateral alliance.

With African nations in desperate need of economic boosts, reinventing the continent’s pharmaceutical “wheel” as a contributor to development has become critical. This crucial venture requires public and private participation and, of course, the willingness of the West’s Big Pharma!

Most Africans lack the means to seek qualified healthcare providers for quality medication. People turn to self-help and alternative medicine to avoid medical expenditures, which are often out of reach. With less than 400 drug manufacturers to cater to the more than 1.3 billion people on the continent, millions of Africans die or suffer from protracted illnesses without consistent access to even the most essential medicines. Widespread ill health can trap people in poverty, as healthier people are more productive.

The pandemic’s effects have exacerbated Africa’s healthcare crisis in the last two years. The situation has captured the attention of investors who noted the gap between supply and demand in the pharmaceutical sector. Apart from increasing healthcare results to have more productive individuals in the economy, boosting Africa’s pharmaceutical industry may generate enormous economic value.

In terms of the fiscus, South Africa expects to run a deficit of -4.1 per cent in 2023, however, the deficit is expected to narrow for the next 3 years closing 2026 at -3.6 per cent. This demonstrates significant fiscal consolidation.

Over the next 3 years the South African government expects to consolidate its public finances and reduce its deficit by inter alia increasing revenues and or managing or containing costs. According to Investec, “The current fiscal year (2022/23) has seen a substantial boost to nominal (actual) GDP due to high inflation, which has eased both the fiscal debt and deficit projections as a per cent of GDP, although does not boost real GDP, which is the measure of the country’s growth and has the distorting effect of inflation removed.”

Among countries in Africa, South Africa is getting its public financial act together. The country is paying down its debts, inflation has been showing a strong downward trajectory. What remains to be seen is whether this decreasing inflation rate will continue.

Undoubtedly, the return to peace after two years has restored hope Ethiopia’s economy can regain its growth momentum. According to officials, a permanent return to peace will help unlock more than $4bn in frozen funding. The funds will ease a crippling shortage of foreign exchange that plagued the economy even before the war began. Agriculture, the primary sector driving Ethiopia’s economy, should provide the much-needed boost to economic recovery.

Namibia has made progress on structural changes to foster economic diversification and boost productivity. Improving the business environment, promoting access to capital, improving governance, and decreasing skills mismatches are crucial for stimulating growth and achieving long-term debt sustainability.

African countries looking to anchor their currencies on either gold, or a combination of gold, precious metals, and other minerals would need to start with legislation which would make it legal for the governments of those countries to redeem paper currency with either those minerals or a derivative of those minerals.

Zimbabwe in late August began an initiative where it sold actual gold coins to its citizens which had been minted by that country’s central bank. This move was initiated to halt the slide of the currency on the parallel and official markets. This county’s policy so far has been successful in slowing down the trend of inflation which had begun to run amok.

It would be remiss to attribute the slowdown inflation to the gold coins. The country dramatically tightened its monetary policy by increasing interest rates to over 200 per cent in May 2022 and temporarily banned commercial bank lending. One of the disadvantages of the gold standard is that governments struggled for decades to make the system work globally. The gold standard reached its watershed when Richard Nixon in 1971 took the United States dollar off the gold standard.

Time is running out for Africa to guarantee food security for its population. As the saying goes, it is not very reasonable to keep doing the same things and expect different results.

Africa needs crops that can withstand pests and disease, withstand drought, flourish without excessive pesticides and fertilizers, and produce healthy food. Africa needs crops to enable smallholder farmers to prosper. GMOs provide a powerful instrument for Africa to address these demands when other choices fail over time.

Wind power is quickly gaining ground in Africa and many African countries are exploring this energy source to meet a fraction of their energy needs. Both onshore and offshore wind power is capable of delivering lower-cost power, as opposed to fossil fuels. A recent report commissioned by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), on ‘Wind Energy; Joining Forces for an African Lift-Off,’ indicated that Africa has 59,000 GW of technical onshore and offshore wind potential, which is enough to meet the continent’s energy demand 250 times over.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) notes that Africa is only using 0.01 per cent, of the 59,000 GW. In late 2021, GWEC, with support from numerous entities such as International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), IEA, IFC; launched Africa Wind Power (AWP); a regional body representing the wind industry, with a goal to scale up and accelerate wind projects across the continent. Wind power markets in Africa include South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Africa boasts vast hydroelectric power (HEP) resources, with immense potential for increased power generation to power the continent. South Africa takes the lead, generating 45 per cent of the continent’s production, North African countries follow suit at 30 per cent, whilst the rest of the continent cumulatively take up 25 per cent. Cameroon, Guinea, DRC, Sudan, Mozambique and Angola, have noteworthy HEP resources, of which currently only 7 per cent are developed.

Sierra Leone’s government may have to impose severe austerity measures.  These measures will address inefficiencies and inadequacies in allocating and administrating public resources. However, all hands must be on deck within these economic management measures. This will secure the ring-fencing of money for essential objectives like education, livelihood preservation, and health. These objectives remain critical to maintaining social stability and a rapid return to the economic recovery path.

Activists and agriculture lobbyist have already protested the move by the government to lift the 10-year ban on GM foods. A joint statement signed by Greenpeace Africa and lobbyist groups argued that, “food security is not just about the amount of food, but the quality and safety. Our cultural and indigenous foods have proved to be safer, with diverse nutrients and with less harmful chemical inputs.”

Lobbyists insist that public participation could have taken place, prior to lifting the ban; and are championing for its reinstatement. Furthermore, they are advocating for an inclusive participatory process to be instituted or a taskforce onboarded, to investigate long-term and sustainable solutions to attain food security.

The move has elicited divergent views across the region. Tanzania is firmly opposed to the use of biotechnology in food production, and considering its proximity to Kenya, has upgraded its vigilance to ensure GM food or cash crops do not find their way into the country; as boldly stated by the country’s Agriculture minister Hussein Bashe.

African countries will be largely impacted by the decision by the global cartel of oil producing countries to cut oil production given that only 14 out of 54 countries in Sub-Sahara Africa produce oil, which accounts for the lion’s share of their annual export earnings.

Many African countries have to import refined oil and rely on oil products in power generation. A hike in oil prices will boost economies of oil producing countries, by gaining foreign exchange earnings to carry out development projects such as Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Libya, Cameroon, and Congo among others.

Consequently, this will create more job opportunities and greatly aid in poverty alleviation. In addition, the revenues could be redirected to other sectors that make significant contributions to the respective economies. By example, in countries like Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, internet infrastructure and technology could largely benefit from re-investing.

Albeit landlocked, Rwanda’s economy has been growing exponentially but was impeded in 2020, by the Covid-19 pandemic and further exacerbated by the Russian-Ukraine war, which has been ongoing since February 2022.

Currently, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is at 74.8 per cent.

Rwanda is among the countries in the Great Lakes region of East–Central Africa, sandwiched between Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Tanzania. The rate of economic progress registered hitherto, has led the international community to call Rwanda an ‘emerging Asian tiger.’

This economic rehabilitation and prosperity, has been especially spearheaded by the country’s long-standing president Paul Kagame, who in 2018 was named ‘African of the Year’ by Forbes Magazine. He has on several occasions since his ascension to power in 2000, expressed his desire to transform Rwanda into the ‘Singapore of Africa,’ a stable gateway of trade for the entire continent.