The Impact of Covid-19 on Suppliers and Workers in Africa

“There was significant evidence of employers providing PPE and hand sanitiser to workers to take home, an acknowledgement that workplace safety is directly linked to workers’ families’ ability to remain safe in the home. One supplier worked with the local community radio station to develop health and safety bulletins delivered by the on-site medic.”


Research to understand the impact of Covid-19 on suppliers and workers in Africa

Key Outputs:

18 suppliers in 8 African countries included in the research
7425 workers called
297 managers called
31 key stakeholders interviewed

With the increased awareness of ethical standards across the industry and the local capacity to support farms in achieving compliance, the Ethiopian Floriculture industry is now in a better position to access international markets and be recognised as a robust industry to source from.

The Covid-19 pandemic has far reaching consequences on business practices across the globe including on labor standards. To be able to adequately respond to these consequences and challenges, it is vital to capture and assess the real impact of Covid-19 on the ground – for both workers and suppliers. However, amidst a period of social distancing and lockdowns, it is really challenging to conduct in-person social auditing to assess these impacts.


In response to this challenge, Partner Africa and &Wider worked with global businesses and their suppliers operating in agriculture, floriculture, textiles and waste management across Africa to research the reality on the ground for both suppliers and workers to understand the impact of the pandemic and to provide retailers and buyers an insight into these challenges.

In addition, Partner Africa and &Wider identified and shared examples of good practice that can serve as an inspiration to others and made recommendations as to how businesses can put in place policies and processes to monitor and mitigate human rights risks – including in times of a global pandemic.

“Several suppliers made the decision to move beyond compliance and undertake a more nuanced approach to worker pay. One supplier only cut the pay of management, allowing the majority of the workforce to maintain their existing level of income, and a second developed a sliding scale of income reductions, meaning that the lowest paid workers within the business received no or minimal wage cuts.”


Partner Africa and &Wider have gathered data from suppliers, workers, and management through various anonymous call cycles and semi-structured interviews. Key learnings from the research included:

– The challenges that suppliers faced included price hikes, cancelled or fewer purchase orders, late payments, increased cost of transport and airfreight and adapting to social distancing requirements (e.g. hiring more transportation for workers to travel to work). Most suppliers seem to have adapted well to new hygiene requirements and businesses reported relative ease in affording and securing PPE for their workers.

– A large number of workers reported having seen a change in their terms of employment (payment, holidays, working hours or even being laid off). Workers were very concerned about the swift reduction in family income, which impacts financial and food security, and about the perception that there are currently too few workers to do what needs to be done, impacting workplace pressures and workload issues.

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