At the time of coronavirus crisis, extending cash transfers to vulnerable people, stabilizing food supply, and using monetary policies to support businesses in Africa is a smart thing.
This is because the concerns COVID-19 crisis posed to public health cannot be separated from the food security concerns. It is, therefore, critical to prioritize protection of the food supply chain and livelihoods as an integral component of the response to the crisis.
However, with limited resources and economic headwinds, many governments ability to respond effectively will, at best, be limited. ONE Campaign’s Edwin Ikhuoria, Executive Director of the African chapter of the global movement to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030 urges governments and businesses in Africa to take action to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spilling over into a hunger epidemic.
In a paper “How to Stop Hunger from Becoming More Deadly Than the Virus” published by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and ONE, Ikhuoria recommends to governments and businesses in Africa to expand and improve food assistance and social protection programmes.
This is aimed to protect the most vulnerable, including cash-based transfer as the primary safety net, which can largely be distributed through contactless solutions…in kind of food assistance such as take-home rations, food package delivery and food vouchers where necessary.
“Governments and businesses should also introduce measures to reduce international remittance cost to close to 0 per cent during the crisis. Also the IMF Board should act to create 500 billion Special Drawing Rights and all actors should immediately enact a debt moratorium for bilateral and private debt for 2020 and 2021. Special Drawing Rights should be allocated to poorer countries, providing them with immediate liquidity to respond to the crisis,” he says.
Ikhuoria has called on donors to fully fund the $6.7 billion request- ed for the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP). According to him, all governments must step up efforts to ensure adequate food reserves by stepping up local production and storage.
Donors should fully fund the $1.5 billion requested by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAF- SP). GAFSP created by the G20 in response to the 2007-2008 food price crises. This is multi- lateral mechanism to improve food and nutrition security that has effective channelled finances to governments, the private sector, and directly to farmers.
He says all governments in Africa should create grain corridors to enable free flow of food supplies for the continent and ensure quick processing of food imports, and allow farmers, processors traders, port staff, seafarers and other maritime workers to work safely during lockdown.
On his part, Dr Godfrey Bahiigwa, Director of Rural Economy and Agriculture in the African Union Commission (AUC) states that governments and businesses should temporarily cut or suspend import tariffs on staples, scale-up distribution of agricultural inputs, develop affordable loan packages for farmers
and small business holders, and suspend interest and debt payments on existing loans for farmers and agribusinesses in 2020. “This meant that any recovery measures both in medium and long term, should be informed not only by the impacts of COVID-19 but by underlying weaknesses already in the systems,” says Dr Bahiigwa.
Dr Bahiigwa emphasises that while it was obviously important to focus on short-term measures aimed at saving lives and feeding vulnerable people, it was equally important in the medium and long term to take actions to build more resilient food systems.