Gambia became the 22nd African country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), meaning the bill now has the minimum number of ratifications needed to come into effect.
On March 21, Ethiopia became one of the last African nations to ratify the AfCFTA, bringing the tally of endorsing countries to 21.
The trade bloc spanning 49 countries with a combined GDP of $3trn, will facilitate inter-regional trade, boost growth and help to alleviate poverty, its supporters say.
The news was tweeted by the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga:
“Good news! The Parliament of The Gambia has APPROVED ratification of #AfCFTA Agreement making us meet the minimum threshold.
“The AfCFTA market is being born and is one step ready for launch of its operational phase in July this year.
The agreement, signed by 49 of the 55 African Union nations in March last year, will dodge a patchwork of trade regulations and tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time-consuming and cumbersome.
Its promotion of tariff-free movement of goods, people and services across the continent is also expected to favour SMEs, who account for 80% of Africa’s employment and 50% of its GDP, according to the World Bank.
Skeptics have highlighted the impending challenges of uniting countries with the greatest level of income disparity between them, under the umbrella of one trade bloc.
For example, over 50 percent of Africa’s cumulative GDP is contributed by Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, while Africa’s six sovereign island nations collectively contribute just 1 percent.
The motion was brought before Gambia’s parliament by Lamin Jobe, Gambia’s trade minister who highlighted the trade benefits of deeper regional integration:
“This document will definitely serve as a take-off point to enhance the free movement of people, good and services. By using this, there are a lot of advantages that we can gain from the implementation of this agreement,” he said.
DR Congo’s government move to reform the economy as Cobalt prices dip
DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s new leadership is under mounting pressure to diversify the country’s economy from its dependence on raw materials following the plunge in the price of cobalt. Economic experts currently visiting the country have a sobering figure on which to base their work: over the past year, the price of cobalt on the London Metal Exchange has tumbled from $80,000 to $28,000.
DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars. But economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country is on the same roller coaster as the global cobalt price.
“GDP growth increased to 5.8 per cent from 3.7 per cent in 2017, driven by a sharp increase in cobalt prices,” the International Monetary Fund said earlier this month in a report of DR Congo’s economy. “GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 4.3 per cent in 2019 based on the assumption of a slowdown in mining activity in the context of lower cobalt prices,” it added.
In another sign of DR Congo’s heavy reliance on mining and metals exports, that deceleration comes amid growth more than doubling in the rest of the economy thanks to public investment and post-election optimism. Either way, DR Congo’s GDP is small when compared to the size of the country and its population.
At less than $40 billion for 81 million inhabitants in 2017, according to World Bank figures, that translates into less than $2 per day per person on average. The IMF mission “focused on policies that would lead to diversifying the economy and tackling high levels of poverty and unemployment in the context of a rapidly expanding population,” according to the report.
Diversification and transformation of the nation’s economy is also the theme of the sixth French Kinshasa week organised by the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With 80 per cent of DR Congo’s export revenues generated by the mining sector, this “creates a vulnerability due to the volatility in the prices of its main raw material exports” noted the organisers.
Liberalisation amidst cobalt price dip
They said possibilities in numerous other sectors needed to be explored for growth opportunities: agriculture and food, textiles, tourism, communications, transportation services, forestry, energy, pharmaceuticals and recycling.
France is keen to promote an initiative recently unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron to provide 2.5 billion euros in financing to 100,000 African startups as well as small and medium-sized companies by 2022. But the best intentions in business development must confront the problems of doing business in a country still trying to fix its patchy tax revenue collection amidst corruption.
One economic analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “fifty per cent of the containers that enter the Matadi river port don’t pay customs duties”. The IMF urged the new president Felix Tshisekedi “to expedite the adoption of the proposed anti-corruption law” and the creation of an independent anti-corruption commission.
The IMF also expressed concern about low tax collection. Reforms in some areas are moving ahead, albeit slowly. The insurance sector has been liberalised with three operators licensed to take over from the former state monopoly Sonas. And mining multinationals will be meeting in Lubumbashi to discuss the plunge in cobalt prices and the impact last year’s reform of the mining code has had.
Mining expert Chantelle Kotze said the reform increased taxes and royalties paid on strategic minerals such as cobalt and coltan, an ore that is another crucial element for the production of electric car batteries.
Inside Kenya’s Sh 3.02 trillion 2019/ 20 budget
There is an estimated deficit of Sh 607.8 billion, an increase from Sh 562 billion this financial year
Kenya’s 2019/20 budget will be the seventh under the country’s jubilee administration. Its National government plans to spend Sh 3.02 trillion, about 10 billion higher than the current (2018/19) budget.
