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prosper africaAfrican markets claim six out of 10 of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Africa’s middle-class is likely to have an annual household consumption of $2 trillion before 2030, and by 2050, the U.N. predicts that Africa will be home to one-quarter of the world’s population. Prosper Africa is an initiative that strengthens U.S. investment in Africa.

US-Africa Ties

Nations such as Germany and China are competing for investments in Africa in preparation for its burgeoning role in the global economy. In the past 20 years, the United States has also attempted a number of initiatives to expand U.S.-Africa economic ties. Unfortunately, results have been modest because the focus has been on Africa as a foreign aid recipient rather than a strong future trading partner. However, Prosper Africa’s latest initiative, set to launch in 2021, offers hope for a more engaged economic partnership between the U.S. and Africa.

Prosper Africa

Prosper Africa was launched in December 2018 to “vastly accelerate” U.S.-Africa trade and investment through the coordination of 17 U.S. agencies and departments. This mutually beneficial endeavor not only opens market opportunities and grows Africa’s economic sustainability, but also protects the United States’ interests in the competition against other nations’ involvement in Africa.

Far from being a foreign aid program, Prosper Africa’s official website acts as a one-stop-shop for U.S. and African businesses and investors. It offers toolkits for African businesses and investors seeking to export or invest in the United States and vice versa for U.S. businesses and investors seeking to become involved in Africa. According to the website, Prosper Africa represents “a new way of doing business” through its portfolio of support services. To date, the initiative has serviced more than 280 deals valued at more than $22 billion. In keeping with its expanding ambitions, Prosper Africa’s budget request for the 2021 fiscal year rose from FY2020’s $50 million to $75 million.

Prosper Africa: 2021 Plans

On Nov. 17, 2020, USAID announced a new Prosper Africa trade and investment program for 2021. Valued at $500 million over five years, its goal is to expand Prosper Africa’s services. The four project objectives are increased trade, increased investment, improved business environment and providing support for USAID and Prosper Africa. A strong emphasis will be placed on private investment. By 2026, the program is expected to raise billions of dollars and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in both Africa and the United States.

It is still uncertain exactly what this program will look like. The program’s blueprints from Feb. 2020 describe its implementation approach fairly loosely. It aims to be flexible in shaping private sector demands concerning the facilitation and brokering of deals. Most of its transactions will take place directly through the firms and actors involved.

In addition to Prosper Africa’s website toolkits, local offices and trade hubs will provide further customizable services to align with the needs of different sectors. Some examples of services include investor matchmaking, transaction facilitation, targeted reforms and export support. Resource allocation will be determined by impact potential. Opportunities within the private sector will comprise the majority of activities and projects may be funded by grants or subcontracts. Throughout its services, Prosper Africa encourages African states to support economic transparency and rule of law.

Prosper Africa’s Chances of Success

Because Prosper Africa is effectively a harmonization of 17 U.S. agencies and departments, success largely comes down to effective cooperation. However, the initiative’s goals vary in difficulty. For example, Prosper Africa has already made impressive strides in streamlining its toolkits and providing specific U.S. services to aid transactions. However, more long-range goals, such as procedural reform and transparency, sector expansion, the rule of law and improving business environments may prove more challenging to achieve. However, from an economic standpoint, it is certainly encouraging to see Prosper Africa approach U.S.-Africa relations as an equal, viable trade partnership rather than merely an aid recipient.

Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in the PhilippinesOver the past decade, there have been drastic innovations in the Philippines. The country has experienced dramatic economic growth and development. In 2019, the Global Innovation Index (GII) found that the country improved on all metrics used to calculate advancement.

Economic Growth

In 2019, the Philippines appeared for the first time in the “innovation achievers group.” The country outperformed many other countries in the area.  Some of the metrics used to calculate these scores included increased levels of creative exports, trademarks, high-tech imports and employed, highly educated women.

