News Brief

2 July 2015
ITC News
World Bank boosts electricity programme in West Africa

The World Bank Group has pledged US$200 million for the construction of a regional energy transmission network among the Western African countries of the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. The cost of electricity generation in the region is very high as a result of high dependence on oil-based thermal production.

The bank’s support of the OMVG Interconnection Project will help countries in West Africa change their energy mix by connecting them to more sustainable and cost-effective energy resources, such as Guinea’s 6,000 megawatts of hydropower potential. Natural gas deposits along the coast from Cote d’Ivoire to Nigeria and in Mauritania can also be converted into power.

Sustainable fuel programme focuses on accessibility and education

Nearly 2.9 billion people in the developing world use polluting fuels like coal and wood for cooking and heating. According to the World Bank, the estimated health, environmental and economic cost of solid fuels usage is more than US$123 billion every year, which underlines the urgent need to make inroads into development of sustainable fuels.

For the past five years, an international scheme led by the World Bank has helped 100 million people adopt clean and sufficient cooking solutions. However, access to sustainable fuel still remains limited in much of the developing world despite those efforts. One of the biggest challenges is reducing the high dependence on traditional fuel sources, like wood or dung, that come at a little to no financial cost for millions who live in rural areas.

Liberia’s WTO accession drive clears key hurdle

World Trade Organization (WTO) member states have demonstrated a consensus for concluding Liberia’s accession to the organization at the WTO’s forthcoming Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Members agreed at a recent meeting in Geneva that importance of accession for the Liberian economy in light of the Ebola health crisis, which had a dramatic impact on the country’s trade performance. The outbreak had threatened recovery made in recent years following a long civil war.

Axel Addy, Liberia’s minister of commerce and industry, said that trade for development is a critical tool for poverty reduction. He added that Liberia had been determined to fast-track accession negotiations with WTO members through technical work and commitment to bring domestic measures into conformity with WTO rules ahead of the Nairobi meeting in December.

Rana Plaza victims’ compensation scheme secures funds for final payments

The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee has completed the task of raising all the funds required to enable the scheme to make full payments to all victims in the coming weeks. The committee, which is chaired by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and represents all industry stakeholders, had estimated that US$30 million was required to ensure that all victims can receive fair and equitable compensation according to ILO Conventions. By April 2015, the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people, over US$27m had been raised and the Committee had paid out 70% of the awards promised to nearly 3,000 claimants, including a significant sum pledged in May. Further donations, including one significant sum pledged late last week mean that US$30m has now been reached and all final payments can be made.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder (pictured) was encouraged by the action taken by the Government of Bangladesh, the country’s employers, workers, international brands, trade unions and NGOs on the committee to ensure that fair compensation can now be paid to all victims of this terrible tragedy. ’This is a milestone but we still have important business to deal with. We must now work together to ensure that accidents can be prevented in the future, and that a robust national employment injury insurance scheme is established so that victims of any future accidents will be swiftly and justly compensated and cared for,’ he said.

OECD ministers launch new framework to boost sustainable investment

Ministers from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states have endorsed updated guidelines to help national governments and regional groups create the right conditions to attract domestic and foreign investment. Ministers approved an updated Policy Framework for Investment (PFI) – first developed in 2006 – during the annual OECD ministerial meeting in Paris on 4 June. The new version places more focus on infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises and the role played by global value chains in economic activity. It also includes gender issues, a vital element of inclusive development, as well as policies to channel investment in areas that promote green growth.

‘The global investment landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade,’ said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. ‘This updated Framework will help get investment to where it is most needed, making it more effective and sustainable to benefit business, society and the environment.’ The PFI connects 12 policy areas: investment policy; investment promotion and facilitation; competition; trade; taxation; corporate governance; finance; infrastructure; developing human resources; policies to promote responsible business conduct; investment in support of green growth; and public governance.

European Commission unlocks €2bn for SMEs in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine

The European Commission launched the Deep and Comprehensive Free trade area (DCFTA) facility for small and medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), providing new investments worth at least EUR2 billion for three Eastern European countries. This step to boost the trade exchange will bring the economies of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine closer to European Union (EU) internal markets.

The investment aims to make those countries’ economies more competitive. It will help SMEs take advantage of increased foreign direct investment and comply with EU product standards and environmental protection measures.