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US-African trade lagging despite free access, forum hears in Ivory Coast2 min read

Trade quadrupled in value from 2002 to 2008, a year when it reached $100 billion, but fell back in 2017

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the signing ceremony of the Compact Millenium challenge corporation (MCC) between the Ivorian government and the MCC

Trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa is in the doldrums despite a 2000 US law designed to boost access to the American market, a conference in Ivory Coast has been told. The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which in 2015 was extended to 2025, provides tariff-free access on 6,500 products to 39 countries, ranging from oil and agricultural goods to textiles, farm and handicrafts.

Trade quadrupled in value from 2002 to 2008, a year when it reached $100 billion, but fell back in 2017 to just $39 billion, according to figures compiled by the US agency USAID. The surplus is widely in Africa’s favour, but most exports to the US are in oil or petroleum-based products, not the industrialised goods that provide a value-added boost to local economies.

“I do not think that AGOA has been the game-changer for many countries on the continent that we hoped it would be,” Constance Hamilton, assistant US trade representative for Africa, told the 18th AGOA Forum, ending in the Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan on Tuesday.

“AGOA has not led to the trade diversification for which we originally hoped,” she said in remarks on Monday. “Petroleum products continued to account for the largest portion of AGOA imports, with a 67 per cent share,” Hamilton said. 

“And the volume of AGOA trade remains modest. In the AGOA clothing sector, for example, we get about $1 billion per year from Africa,” he said, adding that this amounted to just one per cent of all US clothing imports.

The United States is Africa’s third-biggest trade partner after the European Union and China. But Africa attracts only about one per cent of all US foreign investment. Deputy US Trade Representative Curtis Mahoney said Washington had drawn up a “variety of new initiatives” to “lay the groundwork for an even closer trade and investment partnership”.

“We will combine the promise of the AfCFTA with these new US initiatives and help maximize the potential of US-Africa trade,” he said. The AfCFTA – the African Continental Free Trade Area – is a scheme for demolishing trade barriers among the 55-member African Union.

The long-negotiated agreement was ceremonially launched at a summit in July, but will need a year to become operational, the AU says.

According to the conclusions of a pre-forum meeting of ministers ahead of the Abidjan conference, only 18 out of 39 countries have set down a national strategy for exploiting the benefits of the AGOA.

Many African companies either do not know of the advantages that are on offer, or they do not know how to use them, the ministers found.

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South African Airways cancels flights ahead of strike

Around 3,000 South African Airways workers are expected to take part in the open-ended strike starting Friday

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South African Airways cancels flights ahead of strike
A South African airways flight takes off as another one is parked in a bay on the tarmac at the Johannesburg O.R Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Gianluigi GUERCIA / AFP)

South African Airways (SAA) said Wednesday it was cancelling all its flights as thousands of workers vowed to press ahead with an indefinite strike the following day after the troubled national carrier announced a major retrenchment plan.

Around 3,000 workers, including cabin crew, check-in, ticket sales, technical and ground staff, are expected to take part in the open-ended strike starting Friday, their unions said.

The looming shutdown forced SAA to announce in a late-night statement on Wednesday that it “has cancelled nearly all its domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16”.

“The airline’s key objective is to minimise the impact of disruptions for its customers,” it said.

Unions earlier Wednesday vowed their members would forge ahead with the strike, which the state-owned airline warned could collapse the embattled carrier.

“We are embarking on the mother of all strikes,” Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi, president of the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) told a news conference in Johannesburg.

“We are grounding that airline on Friday,” said Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

The unions are pressing for a three-year guarantee of job security and an eight per cent across-the-board wage hike. 

‘Mother of all strikes’ –

Pilots — who are not taking part in the strike – have accepted a 5.9-per cent increase, they said.

The airline had announced on Monday a restructuring process that could affect 944 employees and “lead to job losses”.

The airline, which employs more than 5,000 workers, is one of the biggest in Africa, with a fleet of more than 50 aircraft providing dozens of domestic, regional and European flights each day.

Read: Africa World Airlines and South Africa Airways sign agreement

But the company is deep in debt, despite several government bailouts, and has not recorded a profit since 2011.

The unions blamed the SAA board and executive management for the airline’s crisis.

“They have deliberately destroyed what used to be one of the world’s best airlines, because of maladministration, rampant looting and corruption,” they said in a statement.

SAA Chief Executive Officer Zuks Ramasia warned that the strike would “exacerbate rather than ameliorate our problem” and urged the unions to make affordable demands.

“The unions and all employees should be mindful of the current financial constraints the company is facing,” she said in a statement.

