Transcript of April 2021 Sub-Saharan Africa Press Briefing

Source: International Monetary Fund

April 15, 2021


Abebe Aemro Selassie
Director, African Department, IMF

Andrew Kanyegirire
Senior Communications Officer, IMF

Andrew Kanyegirire: Good morning and good afternoon. Thank you for joining us, and I hope you are all keeping well. My name is Andrew Kanyegirire. I’m with the Communications Team, here at the IMF. Welcome to the April 2021 Virtual Spring Meetings Regional Economic Outlook Press Briefing on Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m joined by Abebe Aemro Selassie, the Director of the African Department, here at the IMF. Good morning, Abebe.

Abebe Aemro Selassie: Good morning, Andrew.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : Thank you. And before we go to Abebe for his opening remarks, just to let you know that if for some reason you lose us on WebEx, you can also view and listen in on some of our social media platforms, on YouTube, on Twitter, and Facebook. And we have also received some questions already, that have come through. In the meantime, please use the Press Center, use the WebEx chat function to send us your questions in. You can use as — also your email to send them through. Without much further ado, I will now ask Abebe to make some opening remarks.

MR. SELASSIE : Thank you so much, Andrew. Good morning or good afternoon to you. Thank you all for joining us for the release of the April Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa. Before I come to our assessment of the economic outlook, challenges, and policy priorities, I want to make — take a moment to reflect on the pandemic and health developments in the region.

Since our October 2020 Regional Economic Outlook, Sub-Saharan Africa has confronted a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This second wave outpaced the scale and speed of the first wave. At the same time, we’ve seen, of course, truly exceptional global efforts to develop an effective vaccine, although the processing, manufacturing, procuring, and deploying vaccines is off to an unequal start around the world. Many advanced countries have secured enough vaccines to cover their populations, several times over. In contrast, many Sub-Saharan African countries, as you know, are struggling to simply vaccinate essential frontline workers.

Few countries in the region will achieve widespread vaccine availability before 2023, on current trends. With such scant access to vaccines, it leaves many countries in the region bracing for the risk of additional waves of infection. This, of course, is not just a regional concern or local concern. Ensuring vaccine coverage for Sub-Saharan Africa is a, we believe, very, very high value global public good. As such, we feel that the international community needs to come together and ramp up the supply of vaccines. We ensure that there is more than sufficient financing for facilities, like COVAX, and to quickly distribute these vaccines, you know, excess vaccines from — from wealthy countries to countries in Africa and other parts of the world, as quickly as possible.

The economic costs of the vaccine really are tremendous. We estimate the regional economic — the region’s economy contracted by 1.9 percent in 2020. While this is somewhat less severe, about one percentage point less than we projected in October, at, you know, two percent contraction, it’s still the worst outcome on record. Fortunately, the region will recover some ground this year, and is projected to expand by 3.4 percent. Even so, per capita output is not expected to return to 2019 levels, until after 2022.

This economic hardship has caused significant social dislocation, okay? In many countries, per capita income will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025. The number of people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to have increased by 32 million, just last year. There has also, of course, been tremendous learning loss for young people. Students in the region have missed more than four times the days missed by children in advanced countries, for example. These risks reversing years of progress and the region falling behind the rest of the world. The outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to diverge from the rest of — from the rest of the world, with constraints on policy space, the vaccine rollouts I mentioned, holding back near-term recovery.

While advanced economies have deployed extraordinary support that is now driving the recoveries, for most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, this is not an option. As we have observed throughout the pandemic, the outlook is subject to greater than usual uncertainty. The main risk is that the region could face repeated COVID-19 episodes before vaccines become available. But there are a range of other factors, such as limited external concessional financing, political instability, domestic security, or climate events that could also jeopardize the recovery.

More positively perhaps, faster than expected vaccine supply or rollout could boost the region’s near-term growth prospects. This brings me to the policies and priorities for nurturing the much-needed strong recovery. I mean, the immediate recovery, of course, remains to save lives. This will require more spending to strengthen local health systems and containment efforts, as well as, of course, vaccine rollout, if that’s needed. For most countries, the cost of vaccinating 60 percent of the population will require increasing health spending, in a few cases, by as much as 50 percent.

The next priority is to reinforce the recovery and unlock the region’s growth potential with bold and transformative reforms. These are more urgent than ever and include reforms to strengthen social protection systems, promote digitalization, improve transparency in governments, and mitigate climate change. Delivering on these reforms, while overcoming the scarring from the crisis, will require difficult policy choices. We have, you know, no doubt about that. Countries will have to tighten fiscal space to address debt vulnerabilities, where those are present, and restore health — the health of public sector balance sheets, over the medium-term. This is particularly the case for the 17 countries in the region that are at high risk of debt distress or already in debt distress. By pursuing actions to mobilize domestic revenue, prioritize essential spending, and more effectively manage public debt, policymakers can create the fiscal space needed to invest in the recovery.

But the region cannot do it alone, which brings me to my final point, the role of the international community and the crucial need for further support. Along with the international community, the IMF, over the last year, has, of course, moved swiftly to help cover some of the region’s emergency financing requirements. This includes support via the Emergency Funding Facilities, increased access under existing arrangements, and debt relief for the most vulnerable countries, through the CCRT. The G20 Debts Risk Suspension Initiative also delivered valuable breathing space for many countries in the region, alleviating debt service pressures in excess of six and a half billion, from mid-2020, to what is through — to what is in the pipeline through mid-2021.

For countries where deeper debt relief may be needed, the G20 common framework for debt treatment could provide a mechanism to tailor solutions to each country’s circumstances. However, much more is needed to boost spending, the pandemic response, to maintain adequate reserves, and accelerate the recovery, to where the income gap, with the rest of the world, is closing, rather than getting wider.

To do this, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa will need additional external funding of around $425 billion, over the next five years. An SDR allocation by the IMF would be an important step to providing liquidity to the most vulnerable Sub-Saharan African countries. However, meeting the region’s total needs will require significant contributions from all potential sources, private capital flows, international financial institutions, debt mutual support via ODA debt relief, and capacity development for countries to use these resources effectively. Thank you, and I’ll stop here, Andrew.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : So, we’ll now turn to questions. We see some of you on Webex. And some have come through the Press Center and media, Media Box. I request that you keep the questions short and to the point. I will start, Abebe, with a question that came in overnight, from Julius Bizimungu, of CNBC Africa, in Kigali. And he would like to know your views on the performance of the East African subregion, as well as the outlook for commodity and tourism dependent countries in that subregion. He also has a quick follow up. What should countries be doing to support the recovery in the subregion?

