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A Key Debate on Supply Chains Needs to be Centre-Stage

While we earnestly discuss the pros and cons of BRICS and new currencies (see above), one issues that sits like an elephant in the corner of the room is how Africa should review its supply chains to the rest of the world. The global supply chain disruption caused by COVID from 2020 – 2021 forced major organizations to rethink their over-reliance on tried and tested systems. African countries had not been prioritized as a supply chain option other than as raw material supplier and recipient end users. This is an opportunity that UNCTAD examines in a new report, “The Potential of Africa to Capture Technology-Intensive Global Supply Chains”. UNCTAD argues that Africa could have a strong advantage in the energy, automotive, and electronics sectors because it produces the raw materials for those sectors. African countries like the DRC, which dominates global cobalt supply, and SA, which leads globally in manganese, could help diversify and strengthen global supply chains “by offering a new regional market for businesses and industries.” Africa could also start looking at producing silicon chips (Zambia mines both the silicon and copper main ingredients), a market presently dominated by China and part of the China/USA trade disagreements.

The ECOWAS Community Committee for Technical Regulation (ECOREG) hosted a meeting in Lomé to validate 14 proposed application regulations concerning 4 value chains (foods, ICT, textiles and clothing) as part of that regional economic community’s strategy to implement the AfCFTA. Meanwhile the East African Community (EAC) has been pressing for greater application of the AfCFTA agreements in order to become the first Africa region to be fully compliant. EAC ministers and the business community have urged member-states and the bloc’s secretariat to commit to an increase of 40% in regional trade over the next 5 years. Intra-EAC trade grew by 11.2% to $10.9bn in 2022 up from $9.8bn the previous year. The region’s total trade increased by 13.4% to $74.1bn in the same period.

That ECOWAS Council of Ministers meeting also endorsed the region’s Ecommerce Strategy, with the vision for a “sustainable, inclusive, and secure ecommerce ecosystem supportive of ECOWAS’s efforts to use technology to accelerate structural change and foster regional integration through economic diversification and job creation.” The Strategy aims to strengthen ministries of trade to support domestic and cross-border ecommerce development, secure trust along the ecommerce supply chain from producers to consumers, improve access to ecommerce statistics and market information, and foster inclusion for ecommerce development in ECOWAS.

Alastair Tempest

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