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Afreximbank, ITFC Partner With ARSO to Facilitate Intra-African Trade4 minutes read

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The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) have partnered with the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) to launch a new Arab-Africa Trade Bridges Program (AATB) initiative called the Harmonisation of Standards for Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices in Africa.

The initiative is aimed at promoting the quality and safety of medicines and medical devices imported or produced on the continent.

Harmonized product standards are critical to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), ensuring that producers of goods on the continent comply with one shared set of minimum regulatory and customer quality requirements, in turn allowing them to supply the continental market and beyond with goods that meet those standards. The harmonisation of standards also serves to enhance the quality of African manufacturing and boost intra-African and Arab-African trade and investment – one of the AATB’s key objectives.

The initiative, which will be implemented in a phased manner over three years, begins immediately with the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceutical products and medical devices for use in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The second phase will analyse and assess existing international, regional, and national standards for their suitability in meeting the unique challenges faced by African healthcare industries before achieving the 3rd phase, which is the harmonization of the related African Standards and their adoption on the continent.

ITFC CEO, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol said, in a statement, that the initiative will act as a catalyst for Africa to benefit from a burgeoning pharmaceutical sector.

“He said, From a trade development standpoint, harmonizing the standards of pharmaceutical products and medical devices in Africa is a crucial first step in facilitating local production and trade within the sector. Such standards provide a necessary baseline from which to regulate the sector more effectively, raising the quality of locally produced life-saving drugs and related products, and ensuring timely access to appropriate and affordable medicines, vaccines, and other health services for those who need them most. It will also act as a catalyst for Africa to benefit from a burgeoning pharmaceutical sector, expanding trade opportunities locally and beyond borders thus creating long term sustainable socio-economic impact on the continent”.

The initiative begins immediately with the harmonisation of standards for pharmaceutical products and medical devices for use in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative will also serve to enhance trade and investment within Africa’s healthcare industry by boosting the manufacture of high-quality homegrown products and services – objectives laid out within the AfCFTA.

Welcoming the initiative, Mrs. Kanayo Awani, Afreximbank’s Managing Director of the Intra-African Trade Initiative said the initiative will help build Africa’s resilience against pandemics like COVID-19 in the future.

She said, “At a time when the demand for quality medicines and medical devices is increasing, Africa needs to reinforce regional value chains to scale-up the supply of quality medical products. This would also contribute to building the continent’s resilience against pandemics like COVID-19 in the future. Furthermore, leveraging on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, this joint initiative will also facilitate increased intra-African trade in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.”

As part of a COVID-19 response, the harmonization of standards will facilitate the development of equivalent technical regulations among African countries. Therefore, distribution of medical supplies and equipment from one country to another can be fast-tracked.

A long-term outcome of the initiative will be the emergence of regional supply chains for pharmaceutical and medical devices, which will foster an ecosystem of innovation, local production and the development of medical products for diseases that are currently neglected.

Commenting on the initiative, ARSO’s Secretary General, Dr Hermogene Nsengimana, said “While on one hand COVID-19 has created social distancing as a new norm, on another hand it has brought Africa together by opening our eyes to the need for industrialisation. Standards circulated by ARSO and other standards organisations related to face masks, and hand sanitizers have been used widely by African SMEs to develop locally made personal protective equipment thereby shedding light on the role of standards in industrialization, safety, and trade. This Initiative with Afreximbank and ITFC, will not only help in increasing local production but will also create trust and enable cross border trade and investment for pharmaceutical products and medical devices.”

The African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO) will play a key role in the development of standardization policies, applying existing principles and procedures that are already set out in the African Standards Harmonisation Model (ASHAM). ARSO’s involvement will be supported by its Council, in addition to a Joint Advisory Group comprised of Regional Economic Communities, and a series of technical committees, which will carry out the harmonisation work with the resources provided under this grant from AFREXIMBANK and ITFC.

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India, Mauritius Set To Finalise Free Trade Agreement

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The governments of India and Mauritius are set to finalise a free trade agreement (FTA) that will further strenghtened economic ties between both countries.

India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, in a statement on Wednesday, said the “proposed India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) seeks to mutually benefit both the countries in the area of trade in goods and services.”

“At present, we have a number of different comprehensive partnership arrangements with countries around the world and we are in the process of finalising a CECPA with Mauritius,” the statement quoted Goyal as saying at the CII-EXIM Bank Digital Conclave on India Africa project partnership.

He also said that recently India and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) decided for early resumption of negotiations for a preferential trading agreement (PTA).

The SACU consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland.

A PTA is slightly different from a free trade agreement (FTA). In FTA, two sides reduce or eliminate duties on the maximum number of products they trade in, whereas in a PTA, the tariffs are eliminated or cut on certain number of items.

The minister said that in the near future, India will be happy to work more closely with the African free trade zone.

Further, he said India will continue to support Africa through lines of credit in priority sectors such as agriculture, irrigation, health, digital technology, power plants, transmission lines, and rail infrastructure.

As of June 2020, India has committed USD 12.7 billion for 40 countries in Africa on highly favourable terms, he added.

The bilateral trade, he said, grew from about USD 7 billion to nearly USD 67 billion in the last 20 years and “it has tremendous potential for further growth in the years to come”.

