The Covid-19 pandemic is hammering Ethiopian businesses. While life is slowly returning to a socially-distanced “normal,” the economic impacts of Covid-19 are rippling across the economy and making it difficult for small businesses to stay open. CIPE’s partner, the Bahir Dar Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (BDCCSA), is working to raise awareness of how the city government and private sector can cooperate to support businesses during the pandemic.
On December 28, the Bahir Dar Chamber organized a panel with business leaders and government officials that was broadcasted on the regional network, the Amhara Mass Media Agency. The panel, entitled, “Economic Impacts of Covid-19 and Policy Recommendations,” considered the current economic impacts of the pandemic, measures taken by the government and private sector, as well as recommendations on how to better support the business community. Kibur Getachew (Chairman) and Mulugeta Alehegn, (Vice President) represented the Bahir Dar Chamber of Commerce and the Bahir Dar business community on the panel. Temesgen Andualem from the Bahir Dar City Administration Revenue Authority and Abita Gebeyaw from the Amhara Regional Trade and Market Development Bureau represented the city and regional governments, respectively.
How Businesses in Bahir Dar Are Experiencing the Pandemic:
While the pandemic has led to widespread unemployment and reduced household incomes, businesses in Bahir Dar are feeling the more insidious impacts of the virus through fluctuations in trade and foreign exchange. The city of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia’s Amhara region is home to an estimated 300,000 people and is one of the largest cities in Ethiopia outside of the capital, Addis Ababa. The city’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, agri–processing, and tourism.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the cost of living and doing business has increased. For businesses in Bahir Dar, this is passed on through higher utility bills and communications expenses, all while the city’s tourism industry has stalled.
According to the Vice President of the Bahir Dar Chamber, global boarder closures due to the pandemic have reduced the supply of imported goods and led to increases in the cost of living. The Amhara region has been particularly hit by sharp price fluctuations for staple goods such as cereal crops and cooking oil. Lost income from trade has in turn aggravated existing foreign exchange shortages, making it even more difficult to import goods from the global market. Since the onset of the pandemic, the cost of living and doing business has increased, with inflation reaching 20% in 2020. For businesses in Bahir Dar, this is passed on through higher utility bills and communications expenses, all while the city’s tourism industry has stalled.
Government and Private Sector Responses to the Pandemic:
The Bahir Dar Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Association and city government launched a program to have businesses donate money and household goods to the community members most in need and most vulnerable to the pandemic. The regional government and Bahir Dar Chamber worked together to increase public awareness through media campaigns about the risks posed by COVID-19 and ways to take protective measures to prevent community spread. To help local businesses keep the lights on, the federal government offered tax relief and canceled interest payments and penalties on outstanding taxes due between 2015 and 2018. It will also allow outstanding taxes to be paid in installments.
Moving forward, the Bahir Dar Chamber and government representatives shared several ideas on how they can continue to work together to support businesses, and the Bahir Dar community, during the pandemic. The Bahir Dar Chamber asked the government to provide more hand washing stations across the community and to continue its information campaign about staying safe from the virus. The business community, in turn, should be proactive by protecting themselves and the community from the spread of Covid-19, and reach out to the Bahir Dar Chamber of Commerce to help improve the environment for doing business in Bahir Dar.
On January 25, the Bahir Dar Chamber of Commerce shared the following public comment on YouTube:
“The coronavirus is now on the rise, with the disease spreading to more people in Ethiopia at an unprecedented rate every day, the risk is even higher and the death toll is rising. Therefore, we respectfully request that our business communities today use the following precautionary measures in addition to the directives issued by the Minister of Health:
- Never shake hands.
- To use mouth and nose masks properly
- Sanitizer (alcohol) to be used before and after any transaction
- Advise customers to use a mask.
- Establish at least two meters away from shopping malls and stop the spread of the disease by implementing as many messages as possible from the Ministry of Health and the HealthOffice !!
Let’s fight coronavirus together !!!
Bahir Dar City Chamber of Commerce and Sectorial Association”