COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting Lives and Economies

The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of COVID-19 for the African continent, the authors of this report state. Nevertheless, without adequate protection, estimates show that hundreds of thousands of Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19.

Over 300,000 Africans could lose their lives due to COVID-19, according to the report COVID-19: Protecting African Lives and Economies, published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in April 2020. This, as the pandemic continues to impact on the Continent’s struggling economies whose growth is expected to slow down from 3.2 per cent to 1.8 per cent in a best-case scenario, pushing close to 27 million people into extreme poverty.

The report says that Africa’s fragile health systems could see additional costs being imposed on them because of the growing crisis that has to-date resulted in over 16,000 infected Africans and claimed over 800 lives at the time of the report’s launch.

“The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of COVID-19.  Across the continent, all economies are suffering from the sudden shock to the economies. The physical distancing needed to manage the pandemic is suffocating and drowning economic activity,” Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa, points out.

The report notes that Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support. Furthermore, the price of oil, which accounts for 40 per cent of Africa’s exports, has halved in value, and major African exports, such as textiles and fresh-cut flowers have crashed. Tourism, which accounts for up to 38 per cent of some African countries’ GDP, has effectively halted as has the airline industry that supports it.

On mitigation, the report outlines a number of concerted efforts to keep trade flowing, especially in essential medical supplies and staple foods, with a strong policy push to fight the urge to impose export bans. It also proposes that intellectual property on medical supplies, novel testing kits and vaccines must be shared to help Africa’s private sector play its role in the response.

This report is the culmination of in-depth analyses presented to African Ministers of Finance in two virtual meetings, as well as extensive consultations with key representatives from civil society, international finance institutions and the private sector. 

Read more and download the report at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) website.

(ECA/ile)