India is the fifth largest investor in African continent with a cumulative investment of over USD 54 billion in the last few years in areas like oil and gas, mining, banking, and textile.

“There is a huge scope for manifold increase in Indian investments in the wake of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA),” he said, adding “we can mutually benefit through establishment of India-Africa value chains in many areas such as textiles, pharma, auto, agro processing and information and communication technology”.

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USAID Awards $2.6M Grant To Power Rural Clinics In Africa

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U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $2.6 million to nine energy companies to electrify 288 rural health facilities without reliable access to power.

The grant was awarded through Power Africa, on Tuesday.

Power Africa is a U.S. Government-led initiative that brings together 12 government agencies, development partners and private sector companies, with the goal of doubling access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The grant, totalling $2.6m, was launched in a virtual event which highlighted the importance of healthcare electrification for COVID-19 response and recovery.

The awardees include Havenhill Synergy Ltd (Nigeria), KYA-Energy Group (Togo), Zuwa Energy (Malawi), OffGridBox (Rwanda) Nanoé (Madagascar) as well as PEG, Solarworks, Power and Muhanya Solar Limited for other parts of Africa.

Mark Carrato, Acting Coordinator, Power Africa, said that USAID was doing everything possible to help keep the sector afloat because “these are challenging times for companies operating in emerging markets.”

According to him, when it comes to universal energy access and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal seven, the world can’t afford to go backwards.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Power Africa has successfully worked with local industry associations to compel governments to declare off grid energy as an essential service.

“Despite the economic downturn in the last quarter, we managed to raise $65 million for the energy sector in forms of grants, loans and equity, providing much needed liquidity for a range of companies.

“We know that as a result of the economic downturn, brought by COVID-19, many energy access companies are struggling right now.

“We’re working with a group of investors and development partners so that more companies can receive low interest concessional loans in order to maintain staff and service existing customers.

“We are also helping African governments put in place the legal and regulatory frameworks needed to attract off-grid energy and base investments,”Carrato said.

Chris Milligan, Counselor to USAID, said that the agency was highlighting its mode of operation through partnerships with governments and the private sector that empower communities to solve their own challenges.

According to him, the agency values its partnership with African governments which improve the well being of millions on the continent.

“As Americans, we stand together not only with the people in Africa, but with countless others across the globe to help countries and their people address their development challenges.

“We know the impact of COVID-19 goes far beyond just the health impacts, but also on the social and economic well being of many vulnerable households.

“Without reliable and affordable electricity, it is even more difficult for these communities to recover from the wide ranging impacts of COVID-19.

“Functioning healthcare facilities are essential, not only for individuals health, but also for their economic and overall wellbeing,”he said.

The counselor said that without electricity, health systems struggle to meet the needs of their communities, no matter the dedication of healthcare workers.

“Healthcare facilities need electricity for almost all of their activities as we already know.

“And because most of them are in rural areas, it is important to harness the cutting edge and sustainable off grid solutions that the private sector can bring.

“We cannot solve the problems by working alone and that’s why we’ve awarded grants to demonstrate what we can accomplish when the public and private sectors join forces and find new solutions to this challenge.

“Because of these partnerships, doctors and nurses will have access to better equipment, procedures and surgeries will be safer, and people will live longer, more productive and healthier lives,”he said.

In a recorded message, the beneficiary firms highlighted the importance of health care electrification and summarized the activities their companies would undertake.

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West Africa Business News

UK Group Supports 100 Nigerian Businesses, 38,000 Jobs with $425M

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The British Deputy High Commission in Lagos has disclosed that a UK group invested $425m to support 100 businesses and 38,000 jobs in Nigeria.

CDC Group, a UK development finance institution, confirmed this during a virtual visit to Nigeria by its board led by Chief Executive, Nick O’Donohoe, and Chairman, Graham Wrigley.

CDC also partnered with 40 investment funds, which included Afreximbank, African Capital Alliance and Indoram.

The UK Government-funded institution says all proceeds from its investments are reinvested to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa and South Asia.

“Nigeria plays a key part in our strategy of partnership and investment for economic growth in West Africa. “Hosting our 2020 board trip– albeit virtually – in both markets is a testament to our commitment.

“Looking forward, we will continue to prioritise the post COVID-19 recovery as part of the Build Back Better agenda.

“We are committed to supporting a deeper and more strategic bilateral partnership between the UK and Nigeria that is based on enhancing economic development, job creation, inclusion, trade and investment,” O’Donohoe said.

It said that the CDC team also paid a virtual visit to the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, to understand the impact of CDC’s support to its investees through the COVID-19 crisis and understand how to stimulate recovery and growth.

The discussions also focused on CDC’s own response to the pandemic through its preserved, strengthen and rebuild programme, the statement said.

In her response, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing CBE said CDC played important role in creating jobs and supporting the growth of businesses by investing in the poorest countries across Africa, including Nigeria.

“CDC’s commitment to the country signals to other UK investors that investing in Nigeria is possible and should be prioritised in order to help Nigeria and indeed, Africa, mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” the envoy said.

During the virtual tour, CDC also met local businesses leaders, learning more about what they need to grow their companies and how investors can support their ambitions.

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