The COVID-19 pandemic continues its indiscriminate and devastating impact across the world and brings a massive economic crisis in its wake. For Africa, this is a development crisis whose impact will be felt for years to come.
The coronavirus finally arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the last regions of the world to be affected by the pandemic.
With more than a million cases of COVID-19 now confirmed across the globe and 209 countries and territories affected by outbreaks of varying degrees of intensity, the world has reached a critical threshold.
As had been feared and expected, Africa was not spared from the “novel coronavirus” pandemic. The rapid spread of COVID-19 on the continent is a matter of grave concern.
As predicted by many analysts at the beginning of the pandemic, South Africa is the country most affected by the SARS-COV-2 virus in Africa. The good news is that the “Rainbow Nation” is the African country with the most testing facilities and the best-equipped hospitals across the continent. As of April 07 2020, South Africa had 1,686 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, with more than 50,000 tests conducted since 5 March, when the country’s first case was confirmed.
Cases of COVID-19 in Africa represent a tiny fraction of those in other countries, but countries in the region are still taking strong action to slow the spread of the virus: closing borders, imposing curfews, closing schools, and more. These actions – along with those that other countries take to slow the spread, such as factory closings in China – have economic consequences in addition to health consequences.
“Only” 3,778 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa as of 1 April, according to the WHO. Whether the global pandemic is reaching the continent later or there are reporting challenges, it seems safe to assume that that these numbers will unfortunately rise.
In his two years in office, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has cultivated a reputation internationally for his commitment to diplomacy and international cooperation, even winning the 2019 Nobel Prize for his efforts to promote peace in the Horn of Africa.
Although the Chinese authorities have so far not explicitly said that the donation of masks and other protective equipment to developing countries is part of a formal, coherent strategy, the Chinese government has put significant effort into activating its diplomatic machinery, seemingly taking a leading role in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa.
Africa is the continent that has most of the world’s poorest people living on less than two dollars a day. Most of these people derive their livelihoods from the informal economy, small-scale farming, livestock keeping, mining and fishing. They are self-reliant and show solidarity in their daily transactions. They do not have a salary or social security, and some may not even have saving accounts. This means that in the case of a lockdown they are likely to be adversely affected, living on daily transactions.