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Economy

Russia races for the African market

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Russia plans to offer trade subsidies and investment guarantees as an emergency support for Russian companies to penetrate into African markets, part of the strategy for the development of economic ties between Russia and Africa, according to an official report released by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The report indicated that Business Council had discussed a wide range of issues on promoting Russia and Russian businesses’ interests in Africa. Noting further that Africa has huge natural resources still untapped, all kinds of emerging business opportunities and constantly growing consumer market due to the increasing population. It has currently become a new business field for global players.

There was a lot of interesting and demanding work ahead, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the Ministry’s Business Council meeting held on July 16 in Moscow. He added “perhaps, there is a need to pay attention to the experience of China, which provides its enterprises with state guarantees and subsidies, thus ensuring the ability of companies to work on a systematic and long-term basis.”

He urged Russian entrepreneurs, both small and medium-sized, to race against other foreign players to get access to the African markets and its trading resources, be fearless of competition and rivalry but play with adequate caution to save Russia’s image in Africa.

“We find it important to estimate options for attracting small and medium-sized businesses to African markets. This segment of our cooperation is still insignificant,” he stated.

“We rely on the existing and strengthening foundation of Russian-African cooperation. This year we have significantly intensified political dialogue, cooperation between parliaments and civil societies,” Lavrov said.

“This positive groundwork allows us to convert this into increasing trade, economic and investment exchanges, to expand banking cooperation, the implementation of mutually beneficial projects,” he pointed out.

Lavrov, however, underscored the fact that trade and economic relations have reached a new level, and “the first ever Russia-Africa summit, which is to be held in October in Sochi, would give a special impetus to these processes.”

The first Russia–Africa summit scheduled to take place in Sochi on October 24 and will be co-chaired by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who currently chairs the African Union.

In June, Moscow hosted a shareholder meeting of the African Export-Import Bank, as well as the Russia-Africa Economic Conference. Early July, the Russia-Africa Parliamentary Conference was also held as part of the International Development of Parliamentarianism Forum, which took place in Moscow.

During the plenary session on Russia-Africa held July 3, the former Special Presidential Representative to Africa, Professor Alexey Vasileyev, pointed out that the level and scope of Russian economic cooperation with Africa has doubled in recent years, “but unfortunately Russian-African cooperation is not in the top five among the foreign investing players in Africa.”

Specifically about trade, Vasileyev noted that not all African countries have signed agreements with Russia, for example, on the abolition of double taxation. He urged African countries to make trade choices that are in their best economic interests and further suggested that Russia should consider the issue of removal of tariff and non-tariff restrictions on economic relations.

In order to increase trade, Russia has to improve its manufacturing base and Africa has to standardize its export products to compete in external markets. Russia has only few manufactured goods that could successfully compete with Western-made products in Africa.

The former Presidential Envoy believes that it is also necessary to create, for example, free trade areas. “But before creating them, we need information. And here, I am ready to reproach the Russian side, providing little or inadequate information to Africans about their capabilities, and on the other hand, reproach the African side, because when our business comes to Africa, they should know where they go, why and what they will get as a result,” Vasileyev told the gathering of African parliamentarians.

Interestingly, there are few Russian traders in Africa and African exporters are not trading in Russia’s market, in both cases, due to multiple reasons including inadequate knowledge of trade procedures, rules and regulations as well as the existing market conditions, he pointed out.

“The task before us, especially before the both parliaments, is to harmonize the norms of trade, contract and civil law. The parliamentarians of the two sides have the task to work together on a legislative framework that would be in the interests of both sides. This should be a matter of priority,” Vasileyev concluded.

