The Covid-19 pandemic and associated policy responses are likely to affect food systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through numerous pathways. As of late 2020, the most striking impacts have been felt through the policies aimed at preventing the spread of the virus through restrictions on movement and economic activity. These include directives to remain at home with exceptions made for limited essential activities; social distancing requirements in public spaces including markets and public transportation; the closure of markets and workplaces; and the closure or heightened security of borders and inter-state roads.
To mitigate the harm caused by the pandemic and associated restrictions, governments in SSA introduced food assistance, cash transfers, and tax postponement programmes. In addition to these policy responses, a global recession triggered by the pandemic has broadly reduced the flow of international remittances. National economic contractions are likely to further manifest as a decline in domestic demand for agricultural products, which sends ripple effects up the food value chain to affect the welfare of producers and all midstream actors, such as transporters, vendors, and other service providers. Trade restrictions on food or agricultural inputs introduced by trading partners constitute another potential source of stress.
Commentary and analyses regarding the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on SSA food systems have proliferated since early 2020. Yet no broad evidence synthesis has been undertaken to unpack the complex impacts of the crisis, particularly with respect to domestic food value chains, regional/international food trade, and food and nutrition security.
This policy brief summarizes a report which applies a systematic literature review methodology to survey the evidence on this topic.In September–November 2020, a literature search was conducted to identify studies that met prespecified inclusion criteria, including the requirement that each study evaluated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on food systems or food security in SSA and was based on empirical data. Using computerized and manual search methods, 57 studies were found that met these criteria.