Chinese and French companies are bidding to help Gambia build up its Atlantic port Banjul to be what industry sources say could be a rival to neighbouring Senegal's Dakar.
It would be one of the first major structural changes in Gambia following the end of President Yahya Jammeh's more than 20-year rule in January.
State-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) says one of its subsidiaries has made a bid for a 140 million euro ($159.91 million) contract Gambia has launched to redevelop the port.
France's Bollore Group has also submitted an offer to develop the port for hundreds of millions of dollars, sources told Reuters, and was part of a recent delegation of French investors to the country.
The port was run by a state agency during Jammeh's rule. It is considered to have strategic potential thanks to its easy access to Atlantic shipping lanes.
Abdoulie Tambedou, managing director of the Gambia Ports Authority said there had already been several offers.
"The Chinese are interested in investing in the infrastructure for an overall envelope of 140 million euros," he told Reuters in an interview. "We hope to agree the financing in the next six months."
An official at CCCC confirmed that one of its subsidiaries was bidding for the contract, without specifying which. In a sign of their interest, a witness saw a Chinese delegation visiting the port last week.
Tambedou confirmed Bollore's offer, without giving the price, and said this included both infrastructure costs and the rental concession.
Chinese interest in the project follows China's resumption of diplomatic ties with former Taiwan ally Gambia last year under the "one China" policy, which states that self-ruled Taiwan is part of China. President Adama Barrow's new government reaffirmed that position in February.
China is also a major market for Gambia's exports, which globally are mainly peanuts, wood, cashews, fish and fruit.
Upgrading the port will take 30-36 months to complete, Tambedou said.
Gambia is poor. It ranks 173 out of 189 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index, below Haiti.
It is badly in need of key infrastructure development. There is not a single bridge across its eponymous 1,120 km (695 mile)-long river that wiggles up the length of the country, for example.People and goods have to be shipped across on ferries - or go around.
Gambia is nonetheless seen as a key transit country for reaching remote areas of Guinea, Mali and Senegal that are easier to access from Banjul than from the countries' own ports and capitals.
Space constraints at the port, however, mean that arriving cargo ships often have to wait at anchorage before entering.
Since the departure of Jammeh, Tambedou said that trade was picking up, with shippers sending imports such as sugar in bigger volumes than before.
($1 = 0.8755 euros)
By Emma Farge (Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Aaron Ross and Jeremy Gaunt)Reuters
Egypt aims to double production of its most famous export, the silky soft cotton once known as "white gold", after a period of slumping output, an Agriculture Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.
Hamed Abdel-Dayem told Reuters production should rise to 1.4 million qintar (160 kg) in the 2017-18 fiscal year that started in July from 700,000 qintar a year earlier. All the cotton will be exported.
The government aims to increase the price of the long staple cotton to more than 3000 Egyptian pounds ($168.07) per qintar, which will all be exported, the spokesman said.
Production of the cotton, used in luxury bedding, has fallen sharply since 2011, a year of political upheaval that coincided with looser regulations that degraded the quality of local cotton.
Egypt's sunny skies and superior seed help it grow a cotton known for unusually long fibres that produce a light durable fabric with an attractive sheen and soft touch.Long-staple sells at 155 U.S. cents per lb, about twice the price of common short-staple cotton.
Its return to world markets could provide a lucrative export opportunity at a time when Egypt has a huge trade deficit and is seeking to relaunch its stagnant economy.
In 2016 Egypt banned all but the highest quality cotton seed, dramatically shrinking the area under cultivation but restoring quality, in a bid to save its historic crop.This year Egypt grew about 220,000 acres (89,000 hectares) of long-staple cotton compared with 130,000 acres (52,600 hectares) in 2016-2107, Abdel-Dayem said.
Farmers, spinners, and exporters say the weakness of the Egyptian pound following its flotation in November and a scandal over the alleged sale of falsely labelled Egyptian cotton have increased demand for the real thing, injecting life into a historic industry on its deathbed.
($1 = 17.8500 Egyptian pounds)
(Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Stephen Powell) Reuters
It takes approximately nine billion documents to move goods across the globe annually, with a shipper having to pay an extra one percent of the total transaction cost each day that his/her container remains at the border, Director of Information and External Relations Division of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Keith Rockwell, has disclosed.
