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Trade Lifting Developing Asia’s Growth as ADB Upgrades GDP Forecast

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that economic expansion in developing Asia will accelerate to 6% in 2017 as stronger than expected exports and domestic consumption fuel growth. Excluding Asia’s newly industrialized economies, growth is now expected at 6.5% this year, according to a new ADB report.

In a supplement to its Asian Development Outlook Update 2017 report, ADB upgrades its 2017 growth domestic product (GDP) outlook in the region by 0.1 percentage points compared to its September 2017 forecast, while its 2018 forecast remains unchanged at 5.8%. An unexpectedly strong expansion in Central, East, and Southeast Asia has offset a downward adjustment in South Asia. 

“Developing Asia’s growth momentum, supported by recovering exports, demonstrates that openness to trade remains an essential component of inclusive economic development,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s Chief Economist. “Countries can further take advantage of the global recovery by investing in human capital and physical infrastructure that will help sustain growth over the long-term.”

Combined growth for the major industrial economies is revised upward to 2.2% for 2017 and 2% for 2018, due to robust domestic demand in the euro area, and in Japan due to private investment and net exports. Growth projections for the United States remain unchanged at 2.2% in 2017 and 2.4% in 2018.

By subregion, growth for East Asia is revised upward to 6.2% in 2017, from 6%, while 2018 projections of 5.8% are unchanged. Growth prospects in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—the world’s second largest economy—are revised up on resilient consumption. Growth in the PRC is now expected to expand by 6.8% in 2017 and 6.4% in 2018.

South Asia will remain the fastest growing of all subregions in Asia and the Pacific, despite a downward revision from previous projections from 6.7% to 6.5% in 2017, and is expected to pick up to 7% in 2018. GDP growth in India—the subregion’s largest economy—is revised down to 6.7% in 2017 and 7.3% in 2018. Although the strong manufacturing expansion helped the economy reverse 5 consecutive quarters of deceleration in the second quarter of fiscal year 2017, the recovery is more subdued than assumed earlier due to rising crude oil prices, soft private investment growth, and weather-related risks to agriculture.

Growth for Southeast Asia is picking up faster than earlier forecast with GDP set to expand by 5.2% in 2017 and 2018, compared to September 2017 forecasts of 5% and 5.1%. The subregion is benefiting from stronger investments and exports, with accelerating growth for Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Infrastructure investment continued to play an important role in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Robust domestic demand—particularly private consumption and investment—will continue to support growth in the subregion, according to the report.

The outlook for Central Asia this year has further improved as stronger domestic demand and exports in some countries have fueled recovery in the subregion. Growth is expected to reach 3.6% in 2017 compared to the 3.3% originally projected. The 2018 forecasts for Central Asia are unchanged at 3.9%.

Growth in the Pacific is expected to remain at 2.9% in 2017 and 3.2% in 2018 with Papua New Guinea—the subregion’s largest economy—continuing its gradual recovery due to rebounding mining and agriculture industries. Post-disaster reconstruction and tourism are expected to drive growth further in the subregion, particularly in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, rising commodity prices have not yet driven inflation across the region, with consumer price inflation tame and stable. Price inflation is unchanged from previous projections of 2.4% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018.

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EU Politics

Africa-Europe Alliance: Two new financial guarantees under the EU External Investment Plan

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Today in the margins of the 2019 Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, the European Commission signed two guarantee agreements with two Member States’ development finance institution: the Dutch ‘Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V’ (FMO) and the Italian ‘Cassa Depositi e Prestiti’ (CDP). These guarantee agreements are part of the implementation of the EU External Investment Plan, the financial arm of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica said: “The agreements signed today, worth €70 million, will help us to unlock more than €500 million in new investment in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. These guarantees aim at mitigating and sharing the risk with other private investors in countries where otherwise these investments would not be as attractive. They will help to boost access to finance for small businesses, notably in the tech sector – and create up to 175,000 jobs directly and indirectly.”

Two guarantees, one goal: more investment in partner countries

The two guarantees will significantly boost investment and access to finance for small businesses (MSMEs), especially in the technology sector, in the countries covered by the Plan.

FMO Ventures Programme
This €40 million guarantee agreement is a partnership with FMO, the Dutch development bank. It targets Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. It will guarantee venture capital provided by FMO to start-up companies, in particular led by young entrepreneurs. The companies will use technology to lower the costs of making or supplying products and services that were previously unaffordable to many people. The guarantee will target companies offering digital solutions in a wide range of areas, from agriculture, access to energy and financial services to education, healthcare, transport and logistics. It will support up to 125,000 new jobs, directly and indirectly.

Archipelagos One4A – One Platform for Africa
The €30 million Archipelagos guarantee agreement is a partnership with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian Development Bank, and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It will support access to finance across Africa for high potential small businesses. In order to help their growth, the programme supported by the guarantee will provide financing through innovative capital markets solutions. It will also enable financing partners to share the risk of investing in projects. By doing so it will generate up to 50,000 jobs, many for young people, and benefit about 1,500 small businesses in 10 African countries.

