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The New Times – Rwanda
There is this feeling that now that President Paul Kagame is at the helm of the East African Community (EAC), a few things in the organisation will be shaken up and fall into place.
Fresh from chairing the African Union where they are not likely to forget him in long while – because of the whirlwind of reforms he helped to steer that have brought alive the African Peace Fund and the continental AcFTA treaty.
Rest assured, every bottleneck that lies in the way of East African integration will get his full attention. But as he pointed out, there has to be ownership, accountability and political will. Some of those three seem to be starkly lacking in some member states at the moment.
It is the second time President Kagame takes the chair, having done so ten years ago. And once again, he has brought his personal touch by organising another retreats of core EAC organs just as he did a decade ago. No other previous chairman has done so; they preferred to move at the EAC Secretariat’s pace.
But his task is not a walk in the park mainly due to financial dependence on external factors. The EAC is held ransom by some countries that have failed to honour their financial obligations. How do they expect regional projects to be implemented on empty coffers?
This issue of non-payment of dues should be tackled head-on with no kid gloves. An organization is only able to run smoothly if it adheres to set rules and those who flout them should be prepared to face the consequences.
This regional economic bloc was about to set the bar high for other continental blocs, but it seems lack of political will is onlyhelping it to shoot itself in the foot.
The New Times – Rwanda
By: Gitura Mwaura
Ethiopia’s ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was received with much applause as a significant step towards effecting the agreement.
This is a year after the initiative was launch in Kigali in March 2018.
Now only one country remains to ratify the agreement, which could be any time now, completing the required 22 ratifications for AfCFTA to enter into force.
This one country could either be Egypt, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Togo, or Sierra Leone. Each one of them is set to ratify following approval from their respective parliaments.
With the agreement coming into force being so imminent, one can almost feel the jubilation; it may be expected the moment of reaching the 22 ratifications will be received with much fanfare.
The gaze is already on the future and how the AfCFTA will be implemented. Remember that a foundation already exists, with the regional economic communities (RECs) expected to be the building blocks for the continental free trade area.
The AfCFTA is, really, a REC writ large leading some observers to hold the view that if the East African Community, the most successful of the RECs, can make it, there is no reason AfCFTA should not.
It is a measure of its accomplishments – both the good and the questionable – that EAC has become something of a yardstick with which the AfCFTA’s future prospects are being measured.
First, the EAC is the most integrated of the five regional economic communities. Some of its major achievements include a common passport, customs union and common market.
Though some of the RECs are not quite there yet, these EAC accomplishments are testament that continental integration is possible, bloc by regional economic bloc.
But, as the idiom has it, a chain is as strong as its weakest link. As long as even one of the regional blocs has some way to go to attain EACs the level of integration, it means the AfCFTA may take that much longer to be fully realised.
Being the most visible for its accomplishments, and therefore any hiccups that may shadow the successes, it is arguable the EAC example offers a template of how the process might pan out implementing the CFTA.
Despite being the fastest growing economic regions in the world, the past couple of years have been rather bumpy in the East African Community. It has been awash in the media of perceived protectionism and existence of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), contrary to the custom union and common market protocols.
It is debatable about which one – protectionism or NTBs – is the most pernicious but either of them affect trade flows, reducing the benefits to be gained from the regional integration process.
A report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa related to the regional meeting in November 2018 in Kigali assessing AfCFTA implementation in Eastern Africa touches on these concerns. It terms them as risks, noting the “signs of rising trading tensions between Partner States of the East African Community (EAC), which has been resulting in declining levels of intra-regional trade.”
It is such observations giving credence to the view that the ups and downs experienced in the EAC could be the pulse giving an indication on how integration could play out on the continent as AfCFTA rolls out.
Perhaps worse, what would it mean for the AfCFTA should the EAC, or any of the other RECs, fail in their project to ensure borderless regions?
Yet, it is not so much the RECs but the individual countries. Where the RECs may fall short, the finger may be pointed at the individual countries within them.
Nevertheless, even with the perceived misunderstandings, the process towards full integration continues apace as witnessed in the EAC Council of Ministers and heads of the body’s organs meeting in Kigali to brainstorm, plan and strategize on how better the bloc can deliver on its objectives and mandate.
