Following the announcement of two Coronavirus (COVID 19) cases in the country by the Health Minister last week, there has been an uneasy calm among many Ghanaians. The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has warned that price hikes and a shortage of goods in the country’s markets are the most likely outcome if the virus is not contained anytime soon.
National President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, has projected that by May the country will feel the full brunt of the disease if drastic measures are not taken to stop the virus spreading.
“About 60% of our traders do physical travelling to the open markets in Asia to buy their goods. These people are not travelling at all, so they will not bring in any goods,” Dr. Obeng observed.
However, GUTA is advising Ghanaians not to engage in panic food-stocking. According to GUTA, due to Planting for Food and Jobs and private initiatives to promote the consumption of local rice, there is enough food in the country to cater for citizens over a long period – and therefore there is no need for fear-based hoarding.
Speaking to the B&FT, Benjamin Yeboah – the National Welfare Officer for GUTA – believes the development of panic-buying will rather shoot-up foodstuff prices if care is not taken.
Yeboah contends that the panic reaction since announcement of the two cases in the country is justified; but he believes the focus should be more directed at items that are not manufactured in Ghana at all – spare-parts, plastic wares, electrical cables and manufacturing equipment.
Since the announcement was made, hand-sanitisers are hard to find as people are panic-buying items they believe will ease spread of the disease. Some are even calling on the authorities to close the country’s borders to prevent the likelihood of further spreading of the virus.
As the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu stated, Ghanaians must practice good hygiene and regularly wash their hands with soap and running water. Other tips are to avoid persons with symptoms of a cold, flu or incessant coughing.
The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 135 countries and territories around the world, and the number of coronavirus cases in Africa has reached 102 confirmed with one death, said the African Union’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
However, public education has to be intensified to alert fringe and outlying communities.
FDIs likely to get a hit by COVID-19
Closely related to the topic above, the Coronavirus outbreak has already seen global stocks losing over US$3trillion just before end of the first quarter of 2020, and some experts are foreseeing some sort of global recession.
This view is also creating great concern for the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC), which harbours fears that the outbreak could hugely impact inflows of foreign direct investment to the country. The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak could cause global foreign direct investment (FDI) to shrink by 5%-15%, according to an UNCTAD report published on 8 March. COVID-19’s negative impact on investments will be felt strongest in the automotive, airlines and energy industries, the report says.
“The ripple-effect could cause a major setback to efforts of governments around the globe to attract the private investment needed to achieve sustainable development objectives,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.
Therefore, Mr. Grant’s fears are genuine and there might be a need to tone down the country’s high expectations for increased foreign direct investment (FDI), especially as the outbreak has seen President Akufo-Addo ban government officials from foreign travels for a month – unless sanctioned by the Chief of Staff at the Presidency.
Additionally, many countries have banned large gatherings – and even the USA has banned travel from the EU bloc in view of the seriousness of the outbreak there. Business activity is taking a hit globally, and as a country we need to brace up to that fact and be measured about economic prospects.
In saying this, however, we recognise that every misfortune comes with opportunities; and this outbreak presents a perfect opportunity for the country to realise its vision of a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’. Let us consume more local rice, poultry and other consumables and we will get along.