Southern Africa locust invasion
Authorities in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe are frantically trying to control the giant swarms of migratory locusts, which have put 7 million people in the southern region at risk of famine (Fresh Plaza, 8 September). The four countries have launched pesticide spraying efforts to combat the invasion, as the United Nations warns about widespread food insecurity. Smallholder farmers in Botswana lost their entire harvest at the start of the southern outbreak in May, with the growing region of Pandamatenga and its key sorghum crops at risk. The ravenous insects are distinct from the desert locust, which has already flattened farms and devastated crops in the Horn of Africa. Namibia’s initial outbreak in the Zambezi plain has spread to key farming regions, while locusts in Zambia are spreading rapidly and affecting both crop and grazing lands. In Zimbabwe, swarms and hoppers – juvenile insects – have infested two sites in the Chiredzi District, home to a sugar estate, and are now invading the country’s second most populous province, Manicaland.
At the end of July, the Council of Ministers decided to set up a guarantee mechanism amounting to FCFA 50 billion (€76.224 million), allowing agricultural enterprises to share the risk up to 50% with the banks (Commodafrica, 30 July). In addition, a three-part mechanism will be implemented by the National Agricultural Development Fund (Fonds national de développement agricole, FNDA) and should enable farmers to have access to 2% credit, partially guaranteed by the state. This should make it possible to cover the investment and working capital needs of companies in the agricultural sector (production, equipment, inputs). All these measures to support agricultural enterprises and MSMEs complement those already taken in June to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and facilitate their financing.
At the end of July the authorities signed a loan agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB) for €88 million (about 57.7 billion FCFA) to finance the Budget Support Programme in response to the coronavirus crisis (Investir Au Cameroun, 27 July). The objective of the programme is to mitigate the adverse socio-economic effects of the pandemic on households and enterprises. This new financing comes in addition to 6.3 billion FCFA already granted by the AfDB last June through the African Development Fund (ADF) to all CEMAC countries to fight the effects of the pandemic. In Cameroon, 90% of companies consider themselves negatively impacted by the pandemic shock. In the same context, 74% of households have declared a drop in income.
The Groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (Gicam) has conducted a new survey of companies covering the period May/June 2020 (Investir Au Cameroun, 24 July). The results show that nearly 82% of companies surveyed anticipate a drop in turnover for the whole year. This rate reaches 100% in the most exposed branches and 83% in small companies. Gicam suggests that in absolute terms, the loss of annual turnover compared to 2019 could reach 3,139 billion FCFA, causing a drop in companies’ capacity to contribute to state revenues in the order of 521 billion FCFA.
The Food Marketing Assistance Office (Office d’aide à la commercialisation des produits vivriers, OCPV) has received a fund of 1 billion FCFA (€1.52 million) to help actors in the sector cope with the coronavirus pandemic (Commodafrica, 3 September). This fund is part of the state’s 4.4 billion (€6.6 million) action plan, and 1.2 billion FCFA (€ 1.8 million) from the World Bank to mitigate the impact of Covid on food marketing and ensure the availability of quality products at affordable prices, particularly for consumers in the Abidjan district. A Food Marketing action plan was launched at the beginning of September as part of the agriculture sector’s emergency programme against the coronavirus. The Alépé branch of the National Rural Development Support Agency (Agence nationale d’appui au développement rural, ANDER), Alépé and Grand-Bassam departments, has distributed agricultural kits (seeds, fertilisers, pesticides) to cooperatives and producers of food crops and market gardening in the sub-prefectures of Alépé, Bongo and Bonoua.
The Ghanaian authorities have authorised the reopening on 1September of Kokota International Airport, which has been closed since March to combat the spread of the pandemic (RFI, 31 August). Passengers arriving in Ghana will have to present a negative PCR test, carried out less than 72 hours before their departure. However, they will have to be re-tested on arrival at the airport terminal at their own expense. Where there is a positive result, the passenger will be taken care of by the health authorities. The land borders remain closed until further notice.
Muhammad Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria will inject more than 600 billion naira (€1.3 billion) into the agriculture sector (Commodafrica, 31 August). The first to benefit will be small-scale farmers, to ensure food security and the sustainability of their activities. The stimulus package will affect 2.4 million farmers and will take the form of inputs.
Universities and colleges in Lagos will reopen on 14 September (RFI, 31 August). This decision by the authorities follows the progress made in the fight against the virus and the desire to gradually revive economic life. However, it is specified that the pandemic is not over. Primary and secondary schools could reopen on 21 September if the health context permits.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced at the end of July that Senegal’s economic growth would be only 1.1% in 2020 compared to 5.3% in 2019 due to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic (Commodafrica, 23 July). Robust growth averaged around 6.5% over the past six years. Measures to combat the development of the virus, the slowdown in external demand, the fall in workers’ remittances, and the sudden halt in travel and tourism are impacting growth results. In April, the IMF disbursed $442 million to help Senegal meet urgent balance of payments financing needs related to the pandemic. The revised budget law for 2020 includes a significant increase in health spending, targeted support for vulnerable people and wide-ranging economic stabilisation measures.
At the end of July, the International Development Association (IDA) (a World Bank organisation) approved a $30 million grant to support agricultural productivity and market access for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses in Sierra Leone (Commodafrica, 24 July). In June, IDA had already announced a $100 million grant to Sierra Leone to support growth and reduce extreme poverty in the country in order to mitigate the economic and health consequences of the Covid crisis. This is additional funding for the Smallholder Commercialisation and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP). It is expected to facilitate investment in roads, the construction of bridges, easier access to the most remote locations with high agricultural production, and increased supply of improved seeds and fertilisers. The objective is to support the restarting of the agricultural sector after the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has received $300 million in international aid for the country’s economic recovery.
At the end of August the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr Sani Yaya, announced the possible revision of Togo’s National Development Plan (Plan national de développement, PND) over the period 2018–2022 for 4,622 billion FCFA, including 65% of private financing (national and international), in response to the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic (AgriDigitale, 26 August). According to new projections, the growth rate would be 1.3% for the year 2020, against a forecast of 5.5% (5.3% in 2019). “The new policy will revolve around the creation of growth poles, industrial processing units of our raw materials, particularly in the agricultural and industrial sector to develop value chains and create more jobs,” said Mr Yaya.
At the beginning of September, the World Bank published the analysis of a June survey on the impact of Covid-19 on the Togolese economy in general, and on the private sector in particular. It notes that agriculture (30% of GDP) and agro-industry are strongly impacted: “41% of the companies in the agricultural and agro-industrial sector have experienced a drop in the level of sales in the order of 75 to 100%”, and access to finance has become much more difficult, 55% of companies in the agricultural and agro-industrial sector seeing “a drop in available financing” (Commodafrica, 9 September). 70% of agricultural enterprises and 65% of agro-industries have been affected by constraints on transport and logistics. In addition, 70% of agricultural and agro-industrial enterprises experienced constraints on input availability. “The main reason for these difficulties seems to be the lack of availability of these inputs and services on the domestic market and the increase in their costs.”