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17 Miners Survive Gas Suffocation in Zambia

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Seventeen miners at a coal mine in southern Zambia survived gas suffocation while working underground, a mining official said on Tuesday.

The accident happened in the early hours of Monday at Collum Coal Mine situated in Sinazongwe district, at shaft 6 underground when suspected carbon monoxide gas filled the underground passage as the miners were working.

Acting Mine Manager Oliver Kabango said the incident resulted in some of the miners fainting although there were no fatalities, according to the state-run news agency, the Zambia News and Information Service.

He said the miners were taken to a local hospital where they were treated for gas suffocation and later discharged.

“Safety officers have since been dispatched to the accident scene to ascertain the source of the carbon monoxide,’’ he added.

District Commissioner Sheena Muleya, who visited the mine, expressed concern over the accident and urged management to ensure maximum safety in the operations.

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Kenya-UK Trade Pact Awaits Approval from EAC Council of Ministers

The virtual meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of the Ministers of Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) will also discuss other regional matters such as EAC policies on trade, non-tariff barriers, customs, budgets, standards and quality, industrialisation and the tripartite agenda.

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This week, the East African Council of Ministers will hold their last meeting of the year with Kenya hoping to get approval to separately sign a trade agreement with the United Kingdom ahead of the December 31 deadline.

The virtual meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council of the Ministers of Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) will also discuss other regional matters such as EAC policies on trade, non-tariff barriers, customs, budgets, standards and quality, industrialisation and the tripartite agenda.

Kenya is pegging its hopes on Article 37 of the EAC Customs Union Protocol, which allows partner states to separately conclude or amend trade agreements with foreign countries provided the terms do not conflict with the provisions of the Protocol.

Under the Customs Union Protocol, the first pillar of regional integration, East African Community countries are required to negotiate matters related to trade with third parties as a bloc. However, a member may separately negotiate bilateral trade agreements, subject to notifying other members.

Earlier this month, Kenya and the British government reached a critical agreement on a new trade deal that grants Kenyan products duty-free quota-free access to the UK market after December 31.

Related: Kenya, UK, Secure Trade Deal

The deal, which includes clauses from the old Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) under the European Union, is expected to be formalised through signing of the agreed texts by the two countries.

The British government is adamant with its timeframe, but it is willing to apply the Principle of Variable Geometry under the EPAs to allow EAC member states that are ready to sign the agreement while others join later.

“With respect to other East African states, the UK is willing to proceed with those that are ready and allow others to join at a later date as per the current EPAs text,” said Kevit Desai, Kenya’s Principal Secretary in the State Department of EAC Affairs.

Kenya is racing against time to individually negotiate and sign a new trade agreement with the UK to avoid paying duty on its products destined to the British market starting January, 1 2021.

The UK formally exited the European Union on January 31 with an 11-month transition period to re-negotiate new trade agreements with its trading partners outside the 27-member bloc.

Related: East African Countries Amass $73b in External Debt

All existing trade agreements with the UK under the EU terms, which are not rolled over, will expire on December 31.

East African member countries, which run a common Customs Union, are required to negotiate and sign this agreement as a bloc. However, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Burundi appear not to be keen on the deal, thereby calling for the extension of timelines for the negotiations by one year, citing country specific issues including election cycles.

But, with or without a new trade agreement these four countries, which are classified as less developed countries, have a window to continue enjoying duty-free quota-free access to the UK market beyond the December 31 deadline under the “Everything but Arms” initiative introduced in 2001 under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

Kenya, on the other hand, is classified as a lower middle-income country.

The Kenya-UK agreement is expected to provide continuity for businesses, investors and supply chains besides setting foundations for further economic development.

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Kenya Looks to China for COVID-19 Vaccine

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has ordered the ministry of health to shop for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in China, a government official has disclosed.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, in a statement on Monday, said President Kenyatta gave the order following the increasing cases of the disease in Kenya.

“Covid-19 seems to be making a comeback with a vengeance and for us in Kenya, the cases in the counties seem to be growing,” Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said on Monday.

“While Kemri continues to collaborate with AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the trials for this vaccine, the government remains open to other collaborative opportunities.”

On Monday, 302 people tested positive for the virus, from a sample of 3,038 bringing the total of positives since March 13 to 83,618.

The death rate remains high and yesterday 17 people succumbed to the virus, bringing total fatalities to 1,469.

There are now more than 80,000 people who have been confirmed Covid-19 positive in Kenya. More than 1,400 have died from the disease.

The country’s decision comes in the wake of rich countries in the west buying nearly 3.8 billion doses of vaccines currently in development, according to a study by Duke Global Health Innovation Centre.

China has five home-grown vaccine candidates in phase three trials, usually, the last step before government regulators vet the vaccine for approval.

Chinese President Xi Jinping already promised the successful candidates will be offered to Africa at a discounted price leading to China being accused of ‘vaccine diplomacy.’ However, countries, where the Chinese vaccines are being tested, will receive preference.

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East Africa Optimistic the U.S. Will Revive Trade Talks

This came to the fore as leaders from the EAC congratulated Biden for his election win, with many expressing hopes that his presidency will boost ties with the regional bloc.

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The East African Community is optimistic that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will revive the negotiations and implementations of the EAC-U.S. Trade and Investment Partnership.

This came to the fore as leaders from the East African Community congratulated Biden for his election win, with many expressing hopes that his presidency will boost ties with the regional bloc.

The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which is a trade pact that establishes a framework for expanding trade and resolving outstanding disputes between countries, was agreed between U.S. and EAC partner states in June 2012, but was never implemented.

TIFA was signed on July 16 2008, as a framework for expanding trade and investment between the U.S. and EAC.

But since United States President Trump took over from his predecessor Barack Obama in 2016, not much has been heard from the arrangement.

Read also: Kenya, UK, Secure Trade Deal

“We all look forward to working with the new US administration and of course hope that America’s trade and investment policies will also advance the interests of East Africa. Reviving TIFA is one of them,” said Prof Manasseh Nshuti, EAC chairperson of the Council of Ministers, who is also Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of the East African Community.

“EAC is better negotiating multilateral trade rather than bilaterally. This is because at the end of the day, what happens in Kenya affects Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, in terms of trade and investments.”

In April 2016, Ministers from EAC and U.S. signed the EAC-US Co-operation Agreement on Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) but so far very little has been implemented despite the existence of agreed work plans.

Under the United States-East African Community-Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, partners consult on a wide range of issues related to trade and investment, but under President Donald Trump, this was never implemented.

Related: Kenya to be in breach of EAC, AfCFTA rules in proposed American trade deal

Topics for consultation and possible further cooperation include market access issues, labour, the environment, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and in appropriate cases, capacity building.

However, since 2016, the negotiations for the regional investment treaty stalled due to lack of consensus on the approach for discussions on the regional investment treaty.

“The U.S. has TIFAs with countries at different levels of development and trade and investment interests but none with the EAC,” said Dr. Peter Mathuki, CEO East African Business Council.

“As the private sector, we are expecting the revival of an up-scaled US-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership under U.S. presidential elect Joe Biden.”

EAC’s Director-General of Customs and Trade Kenneth Bagamuhunda also said he looks forward to a return to a multilateral trading system “where the trade rules will prevail over unilateralism”.

“We look forward to engagement with the US as a bloc at EAC and Continental level.”

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