Browsing: AfCFTA

De-dollarise African trade

There appears to be a consensus that the world is finally turning its back on the US dollar. There are simmering shifts within the global monetary system. The shift becomes ever more apparent, best described as de-dollarisation.

The world is searching for alternatives to the US dollar, finding them more often. Thus, moving away from the dollar can no longer be stopped. For instance, early this year, Indonesia reiterated it would promote local currency settlement (LCS) in cross-border trade and investment to reduce dependence on the US dollar.

AfCFTA’s successful implementation can boost trade and promote Africa’s economic recovery and growth. The AfCFTA is the world’s most extensive free trade area in terms of size and number of nations, with a combined GDP of around $3.4 trillion.
Increased integration would improve incomes, generate employment, stimulate investment, and make establishing regional supply chains easier. In comparison to Africa’s external trade, intra-African trade remains tiny. In 2020, just 18 per cent of exports went to other African nations.

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.

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.

The Kenya-South Africa visa deal will take effect on January 1.

At the time of the announcement, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was in Kenya for his first official trip to the country at the invitation of President Ruto.

Ramaphosa said they discussed the visas issue between Kenya and South Africa to allow Kenyans to visit the Southern African nation visa-free basis.

“This will officially start on January 1, 2023, and it will be available to Kenyans for a 90-day period per year,” he said.

In addition, the Kenyan and South African leaders directed their respective trade ministers to work on removing barriers limiting trade between the two African countries. The two countries are also working to address trade barriers to increase business and trade cooperation.

Ghana competes in the global economy primarily using natural resources. Other than the usual exports of cocoa, gold, lumber, and crude oil, Ghana has a competitive advantage in numerous product categories. Increasing the proportion of high-income commodities in the export basket hastens economic transition.

The opportunity is providing better, economically advantageous items to regional and worldwide markets. Cocoa processing, wood processing, aluminium products, palm oil, food and agro-processing, and fish processing are examples of manufacturing sub-sectors that fit these two requirements.

Manufacturing subsectors that capture considerable proportions of manufacturing value-added, such as food and drinks, chemicals, and textiles, have significant technology, knowledge, and skills inherent in them. These assets can be used to produce additional goods within the sub-sector or even outside of it. It is also easier to go up the value chain after you have mastered relevant technologies and markets.

To have only 3 of the eligible countries in Africa signing up for the initiative is tragic especially given the global economic environment of the world presently. A crippling sovereign crisis is looming on the African horizon. Catalysts of the crisis include a strong United States dollar which has been resurgent during the year.

Debt on the on the books of most African countries is denominated in the greenback and its strength will have an adverse impact on their public finances and their ability to service their loan obligations timeously.

This problem is further compounded by rising interest rates which are certain to make the cost of debt that much more expensive for countries that already cannot afford to be overextended financially.

The debt of most African countries is in the hands of private creditors who in recent time have become as important as their multilateral counterparts. These private creditors are less likely to be concessionary in terms of discussions around restructuring of debts.

The rising commodity prices, surging inflationary pressures, and the contracting global financial situation have risked African trade and production capabilities. Moreover, the rising threat of sovereign defaults poses a severe risk to the growth of African trade. Thus, African trade prospects remain unclear, considering the challenging global economic scenario.

The Covid-19, energy and food shortages have hit with the countries having minimal or no policy space to respond. As a result, African countries have fallen into a real risk of debt distress and even possibilities for sovereign debt default.

Kenya is one of the six nations chosen to participate in the AfCFTA Initiative on Guided Trade’s pilot phase after it was realised that no trading had occurred one and a half years after the start of the preferential trading system on January 1, 2021.

The ninth meeting of the AfCFTA Council of Ministers charged for trade occurred on July 25 and 26, 2022, in Accra, Ghana, and announced the Start of Trade during the Pilot Phase.

Seven nations were chosen to test out commerce in the continental free trade zone for Africa during the summit, including Ghana, Kenya, Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt, and Mauritius.

Despite being in different economic blocs than nations like Ghana and Tunisia, Kenya will now be able to access markets in Central Africa and West Africa at preferential prices thanks to the trial phase.

The AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity for African countries to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day.  The AfCFTA is the new anchor to pull multinationals to invest in Africa.

This agreement not only brings hope to African governments but also encourages current efforts on the ground, which improve jobs in Africa.  

The World Bank points out that the AfCFTA will create the largest free trade area in the world, measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion.   

It has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, but achieving its full potential will depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.