As a country, the Philippines has risen 19 spots in the ranking since 2018, to 54th out of 129 participating countries. This indicates a significant increase in the standard of living for many Filipinos. This is apparent in the significant decrease in the poverty rate over the past few years. From 2015 to 2018, the national poverty rate dropped a total of 6.7%, or by 5.9 million people.

Prosperity is largely due to the success of local business owners and entrepreneurs. They have used their influence and prosperity to help those in need in their communities and countries, especially in the health sector. Coincidingly, there was a significant increase in global trade. Both factors have propelled the Philippines into the global economy as an important emerging market to keep an eye on.

Global Benefits

In 2018, the Philippines and the United States trade relationship developed significantly. The total goods trade was $21.4 billion collectively, in the petroleum and coal, aerospace and computer software, motor vehicles and travel/hospitality sectors. This is beneficial to the U.S. because international trade employs over 39.8 million Americans. As the Philippines becomes more prosperous, more Filipinos are able to pour money and resources into helping marginalized communities across the country. As such, there has been an increase in innovations in the Philippines, notably in the health and medical sectors.

RxBox

A distinct industry on the frontlines of innovations in the Philippines is the health sector. Increased health for a population is directly related to better access to opportunity and a higher standard of living overall. One company doing this important work in the Philippines is RxBox.

RxBox was developed by the country’s Department of Science and Technology. It is a biomedical telehealth system that provides health care and diagnoses to people in communities that are remote, difficult to access. The service is additionally available for people who do not have access or the ability to travel for health care.

It is a game-changer for disadvantaged people who would otherwise not be able to get fast, effective medical care. RxBox reduces costly hospital and medical visits, which facilitates better health for people. Communities are then better able to care for themselves and for their families, providing greater opportunities for everybody.

Biotek M

There is another player in the innovations in the Philippines: Biotek M. It is a revolutionary diagnostic kit for Dengue. A local team at the University of the Philippines-Diliman were the creators of this new technology.

Traditionally, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is used to confirm the disease but can cost up to $8,000 and takes 24 hours to get results. That is inaccessible to lower-income people who are oftentimes the demographic most commonly afflicted by the dengue infection. The kit helps reduce resource usage for both medical centers and patients by making the diagnosis process significantly more streamlined.

In 2017, 131,827 cases of Dengue were recorded with 732 deaths, mostly affecting young children aged 5 to 9-years-old. Being able to quickly diagnose and treat people who contract this illness makes a huge impact on people living in poverty.

When people spend less time, energy and money on being healthy, they are able to use their resources more efficiently. In this way, medical innovations in Philippines and a growing economy directly increased the standard of living for people living in poverty within the country.

Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Salmon Farming in ChileSalmon farming in Chile has grown to become one of the nation’s top trading exports. Chilean salmon farming now produces “25% of the world’s supply” with more than 1,000 fish farms in operation. It also created 61,000 jobs. In recent years, however, the practice has come under fire due to the overuse of antibiotics and environmental damage to surrounding wild fisheries. Chile’s aquaculture has brought in much-needed revenue to the economy. However, it has also threatened many impoverished indigenous communities, such as the Kawésqar, who have lived in Patagonia for thousands of years. Chile’s fragile ecosystems and artisanal fishing culture are at risk of being degraded from the country’s poorly regulated farmed salmon industry.

Fishy Farms

Once considered a seasonal delicacy, salmon is now one of the most widely available superfoods on the market. The fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fats, selenium and several B vitamins. It has also been attributed to lowering the risk of illnesses and conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Store-bought salmon is either wild-caught or farm-raised. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rates wild salmon, particularly from Washington, to be one of the best sustainable seafood options. The company suggests avoiding farmed Atlantic salmon from Chile.

One of the biggest concerns of salmon farming in Chile is the high levels of antibiotics and pesticides used to fight diseases and parasites in the net pens. In 2014, the industry used 1.2 million pounds of antibiotics in their marine enclosures. In comparison, Norway used roughly 2,142 pounds. The overuse of antibiotics like florfenicol and oxytetracycline can create antimicrobial resistance. This could lead to public health issues, as well. Since both drugs are regularly used in human medicine, more studies are needed before Chilean salmon farming companies continue to use them responsibly.