Whether Moscow will move from mere intentions to concrete actions, with commitment and consistency, remains largely to be seen in the subsequent years, according to policy experts and observers who monitor developments between Russia and Africa. According to official reports, Russia has a positive dynamics of trade with Africa, its trade exceeded US$20 billion in 2018.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

Economy

Scaling up support for sustainable development: Mongolia on the rise

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

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Mongolia’s economic rebound in recent years reveals a country rising up to the challenges borne from adverse economic shocks. The country’s economic resilience comes as no surprise. Mongolia has responded well to near-term economic challenges and chartered its long-term path towards sustainable development despite its inherent constraints as a small and landlocked economy that is also highly dependent on natural resources. Mongolia prides itself as being one of the first countries to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision 2030 receiving parliament approval in 2016 just six months after the adoption of the SDGs globally.

In particular, Mongolia’s policy experiences in areas of economic diversification, good governance and regional cooperation were well-exemplified by the Action Program of the Government of Mongolia for 2016-2020. So, Mongolia has utilized these policy tools to carve for itself strategic positions to weigh in on issues significant to the country’s national development outcomes. For example, Mongolia leads the global agenda of the needs and challenges faced by landlocked developing countries (LLDCs). The presence of the International Think Tank for LLDCs in Ulaanbaatar further highlights the key role of Mongolia as a credible broker of the LLDCs development agenda.

Mongolia has been active in implementing intergovernmental initiatives facilitated by UN ESCAP including the distinct but interrelated intergovernmental agreements on the Asian Highway Network, the Trans-Asian Railway Network, and Dry Ports. We welcome the recent development on the entry into force of the Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport along the Asian Highway Network among China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation, supporting trilateral economic cooperation.

Currently, Mongolia has substantively engaged on trade facilitation initiatives including the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific. There is great potential for Mongolia to strengthen its role in the related area of transport facilitation, given its position as a transit point between big economies like China and the Russian Federation. Also, we are pleased that Mongolia is soon to become the seventh member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, a preferential regional trade agreement, open to all developing member States in Asia and the Pacific.

Mongolia has also been a key driving force to advance cooperation for clean energy, especially towards a North-East Asia power interconnection, leveraging from the country’s abundant renewable (solar and wind) energy resources. Energy cooperation finds strong resonance in relation to climate action and air pollution, given the North-East Asia subregion emits over one-third of global greenhouse gases and faces heavy impacts of air pollution.

With inherent constraints due to its fragile economic structure and environmental condition, Mongolia constantly needs to find balance between providing prompt policy responses in the face of volatile and unpredictable external shocks in the short-run and pursuing structural changes to address long-term socioeconomic issues. Under these circumstances, pursuing an integrated approach becomes an imperative for Mongolia to advance its national socioeconomic agenda, regional connectivity agenda and global sustainable development agenda, bolstering Mongolia’s resilience towards adverse economic, social and environmental shocks. To this end, I welcome Mongolia’s emphasis on the “whole of government” plus a “whole of society” approach.

Through the years, we have seen how Mongolia continues to be a steadfast partner of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in promoting regional trade, connectivity and development across its various interrelated dimensions. Mongolia has also provided leadership in advancing regional cooperation agenda in the Asia-Pacific region by chairing the seventy-fifth session of UN ESCAP in May 2019.

Equipped with lessons learned from past development challenges and mindful of new directions and approaches to nurture future opportunities, Mongolia’s regional position and potential are on the rise. I am looking forward to partnering with Mongolia’s leadership to strengthen regional cooperation and achieve sustainable development by 2030 with the United Nations family.

Originally published in Montsame-Mongolia

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Economy

The Election Agenda

Naseem Javed

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Akin to the last Big Collapse, currently, the gatekeepers of the world economy are in deep silence as the new date of the next global financial collapse is being figured out. The Brexit, the EU, any new pending war, the US Elections or some new unknown issues are all single push buttons for a global crisis. However, some smart nations are awakening; the silent majority is slowly talking, and here assisting them expediently are the attempts on the global-age skills and lifelong learning to enable them to build their own respectable future. The other options for the world are to simply wait for an unfathomable chaos while listening to the restless citizenry. It’s time to vote, it’s time for asking the difficult questions.

Why Stop Trade-Wars Start Skills Wars?

