A True Fact About Africa Facing COVID-19
On Wednesday March 18th, WHO General Manager warned Africa "to prepare for the worst" with the virus.
A challenge? Yes absolutely, but maybe after Covid-19, it could become a new world in which Africa will be able to show to the rest of the world how we overcome what can become a tragedy.
As I am writing this, there are 152,500 cases, 4,344 deaths, and 64,041 recoveries in Africa. The best way for me to explain what is happening to us is to ask questions to myself-what are our strong points?
Do we have experience regarding the management of pandemic? Yes, we do.
Our continent knows, as home to large forests and deserts, rich soils, abundant raw materials and also a place has been hosted, several epidemics and pandemics such as Malaria, HIV, and more recently Ebola, during our past and also recent history.
Our medical staffs are struggling to fight those diseases on a regular basis.
The measures have been taken resulting from the following observations.
-The first case imported in the continent has been detected in Egypt. The last country with the outbreak, the kingdom of Lesotho, had their first case there on may the 14th.
Egypt is among the countries the most visited in Africa. Lesotho is the country less visited in Africa. The less a country has interactions, the less cases the country has. The richest country with a lot of interaction across the world is South Africa, and is also the epicentre of COVID-19 in Africa.
A comparison to Canada:
South Africa, 57.78 million (2018), total cases are 43,434, active 19,438, deceased 908, and recovered 23,088.
Canada, 37.59 million (2019), total cases are 94,335, active 34,072, deceased 7,702, and recovered 52,561.
The disease is more deadly among the elderly. As a matter of fact, the elderly population is only a small fraction. The demographic in Africa shows as follows:
60% of the population is below 20 years old, 35% between 20 and 60 years old, and only 5% is above 60 years old.
A complete lock down is enforced for the richest countries, for the others are partially locked down with curfew. Everywhere in the continent, it is an obligation to wear a mask, Hydroalcoholic gel and washing hands, social distancing (not always respected).
But, It is an uphill struggle to be tested; the lack of test is obvious. When the result is positive, in some countries to seek a cure, is requiring a long and painful procedure.
One more piece of information that scientists are discussing is that some herd immunity may have developed due to malaria, and yellow fever vaccinations, current in the continent. There is no confirmation yet on those immunities.
All these facts raise some questions: Despite our fragilities, will our developing economies overcome this worldwide crisis? Will we benefit from our resilience abilities?
Africa has created its proper way to fight this disease with courage.
The countries with complete lock down have not been reopened yet. However, to preserve the economy, most of the countries that have practiced the partial lock down have never closed their markets, or most of the commerce. The partial lock down motivation is 100% socioeconomic.
To support the Economy, decisions have been made at a continental level on the 12th of April 2020. The African Union Chair President, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has appointed four of the greatest economists and bankers of the continent, as Special Envoys, to mobilize the international economic support all around the World, to fight against COVID-19. The Special Envoys have been tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledges by the G20, the European Union, and the other financial organizations. The first need is the debt relief, which has been successful.
The subregional organization ECOWAS held a meeting through video conferencing with the heads of the states. A common approach was agreed. A very pragmatic decision has been taken on reinforcement of micro-finance institutions in order to provide them with more support to help the informal sector (30 to 40% of the GNP of some countries). They also decided to avoid any restrictions on exchanges of goods to support collective efforts of the research for equipment, medicines and vaccines.
Some companies are shifting activities to match the new needs. The demand is not the same anymore. For example, 3D printers are used to manufacture ventilators.
Although, some restaurants are open, very few are eating out. Delivery companies are widely opened to serve the communities.
Regarding education, digital education is offered in several countries for the children of middle-income families. Teachers in general mobilize the children and the youth to follow the program in small groups.
Apparently, Africa has heard the warning from WHO. Africa is reacting in its own way collectively and with creativity. Using internal as well as external solidarities to fight, to hope, and to overcome this terrible virus. The rate of contamination is still increasing every single day, but the number of deaths is relatively very low. The recovery rate is high. Africa may be at the very beginning of the pandemic - nobody knows.
A challenge? Yes, absolutely. But, after Covid-19, will Africa be able to overcome this challenge?
This article was submitted by our business associate, Jeannine OLLO Servat in Africa. Stay tuned for Jeannine’s update about COVID-19 business, economical and social impacts in Africa, in the July issue.