The European Business Council for Africa

A new WTO publication launched on 19 January highlights that further support will be needed from the international community in the next decade to strengthen least-developed countries’ (LDC) participation in world trade. While LDCs have benefited over the past ten years from greater market access opportunities, flexibilities in implementing WTO rules and trade-related technical assistance, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to even greater challenges for these countries, hitting their exports hard.

“Boosting trade opportunities for least-developed countries” reviews the progress made over the past decade to help LDCs further integrate into the global trading system. The volatility of commodity prices over the past ten years and the onset of the COVID-19 crisis caused LDCs' share of global exports to shrink to 0.91 per cent in 2020, compared with 0.95 per cent in 2011. The global goal of the United Nations aimed at doubling the LDC export share by 2020 is yet to be met.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published its report on the global risks that will be faced in 2022. Regarding Africa specifically, it covers, among other things, economic divergence, COVID-19 response, economic recovery and digitisation.

The Global Risks Report series tracks global risks perceptions among risk experts and world leaders in business, government, and civil society. It examines risks across five categories: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal, and technological. Every year the report also analyses key risks to explore further in deep-dive chapters—these could be risks that feature prominently on our survey, those for which warning signs are beginning to surface, or potential blind spots in risk perceptions.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published a report analysing the renewable energy market in Africa and its regions.

An energy system centred on renewable energy can help resolve many of Africa’s social, economic, health and environmental challenges. A profound energy transition is not only feasible, it is essential for a climate-safe future in which sustainable development prerogatives are met. Renewables are key to overcoming energy poverty, providing needed energy services without damaging human health or ecosystems, and enabling a transformation of economies in support of development and industrialisation.

Africa is extraordinarily diverse, and no single approach will advance its energy future. But efforts must be made to build modern, resilient and sustainable energy systems across the continent to avoid trapping economies and societies in increasingly obsolete energy systems that burden them with stranded assets and limited economic prospects.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published its winter edition of the magazine Finance & Development with a focus on the economics of health and well-being.

Just as good health—mental and physical—is fundamental to individual well-being, public health is fundamental to stable, cohesive societies. That is the lesson we must take from the COVID-19 pandemic

The inextricable link between human and economic health is another lesson. The pandemic plunged the world into the deepest economic contraction in generations, slowing progress on education, poverty eradication, and inclusive development. Overcoming the pandemic is a prerequisite to restoring jobs, livelihoods, and economic growth, say the IMF’s Gita Gopinath and Ruchir Agarwal. This makes it critical for global economic and financial stability, and therefore of fundamental importance to the IMF.

That is why we focus this issue of F&D on global health and well-being. Our authors explore future global health threats and countries’ vulnerabilities to them. They examine gaps in health care capacities within nations and the global health security system. And they consider the role of prudent public policy and responsible politics in health care.

As the price of natural gas reached record highs in the UK and Europe—trading at the equivalent of $200 per barrel of oil, and as economic activity in China has been curtailed by the country’s power supply crunch, central bankers and policymakers from across the globe are forced to confront significant challenges to price stability, with a focus on shielding households and businesses from an increase to the cost of transport and basic goods, while monitoring the potential for price pressure and supply chain bottlenecks to upend the global economic recovery. This is important at this time, for the ripple effects of disruptions to energy markets could amplify social and political fissures that are visible across the global landscape, and which might portend complex domestic politics as many countries head into elections in 2022.

Surging demand for natural gas—and shortages and bottlenecks to supply—have resulted in a corollary demand for oil products (referred to as gas-to-oil switching), thus driving up the price of WTI crude to seven-year highs. The skyrocketing commodity price environment has led one observer to point to the “revenge of the old economy”, according to which the collective noble efforts to move toward a cleaner, greener future fuelled by renewable energy have been stymied by a recent past of inadequate investment into the capacity and infrastructure of the hydrocarbons that power our economies.

bp’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic impact on energy markets, with both primary energy and carbon emissions falling at their fastest rates since the Second World War. Nevertheless, renewable energy continued to grow, with solar power recording its largest ever increase.

A new, interactive digital report launched today shows that the number of hungry people in Africa continues to rise, spurred by conflict, climate change and economic slowdowns including those triggered by COVID-19. The African Union Commission (AUC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) launched the digital report as the latest update to their annual reporting on the state of food security and nutrition in Africa.

Hunger on the continent has worsened substantially since 2013, the report states, and most of this deterioration occurred between 2019 and 2020. The situation is expected to have deteriorated further this year, with no easing of hunger’s main drivers.

Economic zones in Africa have had a significant impact on trade volumes across the continent, as well as on job creation and foreign direct investment inflows. The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement presents an opportunity to extend the activities of these zones and promote intra-African trade, developing regional value chains and industrial complementarity in the process.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Social Institutions and Gender Institute (SIGI) has published its 2021 regional report for Africa.

The SIGI 2021 Regional Report for Africa provides regional analysis on how discriminatory social institutions, such as formal and informal laws, social norms and practices, continue to constrain women’s empowerment and restrict their access to opportunities and rights. It gives new evidence on the impact of these discriminatory social institutions on three key dimensions of women’s empowerment across the region: their physical integrity, their economic situation and their political voice, leadership and agency.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has published its Handbook of Statistics for 2021 which nowcasts a strong increase of 22.4% in the value of global merchandise trade this year compared with 2020. The strong growth will push the value of world trade in goods about 15% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Trade in services, however, will still fall short of pre-pandemic levels despite the 13.6% growth nowcast for 2021 after a deep contraction recorded in 2020.

The annual report presents the statistical landscape for 2020 through a wide variety of statistics relevant to international trade, investment, maritime transport and development. It also depicts developments in 2021 through data-led projections, known as nowcasts, for now and the immediate future.

“Reliable and timely data are in high demand as COVID-19 puts unforeseen pressure on decision makers, who are scrambling to get a handle on the pandemic-affected economic landscape,” said UNCTAD’s acting head of statistics, Anu Peltola. “These statistics are needed for evidence-based policy responses to the pandemic.”