The European Business Council for Africa

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to working with the African Union to advance our shared vision of a better future.

China’s decision to ban imports of most scrap plastics and other waste materials in 2018 sent shockwaves across the globe.

The Asian giant had imported about 45% of all internationally traded plastic waste since 1992, so the new policy diverted a significant stream of plastic scrap to other countries.

It also raised important questions on how we trade waste, which carries environmental risks related to pollutants and can harm developing economies by dumping cheap, imported second-hand goods in their markets.  

550 million tons of used materials traded

In 2019, countries traded 550 million tons of used materials – such as scrap plastics, metals, electronics, paper and second-hand clothes – worth $315 billion.

Since the vision of a global circular economy hinges on turning waste into resources, China’s decision highlights the urgent need to better understand and monitor this trade.

Although developing countries attracted a record share of global foreign direct investment in 2020, finance for infrastructure and productive sectors fell significantly, weakening their COVID-19 recovery prospects.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to developing economies have shown relative resilience to the COVID-19 crisis, falling by just 12% in 2020 compared with the staggering 69% collapse recorded by richer economies.

Overall, developing countries attracted a record 72% of global FDI last year, according to an UNCTAD Investment Trends Monitor published on 24 January.

But the steep decline in greenfield announcements and international project finance in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean is a cause for major concern.

“These investment types are crucial for productive capacity and infrastructure development and thus for sustainable recovery prospects,” says James Zhan, UNCTAD’s director of investment and enterprise development.

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

“Without investment in the productive sectors of the economy, developing countries will struggle to rebuild from the effects of the pandemic,” Mr. Zhan said.

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) paints a grim picture of the state of corruption worldwide. While most countries have made little to no progress in tackling corruption in nearly a decade, more than two-thirds of countries score below 50.
Our analysis shows corruption not only undermines the global health response to COVID-19, but contributes to a continuing crisis of democracy.

2020 proved to be one of the worst years in recent history,
with the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects. The health and economic impact on individuals and communities worldwide has been catastrophic.

More than 90 million people were infected, and nearly 2 million people lost their lives around the world. 

As the past tumultuous year has shown, COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis, but a corruption crisis as well, with countless lives lost due to the insidious effects of corruption undermining a fair and equitable global response. 

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.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE STATISTICS

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.