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Economic Diplomacy

Economic diplomacy is concerned with setting the ‘rules of the game’ for the conduct of economic policy. Effective economic diplomacy requires understanding both the domestic political economy environment and the external negotiating environment, and the constraints of each.

Economic diplomacy matters to Southern Africa because the rules of the game shape domestic economic policy in important ways, and in an increasingly multi-polar world international economic negotiations are growing in importance across a number of fronts. These may shape domestic and regional economic policies in ways that could be inimical to pursuing sustainable outcomes. Therefore it is necessary to ensure regional interests are articulated and understood.

SAIIA’s primary purpose is to assist with the articulation of such interests by conducting high-level analytical work and making it publicly available in digestible forms to key Southern African actors and their international counterparts.

Contact the programme on edip[@]saiia.org.za.

SAIIA and the Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA), together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), hosted a workshop at the Beshale hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
'Our transformation will be built through economic participation, partnerships and mobilisation of all our capacities.' said ex-Minister Pravin Gordhan, during his 2017/18 budget speech. At the heart of Gordhan’s proposed strategies to further inclusive economic development, with the help of the private sector, lies the potential of South Africa’s cities to stop dividing people and instead act as the agents of transformative economic growth. It is here, in cities, that South Africa has the opportunity to break the patterns that have led to its current inequalities, by, for example, rethinking urban planning to address unemployment, economic exclusion and marginalisation. But…
On 3 April the sword that had been dangling over our heads for the last two years finally came down – South Africa was downgraded by S&P Global to sub-investment grade with a negative outlook. But we may be in ‘good’ company. We have joined both Brazil and Russia in the junk status club. However, our rand-denominated debt is still two notches above sub-investment level, albeit with a negative outlook. As most of our debt is rand-rather than dollar-denominated this is a silver lining.
Today, potential urban investors and entrepreneurs look at Africa and see crowded, disconnected and costly cities. Such cities create low expectations for the scale of urban production and for returns on invested capital.
If the first two months are anything to go by, 2017 will be an unusual year for Africa as two of its largest trading partners – China and America – are undergoing major political and economic transitions.
On 1 February 2017, a high-level conference on Africa’s relationship with the Group of 20 (G20) was opened by the German Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn, who spoke on the key priorities of the German G20 Presidency. A dinner keynote that evening will be delivered by Deputy Governor Daniel Mminele of the South African Reserve Bank.
After his inauguration on Friday, Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States. His decidedly short inauguration speech evoked his central narrative of populism and domestic focus, with very little foray into policy detail.
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be visiting five African countries this month namely Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Nigeria. This would mark the Foreign Minister's first overseas destination.
On December 15 2015, President Jacob Zuma assented to the controversial Protection of Investment Act when much of the South African public was on a festive holiday break. This piece of legislation is meant to replace the bilateral investment treaties that SA terminated in 2012, resulting in consternation and outcry from the international investment community based in the country.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that between USD$ 1.6 trillion and USD$ 2.5 trillion is required annually for the period 2015–2030 to bridge the infrastructure-financing gap in developing countries. Some estimates indicate that sub-Saharan Africa alone requires up to USD$ 93 billion annually until 2020 to finance its infrastructure deficit. Multilateral development banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank go a long way towards addressing these challenges.
Lesotho is facing challenges in financing its Queen Mamohato Hospital which costs USD$67 million a year and represents half of the country’s meagre health budget.
Ratings agencies will again this week consider South Africa’s sovereign credit rating. Ratings agencies have indicated that South Africa’s economic growth needs to be at least 1%, up from the current rate of between 0.5 – 0.9%, in order to off a downgrade to ‘junk’ status. Last month, Minister Pravin Gordhan made some bold claims about infrastructure spending in his mid-term budget speech.
SAIIA and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) hosted a Policy Dialogue, to revisit the investment climate in Southern Africa, with a particular focus on Tanzania.
It is common knowledge that SMEs make a significant contribution to their countries’ economies, but they often operate in a kind of twilight zone — seen and acknowledged, but not properly understood or catered for at the policy level.The 2016 WTO Public Forum staged at the end of September in Geneva with the theme of ‘Inclusive trade’ lifted the lid on the hurdles that SMEs face in trying to turn entrepreneurial ideas into viable businesses. However, the services sector offers new hope to small businesses in LDCs (least-developed countries) where weak manufacturing potential is a constraint to further development.
The unexpected presidential win by Donald Trump has sent shock waves across the globe, largely because during his presidential campaign a series of highly controversial statements were made by the Republican candidate on women, the fight against terrorism, migration and global warming.
At long last, the most bruising and sometimes farcical election in recent US history has come to a close. What seemed unthinkable to many just a year ago has happened and Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. While markets have slumped in response, one thing is certain: nearly half of the US population is now faced with a president that they resolutely view as unfit to lead.
As Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presents the mid-term budget this week, one notable absence from his usual team will be second-in-command at the South African Revenue Service, Mr Jonas Makwakwa. His recent suspension has highlighted the importance of amending the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) of 2001. Mr Makwakwa was suspended after an extensive investigation by the Centre revealed a series of transactions which are inconsistent with a permanently-employed person.
The Global Economic Governance (GEG) Africa programme is a policy research and stakeholder engagement programme to strengthen the influence of African coalitions at global economic governance fora such as the G20, BRICS, WTO and World Bank, in order to bring about pro-poor policy outcomes.
The commanding position that the BRICS economies once held in the post-global financial crises era legitimised their claims for more equitable global governance institutions. Equally, they believed that the development challenges they shared could be addressed through a collective voice in international forums on the back of their strong economic performances.
The integration of transport networks within Africa has long been a priority for the continent, for reasons of trade and political development. Last week, the dream to connect all major African cities through a high-speed railway network took a critical step forward with the signing of a five-year action plan between the African Union and China.
The Public Forum is an annual three-day event organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to facilitate discussions and debates from global actors on issues facing trade and development. This year's event, held from 27 to 29 September 2016, focused on 'Inclusive Trade' as a way to harness trade for the economic empowerment of the most marginalised members of society, and finding innovative ways to make trading conditions easier for them.
This week the United States (US) hosted African nations for the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum under the theme: ‘Maximising AGOA now while preparing for the future beyond AGOA'. AGOA, a unilateral development programme offering African countries duty free access for select exports to the US, is set to expire in 2025.
The TRADE research entity at the North-West University and SAIIA jointly held a workshop on 'Navigating Global Economic Headwinds and Tailwinds: New Directions for Industrial and Trade Policy'.
SAIIA and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa held a panel discussion on 'Reflections on how to create a transparent and sustainable location for doing business in the commodities sector: the Swiss case.' This discussion was led by H.E. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs.
The 11th G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China closed earlier this week, focusing on the 'New' Industrial Revolution and technological changes, such as big data, robotics, and cloud computing. Innovation has been China’s key area of interest throughout their G-20 Presidency, dedicating many discussions to how new industries could invigorate the global economy.
The international investment landscape has been shifting over the past two decades. Governments are increasingly realising the potential for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to achieve not only economic growth, but developmental objectives as well.
SAIIA and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) held a policy dialogue on  ‘Revisiting the Migration Regimes in the EAC, SADC and COMESA.’
SAIIA, DNA Economics and Tutwa Consulting are extremely pleased to be collaborating on a new project, Global Economic Governance Africa (GEG Africa), the first phase of which SAIIA managed from 2012-2015.  Following consultations with stakeholders, this new phase will provide more in-depth political and economic analysis of evolving GEG policy priorities in South Africa and across the continent.