President’s Message – COVID-19

Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends I hope you and your family are healthy and safe during these uncertain and unprecedented times in the history of our generation. As COVID-19 tears its way through communities across the globe and as fears about the virus and its impact increases every day, Africa is equally struggling. Countries across the continent have put in place various stringent measures to contain and mitigate the outbreak. The responses to COVID-19, especially the quarantine and restriction of movement and assembly, barriers on tourism and international trade, and the required closure of businesses have brought economic activities in the continent to a stand-still. As the association, we are reminded more than ever that the biggest impact on our communities may, after all, be food security. While food availability has not yet shown much hardship, there will be a supply shock in terms of logistics due to port closures and strict government mandates. The slowdown is already noticeable in the global shipping industry. Elsewhere, we have seen people queue for hours in the most developed democracies to receive food handouts; we have seen farmers drain fresh milk that they cannot deliver to the processing plants and cannot sell directly because it’s illegal; we have seen 100s of acres of fresh produce discarded; we have seen ready-to-harvest produce spoiling in the farm-fields because of lack of labour; we have seen transport vehicles unable to access local markets because of curfews, and other restrictions. The list is endless. On the continent, protest and looting have erupted across South Africa, and Food riots broke out in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, to mention just a few incidents. Africans fear hunger more than Covid-19. As Dr. Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank and former AAAE President said it: ‘‘Coronavirus could kill, but hunger kills many more people’’. AAAE believes that the food supply chain is an essential service that must continue to operate during periods of lockdown, emergency, curfew, and other containment measures. The food Supply chains are a complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers, and more. A shock like a global pandemic can quickly strain them. Every effort must be made to keep the food supply chains moving efficiently to prevent food shortages. This pandemic is substantially changing the world and it will take such a long time to quantify the real impact. But every crisis is also a chance. As Milton Friedman once said, “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change’’. From this crisis, what are the specific lessons to be learned to inform value chain development in key agricultural sectors, with a view to reducing continents' vulnerabilities to global value chains? As countries continue to rightly focus on flattening the pandemic curve, we need to start thinking on how this is affecting the agricultural sector on the continent, the vulnerable channels through which the sector would be impacted, and what types of moves will help undermine the negative effect on the agricultural sector. We also know that the worst desert locust plague in decades is still decimating millions of hectares of crops as it spreads across Africa and other parts of the world. According to the World Bank data in a recent blog, locust swarms have infested 23 countries. They have torn through large swathes of food crops in the Horn of Africa, where more than 24 million people are already "food insecure". The FAO has estimated that unless quickly controlled, 5 million additional people in East Africa will be hungry by June. As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a hunger pandemic is looming. With face-to-face events being canceled and rescheduled, virtual events have cropped up in large numbers. Everyone in our midst can attest to the fact that virtual interaction and Zoom webinars have become the order of the day. In the coming weeks, we will organize e-discussions to exchange our views on what we have so far learned from this pandemic, desert locusts invasion, and the implications on our industry. We will provide more details on this later on our website and other communication. Finally, I pray that you all stay safe, and take all measures to protect yourself and your family.       Stay healthy, Stay Save Guy-Blaise NKAMLEU, President https://aaae-africa.org/