Unregulated Industry

The salmon farming industry threatens Chilean artisanal fishing, which relies on the ocean’s natural abundance for their livelihood. In 2016, massive red algae bloom toxified almost all of the wild shellfish in Southern Chile, putting enormous economic pressure on local fishing communities. Thousands of fishermen protested the lack of governmental response and aid during one of the country’s worst red tides.

Cage-Free

In southern Patagonia, local community members and campaigners celebrate a rare victory of protecting Chile’s coasts from salmon farming operations. The combined efforts prevented the raising of 1.9 million fish and construction of 18 industrial cages in the Beagle Channel. The remote untouched habitat stretches over 240 kilometers. The Channel is also home to a wide array of species, including whales, dolphins and penguins. Indigenous groups like the Kawésqar fish these waters, continuing to be a vital natural resource today. The protection of the Beagle Channel is also a victory for the region’s tourism industry. The Beagle Channel contributes $74 million annually to the local economy.

With salmon farming in Chile becoming more regulated, traditional fishing communities can continue to harvest seafood off their coastline. Local wild-caught fisheries, along with eco-tourism, are sustainable options for traditional Chilean fishermen. Historically, the indigenous people of Chile ate and dined on hundreds of different species of fish and marine life. With more government regulation and support, Chileans can continue to gain economically from the seas while also protecting them.

Henry Schrandt
Photo: Flickr

foreign aid helps the U.S.
Giving, especially in the form of foreign aid, has shown to cultivate meaningful relationships among people and countries, some that lead to rewarding trading agreements amid other benefits. Recent history has particularly exhibited how foreign aid helps the U.S., which is a crucial consideration in the political dialogue surrounding the current foreign aid budget.

Foreign Aid Helps the U.S. with Trade

One valuable return the U.S. has received in its giving of foreign aid to other developing countries has been the increase in American jobs as well as trade. Foreign aid is much like an investment; it helps to forge the foundation needed for low-income countries to build up and become middle-income, sustainable states. Here are some examples:

  1. After World War II, U.S. foreign aid to Japan helped recover Japan’s infrastructure and highly contributed to the success of American companies like Microsoft.
  2. The U.S. now trades and does business with former recipients of foreign aid, such as South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand.
  3. The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) successfully slowed down the AIDS epidemic and countries that received such aid have, in turn, consumed more American goods. Exports rose 77 percent in Tanzania, 189 percent in Zambia and 241 percent in Ethiopia.
  4. PEPFAR is one of the strong determinants of increases in the trade of pharmaceuticals.
  5. Foreign aid has attributed $46 billion more in U.S. exports and 920,000 more jobs in the U.S.
  6. In 2011, 44.6 percent of U.S. exports went to developing countries.
  7. In Tennessee alone, more than $33 billion in goods and services were exported to foreign countries in 2014 and this trade, in turn, supports over 22 percent of jobs, 830,000 local jobs to be specific.

Foreign Aid Helps with Health

Foreign aid helps the U.S. in preventing global epidemics that could otherwise be much worse. While assisting developing countries with their challenges in health, the U.S. also does its duty to minimize any possible health issues and diseases from traveling overseas or across borders to the U.S. There has been a great number of such instances, such as:

  • The U.S. was the largest funder of a number of health workers stationed in Nigeria with the original goal of polio eradication. The workers were later reassigned and succeeded in countering the infamous Ebola epidemic.
  • The PEPFAR program has helped stop the spread of AIDS by supplying life-saving medicines to over 14 million people.

Foreign Aid Helps with National Security

One of the non-negotiable benefits the U.S. reaps from its giving of foreign aid to developing countries is an improvement in national security. To prevent a third world war, the U.S. created what is now the modern development assistance program to avoid further instability in Europe.

Stability in developing countries is key in preventing future political issues from unfolding. The U.S. has defense agreements with 131 out of the 135 countries that it provides foreign aid to.

