The European Business Council for Africa

International cooperation on the science, technology and innovation frontiers can fast-track sustainable development progress after the COVID-19 crisis, experts say.

The coronavirus pandemic has compelled leaders, policymakers and everyday people to think carefully about what makes healthy and resilient communities.

At the same time, it has prompted a rethink of how to address other pre-pandemic catastrophes, such as climate change, food insecurity and social inequality.

To address these challenges, the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) will examine how to make science and technology work for all, at its inter-sessional panel for 2020-2021, slated for 18 to 22 January.

During the event, experts will examine two key issues. The first focuses on health and how science, technology and innovation can be used to close the gap on SDG3 for health and wellbeing. The second explores the prospects of blockchain for sustainable development.

Small island nations are taking on water in the form of a vicious debt trap damaging their productivity and ability to recover from disasters and other structural constraints. UNCTAD warns the situation is unsustainable and requires urgent global attention.

In December 2020 Fiji was pounded by Pacific Cyclone Yasa, the years’ second category 5 storm, which destroyed hundreds of buildings and caused about $1.4 billion in damage to health facilities, homes, schools, agriculture and infrastructure.

Yasa was yet another major tropical storm to devastate an island nation in 2020. Similarly, the Atlantic Ocean region saw its most active hurricane season on record.

Small island developing states (SIDS) experience the world’s highest frequency of natural disasters, among them hurricanes, cyclones and other violent storms that lead to severe flooding and, in the worst cases, the loss of life, homes and infrastructure.

In terms of economic impact, the most severe storm ever, calculated on a per capita basis, hit Dominica in 2017, causing damage equivalent to 280% of the island’s GDP, according to the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT).

For small countries, the costs of post-disaster reconstruction can be exorbitant. On average, natural disasters cause damage equivalent to 2.1% of GDP every year in SIDS.

The WTO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 13 January jointly launched a new dataset covering bilateral services trade of over 200 economies from 2005 to 2019. The WTO-OECD Balanced Trade in Services (BaTIS) dataset, which provides detailed data for 12 services sectors in addition to total commercial services, offers a complete and balanced matrix that reconciles previously asymmetrical export and import data.


At present, bilateral data are available for less than 70% of world trade in services. For individual services sectors, data coverage can be much lower. Moreover, the availability of statistics on bilateral trade in services varies significantly across countries and regions. More than 90% of Europe's services trade can be captured on a bilateral basis. However, this share drops to only 36% for Asia. No bilateral services transactions are currently reported by African or Middle Eastern economies. 

Science, technology, and innovation set to boost post COVID-19 recovery as the continent seeks to tap its energy and agricultural sectors as tools for development and growth with UNCTAD’s help.

Technology can provide solutions to many development problems and new and emerging technologies can improve access to modern energy services and enhance agricultural productivity and livelihoods.

But a deeper understanding of the full spectrum of change that these technologies can unleash across different socio-economic contexts, particularly in developing countries is needed.

Enter UNCTAD, which this week at the annual Science Forum in Pretoria, South Africa, announced a new technology assessment project it aims to roll out in key African countries.

Debt relief, greater cooperation, a more digital world, and shorter more regional value chains are key policy stepping stones for a better post-coronavirus recovery, UNCTAD deputy chief tells meeting.

As the world reels from the deepening impacts of the coronavirus pandemic across health systems and the global economy and considers the protracted knock-on effects of a second wave, solutions are needed.

A new report from UNCTAD, Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade and development: transitioning to a new normal, plots both the economic impacts of the pandemic through 2020, and tangible first steps toward a better recovery.

An online information session was held by the WTO on 2 December to prepare for an Aid for Trade “stocktaking event” to be held online on 23 — 25 March 2021. Organized by the Committee on Trade and Development, the online event is set to examine the trade and development challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken in response to the crisis.

The information session highlighted how the crisis has had a significant impact in areas such as economic diversification and resilience, e-commerce, the empowerment of women and young people, the integration of micro small and medium-sized enterprises into the global economy, trade facilitation and trade in services.

The stocktaking event will feature sessions organized by WTO members as well as those organized by the WTO Secretariat and international organizations.  

Members are invited to communicate to the WTO Secretariat details of the session(s) they wish to organize by filling in the form available hereThe deadline for submission is 31 December 2020.


The COVID-19 economic crisis is forecast to reverse years of painstaking development progress in education and nutrition, and to pull 32 million people back into extreme poverty.

Efforts to rebuild the economies of the world’s poorest nations post-pandemic will fall significantly short unless their productive capacities are drastically improved, according to UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2020.

Least developed countries (LDCs) with the most developed productive capacities have best been able to combat the fallout from the pandemic, according to the report.

Productive capacities are the productive resources, entrepreneurial capabilities and production linkages that together determine the capacity of a country to produce goods and services and 3 enable it to grow and develop.

“The pandemic has brutally reminded us of the urgent need to develop productive capacities in LDCs to enable them to achieve structural transformation, reduce exposure to external shocks and build resilience,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

He said the development of productive capacities in most LDCs has been too slow for them to overcome major development challenges and shocks such as COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting actors in the digital economy differently. While some digital businesses are showing resilience, costs are rising for others, a new UNCTAD survey shows.

Even though COVID-19 has pushed more consumers in developing countries to buy online, many e-commerce businesses in these nations have seen a slump in sales, according to an UNCTAD study published on 17 November.

Presenting hard-to-collect data from 23 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, the research shows a stark divide between the pandemic’s impact on different actors in the digital economy.

While 58% of businesses selling their own products or services online have recorded a drop in monthly revenue, about 64% of third-party marketplaces have seen a spike in sales, according to data collected between March and July 2020 from over 250 companies, most of which have less than 10 employees.

“We found that wholly digital businesses, especially third-party online marketplaces, have been more resilient during the current crisis,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director.

“Even with growing demand for e-commerce, most businesses have struggled to adapt and scale-up their operations online.”

The 8th edition of UNCTAD’s port management series spotlights the top work done by TrainForTrade graduates from Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The efficiency of a port directly affects the economic prospects of the countries it serves, given that more than 80% of goods traded worldwide are carried by sea and thus handled by ports.

“A port can only be as efficient as the people who work in it,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

An UNCTAD report presented on 24 November spotlights case studies on how some ports in Africa and Asia are tackling today’s most common challenges, including cargo handling operations, land and waste management, digitalization and employee turnover.

The studies were done by participants of UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade port management programme in Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

In an address to leaders from the Group of 20 leading economies, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff said on 21 November that the WTO membership faces three challenges: using trade to bolster the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, facilitating trade in products needed to treat COVID-19, and reforming the institutions that govern global trade. He urged participants at the summit, which was chaired by Saudi Arabia, to actively engage on WTO reform.

The full text of his remarks is below:

Thank you very much, Your Royal Highness, and I thank Saudi Arabia for its leadership.

With respect to trade, there are three immediate challenges: to utilize trade to help underwrite the economic recovery, to facilitate trade in essential medical products to treat the pandemic, and to reform the institutional framework for world trade.