2013 Tutu Fellow Monica Musonda has mobilised her company, Java Foods, to donate food to those in need as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Monica is a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur and the CEO and Founder of Java Foods, one of the leading food manufacturers in Zambia. Java Foods is a food processing company established to provide affordable nutrition using locally acquired raw materials to the Southern African market.
In response to the perilous impact on the vulnerable as a result of the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Java Foods has been helping out. Monica explained that at the beginning of the year, no one understood the impact COVID19 would have on our lives, our businesses and our economies.
She said that in early February, her board was discussing how to manage supply-chain risk out of China but we never thought the virus would end up in her home country of Zambia. Monica said that she and her board could not have dreamt of the restrictions - such as border lockdowns and travel restrictions - that were put into place and the implications for our business. By mid-March, when the full effects of the pandemic were beginning to be felt on the continent, many businesses, trying to comply with health regulations and restrictions, found themselves either with considerably reduced staff capacity or shut down all together. The Zambian government closed all schools, universities, restaurants, lodges and hotels. It also restricted public gatherings to 50 people.
For the informal economy, the impact has been catastrophic. Monica said that with the informal economy representing about 60% of the urban population, people in this sector often rely on daily wages to feed and look after themselves. These jobs immediately dried up and left many without income. She said that with the depreciation of the kwacha against major currencies - almost 20% against the dollar - and because Zambia was a net importer of food, Zambia saw prices of food sky-rocket.
Because of it's close ties to the affordable nutrition market, Monica and her team saw the impact of COVID19 on the urban poor, and especially around food and nutrition. So she decided to support the efforts of government and NGO’s who support the vulnerable. Since then, Java Foods has supported government-run isolation centres, government disaster management units, and NGOs such as the Lusaka Food Bank, Special Hope Network, Sisters of Mercy Hospice and others. The company has provided Java Food’s fortified maize soya porridge called Supa Cereal.
Caption for cover picture, Left to Right: Java Foods colleague Joseph Litwayi, CEO Monica Musonda, the Zambian MP and Minister of Commerce, Christopher Yaluma.