The new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create ‘interesting times’ for us, as we begin the difficult process of Brexing. This developing situation raises many questions that we’d like experts to answer. Such as:
Is Britain exiting a free trade block just as the party is getting started?
How soon is the AfCFTA likely to emerge?
Is it likely to have a long gestation period? How easy will it be to blow away tariffs and non-trade barriers?
How time consuming will the integration of regional economic communities prove?
When are we likely to see progress?
Is Britain likely to be better off in the EU or out when deals are being struck with AfCFTA?
In March 2018, 44 African heads of state and government officials met in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign the framework for an African Union. If it achieves unity between all
54 African countries it could create the world’s largest free trade area since the WTO was formed.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will cover 1.2 billion people with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion.
AfCFTA aims to progressively eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade and boost intra-African trade by 53.2 percent. It claims it could double this trade if non-tariff barriers, such as customs procedures and excessive paperwork, are also reduced through a “non-tariff barrier mechanism”.
Similarly, AfCFTA aims to impose technical and sanitary standards, transit facilitation and Customs cooperation.
The AfCFTA needs the ratification of at least half (22) of all the countries concerned. This will come into effect 30 days after ratification by the parliaments of the 22 countries concerned. Each country has 120 days to ratify, from the date they signed the framework.
The African Union agreed in January 2012 to develop the AfCFTA. It took eight rounds of negotiations, beginning in 2015 and lasting until December 2017, to reach agreement.
AfCFTA creates a customs union and a single continental market for goods and services. There is free movement of capital and business travelers, but not people.
It’s main achievement could be to integrate the various regional economic communities (RECs) that exist across the continent. Many African countries belong to multiple RECs, which tends to limit the efficiency and effectiveness of these organizations. Ultimately, the aim is continental integration and unification.
Most RECs underperform thanks to a low level of compliance by member states, which has delayed successful integration. Only the East African Community and the Economic Community of West African States have neared subregional economic integration.
What will AfCFTA do for African nations?
One of its central goals is to boost African economies by harmonizing trade liberalization across subregions and at the continental level. As a part of the AfCFTA, countries have committed to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods. According to the U.N. Economic Commission on Africa, intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3 percent under the AfCFTA and will double upon the further removal of non-tariff barriers.
By promoting intra-African trade, the AfCFTA will also foster a more competitive manufacturing sector and promote economic diversification. The removal of tariffs will create a continental market that allows companies to benefit from the economies of scale.
This could stimulate each country’s industrial development. Some analysts predict that by 2030, Africa may emerge as a $2.5 trillion potential market for household consumption and $4.2 trillion for business-to-business consumption.
Who stands to gain the most? African nations with large manufacturing bases, such as South Africa, Kenya and Egypt, would receive the most rapid benefits.
What’s stopping them?
Only 44 countries have signed the AfCFTA’s establishing framework to date and just 30 signed the Free Movement Protocol. The latter is essential for the free movement of people, right of residence and right of establishment.
Nigeria, with one of the largest economies in Africa, is the most significant non-signatory to AfCFTA. President Muhammadu Buhari cliamed he needs more time to consult with unions and businesses to assess the risks an open market would pose to his country’s manufacturing and small-business sector.
The prospect of a continent-wide market eventually may persuade Buhari to overcome his caution and commit Nigeria to AfCFTA.
Another challenge is diversity. The AfCFTA brings together national and regional actors with trade interests that will diverge at times. The challenge will be to maintain universal benefits and compliance.
The diversity of African economies, in their size and the nature of their industrial maturity, adds to the complexity. There are other compatibility problems, such as the existence of numerous bilateral trade agreements that countries already have with the rest of the world. There are also overlapping REC memberships and varying degrees of openness.
The Next Steps
Some countries say the time frame may be too short, especially given the need for debate and negotiations within each signatory nation. One of the most important, South Africa, is yet to sign but considering it.
Countries and RECs still have to complete negotiations on competition, dispute-resolution mechanisms, intellectual property rights and investments, among other issues. They should also agree on regulatory frameworks for service-trade liberalisation (to facilitate market access), submit tariff concessions schedules for trade in goods (specifying the timeline and nature of products that will be liberalised) and make progress in signing of the free-movement protocol.
The final critical steps for the African Union will be to persuade the remaining countries to join, to create a secretariat to coordinate the implementation and to provide enough resources to ensure the AfCFTA’s success.
Toby Forbes, Head of International Sales, from Adare SEC:
“In terms of improving trade dealings with Africa, I’d like to see easier access to import tariffs for taxes and duties, more transparency with import taxes and duties and better trade deals – especially for Commonwealth countries.”
Within two years all medical data will be globally available – including your genomes – unless it can be blockchained by ethical start ups like Shivom.
Well, we say ethical start ups. Who knows? The CEO and founder, Dr Axel Schumacher, sounded very nice on the phone. And the 94 page white paper on Precision Medicine looks pretty convincing.
Then again, so did the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. They were into precision marketing.
We didn’t know that. We all assumed they were philanthropists who let us use their expensive data centres to store all our private thoughts because they really wanted to ‘democratise the world’.
They told us they were levelling the playing field. Actually, they were looting our private lives.
It turns out they were selling every bit of information they could glean, to everyone from pyramid sellers, to debt collectors to oppressive government snooping agencies.
Still, we’re all a bit older and wiser now? We won’t get spooked again, will we? Sadly, it turns out we will and this time the data intrusions go even deeper. As if having our privacy ravished by cyber spivs wasn’t bad enough, the next generation of digital confidence gainers have taken snooping to the next level. They’ve devised a way to ransack our medical histories and taken privacy pillaging to a molecular level.
