ESA Situation Report May

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Introduction

This update — the 2nd of its kind — contains an overview of the flow of goods in and out of the 24 respective countries forming part of the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus — COVID-19 — has been impacting business and life on all levels of society for the last couple of months – for many, recalibrating their understanding of normalcy at every possible juncture. Globally, countries have closed borders, suspended many flights (all flights in some cases) and going into lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus. A large number of countries have started to re-open their borders and have kick-started their respective economies. However this has not happened in Africa just yet.

The medical industry has rallied behind the cause and now it is for us to do our part? For many the best efforts are simply to stay put and limit movement. However, what about business? As advocated by many international institutions, it is vital that Governments facilitate the continued operation of shipping and ports under their jurisdiction to allow the transport of marine cargoes so that supply chains are not disrupted, and to allow the global economy and society as a whole to continue to function throughout the pandemic.

The aim of this paper is therefore to provide an update on the current situation across the ESA region regarding the movement of goods. As COVID-19 infections began to increase — Africa experienced a delayed process as is many times the global case —countries across the continent have closed their borders in a desperate attempt to keep their people safe and maintain overall health. Below is a summary of how each of the 24 ESA member countries have responded to the virus in terms of transport, movement of people and trade.

Country summary

Concern is mounting as infections in Africa started accumulating (note the comprehensive table below. Alarms have been raised since the continent is plagued with unemployment and poor living conditions along with a serious lack of medical infrastructure. Seventy-one per cent of employment in Africa is informal, which means that the majority of the continent’s people will not be able to work or earn an income in strict lockdown. One of the concerns pointed out by the UN is the prevalence of HIV/Aids in Africa, especially Southern Africa. In addition to this only 34 per cent of households in Africa have access to facilities which allow them to wash their hands properly. There is an overall concern for the continent.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that should African economies prove to be resilient and governments put efficient policies in place to stabilize economies, their overall estimated growth in GDP will drop 1.4 per cent from 3.2 to 1.8. However, the group estimates that in a worst-case scenario, the continent’s economy could contract by up to 2.6 per cent in 2020.

Figure 1 shows UNECA’s projections for Africa’s GDP growth as initially estimated (blue), best-case scenario (yellow), middle-case scenario (orange) and worst-case scenario (red).

Figure 1 – Potential impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s GDP growth

Figure 1 – Potential impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s GDP growth

Source: ECA estimations, 2020.

ESA COVID-19 statistics

Table 1 – Covid-19 spread and border closures in East and Southern Africa – mid-May

Country
Infections
Deaths
Border closure
Lockdown status
Angola
52
3
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Botswana
25
1
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Burundi
42
1
Borders closed to people, trade was restricted, but is now allowed to continue.
Full lockdown
Comoros
34
1
Borders closed to people, but trade continues
Full lockdown
Djibouti
1 618
7
Borders closed to people, but trade continues with slowdowns
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Eritrea
39
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Eswatini
208
2
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Partial lockdown
Ethiopia
389
5
Borders closed to people, but trade continues however the volumes have declined drastically
Full lockdown
Kenya
963
50
Borders closed to people, but trade continues, with limited availability of export containers.
Full lockdown
Lesotho
1
0
Borders closed to people and nationals in foreign countries are implored to remain there, but trade continues.
Partial lockdown
Madagascar
371
2
Borders closed to people, but trade continues, ports are operated at a greatly reduced capacity.
Partial lockdown, easing restrictions
Malawi
70
3
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
No lockdown
Mauritius
332
10
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Mozambique
146
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues with coal exports also being expected to continue as normal.
Full lockdown
Namibia
16
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues with a significant slowdown.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Rwanda
308
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues, the Burundi border was temporarily closed to trade, but has reopened.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Seychelles
11
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues, domestic airline will assist in exporting and importing during commercial flight ban.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Somalia
1 502
59
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
South Africa
17 200
312
Borders closed to people, but trade continues, with special focus on essential goods.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
South Sudan
290
4
Borders closed to people although corruption remains a problem, but trade continues.
Partial lockdown
Tanzania
509
21
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
No lockdown
Uganda
264
0
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions
Zambia
832
7
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
No lockdown
Zimbabwe
46
4
Borders closed to people, but trade continues.
Full lockdown, easing restrictions

