World Bank’s COVID-19 Assistance to Kenya Benefits Multinational Agribusiness and Agrochemical Firms | The Oakland Institute
The World Bank(link is external) and International Monetary Fund(link is external) (IMF) have committed billions of dollars in loans to help countries respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While some of these loans will be used to strengthen the capacity of health systems, the funding appears conditioned on countries adopting policies favorable to the private sector. World Bank President David Malpass has explicitly laid out the types of policy shifts that will be necessary for countries to receive support, stating(link is external) in March, “For those countries that have excessive regulations, subsidies, licensing regimes, trade protection, or litigiousness as obstacles, we will work with them to foster markets, choice, and fast growth prospects during the recovery.”
Kenya offers a striking illustration on how this conditionality materializes for a mostly rural economy in Africa, where the Bank is behind significant reforms and deregulation in the agricultural sector. On May 20th, the Bank approved US$1 billion(link is external) to support the second phase of the country’s Inclusive Growth and Fiscal Management Development Policy Financing (DPF) Program. Hailed by the Bank(link is external) as a timely response to the ongoing economic shock, the DPF loan aims to support affordable housing and expand access to agricultural inputs with a subsidy program that will allow farmers to purchase fertilizers, “improved” seed, and agrochemicals through electronic vouchers (e-vouchers) sent to their mobile phones.
While the proportion of the DPF loan that will be spent on the e-voucher program remains to be confirmed, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation announced(link is external) before the onset of the pandemic that approximately US$500 million would be allocated to the input program. As of March 2020, the first round of the DPF e-voucher subsidies reached 86,000 farmers and the second phase of the program(link is external) aims to reach 150,000 by 2021.