Did you know that all these wearable gadget companies, like Fitbit, sell the information you upload to them? You might not think your ECGs are all that exciting but pharmaceutical companies have an endless appetite for this sort of stuff. They’ve got absolute buckets of money, like futures and options traders on Friday night in a lap dancing club. Those rapacious pharmas will keep stuffing notes into our private places in the hope that we’ll show them more of our biology.
But who is profiting from this Medical Peep Show? Fitbit, that’s who. All you get is a useless wearable placebo which doesn’t seem to tell you much at all. You wonder how long people wear a Fitbit until they get bored with them and put them in the cupboard with the other fad equipment, between the Espresso Machine and the Sandwich Toaster.
Genome companies like 23&Me have even more detailed information about our DNA. Why? Because we’re mug enough to send them our blood samples, in the vain hope that they’ll tell us something about our genetic make up. Which one of the 12 tribes were we descended from? It’s the modern version of Astrology. I’ve got typical DNA of a Sagittarean, on the cusp of a privacy invasion.
Surely, if someone is going to pay to ogle at our double helix, we should be the ones getting paid. We shouldn’t be giving our bodies away free so that some wearable pimp can take all the profit. If I’m going to get my genomes out for the labs, I want a piece of the action.
This is where Blockchain can help us. it can put us back in control of our data. We can use wearable gadgets to measure and monitor us. But new blockchain companies like Shivom, will put a lock on our data, so we only give it up by consent. You wanna see my Genomes, Mr SmithKlineGlaxo? Well put ten dollars into my bitcoin!
Here’s the Disk Ashur channeling its Edge technology as it shows off its toned and conditioned hard case dressed in beautiful pastel shades. This photographer just happened to catch Ashur in rare unposed footage of the hard disk as it made a rare appearance on the desktop.
It is nick named the Edge, which stands for Enhanced Dual Generating Encryption.
It was papped on the way from its multi-million pound data centre to the home from which its owner ‘works’ on Friday afternoons. According to local estate agents, the worker’s house is worth £500,000 (but they will probably listen to offers).
Ashur’s military grade hardware encryption drew some admiring glances. Its ability to instantly render information indecipherable to outsiders had hackers shaking their heads in despair.
What do they mean by ‘military grade’? I don’t know. They don’t say
The Dish Ashur impressed a crowd of admirers by using its own microprocessor to generate random numbers. The processor then stunned onlookers by performing feats of cryptography.
“This is clearly more than just a pretty face,” said one data centre insider. But Disk Ashur better be careful inside the cages, we heard. The other hard disks don’t take kindly to a drive that gets ideas above its work station. Some may try to infect it. Other criminals may attack it with a screw driver.
To prepare for such physical attacks Ashur has been toughening up in a studio, working to harden up its outer case.
It’s got a tamper free mechanism too. The only way to get physical access to Ashur’s is to get through its enclosure. And that only happens with consent. Which it isn’t giving any time soon. This is a hard disk with a brain remember and nothing gets past its omnipotent processor.
The Ashur is physically protected from external tampering.
All the critical components on Ashur’s circuit board are covered by a layer of epoxy resin, which is harder than that stuff they use to make the Black Box of a plane.
Epoxy Resin is even tougher, claim some insiders, than those bits of Weetabix that welded to your breakfast bowl after they’ve been through the dishwasher.
But what happens next may surprise you.
If some super human actually managed to remove the epoxy resin they’d almost certainly damage the components. Even if, by some miracle, they didn’t, they’d still face the type of labours that would make Hercules thrown in the towel.
Not least of the defence mechanisms is the Common Criteria EAL4+ microprocessor. Then there’s the PIN number.
The encryption is full strength too. It uses AES 256 bit XTS full disk encryption.
The pins and keys are always encrypted while at rest.
The drive is designed to comply with the latest government certifications.
The drive needs no software or drivers to be installed on your machine.
Because it’s intelligent it works on any computer with all operating systems – as long as they have a USB port any comp.
Amazingly, despite all the work it does to instantly encrypt data, you won’t notice any performance deficit. You won’t be kept waiting for your data.
Your data needs to be protected by a pin number.
And then it’s encrypted. By an intelligent hard drive. This is a hard disk with its own processor. Like an officious security guard.
Its brains are in its disk.
If you’re feeling really zealous you can programme in a self destruct feature. If someone tries to hack into your device by trying a random set of pin numbers, you can get your system to self wipe if,say, the croook types in the pin number 1234.
Whatever number you use for your unique self destruct pin code, the end result is the same. once it has been triggered it deletes the encryption key, all pins and data. It then creates a new encryption key.
If there are 15 attempts at a log in, then the system becomes closed down and the data wiped.
If you haven’t used the disk for a while, the system automatically locks so that people can’t, say, access your computer while you are at lunch.
Under article 34 of the terms of GDPR, you can be fine massively if you lose an unencrypted device with with customer data. If you lose in iStorage device, you will be fine however. You won’t even need to report the loss.
If there is an automated attack the disk gets clever and offers an instant state of paralysis called a Deadlock frozen state.
Summary BOX: What is Cryptography?
It’s a sort of Rhyming Slang for computers.
Crypting Slang possibly.
Except that’s a massive over simplification.
What does it do?
Makes data unintelligible to outsiders.
First it makes it impossible to find.
Then it makes it impossible to convert.
To be safe, it makes it impossible to read.
Isn’t that what marketing managers do with technology press releases?
It’s a bit like that. But this goes even deeper.
And there is one crucial difference.
It won’t complain about not being on the front page of the FT.
How Do they do it?
Cryptography can only be created by assembling a critical mass of experts with knowledge of the following:
Communication science and physics
Hey, you’re good with computers aren’t you? Can you help me with this thing?
First they came for oldies. But they were hipsters and got distracted by a kitten