New Survey Finds African Food Processors Face COVID-19 Challenges

Food companies already report significant disruptions to marketing and distribution networks and eye future supply problems

Arlington, VA (April 17, 2020) — A survey of 106 African food processing businesses carried out by international nonprofit TechnoServe revealed that this vital sector faces new and evolving challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey found that 62% of firms do not feel adequately prepared to weather the crisis and need additional support.

Among the most immediate impacts have been new obstacles to sales, marketing, and distribution of food products as governments have instituted curfews and shuttered restaurants, and as consumers engage in social distancing. More than 30% of firms have reported that their marketing, sales, and distribution operations have been reduced by half or more; 11% of firms have reported that they have had to entirely halt distribution of their products to markets, while nearly 15% have completely stopped their sales. 17% of firms reported having already laid off employees as a result of the crisis.

While only 5% of firms have entirely halted sourcing raw materials as a result of the crisis, half of the surveyed firms report that their supply chains have experienced significant or major disruptions. More than half of firms also report significant or major interruptions to their ability to access packaging material, spare parts, and chemicals, which are often imported. As the pandemic continues, stresses on supply chains are likely to increase.

Firms have also changed many of their protocols to protect the health and well-being of workers. Nearly 80% of firms have increased access to soap, face masks, and hand sanitizer; nearly 70% are enforcing social distancing and limiting visits to their plants.

The survey was carried out from April 7-9 and polled firms in Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia. 

In addition to the survey, TechnoServe has published a guide outlining challenges and responses for the sector.

“Food processors are a vital link in Africa’s supply chains, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, their role ensuring that consumers can access safe, nutritious, affordable food is more important than ever,” said Brent Wibberley, TechnoServe’s director of food processing and nutrition. “As this survey makes clear, these companies are confronting real challenges right now and in the weeks and months to come. It’s essential that the global community steps up to help them navigate these difficult times.”


TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.