Uganda will receive an emergency loan worth $491.5 million from the International Monetary Fund. The country needs the funds to help cushion its economy from the impact of the new coronavirus, according to a statement from the IMF.
Key sectors of the East African economy such as tourism have taken a big hit from the crisis and the effect has been further compounded by a lockdown of the entire population to curb the spread of the virus.
Uganda’s Ministry of Finance projects the country’s foreign exchange reserves will decline to the equivalent of 3.5 months’ worth of imports from 4.2 months’ worth as exports slump due to the global pandemic.
Countries receiving loans extended under the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility pay no interest and have 10 years to pay it back.
Uganda’s central bank expects economic growth to fall to 3%-4% for the financial year to June from its previous projection of 5.5%-6%, as COVID-19 slashes activity in manufacturing, entertainment and trade.
The country has so far, recorded 98 coronavirus cases with no deaths. For about a month and a half from late March, Uganda implemented one of Africa’s strictest lockdowns. Authorities this week, began to gradually loosen it after Ugandan President ,Yoweri Museveni declared the virus ‘contained’.
Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality
Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.
Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.
The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.
The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.
Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.
The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.
Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement
Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.
The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.
“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.
AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.
Uganda approves return of over 2,500 nationals stranded abroad
Over 2,500 Ugandan nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now return home as approved by the Ugandan cabinet.
The cabinet on Monday, agreed that Ugandan nationals trapped in 66 countries can return home at their own cost.
The government is making arrangements with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to fly the stranded citizens home, Judith Nabakooba, the country’s minister for information, communication technology and national guidance says, adding that all the returning citizens will have to undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine.
President Yoweri Museveni last month, directed Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to study the possibility of evacuating dozens of citizens stranded abroad amid Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the country on March 22 suspended all incoming flights, except cargo flights.