MR. SELASSIE : So, on East Africa, I mean, it is one of the regions that has seen growth. The EAC, for example, the contraction in growth for last year, we estimate at -0.2 percent, close to zero, no expansion, but not kind of the deep contraction that we have seen elsewhere in the region. And this year, the recovery we expect to be also faster than the rest of the region, closer to five and a half percent. This is, of course, in keeping with the region’s traditionally stronger, more robust growth performance. So, that’s how the EAC [countries] are differentiated from the rest of the region.

That said, zero percent growth last year, is, of course, quite costly. In per capita terms, it still means that, living standards declined for people. So, the hit has been really big, and, going forward, much will depend on — given that some of the countries are heavily dependent on tourism — containing the pandemic. And as you know, clinching the vaccination levels to bring current immunity is a major theme of these Spring Meetings. Reiterating Kristalina’s [IMF MD] point that in the near-term, for our countries also, vaccine policy is economic policy. Without vaccinations, we cannot move beyond this pandemic. So, getting vaccinations to rollout is really very important.

QUESTIONER : Thank you for taking my question. This is Today News Africa. I know Ethiopia has been facing many crises, instability in the Tigray region, and instability in the Oromia region, plus COVID-19. How have all those crises affected the economy of Ethiopia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed? And what would be your recommendation for Ethiopian government?

MR. SELASSIE : As you know, because of my nationality, I am required to not comment on issues in Ethiopia. But needless to say, of course, the tremendous suffering that we see in my country is without — it goes without saying that it’s heartbreaking, and, you know, getting peace and stability, not just for Ethiopia, for every other country, is going to be paramount for any kind of development progress.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : Do we have ENCA on Webex? I have a question from ENCA on South Africa. If not, Abebe, the question on South Africa, we’re going into country issues, now. So, what does the IMF think about the pace of structural reforms in the country? Do you think that they are being held back by a lack of political will? I think we’ve heard that tone before. And is the improved forecast for South Africa something that can be achieved, and do you see it as being worthwhile for improving the welfare of the people in South Africa?

MR. SELASSIE : South Africa is the largest and most sophisticated economy in the region. What we’ve seen, pre-crisis is the calibration of macroeconomic policies being as supportive as they can be, and yet, growth outcomes have been very anemic. This really points to factors beyond the tighter macroeconomic stance holding back economic activity and the kind of reforms that South Africa has needed for many years as being prerequisites to get high economic growth.

We are talking here about more competitive product markets, for example, ensuring that there is adequate supply of energy, which, in some cases, was holding back supply. So, tackling these issues remain paramount. I mean, for South Africa now, given the hit that the pandemic has caused, not just on people’s lives and livelihoods, but also the potential scarring that it could have on future economic activity it is paramount that the reforms that the country needs to boost growth are pursued, as quickly as possible. Growth contracted by around 7 percent last year, which is brutal coming on top of many years where there has been limited per income capita growth. We do expect a recovery this year. In large part, not just through the reopening of economic activity, but also by building on that and ensuring that South Africa reverts to the very high growth rates that it was enjoying in the 2000s – this is going to be really critical for the peoples’ welfare to improve.

QUESTIONER : I had a question about the implementation of the common framework. Zambia and Ethiopia have both said they want to use it but have taken different approaches so far to treating the private sector creditors and in particular their bondholders, so is there any clear guidance on how the framework will be implemented in practice in particular regard to bond holders? I see that there’s a note that Angola hasn’t chosen to use the common framework in its discussions with some of its private sector creditors.

MR. SELASSIE : So, the first important aspect of the common framework is that it allows for individual country’s circumstances to be taken into account in how it’s going to work. Second, we’re still at the very early stages of the implementation of the common framework. As you know, there’s a Chad creditor committee meeting today and that’s as far as things have gone. And on the other two countries that — the other country that is expected to have discussions in that context is Ethiopia in the coming weeks. [On] Zambia, we still have to agree on a program that we can support before finalizing the sustainable debt analysis and bringing it to creditors. But really, the key different between the Ethiopia and Zambia approaches is going to be the structure of debt and that will determine the kind of discussions that need to be had with which kind of creditors. Zambia, of course, had a lot more exposure by way of Euro bonds, than, say, Chad or Ethiopia. So that also has a bearing on the kind of discussions that need to be had.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : Let me turn to a question that came in overnight. It is on Nigeria. It’s from Business Day Nigeria. And the question is, a growth projection of 2.5 percent by the IMF for Nigeria looks quite ambitious considering where the country is right now. What do you think is fueling this growth confidence from the Fund? And how much will the global shift for greener energy affect Nigeria’s economy considering that Nigeria hasn’t made a significant push in that direction.

MR. SELASSIE : We are seeing quite a lot of countries going through a recovery this year, simply by virtue of the fact that economic activity which had, by design, been held back through the containment measures countries needed to adopt last year is now going to — provided that the pandemic continues to remain under control – rebound. And so, that will give strong growth outcomes this year in many cases. This is very different from saying that the fundamental drivers of growth over the medium to long term have been improved in a dramatic way, allowing stronger growth. So, that’s a point I would stress.

In the case of Nigeria, ensuring that the country enjoys — unleashes its tremendous potential requires reforms in three areas in our view. I think first and foremost, is that more fiscal space needs to be created through domestic revenue mobilization to pay for investments in health, in education, in infrastructure, which Nigeria swiftly needs, so that’s really. Second, I think reforms in the energy sector are going to be paramount. The cost of doing business is very high on account of the inefficiencies in the energy sector, power supply interruptions, and the famous recourse of the use of highly inefficient and harmful generator use up and down the country. Again, getting power supply, getting policies to make sure that Nigeria resolves this problem once and for all, I think, is also paramount. And thirdly, macroeconomic policy calibration, things like creating deep and liquid foreign exchange markets will be important.

QUESTIONER : I wanted to find out — I’m from Zimbabwe — what would be the appropriate policy responses for countries such as Zimbabwe which have limited access to international financing and currently have growing inequalities? And then, I also wanted to question your growth projections. You are less optimistic than the government, and that’s like a wide disparity. Were you saying inflation will be high, upwards of 9 percent? Government is targeting 9 percent. Do you want to explain why you are less optimistic about that growth rate? And your economic growth projection is 3.1 percent against government’s own 7.4 percent.

