Before COVID-19, the need for privacy was gaining momentum across the world particularly in the global North. People were beginning to frown at the intrusive nature of technology and digital gadgets are notorious for tracking people’s movements and whatever they are doing. In addition to social distancing, contact tracing is one of the phrases popularized by COVID-19 as a key method through which the spread of the pandemic can be kept in check. Post-COVID-19 many people will most likely agree to be tracked wherever they go, especially when given the choice between privacy and staying alive.
If people can be tracked why not food and agricultural commodities?
The importance of tracking has always been promoted in the name of food safety. However, very few players in the food industry have been taking it seriously particularly in Africa. Many traders and businesses have not been too keen to share information on the pretext that their information is private property. COVID-19 has pushed the boundaries of what can remain private information as previously secretive traders are opening up in order to cope with market disruptions.
eMKambo is leading innovations around tracking food supply chains as part of dealing with challenges brought by COVID-19 on African food systems. Tracking is the core of building resilient food supply chains as volumes of commodities from each farmer or production zone have to be known as well as numbers of traders and transporters. Additional benefits include:
- Enforcing fair trading practices and pricing.
- A market-driven or guided production system that minimizes gluts and waste of inputs. Gluts negatively affect GDP by making resources from production not realizable in sales. Communities and countries end up under-valuing their agriculture and commodities.
- Where all players are recorded, tracked and known, government is able to introduce tax collection along the supply chain. Everyone should be proud to pay tax. Farmers cannot complain about poor roads when they are not paying tax when they know that money for road rehabilitation comes from tax.
- Tracking supply chains enables local authorities to manage cities, towns and growth points efficiently as they know accurate numbers of business people, traders and vendors. This enhances local planning in terms of vending sites, regulation and increasing revenue streams. Most African local authorities have been operating without a system for years.
- Financial inclusion – The food supply chain system will act as a collateral system, enabling financial institutions, input suppliers and other service providers to feel confident to work with registered economic actors who can be tracked. This will address perennial headaches like side-marketing.
- Food safety and traceability – The supply chain will simplify introduction of traceability systems which are key requirements for exports.
- Devolution – The supply chain speaks directly to devolution by enhancing local investment in production zones.
- Tracking the supply chain as an anti-corruption tool – The supply chain will address corrupt practices that have bedeviled the agriculture sector for decades at the expense of the farmer who has continued to surrender his/her commodities for a song.
- Behavior change – The supply chain will introduce new behavior among value chain actors.
It takes a pandemic or national disaster for people to stop doing certain things they have become used to. However, those who do not adapt during a crisis become irrelevant. COVID-19 has presented opportunities for developing countries to value proper transportation, storage, processing and utilization of food. All that cannot happen without systems and infrastructure for tracking who is doing what, where, why and how?
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