She said the unions were aware that the airline’s financial woes were “caused by a number of factors, including a severely distressed global airline industry.”

This, she argued, had resulted in “numerous airlines retrenching staff, embarking on cost-reduction programmes, implementing wage freezes, reducing operations, or even closing down.”

The airline has been surviving off government bailouts. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced in February that the government would reimburse the company’s 9.2-billion-rand ($620-million) debt over the next three years.

South Africa is struggling to get its state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma.

Analyst Daniel Silke warned in a tweet that the planned strike “may kill an airline already on its knees affecting the jobs of thousands more.”

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The growth of digital and online marketing in Africa

Is Digital Marketing for Africa? How have businesses gained by marketing online?

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Growth of digital marketing

Innovative changes have over the years, proven to be a constant. Ways of doing things are changing globally at a rather fast pace; things that affect the way we live, the way we travel, study, do business, run homes and families, interact with others etc.

The influence of innovation is simply overwhelming! One sector that has been touched by the transformative wind of innovation is the business sector. In this article, we are going to evaluate the growth of digital marketing in Africa. Before we dissect the topic, let us first look at the meaning of digital marketing.

What is digital marketing? 

Wikipedia defines digital marketing as the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium. From the definition provided by Wikipedia, one may sum up the meaning of digital marketing as the use of technologies in marketing as opposed to the traditional ways of marketing we all know.

Before the digital era, marketing and advertisements were only done using traditional methods such as public announcements, newspaper, radio, television, billboards, posters and flyers. Digital marketing on the other hand employ methods such as social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), e-Commerce marketing, content marketing among other methods.

Advertising has been taken to a whole new level through the help of online marketing. Business owners, especially startups in Africa now save millions hitherto used in running newspaper advertisements and paying for sessions on television channels that expire after a short time. They now spend less than half of that amount to advertise on various digital platforms, which enjoy more audience than the traditional means, including television and newspapers. 

The state of online marketing in South Africa

 In South Africa, a study by World Wide Worx in collaboration with Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group found that as at the year 2010 the number of South African internet users have grown beyond 5 million. Ever since figures continued to advance upwardly.

By 2016 the number of internet users stood a little below 29 million. That was more than half of South Africa’s 52 million population. With that number of internet users, digital marketing will continue to grow in leaps and bound in South Africa.

Kenya and Digital Marketing

In Kenya, the story is pretty much the same as in South Africa. If you are familiar with Kenya’s marketing terrain, you will understand how big it has grown in a very short period.  Just a couple of years ago, expensive traditional methods of marketing still thrived in the country but today the story has changed as around 22% of all media consumption in Kenya is digital.

What is more, this number is growing fast! The German online portal, Statista reported that Internet advertising spending in Kenya is expected to grow from US$72 million in 2015 to US$151 million in 2020.

Digital marketing in Nigeria

Digital Marketing started to gather momentum in Nigeria around 2012 with the entry of e-commerce platforms such as Jumia and Konga in the country. The period between 2015 to 2019 saw a massive increase of Small & Medium Enterprises in the country with a population of 190 million people.

According to Statista, Nigeria had 92.3 million internet users in 2018 and it is projected to grow to 187.8 million internet users in 2023. This was 47.1 per cent of the population in 2018. It is expected to climb to 84.5 per cent in 2023. With 92.3 million people using the internet, the place of digital marketing in Nigeria’s business space has been secured. The prospect for the growth of digital marketing in Nigeria seems pretty good.

From the situation reports in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria – three of the largest economies in Africa, digital marketing is growing really fast in the continent. The future of Businesses in Africa can now be viewed better through the lens of the digital.

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Nigeria extends border closure to January 31

Illegal importation of cheap rice is seen as a major cause of the decision by the Nigerian government to close its borders

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Nigeria extends border closure to January 31

Nigerian President, Muhammad Buhari has announced an extension on the country border’s closure with neighbouring countries until 31 January, 2020.

The Nigerian government closed all its land borders two months ago in a bid to stop smugglers and criminals who pose a threat to the country and its economy.

“Mr President has approved the extension of the exercise to January 31, 2020. Consequently, you are requested to convey the development to all personnel for their awareness and guidance,” Victor Dimka, the Deputy Comptroller of Customs in charge of Enforcement, Investigation and Inspectorate, directed in a memo.

Even though the border closure had bore fruit, a few objectives are yet to be achieved.

Illegal importation of cheap rice is seen as a major cause of the decision by the Nigerian government to close its borders.

While some businessmen in the West African country say they have made huge losses since the directive took effect, officials are confident there is more to gain once the desired objectives are achieved.

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