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Impact of COVID-19 on “Small Businesses” in South Sudan

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“YOUR VOICE MATTERS” is a periodic radio magazine produced by AMALNA SOUTH SUDAN as part of EU funded project, COVID-19 RESPONSE IN AFRICA; TOGETHER FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION. The ‘’COVID-19 project’’ aims at creating awareness on Coronavirus and amplifying people’s voices advocating for policy change during the difficult times of the pandemic in South Sudan.

Your Voice Matters is implemented by AMALNA in South Sudan besides 17 more other countries across Africa. The 15 minutes’ radio magazine content on the impact of COVID 19 on ‘’Small Business’’ in South Sudan was collected across South Sudan in Malakal, Juba, Yambio, Torit, Yei, and Bor.

The program interviewed businessmen and women, officials from chambers of commerce, and members of public transport around the country. Some citizens were also involved to express their views.

The aim is to find out the negative effects of COVID-19 on local businesses and people’s experiences in their locations. Amalna team spoke to local business people at Marol market in Bor town of Jonglei state, Yambio and other locations.

Traders have a complaint about the shortage of customers and goods as a result of the pandemic. Others say, when the first lockdown was imposed which forced the closure of borders with foreign countries like Uganda, Kenya, and others, the importation of goods became difficult and they feel worried now that government might close borders again.

Trader Mr. Abraham Ghai Alier in Bor town says that his number of customers has reduced because some people would come to the shop and when he reminds them to wash their hands as part of COVID 19 preventive measures they sometimes get annoyed and move away or don’t come back. He also stressed that he used to go to Uganda but after the lockdown he was left without an option.

‘’I used to go to Uganda to get goods but since borders were closed during the first lockdown because of the disease, we were left with no options. The only businessmen that were left operating are Ugandans and Somalian because their goods could be sent right from Uganda,’’ Ghai stressed.

Another businessperson in Bor who owns a restaurant, “Madam Achol Alier Kok” said that daily income from her business has dropped from sixty to twenty thousand pounds. Achol revealed that her number of customers has reduced because of preventive measures that allow few customers to be served in the restaurant.

‘’I have been getting sixty or forty thousand pounds a day before the pandemic but now I only get twenty thousand pounds a day,’’ Achol explained. In Western Equatoria state-Yambio, similar economic concerns were raised by the business community and customers.

Mrs. Susan Ipaiti Rita, manages the restaurant in Yambio market. She spoke to Amalna team where she disclosed testimonies the customers tells her when seeking restaurant’s services. According to Ipaiti, ignorant to respect the health guideline which were imposed have become a norm among the population.

‘’a customer may come and say if you do not want me here, just tell me and go to hell with your things of nonsense of COVID-19. So, it is a bit hard. I do not allow the customer to open the saucepans to check for the choice of the food, I just explain what I have and this is what some people do not like. Sometimes the food remains because no customers and I have to throw it away, ‘’ Susan recalls.

In Juba city, citizens use public transport mostly Motorcycle and small vans for daily business. Therefore, this program interviewed some Boda-Boda riders and drivers to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their small businesses.

A motorcycle (Boda-Boda) rider known as Mr. Hassan Mohammed says his work is to carry passengers from one place to another but they were prevented from carrying more than one passage that affected their earnings.

‘’the South Sudan health guideline prevent us from carrying more than one passenger and when we observed this, we fail to get money as usual. As a result, you can find most of boda Boda riders carrying only goods items to charge the owner with more money”.

One of the taxi driver Mr. Alor Francis have been carrying eight passengers in a trip before COVID-19 rules were imposed, but now the number of passengers reduces by half (four Passengers). According to Alor, the move has resulted to reduction in his daily income and yet prices for spare parts remains high.

For his part, the Undersecretary in the ministry of health in South Sudan Doctor Mayen Machut Achiek emphasized on needs to change from ignorant to practical health prevention.

Doctor Mayen said that, preventive measures include regular hand washing with soap, social distancing, avoid hand shake, hugging and others are not effectively adhered to. Mayen urged the people to always practice the outlined health guideline to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

‘’Our citizen must remain vigilant in observing useful public health measures, wearing masks and avoid huge gathering can help prevent the spread of coronavirus,’’

To find possible ways to rescue collapsing businesses, the Director of Audit and Administration in South Sudan National Audit Chamber Mr. Alexidarer Gore-has to say that government should alternatively intervene to rescue the situation.

‘’On economic technical speaking, when something interferes with economic development, the government should alternatively intervene to rescue the situation but you know our policy of economic position is very poor. And that is why the sufferer is he who is receiving the services, the lower class group are the ones suffering because they start paying things that are supposed to be paid by government,’’ Gore said.

Facts: The records of infection of COVID-19 in South Sudan, keeps increasing as ways protective measures have not fully been implemented. Today South Sudan has cumulative cases of over 7,000 people affected by the disease and more than 80 deaths.

It is practically seen that, gathering in business premises such as market places, public transport and other business places still take place without observing imposed preventive measures, this is most likely to increase the cases further in the coming days. However, it is contrary to efforts made by the National Taskforce on COVID-19, Civil Society, national and international organizations to stop the outbreak of pandemic. With the recent partial lock down in South Sudan, local traders are most likely to be affected in their businesses unless government intervenes to help. The partners are playing significant roles to provide health education to public in different capacities to reduce the spread of the pandemic as people waits for the vaccines.

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