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OPINION: Supporting Africa’s Agribusiness will avert a food crisis
14 May 2020, 2:50 PM

In Kenya’s coastal Mombasa County, Mercy Mghanga reminisces about her past, not so long ago she sold tons of fish to five-star hotels in the tourist town and exported the rest to China.

More than a month since Kenya announced that it has confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the consequences for the fish trade have been far-reaching, a dawn to dusk curfew means fishermen do not go out for their catch, so Mercy now has no stock to sell to over five hundred women fishmongers who deep fry the fish in the local market. The livelihoods of those women and their dependents have been affected. Hotels in Kenya are still closed and so is the export market, Mercy is among thousands of women along the African coastal belts who have depended on fisheries for their living but are now staring at destitution.

It is not just fisheries, her story is repeated in the 42 African countries where Awan Afrika works with over 1 500 women’s networks in different sectors of Agribusiness. Our network comprises of individual members’ businesses including producers, processors, aggregators, export companies and input suppliers among others across the continent and globally.

Africa has just over 51 000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 this week. While the continent has not been as badly hit as the rest of the world, the World Bank has warned that Africa will face its first recession in 25 years due ongoing disruptions in economic activity.

At risk is the continent’s food security. The World Bank also estimates that the continent will lose 7% in agricultural productivity and 25% in food imports, Africa is a net importer of foods spending at least $35 billion according to the African Development Bank.  The over-reliance on food imports has now exposed the food security sector to global economic shocks brought about by the lockdowns.

Lockdowns in various countries (In Africa, 31 countries have imposed full border closures ) – as governments battle to contain the spread of the virus has meant that in some areas smallholder farmers, who make up 80% of Africa’s food producers, cannot farm. There are fears that production in various sectors will fall. Much of Africa’s agricultural production is manual, the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions in movement are likely to cut labour but also harvests and supplies. Women’s productivity is also likely to be affected as they are now at home taking care of children who are not attending school.

The disruptions have also affected the value-chain, those in Agribusiness are not able to reach markets.

Unlike wealthy countries, our members and indeed African Agribusiness players do not have the resources to cushion their businesses from the effects of prolonged closures and lockdowns. This, therefore, calls for urgent financial interventions to help them build resilience for their businesses and also recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

When governments finally lift the lockdown and movement restrictions, Mercy and many like her will not have money to continue operations, indeed many businesses are staring at complete collapse.

In this global crisis, international solidarity with Africa is required to keep businesses afloat, this could include assisting African governments and non-governmental organisations set safety nets for women-led Agribusinesses, this could be in form of cash bailouts or tax breaks as well as support in setting up digital businesses that can withstand the control in movement.

The author Beatrice Gakuba is the Executive Director of Africa Women Agribusiness Network (AWAN).

Video: President Ramaphosa’s address to the nation
13 May 2020, 9:21 PM

President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the nation about government’s measures to combat the coronavirus. The Presidency said in a statement that the address follows meetings of the Cabinet and the Coronavirus Command Council.

Below is the YouTube live stream:

Kenya and Uganda suffer power blackout
9 May 2020, 9:34 AM

Kenya and Uganda were hit by a power blackout on Saturday after what distributor Kenya Power said was a system disturbance in the transmission grid.

The neighbouring countries’ grids are interconnected.

Kenya Power said power went off at 5:49 am.(0249 GMT).

“Our engineers are working to identify and address the hitch, towards restoring normal electricity supply,” it said in a statement.

Kenya Power gave no more details on the system disturbance.

Uganda also suffered a nationwide blackout, Uganda Electricity Transmission Co. Ltd said on its Twitter account.

“We have lost transmission across the nation … please bear with us as we investigate the cause and work on restoration,” it said.

In January 2018, both countries suffered major blackouts due to what they said were system disturbances.

Nigerian comics fight COVID-19 with gags and slapstick slaps
9 May 2020, 9:01 AM

In one of her online videos, she plays the role on an all-knowing, all-controlling Nigerian mother who watches in horror as a young man sneezes into his hands.

Within seconds she grabs a bottle of sanitiser from the bosom of her dress, slathers it over her palms, then hits him hard in the face. “Ah, a sanitised slap,” her companion gasps in mock horror, as the young man learns his lesson the hard way.

