26 Feb 2014

Infographic: South Sudan in crisis

This week, we share an infographic from Al Jazeera, which takes a look at the numbers behind the humanitarian crisis in the world's youngest country – South Sudan. Using data from UN OCHA and UN FAO, it shows that “this crisis is exacerbating what was already a difficult humanitarian situation in the youngest and one of the poorest countries in the world” – with 707,400 internally displaced people.

This April’s EU-Africa summit will focus on the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace” – but what can EU and African leaders do to ensure peace and security in unstable regions of North and Sub-Saharan Africa? Leave your comments below, and read more from ECDPM’s Conflict, Security and Resilience programme.

This infographic originally appeared in Al Jazeera 

25 Feb 2014

Arms for Autocrats: It's Time for the EU to Bite the Bullet

Despite the EU's vow to support human rights and democracy in Africa, it continues to sell billions of dollars worth of arms to authoritarian regimes each year, writes Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade

This April, European leaders will sit down with their African counterparts at the fourth EU-Africa summit. The summits were originally established in 2000 to build a stronger relationship between Europe and Africa based on the principles of long-term cooperation, ownership, partnership and solidarity. But unfortunately, these ideals ideal often stand at odds with the policies actually being pursued by EU member-states.

In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, offered an apology for the institution's historical support for North African dictators. “We must show humility about the past," he said. "Europe was not vocal enough in defending human rights and local democratic forces in the region." He built on this by adding, “The crowds in the streets of Tunis, Cairo and elsewhere have been fighting in the name of our shared values. It is with them, and for them, that we must work today − not with dictators.” Three years later, there is little evidence this has happened.

Arms for autocrats

Egypt is a case in point. Both before and after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, the country has received little practical support from Europe. Even EU auditors themselves have describedEuropean strategy as “well-intentioned but ineffective” and written off the main human rights programme as "largely unsuccessful."

Furthermore, as the EU's support for Egyptian governance has faltered, arms exports have done anything but. The latest EU report shows that the same countries failing to adequately support Egyptian citizens licensed a record €363 million ($500 million) of arms sales to the government in 2012, up from €300 ($410 million) in 2011 and €200 ($270 million) in 2010.

Meanwhile, Algeria − a repressive state in which freedoms of assembly, speech and association are curtailed − received almost €750 million ($1 billion) worth of arms in 2012. Chad − which has been ranked as being one of the world's most corrupt nations and politically "not free" − received €95 million ($130 million). And Madagascar − which had experience a coup just 3 years previously − received nearly €25 million ($35 million). In fact, of the 51 authoritarian governments listed in the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2012, European states awarded licences for military sales to 43 of them. However, the EU's arms sales to authoritarian states have not just been inconsistent with its commitment to promoting democracy − they have also been shortsighted.

In 2004, when the EU arms embargo on Libya was lifted, for example, member-states quickly began courting Muammar Gaddafi for arms sales. These new commercial interests muted Europe's criticism of the regime and ensured that pro-democracy activists would continue to have to campaign in an environment characterised by violence, intimidation and repression. This policy of prioritising arms sales and commercial profits over the promotion of human rights continued right up until the Libyan uprising of 2011 in which Gaddafi used European arms against Libyan citizens.

The sale of vast quantities of weapons to African countries is at odds with the EU's vow to support human rights and democracy and with the Joint Africa-EU strategy. As well as facilitating human rights abuses and conflict, arms deals can raise political tensions, undermine attempts to address common problems, and destabilise the establishment of peaceful long-term solutions. On top of that, the fact that EU governments are willing to lend their political and military support to these authoritarian regimes gives them a significant moral boost and increases their international support and legitimacy.

Time to bite the bullet

Fortunately, there have been some steps in the right direction recently. Last year, due to the level of violence taking place, the EU banned the export of arms and the sending of mercenaries to the Central African Republic. But if the EU is to genuinely promote the values of long-term cooperation, ownership, partnership and solidarity with Africa then it must build on this by suspending all arms exports to all authoritarian or unstable countries in the region and ensure that the needs of citizens, not arms companies, are central to its political strategy.

