Many governments, including those in Africa, have adopted travel restrictions and physical-distancing policies to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). These are most important for urban areas where population is dense. As a result, consumers, companies, organisations and individuals are increasingly exploring digital solutions to continue at least some economic and social activity remotely, but which, due to a gap in digital readiness, cannot be used by all, in particular not by those in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). This state of affairs raises the questions of how to bridge the divide and facilitate physically-distant work and what significant and constructive role could digital trade law play in Africa?
Least Developed Countries
On the 24th of March 2020, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) announced a US$3 billion facility to help its member countries weather the economic and health impacts of Covid-19. In this interview, Prof Ben Oramah, President Afreximbank, discusses this pandemic facility, the African Continental Free Trade Area, (AfCFTA) and more.
Welcome to this symposium on COVID-19 and International Economic Law in the Global South. The essays in this symposium came from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, North America and Latin America. This symposium will last for a full four weeks because of the large number of good quality submissions we accepted.
Afronomicslaw.org, the blog on International Economic Law Issues as they relate to the Global South is pleased to invite essay submissions on International Economic Law topics relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joining the WTO will reduce the diverse economy that the Ethiopian government has been fostering. But if the government feels that WTO membership is necessary, then Ethiopia must take it’s time to negotiate more favorable terms in line with its development status and objectives. In particular, Ethiopia should not make the same mistakes as other newly joined nations and should not agree to undertake higher levels of commitments than is made absolutely necessary by the WTO rules and what other founding LDCs, such as Bangladesh, have made. Specifically, Ethiopia should seek to ensure that tariffs are bound at the highest rates possible.
Uncertainty looms for the Kenyan floriculture industry, as leaders of the East African Community Partner States – apart from Kenya - are stalling the ratification of the 2014 Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EAC-EU EPA). This analysis explains the deadlock in which this industry finds itself.
Sub-regional judiciaries and implementing bodies in Africa should endeavour to avoid what the Kagame Report termed ‘[t]he chronic failure to see through African Union decisions [which] has resulted in a crisis of implementation.’ Hence, ECOWAS and the ECCJ should apply political pressure on Member States to implement the ECCJ judgments. Also, dualist countries in the sub-region should domesticate the Revised Treaty and the Protocol on the ECCJ into their national laws. This will enhance the implementation of the ECCJ decisions in the sub-region.
In the grander scheme of things, amidst the crisis of climate change in which the vulnerability of Africa continues to unravel, Africa remains a preferred choice of FDI in agriculture for the export of green energy and for food. This situation raises concerns about displacements, conflicts, shrinking traditional landraces and continental food security writ large. The traction for agricultural FDI comes through the scheme of large scale agricultural land acquisitions, which activists framed as agricultural “land grabs”.
This new Continental Free Trade bloc is now entrusted with the competence to engage other FTA Blocs such as the European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) and Association of South Eastern Nations (ASEAN), on trade policy from an Afri-Centric perspective - the essence of Afri-Multilateralism. Hitherto, the various national governments across the Continent had engaged global trade from the prism of nationalistic interests but this new paradigm affords Africa, for the first time, an opportunity to engage on trans-Sahara, trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific negotiations on an equal footing, and not under the auspices of 'emerging countries' or LDCs.
It has become increasingly clear with the unfolding of the EPA events that the failure of the Community to achieve basic set out objectives lies deeper than the merits of the projects embarked on. As it has not proved efficient to hold each Partner State to their commitments to the Community at all times, it is necessary to address the systemic weaknesses that allow unconstructive concerns to permeate well-intended goals.