There is an estimated deficit of Sh 607.8 billion, an increase from Sh 562 billion this financial year. The government is likely to borrow more in the next fiscal year to bridge the deficit as Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is expected to miss this year’s revenue collection target by Sh 118 billion.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Henry Rotich, has set a revenue target of Sh 2.2 trillion while KRA is expected to collect approximately Sh 1.9 trillion. Experts say the government might also heighten the tax regime to fill this budget deficit.
In the 2018/2019 financial year, the government was forced to introduce stringent tax measures to raise funds to support the budget.
This year, the government will likely raise Value Added Tax (VAT) from the current 16 per cent and Capital Gains Tax, which targets the wealthy. The betting industry will also be targeted.
Raising the VAT will contribute to a high cost of living as prices of basic goods such as food will go up. According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Kenya’s public debt stands at Sh 5.4 trillion.
In the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 Kenya will spend Sh 800 billion to repay maturing loans mostly owed to foreign lenders.
The budget as a share of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to decline to 28.1 per cent, from 32.4 per cent in 2018/19 financial year, a 4.2 per cent drop.
According to the Budget and Appropriation Committee, Sh 2.45 trillion will be allocated to the three arms of government, a slight increase from Sh 2.23 trillion in 2018/19 financial year.
The country’s judiciary remains the least funded of the three arms of government having been allocated Sh 18.88 billion. The Executive and Parliament have been allotted Sh 1.84 trillion and Sh 43.78 respectively.
In the past financial years, the Education sector has always received the lion’s share of the budget, likewise Sh 473.3 billion has been allocated to the sector; followed by Energy, Infrastructure and ICT which have been allocated a combined budget of Sh 406.7 billion.
Rotich’s budget today will crown the total Jubilee administrations ambitious spending to Sh 13 trillion over eight years against total tax collections of less than Sh 8 trillion over the same period.
Tunisia to receive $247 million IMF loan tranche
The IMF approval will open the way for Tunisia to sell bonds worth up to $800 million this year.
The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday, approved the payment of a $247 million loan tranche to Tunisia, the sixth under its loan program with the North African country, according to Minister of Reforms, Taoufik Rajhi.
Tunisia struck a deal with the IMF in December 2016 for a loan program worth around $2.8 billion to overhaul its ailing economy. It included steps to cut chronic deficits and trim bloated public services.
This will bring total disbursements to about $1.6 billion since 2016.
The IMF approval will open the way for Tunisia to sell bonds worth up to $800 million this year.
Tunisia needs around $2.5 billion in external financing in 2019, officials said.
The country has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success because protests toppled autocrat, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 without triggering violent upheaval, as happened in Syria and Libya.
But since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the IMF, which have kept the country afloat
The IMF had wanted Tunisia to freeze public-sector wages – the bill for which doubled to about 16 billion dinars ($5.5 billion) in 2018 from 7.6 billion dinars in 2010.
In order to cut the energy deficit demanded by the IMF, the government last March, raised fuel prices, the fifth hike in 12 months.
The parliament also approved last April, a law to raise the retirement age for civil servants by two years and impose social security taxes on employees and employers, another key reform demanded by the country’s international lenders to stabilize its finances.
Former Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir appears before a prosecutor
Church attacked and burnt down over imam arrest in Niger
GNA announces a new political plan, promises elections in Libya
Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali
Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean
Gabon’s president sacks vice president and forestry minister
Voters in Malawi go to the polls in ‘unpredictable’ race
AFCON 2019 mascot unveiled as “Tut”
Nigeria’s economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk
Meet the candidates in Malawi’s unsettled presidential race
This startup is revolutionising Nigeria’s cash cow industry
Counting the cost: Africa and the US-China Trade War
Africa in 60 – June 14, 2019
The Big 5 Preview; June 14-16, 2019
Africa in 60 – June 13, 2019
Lifestyle News & Gists4 months ago
Five killed in South Africa coal mine blast, others trapped
Feature Stories & News1 month ago
Egypt’s new Ramadan series-streaming app scrutinised by critics
Op-Ed5 months ago
What are the critical issues facing Africa in 2019?
Top Story4 months ago
Spotting fake news: Which is the real video of VP Osinbajo’s chopper incident?
Op-Ed5 months ago
What Brexit means for Africa
Culture & Tourism5 months ago
The market in Togo where money doesn’t change hands
Politics5 months ago
No pay, no news. Guinea Bissau’s journalists go on strike
Culture & Tourism8 months ago
Congolese youth seek change through rap music