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Pan African free-trade zone comes into force

The AU envisions the free trade zone will drive economic integration and spurring investment within the continent

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The historic African free-trade zone came into force on Thursday, as the African Union celebrated a closer step towards creating a continent-wide market of 1.2 billion people worth $2.5 trillion.

“This is a historic milestone!” tweeted Albert Muchanga, AU commissioner for trade and industry.

“We celebrate the triumph of bold, pragmatic and continent-wide commitment to economic integration”.

52 of the AU’s 55 member states have signed the agreement to establish the free trade area since March 2018, with the notable exception of Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy.

The African Continental Free Trade Area had been ratified by 22 countries by April 29, the requisite number for formally notifying the AU. This paved the way for it to take effect 30 days later as stipulated in its statutes.

Some of Africa’s other economic heavyweights, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa, are among the 24 countries that have formally ratified it. In the last month, Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso joined the fold.

The agreement’s operational phase is to be launched on July 7 at an AU summit in Niger. 

There are still a number of outstanding issues to be resolved, including arbitration measures, certifying the origins of goods, tackling corruption and improving infrastructure.

The AU envisions the free trade zone, once fully implemented, driving economic integration and spurring investment within the continent.

It hopes the progressive elimination of tariffs will help boost intra-Africa trade by 60 percent within three years. At present, only 16 percent of trade by African countries is with continental neighbours.

Advocates for the trade zone say it will help develop African economies long driven by a focus on resource exploitation, and provide a platform for negotiating with markets beyond the continent.

But critics say poor infrastructure and a lack of diversity between the various economies could throw up barriers to this envisioned integration.

The African Union hopes a progressive elimination of tariffs will help boost intra-Africa trade by 60 percent by 2022.

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Uganda and Rwanda revisit trade talks

The meeting was aimed at boosting diplomatic relations between the two East African neighbours

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Uganda and Rwanda revisit trade talks

Officials from Uganda and Rwanda on Monday met in Kigali following a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two countries in Angola in August.

The meeting was aimed at boosting diplomatic relations between the two East African neighbours.

The two sides were seen to be at loggerheads for some time earlier this year, culminating in the closure of their borders.

The August MoU included agreements on regional co-operation and security, setting the pace for the improvement of political and trade relations between Uganda and Rwanda.

The two leaders also agreed to “resume as soon as possible the cross-border activities between both countries, including the movement of persons and goods, for the development and improvement of the lives of their population”.

The Ugandan delegation is led by Foreign Affairs minister, Sam Kutesa while his counterpart in Rwanda spearheads the opposite delegation.

Angola and DR Congo played a key role in bringing the Ugandan and Rwandan sides to the negotiating table.

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Egypt resumes Nile Dam talks with Ethiopia, Sudan

Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry has expressed unease in recent days over delays in negotiations

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Egypt resumes Nile Dam talks with Ethiopia, Sudan

Egypt says Ethiopia has “summarily rejected” its plan for key aspects of operating a giant dam. The country is building on the Nile, while dismissing Ethiopia’s own proposal as “unfair and inequitable”.

The comments, made in a note circulated to diplomats last week, show the gap between the two countries on a project seen as an existential threat by Egypt, which gets around 90% of its freshwater from the Nile. 

The note distributed by the Egyptian foreign ministry, a copy of which was seen by reporters, points to key differences over the annual flow of water that should be guaranteed to Egypt and how to manage flows during droughts. 

It comes as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met on Sunday and Monday for their first talks over the hydroelectric dam in more than a year. A spokesperson at Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, Nebiat Getachew, said on Monday the meeting had so far produced no agreements or disagreements, and gave no immediate response to the Egyptian claims. 

Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment, but after the talks, an Egyptian water ministry statement carried by local media said the meeting had been limited to procedural, rather than substantive issues. 

Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry has expressed unease in recent days over delays in negotiations. 

The $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was announced in 2011 and is designed to be the centrepiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts. 

In January, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister said that following construction delays, the dam would start production by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.

The dam promises economic benefits for Ethiopia and Sudan, but Egypt fears it will restrict already stretched supplies from the Nile, which it uses for drinking water, agriculture and industry.

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Tanzanian mining firms to pay royalty fees on mineral production

The Tanzania Mining Commission set a deadline of September 15 to enforce the directive

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Tanzanian mining firms to pay royalty fees on mineral production

Mining companies in Tanzania risk being denied transport permits to ferry their products if they have not adhered to section 18 of the country’s Mining Act of 2010 (and revised in 2017), which requires all producers pay royalty fees on the gross value of minerals produced.

The Tanzania Mining Commission set a deadline of September 15 to enforce the directive.

The issue came up when Tancoal Energy Ltd. claimed that the law was punitive and would make its products expensive. However, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Simon Msanjila, says that the royalty fees have been in effect since 2010 and other companies producing coal and other minerals were already applying it.

“Tancoal have been avoiding paying the fees all these years, despite expanding their coal exports portfolio to include clients outside the country,” said Prof Msanjila. He further added that “it’s about time they start paying as well.”

The law requires every authorised miner in Tanzania to pay royalty fees based on the gross value of their produce. The gross value is the market value of the minerals at the point of refining or sale.

Violation of the directive results in up to two years imprisonment, maximum Tsh10 million fine in the case of an individual, or Tsh50 million fine for a corporate.

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