COVID-19 could kill more than 300,000 in Africa if… – ECA

A new report by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) says more than 300,000 Africans could lose their lives to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) if the virus continues to impact 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.

According to the report released Friday April 17, 2020, anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19, depending on the intervention measures taken to stop the spread.

The report titled ‘COVID-19 in Africa: Protecting lives and economies’ notes that Africa is particularly susceptible because 56 per cent of the urban population is concentrated in overcrowded and poorly serviced slum dwellings (excluding North Africa) and only 34 per cent of the households have access to basic hand washing facilities. In all, 71 per cent of Africa’s workforce is informally employed, and most of those cannot work from home.

“Close to 40 per cent of children under 5 years of age in Africa are undernourished. Of all the continents Africa has the highest prevalence of certain underlying conditions, like tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS. With lower ratios of hospital beds and health professionals to its population than other regions, high dependency on imports for its medicinal and pharmaceutical products, weak legal identity systems for direct benefit transfers, and weak economies that are unable to sustain health and lockdown costs, the continent is vulnerable,” the report said.

In a press release citing the Executive Secretary of the ECA, Vera Songwe, she said; “The economic costs of the pandemic have been harsher than the direct impact of the 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.”

The report states that Africa’s small and medium enterprises risk complete closure if there is no immediate support, adding that 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 percent of some African countries’ GDP, has effectively halted as has the airline industry that supports it, it adds.

The report recommends that African economies must interconnected and work together in the fight against the virus.

It goes further to outline 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.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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