The importance of international aid lies in economic benefits, such as trading proliferations, as much as health and national security. As evidenced above, it is clear that there is truth in the fact that foreign aid helps the U.S. just as much as it helps other nations.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in PanamaPanama’s infrastructure is one of the best systems in Latin America. Infrastructure in Panama includes a network of roads and highways, the Panama Railroad, over 100 international and domestic airports and, of course, the Panama Canal. In 2013, the government of Panama invested an additional $13.6 billion in improvements to trade, tourism and exports, which includes further improvements to infrastructure in Panama.

Roads & Highways

Panama’s roads are in good condition around Panama City and other urban areas, but are in need of improvements in more rural areas. The Pan-American Highway, the world’s “longest motorable road,” runs through the entire country. Panama is continuing to invest in improvements to its roads and other infrastructure through its Government Strategic Plan that is set to be implemented through 2019.

Railways

Construction of the Panama Railroad first began in 1850, and in 1855 the first train traveled from the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean. In 1907, large portions of the railroad had to be moved to make room for the construction of the Panama Canal. Today, the New Panama Railroad takes passengers and freight between the country’s Atlantic and Pacific ports.

Airports

Panama has five international airports. The largest is Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Tocumen has flights to over 90 cities. Panama has over 100 total airports and its location between North and South America helps it serve as an important hub for connecting flights between the continents.

Panama Canal & Waterways

Construction began on the Panama Canal in 1904 and it officially opened in 1914. The canal belonged to the U.S. until 1999, when ownership was transferred to Panama. It runs 80km along one of the narrowest parts of the country and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panama Canal is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and employs 10,000 people. Panama also has 13 ports, including 5 major ports with container service.

Due to its geography, Panama plays a large role in trade and commerce. This has led to lots of investment being poured into the country’s infrastructure both from the government of Panama as well as from foreign governments and companies. Infrastructure in Panama plays an important role in connecting people throughout the Americas with its system of highways, trains, international airports and waterways.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Fair Trade
Fair Trade is a global movement committed to paying fair prices in trade, impacting producers in developing countries. The concept came as a response to global poverty levels and focuses on the marketing of products and development trade. It also raises awareness of trade injustice in trade structures and advocates changes to favor equitable trade. Overall, the movement organizes producers and production and provides services to the producers.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, Fair Trade products were only sold to consumers in specified shops. In 1997, Fairtrade Labelling International was created, which expanded the movement into other countries including North America.

Fairtrade Labelling International set international standards for products in certifying production trade. When a product meets these standards, the company identifies the product with a label. Purchasing products with the Fair Trade label can improve a community. The funds from Fair Trade impact communities with social, economic and environmental development projects.

Fair Trade impacts the building of sustainable businesses by demanding fair wages and treatment. Workers can socialize with buyers while gaining a living wage. Both the employed and farmers may work efficiently with this system. More companies are investing in this movement, while it also ensures safe working conditions and prevents forced child labor.

Investing companies include Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Rishi Tea in China. Ben & Jerry’s was the first ice cream company to join the movement. With its popularity, it set an example for many other businesses to follow. Rishi Tea is based in China and makes organic teas out of some of the oldest gardens in the world. The company supports education, provides scholarship programs and builds hospitals and roads in secluded areas.

Fair Trade uses the money that may have been put toward high-priced goods to build schools instead. Since fair trade helps stabilize incomes, many families can keep their children in school. It provides supplies, scholarship programs and healthy meals. Fair Trade enables education for even the most outlying communities.

Fair Trade impacts workers, farmers and families. Farmers can receive market-based tools to prevent them from falling into poverty and may learn environmentally sustainable practices. Workers and families gain access to doctors, treatments and nutrition. These benefits enable people to help themselves as well as others in their communities.

Fair Trade is a model for alleviating global poverty. Many companies and markets are investing, impacting developing communities. From building sustainable businesses to providing education, the movement is life-changing for those living in poor communities around the world.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Unilateral Trade Agreement
What is a unilateral trade agreement? It is a treaty that benefits only one state, imposed on one nation by another, that has the potential to aid developing nations’ economies.