Trade-wars are proof of poor quality exportability, poor skills and poor policies, but skills-wars are about creating highly skilled citizenry creating superior edge of exportability and blossoming local grassroots prosperity. Nations should avoid blaming, screaming and declaring trade-wars on other countries and rather first look inside and declare internal skills-wars on their own working-citizenry to improve their performance and capability to stand up to global age trading challenges. In the race of exportability performance, no nation can escape internal skills-wars, to face the challenges of creating local grassroots prosperity no national leadership can escape the ballot boxes, its simple win with skilled citizens and change the tune to build own nation. So, what are the new challenges and what’s holding back?

Why Discover The Art of Incompetency?

In a hyper-accelerated supercharged world, understanding and measuring incompetency of working masses is a brand new art; identification of this critical void with right contents to fix the crisis of exportability is a new science, the mobilization of working-citizenry to regain new skills is courageous deployment and bold national debates to openly face these challenges is global-age example of successful political leadership. This reality is also about those hidden but well-trodden crossroads; where universities of the world failed the students, ask millions of indebted MBAs, this is where government bureaucracies failed the citizenry, ask billions of SME taxpayers, and this is where conflict-centric agenda stripped naked the global populace of any intelligent dialogue and this is also where divisive politics and populist thinking are finding fertile grounds. Every minute of the day, around the clock, on the main-streets of the world streaming live to billions such failed procedures and outdated incompetency laced business processes or political rhetoric are now openly visible, what the working citizenry needs are revival of new global-age skills before turning them into restless mobs.

During ‘ The Print-Society’ of early last century, when printed word was power and when only the literate had access to knowledge while any meaningful transformation took decades, today the literate and illiterate of the world combined in billions, with earth shattering communication devices in their hands are advancing and asking questions. The global mindshare is now the world’s most powerful battlefield. Therefore, today, the internal wars to tackle incompetency of citizenry are far more important issues than any other types of outside wars. Such declarations of internal wars are positive starts backed with world-class thought leadership, regimented and disciplined national agenda to transform citizenry with global-age-skills for the new world of global commerce.

Systematically abandoned, the small-midsize-enterprises of the world, the elimination of lifelong learning to keep pace with technology and future job-securities of the working masses of the world only resulted in insecurity, fear and lack of confidence and finally brought the rejection of globalization.

The global exportability performance is more about global-age-skilled-nations with distinct superiority of entrepreneurial performance over seek-and-destroy-soldiered-nations. Today, laborious and routine-works are being replaced by smart-work; smart-work is being replaced by smarter-machines. The Masters of Robots will be the smart unlearners, while the Slaves of Robots will be the deniers of change. In global search for collaborative synthesizim, Expothon Worldwide is seeking alliances to downstream high quality debates and discussion with top leadership within a nation and inviting experts in various business growth fields to join the platform already aligned with this global exportability driven metamorphosis. The recent move last month by Worldbank to adopt this very format with their launch of Econothon a global project is also a very good step forward. Expect some major and positive events in this arena to bring global thinking forward.

The world is undergoing mega changes.
Nations are already flooded with massive innovations but lack massive commercialization. They have an overabundance certifications and degrees but seriously lack entrepreneurial direction. Nations have empty incubators and exhausted accelerators looking for real estate tenants. Nations have economic development programs but often without reality punch. Nations have trade groups like Chambers and Trade associations bodies that are stuck in the last century’s models and are collapsing in this new global age. Nations have unlimited resources and technologies but lack execution and understanding. It’s all there, but trapped in old cycles and old methodologies.

Why Answering Global-Age Demands?

At the dawn of E-commerce; switching from industrialization to computerization were not new-funding dependent issues; it demanded clear understanding and memorization of what was once called ‘hardware’ and what was ‘software’ the rest was all about on job-learning to adopt and swim in deep new technologies…most were almost free. We are at the same junction today and in desperate need to mobilize hidden entrepreneurial talents of the citizenry and bring them closer to existing SME base.