He has therefore urged the speedy ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) by member countries that are yet to do so as it will enhance intra-regional trade and make the continent more competitive in the global commerce space.
According to him, the TFA will, among others, reduce the global cost of transactions, incentivise small and medium enterprises to explore and take advantage of grey areas within the exports space and drive up foreign direct investments to the continent.
He told a gathering of African journalists and civil society organisations in Accra: “Trade facilitation will save time and money for both producers and consumers, aside being a big incentive for small and medium sized businesses in the region.”
Mr. Rockwell asked African governments to leverage available funds from the WTO Global Trust Fund, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and other donor organisations to enhance their capacity in the facilitation of trade.
“There are funds available to help digitise customs processes as well as build capacity towards the effective implementation of the TFA,” he stressed, speaking on the topic, “Implementing the TFA: Challenges and Opportunities for African Countries”.
He added: “In this part of the world, there are a lot of barriers to regional trade, but it is critically important that African countries trade more together.
“Trading with your neighbour is something that should be much easier than trading with people far away because there are similarities in taste, cultural orientation and proximity. It should be something that takes place on a much bigger scale than it currently does.”
Figures from the global trade administrator show that the full and effective implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will reduce global trade costs by 14 percent, with African countries tipped to enjoy even bigger reductions.
It is also expected to boost growth of developed and least developed countries (LDCs) as it will increase diversification of exportable goods, raise yearly exports by 3.5 percent and contribute about 0.9 percent in annual economic output.
By 2030, the implementation of the TFA could add up to 2.7 percent growth in annual exports, move up global GDP to more than 0.5 percent with even larger gains for developing countries and LDCs where current trade costs are equivalent to applying 219 percent tariff on international trade.
According to Mr. Rockwell, the adoption of transparent and paperless procedures will enhance trade among African countries and to the rest of the world as a whole.
“If the business person knows what is required of her/him, it makes it much easier to engage in any business activity,
Moreover, if you can obtain the documents you require and pay at a single place, better known as the single window that will save time and money,” he indicated.
The concept of trade facilitation agreement is basically to simplify the import and export processes; enjoin signatories to be more transparent with customs procedures; and harmonise international trade to bring down transaction costs.
It has also been tipped as a huge step towards improving the trade environment by reducing the cost of doing business at the borders, aside bolstering the relatively low intra-African trade figures.
The three-day dialogue on the theme “Challenges for the multilateral trading system—perspectives from West Africa” was organised by the World Trade Organisation and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).
The event brought together representatives from civil society organisations, policymakers and media practitioners drawn from across the region to discuss how to enhance ECOWAS members can explore the gains of the multilateral trading system.
Source: Patrick Paintsil/thebftonline.com/Ghana
Brussels Airlines extends its unique travel package dedicated to exchange students with new destinations and advantages. Students who make use of the offer benefit from a fixed ticket price, can change their travel date free of charge, are allowed to check-in extra luggage and receive discounts for friends and family.
In 2013 Brussels Airlines successfully launched the b.student pack, an offer specially designed for exchange students who stay at least 3 months in Belgium or abroad.
The formula received a warm welcome in the market. From today onwards, it will be extended to 52 instead of 35 European Brussels Airlines destinations.
With the b.student pack, students can travel to a European destination and back Â for 199 euro all in and benefit from several advantages. They can check in no less than 58 kg of luggage (12kg hand luggage and 2x 23kg checked luggage) and their return date can be changed once free of charge.
On top, students also receive a 20% discount on five tickets for family and friends who wish to pay them a visit, or for themselves if they want to head home for a couple of days during their exchange.
Tailor made travel formulas
Next to the b.student pack, Brussels Airlines has some other tailor made service offers. The free of charge b.family formula focuses on families travelling with children.
They get the guarantee to be seated next to each other among other family friendly advantages. Guests who fly regularly to the same European destination can purchase a b.pass, that offers six return flights.
This pass is ideal for expats or for people with a second home abroad. Travelling in group becomes more attractive with b.group that offers a unique and attractive group fare and extra flexibility. Last but not least, every year around the Christmas period, Brussels Airlines places b.gifts in the market, gift vouchers that can be exchanged for a flight within Europe.