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The New Times – Rwanda
During every monthly community work, Umuganda, somehow preserving and protecting the environment is part of the plot. This week will be no different; in fact, it will go a notch higher; it will go green.
The special Umuganda will take place in Kinyinya, a Kigali suburb where a very ambitious project is about to see the light of the day. It is the site of the Green City Kigali project that is expected to cost between $4-5bn.
An estimated 30,000 housing units will be developed to benefit around 150,000 people.
According to those behind the project, the futuristic city “… will integrate green building and design, efficient and renewable energy, recycling and inclusive living, homegrown solutions and local construction materials”.
The beauty of the project is that no one will be moved to give way to the development. In the past, people have been reluctantly expropriated to give way to development projects creating several judicial tugs-of-war.
In many such cases, decisions were made unilaterally without consulting owners of the properties or even explaining to them the benefits that will come with the project. The Green City project is not making that same mistake.
The stakeholders of the project will hold consultations on all aspects of the idea that will not only contribute to conserving our environment; it is also expected to create at least 16,000 jobs.
It is a grandiose project that falls into the “Dream Big” category that this country is known for. Saturday will be the first step in pulling it off, but the real groundbreaking begins in the next few months.
Many were sceptical at first that the project would never get off the paper stage given its costly and high-tech nature. They can now look at the brighter side of things since the ball is now rolling.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
By: Michael E Odijie
The African Continental Free Trade Area is a continental agreement which came into force in May 2019.
It covers trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy. Of the 55 African Union member states, only Eritrea has yet to sign it.
The immediate objective of the free trade area is principally to boost trade within Africa by eliminating up to 90 percent of the tariffs on goods and reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.
In 2017, the exports and imports between African countries represented only 16,6 percent of Africa’s total exports. This figure is low compared with exports within other regions: 68,1 percent in Europe, 59,4 percent in Asia, and 55,0 percent in America.
Proponents of the free trade area say that increasing intra-Africa trade will provide larger markets for African producers and encourage manufacturing. It will also help achieve a better connection between production and consumption.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development argues that the phase of transition to the free trade area alone could boost intra-African trade by 33 percent and increase manufacturing in Africa.
This line of argument is that free trade leads to industrialisation and structural change. But in my view, it works the other way around: industrialisation leads to free trade.
Industrialisation should come first
Low intra-Africa trade is indeed an indication that African countries do not consume what they produce. But this is a problem of production (product focus), not trade. The export products of most African countries, which follow the colonial pattern, influence the trade strategies, trade agreements and trade-related infrastructure.
For example, it is cheaper for Côte d’Ivoire to export products to the Netherlands than to some other African countries. This is simply because Cote d’Ivoire’s main export product is cocoa beans and the Netherlands (as well as France and other European countries) is the main destination for the product.
Cote d’Ivoire has developed its trade strategy and infrastructure accordingly. If Cote d’Ivoire alters its production focus, its target market will be altered and it will build a trade strategy accordingly.
African countries have to change their production focus to change their trade focus. For example, Nigeria recently started to export cement products. In my research, I showed how this led the government of Nigeria to invest in alternative freight schemes, upgrade terminals and create a cross-border trade facilitation committee to aid the cement industry’s export strategy.
It also set up a senior trade committee to resolve the non-tariff barriers imposed by Nigeria’s neighbours and countries of interest to the cement sector.
Trade-related infrastructure is specific to the products that countries have to sell.
It’s similar to traders renting their shops according to the products they sell.
Developing free trade that is not product-based would be like a prospective trader renting a shop in the hope of developing a certain product in the future.
The problem with such an approach is that the features of the shop confine the trader to certain lines of business. Likewise, negotiating and signing a free trade agreement could confine a country’s efforts to industrialise.
This is important because manufacturing plays a key role in the processes of economic transformation required for high quality growth, job creation and improving incomes.
Yet the share of manufacturing in GDP has been falling in sub-Saharan Africa over the past three decades.
The problem of coordination
In my research, I showed how the African free trade area could impede industrial policy through a lack of coordination between the policies of different countries.
