EAC Secretariat urges Partner States to prepare economic recovery plans for the time after COVID-19
The COVID-19 global pandemic is not only a major health crisis that challenges health systems across the globe. It has far reaching ramifications on economies worldwide. The medium- and long-term effects resulting from the measures taken to slow down and contain the spread of the disease remain unforeseeable.
The East African Community region is no exception. On a positive note, the free movement of goods and services in the EAC has been maintained and the supply situation for staple food and basic necessities is currently secured. However, on the negative side, enterprises across sectors including the agro-industry and particularly the informal sector are suffering. Value chains have been disrupted and tourism, a major source of income in the region, has come to a complete stand-still.
Against this backdrop, the East African Community Secretariat calls upon Partner States to immediately commence developing National Economic Recovery Plans. The East African Community Secretariat has finalised an EAC COVID-19 Response Plan and is developing the EAC Recovery Strategy based on a regional approach. “While many people have already lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families, there is a window of opportunity to prepare for the time after COVID-19 and to prevent another catastrophe,” says Honourable Christophe Bazivamo, Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, EAC Secretariat. He especially urged Partner States to strengthen their food production systems by allowing farming activities to continue. He further emphasized that Partner States should more than ever before promote the use of technology and digital solutions to improve agriculture production and trade in agriculture products.
The EAC has received good rains since September 2019 in most of its parts and the meteorological forecast up to May 2020 shows near normal to above normal rainfall. As a result, livestock and wildlife are striving and farmers are expecting good harvests. “All this presents good prospects for the agriculture sector,” says Fahari Marwa, Principal Agricultural Economist at the EAC Secretariat. He recommends that pastoralists and farmers should take advantage of these conditions to improve animal, food and cash crop production so as to fill the region’s food basket. This is especially important, as some of the EAC Partner States are bracing for a second locust invasion. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has warned that the new generation is expected to hatch in May.
To mitigate the COVID-19 burden and to brace for the expected economic challenges following the pandemic, the EAC Secretariat recommends Partner States to meet the immediate food needs of their vulnerable populations by ensuring that emergency food needs are met, and to adjust and expand social protection programmes. The EAC Secretariat further urges Partner States to gain efficiencies and try to reduce trade-related costs, to reduce food wastage and losses, improve food storage systems and to resolve logistical bottlenecks. According to Kenneth Bagamuhunda, Director of Customs and Trade, EAC Secretariat, other possible measures could include:
reviewing trade and policy options to address COVID-19 impacts;
reducing import tariffs on essential goods and inputs;
reviewing domestic taxation policies on essential goods produced locally;
assessing the potential impact of exchange devaluation;
instituting stimulus packages to boost local production and promote imports substitution;
applying monetary and fiscal measures to counter inflationary pressures;
upscaling trade facilitation to enhance food trade.
The EAC Secretariat also calls upon regional and international Partners to establish and support short- to long-term measures which compliment Partner States’ efforts to contain the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the food and nutrition security in the EAC region.
While starting to prepare for recovery after the COVID-19 outbreak, the EAC Partner States should vehemently continue to implement the measures that prevent and contain the spread of the disease until the pandemic is completely over. This includes bans on non-essential travel and international commercial flights, enhanced active surveillance and quarantining of COVID-19 suspect cases as well as raising awareness on how to prevent and respond to infections. Further, the EAC Secretariat strongly encourages the strategy of “test and isolate” to limit the spread and speed up the containment of the virus.
The EAC Secretariat encourages the EAC citizens to remain vigilant, follow the recommended physical distancing, maintain strict hygiene including washing hands with soap and water and sanitising them, among other preventive measures.