How did COVID-19 affect Africa?

It is no longer news that 2020 was ushered in by a deadly infectious disease called Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The disease was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 8, 2019. In no time, this infectious disease spread across China and, in extension, to all countries of the world. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Not only did the World Health Organization declare it to be a PHEIC, but it also announced it was a pandemic, having met the criteria of having infected over 100,000 people in at least 100 countries. With about 215 million cases globally as of August 2021, the United States, Brazil, Russia, to mention a few, had the most significant effect. The disease is reputed to have caused over 4.5 million deaths across 215 countries and regions. In its published policy paper, the Kiel Institute for the World Economic mentioned that in Africa, only about 3.5 percent of all COVID-19 cases and 4.3 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths worldwide were recorded despite that the continent accounts for about 18 percent of the world population.

As expected, African states adopted various measures to curtail the spread of the virus, including the closure of borders, social distancing, and shutting down of economies. Unfortunately, these measures have generated significant setbacks for the continent’s economies, especially in trade both within and among other countries, lost productivity, and tourism. For example, Tourism, a germane sector of economic activity in numerous African countries, was primarily affected by COVID-19 following the travel restrictions and closure of borders by governments. Cape Verde, one of the African countries with the highest number of infections, derives about 18 percent of its GDP from tourism, a sector badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Seychelles was initially projected to grow at 3.3 percent and is now projected to decline by 14.4 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Air Transport Association estimated that the economic contribution of the air transport industry in Africa is at US$55.8 billion, supporting 6.2 million jobs and contributing 2.6% GDP. With the advent of COVID-19, IATA projected revenue losses of up to US$113 billion. Also, it is pertinent to know that African economies have suffered severe damage due to oil and the disruption of supply chains. Today, crude oil is facing the biggest demand shock ever, falling below 30 dollars a barrel due to the halting of global trade following the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, trade-in commodity-sensitive economies like Nigeria and Angola and CEMAC countries were greatly affected. In Angola and Nigeria, oil revenues represent over 90% of exports and more than 70% of their national budgets, the fall in oil prices had an adverse effect on the foreign exchange reserves of these countries and has further led to their inability to implement developmental programmes and has stalled their efforts to reduce poverty. According to a published report by the African Union, estimates show that Nigeria and Angola could lose up to $65 billion in income. In addition, countries like Eritrea and South Sudan were significantly affected by the collapsing trade and broken supply chains in China. China is reputed to be an economic partner to these two countries as it does purchase 95 percent of all South Sudan exports and 58 percent of Eritrea’s.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 shock on African economies has been severe. Due to the low revenues received by tax authorities and increased spending on fiscal and monetary policies, which would help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, the debt burden of African economies has since increased. Most African countries were already facing a high debt portfolio, and with the pandemic, the debt portfolio of African countries grew. Regarding trade, in Kenya, the exportation of flowers declined by 80 percent due to less demand from European countries due to the COVID-19 economic recession. According to an analysis done by UNCTAD, merchandise exports will decrease by 17 percent in Africa due to COVID-19. Noteworthy to mention is that the number of people who experienced food insecurity in 2019 was around 135 million; since the emergence of COVID-19, the figure has risen to over 200 million. This increase can be traced to the lack of access to agricultural output and restrictions on imports and exports among countries. According to a policy brief published in May 2020 by the International Growth Centre, it estimates that an additional 9.1 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa has fallen into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, with about 65% of that increase evolving from the lockdowns alone. Also, the policy brief mentioned that 3.6 percent of the population in the region, which includes 3.9 million children, have fallen into severe food deprivation.

The high dependency of economies in the African continent on foreign economies has led to a negative economic spinoff for the continent. Therefore, there is a need for policymakers to develop measures to rebuild African economies. On this note, the Centre for Values and Leadership has decided to title the theme for this year’s annual lecture symposium: “Economic Evolution of life after Covid-19: Measures to rebuilding economies in Africa”. This year symposium would bring together policymakers, technocrats, development experts, and a few others to discuss the measures required of governments and institutions in the rebuilding of African economies. In addition, experts from and outside of the continent would be invited to come share their thoughts, insights, and strategies on how African countries can rebuild their economies following post-pandemic. The annual lecture is expected to hold on February 7th, 2022, and members of the public are cordially invited and can register here:


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