Serious questions however remain, with one of them relating to the delayed implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), even in the East African skies.
What about the African passport unveiled at the same time as the AfCFTA with the signing of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons?
As the AfCFTA entering into force is imminent, the questions mean that more still needs to be done, including issues such as competition, provisions for investment, intellectual property and e-commerce in the free trade area that remain to be ironed out.
The New Times – Rwanda
By: Lacina Koné
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that Africa is not left behind in the digital revolution that is sweeping across the globe. Our focus should not be about just being part of this revolution, we should be leading it.
Come this May, the 2019 Transform Africa Summit, the most important gathering of global ICT minds and leaders on the continent will convene in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss how Africa can leverage digital innovations to drive economic growth and long-term development.
This year’s Transform Africa Summit will take place from May 14 to 17, 2019 at the iconic Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) and it is expected to bring together over 4,000 delegates from over 90 countries across the world.
The Transform Africa summit is Smart Africa’s flagship event which was put in place as a vehicle to put ICT at the centre of Africa’s socio-economic agenda.
This year’s summit will be the 5th edition and will run under the theme “Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy”.
This particular summit is exciting for us because it comes at a time when the continent is holding candid conversations on how our countries can harness technology and digital innovations to boost their economies and usher an era of sustained development.
The timing is optimal because today, the world is embracing the fact that technological disruption has impacted on the way we do things. It comes at a time when the world is coming together to drive the digital economy agenda. This is very important because we do not want to be left behind in this digital revolution.
When we talk about the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we need to discuss and agree on things that will make the single market possible, including eliminating roaming charges among countries to ensure seamless communication and that access to efficient and affordable broadband internet is guaranteed.
At the end of 2018, the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) Digital Economy Task Force met for the first time at the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe in Vienna, Austria, to discuss how the two continents can work together to tap into the digitisation of economies to bring about transformation not only for our countries but also our society in general.
The initiative is aimed at supporting the integration of digital markets in Africa, boosting public and private investment and improving the business environment on the continent through improving access to affordable broadband connectivity and digital infrastructure, nurturing digital skills and digital entrepreneurship as well as the need to move most services online.
Today we talk of Africa being the youngest continent in the world in this digital revolution but we are also taking note of the first that it is the leading continent in the world in mobile money transactions.
For example, Ivory Coast alone has over $30m mobile money transactions daily and in Sub-Saharan Africa over $20 billion worth of transactions are conducted through mobile financial solutions annually.
This year’s Transform Africa Summit (TAS2019), which is expected to bring together Heads of State and Government, First Ladies, UN Broadband Commissioners, Ministers, Regulators, Mayors & Governors, Public & Private Sector, International Organisations, Industry Leaders, Investors, Entrepreneurs, Young Innovators, Civil Society and Academia, among others, will therefore be a platform for us to discuss how best we can tap into this digital revolution for the benefit of the our continent. This year’s TAS2019 is expected to be more exciting and invigorating than past editions.
Apart from the Smart Africa Leaders’ Summit, which will be graced by Heads of State and Government, we will have the Smart Africa Women’s Summit, which will focus on the role of women in driving the Smart Africa agenda.
The summit will have interactive plenary sessions featuring global leaders and tech minds as well as subject specific sessions tackling current ICT topics.
The second Transform Africa Economic Forum, a Government to Business engagement, is also a must attend for TAS delegates because it is expected to bring together Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries to engage with a targeted audience of business leaders and high net worth investors on investment opportunities and areas of collaboration on the continent.
The Economic Forum is among other things expected to tackle some of the key topics concerning startups on the continent including financing, integration, human capital and other issues that affect startups in Africa.
All these exciting sessions will be an opportunity for us to discuss the disruption brought about by technology in our midst and come up with strategies to leverage on ICT innovations to bring about digital transformation on our continent.
TAS 2019 is a must attend and a unique opportunity for all of us to engage and come up with impactful ideas and solutions that can help us transform our continent in a more sustainable manner. Beyond the summit topics, TAS also serves as an opportunity for one to visit Rwanda and see how the country has progressed over the last 25 years into a jewel of Africa’s development.