More than 30 municipal representatives from around 20 cities in MENA and sub-Sharan Africa participated in the third virtual event of the knowledge-exchange series on Municipal Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Municipal representatives from both political and technical levels were invited and they engaged in knowledge-exchange to analyse and discuss practical examples of municipal response related to cushioning and the recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
As part of the virtual event, four good practices from Sfax (Tunisia), Chefchaouen (Morocco), Kumasi (Ghana), and Namibia were presented. Furthermore, Mr. Tobias Kienlein (GIZ expert on private sector development) provided reflections on the topics raised and discussed during the presentations. The moderated plenary session provided the space for a discussion between the participants and the presenters. In addition, participating municipal representatives were invited to continue their exchange of experience in virtual working groups created on Connective Cities virtual platform.
Mr. Ahmed Missaoui, Mayor of Sidi Mansour district in Sfax discussed the impacts of the pandemic on the Tunisian economy and the city of Sfax in particular, with expectations of a decrease in gross domestic product of nearly 5 percent. During the period of lockdown, the Tunisian economy went through a severe crisis. Among the most impacted sectors in Sfax is the textile production sector, knowing that Sfax is a major industrial area. The service sector was also impacted during the imposed lockdown. The self-employed, SMEs and enterprises active in the trade were among the most impacted during the lockdown period. He also highlighted the role of the municipality in economic recovery, where the city is seeking non-traditional solutions that include the provision of emergency loans for SMEs. Despite the financial support from the central government, municipal revenues are expected to not be replenished before 2021.
Mr. Othmane Rachid has noted that tourism is the main economic sector in Chefchaouen. Given the state of stagnation in this sector due to the impacts of the pandemic, shifting the priorities for local economic development is urgently needed in this city that registered zero cases of Corona.
Ms. Abigail Benu reported an outstanding expenditure of about $300.000 to be spent on COVID-19 related activities in Kumasi. She presented a myriad of measures implemented to support vulnerable groups including the distribution of food packages, sanitation products and masks, as well as stimulus packages for SSEs. She also revealed that in the aftermath of the pandemic the city will save 5% of its annual IGF in an escrow account to cater for future emergencies. Moreover, the assembly will undertake economic related capital investment to increase revenue. A decision for the introduction of IT solutions in municipalities that reduce human interaction is also among the lessons learned.
Ms. Anna Vambe presented the COVID-19 Startup Grant provided by the GIZ in Namibia. Through the AccelaratorApp, impacted SMEs were able to apply for emergency relief funds. In total, an amount of 150.000 Euros was provided through 200 grants.
Mr. Tobias Kienlein noted that it is important to differentiate between emergency response measures to keep the population healthy and the long-term measures of cushioning the economic impacts of the pandemic. In addition to the funds, he highlighted the need to have MSMEs transform their business model into a safe and sustainable way of operation. Planning regulations should help MSMEs ensure their business continuity. The role of cities is key in managing and keeping markets open while enforcing safety and health regulations.
Corona pandemic: Economic impact and response in Sfax (in Arabisch)
Mr. Ahmed Missaoui: Mayor of Sidi Mansour district in Sfax,Tunisia.
Mr. Othmane Rachid: Head of town planning and construction department and project manager for monitoring the health status of the province of Chefchaouen (Covid 19)
A presentation of the on the economic impact of COVID-19 in Kumasi
Ms. Abigail Benu, Development Planning Officer, Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana
NAMIBIA: COVID19 StartUp Grant
Ms. Anna Vambe, GIZ, Start-up Namibia
The presentations and discussion revealed that the pandemic has negatively impacted the economy on all levels. Most countries resolved to partial or complete lock down that resulted in paralyzing many economic sectors. It is in those cities that imposed the strictest lock down measures that the negative economic impacts are most apparent as per initial observations. A significant part of the labour markets in developing countries is informal and is comprised of daily wagers who have suffered immensely from the lockdown measures that impacted their livelihoods and ability to pay for services. These measures have also had a negative impact on the revenue stream for the municipalities. On the flip side, some economic sectors are witnessing growth. For example, many cities are relying on local manufacturing enterprises to produce medical equipment like masks, protective gear and ventilators which they would import in the past.
As part of the follow-up activities, a virtual workshop on the topic of the role of innovation in curbing the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic will be organized.