Afreximbank provides $400m to drive agricultural productivity in Africa
Multilateral trade finance institution African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has approved a US$400 million revolving global credit facility agreement for the Export Trading Group (ETG) to drive agricultural productivity on the continent (IOL, 26 August). Afreximbank said the agreement would enable ETG, one of the largest and fastest-growing integrated agricultural conglomerates in Africa, to continue playing the key role of efficiently connecting farmers to markets, as well as expanding access to key inputs to boost productivity. The Afreximbank facility will address key bottlenecks faced by African agricultural exporters, aggregating large values of produce in order to give SMEs access to regional and international markets. The facility will also help ETG connect the continent’s SMEs to the agricultural networks and avenues that are critical for growth.
AUDA-NEPAD launches MSME Academy
AUDA-NEPAD (the African Union Development Agency) has announced the launch of the MSME Academy in partnership with Ecobank Group. The platform will provide access to market intelligence and a host of mentors with diverse experience, while assisting with access to funding opportunities. Spearheaded under the AUDA-NEPAD “100,000 MSMEs by 2021” (100K MSMEs) programme, the Academy provides easy access to practical training and resources on financing opportunities in various countries, and materials on how to build digital presence for businesses and how to adapt business operations in the era of Covid-19. The MSME Academy has three components: a webinar with invited speakers; a series of virtual instructor-led training programmes; and mentorship for MSMEs. Africa’s MSMEs are invited to join the webinars to learn about tips on access to finance and on building a digital presence. The two upcoming webinars are for Rwanda (17 September) and Chad (23 September).
SADC regional response to Covid-19
The 11th Bulletin of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) response to Covid-19 provides an overview of the global, continental and regional situation. The report provides a short summary on the progression of the pandemic as well as the measures that have been put in place with the support of WHO. The Covid-19 situation continues to rise in some Member States, destabilising economies and other systems. The food and nutrition situation in the region remains very precarious, partly due to Covid-19. The report summarises the 2020 Regional Synthesis Report on Food and Nutrition Security, and provides the short, medium and long term interventions that Member States can put in place to address the dire situation in the region. Transport and trade facilitation remains a major challenge. Despite this there have been remarkable achievements, including the Tripartite Guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation for Safe, Efficient and Cost Effective Movement of Goods and Services during the Covid-19 Pandemic, which harmonise the guidelines of SADC, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). We are at a time in the pandemic where economic recovery is an imperative. Many Member States have resumed economic activity and are at a point of recovery across all sectors due to economic contraction.
OACPS–EU Post-Cotonou Negotiations: extending the finish timeline
An update from CARICOM (25 August) suggests that the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS)/European Union (EU) post-Cotonou negotiations are set to continue in September. And the EU and Africa are still consulting on the EU’s new Africa Strategy, which it is still hoped will be adopted at a summit with Africa in Brussels in October, Covid-19 permitting [note: a more recent article suggests that the AU–EU Summit is likely to be postponed to 201]. In an article reproduced on the AllAfrica news website, a European Commission spokesperson is quoted as saying that the text of the new post-Cotonou agreement is 95% completed – but that the last 5% could pose the most difficulties. The 2000 Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which should have expired in February 2020, was extended to 31 December, and the new timetable is now indicating that the post-Cotonou negotiations will not be concluded until about November, which means the Agreement will be further extended to facilitate conclusion of the negotiations and the procedures for signature of the new agreement. The full article gives more details.
African Union and APO Group in partnership
The African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is joining forces with the APO Group, the leading pan-African communications and business consultancy, to organise regular online press conferences once every month, to provide Africans with vital information on the continent’s preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic (AU press release, 3 August). This support by the APO Group will complement the weekly press briefings that the Africa CDC has been holding every Thursday since March 2020. The online press conferences will deliver overviews of the epidemiological situation at continental level, progress updates on the African Union’s Partnership for Covid-19 Testing (PACT), capacity building being undertaken with and for AU Member States, updates on vaccinations and supplies of Covid-19 materials to Member States, and other updates including initiatives being rolled out by African Heads of State and Government. As with the weekly AfricaCDC briefings, audiences will also get the chance to hear from a representative of one of the 55 AU Member States under the AfricaCDC initiative to provide country-specific information and data and to share experiences across the continent.
IFAD initiative offers agricultural advice via mobile phone
About 1.7 million smallholders will soon benefit from agricultural advice on mobile phones to strengthen themselves in the context of the coronavirus crisis (Agence Ecofin, 18 August). This project, announced by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will target Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan. The project is expected to enable smallholders to increase their resilience to the effects of the coronavirus and improve their livelihoods by receiving low-cost advice on different areas of agricultural activity including improved farming practices, input use, market access, pest and disease management and environmental sustainability. This is the result of collaboration between the UN agency and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD), a non-profit organisation providing specialised services to farmers.
Upcoming IFPRI webinar: Covid-19, global markets and African agricultural trade
A policy seminar organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on 17 September (09:30–11:00 am EDT) will focus on “Covid-19, global markets and African agricultural trade: Impacts on growth and food security”. Organised by IFPRI with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the virtual event will examine how changes in global food trade since the pandemic have impacted African food systems, regional supply chains and food access. Presenters will discuss the potential long-term risks of trade disruptions for nutrition and economic growth, and identify recovery policies that governments can prioritise to strengthen food security, regional supply chains and livelihoods. The speakers will consider the social, political and logistical barriers to trade across the continent in the face of Covid-19, the challenges of equitably distributing the benefits of trade, and trade’s role in building back better. See a full list of speakers and register here.
Wageningen University and KeyGene work on new banana varieties
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and biotech company KeyGene, both based in the Netherlands, have joined the international banana research programme “Accelerated Breeding of Better Bananas (ABBB)” (Commodafrica, 7 September). They will work in association with the general coordinator of the ABBB, which is the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). WUR and KeyGene are contributing to the development of new varieties of bananas from the East African highlands that are resistant to the devastating Panama disease, also known as banana fusarium head blight. The issue is crucial for farmers, but also for the local population, because bananas are not only an export product, most of the production being consumed by the local population. Bananas are currently the target of a new species of fusarium, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), which kills many banana genotypes, including the world’s largest export variety, Cavendish.