Through the Trade Act of 1974, the United States established the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which instituted unilateral trade policies that benefit the world’s poorest nations. The GSP gives developing nations the opportunity to grow their economies through trade and ultimately lift themselves out of poverty.

The GSP eliminates duties on over 5,000 import products from more than 120 designated beneficiary states and territories. Out of the 122 beneficiary developing countries (BDCs), 43 are categorized as least-developed beneficiary developing countries (LDBDCs). LDBDCs reserve 1,500 of the import products in the program that receive duty-free status. These LDBDCs include Yemen, Ethiopia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Cambodia.

The GSP helps developing nations by lowering the cost of their products in the U.S., which in turn stimulates demand and helps the BDC’s economy grow. Furthermore, the GSP not only helps the U.S. accomplish its foreign policy goals but also benefits American consumers. The GSP helps keep prices low for Americans and is integral to the success of small business owners who rely on savings from duty-free products to stay competitive.

The value of imports that entered the U.S. duty-free under the GSP in 2015 totaled $17.4 billion.

While the GSP demonstrates how unilateral trade agreements can be fruitful, unilateral trade policies have downsides as well. Tariffs, for example, can be circumstantially advantageous or disadvantageous.

Initially, tariffs raise the cost of imports and make local products more competitive, boosting the economy and creating jobs. However, when tariff prices are universally high, local exports drop and soon after global trade drops — this hurts everyone. This sequence of events occurred during the Great Depression in the 1930s and, in consequence, global trade dropped 65 percent.

So: what is a unilateral trade agreement? It’s simply a treaty that only requires the action or initiative of one state. Unilateral trade policies can be tariffs, or they can be trade preference programs, such as the United States’ GSP, and can be used as a strategy to promote economic growth in developing countries.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Trade in Iraq
Present-day Iraq is located between the Persian Gulf and Iran in the Middle East. Its population of over 38 million is extremely involved in global trade, as a large portion of its GDP relies on imports and exports. Below are 10 facts about trade in Iraq.

  1. That “large portion” previously mentioned is about 50%–half of Iraq’s GDP comes from trade, making it the 48th largest export country in the world.
  2. Iraq is the 61st greatest importer in the world.
  3. Last year, Iraq had a positive trade balance of over 16 billion, meaning that the country exports far more than it imports.
  4. Iraq is the world’s second-largest oil reserve owner.
  5. Iraq’s main exports are crude petroleum at $47.7 billion, refined petroleum at $295 million, gold at $212 million, lubricating products at $90.4 million and tropical fruits at $62.3 million.
  6. The majority of Iraq’s imports are cars at $872 million, packaged medical materials at $671 million, rice at $671 million and raw iron bars at $542 million.
  7. Iraq exports the most materials to China, India, the United States, South Korea and Italy.
  8. The largest shipments of Iraq imports come from Turkey, China, the United States, South Korea and India.
  9. Declining stability since the origin of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as decreased oil prices internationally, has lowered Iraq’s economic efficiency in the past few years.
  10. In 2016, the United States’ trade deficit with Iraq was $4.7 billion. This means that, in relation to Iraq, the United States imports far more than it exports, and this number is increasing.

These 10 facts about trade in Iraq show that trade is an incredibly large aspect of the country’s economy that continues to grow and holds an international presence. While its outlook in the oil market seems bright, the economic fallout from the creation of ISIS is a cause of uncertainty for the nation’s economic future.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr


Since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Afghanistan trade has steadily increased, with the country partnering with more countries and receiving aid from the U.S. Being a landlocked country, Afghanistan relies heavily on its neighbors for transit routes and trade agreements. The country is working to expand its trade relations and recently partnered with India to create an air freight corridor. Here are 10 facts about Afghanistan trade.

