Strengthening EU-AU relationships through Agribusiness: Challenges and Lessons Learned from Covid-19 pandemic
Impact of Covid-19 on agribusiness
When WHO announced on March 11, 2020, that covid-19 has become a world pandemic, no one actually knew how it would affect the world, especially in agribusiness.
Many expected that Africa would be hit hardest by the. However, the continent has shown stronger resilience during the Covid-19 crisis than was anticipated. Compared to other parts of the world, Africa has had much lower rates of infection and resulting death. Nevertheless, the pandemic affected Africa’s agribusiness and schools in a different way.
The lockdown caused by the virus affected Africa agribusinesses, SMEs, and farmers – with women farmers hardest hit. According to “African Business”, it cost the continent 23% of their GDP covering production & distribution of goods & services. It could no longer be business as usual.
African Opportunities – Lessons Learned and the path forward
One of the lessons that Covid-19 thought the world is that it is no more business as usual. The pandemic presented an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between EU-AU in the future especially in terms of trade.
First, digitalisation, innovation, technologies, and creativity are the new order in business and schooling. For example, EuroAfri Link together with other institutions regards the digitalisation of Africa as an opportunity for young populations to engage in agriculture because they are more adaptive to learning about new technologies compared to their senior colleagues. Going digital will help to enhance trade, education, access to funding for African SMEs. Digital communication or face to face is the way to sell products and services national and across the border. Much so between EU and AU countries. Even those operating their businesses at the local level needed to embrace digitalization and carry out business transactions, they needed to adapt to modern technologies on how to sell their products and also use the digital money transfers in their transactions, this also limited the spread of the Virus caused cash exchanging hands.
Collaboration and partnership in terms of knowledge and information sharing is the way forward to get the job done whatever that may be. Like Africa working together under African Continental Free Trade Agreement – AfCFTA which went operational on January 1, 2021. AfCFTA is a great opportunity to foster trade and investment among Africa member states at the regional level and the international level. ABC estimates that AfCFTA will “link 1.3 billion people, creating an economic block worth 3,400 billion dollars” Also, it will give a huge advantage to banks with the capacity to support Africa’s growth and help to enhance the continent’s competitiveness at the international level. It is time to see how SMEs, governments, and financial institutions will take advantage of this great opportunity that AfCFTA has presented to both continents.
Market access is one of the challenges faced by most SMEs. Thus, adding value to goods and raw materials from Africa and exporting these value-added finished products for example to Europe is one of the ways forward. Like moving from exporting cocoa beans to chocolate, peanuts to peanut butter, shea butter in kilos to jars. For commodity trade alone will not promote growth in Africa. Africa has to improve its manufacturing industry and renewable energy sector especially because Africa has an abundance of sunlight that can be utilised for energy generation.
Similarly, European investors can invest in African agri and food businesses which will help give a guarantee to the finished products to EU markets, with environmentally friendly packaging, and in a sustainable way, due to the collaboration between the two continents.
Finally, Africans have to be healthy and benefit from enabling policies that will help to facilitate the way forward.
EuroAfri Link will continue to assist African entrepreneurs to look for funding and investment for their projects, link agri-products to EU markets, and connect students to accredited learning institutions in Europe either face to face or virtual. Also, smallholder farmers with a focus on women and youths, major players in the agri sector supply chains will continue to be our focus because it is even more challenging for them to obtain help, and because youths are flexible to adapt to technologies and help bridge the digital divide in Africa.
By Patience Chindong – EAL, Jonathan S. Woods – Eukalypton & Evelyne Achieno – EVICO Service Limited