ACP news – Post date: June 2nd, 2020.

OACPS – “Transcending the Covid-19 Pandemic”

A Virtual Summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (OACPS) on 3 June will be on the theme “Transcending the Covid-19 Pandemic: Building Resilience through Global Solidarity” (The Brief, 27 May). The Summit will be convened by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who says “In my message, I have called upon all Member States to embrace a collective approach in order to defeat this unprecedented health pandemic, which has potential to roll back some of the gains made by the Group, including in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The meeting follows the 9th ACP Summit that took place in Nairobi in December 2019. During the summit, leaders will specificy intended collective and collaborative approaches to ensure the effects of the pandemic cause minimal disruption to countries’ economic and social activities, especially in productive sectors.

AUDA-NEPAD and Ecobank Group joint initiative to support Africa’s MSMEs

The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and Ecobank Group have announced their collaboration to strengthen Africa’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on MSMEs (Africa News, 27 May). MSMEs are critical to the African economy as they account for almost 85% of all private sector employment. Vulnerable jobs are in five sectors in Africa: trade, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and hospitality.

Governments have committed on average $20 billion to support MSMEs’ recovery, but access to existing commitments will likely be limited to registered medium enterprises due to criteria outlined by governments and the reducing appetite of commercial banks to loan to small-scale enterprises. The funds allocated for MSMEs are insufficient in most countries, leaving the biggest gaps in micro to small unregistered businesses. Based on this estimated financing gap, only 6 out of 20 countries have made commitments that can cover the MSMEs labour costs: Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon and South Africa.

UEMOA warns of double impact

The West African Economic and Monetary Union (Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine, UEMOA) has reported on the potential food security situation of 12 million people within its region (Commodafrica, 20 May). The President of the UEMOA Commission stated that the siutation would be the result of a “double impact of the security and health situations” in the region. And restrictive measures taken in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic could double that number. The impact of the pandemic can be assessed at several levels: the collapse of local food supply systems due to the closure of markets and the restriction of movement; the worsening of unemployment, weakening of incomes and deterioration of purchasing power, and the inaccessibility food by consumers; and the risks to agro-livestock production during the 2020/21 agropastoral campaign, which is starting under difficult conditions of access to production inputs.

COMESA: Small cross-border traders adopt new business tactics

Since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the Great Lakes region in mid-March 2020, small-scale traders have been unable to cross borders as they have traditionally done either to buy or sell goods (COMESA News, 25 May). To support cross-border trade, which is the lifeline of a huge community in the region, the Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project (GLTFP) has engaged stakeholders to come up with innovative means of trading across the borders of the three countries covered by the project (DRC, Rwanda and Uganda). Subsequently, a new concept of bulk-buying has been developed whereby goods are procured in large consignments in collaboration with suppliers across the borders. This ensures there is no mass movement of traders crossing the borders.
Led by the Cross-Border Traders’ Association (CBTA), this concept has helped traders minimise the risk of Covid-19 spread and allow safe trade. It consists of packaging similar goods from either side of the borders and moving them across the border using joint means of transport. This limits the movement of people to the strict minimum.

Prices are discussed and agreed over the phone. A truck escort is authorised to accompany the vehicle in order to receive payments, with mobile money transactions also used. Once the goods arrive, the traders share them out and proceed with trading at their different points of sale.

Private sector investment key in economic recovery

Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) Representative Patrick Antoine says that the next ten years will be critical for the Caribbean, not just because of the current Covid-19 pandemic, but because it will define what the Caribbean will look like in terms of investment going forward (Barbados Advocate, 10 May). His comments were made during the fifth webinar of the FAO’s Covid-19 and Food Systems Series, organised by the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat, on the theme “Enabling agricultural investment in the Caribbean, for an effective response and post-Covid-19 recovery”. He stressed that investing in agriculture continues to be a strong strategic move, and spoke of a need for mechanisms to provide blended financing options for the agri-industry in particular, as well as for more government and private sector joint funding. “To finance agriculture we need to have more instruments; commercial bank loans will not do it. We need to have a regional stock exchange, we need to have a CARICOM stock exchange that essentially drives private equity and removes the constraints, and we need to have a junior stock exchange like Jamaica. We would like to see that extended to agriculture,” he said. “Where we are now looking into the future of Covid, we need to be concerned about driving exports, cutting imports and driving intra-regional trade. We need to do that from a perspective of private sector investment.”

Fijian farmers pioneer contract farming

According to Fiji’s Agriculture Minister Mahendra Reddy, “If there is anything good that has come out of Covid-19, it has renewed our interest in agriculture, mobilised the entire country to get into agriculture, re-energise everyone that this is where the money is and that this is the future of this country” (Fiji Sun, 10 May). Fifteen farmers in Sabeto, Nadi have become pioneers of a contract farming initiative recently introduced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA). The farmers sign contract agreements with the authority to provide them with a specified quantity of the required produce at the stated intervals. A predetermined pricing range, and the obligations of the authority and of individual farmers, are also stipulated in the contract agreement. The Minister stated that treating farming as a business in this way is a first step towards making Fiji’s agriculture a billion dollar export industry.

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