Only by ending the kind of political and military support that is strengthening oppressive regimes can the EU play its part in ensuring that by the time of the 5th EU-Africa summit the outlook for human rights and the prospects of citizens is stronger than it is today.

Andrew Smith is Media Coordinator at the Campaign Against Arms Trade. This article was originally published in Think Africa Press.

This is a guest post; views may not represent that of ECDPM

Photo courtesy of Omar Robert Hamilton

Tick, tock: EU-Africa Summit almost a month away

Just over a month away in April, the European Union will be meeting with the African Union for the first EU-Africa Summit in three years. It will mark a monumental step in EU-Africa relations, as they deal with key issues, but what are those issues and why is it important?

We can help you with that. The European Centre for Development Policy Management has been working on EU-Africa relations for over 25 years. 

We helped break the story on the recent EPAs deal between West Africa and the EU, and released a publication on the big challenges ahead for the two continents. The aim of ECDPM is to facilitate efforts to revitalise and deepen relations between Europe and Africa.

We have jointly ran three events in the last year on EU-Africa relations: Building a Sustainable Partnership for the Future?Looking Beyond 2013
Are EU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose?
, and Making EU-Africa Relations Future-Proof (with the African Union Commission)

Experts from ECDPM, both from Europe and Africa, are available to comment and provide key information on issues ahead and during the Summit, to give an independent perspective on the topics.

This Friday (28th February) Faten Aggad, Programme Manager at ECDPM's Africa’s Change Dynamics programme will be answering questions online about EU-Africa relations. 

We cover five areas:
  • Strengthening EU External Action
  • Conflict, security and resilience
  • Economic Transformation
  • Africa Change Dynamics
  • Food security 
We also run this blog on EU-Africa relations here, and have been bringing the issue online using the hashtag: #AfricaEU2014

If you are interested in getting in touch to discuss possible op eds, comment or want to know more ahead of the Summit. Please email Emily Barker at eb@ecdpm.org

Check out our media page here.

21 Feb 2014

‘Making EU-Africa Relations Future-Proof’ - POST your questions and watch the LIVESTREAM

11 Feb 2014


Trade facilitation is vital for Africa’s own Competitiveness as and boosting intra-African trade.

The key challenge to intra-African trade is Non-tariff Barriers (NTB) that stifle the movement of goods, services and people across borders.

This article by Karen Hasse of Good Governance Africa shows how Non-tariff barriers can choke African trade. 

Non-tariff barriers choke African trade

Cumbersome documentation requirements and unpredictable procedures at borders, cost businesses and governments more than tariffs.

Somewhere near an African frontier, a heavily laden truck is wedged in a long train of other lorries. Its driver has turned off the engine and snoozes in the cab. He and other motorists have been waiting for hours, sometimes days, while their goods bake under the hot sun. Crossing an African border can be tedious, lengthy and expensive.

Often, a full set of procedures on either side of the border results in delays, making cross-border trade difficult and costly. “In Southern Africa, a truck serving supermarkets across a border may need to carry up to 1,600 documents as a result of permits and licences and other requirements,” wrote Paul Brenton, a World Bank expert on African trade, early last year.

These trade barriers have excluded Africa from reaping the rewards of increased economic interaction and interdependence. Yet Africa’s economic development and ability to compete internationally depend on removing these roadblocks and liberalising commerce. Supply and demand are becoming increasingly global, with firms taking advantage of production facilities and markets far beyond their national borders.

Lowering restrictions on trade has encouraged trade specialisation in East Asia, India and China. In India, freer trade has allowed medium to high technology sectors to flourish and develop a competitive edge.

This could happen in Africa too. More trade between African countries might encourage them to specialise to gain a competitive edge against neighbours that currently produce similar, mainly primary, commodities. Intra-African trade has the potential to diversify and grow African economies.

Africa’s share of world trade is tiny—only 3% in 2009, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Intra-African trade made up only 10% of total African trade. This stands in stark contrast to 22% between developing countries in South America, and 50% between those in Asia.