Source: Worldometers, updated 20/05/2020, 14:30

Angola

On April 9 President João Lourenço announced that the State of Emergency in Angola would be extended by an additional 15 days, ending on 25 April at 11:59 pm. The government has stated that the country is however facing a high level of disobedience by members of the public. During the first period of lockdown the National Police seized around 1 500 motorbikes and 700 vehicles, closed down 60 unofficial markets and detained 70 shop owners. Thus, the government  also implemented a “sanitary fence” on 13 April from 11:59pm which prevents the inter-provincial movement of people via any form of transportation, be it land, sea, air or rail (source).

The Angolan Press reported that the country received around 55-tons of sanitary and related equipment and goods during the first period of lockdown ending on April 11. They estimated that SADC partner, South Africa, would be sending an additional 100 tons in the coming weeks. Both essential and non-essential cargo is allowed to move across the country’s borders in any mode of transportation (source).

Although the Angolan president announced that the country’s lockdown will be extended on 4 May, the lockdown has been lifted in 17 of the country’s 18 provinces. The country’s capital however remains still remains in lockdown (source). Angolan authorities indicate that the country’s state of emergency will remain until 25 May (source)

Government’s response:

  • The Government has approved a National Contingency Plan to Control the Epidemic.
  • Additional health care spending to mitigate COVID-19, estimated at US$40 million, has been announced and tax exemptions on humanitarian aid and donations have been granted.
  • A contingent of over 250 health professionals sent from Cuba on 10 April is completing quarantine and will be deployed across the country.
  • The Ministry of Social Action, Family and Women Empowerment will disburse AOA 315 million (nearly US$562,500) to support food distribution to vulnerable groups.
  • UN entities in Angola have reallocated $16 million to support the Government-led response to COOVID-19, including $12.5 million for the health response and $3.5 million for food security in Namibia, Huila, Cunene and Cuando Cubango provinces (source).

Botswana

Botswana went into a strict 28-day lockdown period on 2 April. Botswana’s Parliament announced on April 9 that the country will be under state of emergency for six months. This has been opposed and criticized by the ruling opposition, claiming that this opens the door for high levels of corruption and irregularities, especially with regards to tenders (source). Trade is expected to continue with no restrictions on goods entering the country.

As in many other countries, the Vice President Slumber Tsogwane announced that the government will incrementally begin to open up the economy, starting 8 May (source).  On 11 May the country’s capital was placed back into full lockdown after registering a positive case over the weekend (source), it seems that the easing of lockdown measures will however continue throughout the rest of the country.

Botswana (as well as South Africa) imposed an alcohol ban with the lockdown measures in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Due to this ban however, the illegal distribution of alcohol has taken root, with cross-border truckers being responsible for a large portion of the “unlawful” importation of alcohol (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government established a COVID-19 Relief Fund and encourages the private sector, individuals and organizations to contribute.
  • An economic package was approved and will facilitate loans by commercial banks to businesses mostly affected by COVID-19 and give tax concessions to businesses in eligible sectors.
  • From 20 April, the Government will start a massive screening campaign across all regions, while implementing measures to ensure that citizens have sufficient potable water and sanitation services during the period of lockdown (source).

Burundi

On 30 March Burundi closed its borders not only to people entering the country, but also to any cargo entering the country. However, on April 13 the Burundian government announced that all cargo will be allowed into the country in accordance with the decision made by the East African Community to allow the free movement of goods within the EAC region (source).

The landlocked country is heavily reliant on neighboring countries for imports and exports. With trucks taking days to cross the Rwandan border, the country is under tremendous pressure (source).

Burundi’s election scheduled for 20 May is said to proceed as planned. Concern is however growing as the ruling party expelled four WHO experts from advisory roles, citing “interference” in the country’s management of the pandemic (source)

Government’s response:

  • In parallel to the Strategic Response Plan developed by the WHO and partners, a contingency plan has been prepared by the Government, requesting US$58.2 million. Over $15 million has been pledged or made available for the COVID-19 response efforts.
  • The National Steering Committee for Public Health Emergency Management, chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight Against AIDS, has been reactivated, together with technical working groups.
  • Health authorities are screening travelers and have supplied laboratories with COVID-19 testing kits, however both require enhancements.
  • A campaign has been launched to tell people about the COVID-19 preventive measures and hotline is answering questions from the public (source).

Comoros

On 30 April the volcanic Island country announced its first case of the novel coronavirus. President Azaki Assoumani said that mosques will be closed during the period of Ramadan and a curfew will be in place between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., but the country will not go into full lockdown. The country’s borders however remain closed to any movement apart from cargo (source).

Djibouti

Djibouti has been in lockdown since March 23, with only essential services operating under strict sanitary conditions. Cargo is allowed to move as normal with no restriction on goods being imported or exported. There have however been some disruptions in the supply chain, with a significant slowdown in all forms of transport, especially road transport (source).

On April 14 Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) announced that it will be granting free terminal handling charges to Ethiopian export cargo for 60 days, starting 16 April (source).

The country planned to begin “incrementally unlocking” the country on 11 May, but due to a rapid spread of the virus, the country’s government decided to postpone the easing of lockdown measures (source). The country has the highest number of cases on the African continent per capita. President Ismail Omar Guelleh warns of “even tougher measures” should the population continue to disregard the lockdown measures (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Ministry of Health and its partners have increased their preparedness by building surveillance, testing, quarantine, and health worker capacity. The WHO has delivered protective and medical equipment, including tests and respirators.
  • On 9 April, the United Nations organized a virtual conference on COVID-19, with the participation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the spokesperson for the Government, the Minister for the Economy and Finance, religious leaders, the representative of WHO and the United Nations Resident Coordinator (source).

Eritrea

Eritrea entered into a 21-day lockdown period on April 2. The country announced that although commercial flights and the movement of people across borders have been suspended, cargo was allowed to move across borders (source). However, a highly publicized shipment of COVID-19 supplies originating from Addis Ababa, donated by Alibaba, never made it to Eritrea. The shipment of goods was destined for a group of African countries including Kenya, Djibouti and Eritrea. It is speculated that the goods were not delivered due to the fact that the Eritrean officials never cleared the plane carrying the cargo to land (source).

Eritrea has become somewhat of a poster child in Africa, with all 39 cases of COVID-19 having recovered, with no deaths and no new cases. As of 15 May, the small African country is virus free. The country’s Task Force announced that extensive testing will be taking place across the country (source). President Isaias Afeworki announced that the country will begin easing their strict lockdown measures (source).

Eswatini

On April 9 the Prime Minister of Eswatini, Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini announced that the country will remain in partial lockdown until May 7. The Prime Minister indicated that the borders would remain closed with the exception of essential travel including nationals returning home and the movement of cargo and services across borders. The country is not yet in full locked down, although all employers have been requested to allow as many employees as possible to work from home and that essential businesses should continue to operate at full strength (source).

On 7 May King Mswati III urged nationals to abide by the government’s restrictions and regulations. This after reports that the country’s population have widely been ignoring the partial lockdown regulations (source). Prime Minister Dlamini indicated that the country’s government will begin to ease out the lockdown in coming weeks (source). There have been growing reports that the country’s government is not making good on its pledge to feed the poor and vulnerable, with government only working in areas where there are already structures in place, excluding those that live in the more rural areas or on outskirts of towns (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government reports that additional health workers, including eight doctors, 145 nurses, environmental health specialists, and paramedics have been recruited and 1,007 nurses, 147 doctors and over 3,000 rural health motivators have been trained on COVID-19 case management (source).

Ethiopia

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency on April 2. He added that the country’s borders will remain shut with the exception of essential imports. The landlocked country relies on Djibouti and Kenya’s seaports for trade which, due to the cross-currents of the virus, will be drastically reduced (source).

The country has shown a relatively low infection rate as compared to other African countries. The country remains in partial lockdown (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government of Ethiopia prepared a multi-sector national COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan for the next three months, appealing for US$ 1.76 billion.
  • At the Federal level, the multi-sector COVID-19 response is coordinated by the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) led by the Commissioner of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC). All humanitarian partners are supporting the center.
  • At the regional level, coordination centers have been established. NDRMC will be working to ensure that regional Coordination Forums mirror the Federal Coordination Mechanism.
  • The Government and partners are expanding quarantine and isolations centers to all points of entry (air and land) and major cities; extending the number of testing facilities to cover major cities; carrying out house-to-house COVID-19 surveillance and community awareness;
  • The humanitarian system reactivated the Logistics Cluster to coordinate demands for emergency COVID-19 supplies throughout the country (source).

Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a 21-day lockdown starting on April 6 (source). Part of the restrictions will be to inhibit people from moving across borders or even between cities. All cargo is allowed to move across borders. Kenya has reported that due to a decline in exports, container availability is severely limited. There has also been reports of severe congestion in road transport, especially at border posts (source).

The guidelines in place to screen truck drivers coming in and out of Kenya via the Ugandan border has caused serious delays in the movement of cargo and heavy traffic. A 30km traffic jam was reported at the Kenyan town of Malaba, which is on the Ugandan border (source).

During an address to the Nation on 16 May President Kenyatta announced that the country will be imposing additional measures to close borders with Somalia and Tanzania in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. He did however make it clear that this further closure of borders would not be imposed on cargo (source)

Government’s response:

  • The Government has earmarked Ksh40 billion (approximately US$377.7 million) in funds for additional health expenditure, including enhanced surveillance, laboratory services, isolation units, equipment, supplies, and communication; social protection and cash transfers; food relief; and funds for expediting payments of existing obligations to maintain cash flow for businesses during the crisis.
  • On 9 April, the United Nations and humanitarian partners launched an Emergency Appeal to support the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The plan seeks $267.5 million to respond to the most immediate and critical needs of 10.1 million people that will likely be affected by the current situation (source).

Lesotho

Lesotho sealed all borders to all forms of travel as the landlocked country, geographically encircled by South Africa, tries to keep the virus at bay and prevent it from entering its borders (source). The country is however allowing the movement of essential cargo across its borders. The Minister of Finance, Moeketsi Majoro has pleaded with nationals in foreign countries to remain where they are with the country’s health care system under tremendous strain (source).

The country’s government decided to lift the national lockdown on 5 May. As of 13 May, Lesotho is the last ESA country to confirm its first case of infection. It is expected that the number of cases will rise as the country begins to expand testing (source). In addition to this, Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will resign from his position before 22 May, following a decision by Thabane’s coalition partners’ decision to withdraw their support in parliament. Finance minister Moeketsi Majorro has been nominated as his successor (source).

Government’s response:

  • A M700 million (approximately US$38.6 million) fund has been set aside for the National COVID-19 Response Integrated Plan 2020, more than half of which will be used for health care personnel and purchase of critical goods and services, with the remainder covering logistics, security, and border management (source).

Madagascar

President Andry Rajoelina imposed a lockdown in the island’s three main cities stating there may  be easing in the coming weeks (source). Although all cruise ships have been banned; cargo ships are allowed to all ports, although they are operating at a reduced capacity (source). Travel between islands, including the Union of Comoros, Mayotte and Reunion Island has been suspended (source).

Starting 20 April, lockdown measures have been eased on the country’s three major cities, citing the reason as “the solution against coronavirus” has been found (referring to the “miracle cure”). The country’s government continues to distribute the herbal tea labeled as the “miracle cure” (source). The WHO warns against “adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy” (source).

Government’s response:

  • Key measures include: (i) increased spending on epidemic prevention and control; (ii) cash-transfers and in-kind necessities to the poorest and those unemployed; and (iii) tax relief, suspension of government fees and waived social contributions.
  • On 12 March 2020, the World Bank provided a grant of US$3.7 million to strengthen prevention against the COVID-19 pandemic, purchase materials and equipment, and train health workers. On 2 April, the World Bank approved $100 million Development Policy Operation (DPO) for budget support to improve the human capital. On 3 April 2020, the IMF approved a disbursement under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), equivalent to US$165.9 million, to meet the external financing gaps arising from COVID-19 (source).

Malawi

Health Minister Jappie Mhango declared a 21-day nationwide lockdown, starting on April 18. The country’s borders will remain open to trade, however with strict health and safety measures in place (source). After pleas from the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition, however, the Malawi high court has temporarily barred the government from implementing the 21-day lockdown (source).

On 28 April Malawi’s High Court extended the order barring the government from imposing a 21-day lockdown indefinitely. This decision is supported by many nationals, as they state “Had the lockdown been implemented, we would certainly have died of hunger and not coronavirus” (source). The country is also planning an election, with a judge ruling that 3 July 2020 will be the deadline for the swearing in of the president-elect (source).

Government’s response:

  • On 8 April, Malawi Government launched the National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, with a budget of US$213 million (MWK157 billion). The response plan includes US$20 million (0.25 percent of GDP) in spending on health care and targeted social assistance programs. This includes hiring 2,000 additional health care workers.
  • The Minister of Population Planning and Social Welfare reportedly announced on 11 April that all Government social cash transfer beneficiaries will receive a four-month disbursement. The measure aims to cushion them from the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and to boost compliance with social distance orders.
  • On 15 April, the World Bank approved $7 million in immediate funding to support Malawi’s response under a new Malawi COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project. In addition to the new operation, $30 million has been made available from the Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Financing with a Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat-DDO) to strengthen the country’s response to the pandemic (source).

Mauritius

On April 10 Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth announced that the country’s lockdown will be extended to May. Although the country’s borders are closed for the movement of people and open to trade (source), delays have been experienced (source). Air Mauritius has been forced to go into business rescue as the embattled airline could not weather the Covid-19 storm (source).

On 13 May Mauritius declared the battle “won” as the country reported no new cases in over 17 days. Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal said that battles have been won due to public cooperation “But we have not yet won the war”, as he urges the public to continue being vigilant. Starting 15 May the strict lockdown regulations have been eased, with bakeries and other essential services reopening (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government has announced plans to increase general public health spending by Rs208 million (approximately US$5.25 million), with half already disbursed, according to the IMF (source).

Mozambique

Mozambique declared the country’s first ever state of national disaster on April 1. The country’s borders remain open to trade but are operating at reduced capacity leading to time delays. The country’s coal exports are expected to continue during the lockdown period (source).

As of the end of April President Filipe Nyusi announced that the nation-wide lockdown will be extended for another 30 days. Statin that the lockdown has been extended due to the positive effect it has had on curbing the spread if the virus (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government has increased the budget allocation for health, from about approximately US$29.8 million (MT 2 billion or about 0.2 per cent of GDP) to about $49.2 million (MT 3.3 billion or 0.3 per cent of GDP).
  • The Government has requested $700 million from partners to help deal with the impact of the pandemic (source).

Namibia

On April 14 the Namibian Government announced that it would be extending the lockdown until May 4. Namibia has maintained a free flow of all cargo across all ports of entry during its lockdown period. The movement of cargo is however impaired and drastically slowed down by the screening process and safety measures. Hippy Tjicikua, Walvis Bay Corridor Group CEO stated that this is in spite of the fact that the volume of cargo entering the country has decreased drastically (source).

On 30 April it was announced that starting 5 May, the nation-wide lockdown will be gradually lifted in four phases, as the infection rate remains static. The ban on the sale of alcohol remains, leading to spikes in the illegal trade of alcohol (as in Botswana and South Africa).

Government’s response:

  • On 1 April 2020, the Government launched Economic Stimulus and Relief Package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 for approximately US$434.5 million (8 billion Namibian Dollars, or 4.25 percent of GDP), including approximately $119.5 million (2.2 billion) for health, wage subsidies, and income grants; and guarantees of up to $124.9 million (2.3 billion) to support low interest loans for small and agricultural businesses, and individuals (source).

Rwanda

President Paul Kgame extended Rwanda’s lockdown for the second time to April 30. The country has closed all borders and suspended all commercial flights, while goods and cargo are allowed to move across borders. The country did however close its land borders to Burundi for a period of time in retaliation to Burundi’s refusal to allow trucks carrying essential cargo to enter the country (source). However, as Burundi announced that the country’s borders will remain open to trade, Rwanda followed suit. All borders are operating at minimal capacity (source). Unrest is growing within the country with increased accusations of police brutality becoming more frequent (source).

Starting 4 May, the country will begin to ease the nation-wide lockdown, allowing certain people to return to work in an effort to revive the country’s battling economy. Construction and manufacturing sectors along with markets, hotels and restaurants are among those allowed to operate again. The new regulations imposed by government includes a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government announced a social protection plan to support vulnerable people across the country during the lockdown, with door to door provision of foodstuffs and groceries to vulnerable homes since 28 March (source).

Seychelles

Seychelles entered into a 21-day lockdown period on April 9 (source). Air Seychelles suspended all domestic services on April 10 until May 1. Cargo flights to assist the import export supply chain are continuing but are under heavy strain (source).

As the country’s infections have tapered down, the Public Health Commissioner announced that as of 4 May the country will begin to ease lockdown regulations (source).

Government’s response:

  • The government announced it will cut non-essential spending across most ministries, departments and agencies by introducing measures such as placing a freeze on recruitment, restricting travel and reducing allowances. With the cancellation of several festivals and delaying the national census to 2021, the resources saved will be used to finance the construction of an isolation center, increase actual quarantine capacity and other health-related projects.
  • Financial assistance will reportedly be provided to businesses to ensure that all their employees are paid in April, May and June 2020 (source).

Somalia

Somalia’s government announced a ban on international flights in and out of the country which is extended to cargo flights. Seaports are still operational (source). The police in the Puntland area have banned all vehicles, passenger and cargo, from moving in or out of the state.  The State instituted a curfew and lifted taxes on rice, sugar and cooking oil in an attempt to lighten the strain on the people (source).

Civil unrest is growing as Somalians protests police killing during the lockdown period, with a broader concern of police brutality sparking outrage with citizens (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government launched on 26 March a national preparedness and response plan, which seeks US$57.8 million to scale up operations over the next nine months (source).

South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on April 23 that the nationwide lockdown will be phased out in five levels with the country entering into level four on 1 May. This will allow some businesses to open.  The country’s ports remain open to cargo allowing only essential cargo to move to intended destination as per the International movement document. Non-essential cargo will be kept into storage facilities until after lockdown. This will impose a serious financial burden to Trade as containers (FCL) and other conveyance packing equipment can’t be de-stuffed, allow the return of empty containers or use in packing of containers for Exports. Ports are operating at a reduced capacity which has resulted in delays.

On 13 May President Ramaphosa announced that most of the country will be moved to a level three lockdown before or on 31 May. He however stated that provinces or metropolitans with high infection rates will remain on level four (source). Following public outcry, the serious restrictions imposed on e-commerce has also been lifted, allowing SME’s an opportunity to generate an income.

Government’s response:

  • The Government announced on 21 April a R500 billion Rand (approximately $26.4 billion) social relief and economic support package, involving, according to the authorities, a health budget to respond to coronavirus, the relief of hunger and social distress, the support for companies and workers, and the phased re-opening of the economy (source).

South Sudan

South Sudan has imposed a ban on international flights with the exception of cargo flights. Land borders remains open and operational as the landlocked country heavily relies on these ports to obtain essential goods. Strict health and safety measures are however in place. Although the country’s borders remain closed for the movement of people, corruption has affected the ability to contain the spread of the virus (source).

In spite of the  increased number of positive cases, the country will begin easing lockdown restrictions including some restraints on commerce, and even travel (source).

