The European Business Council for Africa

The economic recovery in sub-Saharan Africa surprised on the upside in the second half of 2021, prompting a significant upward revision in last year’s estimated growth, from 3.7 to 4.5 percent. This year, however, that progress has been jeopardized by the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has triggered a global economic shock that is hitting the region at a time when countries’ policy space to respond to it is minimal to nonexistent. Most notably, surging oil and food prices are straining the external and fiscal balances of commodity-importing countries and have increased food security concerns in the region.

Moreover, the shock compounds some of the region’s most pressing policy challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic’s social and economic legacy, climate change, heightened security risks in the Sahel, and the ongoing tightening of monetary policy in the United States. Because of this, the growth momentum for the region has weakened this year with economic activity expected to expand by 3.8 percent. While the economic recovery is projected to accelerate in 2023 to about 4 percent over the medium term, this pace is not enough to make up for lost ground from the pandemic. Beside accelerating the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, immediate policy priorities include helping the most vulnerable households cope with high food and energy costs without adding to existing debt vulnerabilities, containing inflation pressures, and managing exchange rate adjustments.

The European Think Tank Group (ETTG) has published a report covering the readiness for a common Africa-Europe future, looking ahead from the 6th EU-AU summit. 

The collective volume

  • “Strengthening the AU-EU partnership on the economic development and trade agenda.”
  • “Beyond business as usual: Igniting the AU-EU partnership on peace, security and governance.”
  • “Green transformation in Africa-Europe relations: linking energy and adaptation with economic transformation.”
  • “Ready for a common Africa-Europe future? Our reflections beyond the 6th EU-AU summit.”

The reports are part of a special series on Africa-EU relations in the run-up and follow-up of the 2022 EU AU summit, produced by ETTG members in cooperation with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) and UNDP Africa.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has published a policy review on science, technology and innovation in Zambia. 

This Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Review was prepared by UNCTAD at the request of the Ministry of Higher Education of Zambia.

As the focal point in the United Nations system for the integrated treatment of trade and interrelated issues of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development, UNCTAD supports member States in these areas through a combination of consensus-building, policy analysis and technical cooperation. Within this framework, the objective of this Review is to contribute to the development of national capacities for design and implementation of science, technology and innovation policies, plans and programmes. Such activities
aim to improve the competitiveness of firms and industries in a global economy in which knowledge is an increasingly important factor. They also target the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to secure a more inclusive and sustainable development path, in the understanding that science, technology and innovation are critical means of implementation of the Agenda for Sustainable Development embodied by the SDGs.

The World Trade Organisation has published a report on policy approaches to harness trade digitalisation in the promising new world of TradeTech.

TradeTech - the set of technologies that enables global trade to become more efficient, inclusive and sustainable - plays an important role in easing the flow of goods across borders, reducing trade costs and creating new trade opportunities. This publication explores how international policy coordination, in particular the development of specific rules in trade agreements, could advance the adoption of digital technologies and trade digitalization across the world.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO), together with the World Customs Organisation (WCO), has published a report on the role of advanced technologies in cross-border trade from a customs perspective. 

Advanced technologies have the potential to improve the efficiency of customs processes and to ease the flow of goods across borders. Using the results of a 2021 survey, this publication sheds light on the opportunities and challenges customs authorities face when deploying technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things, big data, data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) has published a report on trade and industry imperatives in Nigeria and the way in which they can be seen as political realities or as inconsistent policies. 

Nigeria’s position on regional integration can appear inconsistent, despite having ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area and its commitment to achieving a customs union through ECOWAS. For example, in 2019, it unilaterally closed its land borders with neighbouring countries, causing major disruptions to regional trade networks. This in turn negatively affected the trade facilitation efforts promoted by development partners to ensure smooth movement of goods across borders.

This paper examines these seemingly opposing dynamics. It analyses Nigeria’s trade and industrial policy choices to show that the border closure, rather than being a sudden event, was a continuation of policy decisions to curb smuggling and among other things, promote industrialisation. Looking at policies in the rice and pharmaceuticals sector shows that while Nigeria has strong ambitions for industrialisation, these are often not translated into effective industrial policies. Moreover, regional trade concerns, especially smuggling, are seen to jeopardise Nigeria’s industrialisation potential and efforts by undercutting domestic firms.

Adaptation action is essential to achieving and safeguarding development outcomes in the face of more frequent and intense climate hazards.

This report is the culmination of a 21-month partnership between Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Environment (MESTI), the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA), the University of Oxford, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to identify and propose solutions to address priority adaptation needs in Ghana.

Using novel modelling and assessment tools, and through an extensive stakeholder consultation process, it provides an assessment of risk of climate hazard on national infrastructure systems. Next, it develops a roadmap for addressing risks through targeted adaptation options in the built and natural environments, including nature-based solutions. The roadmap also defines institutional interventions required to enhance the enabling environment that ensures the optimum effectiveness of adaptation measures in the country. It is aligned with Ghana’s national development objectives to advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, and gender and inclusivity objectives. The proposed 35 prioritised adaptation options provide opportunities for funders and investors to invest in Ghana’s future, offering impactful, evidence-based adaptation projects and enabling environment interventions backed by robust research and analysis.

Poorer Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries are far less effective than wealthier countries in allocating factors of production such as labor and natural resources, contributing to overall low productivity and slowing economic recovery.

Boosting Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies and Institutions to Promote Efficiency notes that low labor productivity is of particular significance in the agricultural sector, which employs most of the population. That the majority of the region works in an area of such low economic activity provides insight into why the region lags behind others in structural transformation.

This volume, the third in a series addressing productivity challenges and opportunities in SSA, focuses on resource misallocation and its impact on productivity levels and growth as compared to other regions. In assessing the implication of production decisions across agricultural farms and manufacturing firms, the evidence shows that they are particularly plagued by severe resource misallocation; in agriculture, low productivity is overwhelmingly explained by inefficiencies in resource allocation more so than the amount of rainfall or soil quality. In manufacturing, the report points to total factor productivity revenue dispersion across firms—the amount of goods and services produced compared to the amount of inputs used to produce those goods and services—as the measure of low productivity.

The European Union has published its 2021 annual report on the implemtnation of the External Action Instruments in 2020. Underlining our commitment to global solidarity, the EU and its 27 Member States remain the leading providers of official development aid, with a collective contribution of EUR 66.8 billion in 2020. In terms of Africa, it focuses on the Joint Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa‘, the Post-Cotonou Agreement, the 10th African Union Commission-European Commission meeting held in Addis Ababa, the EU-G5 Sahel Summit further deepened relations between the G5 Sahel and the EU, the first EU/AU Research and Innovation Ministerial and the prospects of developing a joint EU/AU Innovation Agenda.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has published a report on how, in pandemic times, e-commerce and the digital economy in LDCs has been pushed to breaking point. The pandemic appears to have been exacerbating existing divides leaving countries that were already struggling to engage in ICT goods trade, many of them in Africa, even further behind. As digitisation can hugely affect the achievement of SDGs, it is essential for the international community to scale up its assistance in this sector in Africa, especially considering the continent's most vulnerable countries. 

Two years have passed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the economic fall-out is still being felt all around the globe, its impacts are not fully captured. In particular, the accele­rated digital transformation, with digital solutions developed and used to facilitate economic and social activities from a distance, has been accom­panied by a surge in e-commerce, with potentially long-lasting effects. It has also revealed wide gaps in digital readiness, especially in the most vulne­rable economies. UNCTAD’s research has shown that the pandemic has further exposed gaps in policy areas central to improving digital readiness in least developed countries (LDCs).