MR. SELASSIE : Starting with growth, an important reason why we are more conservative in our growth projections is, of course, exactly the point you made that Zimbabwe, unfortunately, continues to have very limited access to external concessional support. And of course, domestically also, the government’s ability to finance itself from — by issuing bonds or borrowing from the banking system is very constrained given the monetary and exchange rate framework that the country has a susceptibility to inflation. So, we feel that with the limited fiscal support, with the toll of the pandemic on economies, on peoples’ lives, livelihoods, we feel that the robust, growth recovery this year will be constrained to the order of 3 percent. But we — this is a point we’d be very happy to be proven wrong on. If growth is higher, we would be very happy.

Turning to inflation, again, it really comes back to the same factors. We do see inflation coming down from the very high levels it was in during 2019 / 2020 on account of the droughts that Zimbabwe and Zambia had suffered from. That said, given the absence of new inflows, we do see a constrained environment and a much more constrained evidence for supply of goods and services — so we expect inflation to be a bit higher.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : So, Lusa News Agency — I see your question has come through. I know you had two questions. One was on the common framework which we have addressed. Then the other one is on SDR allocations for Sub-Saharan African, and he says, I understand that Sub-Saharan Africa will receive around 23 billion from the SDR allocation, but how much more do you believe will richer countries need to provide? And what is the mechanism for lending or for making that available to Sub-Saharan African countries?

MR. SELASSIE : Indeed, once our Executive Board has taken a final decision we do hope that the general allocation just approved by the IMFC will allow about 23 billion SDRs to reach 45 countries in the [sub-Saharan Africa] region. So, this will be beneficial for countries – to create fiscal space and the balance of payments support that they need to get vaccines or partly to pay for a part of the costs of vaccines and the like. So, this is very important. Over and above this, the potentially exciting outcome of the meetings was the willingness to explore options for channeling SDRs if they’re not going to be used by advanced countries to vulnerable countries. This is a very useful mandate, but the work now will begin to try and see what kind of consensus there is on what kind of facilities could be supported by this. Of course, we already have one such approach where we — this broad approach of channeling which is the financing of the PRGT, the poverty reduction and growth trust of the IMF which we use to provide concessional financing to many of the countries in the region and elsewhere. But, it’s good to see that there is openness to considering other ways of channeling excess — I mean SDRs that are not being used by other countries and so the work on this will start in earnest in the coming days.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : Staying on SDRs. The Africa Report would like to know how we are we going to ensure accountability with regard to the use of SDRs? If you can also — there’s a few other questions on transparency in governance in general with regard to our support and programs — talk about the transparency issue.

MR. SELASSIE : First and foremost, transparency, good governance, and fighting corruption matters not just for external financing activities or resources, but also for all the resources that governments have including tax revenue collection. So, it’s paramount that, countries do their utmost to make public finances as transparent as possible and that scare resources are used as efficiently as possible – so that’s an overarching point that of course needs to be made.

Second, in the context of Fund programs, in the emergency financing that we’ve done over the past year we have done our utmost to ensure that there is high transparency in terms of how these resources are used. A couple of examples, we are asking for, audits of how these resources have been used by countries and national authorities, and by external agencies where that domestic authorities are not able to do that.

Second example is to make public beneficial owners of contracts that are required as a result of resources being provided. So, we are doing our utmost and will continue to pursue the promotion of transparent and government accounts in all the engagements that we have with countries, including in the use of SDRs going forward.

And then the third and last point I want to make is that an important, I would say, kind of cross-cutting challenge in our region is that of collecting more tax revenues and domestic revenue mobilization — it was a pending challenge pre-crisis, and it’s now an even more robust challenge. Part of it has to do with, governments needing to come up with and identify ways through which they can simplify tax administration and come up with the right tax policy handles.

But tax payment is about strengthening the social contract between people and government. Really, I cannot stress enough how this second part would be boosted, peoples’ willingness would be boosted if government accounts were more transparent. If everything that government procures was published – this is a really very important agenda that goes well-beyond the near term dealing with the pandemic in the medium term. So, this is an area where a lot of attention is going to be needed in the coming years.

QUESTIONER : I have three quick questions and I will try to be very brief, as much as possible. So, my first question is that when I look through your growth projections for Ghana, you still find [more growth], I mean in fairness, you were at 4 percent, you rise to 5 percent, but if you go through government owned and project statements, it’s looking at a more higher growth than what you have put out. Why are you a little bit — so cautious about the growth outlook for Ghana? Also, when I went through your Fiscal Monitor you projected that that GDP ratio for Ghana would cross the 80 percent mark. I wanted to find out from the Fund whether you worried about this? And what are you doing also, to ensure that countries like Ghana take some policy measures to control their debt, which could be a major threat to the economy. And my final one, on the SDR, when are you going to approve these SDR requirements? And what [is in] for countries like Ghana?

MR. SELASSIE : On Ghana, the difference in growth projections is due to several factors that can sometimes create differences between the numbers that we come up with and those that are published by government. So, one is differences in views on what the global outlook is going to look like or even the country specific outlook. And you know, that can be a source of difference. But you know another factor often is the timing of when projections are made and also depending on what the latest available data is. I think the Government Budget’s numbers were done back in the fall, right? Sorry, late last year was when the numbers were being developed, if I am not mistaken. So, our numbers I think are a bit more current and we have taken into account that and more data points – so that I think accounts for a large chunk of the difference in terms of growth projections. But you know, Ghana is expected to recover by 4.5 percent I think this year, which is fairly robust recovery if you consider that the region’s economy is only expanding by around 3.5. So, it is still a healthy rebound. Of course, not quite back to the 8 or 9 percent pre-crisis levels, but still a healthy rebound and something to build on.

On debt, we continue [inaudible] and [there is no] work program with Ghana. Our engagement is in the context of Article IV policy discussions. We give our advice on what we think are the kind of reforms that Ghana needs to ensure sustained development progress. And of course, one of these is indeed making sure [taking stock] – particularly now that debt levels are higher on account of the pandemic – of the fact that it has had an impact in the path of GDP. But also, through aggregates like revenue mobilization and the like it’s even more important ever for Ghana to strike a healthy balance between the need to continue to address its development spending needs, but also making sure that debt sustainability doesn’t get out of hand. So, how to calibrate this balance is something that we discuss with the Government. But ultimately it is up to the Government of course to come up with the policies that are needed and to take decisions.

Finally, on the SDR allocation, you know, what I can tell you is perhaps, how long it took last time around in 2009 when there was an allocation. Between the time when the decision was made to proceed with an allocation, and the resources were made available to countries, it took I think about 4.5-5 months. So, we expect the same. Same kind of path — timeline this year and what will happen then is you know, the resources will be credited to central banks on the [order of the size of the quota] that the country has. So, 100 percent of a country’s quota.

