Launch of AKADEMIYA2063
1 July saw the launch of AKADEMIYA2063, the migration to an African organisation of a significant portfolio of research activities that the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has hosted for the past 15 years. They are the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS; co-publisher of the Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor Report); the African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium (AGRODEP); and the Malabo Montpellier Panel (MaMo). AKADEMIYA2063 is based in Kigali, Rwanda and will operate a regional office in Dakar, Senegal. Executive Chairperson Ousmane Badiane said “The intention of AKADEMIYA2063 is to build a bridge, not just between the African scientific community and decision making actors, but also between the science community in Africa and our peers around the world. […] The spelling of AKADEMIYA reflects the African identity of the organization: its spelling remains unchanged in many African languages, from Swahili to Mooré to Hausa to Xosa. 2063 refers to the African Union’s Agenda 2063, ‘The Africa We Want,’ to express our focus on this broader agenda and its needs for data, analytics and evidence.”
AfDB: Agricultural value chains must be digitalised
The African Development Bank says Africa must seize the opportunity of the COVID-19 pandemic to deepen the digitalisation of agricultural value chains and transform the sector (AfDB, 22 June). This was the conclusion of a webinar jointly hosted by AfDB and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Investment Centre on 10 June: “Digitalization to transform agriculture in Africa and respond to COVID-19”, which explored digital responses that can be quickly deployed to address the disruptions to food systems caused by COVID-19. It also examined the requirements for digital transformation in agriculture on the continent.
Nearly 500 people participated, representing agri-tech, telecom, government agency implementers, policymakers, farmers and development partners. Contributors identified potential investments for the digital transformation of African agriculture during and after COVID-19, ranging from digital profiling of value chain actors to mobile payments and e-commerce. The participants also discussed the necessary policy and regulatory frameworks for inclusiveness, scalability and viability, including for data governance and protection, digital financial products, digital ID systems, e-contracts and e-extension services. The meeting proposed the bundling of digital services, agri-tech innovation challenges and open systems to help build financially viable supply capacity.
“We must also use this wave of interest to build digital platforms that facilitate linkages between value chain actors at much-reduced transaction costs,” said Martin Fregene, the Bank’s Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industries.
The webinar was the first of a four-part series discussing transforming agriculture in Africa through digitalisation. A 24 June webinar discussed “Advisory services and big data analytics”, and there are two events still to come:
8 July: “Improving market access through e-commerce”
22 July: “Financial inclusion”
African Development Fund grant for COVID-19 response in East Africa
The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF) have approved grants totalling $9.52 million to strengthen responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in East Africa and the Horn, and in the Comoros (AfDB News, 30 June). The beneficiaries are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The funds will be used to bolster health systems and disease surveillance, enhance infection prevention and control, and improve regional coordination by the East African Community and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to contain cross-border transmissions. Countries in Eastern and the Horn of Africa are enforcing stringent border measures to mitigate the cross-border transmissions that have led to disruptions in the movement of people, trade flows and access to essential goods. The project will tackle these challenges by improving testing and case detection capacity at border crossings and improving regional coordination.
COMESA pilots digital Rules of Origin system
Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya are among 15 members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) ready to pilot the COMESA Electronic Certificate of Origin (eCO) system (The East African, 30 June). The eCO, developed under the COMESA Digital Free Trade Area (FTA) initiative, is expected to facilitate intra-regional trade through reduction in the costs and time required in registration, application and submission of certificates and the post-verification of originating goods. Other countries in the ready group are the DR Congo, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Implementing the eCo system has gained urgency given the challenges that movement of goods across borders is facing as a result of restrictive coronavirus measures. Certificates of Origin are issued to exporters within the COMESA’s FTA to confer preferential treatment to goods originating from an FTA member. The uptake of the electronic certificate has not gained traction in the past for lack of the necessary regulations under the COMESA Rules of Origin.
“The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic calls for speedy implementation of the COMESA eCO by all Member States,” said the trading bloc’s director of Trade and Customs, Dr Christopher Onyango (The Chronicle, 22 June). “This, together with the improvement of customs cooperation and trade facilitation, will no doubt enhance intra-regional trade and attract more investments into the region.” Dr Onyango noted that the region faces two critical challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stagnant value of intra-COMESA trade. “It is rather disheartening that despite the preferences offered under the FTA, intra-COMESA trade is at eight percent of total trade, compared to Africa’s 15 percent, America’s 47 percent, Asia’s 61 percent and Europe’s 67 percent,” Dr Onyango noted.
SADC: Guidelines to ease cross-border transport
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers has approved revised regional guidelines to ease cross-border transport operations in the region amid the COVID-19 pandemic (Xinhuanet, 24 June). A statement following a one-day extraordinary virtual meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers, hosted by Tanzania, says the approved guidelines are aimed at harmonising and coordinating COVID-19 response measures to promote safe trade and transport facilitation for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the SADC region.
The statement adds that the approved guidelines are also aimed at facilitating the adoption and implementation of harmonised standard operating procedures for management and monitoring of cross-border road transport at designated points of entry and COVID-19 checkpoints. Palamagamba Kabudi, Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation and chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting, called on the SADC region to continue exhibiting determination and solidarity while addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, SADC Executive Secretary, said “All indications show that until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is found, which might take a while, the region has to remain pragmatic and vigilant by considering both health requirements and socio-economic imperatives.”
ECOWAS draws roadmap for reopening of borders
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has drawn a roadmap for the reopening of borders in the sub-region (GhanaWeb, 25 June). After a meeting of the Ministerial Coordination Committee for Transport, Logistics and Trade of ECOWAS, the sub-regional Bloc has taken a “harmonised decision” to reopen borders. The reopening will be done in phases, as described in a statement by ECOWAS after a four-day videoconference. According to the statement, several options have been put forward with the opening of land and air borders according to a precise schedule. The first phase consists of reopening domestic airports and lifting restrictions on land transportation within ECOWAS Member States in late June 2020. “The second phase is based on widening the opening between member states to allow the free movement of goods and people. The proposed date is the first fortnight of July (July 15 at the latest).” The final phase, the opening of air and land borders to other countries (excluding ECOWAS) that do not have very high levels of Covid-19 contamination rate (31 July at the latest), “will be a function of the evolution of the pandemic within the member countries of the ECOWAS and of the other countries and will be the subject of a periodic evaluation,” ECOWAS says.