The European Business Council for Africa

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.  

Senior government officials and representatives from the private sector, civil society and intergovernmental organizations met virtually on 19 November to exchange views on the achievements and challenges facing the WTO as it marks its 25th anniversary. Speakers underlined the continued relevance of the rules-based trading system as demonstrated by the key role of trade in contributing to the COVID-19 pandemic response but said reform of the WTO must be made a priority in order to make the organization “fit for purpose” for trade in the 21st century.

In his keynote address to the opening session of the event, Swiss Federal Councillor and Vice-President Guy Parmelin said the continued importance of the WTO and the multilateral trading system has been underlined by the current COVID-19 crisis, with global supply chains and open markets playing an important role in ensuring rapid access to medicines and other essentials needed to fight the pandemic.

“To the sceptics, I wish to remind them that international trade is part of the solution and not part of the problem,” he declared.  “Trade and health can and should be mutually supportive.”

  • Support €1 trillion in investment for climate action and environmental sustainability in the decade to 2030 
  • EIB Group is now aligning all financing activities from end of 2020, with goals of Paris agreement
  • More than 50% of annual financing dedicated to green investment by 2025
  • More Green advisory services and financing of innovative low carbon technologies 
  • Support for green capital markets, climate change adaptation, Just Transition projects

On Wednesday, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Directors, composed of representatives from the EU member states, approved the Climate Bank Roadmap (CBR) that sets out in detail how the EIB Group aims to support the objectives of the European Green Deal and sustainable development outside the European Union.

Least developed countries (LDCs) have been hit hard by the downturn in global trade triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with LDC merchandise exports declining by 16 per cent during the first half of 2020, WTO members were told at a meeting of the WTO’s Sub-Committee on LDCs held on 11 November.

The WTO Secretariat reported that the decline in the value of LDC merchandise exports was steeper than the 13 per cent average decline in global exports registered in the first six months of the year. The LDC services sector also took a hit, with preliminary estimates suggesting a drop of close to 40 per cent in the first six months of 2020. The LDCs also had a subdued trade performance in 2019, with their share in world exports (goods and services combined) remaining static at around 0.96 per cent.

The impact of the pandemic on LDC trade was a special focus of the Secretariat's latest annual report on market access for products and services of export interest to LDCs.

By Paul Akiwumi, Director for Africa and Least Developed Countries, UNCTAD

As the world seeks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global recession, there is a temptation to prioritise domestic health and economic concerns, especially in advanced economies. 

But resorting to inward-looking policies or protectionism threatens to leave behind the world’s most vulnerable economies or least-developed countries (LDCs). In responding to the global challenge posed by COVID-19 and building back better for long-term prosperity, the international community must not forget LDCs.

Why LDCs matter

An estimated 1.06-billion people live in the world’s 47 LDCs and by 2030 over 15% of humanity will be living in them. Despite their large demographic weight, LDCs account for less than 1.5% of global GDP. In 2019, the average GDP per capita in LDCs was only $991, compared with a world average of $11 069.