QUESTIONER : I am from the BRICS Post, and I am talking from Johannesburg, South Africa. I have two quick questions. One, (audio skip) the implementation (audio skip) African Continental Free Trade Agreement in South Africa certainly, in trade with the rest of Africa is down year on year. Has there been an increase in intra-Africa trade since January (audio skip)? And the second question relates to Mozambique. We have had terror attacks here and I was wondering whether the delays in implementing and the new liquid natural gas projects, would that delay what the IMF [sees] in terms of GDP growth?

MR. SELASSIE : So, on the AFCFTA, it is of course, one of the really far reaching, and promising initiatives that region’s leaders have undertaken in recent years, with tremendous potential to promote growth, economic diversification that our countries have always sought, so it’s something that needs to be built on now that the final decision has been taken to move forward with this.

Of course, the pandemic with its associated effects in terms of disrupting all manner of business activity, has meant that intra-Africa trade last year, was lower than in previous years. But we do see this as being a temporary thing and with a recovery, with the easing of travel restrictions and the border closures in some cases that took place. We are expecting an increase in intra-Africa trade. But this will not happen in, and of itself to the high degree that is expected without reforms. This includes dealing with non-tariff barriers. Dealing with that will be very important. And removing the policies that create these nontariff barriers and the regulatory, what you call restrictions, and the like, will be very important. But also, equally important is prioritizing the infrastructure that connects our countries. Working on these two will be important to make sure that the dream of the AFCFTA is fulfilled.

On Mozambique, what’s going on in Cabo Delgado or Palma is just really horrendous. Horrendous. And all the more so because this insurgency, latent insurgency has been identified as a threat for many years. So, really our heart goes out to [the people of] Mozambique in this. And I think, unless this is dealt with appropriately, it will have an important bearing on the economic outlook on the country and the gas production on which the country hopes to rely going forward. As such, it is indeed something that needs to be addressed as swiftly as possible.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : We have a few minutes left. On Kenya, we have a couple of questions that came in before. If you could speak to the recent events concerning the pushback on the loan from the Fund and whether indeed that money can be sent back by the authorities? What are the transparency measures that are built into the support? In general, how do you see Kenya’s overall economic outlook? And that question is from NTV in Kenya.

MR. SELASSIE : Yes, there has been quite a bit of commentary on the Kenya Program approved 10 days ago by the Executive Board. So, a couple of points, perhaps. I think one general point, not just about Kenya, but broadly about the kind of issues that this commentary was about. In recent years, what has been clear is that there is what I’ve been calling a trilemma of sorts that countries have had to contend with. On the one hand, the development needs for countries have of course remained as pressing as ever and maybe even increasing with population growth. So, there is more demand to spend and to invest in health, education, infrastructure, really tremendous pressure. So, that’s the first element of this trilemma. Second is of course, debt levels increasing to levels that are becoming worrisome in many countries, so this is the second element of the trilemma. And then the third element is governments being unable – unwilling, unable — or finding it very difficult to raise taxes, and people pushing back against measure to collect more taxes.

So, how countries navigate this space, this space between these three poles has been a challenge for the last eight to ten years for many countries in the region. The pandemic has come and made this challenge even more acute because debt levels are now ratcheted up and in most countries the possibilities for higher tax collection are even more difficult. And of course, spending needs have gone up. Right? And this really has been — some of the challenges that Kenya has been contending with in recent months, much like you know, other countries, it’s not unique to Kenya.

So, how to navigate this is the issue. In our view, and I think the Government’s view more importantly, is that you need a framework, a medium-term fiscal framework on how to handle and contain debt vulnerabilities and bring them down over the medium-to-long-term. And that’s exactly what the Program is designed to do. And we of course, are providing financing but it’s the cheapest financing that’s available for the Government of Kenya at a time like this. The alternatives are either to reduce the deficit immediately, to literally very low levels which of course, would mean cutting spending or going out and raise more tax revenues. But you know, this also economically, I am not sure makes sense because at this time the economy could do with some support from government spending given how weak conditions remain. I mean, the country is still contending with some regions facing a shutdown. So, the program the Government has come up with and that we are supporting with the ECF/EFF is really designed to contend with all of the challenges that we see that country facing including containing and bring debt levels down over the medium-to-long-term. We look forward to working with the Government to address any issues that emerge.

On transparency and governance, again as I just touched on earlier, there are important elements that are built into the Program — to promote transparency in the use of public resources including publishing of beneficial ownership data of companies that were awarded contracts for emergency resources that were used last year. I think this is really also part and parcel of continuing to build and strengthen accountability institutions in Kenya, and a lot of work in that area needs to be done. And we would be very happy to support the Government.

MR. KANYEGIRIRE : Thank you, Abebe. As usual, unfortunately we have more questions than the time we can take them in. We received all your questions, and we will come back to you bilaterally. The documents are on the website – the REO report, press release, and explainers. You can also email us for follow-up questions. Thank you very much and stay safe.

IMF Communications Department

PRESS OFFICER: Andrew Kanyegirire

Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email:


Virtual seminar to explore TRIPS and trade in knowledge

Source: World Trade Organisation

The seminar builds on, and contributes to, the WTO Secretariat’s work to update and broaden its outreach and capacity building on the policy and development implications of the IP dimension of knowledge flows. It draws on the insights from an earlier Seminar on Intellectual Property and Knowledge Flows in a Digital Era and foreshadows a WTO publication, Trade in Knowledge, to be published later this year.  

Panellists will look at the growth and diversity of trade in digital products as defined by intellectual property rights, trade in IP products on digital platforms, and the knowledge component of global value chains. They will explore how IP and licensing practices define and enable trade in digital products and support trade on digital platforms, as well as their coherence with the trading system and development opportunities.

Expert speakers will join the webinar from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), the private sector and academia, as well as the WTO Secretariat.

Registration for the webinar is available here.

The full programme of the event is available here.

The event will be live streamed through the WTO YouTube channel.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the TRIPS Agreement in 2020, the Secretariat organized a commemorative event on 24 November 2020, followed by a series of webinars continuing into 2021.  These allowed relevant stakeholders to reflect on the past, present and future of the most comprehensive multilateral treaty on intellectual property protection and enforcement.

The full series of events scheduled to commemorate TRIPS@25 is available here.


JYSK boosts frontline teams with Android Enterprise

Source: Google

Editor’s note: Flemming Thøgersen is Team Manager and Stinus Stoumann Hoeks is Senior IT Consultant of IT Client Infrastructure for JYSK, an international retailer based in Denmark.

