At Workers University in Cairo, a mid-May gathering of 100 trade union leaders and intellectuals from across Africa adopted surprisingly common radical language, exhibiting a pent-up desire to jointly fight global neoliberalism. The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) has been an extraordinary network for 5000 members who are the continent's core of progressive academics. The article provides a detailed recount and discussion of the various arguments and perspectives presented.
Health equity in economic and trade policies
African countries have called for greater voice in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including not only an increase in formal voting power and representation at its decision-making bodies but also in the diversity of its staff members, to better represent their interests at the institution. In statements during the IMF’s Annual Meetings, African finance ministers and central bank governors have reiterated their calls for at least a tripling of basic votes as an outcome of the current quota and voice reform process to protect the voting shares of low-income countries. They also called for a meaningful and expeditious increase in their representation at the Executive Board, including an amendment to the Fund’s Articles of Agreement to enable Executive Directors representing large constituencies to appoint more than one Alternate Executive Directors.
Much has been written about Africa’s so-called ‘resource curse’, whereby natural resources disrupt an economy and create incentives for wide-scale corruption and even conflict. The effects of the resource curse need not, however, be viewed as inevitable, the author of this article argues. Political choice is key. Botswana has used its mineral wealth to develop into a stable, middle-income country. More recent producers such as Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone appear to be making good governance decisions so far. Emerging markets, especially China, continue to ramp up demand for the continent’s commodities, offering a once in a millennium opportunity for African governments to lift millions of people out of poverty. African leaders and the international community, big business and civil society must assume responsibility, the author argues. The most practical and credible form of becoming ‘transparent’, she says, is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which requires governments to explain clearly and openly the revenues flowing from its extractive sector so that any party can see how much the country in question receives from oil, gas and mining companies. So far, ten African governments have been judged compliant.
Africa’s Pulse provides an analysis of issues shaping Africa’s economic future. According to the report, global economic activity has slowed significantly in recent months, weighed down by policy uncertainty. Despite difficult global conditions, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has remained largely on track. However, the region’s economic prospects are vulnerable to heightened downside risks. Because Africa’s growth recovery since 2000 - the longest expansion since independence - was based on improved macroeconomic policies and political stability, the prospects of sustained growth are strong. Discoveries of minerals are bringing the prospect of large revenues for newly resource-rich countries. The challenges for these countries will be to strengthen mineral governance and also to ensure that the new revenues are invested in better health, education and jobs for their people, according to the report.
According to this paper from the World Bank, an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is unlikely to offer much in terms of improved access to European Union services markets, especially for temporary movement of unskilled workers, a key issue for African countries. The main impacts of a services EPA for African countries would come from locking in openness to trade, providing precedents for regulation in key sectors, cooperation on competition policy and support for regional integration. According to the Bank, many of these goals could be pursued through a more cooperative approach with interested African countries, without necessarily negotiating and signing a broad EPA agreement.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a Pan African platform comprising civil society networks and farmer organisations working towards food sovereignty, has submitted this Open Letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Wendy White from Iowa State University and the Human Institutional Review Board of Iowa State University expressing fierce opposition to the human feeding trials taking place at Iowa State University involving genetically modified (GM) bananas. The Letter is supported by more than 120 organizations from around the world. The letter states:"This so-called ‘Super-banana’, has been genetically modified to contain extra beta-carotene, a nutrient the human body uses to produce vitamin A. Unlike current GM crops in commercial production where agronomic traits have been altered, scientists have spliced genes into the GM banana to produce substances for humans to digest (extra beta carotene). The GM banana is a whole different ballgame, raising serious concerns about the risks to African communities who would be expected to consume it. Production of vitamin A in the body is complex and not fully understood. This raises important questions including inter alia, whether high levels of beta- carotene or vitamin A may carry risks and what the nature of those risks might be. While a risk assessment is a pre-requisite for GM foods under many national jurisdictions, the need for specific and additional food safety assessment for nutritionally enhanced GM crops such as the GM banana is acknowledged by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, as genetic modifications result in a composition that may be significantly different from their conventional counterparts".
The African Union set out its vision of An Integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena. Aiming to encourage discussion among all stakeholders, Agenda 2063 is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years. Agenda 2063 emphasizes the importance of Pan-Africanism, unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity that was a highlight of the triumphs of the 20th century. It highlights the need to more effectively use African resources for the benefit of people in the continent. It raises regional political, institutional renewal and financing/resource mobilization issues, as well as the changing nature of Africa’s relationships with the rest of the world. The AU is calling for input to the agenda.
The World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Agreement and the TRIPS-plus provisions in free trade agreements (FTAs) have had an adverse impact on prices and availability of medicines, making it difficult for developing countries (DCs) and least-developed countries (LDCs) to meet their obligations to fulfill the right to health, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, has said. Similarly, lack of capacity coupled with external pressures from developed countries has made it difficult for DCs and LDCs to use TRIPS flexibilities to promote access to medicines. He recommended that DCs and LDCs should not introduce TRIPS-plus standards in their national laws, nor should they enter into TRIPS-plus FTAs that may infringe upon the right to health. He recommended that they should review their laws and policies and consider whether they have made full use of TRIPS flexibilities or included TRIPS-plus measures and, if necessary, amend their laws and policies to make full use of the flexibilities.
A technical group at the World Health Assembly in May agreed on a
resolution that will increase the worldwide research and development
focus on diseases that disproportionately affect developing
countries. Brazil and Kenya, which have been driving the issue,
welcomed the resolution,
Agricultural export restrictions have been seen by many as worsening food price volatility, and pushing up world prices, to the detriment of poor consumers in developing countries. At the same time, others have argued that these measures can help safeguard domestic food security, support government revenues and help countries add value to farm exports. This paper examines the likely trade, food security and development implications of various options for disciplining agricultural export restrictions. The paper seeks to provide policy-makers, negotiators and other policy actors with an impartial, evidence-based analysis of the likely trade, food security and development implications of various options for disciplining agricultural export restrictions.