These guarantees are part of the External Investment Plan, which, by investing €4.5 billion, is set to leverage €44 billion in total investment. Out of the total budget, the EU has already allocated €4.2 billion.

Background

The EU External Investment Plan is using €4.5 billion in public funds to leverage €44 billion by 2020 in public and private investment for development in countries neighbouring the EU and in Africa.

The plan has three pillars. The first is finance. Through financial guarantees, the EU mitigates the risk in countries with difficult environments so that private investors and development banks will lend to entrepreneurs or finance development projects.

The plan’s second part is technical assistance. This funds experts who help develop new projects, to the benefit of will authorities, investors and companies. Technical assistance may include, for example, market intelligence and investment climate analysis, targeted legislative and regulatory advice, support to partner countries in implementing reforms, chains and identification, preparation, and help to carry out necessary investments.

The third part is investment climate support. The EU works closely with governments in partner countries to help them improve the conditions which investors consider when making their decisions. These include the business environment and a country’s political and economic stability. The EU also brings together governments and business to discuss investment challenges.

The External Investment Plan is a key part of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, launched by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2018. The Alliance aims to boost investment which creates jobs and promotes sustainable development.

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Energy News

UNIDO and Morocco’s MASEN to strengthen cooperation to deploy renewable energy technologies

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photo: UNIDO

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy of the Kingdom of Morocco (MASEN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop and implement projects deploying advanced renewable energy technologies in Morocco and targeted African countries, with the aim of creating aspirations to support African countries on their path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

The partnership with MASEN complements UNIDO’s ongoing activities under its flagship ‘Low Carbon Low Emission Clean Energy Programme’ in Africa, which seeks to reduce poverty by promoting industrial growth through renewable sources of energy. It already started in 2017, on the margins of the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), when UNIDO Director General LI Yong, and MASEN President Mustapha Bakkoury launched the Vanadium Flow Battery project to demonstrate smoothing and stabilizing electricity output. An official handover ceremony is planned to take place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, in conjunction with a workshop gathering Moroccan officials and representatives from neighboring countries.

With MASEN’s support, UNIDO proposes to create a platform for the dissemination of renewable energy technologies in targeted countries while developing the local production of some technology components, thus creating grounds for achieving shared prosperity, economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

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EU Politics

EU delivers on stronger European Border and Coast Guard to support Member States

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Today, the Council has officially adopted the Commission’s proposal to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will have a standing corps of 10,000 border guards, a stronger mandate on returns and will also be able to cooperate more closely with non-EU countries, including those beyond the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. This will give the Agency the right level of ambition to respond to the challenges facing Europe in managing migration and its external borders.

Welcoming today’s final adoption, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said:

“Today the European Union has achieved an ambitious task of transforming the EU border agency, Frontex, into a fully-fledged European Border and Coast Guard. This Agency will be equipped to offer tangible support to Member States to manage the EU’s external border – wherever and whenever needed.

From less than 300 border guards on the ground in 2014, the European Border and Coast Guard is now deploying around 1,300 officers and will soon have a 10,000-strong standing corps available for deployment. This is a collective achievement, which would not have been possible without strong political support for a common approach.

The European Border and Coast Guard is now stronger than ever. While Member States will remain responsible for the management of external borders, the standing corps will provide unprecedented operational support on the ground. Its officers will be able to assist national border guards in conducting identity and document checks, with border surveillance and return operations.

The Agency will also provide support beyond the EU’s borders. With European Border and Coast Guard officers already deployed in Albania and soon in other Western Balkan countries also, the Agency will be able to cooperate with third countries beyond the EU’s immediate neighbourhood.

We have spared no effort to make sure that Member States have the necessary tools to protect their borders and ensure the security of European citizens.

But our work is not yet done. The Commission will now provide its full support to help the Agency quickly take up its new tasks and ensure the standing corps swiftly reaches its full capacity of 10,000 border guards.”

Next steps

The European Parliament and the Council will now jointly sign the final text. The text will then be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the European Border and Coast Guard’s reinforced mandate will enter into force 20 days later. The new European Border and Coast Guard standing corps will be ready for deployment from 2021, and will then gradually reach its full capacity of 10,000 border guards.

Background

The European Border and Coast Guard consists of Member States’ authorities responsible for border management and return, and of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. It was established in 2016, building on the existing structures of Frontex, to meet the new challenges and political realities faced by the EU, both as regards migration and internal security. The reliance on voluntary contributions of staff and equipment by Member States has however resulted in persistent gaps affecting the efficiency of the support the European Border and Coast Guard Agency could offer.

In his 2018 State of the Union Address President Juncker announced that the Commission will reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard even further. The objective of this upgrade was to equip the Agency with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards and to provide the agency with its own equipment to allow it to respond to challenges as they arise. The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on the Commission’s proposal on 28 March 2019. With the last step completed in the Council today, both institutions have now formally adopted the text.

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