JYSK is an international home retailer with Scandinavian roots, and our mission is to make it easy to furnish every room in any home. With more than 3,000 stores in 51 countries and a strong online presence, JYSK always has great selections and service, no matter how customers want to shop.

Android Enterprise has been key to sustaining our retail operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and giving our frontline retail workers more powerful digital tools. Our store colleagues use smartphones to enhance the in-store customer experience through quickly fulfilling click-to-collect orders and answering customer questions with ready access to our digital services. We’re also using dedicated Android tablets to gather customer feedback for continually improving our support.

Enhancing the in-store experience

Android smartphones are central to our digital retail strategy, with a deployment of over 10,000 devices across our stores. They’re essential for keeping our retail store electronic shelf labels updated with the latest product information. These digital displays on our product shelves show the item price, description and other helpful information for our customers. We use our Android devices to link each electronic shelf label to its merchandise with an NFC tag. 

With mobility being so critical to a consistent digital initiative, we place high value on the enrollment and management experience. Device setup through Android Enterprise is simple and streamlined with zero-touch enrollment — this enabled our IT team to quickly enroll devices and apply the key configurations at scale. It’s a streamlined process and reduces the complexities and potential errors that can occur with manual device setup.

Our IT admins use managed Google Play for enterprise app distribution, which has been invaluable for ensuring our teams have the internal communication, productivity and inventory apps available on their Android devices. Employees access JYSK inventory systems on their Android smartphones to answer in-store customer questions about the merchandise. They are able to check for the availability of JYSK products on our web store, looking up pricing information and giving the customers the answers they need right away. The devices are also essential for staying in touch with colleagues in store and across the company, and connecting to other essential JYSK internal services.

More of our customers are taking advantage of the convenience of click-and-collect — ordering online and picking their items up in store. Dedicated Android smartphones in the hands of our retail staff enable us to quickly service these customers with minimal friction to our operations. Android devices instantly connect our frontline retail staff to our digital services, fulfilling online orders and looking up inventory to answer any questions.

Customer satisfaction is a core value for our company. Android allowed us to scale up our customer insights — we make a tablet available in Android Enterprise kiosk mode at many of our stores for customers to rate their experience. The customers can also enter feedback from their own device hands-free by scanning a QR code and answering a survey. We receive more than one million responses every month, which has been an invaluable source of feedback to continuously improve our retail experience.

Device value with Android Enterprise Recommended

Device choice is an important factor in going with Android. We only select devices from the Android Enterprise Recommended catalogue, which we’ll be doing again as we expand our deployment. Android Enterprise Recommended gives our IT team the confidence to select devices that support the enterprise features we need with the highest level of data and device security. 

Android will continue to be a key component to our digital strategy, as we issue more devices to our retail and inventory teams with access to our new inventory tracking system and moving logistical processes off of legacy systems. We look forward to continued success with Android as we support our global customer base.

Join the upcoming event Digitization with Android Enterprise: A game-changer for your frontline to hear directly from customers about their experiences and learn compelling findings from the Forrester Total Economic Impact Study, which investigates the ROI of Android Enterprise for business.

A more helpful Chrome, throughout your workday

Source: Google

Lately, my productivity has been up and down, following the curves of the pandemic and the seasons. But where I live, spring is here 🌷. And, in addition to spending more time in my garden, I’m finally zeroing in on how I can be more productive working from home. Here’s how I use some new Chrome features to get work and life done throughout my day. Check them out for your own productivity boost.

Link to your highlighted text

As a product manager for Chrome, I often read research studies, articles and even tweets about how people use their browsers. Yesterday, I read a long article with an interesting data point I wanted to share with a colleague. Instead of copying the link from the address bar, I used Chrome’s new “link to highlight” feature by highlighting the text I want to share, right-clicking, choosing “Copy link to highlight” and then sending the link. When my coworker opened the link, he saw the exact section of text I wanted him to see 🙌. This feature is rolling out now to desktop and Android and is coming soon for iOS. 

With “Copy link to highlight”, you can share a URL for selected text highlighted for the recipient.

New PDF features

During lunch, I decided to double-check a PDF for a presentation to my volunteer group. So, I took the opportunity to test drive the new PDF reader features my team and I just released, building on last year’s work to fill out and save PDF forms.

When I opened the PDF, I used the new sidebar to browse the thumbnails and quickly jump to the specific page I wanted to check. To practice for later, I turned on the new presentation mode, removing the on-screen distractions (toolbars, address bar, tabs), so my presentation will be focused and so will my audience.

We added more features to make working with PDFs better: document properties, two-page view and an updated top toolbar, which puts the most important PDF actions (zoom, jump to page, save, print and more) within a single click. These features are rolling out now.

New features on Chrome’s PDF reader: Check out the new top toolbar, side toolbar and overflow menu.

Mute notifications when presenting 

Later in the day, I had a few meetings back to back. First up was a team meeting where I presented the latest designs for an upcoming feature. Luckily now, when presenting or sharing Chrome windows, Chrome mutes all notifications, so there’ll be less distraction. When done, they unmute. This new feature makes me laugh out loud, because it brings back a memory from years ago when I was presenting and a news notification for “Cougar Sighting on Campus!” leapt onto my screen and completely distracted me and the audience. True story!

Performance matters

Later, I moved to the patio to enjoy the sun, check my plants for aphids and finish up some remaining bits of work.

Sitting in my patio chair, using battery power, Chrome is still zipping right along with my tasks and I work longer without feeling my laptop get too hot. This is because recent performance improvements have decreased Chrome CPU usage, which often means more battery life, less fan noise and less heat. Chrome now reclaims up to 100MB per tab, which is more than 20% on some popular sites. 

Getting a bit nerdy with some new data: for Mac, we’re seeing up to 65% improvement in Energy Impact when active tabs are prioritized over tabs you aren’t using. This means up to 35% reduction in CPU usage and up to 1.25 more hours of battery life, with similar results on Windows, Chrome OS and Linux. And on Android, Chrome starts up 13% faster even with lots of tabs open.

Last but not least, we’re soon launching tab freezing for collapsed groups. This means when groups are collapsed (and tabs are hidden), the tabs inside use less memory and CPU, making your computer quicker. And right now, I have 11 groups collapsed with 64 tabs inside, so that’s awesome 💯. This feature is coming soon to beta.

If you want to learn more about our work to improve Chrome’s performance, check out our series, The Fast and the Curious, on the Chromium blog.

When you collapse tab groups, Chrome will automatically freeze the tabs so they use less memory and GPU.