African countries have recognised the potential to bolster economic development through greater cooperation. This is the thrust behind African regional economic communities (RECs), among them the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), founded in 1994, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), founded in 1992, and the East African Community (EAC), founded in 2000.
Through these regional alliances, states have committed to making trade easier by removing tariffs and other barriers to trade. Progress in removing tariffs has had some success. For example, SADC implemented a free-trade agreement in 2008, removing tariffs on 85% of goods traded between member states.

But non-tariff barriers (NTBs) are even worse obstacles to greater African trade. Losses incurred by businesses and governments due to delays, complex documentation requirements and the unpredictable procedures at borders were higher than the costs of tariffs in 2010, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

NTBs include policies such as quotas and import and export bans. But one of the chief NTBs to trade in Africa is what a 2012 World Bank report calls “thick borders”—inefficient border posts and customs operations that inhibit trade.
Lack of coordination and uniformity in countries’ technical regulations, rules of origin, standards, and policies on licences and permits create extraordinary delays. They place a heavy burden on cross-border traders.

The average time to import between member states of SADC and COMESA is 38 days, compared to 22 days within Latin America and 12 days within the European Union, according to the African Development Bank. Clearly, trade in Africa is over-regulated.

But breaking the rules is widespread, too. Corruption is a major cost to cross- border traders. Long waiting times at customs stations create the perfect scenario for officials to elicit bribes to speed up the process, according to a recent survey on bribery as a barrier to trade in the EAC by Transparency International and Trade Mark East Africa, a non-profit organisation. At most of the customs stations on the Kenya-Tanzania border, drivers spent 68 hours on average to get customs clearance, the survey found.

Of the transporters surveyed, 86% of those from Kenya, 82% from Tanzania, 55% from Uganda, and 50% from Burundi admitted to paying bribes. The annual cost incurred on trade due to bribery in Tanzania made up about 18.6% of the value of goods transported across Tanzanian borders.

Africa’s infrastructure deficit also plays a large role in hindering trade. Moving goods efficiently is especially important given the large number of small, land-locked states on the continent. But only 22.7% of African roads are paved, according to the African Development Bank. The continent’s rail and port infrastructure is also largely crumbling or non-existent. According to the World Bank, 26.9% of firms in sub-Saharan Africa identify transportation as a major stumbling block.

“There are ports, particularly in [the] Central West African cluster and East Africa, which have serious barriers to operations,” a shipping coordinator for African ports based in Cape Town told Africa in Fact. “In each port the [logistics] operations are uniquely catered to working around constraints that do not exist in ports in developed countries,” she said, asking not to be identified. “Other ports around the world— [in] Asia, Europe, America—have automated systems, developed infrastructure, government support and trade agreements that are upheld.”

Though some African ports are better than others, “the net effect on total cost and on the bottom line of operating an entire network of vessels that call [on] almost every feasible port in Africa is vast,” she said. NTBs make trade much more expensive, hitting hardest small traders who do not have the capacity to overcome such costs. These barriers hinder the growth of small businesses, as well as transferring increased costs to the consumer. They may also be preventing the development of sectors that could gain comparative advantage and drive African economic growth.

Some progress has been made in removing NTBs. Members of the grand tripartite Free Trade Agreement—COMESA, EAC and SADC—set up a mechanism for reporting, monitoring and eliminating NTBs. Through this online forum traders can report complaints regarding NTBs, which are then drawn to the attention of the relevant authorities. They can also track to what extent authorities have addressed their complaints.

Since its inception in 2008, the system has registered 436 complaints, 326 of which it reports as resolved, and 110 as unresolved. Not surprisingly, the highest number of complaints (53) relate to lengthy and costly customs clearance procedures.
While this system shows awareness of the problems posed by NTBs, it is problematic in at least two ways. First, it fails to capture and address the experiences of traders who do not report problems and those who are deterred from trading by NTBs. Second, it offers only a case-by-case approach to tackling NTBs rather than a structural approach. It relies on resolving individual complaints, thereby removing the onus of eradicating the root causes of NTBs from governments and regulatory bodies.