Three steps to advance on grassroots prosperity

1-Identify 1000 to 10,000 or 1,000,000 small and midsize entrepreneurs within a nation, and create a national agenda to quadruple their performance on innovative excellence and exportability. Caution; this is not to be confused with old out-dated-dysfunctional-government-data rather assembly of ultra-modern-digital and current-profiles of midsize enterprises within a nation. These are advance level mobilization and deployments laced with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Block Chain and freely available technologies to smart enterprises and agile nations of the world.

2-Deploy massive digitization of top national trade associations and chambers of commerce to upgrade to world-class digital platforms so that their entire membership can skate nationally and globally showcasing their goods and services. Caution; this is not to be confused with already broken and disconnected websites from last decade, this is more like LinkedIn format colorful and highly interactive platforms

3-Engage the national entrepreneurial talent, 1000-10,000- or 1,000,000 small and midsize businesses in ongoing discussions and high quality entrepreneurial debates and create global bounce. Caution; this is not to be confused with a single plastic award night, this is about the remaining 364 days of the year filled with active and daily engagements.

Why the critical lack of knowledge?

Fact: The world can easily absorb unlimited exportable ideas in unlimited vertical markets.
Fact: The well-designed innovative ideas are worthy of such quadrupled volumes.
Fact: The entrepreneurial and dormant talents of a nation are capable of such tasks.
Fact: The new global age skills, knowledge and execution are now the missing links


Some 10,000 Chambers of Commerce of the world are sorting out trade wars and trade disputes but not the new global age demands of global marketplace for their own memberships while some 100,000 National Trade Associations of the world are mostly stuck in last century when it comes to advanced level digital platforms and are afraid about their future roles and return on investment on membership fees. They all will shine under new flags of creating new global bounce and prosperity.

Public Sectors of the world are mostly grossly under-optimized on their own hidden talents, seriously afraid of entrepreneurialism and without global-age skills or innovative ideas how to tame an elephant. They will become confident, highly optimized and fearless, and will contribute freely to new ideas and prosper.

The small and mid-size enterprises all over the new and old world, though in critical need of global age expertise, are already in boiling pot and do not have the time, finances or the luxury to intellectualize such issues. They have already lost faith in their local support but will rejuvenate with joy and become the number one source of new job creation within a nation.

Blaming other countries, the political gatekeepers of the world are mostly busy showing off their latest Teleprompters so will they get public attention, votes and most needed respect or they need brand bold direction. The overflow of free technologies, progressive local, national and global solutions are grossly misunderstood and least optimized areas. This is an ocean in need swimmers and scuba-divers. 

Why it’s time to re-think?

Most nations already have extraordinary wealth in hidden assets;
Natural resources; mostly unearthed, and underutilized.
Human resources; untapped and abandoned,
Cultural and historic features; caught in divisive conflicts
National intelligencia and knowledge; developed over millennia now isolated or outcast
All these tossed around under the dead weight of populace politics and massive incompetence.
The lack of collaborative synthesizim is already destroying half of the world’s talents.

It’s all about global age skills of the citizenry and not the armies; as armies cannot feed the citizenry.
It’s about special thinking to figure out how to uplift national skills under entrepreneurialism

Firstly, create an authoritative discussion on these topic, escalate it to top national leadership,
Secondly, create a forum focused on new blueprints and clearly put aside the funding issues,
Thirdly, concentrate on the sleepy and dormant talents and venues collecting dust within the nation.
Final results; national mobilization of entrepreneurialism under a formal agenda

What’s your recommendation and how can you help your nation?

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Economy

New economic strategy of Armenia: What it offers and misses

Orkhan Baghirov

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Karabakh clan or Kocharyan and Sargsyan governments were able to protect itself from domestic pressure using victory in war in Nagorno-Karabakh and control over it as a  source of legitimization. With this strategy they were able to eliminate people’s discontent on economic and social problems.

According to 2016 data Armenia’s annual emigration rate was 4-5% of the whole population which were the highest in the world. Average monthly pension at the time was $90 and 20% of children under five years had health problems because of undernourishment (Opendemocracy, 2016). Along with these problems illegalities and high level of corruption made economic condition in the country even worst.