Name your windows 

To set myself up for success the next day, my final work task was to organize my tabs and windows. I used tab search (now rolling out to all desktop platforms) to find and close tabs, tab groups to organize projects and then (drum roll please) I used window naming. I right-clicked on an empty spot in the tab strip and named each of my windows. With custom windows names, when you press alt+tab to switch windows or right-click on a tab and select “Move to another window” it’s easier to distinguish between open windows and you can find what you’re looking for faster. This feature is rolling out now.

With custom window names, it’s easier to distinguish between your open Chrome windows.

I hope these new Chrome features add productivity to your day and a spring to your step, like they do mine.

Hometalk builds a DIY home improvement community

Source: Google

What better place than a website to bring together people, projects and professionals? That’s what Miriam Illions thought when she co-founded Hometalk in 2011. When the site went live, she waited for the homeowner–contractor matchups to begin. Then, something interesting happened.

“DIYers flocked to the platform and started sharing their own ideas,” Miriam recalls. Over the course of about 18 months, she notes, “We saw this incredible uptick in people who were interested — not in hiring somebody to do things for them — but in doing it themselves.”

Hometalk CMO and co-founder Miriam Illions

Miriam and the Hometalk team retooled their marketing strategy and rebuilt Hometalk as a community empowering DIYers to roll up their sleeves and get the job done themselves, while providing a space for industrious bloggers to build out their own brands.

With this new approach, the New York City-based company turned into a full-time, booming business, now staffing 37 employees. The website is monetized through programmatic ads and direct sales offerings that connect brands to DIYers seeking to purchase tools and materials for their projects. 

Today, 10 years after the company’s founding, the Hometalk community garners 30 million monthly pageviews, has 7 million unique monthly visitors and 90,000 new monthly signups. Their app is also quite popular, receiving 3.3 million monthly pageviews and 20,000 new signups a month.  

Building a DIY web community

The Hometalk website serves as the brand’s digital hub, where DIYers can explore 169,000 project tutorials on a wide-sweeping range of topics, including how to build, decorate, upcycle, decorate, clean, repair, organize and more. Projects are also organized by rooms and spaces, from breakfast nooks to bedroom closets, and entryways to basement bars — and even budget-friendly patio ideas for renters.

Creative DIYers get inspired, starting at the Hometalk homepage.

“We empower people to create by inspiring them with all of the [community’s] amazing ideas, and then giving them the resources and the tools to be able to do it themselves,” Miriam says.

She credits the website’s success with providing multiple ways for community members to connect and communicate. Visitors can post a project, ask or answer a DIY question, or search on DIY projects — and that’s just for starters. The Hometalk TV video channel is a crafty person’s delight, where featured hosts guide viewers through a wide variety of artful projects, including a floating photo frame, a TikTok mirror, a faux chinoiserie vase and more.

Visitors learn to turn trash into treasure with Hometalk’s upcycling projects.

“A popular destination is our video tutorial section, where you can ask questions of the person who posted and engage in the comments,” Miriam adds. “We also have a forum where, if you’re doing a DIY project and you’re stuck, or you’re looking for inspiration or ideas or solutions, you can post questions and get feedback and help from the community. Their willingness to help each other is amazing.”

Opening the door for other web creators

Hometalk community members create a bio page on the website, with their photo and links back to their own websites, blogs and social media pages. This helps them establish their own brand identity within the community, while inviting readers to click on over to their own websites to learn more about them.

“We offer a number of different places where members can link back to their blogs,” Miriam shares, including their Blogger Traffic Program — an incentive program for bloggers who regularly share high-quality content with the Hometalk community. Top contributors may receive a link back to their own blogs in Hometalk’s daily email, which Miriam says can result in thousands of new pageviews. “Traffic is very valuable as everyone on the web knows,” she says. “So, that’s something that we use as an incentive to help our creators build their own audiences and communities.”

Hometalk member Lindsay Eidahl shares DIY ideas for budget-friendly home decor projects.

Creating socially conscious media

While Hometalk’s site traffic numbers speak for themselves, the cofounder has even higher goals for her brand’s impact on the web community.

“This past year, we’re seeing a lot more conscious choice and intention when it comes to media consumption,” Miriam notes. “I think as a whole, people are becoming a lot more aware of how they are spending their time on the web, what media are they consuming, and how it makes them feel. We’re becoming more aware of what is toxic and not helping you live your best life that you’re here to live.” Her goal for Hometalk is to provide a positive space for DIYers to meet, share tips, tricks, and ideas and improve their lives, one handcrafted wreath, one unclogged toilet, one refinished thrift store table at a time.

“The more people choose what they consume, the more important it will be for all web creators to make sure that the content that they’re putting out there is of tremendous value,” Miriam asserts. “As a whole, that will elevate all of us.”

In her words: Miriam Illions reflects on building an online community in our Web Story. Watch it here. 

Thales IoT SAFE to secure cloud connectivity for new Internet of Things services in Canada

Source: Thales Group

Headline: Thales IoT SAFE to secure cloud connectivity for new Internet of Things services in Canada

•    TELUS and CIRA to implement the Thales GSMA IoT SAFE solution for a new country-wide security management system for IoT devices.
•    Thales solution integrates chip-to-cloud security with mutual authentication between devices and IoT Cloud Platform, guaranteeing data confidentiality and integrity.
•    The innovative system offers simplified remote management of connected devices across a wide range of IoT sectors, including energy, healthcare, infrastructure, and more.

Our commitment to COVID-19 vaccine equity

Source: Google

Read this post in Spanish. // Blog en español aquí.

As more people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re making it easier to learn why, when and where you can get immunized. Today, you can now find vaccination locations on Google Maps and Search in the U.S., Canada, France, Chile, India and Singapore.

Still, there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure everyone who wants to get vaccinated can. In the U.S., COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino populations, yet these groups have lower rates of vaccinations. Vaccines may be harder for people to access based on factors like where they live, how far they have to drive to a vaccination site, and if they have reliable internet access to book an appointment. And globally, it could be years before some countries even have enough vaccines. 

Overcoming the pandemic will require a coordinated effort on a global scale. To do our part, today we’re announcing that we’re providing 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to countries in need, helping fund pop-up vaccine sites in the U.S., and committing an additional $250 million in Ad Grants to connect people to accurate vaccine information.

Securing vaccines for people around the world 

Today, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, launched a drive for additional funding to secure vaccines for low and middle-income countries. is funding vaccinations for 250,000 people and providing Gavi with pro bono technical assistance to accelerate global distribution. We’re also kicking off an employee giving campaign, and both the Gavi Matching Fund and will match each donation to triple the impact. 

