The continuous closure of Ghana’s borders as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19; is taking its toll on small scale enterprises in the Northern Region.
Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs (SMEs) that largely engage in export are bearing the brunt, as they are unable to export their products to neighbouring countries and other places.
Mma Asana, one of the over thirty employees of Dim Fonio Company Limited in the Tamale Metropolis, who earns her wages working for five days in a week, spoke to Citi Business News.
“We earn our monthly income from the work we do here. We use that to cater for ourselves and the children. But now we do not regularly because of the pandemic.”
Dim Fonio Company is into production, processing and packaging of Fonio, an indigenous cereal, for both domestic and foreign markets.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the directive to observe social distancing, workers now run a shift system leading to a drop in their income.
Mma Asana is thus compelled to look for an alternative source of income.
“I should have been at work by now, but due to the pandemic, I am in the farm, sowing seeds. When I am done with the sowing, I will go and get fire wood or pick Shea nuts and sell. We are badly affected by the pandemic.”
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Dim Fonio Company produced 3.5 tonnes of Fonio a day.
According to the co-founder of the company, production has dropped to 3 tonnes per week due to low demand.
“We used to produce 3.5 tonnes of Fonio per day, but now we do 3 tonnes a week because our major customers abroad are unable to place orders due to the closure of borders” said Salma Abdulai, Co-founder of Dim Fonio Company Limited.
Despite the desire to keep all her employees engaged, Salma says if the pandemic continues into the last quarter of the year, the company would be forced to downsize.
“We will have no option than to cut down the number of staff should the pandemic continue to December”.
The Fonio industry is not the only business affected by COVID-19. The Shea industry has also taken a hit. The industry employs over six hundred thousand women in Northern Ghana.
Rabiatu Abukari, the CEO of Maltiti A enterprise, with a network of Shea nut pickers, aggregators and processors of more than five thousand, also employs thirty women directly.
She told Citi Business News “it’s not easy because everything has been blocked, nobody is placing orders, we use to ship 40 footer containers of shea butter within a month, but it’s been three months now and we haven’t even shipped half a container. Export has declined due to border closures.”
She says paying workers’ salaries has been tough as she had to resort to borrowing money elsewhere to pay them.
“For the last two months, I had to borrow money to pay them” she said.
Azara Sumani, a Shea butter producer who sells to Maltiti Enterprise, also says it’s been almost three months since her major buyer placed an order.
“We are unable to make any money. Since the pandemic started she [buyer] has not been able to come and buy the shea for us to also get out income. We are praying that the virus will go soon for us to continue our work and get money.”
These women entrepreneurs are hoping to benefit from government’s stimulus package for SMEs to sustain their businesses
But on the downside of things, there appears not to be an end in sight anytime soon, as the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise locally and globally.
Though government has responded to calls to support SMEs, borders remain closed alongside limited restriction on social gatherings, and unless these restrictions are out of the way, the stimulus package may not be enough for the likes of Maltiti Enterprise and Dim Fonio Company Limited.