10 Facts About Afghanistan Trade

  1. In July 2016, Afghanistan became a member of the World Trade Organization, a move which provides the country with trade and transit opportunities that are simple, reliable and profitable.
  2. There has been an increase in exports in Afghanistan from $570.50 million to $571.41 million between 2015 and 2016. Imports in Afghanistan decreased from $7.729 billion to $7.7228 billion between 2015 and 2016.
  3. In 2016, Afghanistan recorded a trade deficit of $7.151 billion. The country’s trade deficit has been widening since 2006 due to reconstruction efforts.
  4. Afghanistan’s top exports are fruits, nuts, vegetable saps, gems and precious metals.
  5. The top imports are peat, raw sugar, wheat flours and petroleum gas.
  6. Currently, Afghanistan is the 93rd largest trading partner with the U.S. In 2016, the U.S. exported goods to Afghanistan totalling 913 million USD, while the total imported goods from Afghanistan was 34 million USD.
  7. In May of 2016, Afghanistan, Iraq and India signed the Chabahar port agreement. This agreement was to build a port in Iran and construct a transport corridor for trade through Afghanistan. The construction of the port was originally expected to be completed by November 2017, yet now seems unlikely due to souring relations between the U.S. and Iran.
  8. There has been a recent 27 percent decline in trade volume between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan was previously Afghanistan’s top importer, but, due to the conflict between the two countries, some trade has been blocked.
  9. On Wednesday, June 21, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) stated that Pakistan has been attempting to open a new illegal transit route with Afghanistan. This is an attempt to salvage the declining trade industry between the two countries. There are already more than 10 illegal trade routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan where millions of dollars worth of goods are smuggled through annually. Despite the potential for economic gain, Afghanistan only wishes to promote legal trade and transit with Pakistan, said MoCI’s head of transit department Sayed Yahya Akhlaqi.
  10. Afghanistan has recently established a new, direct air freight corridor with India, opening the opportunity for an increasing volume of trade between the two countries. This agreement is a significant advantage for Afghanistan, providing access to the Indian market, a promising one for Afghan goods according to Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali.


There is more to know than just these 10 facts about Afghanistan trade. The country is making strides to better its trade with other nations, especially since the blockage of its previous top trade partner. According to Abdali, Afghanistan is open to anyone for connectivity and trade, even to Pakistan.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr


Based in Ethiopia, Oliberte is the world’s first Fair Trade-certified shoe factory, making a variety of shoes for both men and women. From sneakers and boots to sandals and moccasins, Oliberte also makes bags and other accessories. It’s probably not often that you hear of a piece of fashion that is made in Africa. Canadian entrepreneur and the force behind Oliberte, Tal Dehtiar, is trying to change this perception.

In 2009, Oliberte started building trade in sub-Saharan Africa as a footwear company partnering with different factories around sub-Saharan Africa. Three years later, in 2012, it would open its own dedicated factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the next year it was announced as the world’s first Fair Trade shoe manufacturer.

The whole premise of the brand is to support the rights of workers. The company prides itself on “empowerment, transparency, and doing right by all.” Oliberte recognized that Africa is usually met with a high amount of negative generalizations.

Believing in “trade not aid”, Oliberte’s website walks the consumer through the benefits of building trade in sub-Saharan Africa over providing aid. With many in the area experiencing poverty, providing a place of work is a huge plus instead of just providing aid.

By providing a workplace, profits made can be placed back into the company and community, creating more job growth. Eventually, more factories can open, providing jobs for more people, and allowing adults to work while children gain an education. While aid can have many positive effects, it is not sustainable and leaves people dependent.

Dehtiar says the company makes sure the employees are paid minimum wage, but also, “that as we grow as a company, they’re committed to improving their conditions, whether it’s through (initiatives such as) health insurance programs … now all the factories provide maternity leave programs to all the women.”

Gaining supplies locally from partners around Africa and creating products in their factory in Ethiopia, the brand is sure that everyone along the way has fair jobs and rights. They even attempt to buy their machinery on the continent whenever possible.

In the end, the products they sell come with a lifetime warranty. Oliberte is a brand that respects consumers, the environment and its employees.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr