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New Voices in Africa - Ghana's Grassroots to the Rescue of the Food Industry

ARTICLES - 6 October 2020

The food and hospitality sector is at the forefront of the Covid-19 crisis globally, not least because it was heavily impacted by the lockdowns. In the fifth chapter of our series on the impact of Covid-19 on various sectors across the African continent, Elijah Amoo Addo, 2019 French-African Young Leader and Founder and Executive Director of Food for All Africa, shares with us the various innovations that emerged at the local level in response to the crisis. 

In Ghana, the Health Service reports that about 46,482 people are infected with the virus, and that there have been 301 deaths. The interventions of the government of Ghana to impose lockdowns in the capital Accra and in other areas, in order to keep the virus from spreading, has had considerable negative impact on the unemployed, the self-employed and vulnerable citizens, especially women. 

Low income and vulnerable communities have also been suffering from starvation and malnutrition.

Globally, the hospitality sector has been significantly affected by the pandemic. However, Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of the food and hospitality industry particularly strongly in Ghana. The food supply chain and hospitality sector have been paralyzed by the initial restrictions, inevitably leading to unemployment among cooks and kitchen staff, as there is no instrument such as "short-time working" schemes in Ghana to absorb the situation. Low income and vulnerable communities have also been suffering from starvation and malnutrition, due to the increase in food prices as a result of the pandemic.

The food supply chain in Ghana faces many challenges, including low yields, poor road networks for transportation of food products from farms to urban centres, and high import charges, resulting in high food prices. The pandemic has magnified these challenges, with the restriction in movement and food businesses having to adjust to new technologies in their operations, such as online payment systems, or mobile apps for orders deliveries.

Building local resilience

The resilience of the food supply chain in Ghana has so far been based on the collective contribution of local stakeholders towards ensuring accessibility of food to all, in spite of the challenges. This has been achieved through the provision of hand-washing machines and personal protective equipment at all traditional markets in Accra, the implementation of a shift system by women working at the market, and swift transportation of local food products from farms. 

Governments across the continent continue to roll out measures such as relief packages for citizens and industries in order to adapt to the crises. In line with the measures being adopted globally, Ghana is seeking to implement a mix of fiscal and monetary measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

The food and hospitality sector in Ghana is yet to receive any direct support from the government.

The key planned measures include:

  • The establishment of a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) to facilitate economic recovery, and lowering the cap on the Ghana Stabilization Fund (GSF) from the current US$300 million to US$100 million, to allow for transfer of excess funds to the CAP.
  • Adjusting expenditures on goods & services.
  • Extension of due dates for filing tax returns from the standard 4 months to 6 months after the end of the basis year. 
  • Waiving VAT on donations of stock of equipment and goods for fighting Covid-19. 
  • Waiving taxes on selected withdrawals from third-tier pension funds. 
  • Granting deductions against income tax for private sector contributions and donations made towards addressing Covid-19 
  • Implementing filing via email and a direct transfer payment system, to allow taxpayers to remotely file and pay taxes with the various Ghana Revenue Authorities (GRA)

However, these measures so far have not had any impact on the ordinary Ghanaian who has been affected within the food and hospitality sector.

The food and hospitality sector in Ghana is yet to receive any direct support from the government. There are calls from stakeholders for more direct relief packages, given the fact that the sector is a key revenue mobilizer for the government. The food sector was of course a major part of the essential services during the lockdown. Paradoxically, there has been a delay in the delivery of relief packages, and the industry’s players have seen their businesses affected tremendously by the reduction in staff and operational capacity. Food for All Africa, a food bank operating in Ghana, has had to sign on chefs, waiters and other hospitality workers who lost their jobs, to be receiving food boxes to feed themselves and their families.

The aftermath of Covid-19 must be focused on the innovations that are led by young people during this pandemic.

Before the food and hospitality sector in Ghana can overcome the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, there must be a conscious multi-stakeholder effort aimed at creating efficiency within the food supply chain and sustainable means of relief, directly benefiting affected people. Some of this effort should include providing financial relief to hospitality workers from the tourism levy, reducing cost of utilities and partnering telecommunication networks to provide mobile money services at reduced rates.

Fostering innovation

Technological innovations that have come up as a result of the pandemic must be encouraged and supported to ensure the sector grows. One of such innovations is the Okumkom mobile and web application that enables Ghanaians in urban areas to shop for their food groceries and have them delivered to them at the comfort of their homes. Most of the food products sold through this tech platform are sourced from rural smallholder farmers and agri-business startups in Ghana.

In order to overcome the challenges the industry is currently facing, the aftermath of Covid-19 must be focused on the innovations that are led by young people during this pandemic. Most youths across Ghana and the continent have come up with innovations that mitigate contact and to ensure that businesses carry on. These innovations must be supported. Aside from the Okumkom food technology, there are innovations which seek to improve service delivery within the hospitality sector, especially in hotels and restaurants, which is where people mostly come together. In order to provide the hospitality experience for Ghanaians in their homes during the pandemic, building on my personal experience as a professional chef, we have created an online chefs and cooks hiring platform, Chefs on Wheel Africa. On this platform, people can hire hospitality professionals to cook for them in the comfort of their home. These professionals are vetted and trained to follow safety protocols.

This period is certainly encouraging positive transformation within the industry. What remains to be seen is how a multi-stakeholder effort can be sustained in order to bring about durable solutions.

 

Copyright: Nipah Dennis / AFP

 

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