This is how industrialisation works: a government decides to promote a particular sector (as Nigeria did in 2002 for cement) and grant players in the sector several incentives.
These could be a domestic market (through protection), subsidies and tax breaks to reduce the risk of investment. Industrial policy does not always succeed.
But when it does, the sector will eventually be able to start exporting. At this point, the government will help the sector with trade strategies — finding and accessing a market — and create an appropriate trade infrastructure.
The free trade area could deprive states of the policy space to select and protect specific sectors. It could create numerous coordination problems when states use their “sensitive products” to pursue industrialisation.
For example, industrial policies could be duplicated by countries in the free trade area.
This would undermine the advantage of having a large market.
There could be contradictory policies, such as one country attempting to reduce intensive agriculture while another seeks to increase it.
One country might make decisions that create problems for the industrial policies of other countries. These contradictions have occurred at the regional level, but they are easier to solve when fewer countries are involved.
Industrialisation would flourish under the African free trade area if industrial policies were to be implemented at the continental level, as opposed to the state level, with no state sensitive products.
But even the European Union has not attained such a high level of integration.
And there are political interests that suggest it would be impossible in Africa.
There are other obvious problems with the agreement.
One is implementation. Even regional integration in Africa faces hurdles, though it involves fewer countries and less commitment. Expecting more than 50 African countries to implement free trade efficiently is idealistic. Nigeria recently closed its borders, violating both the spirit of the Africa Union agreement and the letter of its commitment to the Economic Community of West African Statesa.
Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya and Eritrea did the same earlier this year.
It is more reasonable to concentrate on building regions and industrialising before attempting the African free trade area.
Congo-Kinshasa: Saving River Congo From Drying Up
By Apolinari Tairo
With ongoing environmental degradation in the Congo forest, researchers are working on regional interventions to save the Congo River and its sources from consequences that could cause it to dry up.
A team of researchers from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo studying environmental hazards around the Congo River for five years, found cases of encroachment of the ecosystem that could lead to its death.
The Congo River basin spans six countries -- Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), DRC, the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Team leader Prof Preksedis Ndomba from the University of Dar es Salaam said that human activities including random tree felling for charcoal in the Congo Forest and other parts of the DRC, small- and large-scale farming within the River Congo ecosystem, industrial activities and the construction of mega hydropower generation station would cause the river to dry up.
Prof Ndomba said that the degradation of the river would affect DRC, Angola, Zambia, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), South Sudan, Rwanda, CAR and Tanzania.
The Catholic Church in DRC concurs, saying that the Congo Forest has been disappearing slowly, partly due to clearing for subsistence agriculture, large-scale farming, illegal logging and lack of clear reforestation policies.
The Catholic Church, through the Episcopal Commission on Natural Resources, is pushing for positive natural resource management.
Cardinal Frivolling Basing of Kinshasa said in a statement seen by The East African that River Congo's water level had dropped due to failing rains in the Congo Forest and the Congo River Basin which covers four million sq km or 300 million acres.
"The Congo Forest is second by size in the world after the Amazon Forest. Illegal tree felling and wood business is estimated to cost the Republic of Congo about $10 billion every year," Cardinal Basing said.
The National Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Natural Resources of the Congolese Catholic Bishops Conference Henri Musambate said that uncontrolled industrial activities and logging in the Congo Basin remain a big challenge on the River Congo environmental set-up.
He said that pollution by extractive companies, cattle herding from CAR and Chad have invaded the basin's forests in the quest for water and pasture.
Mr Musambate said the Catholic Church has observed disruption of seasons, massive flooding and drought in northeastern DRC which are affecting rivers in the Congo basin.
Ubangi River which is the largest tributary of the Congo River has declined over the past few years causing the waters of Atlantic Ocean to rise and flow into Congo River's estuary every year, said Mr Musambate.
So far, the Episcopal Commission on Natural Resources has collected data to inform the bishops, trained the population, and worked to influence laws and promote responsible attitudes on environmental protection.
"Through awareness, planting trees in schools and other institutions, one can see a concern to preserve the forest to combat climate change," said Mr Musambate.