Social safety is key in the fight against Coronavirus, Faure Gnassingbé affirms

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Tuesday, 14 April 2020 15:11
Social safety is key in the fight against Coronavirus, Faure Gnassingbé affirms

(Togo First) - In a recent article published in the Financial Times, Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbé, declared: “No matter how effective the developed world’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic might be in terms of protecting public health, it simply will not work in Africa without social protection.” 

“Almost 85% of African workers - be they small farmers, street-food vendors, waste collectors, transport operators, or nomadic merchants - operate in the informal sector.” Also, “many survive day to day” so they will be torn between staying safe and surviving. 

Restricting their movement means they will not be able to put food on their families’ tables,” the leader said. He then went on asserting that “the most effective way we can come to their aid is via cash transfers.”

The Novissi scheme

In this regard, President Gnassingbé mentioned the Novissi scheme launched by his government: this is a cash transfer initiative that is “designed to support all Togolese informal workers whose incomes are disrupted by the Covide-19 response.”  

It is extremely simple to benefit from the scheme: Any informal worker aged 18 or older whose revenue has been affected by the crisis and who can prove their identity with a valid voting card will receive a state grant worth at least 30% of the minimum wage. More exactly, women will get XOF12,250 per month while men will receive XOF10,500. 

The aim is to help beneficiaries pay for basic daily necessities such as food, sanitation, and communication,” Gnassingbé indicated while noting that his administration has already waived water and electricity charges for the most vulnerable. It will help cushion them from the economic impact of complying with measures implemented to contain the pandemic. 

Women will receive the highest possible payouts, as they are more directly involved in nurturing the entire household. Payments will also be made directly to the mobile money accounts of beneficiaries. This is quick, reduces the risk of fraud and eliminates contact with cash, which many fear may help spread the virus.”

In total, more than 800,000 people have registered for the scheme and more than 383,000 have already benefited. For this program, the government has disbursed more than XOF2.2 billion so far. 

People should not have to choose between death by Covid-19 or by hunger,” declared Gnassingbé while urging other African leaders to adopt similar systems to help their people: “Enrolment is quick. Funds can be transferred rapidly. The system is transparent and easy to audit.” 

An unprecedented undertaking

The Togolese president believes this initiative will be an unprecedented undertaking while adding the key role that partners’ support will play in the process. “Now more than ever, the support of international donors, development partners, philanthropists, friends of Africa and, crucially, national diaspora can make a difference.” 

However, victory in the fight against Covid-19 will ultimately be judged not just by our ability to save lives, but also by our ability to keep millions of people from falling back into abject poverty.” 

Let’s recall that Faure Gnassingbé also recently put in place a solidarity fund to help Togolese SMEs cope with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The State hopes to raise XOF400 billion for this fund.

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