The 25th of May marks the 57th anniversary of the formation of the African Union. The continent is facing one of its greatest challenges yet during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is not all doom and gloom.
People are getting tired of bad news. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in the region the people have been bombarded with news on all platforms. The economic effects of the virus, and the restrictions that many governments implemented are widespread. It is a breath of fresh air to hear some good news amid the flood of negativity.
In Namibia, the AgriBank issued a statement on 22 May explaining how farmers can benefit from economic assistance packages allocated to the sector by the Minister of Finance.
The amount of N$200 million in loans will be distributed among the farmers of Namibia who are negatively impacted by the measurements taken to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, according to AgriBank CEO, Sakaria Nghikembua. He further explained that the assistance entails relief on interest and loan repayments for a period of 12 months. All interest rates above 8,5% will be reduced by 0,5%. Loans that were granted with interest rates between 8,1% and 8,49% will also be reduced to 8%. These relief measures taken by government will be valid from 1 June 2020 until 31 May 2021.
Botswana seem to have adapted their original restrictions to better suit the economic needs of their citizens. Initially the government of Botswana announced a planned lockdown that would last for six months. However, after 48 days that saw the recording of only 29 COVID-19 cases and a single death, life has started to return to the economy of Botswana.
Botswana was divided into nine different zones to control the movement of citizens and stop the spread of the virus. Movement between zones are still monitored and you will need to produce a permit if you want to travel from one zone to another. However, within zones people can move around freely and all businesses are allowed to operate at normal business hours. There are still limits as to how many people can be in a shop at the same time, and facemasks are still mandatory. These measures are aimed at revitalising the economy and minimising the effect that the virus has on small and medium business owners.
Zimbabwe has received good news in that all sanctions on the Agribank and the Infrastructure Development Bank have been lifted. The sanctions that were imposed by the US have been revoked and this will enable these banks to do more international business and will also allow them access to better credit lines. One of the major obstacles for Zimbabwe’s economic growth is the state of the banking sector. Agriculture plays a major role in the Zimbabwean economy and one can only hope that this will be a step in the right direction for the country. The Agribank of Zimbabwe can now afford to extend better loans to farmers and assist investment in the agricultural sector.
If the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) can also make positive investments in infrastructure projects, the farmers of Zimbabwe could be facing a bright future. Proper governance and transparency will be key in taking the next steps toward success for these two banks and setting examples for the rest of the financial sector to follow.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening (24 May) that the country would be moving to level 3 of their plan to relief the effects of COVID-19 on the country’s economy. This will entail that all economic sectors are permitted to operate, with a few exceptions where the risks of transmissions are very high. All retail outlets may start operating again, provided that they adhere to social distancing policies and waring mandatory facemasks. Schools are also set to reopen on 1 June for learners in grades 12 and 7. Controversy still surrounds the decision to ban the sale of cigarettes. Alcohol will be sold again from 1 June 2020, but not cigarettes.
As the countries in Southern Africa are gradually regaining economic momentum it provides some relief for their citizens. Businesses can start operating again and people can start earning income. This will help curb the devastating economic effect that the restrictions imposed to contain the virus have caused in these developing countries.