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At the outbreak of the pandemic it looked like Africa might not be as hard hit as the older and more industrial areas of the world. The younger population of Africa tend to work on the land which meant that any lockdowns wouldn’t be as hard hitting. However, with vaccine rollouts in rich countries it looks like Africa is years away from being able to roll out a vaccine scheme which could try to reach general immunity among the population. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the African region will be one of the slowest growing economies this year.
Covid-19 has lots of knock on effects too- future waves of the virus and different mutations will impact the education of millions of young people. Prior to the pandemic, Africans were among the most optimistic and hopeful people in the world as they saw an economic boom up until 2014. The percentage of Africans who were extremely impoverished fell from 56% in 2003 to 40% in 2018. This is still far too high but there was a sense that progress was inevitable. More children were going to school and the economy was growing. Better educated children tend to go on to earn more and so the prospects looked good for the continent.
During the first wave of Covid early in 2020, Africa was resilient and its economy didn’t suffer as much as other- Sub- Saharan GDP fell by 2.6% in 2020 compared to 3.5% for the rest of the world. Official statistics for how many cases of the virus there have been in Africa look good too, although the testing programmes in some countries will not be able to accurately say how many cases there actually are. Based of South Africa which has a strong testing programme the cases in Africa may be far higher than they appear to be.
The worst impact of the pandemic will not be the virus itself but the effect on society, education and the economy in the long term. Rich nations have been able to borrow money to pay their citizens to stay at home and have spent 7% of their GDP in doing so. African governments have spent on average 3% and have struggled to do that. The social-welfare grants which 42 nations put in place will have helped but despite these efforts 32 million people have fallen into extreme poverty. To avoid economic crises it is likely that African governments will avoid spending too on infrastructure and public projects to save money, this decision will in turn slow future growth too.
Rich countries which have ordered excess vaccines need to donate them to African countries in need and donate to COVAX which is a global organisation looking to pool money to purchase and distribute the vaccines where they are needed most. To avoid economic struggles the World Bank and IMF need to offer cheap loans and support proposals from the African Development Bank to attract more private investment in Africa. It is in the worlds interest to vaccinate people in all countries, the longer the virus is uncontrolled the greater the chance it mutates and makes current vaccines useless.