Since February, we’ve been providing vaccine-related insights to help Gavi better educate communities about the COVID-19 vaccine. They’ve used that information to create educational content that reaches more than half a million people each day. We’re now committing $15 million in Ad Grants to help Gavi build on these efforts and amplify their fundraising campaign.

Funding pop-up vaccine sites and making it easier to book appointments 

Nearly a quarter of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated. Yet we know that vaccination rates vary by geography and community. Reaching everyone will require partnerships with community-based organizations and local health centers that have on-the-ground expertise and the trust of the people they serve. is providing $2.5 million in grant funding to Partners in Health, Stop the Spread and Team Rubicon, who are working directly with over 500 community-based organizations to serve Black, Latino and rural communities. This funding will go toward efforts like pop-up vaccination sites.  

To make sure more people — especially those with limited internet access — can sign up for a vaccine, Google Cloud is launching an expanded virtual agent as part of its Intelligent Vaccine Impact solution (IVIs). People will be able to schedule vaccine appointments and ask common questions through a virtual agent, in up to 28 languages and dialects, via chat, text, web, mobile or over the phone. 

Committing $250 million to connect communities to trusted vaccine information 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of Google employees have helped organizations connect people with up-to-date information — particularly in communities that are not typically reached by mainstream public service announcements. 

For example, we’re working with UnidosUS on a bilingual vaccination campaign that to date has reached more than two million people in hard-hit communities in Miami, Chicago, Houston, New York City and Los Angeles. We’ve conducted research with the World Health Organization (WHO) on what information improves vaccine confidence, and governments worldwide are using these insights to inform their public service announcements.   

To expand this work, we’re committing an additional $250 million in Ad Grants to governments, community and public health organizations, including the WHO, that will fund more than 2.5 billion vaccine-related PSAs. This brings our total commitment for COVID-related public service announcements to more than $800 million. 

As we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe. Getting vaccines to everyone around the world is a challenging, but necessary, undertaking. We’ll keep doing our part and working together until we get there.

Tune in to YouTube on May 8 at 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST for Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World, a fundraising campaign to vaccinate health workers working on the frontlines of the pandemic. 

Nuestro compromiso con la equidad de la vacuna COVID-19

Source: Google

Read this post in English. // Blog en inglés aquí.

A medida que más personas tienen acceso a la vacuna contra el COVID-19, estamos haciendo más fácil aprender por qué, cuándo y dónde pueden vacunarse. Hoy en día, puedes encontrar ubicaciones de vacunación en Google Maps y en búsquedas de Google en los Estados Unidos, Canadá, Francia, Chile, India y Singapur.

Aún así, queda mucho trabajo por delante para asegurarnos de que todos los que quieran vacunarse puedan hacerlo. En los Estados Unidos, COVID-19 ha afectado de manera desproporcionada a las poblaciones Afroamericanas y Latinas, aun así estos grupos tienen índices más bajos de vacunación. Las vacunas pueden ser más difíciles de acceder para personas debido a factores como el lugar donde viven, la distancia que deben conducir hasta un lugar de vacunación y si tienen acceso confiable a Internet para reservar una cita. Y a nivel mundial, podrían pasar años antes de que algunos países incluso tengan suficientes vacunas. 

Superar la pandemia requerirá un esfuerzo coordinado a escala mundial. Para hacer nuestra parte, hoy anunciamos que estamos proporcionando 250,000 vacunas contra el COVID-19 a países que las necesitan, ayudando a financiar sitios emergentes de vacunas en los Estados Unidos y comprometiendo $250 millones adicionales en Ad Grants para conectar a las personas con información precisa sobre la vacuna.

Asegurando vacunas para personas en todo el mundo 

Hoy, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, lanzó una campaña para obtener fondos adicionales para asegurar vacunas para países de ingresos medianos y bajos. está financiando vacunas para 250,000 personas y proporcionando a Gavi asistencia técnica gratuita para acelerar la distribución mundial. También estamos iniciando una campaña de donaciones para empleados, y tanto Gavi Matching Fund como igualarán cada donación para triplicar el impacto. 

Desde febrero, hemos estado proporcionando información relacionada con las vacunas para ayudar a Gavi a educar mejor a las comunidades sobre la vacuna contra el COVID-19. Han utilizado esa información para crear contenido educativo que llega a más de medio millón de personas cada día. Ahora estamos comprometiendo $15 millones en Ad Grants para ayudar a Gavi a aprovechar estos esfuerzos y ampliar su campaña de recaudación de fondos.

Financiando sitios temporales de vacunación y haciendo más fácil la reservación de citas 

Casi una cuarta parte de las personas en los Estados Unidos ahora están vacunadas. Sin embargo, sabemos que los índices de vacunación varían según la geografía y la comunidad. Llegar a todos requerirá una asociación con organizaciones comunitarias y centros de salud locales que tengan experiencia en el terreno y la confianza de las personas a las que sirven. está proporcionando $2.5 millones en subvenciones a Partners in Health, Stop the Spread y Team Rubicon, que están trabajando directamente con más de 500 organizaciones comunitarias para servir a las comunidades afroamericanas, latinas y rurales. Este financiamiento se destinará a esfuerzos, como sitios de vacunación emergentes.  

Para asegurarse de que más personas, especialmente aquellas con acceso limitado a Internet, puedan inscribirse para recibir una vacuna, Google Cloud está lanzando un ampliado agente virtual como parte de su Solución de impacto de vacuna inteligente (IVI). Las personas podrán programar citas para vacunas y hacer preguntas comunes a través de un agente virtual, en hasta 28 idiomas y dialectos, a través de chat, texto, web, móvil o por teléfono. 

Compromiso de $250 millones para conectar a las comunidades con información confiable sobre vacunas 

Desde el comienzo de la pandemia, cientos de empleados de Google han ayudado a las organizaciones a conectar a las personas con información actualizada, especialmente en comunidades a las que no suelen llegar los anuncios de servicios públicos convencionales. 

Por ejemplo, estamos trabajando con UnidosUS en una campaña de vacunación bilingüe que hasta la fecha ha llegado a más de dos millones de personas en las comunidades más afectadas en Miami, Chicago, Houston, Nueva York y Los Ángeles. Hemos realizado una investigación con la Organización Mundial de la Salud sobre qué información mejora la confianza en las vacunas, y los gobiernos de todo el mundo están utilizando estos conocimientos para informar sus anuncios de servicio público.   

Para expandir este trabajo, estamos comprometiendo $250 millones adicionales en Ad Grants a gobiernos, organizaciones comunitarias y de salud pública, incluida la OMS, que financiarán más de 2,500 millones de anuncios de servicio público relacionados con vacunas. Esto eleva nuestro compromiso total para los anuncios de servicio público relacionados con COVID a más de $800 millones. 

