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Business and Development

Gambia’s AfCFTA Ratification Means Africa Will Soon Become The Largest Free Trade Area In The World

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Gambia President Adama Barrow

The dream for a Continental Free Trade area in Africa became a reality when Gambia ratified the agreement. Initially, prospects of the agreement becoming a reality were hindered by a lack of numbers—falling short on the minimum threshold. With Gambia ratifying the agreement, the bill can now be actualized.

Gambia became the 22nd African country to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement—AfCFTA. Ethiopia was the 21st country to ratify AfCFTA when it approved the agreement on March 21, 2019. Gambia parliament ratified the agreement on April 2 2019.

African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement

The African Union brokered the agreement in 2018. The agreement was then signed by 44 countries on March 21 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda—out of a total of 55 member states. Among other provisions, the agreement requires member states to remove tariffs from 90 percent of goods. In addition, member countries will be required to allow free access of goods and services across the continent.

From March 17 to March 21, 2018, an Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA was held in Kigali, Rwanda. During the summit, the agreement establishing AfCFTA was presented to African leaders for signatures. The agreement was framed such that it goes into force 30 days after 22 countries have ratified the agreement instruments. Furthermore, ratifying states are required to deposit the instruments with the Chairperson of AUC—African Union Commission.

Gambia’s ratification and completion of all due processes satisfy this constitutional requirement to bring the agreement into effect.

Required Instruments

Only 20 countries have ratified and deposited the required instruments with the AUC Chairperson—as of April 16, 2019.  Two countries, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, have obtained parliamentary approval but have not deposited the instruments.

The 20 countries that have already deposited the instruments of ratification include The Gambia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritania, Mali, eSwatini (former Swaziland), Guinea, Djibouti, Congo Republic, Chad, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ghana.

Notable Non Signatory

The AfCFTA is moving forward, however, Nigeria’s lack of commitment to the agreement is a big blow. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy but only an estimated 10% of its trade volume is done with other African countries. Nigeria’s hold out has been blamed primarily on influential Labor Unions

During the 2019 African CEO Forum in Kagali last month, President Kagame of Rwanda who had championed the AfCFTA during his tenure as the African Union Chairperson shared that he had reached out to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to sign the deal.

There are still concerns however about how the agreement will be executed. At the same event, African billionaire Naguib Sawiris said: “The challenges are going to be in the implementation.”

Impact of the Agreement

The AfCFTA is expected to boost free trade and investment across Africa. Once it comes into effect, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement area will create the largest free trade area in the world. The agreement will bring together all the 55 member states of the AU. This means the agreement will cover a market of over 1.2 billion people. The Economic Commission for Africa estimates that this agreement has the potential of boosting intra-African trade by 52.3 percent.

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Business and Development

Sustainable Growers Rwanda Improving The Livelihood Of Female Coffee Farmers

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Sustainable Growers Rwanda (SG-R) is a local non-profit. The organization is offering training to low-income female coffee farmers to improve their livelihood. Majority of the low coffee yields are due to wrong farm practices. Some of the farming techniques SG-R are teaching the female farmers are mulching and timely application of fertilizers and pesticides.

The program SG-R is teaching the female coffee farmers has topics like cooperative management, agricultural practices, governance and leadership, home coffee roasting, and gender mainstreaming. The training happened in the Huye District of Rwanda. The female coffee farmers were also trained in quality control and cupping. These are necessary to increase their access to bigger markets. The Regional Director at Sustainable Growers, Christine Condo, said,

“We have a heavy agenda to enrich women’s potential with skills and means. Their focus and discipline inspire me greatly. These initiatives impact positively on the entire life-cycle of their respective families and Communities. We believe that 60 percent of coffee quality is achieved from the farm. That is why we have been training them to take care of coffee from seedlings to roasting, to cupping and marketing.”

Impact of the training to female coffee farmers

Sustainable Growers Rwanda is training female coffee farmers

A lot of Rwandan female coffee farmers are already reaping the benefits of the training. For example, Prisca Mukamurenzi has been suffering from low yield. The 46-year-old female coffee farmer used to harvest one kilogram of coffee from one tree. However, since attending the training, her fortune has changed for the better.

Mukamurenzi was one of the graduates of the SG-R training program comprising of about 3700 female coffee farmers. In attendance were farmers from the districts of Nyamagabe, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, and Huye. Last year Mukamurenzi was able to generate Rwf460,000 (approx. $510) from 250 kg of coffee. She also increased the coffee trees in her garden from 185 to 250.

To ensure the farmers implemented what they learned, SG-R also developed a reward scheme. The reward scheme called “Wakoze neza Muhinzi”, Premium Sharing Rewards was worth Rwf17 million (approx. $19,000). Depending on their level of performance, the women were rewarded with phones, radios, fabrics (ibitenge), mattresses, solar lights, pruning saws, pruning shears, sprayers, goats, pigs, and cows.

About Sustainable Growers Rwanda

Sustainable Growers Rwanda started its training in Nyaruguru District three years ago. However, the training has spread to other districts in the past years. The aim of their training is to improve the quality and prices of coffee as well as enhance transparency in coffee trading. Female coffee farmers in Nyaruguru are now reaping 100 percent increase in yield.

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Business and Development

Tanzanian Government Takes A Bold Stand To Protect The Environment

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Business and Development

Tanzania Electric Train Commence Trial In July

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Tanzania electric train

Tanzania is reaching for another economic milestone. The government announced that it was it will be testing its maiden self-funded electric train. The train which will run at 160 km/h will be one of Africa’s fastest high-speed trains. The train will also provide a cheaper means of transport to the citizens.

Further details show that the phase running from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro which has 6 in between stations and stretches 300 kilometers will commence operation in December. The trial trains in phase one will be three passenger trains. However, these trains will conduct daily round trips covering the two cities. Each passenger train will be making a minimum of 9 trips per day.

Difference between Tanzania electric train and regular train

The speed train will make use of concrete sleepers. This allows the railway network to carry as much as 35 tonnes of load per axle and increase its durability. Consequently, the rails should be able to last up to 40 years before any major repairs. However, the train bridge can last up to 100 years.

Speaking at the historic launch of the flash butt welding of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at Soga, outside Dar es Salaam in Coastal region, Eng. Issac Kamwele, the Minister for Works, Transport and Communications said the trial of the speedy electric train will happen in July. However, the trial will only cover a section of the SGR. In comparison to other country’s SGR, Tanzania’s will be fasters. Kenya and South Africa’s SGR can only reach a speed of 120 km/h

The impact this project will have on the economy

Tanzania government is making great strides to boost the economy of the nation. Recently, the government proposed plans to build cable cars for Mount Kilimanjaro. This is projected to double the current 50,000 annual tourists. However, not many think it is a good idea. A few groups think it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

ALSO READ: Tanzanian Government Considering Cable Car For Mount Kilimanjaro And Here Is How People Reacted

The $1.9 billion (Tshs 4.3 trillion) project has already created over 26,000 job opportunities. However, the government is optimistic that the second and subsequent phases will create more opportunities once fully functional.  The first railway lines in Tanganyika (previously German East Africa) were built after Zanzibar’s first tramway. The Ethio-Djibouti SGR project is currently the longest and first trans-boundary electric railway in Africa.

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