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Kenyan, Nigerian Win AfDB AgriPitch Competition

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The African Development Bank (AfDB), has awarded cash prizes of $120,000 to some African youth “agripreneurs”, winners of the bank’s AgriPitch competition.

The bank made this known in a statement it issued on Thursday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

According to the bank, the founder of a cassava processing business in Kenya, a co-founder of a novel food processing technology start-up and the owner of a smallholder farmer food procurement company in Nigeria won the top cash prizes.

The AgriPitch competition offers young entrepreneurs in Africa’s agricultural sector the opportunity to pitch their agribusiness proposals to a panel of experts and investors who selected winners in “early start-up”, “mature start-up” and “women-empowered businesses” categories.

Held virtually, AgriPitch saw more than 2,500 applications and 605 proposals from 30 countries shortlisted down to 25 finalists from 12 countries.

According to the bank, the finalists qualified for a two-week business development boot camp and a select top nine AgriPitch competitors will make their final pitches to an online panel of judges and investors.

The competition was part of the bank’s fourth African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAF), one of the continent’s most exciting platforms for African youth in the agriculture start-up scene.

It was launched on Nov. 3 with weekly webinars and ended with the AgriPitch winners’ ceremony in collaboration with partners.

They include UN Women, African Leaders for Nutrition and the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative (AFAWA).

Winner for the mature start-ups category, Femi Aiki of Foodlocker, Nigeria was awarded 40,000 dollars, while runner-up Noel N’guessan of Lono, Côte d’Ivoire got 20,000 dollars.

For the Women-empowered businesses, the winner Elizabeth Gikebe of Mhogo Foods, Kenya won 20,000 dollars, while runner-up Oluwaseun Sangoleye of Baby Grubz, Nigeria won 10,000 dollars.

Meanwhile, for the early start-ups Ikenna Nzewi of Releaf, Nigeria won 20,000 dollars and David Matsiko of Bringo Fresh, Uganda won 10,000 dollars as runner-up.

Aiki, Chief Executive Officer of Foodlocker, winner of 40,000 dollars for the mature business category prize said the seed funding provides “a lot of fuel for the road” for his business.

Foodlocker supports smallholder farmers with technologies for the production of foods such as tomatoes and chicken.

Aiki said one of the major areas where the company needed support was in working capital.

“Now we can afford to buy more inputs. We can now afford to bring on board more experts in those value chains who can support smallholder farmers more remotely.

“That money will support the company to get results,” he said.

Gikebe, founder of Mhogo Foods in Kenya, who won the women-empowered businesses category 20,000 dollars prize, said she was so excited when she was called as a winner.

She said she started Mhogo Foods, a company that adds value to cassava production by processing the tubers into gluten-free flour, cassava snacks and animal feeds into the competition in 2018 and in 2019 without success.

“With a lot of persistence, you can get what you are looking for. It showed me that everything has its time,” Gikebe said.

Another beneficiary, Nzewi, the early start-up category winner, representing Releaf, a food pre-processing technology company said the company planned to save the 20,000 dollars’ competition prize for future investment.

“To be chosen from such a qualified list of businesses is always exciting.

“We are very confident about the work that we are doing to catalyse industrialisation in food processing.

“It is excellent to see the AfDB with its high fives focus – one of them being industrialisation, to also be supporting us,” Nzewi said.

Edson Mpyisi, Coordinator of AfDB’s Enable Youth programme responsible for the event said it aimed to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain by harnessing new and innovative skills, technologies and financing approaches.

“This is so that the youths can establish viable and profitable small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Through the AgriPitch competition, the bank is committed to supporting youths who are ambitious, creative, technology-savvy and who have an entrepreneurial spirit to establish profitable small and medium-sized enterprises for a prosperous and inclusive Africa,” he said.

In addition to receiving seed funding prizes and post-competition mentoring, AgriPitch winners will be invited to the AYAF online DealRoom.

The DealRoom connects expansion-ready, youth-led African businesses with global investors, the statement said

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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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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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Ivory Coast, Ghana Cancel Hershey’s Cocoa Sustainability Schemes

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The world’s largest producers of cocoa, Ivory Coast and Ghana have cancelled sustainability schemes organised by US-based chocolate manufacturer, Hershey.

Both countries accused the company of avoiding the payment of a cocoa premium, aimed at improving the financial state of farmers in their countries.

According to Reuters, both countries found Hershey demanding very high volumes of physical cocoa on the ICE futures Stock exchange. The countries, who produce 2/3rd of the world’s total cocoa said the company did that to avoid paying the premium, called the living income differential (LID).

The countries have also accused Fuji Oil Holdings of playing a part in helping Hershey in the schemes.

The schemes, according to the chocolate manufacturers are to protect cocoa of any environmental and human rights abuses, meaning it was rightly sourced and is devoid of any problems that will affect its global sales. The company added that by the West African giants’ disruption of the schemes, farmers may not be able to get premium on their products again.

Hershey is the manufacturers of Hershey’s Kisses and Kit Kat and source for their cocoa mainly from Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Hershey recently entered into a deal to make physical cocoa available at the ICE Futures exchange. This is expected to reduce demands in cocoa from Ghana and Ivory Coast and also avoid the premium charged by the government.

Last year, the Ghanaian and Ivorian governments set the LID for cocoa at $400 a tonne. This is to ensure that farmers make as much money as possible but the harsh realities of the coronavirus pandemic have dealt sales a huge blow.

“The Cocoa Merchants Association of America (CMAA) is condoning and conniving with American companies against poor West African cocoa farmers”,  regulators in both countries said.

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