Saturday, April 18, 2020

Covid-19 in the Congo

In the 'Democratic' Republic of the Congo the coronavirus pandemic has ramped up pressure on the economy and seen food prices rocket.

Since last Monday, the eastern city of Goma - along with the capital, Kinshasa, and a number of other cities in the DRC - has been under lockdown in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
No entry or exit is permitted, and key internal routes such as the road between Goma and Bukavu have been closed to normal traffic. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries including Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have closed their borders 
The restrictions are heaping further pressure on the economy at a time when there has already been a loss of economic activity and an increase in the prices of basic necessities, eroding the purchasing power of inhabitants.
the price of food staples in Goma has risen significantly since borders were closed in recent weeks due to the pandemic. The cost of salt has increased by 88.9 percent, oil by 57.9 percent, hand sanitzer by 66 percent and potatoes by 50 percent, according to the research.
The International Monetary Fund said sub-Saharan Africa - home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies - is facing a severe downturn, and ominously warned that "no country will be spared".
According to a World Bank report, the region will this year suffer its first recession for 25 years, while its economy could shrink by as much as 5.1 percent in 2020 from a growth of 2.4 percent last year because of a fall in commodity prices and the effect on Africa's key trading partners.
As a result, almost half of all African jobs could be lost with an expected income shortfall of $220bn in developing countries, the UN Development Programme said.

"It's very difficult," said Bwira. "For now, I only just scrape enough money to eat. But no more than that - I can't afford to do anything else in my life." 

For Bwira, the wholesale price for a small cut of beef has risen by a third, up to 8,000 Congolese francs ($4.66), all but wiping out his meagre daily earnings. "I can't go on like this," he said.
Jimba Kitungu, 54, said the price of cassava flour - usually brought in from neighbouring Rwanda, but now limited because of border restrictions - had doubled in a matter of weeks. It has put a serious financial strain on the mother of 12 children. "What if I cannot feed them?" she said. "I will have to steal."
"We were already expecting Congolese growth to slow," said Jane Morley, head of the sub-Saharan Africa risk team at Fitch Solutions. "Chances are this will now be much more pronounced." Demand for copper, which accounts for about 38 percent of the DRC's exports, is "likely to slow given more muted growth in China and other key markets", according to Morley, with mining considered "high-risk" in terms of the coronavirus. The imposition of a state of emergency and travel limitations are also likely to affect consumer spending and corporate investment in the DRC, she added.

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