On the surface, African leaders have shown zealous commitment to regional economic integration and trade liberalisation by joining RECs. Overlapping member- ships of RECs are common. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a member of four. But this creates other problems in meeting these diverse commitments. Tellingly, SADC reported in 2010 that the DRC had ratified only two of its 56 protocols and amendments.

The situation with NTBs is similar. For example, most of the 25 NTBs identified by the EAC for immediate removal in 2008 were still in place in 2012, according to the World Bank report mentioned earlier. In addition, a March 2012 report by the EAC identified 16 new NTBs to be resolved.

“We do not have a good set of indicators regarding non-tariff barriers by which to hold governments accountable for the commitments they have made,” Mr Brenton told Africa in Fact in an e-mail interview. “For example, we know that small traders regularly suffer harassment and have to pay bribes at the border but we have no measures to show whether things are improving or not.

“The policy agenda for removing non-tariff barriers is often a complex one— much more complex than reducing tariffs, which can be done literally at a stroke of a pen. Removing non-tariff barriers typically requires better regulations and/or reform of institutions that apply regulations affecting trade (such as customs),” Mr Brenton said. “Often the capacity to implement a regulatory reform agenda is very weak.”

Political will is also a problem. Removing NTBs is expensive and difficult, without the guarantee of immediate success. This makes it an unpopular endeavour for African leaders intent on short-term successes to please their electorates and keep them in power.

To remove NTBs, governments will have to work towards greater regional co- ordination and efficient regulatory procedures; they will need to simplify the process of cross-border trade and reduce corruption. Leaders will also need to eliminate deficits in knowledge, administration and finance. This will likely require large-scale institutional reform. At the same time, policies for removing NTBs in Africa will need to be tailored to specific contexts by harnessing the understanding of experts and those who experience them first-hand.

Above all, governments will need the foresight to invest now to achieve the long-term benefits of dismantling NTBs. Without such action the outlook for African trade and small-scale African traders will remain bleak. A great opportunity to speed Africa’s development will remain untapped.


Karen Hasse is a researcher for Good Governance Africa.

This is a guest post; views may not represent that of ECDPM

This article first appeared in Africa in Fact, the journal of Good Governance Africa.

6 Feb 2014

infographic thursday: food and nutrition in Africa and the uk

This infographic from Send a Cow shows some useful stats about food and nutrition in African countries and the UK.

This can be used to start a discussion about how food is grown, what we eat and who grows it. There are also opportunities to talk about who holds the 'food power' in these settings. They suggest getting school pupils to do some research and make up their own food and farming mini-infographic?

Declared the United Nations (UN) Year of Family Farming and the African Union (AU) Year of Food Security, 2014 will be particularly interesting, with key challenges for family farming in terms of policy directions, international processes and efforts on the ground. Read ECDPM’s recent blog on the Top 10 reasons 10 reasons why 2014 is the year for family farming.

This infographic was originally published by Send a Cow 

5 Feb 2014


By Isabel Bucknall and Alex Odlum
This op-ed was originally published by ERCAS, European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building. 

A strategy at an impasse

As demonstrated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s widespread boycott of this month’s constitutional referendum and the ensuing post-poll violence, it is clear that deep-seated political tensions are unlikely to recede swiftly in Egypt. The road to democracy will continue to be long and hard, and donor assistance efforts will have to endure through thick and thin if they are to have any impact. To date, the EU’s assistance strategy has been unable to handle Egypt’s tumultuous political realities. If the EU is to offer effective assistance to support Egypt’s democratic progress, it must significantly change its strategy. 

EU aid to Egypt channeled through the European Neighbourhood Partnership (ENP) is manifestly ineffective in its current format. Tying EU assistance to Egyptian progress on governance standards has proven too rigid. Setting such conditions is incompatible with a turbulent political atmosphere. Substantial reform is urgently required to scrap conditionality as the overarching rationale of the ENP, replacing it with a more selective, trade-based approach that supports Egyptian development amidst and despite political chaos.

