Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), pan-African multilateral financial institution devoted to financing and promoting intra- and extra-African trade, apparently buoyed by the continent’s leaders’ ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and Nigeria’s final and much awaited entry into the continental trade group, is pushing forward with a series of initiatives to support the AfCFTA implementation agreement, including making available $1 billion accessible to member countries.
Nigeria’s president, MuhammaduBuhari, joining other heads of state and government in the continent at an AU summit in Niamey, Niger Republic last week, signed Nigeria’s formal entry into the AfCFTA.
With the continent’s largest gross domestic product (GDP) of $445 billion, many economic and development analysts see the country’s joining as a tacit approval of AfCFTA, whose charter was initiated in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.
AfCFTA would drive free trade for Africa’s teeming 1.37 billion population, most of which are ravaged by wars, diseases, epidemics and poor leadership culture.
Part of Afreximbank’s support package, as announced by Benedict Oramah, a professor and the bank’s president, include a $1 billion AfCFTA adjustment facility to enable countries adjust in orderly manner to sudden significant tariff revenue losses, as a result of the implementation of the agreement.
“This facility will help countries to accelerate the ratification of the AfCFTA,” he said, telling the heads of state that, by starting the operational phase of the AfCFTA, they have started a movement.
Oramah urged them not to look back. “This movement is now unstoppable,” he added.
He said that, as part of its support for the implementation of the AfCFTA, the bank had provided support to aid the work being done by the African Regional Standards Organisation and the AU in implementing the agreement.
According to Obi Emekekwue, head, communications and events, Afreximbank, Oramah also informed the AU summit of the launch of the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), the first continent-wide payment digital system focused on facilitating payments for goods and services in intra-African trade in African currencies.
“Today we will launch the Africa-wide digital payment infrastructure – the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) – that we developed in collaboration with the African Union. It is a platform that will domesticate, intra-regional payments, save the continent more than $5 billion in payment transaction costs per annum, formalise a significant proportion of the estimated $50 billion of informal intra-African trade, and above all, contribute in boosting intra-African trade,” he said.
The Afreximbank boss said that, by making it possible for Africans to pay for intra-regional trade in their local currencies, the digital platform will deal a fatal blow to the underdevelopment of Africa caused by defragmentation of its economies.
“Our goal is to reduce, significantly, the foreign currency content of intra-African trade payments. No people have achieved meaningful development when their economic progress depends on others. In the renewed focus on industrial and value-chain development across the continent in trying to boost trade and investment, it is imperative that we address the economic costs of effecting so many payments in scarce foreign exchange,” Oramah said.
He assured that the PAPSS would make cross-border payments easier, cheaper and safer, as an obvious critical step in creating an Africa we want.
WHO puts African nations on Ebola notice, as funding gap hits 40%
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Region has put countries in the continent on Ebola notice as the dreaded viral disease is yet to abate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making uncontrolled incursion into Uganda, with palpable fears of touching Burundi, Rwanda and war-ravaged South Sudan.
MatshidisoMoeti, WHO regional director for Africa, speaking during a recent teleconferencing in Kampala, Uganda, to selected journalists from media organisations across the continent, including business a.m., regretted that preparedness funding for tackling Ebola was dwindling, saying the situation has “reached a crucial juncture.”
“Despite the crucial nature of Ebola preparedness funding, we are regretting the fact that funding for this aspect of the work has slowed down. Over the last few 4 months, we have received relatively little funding for continuing the Ebola preparedness in the surrounding countries. The budget in the four most at-risk countries was nearly $US 70 million over the past year, but there remains a 40% funding gap going forward into the next six months, in relation to the amount that the WHO had estimated is necessary,” Moeti said.
“Lack of funding has reached a crucial juncture, and I’d just like to quote what the Emergency Committee on the Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said in their statement, that they are “deeply disappointed that WHO and the affected countries have not received the funding and resources needed for this outbreak.”
Meanwhile, Angola, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia have equally been placed as priority two at risk countries.
He said the aim of the preparedness work is to ensure that countries have put in place systems which allow them to detect, investigate, and report potential Ebola cases, as well as treat any confirmed cases.
“Screening of travellers is important; and there have been 66 million screenings at national and international borders since the outbreak. The screenings resulted in the detection of 19 confirmed cases, including the most recent three in Uganda. Similarly, we can also look at alerts reported in that period, from countries in the region and in DRC provinces outside the Ebola area,” the WHO Africa region boss said.
He hinted that there was urgent need for combination of efforts. “We can’t say there’s one magic bullet. It requires a combination of measures that are already being put in place. I believe for example that the advances that have been made in research; and the fact that we have now an effective vaccine that has been deployed in this outbreak, has made a very significant difference in terms of the spread of the outbreak, the numbers of deaths, etc. Even as we acknowledge that this is a very serious outbreak.”