The Coronavirus is no respecter of borders. As it makes its sensational entry into any country, questions are immediately raised about its potential intensity. According to CNN, experts say that coronavirus could hit African countries the hardest. Moreso, it is anticipated to have graver effects on Africa’s smallest and poorest economies. The question is, why will Africa bear the brunt of the pandemic more than their global counterparts?
Ignorance and Illiteracy
News of the novel disease ravaging China resonated early across Africa. Still, even with its advent and continuing spread in the continent, some people cannot pronounce the name of the disease let alone understand its gravity. Taking Nigeria, for example, The Ngozi Okojo-Iweala (NOI) Polls were carried out to measure just what and how much Nigerians know about Covid-19.
The polls revealed that 84% of Nigerians are aware of the COVID-19 virus disease. Of this percentage, 26% of Nigerians nationwide believe that they are immune to the virus. Their reasons are stated thus: they are children of God (40%), they have strong genes resistant to the virus (30%), the Nigerian weather is too hot for the virus to survive in (17%). Others believe their herbal remedy protects them from the virus (8%), and the remaining 5% say COVID-19 is not an African disease rather a western disease. The literacy rate in Nigeria is about 60%, hence these figures can be extrapolated to find out what the situation is in other Africa countries. This stands to show that Africa’s levels of both academic and health illiteracy will play defining roles in global predictions.
Fragile Health Systems
CNN reports that public health experts believe the public health systems in Africa cannot cope with the coronavirus pandemic. They say African health systems largely owe the might with which they are currently tackling the pandemic to the Ebola Outbreak. Although the Ebola virus prepared them to an extent, it is still a far cry from what is needed to overcome Covid-19. Considering the powerful force with which the new virus spreads, African health care systems can only slow the spread of the pandemic instead of tackling it head-on like Italy and China. If the spread cannot be contained, the results may be catastrophic for the continent.
To prevent this, the World Economic Forum has called for heavy investments in healthcare capacities across the least developed countries. Since typical donor countries have been harder hit, least developed countries need to step up for themselves. The Forum urges them to begin manufacturing and stockpiling COVID-19 testing and personal protective gear even with their limited resources. These can buy them time while the rest of the world recover enough to provide support.
Trade ties with China
Africa stands to endure the effects of the pandemic not just in terms of health care. Economically speaking, the continent is at a disadvantage; The Diplomat calls it the “China Shock. Many African countries are highly dependent on exports to China especially Angola, South Africa, Congo, South Sudan, Namibia, Kenya, and Rwanda. Therefore even as Africa is still bracing for the full effect of the pandemic, reports of economic fallout are already here and there; South Africa, Nigeria, and Angola are dealing with commodity price drops, Kenyan retailers are depleting stocks made in China and cannot find cheap alternatives.
Likewise, several African countries have already been hit by falling trade and broken supply chains. Worse still, countries with resource-rich economies whose oil and other commodities are primarily sold to China affected most of all. For instance, The Financial Times estimated that Chinese purchases account for 95%of all of South Sudan’s exports, 61% of Angola’s, and 58% of Eritrea’s. These countries will be shaken by the collapse in Chinese trade.