However, after the “Four-Day War” in 2016 in which Azerbaijan was able to return some strategic heights along the front, legitimacy of Sargsyan government came under the question. According to Armenian side during the war their military’s casualties reached 64 military servicemen, 13 reservists and more than 120 wounded (civilnet.am, 2 April). The  obvious superiority of  Azerbaijan army in the war de-stabilized political situation in Armenia forming base for “Velvet revolution” of 2018 that lead to change in government.

With the existence of escalated security concerns and constitutional change in 2015, that had to allow Sargsyan to serve as Prime Minister in the new system, population did not tolerated socio-economic problems any more and went to streets to carry out the coup ( hir.harvard.edu, 2018).

Despite good economic development indicators in 2017 (7.5% growth of GDP) Armenia still had high unemployment and undernourishment rates which was the result of high inequality (hkdepo.am, 2018). Along with political issues these significant social-economic problems also played important role in “Velvet revolution”.

After coming to power in order to solve economic problems Pashinyan’s new government introduced “revolutionary economic program” and adopted by Parliament in February of 2019without support of two opposition parties. Armenian government plans to eliminate extreme poverty by 2023, to increase exports to 43-45% of GDP by 2024 and achieve  economic growth at a rate of at least 5% annually(jam-news.net, February 15).

One of the provisions of the document was dedicated to formation of fair, transparent and free business environment. It this provision it was mentioned that one of the key factors impeding economic development is the existence of unfairness and impunity of a privileged class.

Program also puts high responsibility on Armenian citizens as the in discussions of the program  Pashinyan declared that effectiveness of this program will depend on how citizens will respond to our call and how many will take advantage of new of opportunities that  the revolutionary program proposes (eurasianet.org, February 15).

Despite purpose of revolutionize the economy addressing main economic problems document faced high criticism from different Armenian experts, politicians and activists. Most people criticize the document for not having concrete structure and steps and not outlining mechanisms and sufficient timelines to achieve proposed targets. During the parliament discussions some opposition politicians said that “Abstract concepts do not make an economic revolution” and citizens expect concrete actions which require political will, resistance, and knowledge (oc-media.org, March 2).

Another important criticism is about the approach of the government to put responsibility on citizens. It seems controversial that the people that fought for and elected new government will be responsible if the economic plan will not succeed. In the society where for many years responsibility of economic development and social security was mainly on the hands of government it is difficult to quickly adapt to new call of government. It is hard to imagine that without taking intermediate steps for making society and economic players ready for taking this responsibility the new economic plan will succeed.

New economic strategy also fails to address some of the main obstacles that businesses face in the country. First of all, high taxes prevents small businesses to operate efficiently and to compete with big businesses. Not coincidentally, during the parliament discussions of new economic strategy prime minister of Armenia asked businesses to print cash receipts in order to prevent formation of shadow economy (Arka.am, June 6). If all cash receipts will be printed then it will left most of small businesses without substantial earnings damaging business environment. It is better to decrease taxes before asking and expecting businesses to print receipts for all transactions.

Second unaddressed obstacle for businesses in Armenia is high interest rates of loans that play important role in financing businesses. Without providing necessary financial availability for small businesses it is meaningless to discuss any favorable business environment.

Taking in account that big businesses mostly belonged to Armenian oligarchs which have the opportunity to easily avoid high tax payments using their political power and are capable to pay loans with high interest rates new economic strategy mostly favors them (azatutyun.am, 2018). And within the existence of political problems in the country that threatens power of new government it is not realistic that government will go against these big businesses at least in short term.

Therefore, targets and directions determined in new “revolutionary economic program” are exaggerated and mostly serves for maintaining political stability in short term. If it will not meet expectations and determined targets in medium term it will create social discontent increasing pressure on new government. As the economic problems were one of the main drivers of “Velvet revolution” the effectiveness of new economic plan will play important role in securing political power of new government.

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