Africa is coming up with its own solutions to the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a statement by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility was in the process of mobilising $10 billion (about R194 billion) to provide financial assistance to African countries to fight the pandemic.
It raised a $3 billon (R57 billion) COVID-19 bond, the proceeds of which were earmarked to address fiscal challenges, as well as to secure the procurement of medicines, vaccinations, ventilators and other health-related expenditures and feeding programmes, agro-input subsidies and other socio-economic interventions.
Atsuko Toda, Director of Agricultural Finance and Rural Development at the AfDB, said it was vital that Africa maintained adequate food reserves, avoided protectionist policies and promoted value chains that linked domestic and international markets.
“We will work with regional partners, including the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as well as international ones, such as the World Trade Organization, to ensure recovery after the pandemic,” he explained.
According to Dr André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes South Africa, food security was dependent on availability, affordability and nutrition.
Following the AfDB statement, Jooste said that in many parts of Africa, the most direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would be on the availability and affordability of food.
This would have the most significant impact on the most vulnerable and poor. It was likely that due to the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, that even middle-class households would find it difficult to make ends meet.
“This will require resilient bureaucratic systems to put processes and procedures in place in a timely manner, something which many African governments do not have. Thus, even introducing the most basic measures, such as opening up value chains and implementing food feeding schemes, could be challenging, but it is an absolute necessity,” Jooste continued.
He cautioned that anti-hoarding policies were critical to ensure that prices were not artificially supported, especially where supply chains were afforded the opportunity to trade freely, but were controlled by a few role players.
Subsidies could, in extraordinary situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, play an important role in maintaining food production by both small and large-scale farming operations.
“However, subsidies should focus on providing stimuli to expand farming operations currently in production and keep them sustainable through this difficult time. The focus of support during the crisis should be on the most immediate programmes that can bring relief to the hungry,” Jooste said.