Sequel to the impact of the pandemic on the African continent and the rising level of indebtedness by most of the countries in the continent, the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments (CoSAP), have deliberated on strategic ways by which the external indebtedness of most African countries can be alleviated.
This motive was disclosed in the official formation and maiden launching of the association, which was spearheaded by the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. The members of the group are Tagesse Chafo; Speaker, House of Peoples, Ethiopia, Aaron Oquaye; Speaker of Parliament, Republic of Ghana, and Justin Muturi; Speaker, National Assembly, Kenya.
Besides seeking debt relief for African countries, the group also mooted the idea of improving its oversight functions over loan approvals, in order to ensure judicious utilization of loans in their respective countries.
Recall that Nairametrics had earlier reported that Africa’s public debt has doubled to nearly half of its economic output since 2008, making 20 out of the 54 African countries nearly or perfectly distressed.
What this means
Granting debt relief to highly indebted African countries can play a vital role in combating poverty and inequality. It will literally free up funds that were supposed to be used for debt servicing to a more productive and beneficial cause, such as building roads, schools, welfare programmes, etc.
Why this matters
The need for debt relief for highly indebted African countries is premised on the social welfare consideration rather than economic motives for the developed countries. The human face or consideration of this indebtedness can go a long way to stabilize vulnerable African economies.
Corroborating this is a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and publicity to the Speaker of Nigerian House of Representatives, Lanre Lasisi, made available to Punch. He noted that CoSAP was formed to moot the idea of debt relief, due to the shared concern over the socio-economic effect of COVID-19 on African countries.
Breaking: Senatorial, State House of Assembly bye-elections postponed – INEC
Senatorial and State House of Assembly bye-elections slated to hold on October 31 in 11 states have been postponed by INEC.
The 6 Senatorial and 9 State House of Assembly bye-elections slated to hold on October 31 in 11 states of the Federation has been postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The vacancies were as a result of death and resignation of previous members.
According to the statement issued by its National Commissioner & Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye Esq., INEC said the decision was taken after meeting with the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Thursday.
— INEC Nigeria (@inecnigeria) October 22, 2020
Though the commission did not categorically state the reason for the postponement, feelers are that it may not be unconnected with the raging #EndSARS protests across the nation.
Breaking: Some Nigerians mistook promptness of FG response as sign of weakness – Buhari
President Buhari has said that FG’s promptness to consent to the demands of the protesters was taken as a sign of weakness.
President Muhammadu Buhari has pointed out that the promptness with which the Federal Government acted in meeting the demands of the #EndSARS protesters seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.
This was disclosed by the president in his national broadcast on Thursday, October 22, 2020, on the current widespread violence which has engulfed the country following the protest against police brutality and extrajudicial killings.
The president said that the government listened to the protesters and after evaluating their five-point demands, they were accepted and some of them implemented, which includes the disbandment of SARS.
In his address to Nigerians, President Buhari said, “As a democratic government, we listened to, and carefully evaluated the five-point demands of the protesters. And, having accepted them, we immediately scrapped SARS and put measures in place to address the other demands of our youth.
“On approving the termination of SARS, I already made it clear that it was in line with our commitment to the implementation of extensive Police reforms.
“Sadly, the promptness with which we have acted seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness and twisted by some for their selfish unpatriotic interests.
The president said the actions of these elements has caused serious violence which has led to the loss of human lives, attack on correctional facilities, destruction and vandalization of public and private properties, attack on the palace of Oba of Lagos, invasion of International Airport and so on.
While acknowledging that the choice to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental right of every citizen as enshrined in the constitution, the president pointed out that this right to protest also imposes on the demonstrators the responsibility to respect the rights of other citizens and the necessity to operate within the law.
WTO DG: US, EU divided over Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo
The US and EU are divided over the choice between Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo for the WTO DG.
The United States and Europe are heading for a dispute over which of the candidates to support for the top position in World Trade Organization (WTO), as the selection of the first woman to head the global trade organization enters a pivotal phase.
According to a report from Bloomberg, the EU is inclined to support Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and may sign off on that position Wednesday, whereas the Trump administration is leaning towards South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee. However, China’s preference and those of other major economies like Brazil and India remain unclear.
The new DG, WTO is expected to be announced in November to replace Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down from the job at the end of August – a year before his term ended. He was the sixth consecutive man to lead the 25-year-old organization.
Rufus Yerxa, former deputy DG of the WTO from 2002 to 2013 and now heads the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based business group representing US companies said, “We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility that this could end in a deadlock and that an outcome will have to wait for the U.S. election and what the next administration decides to do.’’
While few countries are publicly saying which of the two women they support, the process requires a consensus of the WTO’s 164 members; meaning a single nation could block either Yoo or Okonjo-Iweala. Muddling the picture even further are trading alliances from Africa to Asia strained by three years of tariff wars and protectionist sentiment, only heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, South Korea’s Yoo has struggled to secure support from Japan, a trading partner and rival of South Korea. Deteriorating trade relations between the two export powerhouses has negatively impacted on Yoo’s campaign initially and remain an important consideration in the last phase of the race.
In an interview on Friday, Yoo acknowledged that she might have an uphill battle. She said, “Everybody loves an underdog story. I believe I have earned members’ trust through my hard work, sweat and perseverance, and sincerity. I will continue to do that.”
The EU played a critical role in the selection process for the previous round when the 27-nation bloc selected both Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala to be its preferred candidates for the final stage. That effectively sank the candidacy of Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, who had been viewed as an early front-runner in the race.
Since the shortlist was trimmed to two earlier this month, both Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala have been working behind the scenes to shore up support. Among the bargaining chip they can offer to nations that endorse them is a job for their citizens as one of the four WTO deputy DG.
Nairametrics had earlier reported that Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjp-Iweala had secured the support of the 55-member African Union to lead the global trade organization. This is in addition to the endorsement from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Caribbean and the Pacific States, bringing the total to about 79 countries that are currently supporting her candidacy.
Nigeria’s former finance minister has positioned herself as an outsider – one who has never worked at the WTO or led a trade deal negotiation. Last week she called for a return to a multilateral system. In a virtual panel discussion on Thursday, she said, “Let’s strengthen that – that is what will serve the world, and let’s do less of the bilateral spats that we see.”
But Okonjo-Iweala is viewed by people familiar with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s thinking, as being too close to pro-trade internationalists in Washington like Robert Zoellick, the former USTR and World BankPresident. Okonjo-Iweala, who served as a Senior Executive under Zoellick at the World Bank from 2007 to 2011, was a candidate to replace him when he stepped down in 2012.
Lighthizer is a longtime WTO skeptic, and people close to him say he would prefer to see a more technocratic candidate like Yoo, South Korea’s Trade Minister and a 25-year veteran who has helped expand her country’s commercial network through bilateral accords with China, the EU, the U.K., and the U.S. He knows the Korean from having worked with her on the renegotiation of a trade agreement early in the Trump administration.
What this means
It appears that there might be a stalemate in the selection of the new head of the WTO as the 2 parties are very critical and important stakeholders in the global trade organization. The US has always played a key role in deciding who leads the WTO; although, in collaboration with most of its European allies.