Apaokagi, who goes by the stage name Taaooma, said she decided to put out the video to try and reach people who would usually ignore or dismiss advice from the usual official sources – people like her own mother.

“The main reason why I did the coronavirus skit was because of my mom, because you cannot tell her not to go and worship,” she told Reuters.

Authorities have put out regular advice on avoiding large gatherings and the importance of washing hands – but trust in the government is low and conspiracies and bogus health tips spread fast on social media.

Parents “are the ones that are … the most difficult people to tell not to do things,” said Apaokagi. “So when they watch it and laugh, they will also remember the message that they said we should not go to the mosque, they said we should not go to the church for now”.

DO THE DAB

In the skit she advises anyone who is about to cough to do the dab – a dance move where your face ends up in the crook of your arm.

Fellow comic Osarenkhoe Lawrence conjures up a world where diseases have their own governing committee.

In his video, performers representing Ebola and cancer make official complaints to the board saying the new kid on the block is stealing all the limelight.

The solution, the disease chairman rules, is to put COVID-19 in its place by keeping clean and maintaining social distance.

“We are no longer joking, we are actually affecting lives and I think this period we need more videos, we need more funny content,” said the performer from Benin City, who goes by the name MC Casino.

Nigeria’s health ministry has spotted the trend and enlisted popular comedian Bright Okpocha, aka Basketmouth, to appear in a public service video about the dangers of spreading misinformation.

The messages are getting through, said Cyril Oto-Obong, a comedy fan who works as an accountant in Lagos.

“It is not everyone who understands the safety measures when it is spoken in English, but once a comedian makes it a laughing matter, one thing is it will make people pay attention.”

Tokyo Olympics could be best ever: Official
9 May 2020, 8:13 AM

Senior international Olympics official John Coates said on Saturday the delayed Tokyo Olympics could end up being the greatest Games ever, coming next year as the world emerges from COVID-19 crisis.

Coates, Australia’s Olympic chief and head of the International Olympic Committee’s inspectorate for the Games, cited the examples of positive Summer Games that followed the two world wars of the 20th century.

The Tokyo Games were postponed for a year to 2021 in the aftermath of the new coronavirus outbreak.

Coates said he thought Tokyo could surpass even the reputation of the 2000 Sydney Games, which he helped organise and were described by then IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch as “the best Olympic Games ever”.

“Because we all must wait longer than the already-long wait for an Olympics, the Games of Tokyo will gently but perceptibly echo the sheer joy and relief of the other delayed Olympics of Antwerp in 1920 and London in 1948,” he told the annual general meeting of the Australian Olympic Committee.

“I believe the Tokyo Olympics may ultimately be amongst the greatest Games ever, if not the greatest. And putting the parochialism of a proud Sydney boy aside … I certainly hope Tokyo will be.”

Turning to future “opportunity”, Coates told the meeting, which was held online, that the proposal for Australia to host the Summer Olympics for the third time in 2032 was gathering pace.

The bid, centred on South East Queensland around Brisbane, had been given the official backing of the AOC in January, he said, and was now in the phase of “continuous dialogue” with the IOC’s Future Host Commission.

Planning for venues, mostly already existing or temporary, and the siting of athletes villages were progressing and the necessary buy-in of local, state and national government was largely in place.

Coates, who ran a failed bid to host the Games in Brisbane in 1992, said an Olympics could provide an economic catalyst to help Queensland and Australia out of the expected post-coronavirus recession.

“I have always believed in making necessity a virtue. There is already a need for jobs and growth in the Queensland economy arising from the impact of COVID-19,” he told his online audience.

“Our (government partners) recognise a potential 2032 … Games as a critical part of the state and nation’s economic recovery in the short term, quite apart from all of the long-term health, well-being, economic and sporting legacies.”

A decision over which city or region would host the 2032 Olympics could be made as early as 2022, he added. Bids from India, Indonesia and a joint proposal from North and South Korea have also been mooted.

Coates, who has been president of the AOC since 1990, also said he was confident the body was financially in “good order” to come through “this time of some chaos” after a raft of cost-cutting measures.

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