Can democratic progress be ‘conditional’?

In 2007, the EU launched a €1 billion European Neighbourhood Partnership programme to support Egypt’s political and economic development. It has proven futile. A European Court of Auditors report published last year found that funds intended to back Egyptian government reform in democracy, human rights, good governance and justice were either ineffectively spent, or not disbursed at all. Of €17 million allocated to the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Civil Society between 2007-2010, for example, only 1.8 million was spent. As conditions remained unmet, funds failed to leave EU coffers and projects were perpetually grounded. The result? Negligible, if any, EU impact on Egyptian democratic progress.

Conditionality, even when based on partnership and negotiated standards, inevitably results in impassable deadlocks in unstable political environments. Devolving ownership by setting conditions that tie in with a country’s own development agenda are the key to making conditionality work. But when that development agenda, and indeed the government itself, are changing at a rapid rate – Egypt has had four different heads of state and 2 constitutional referenda since January 2011– previously set conditions are unlikely to be fulfilled by rival politicians.

Of course, such chaos may have been difficult to foresee before 2011. Yet, rather than brace for a long and divisive struggle for power, EU policy hastened to deepen its commitment to conditions that had been agreed with a government just toppled by sheer popular force. Thus far, EU calls of “more for more” have been drowned out by the retreat of democratic progress and descent into political instability.

Scrapping conditionality and reframing the ENP around selectivity must be the first step of reform. This approach would allow Egyptians to regain ownership, with the Government designing and implementing their own targets for good governance prior to receiving full aid funding. Seed-funding and technical assistance would be essential to kick-start the process and provide the Egyptian government with initial momentum. This model would allow Egypt to signal its own strong commitments to reform, stimulating more donor and private investment, in turn producing a further incentive for the government to push forward on social, political and economic reform.

Policy Coherence for Democracy, as well as Development

A move from conditionality to selectivity drastically cuts EU funding outlays for governance support to Egypt. As little as €10 million over 2 years would be required, according to baseline figures of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent US government aid agency who works using the selectivity model. It would be false, however, to equate a renewed emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness in development aid disbursements, with abandoning Egypt altogether. Selectivity can only succeed if it is matched by a parallel commitment to economic support through deeper cooperation on free trade.

Current bilateral trade arrangements between the EU and Egypt stem from 2004 ENP agreements limiting manufacturing and agricultural tariffs. To foster tangible impact through trade, the EU must substantially deepen its commitments to Egypt and the surrounding region. Talks that began in 2012 on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area encompassing Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco need to be urgently revived.

A DCFTA trade package should comprehensively eliminate agricultural and manufacturing tariffs and all other barriers to trade. Technical assistance should also be lent to Egypt to align regulations with EU standards to the furthest extent possible without jeopardizing Egypt’s trade compatibility with other global partners. Finally, the DCFTA should relax rules of origin restrictions on goods assembled in Egypt and other Southern Mediterranean countries, allowing benefits to accrue in advance of final product transformations. Smooth flows of component trade between producers in Egypt and high-end assembly plants in Europe boast great potential for mutual benefit and should be encouraged, rather than inhibited by arbitrary origin rules.

Agreement on a DCFTA will profit both Egypt and the EU, not only economically, but also politically. Given that dire socio-economic malaise contributed to protestors demand for Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, political tensions are likely to soften if economic growth can be boosted through trade and translated into visible improvement to livelihoods.

2014 holds a host of democratic opportunities and challenges for Egypt. Momentum for reform should rightly be driven from within. The EU must also strike the balance of being a responsible neighbor, and treating Egypt as an equal partner, listening to and accepting the realities of the Egyptians’ self-determined struggle for freedom and prosperity. Implementing an assistance approach that combines selectivity and free-trade is a legitimate response to the socio-economic and political demands of Egypt: “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice”.

Isabel Bucknall and Alex Odlum are Master’s of Public Policy candidates at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. 

This is a guest post; views may not represent that of ECDPM

Photos courtesy of EEAS and GlobalTechFirm