Como hemos aprendido durante la pandemia, nadie está a salvo del COVID-19 hasta que todos estén a salvo. Llevar las vacunas a todo el mundo es un reto desafiante, pero necesario. Seguiremos haciendo nuestra parte y trabajando juntos hasta que lleguemos a lograrlo.

Sintoniza YouTube el 8 de mayo a las 5 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. EST para ver Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World, una campaña de recaudación de fondos para vacunar a los trabajadores de la salud que prestan servicios en la primera línea de la pandemia. 

SAP Expands People to Work Program by SAP to Equip More Job Seekers with Skills and Certification

Source: SAP

Headline: SAP Expands People to Work Program by SAP to Equip More Job Seekers with Skills and Certification

WALLDORF — SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today said it would globally expand its job skills-building program, People to Work by SAP, which has helped more than 400,000 job seekers and professionals reskill or add skills.

Over 80% of those awarded SAP Global Certification digital badges as a result of participating in the program gained employment.

The People to Work program by SAP brings together various country-specific training programs for job seekers, workers who need to reskill due to changing job requirements, people threatened by unemployment and the underemployed. Upon successful completion of the program and exam, SAP awards learners with SAP Global Certification digital badges to verify their competence, thereby facilitating their reentry into the job market.

First established in Germany, the publicly funded program has already branched out into countries such as Denmark and South Korea. It uses high-quality learning content provided by SAP, social competence topics and soft skills to equip unemployed and those wanting to further their qualifications with the skills needed to solve the digital challenges of the future. Delivered by an extensive partner network, the program offers a wide range of training options that are hosted in traditional classroom and virtual learning environments.

“While digital transformation has brought about a tremendous amount of progress and innovation, it has also changed jobs as we know them today and has put many people at risk of unemployment,” said Maxwell Wessel, Chief Learning Officer, SAP SE. “To help counteract the rising unemployment at an early stage, the People to Work program by SAP focuses on helping people who are looking to get back into employment, while enabling them to develop the digital skills that are necessary to thrive in the future workforce.”

The rapid pace of the digital transformation has accelerated over the last year fueled by the global pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, 42% of the core skills required for jobs will change by 2022.

Click to watch a BBC video

“My thirst for knowledge has been quenched and stimulated at the same time,” said Bettina Maas, a former program participant. Today she is a successful SAP software trainer and leader.

To learn more about how the People to Work program has impacted the lives of many across Europe, watch this video. Learn more about the program in your country.

Visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @SAPNews.

Media Contact:
Martin Gwisdalla, +49 (6227) 7-67275,, CET
SAP Press Room;

Any statements contained in this document that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “forecast,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “project,” “predict,” “should” and “will” and similar expressions as they relate to SAP are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. SAP undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations. The factors that could affect SAP’s future financial results are discussed more fully in SAP’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including SAP’s most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the SEC. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of their dates.
© 2021 SAP SE. All rights reserved.
SAP and other SAP products and services mentioned herein as well as their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE in Germany and other countries. Please see for additional trademark information and notices.

The Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Circular

Source: SAP

Headline: The Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Circular

Business as usual is over. Recognition is growing that we are consuming resources almost twice as fast as the planet can replenish them. At this rate , we will need one additional planet to sustain us.

At the same time, the climate crisis is compounding our planet’s resource crisis, with 2020 being one of the warmest years on record. But 2020 was also the year we saw a sizeable – albeit temporary – drop in humanity’s resource consumption. The year brought us the COVID-19 pandemic, and that changed consumer behavior almost overnight. In so doing, it also offered a unique opportunity to rethink the role businesses play in the environment, society, and economics.

Now is the time to turn strategies for climate action and circular economy principles into action. Companies must anticipate the carbon footprint of any business decision they make, as well as its impact on society. Merely measuring the carbon footprint as a function of production doesn’t go nearly far enough, given that emissions created by supply chains can be more than five-times greater than those created by enterprises directly. Measuring, monitoring, and reducing carbon emissions across the entire value chain means inventing entirely new value chains. And these will no longer be linear.

At SAP, we have started down this circularity path, pioneering approaches that support responsible design, sourcing, production, consumption, recovery, and reuse. These are the “responsible” actions that challenge linear value chains. And consumers want them; they want to know that the metals in the batteries they throw out are being recovered and reused, that the shampoo packaging they buy has been designed and produced using pollution-reducing methods and sourced from residual plastic waste, and that the clothes they wear have not been manufactured using child labor.

That goes well beyond just checking labels for ingredients. In one study, 73% of consumers said traceability of products is important to them. Of those, 71% would even pay a premium for it. Consumers want details about sourcing, how products are made or processed, how they are delivered, as well as assurances that brands take actions demonstrating social responsibility.

But can today’s supply chains deliver? In many cases, supply chains are not only linear, they are also fragmented. Businesses that insist on maintaining enterprise-centric systems are restricting their own network visibility and collaboration. Companies that still rely on one-to-one connections and paper-based processes to connect with customers, suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors are losing any advantages their products might offer.

Now, more than ever, to achieve circularity, we must connect these linear, fragmented supply chains into unified, collaborative, and intelligent business networks.

Jump-starting these efforts requires that SAP engage in alliances and partnerships that accelerate marketplaces for waste materials, enable more responsible production methods and ensure better consumer experiences. To name one of a number of such alliances, SAP is a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, helping companies enhance their resource productivity and realize a circular economy.

We aspire to lead by example. The recent announcement of our intention to become carbon-neutral in our own operations by the end of 2023 — two years earlier than previously planned — is a strong statement of our commitment to sustainable business operations. The impact of technology and digital solutions extends beyond the boundaries of companies and industries. They can be multipliers for change. For example, by 2030, new digital technologies could reduce global carbon emissions by 20%.

SAP is uniquely positioned to help build a low-carbon future and create the foundation for a circular economy. But such a fundamental shift cannot be accomplished by one single entity. It is the responsibility of businesses, governments, and regulators to scale up efforts. With nearly 50 years of industry and supply chain expertise, we at SAP are ready to support, enabling a rich ecosystem of sustainability startups and intelligent business networks.

I couldn’t be more committed to SAP’s contribution, and I look forward to inspiring our customers to scale with us!

To learn more about sustainability innovations across disciplines and sectors from SAP and our ecosystem, please register for the virtual SAP Sustainability Summit.

Thomas Saueressig is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, SAP Product Engineering.
This piece was originally published on LinkedIn.