Published on:

September 10, 2020

In the 16th instalment, the conversation focused on the increased pressure on food security in Southern Africa, exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, especially for smallholder farmers, rural and vulnerable groups. The panellists included by Lusanda Ncoliwe, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Tulo Makwati, co-ordinator of the SADC Business Council, Zachy Mbenna, executive director of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation, facilitated by Ian Mashingaidze, of behalf of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS).

Lusanda opened the dialogue with her view on the interconnectivity between private business and the farmers – and how this link between the food source and the private sector is really important. Discussing the advantages of the Free Trade Agreement, Lusanda touched on the possibility of being able to trade freely within SADC and the rest of Africa, closing the food security gap.

Speaking of the impact of COVID-19, she said that during the lockdown, smallholder farmers were excluded from the value chain, yet retailers remained open and trading. This had an effect on the people who were not able to access these retailers or afford the inflated food prices. One of the main problems is legislation, and the lack thereof that does not allow free trade between countries in Africa. Lusanda believes that the problem is not that there is insufficient food to feed Africa, but that legislation and red tape is hindering the ability to direct food to where it is needed.

Tulo gave a bit of background on the purpose of the SADC Business Council – chiefly the inclusion and consultation of private sector in policy processes. Another key area is the promoting of regional values chains, primarily in the areas of mining, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals, through workshops. He said the biggest problem that emerges from these sessions, is the need to domesticate the regional policies. Tulo also mentioned the need to popularise the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, focusing on how small countries will benefit.

Zachy joined in with his statement of how pandemics don’t recognise boundaries, borders and rules, and how we have learnt a valuable lesson about the importance of not looking inward, not reducing efforts to national borders or member states, but to have a bigger picture of regions in mind. He spoke about the potential for growth, if member states use competitive advantage - focusing on the abilities and resources available to grow as a region, rather than as individual countries.

He gave an example of how linking sectors can be advantageous: agri-business, when linked to industrialisation, to manufacturing, to food processing and trade, can more easily achieve its goals. He also spoke of the regional policies and protocols, and the need for continuous support of these, as well as their alignment with the greater goals. Looking at an example of inter connectivity, Zachy spoke of the Southern Agricultural Highland Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), and its exceptional commercial success.

In response to a question of how the private sector is using digital transformation to develop the region, Lusanda said the COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the use of technology. She said that while these can be used in all areas, it forced the private sector to find new ways of doing business – giving an example of a project she completed using technology, where before they would have physically visited 4 or 5 countries in the duration of the project. Finding new ways to collaborate and blend skills has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic.

Speaking on how the private sector has supported the smallholder farmers during the pandemic, Zachy mentioned how the policy regarding small and medium enterprises in Tanzania has been reviewed, to include them in the economy, through linkages. Also, financing has been discussed, as well as training in agriculture.

Tulo added to this with his comments on the SADC Pharmaceuticals Working Group, and how they want to promote and harmonise the registration policy in the region, as well as conduct research and development, which is currently very low. He also spoke of the working group they have established for the cross-border trade – a regional initiative to determine the needs and issues of this group, to increase accessibility of trade.

Lusanda, in response to a question about more access to technology, she said mobile phones must be used as the starting point for communications with the people on the ground. She also spoke of the technological advances in farming, and how government needs to implement use of drones.

In conclusion, the panellists summed up their key points:

Lusanda: the interconnectedness of the value chain, from source to consumer; co-operation between African countries to ensure food security; the importance of the FTA.

Zachy: private sector should make purposeful efforts to invest in people, to take advantage of resources; make the strategies and policies of SADC more relevant to the people at grassroots levels; willingness to make trade and economic activities possible within the region.

Tulo: the need to identify the most pressing trade barriers; domesticate regional policies.

Click there to watch the full airing.

Civil Society Leadership Reflects on Lessons from the Global Pandemic

In the 21st installment of the Society Talks, panelists discussed the experiences and lessons learned from the pandemic, that civil society leaders across the region can use to strengthen their personal and professional capabilities, for the communities that they serve.

Read More

Lessons and Reflections of how Regional Organisations should enable Civil Society

In the 17th instalment of Society Talks, the conversation reflected some of the lessons learned during the pandemic and the recommendations from partners of the Trust.

Read More

Unclaimed Social Security Benefits and Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Mine Workers

In the 15th instalment, the conversation focused on the challenges of migrant mine workers during the pandemic, specifically their inability to claim owed social security benefits, and their existing comorbidities that expose them to higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Read More

COVID-19 Impact on SADC Food Systems, Smallholder Agriculture and Policy Options

In the thirteenth instalment of Society Talks, the conversation focused on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women farmers in Africa, as well as looking at the challenges faced by smallholder farmers.

Read More

Rethinking the Social and Economic Order for the Future – A Feminist Perspective

In the twelfth instalment of Society Talks, the conversation centred on a feminist view of social inclusion, post-pandemic – a time for inspirational leadership that sustains the energy gained during the pandemic.

Read More

Supporting Indigenous Communities in Africa Beyond COVID-19

In the eleventh instalment, the discussion looked at the disproportionate affect that the pandemic has had on indigenous communities, which has magnified structural inequalities and discrimination – and how critical long-term solutions are needed post-COVID.

Read More

Youth Social Entrepreneurship in Africa

COVID-19 has been a platform which many young social entrepreneurs have used to practice innovation as a means to make an impact in their communities. Society Talks hosted 3 such individuals as we unpack better understand how #Youth are using innovation for the betterment of all.

Read More

Reflecting on the Southern Africa Region’s Different Responses to COVID-19

In the first instalment of Society Talks, the conversation centred on the responses of various governments in the SADC region, just after the announcement of projected COVID-19 numbers in Africa: a million infections,with 300 000 expected fatalities

Read More

The Experiences of Community Foundations Amidst COVID-19 Responses

#COVID19 has impacted Community Foundations who play a major role in meeting the needs of marginalised groups. Society Talks hosts Foundation representatives to share their COVID-19 experiences of and responses to the pandemic.

Read More

The Importance of Disaster Preparedness in a Time of Climate Change

COVID19 reminds us of the criticality of Disaster Preparedness as a means to ensure the impact of disasters & pandemics are kept to a minimum. This Society Talks conversation focused on the need for disaster preparedness, to ensure that the impact of natural disasters and pandemics are kept to a minimum

Read More

Food Security and how Smallholder Farmers are Critical to Community Survival

In its sixth instalment, Society Talks hosted a dialogue centred on smallholder farmers and their role in community survival. The panellists were from South African Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA), Mozambique National Small-Scale Farmers Forum (UNAC), and the Eastern & Southern African Small-Scale Farmers Forum (ESAF).

Read More

Informal Cross Border Trade in Southern Africa and how the Sector will Recover

In the third instalment, Society Talks hosted a conversation that looked at the impact that COVID-19 has had on the small-scale cross border trade. Panellists were from the Malawi Cross Border Traders Association, the Southern Africa Cross Border Traders Association in Zambia, Trade Law Centre, and the Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association.

Read More

COVID-19 Economic Relief Packages and the Future of Social Protection

In the second instalment, Society Talks centred on the economic relief responses from government that have been made available to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also looking at the gaps in policy and what needs to change in future. 

Read More

Join our network