Government’s response:

  • The country’s High-Level Task Force on COVID-19, chaired by the first Vice President, is leading the response, with technical support from WHO, US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Technical Working Groups (TWGs) and humanitarian partners. Training of health workers, surveillance, contact tracing, risk communication, case management and expanding the John Garang Infectious Disease Unit from 24 to 80 beds are among the main activities.
  • WHO, in support of the Ministry of Health, pre-positioned COVID-19 supplies as part of the national COVID-19 preparedness and response plan to 20 locations across the country.
  • Humanitarians are targeting more than 5 million vulnerable people with assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Up to 12 months of nutritional supplies are being prepositioned for vulnerable families, focusing on tackling acute malnutrition, pregnant and breastfeeding women and the chronically ill.
  • Communal hand-washing sites are being set up in high-density areas like Juba, Wau, Malakal and Bentiu.
  • Tens of thousands of educational flashcards, pamphlets, banners and posters in multiple languages are being distributed.
  • Radio Miraya, a radio station owned and operated by the UN Mission in South Sudan, is broadcasting health information to people across the country.
  • A media desk is set up at the Ministry of Health to improve the flow of information to the public and journalists are being trained in how to curb misinformation and rumors (source).

Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the few countries that resisted the World Health Organization’s recommendation of total lockdown. Tanzanian President John Magufuli refused to allow churches to be closed and to prevent congregations from meeting (source). He stated that “Coronavirus should not be a reason to destroy our economy at all,” The country has however put a ban on all international flights. The movement of cargo across borders is allowed with strict health and safety measures in place (source).

On 13 May, the US embassy in Tanzania and the WHO has expressed concern of the government’s strategy for dealing with the virus. The embassy warned that hospitals were “overwhelmed” and that the country was at risk for exponential growth (source). In contrast President Magufuli stated that there had been a “sharp decline” in the number of COVID-19 patients in the country’s hospitals. He noted that the US embassy did not provide any details to back up their claim (source). Zambia and former Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, has expressed concern of the country’s reaction to the virus, with Zambia closing its joint border with Tanzania (source).

Government’s response:

  • President John Magufuli has banned the 56 Union Celebrations, normally held on 26 April, and ordered that the Sh500 million that was budgeted for the event be spent on boosting the COVID-19 Special Fund for the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar (source).

Uganda

President Yoweri Museveni announced that the nationwide lockdown will be extended to May 5, with all the same measures still in place. All commercial flights are suspended, while cargo flights will continue as normal. The president also stated that no foreign national will enter the country through land or seaports except for those transporting goods into the country (source). The Minister of Health however indicated that the road border between Uganda and Kenya is one of the country’s main concerns as a truck driver bringing cargo from Kenya to Uganda has recently tested positive for the virus (source).

On 5 May the country began easing out of one of Africa’s strictest lockdowns, after the country had not recorded one COVID-19 related death. Hardware shops, restaurants and other wholesale stores were allowed to reopen (source). President Museveni is expected to address the nation and announce follow up relaxations on regulations on 18 May (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government has implemented a house-to-house food distribution during the lockdown. President Museveni has stated that the food support is targeted in urban areas towards people who relied on daily earnings that have been impacted by the anti-COVID-19 measures–including working in hair salons; bars; night clubs; garages; selling non-food items in markets; etc. – and who do not grow their own food (source).

Zambia

President Edgar Lungu, has decided against the recommendations of the World Health Organization not to implement a full lockdown due, largely to concerns regarding the ability of citizens to obtain food and income. The Zambian Minister of Health did however announce that Kafue town will be placed on lockdown due to the rapid spread of the virus in this specific area. The landlocked country is heavily dependent on trade for both essential supplies and income, thus the country’s borders remain open. Due to health and safety precautions, delays are being experienced at all ports of entry (source).

President Lungu announced on 8 May that some of the measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus will be eased. Some of the businesses that will reopen include restaurants, cinemas and gymnasiums. He also indicated that hotels and lodges should begin preparations for reopening (source).

After recording 76 cases of COVID-19 in Nakonde, a border town in Tanzania, President Lungu closed the border from 11 May to 16 May. The border has been reopened for cargo but the movement of people across borders remains prohibited (source).

Zimbabwe

President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on April 19 that the country’s lockdown will be extended for an additional two weeks (source). The country’s economy and people are of great concern as the majority of income is generated through informal trade. Law enforcement of burning fresh produce to enforce the lockdown has created tension. Essential cargo is still allowed to move across the country’s borders with strict screenings in place (source).

On 16 May President Mnangagwa announced that lockdown will remain in place indefinitely, but the restrictions and regulations will be subject to review every two weeks. He indicated that informal markets will remain closed while students writing their final exams in 2020 will be allowed to return to school (source). There have been reports that a water shortage is causing hardship for those living in rural areas (source).

Government’s response:

  • The Government launched its COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan on 19 March and has said it will increase cash transfers for 1 million vulnerable households.
  • On 2 April, the United Nations and humanitarian partners launched a Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for US$715 million to respond to rising needs in the country and includes an addendum on COVID-19. The plan is currently being revised to fully reflect COVID-19 response requirements (source).

Updates and recommendations from Regional Economic Communities in East and Southern Africa

COMESA:

In a report written by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council, governments are implored to look at both monetary and non-monetary measures to protect their businesses. The report recommends that businesses focus on restructuring their current models or employing newer models such as working from home, digital meetings, virtual office spaces and remote operations managements. Governments are urged to reduce the cost of local production in cooperation with the industry (source).

EAC:

The East African Community issued a statement that all partner states were expected to implement 100% entry and exit screenings on transit passengers. Partner states are expected to facilitate the free movement of all goods and services along with ensuring that the people involved in these processes are continuously screened and kept safe. The Minister of Health for the EAC indicated that partner states should assist anyone in their country trying to get to their home country if this is an EAC partner state (source).

Truck drivers ferrying goods across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania, are becoming a concern, as a high number of cases have been detected among drivers. Uganda for example indicated that 51 truck drivers have tested positive. This is creating a difficult situation where countries wish to close borders to the movement of cargo, but risk starvation and economic collapse if they do so (source).

SACD:

The Southern African Development Community has announced a set of guidelines for member states to facilitate the flow of essential goods while limiting the movement of people across borders. SADC encouraged governments to categorize pilots and crew and cross border truck drivers as essential services to facilitate their movements. They listed food, medical equipment and supplies as well as medicine, personal protective equipment, fuel and coal, agricultural inputs and supplies, and all goods needed in the production and processing of foodstuffs. as essential goods.

The group stated that the movement of goods not included in the list should be discussed between member states. Member states are encouraged to introduce or enhance single window processing and inline platforms for the clearance of imports. Inter-state movement should be suspended with the exception of the movement of cargo and people returning to their home countries (source).

Conclusion

This update — the 2nd of its kind — contained an overview in respect of the flow of goods in and out of the 24 respective countries forming part of the East and Southern Africa (ESA) region. A number of ESA countries have started easing lockdown measures as the infection rates slow down. Most countries however remain in some level or phase of lockdown. This has not only placed substantial strain on the region’s economic activities but has also on its people. There are growing concerns for food security, income generation and — in some countries — even social unrest with reports of police brutality. The closure of borders to the movement of “non-essential” goods in some countries, has led to a number of inhibiting supply chain constraints, notably port and border-crossing congestion, supply chain narrowing and mismatches of supply/demand for critical supplies.

Nonetheless, the efforts of the respective governments are having an effect. The screenings and prevention of international movement of people appears to be curbing the spread of the virus. Eritrea and Mauritius announcing zero active cases for the first two weeks in May. The figure below illustrates the number of confirmed cases of infection in the ESA region.

Figure 2 – Confirmed cases of infection in East and Southern Africa

(Source)

Evident from the figure above is the fact that the confirmed cases of infection have increased at a much slower rate than reported in countries such as China, Italy, Spain and the United States. This reaffirms the fact that pro-active decisions taken by African governments were necessary in saving many  lives. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that although many lives have been saved, livelihoods are threatened.

Most ESA countries that have announced lockdown have subsequently issued further varied extensions, which, as it currently stands, will run deep into May. This means that further uncertainty will remain present, which results in a number of important economic questions for extended role players (and indeed all individuals alike). How will ESA countries re-start their economics in the aftermath of the pandemic? How can ESA countries mitigate the lasting economic impacts experienced by the pandemic? What steps need to be taken next to ensure that all the efforts up and to this point has not been wasted? These are all important questions to raise, highlighting the fact that a critical balance needs to be struck in terms of life versus livelihood in the next time period. In conclusion, it is the aim of the RPSG to produce subsequent updates of this kind in order to review the effects of the varied extensions of lockdown in ESA countries.

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