Benin – The diminutive opportunist

If you look geographically at Benin, it seems to be a country that has been squeezed in on the African continent on the last minute. Even more strange the country is known as the cradle of ‘voodoo’. The locals call it ‘Vodun’ which means ‘spirits’. And before you start imaging voodoo dolls and all the black magic stuff, I would like to stop you here. Coming back to the reality, Benin or officially the Republic of Benin and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by y the Bight of Benin to the south, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. In terms of area, Benin is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania and two-third the size of Portugal. The capital Porto Novo was developed as a port for the slave trade with the area nearby referred to as ‘Slave Coast’ from as early as the 17th century. During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a large number of slaves were shipped to the New World. The last ship of slaves departed from Dahomey for Brazil in 1885. However, there is a lot to learn from this small country that still retains much of its authentic culture and tradition.

Benin is also one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. However, compared to most other West African nations, Benin has enjoyed relative peace and stability with even its colours on the National flag representing courage, wealth and hope. The most characteristic sights of Benin are the petrol stations. The price of the original petrol is above the financial reach for the majority of people in this country. So, the people found new ways to sell petrol and one crazy but sufficient way was selling petrol in containers with even public transport like buses and taxis. If that was not unique enough for you to read, they refer to white people visiting the country as  “yovo”. Do not be surprised to find people and kids shouting this word behind you if you happen to visit the country. Most of the population is agrarian and lacks the basic requirements of modernity such as quality education, affordable quality healthcare with AIDS straining the health care system and modern economic means of livelihood. However, if you would like to see all these unusual events, you can visit the country by arriving at its only international airport which is located in Cotonou.

When it comes to the economy of Benin, it has grown consecutively for several years, but slowed down in 2017, as its closed trade links to Nigeria expose Benin to risks from volatile commodity prices. Benin’s economy is heavily reliant on the informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria (estimated at approximately 20% of GDP), and on agriculture. Despite a recent downward trend, the poverty rate remains high, at 46.4% in 2018, with a poverty line of $1.90 a day in purchasing power parity. Like the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Benin’s monetary policy is managed by the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which keeps the CFA franc pegged to the euro. In recent years, the government has tried to attract foreign investment by continuing its efforts to improve the business environment, ongoing civil unrest, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and infrastructure gaps have deterred most investors (Economic Freedom Index, 2020).

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 487.50 CFA franc (R 14, 64) and the price of a litre of petrol is 505.50 CFA franc (R 15, 18). Though Nigeria inflation rate fluctuated substantially in recent years it tended to increase through 1999 – 2018 period ending at 12.1 % in 2018 with a 4.43% decline from 2017.

There are however a lot of positives to take out of a country like Benin. First, the country can build its future by taking greater advantage of its geographic proximity to Nigeria and its access to the ocean through the port of Cotonou. Secondly, it can create productive cities by starting to process its abundant agriculture resources. It can help enhance its infrastructure and human capital by addressing the issues of coastal erosion and tropical diseases. And lastly, the country can draw strength from the Marvel comic and 2018 film ‘The Black Panther’ that inspired the ‘Dora Milaje’ female warriors in the movie. The combination of these priorities allows us to visualize how Benin could transform itself in the future. If the government can improve the business environment and increase port efficiency, there is no reason that domestic, as well as Chinese or Indian investors, would not be attracted to Benin.

SIGNING OF AGREEMENT: IFG

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT AND CEO OF INVESTMENT FUND AFRICA

The President and CEO, Mr Neil De Beer, of the Investment Fund Africa, today signed a historic agreement in an international merger of two organizations namely ACUSTER CAPITAL and IFA CAPITAL.

The Spanish based ACUSTER CAPITAL and Mauritian based IFA CAPITAL, are forming a new entity namely “IFG” or INVESTMENT FUND GLOBAL.

“ I am truly excited about this new partnership with ACUSTER and indeed to lead with its President, Mr Jaume Puig, this dynamic new team. We are creating innovative ideas on global funding, consulting services and implementation of infrastructure projects globally and no doubt will we give solutions to African and global challenges.”

-Neil De Beer, President IFA and Co-President IFG

“ We recognize that the world and business are changing and that post Covid19, we will have a need for new solutions to global questions. The world will need more infrastructure reform on all levels together with capital investments packaged in innovative solutions. I am excited about creating those solutions through our IFG group”

-Jaume Puig, President ACUSTER  and Co-President IFG

 

 

 

Togo – Time for change

Many decades ago, between the 16th and the 18th century Togo and its surrounding regions were known as “the slave coast” as Europeans would visit the region in search of slaves. Fast track through decades, Togo has been independent for about 60 years now since it gained independency on the April 27th, 1960. The Togolese Republic as it was formerly known as is a small West African country only 21,925 sq mi with an average density of 253 people per square mile. It extends south to the Bight of Benin and is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, Benin to the east, and Ghana on the west. Contrasting the geography of the centre of the country, mostly hills, the north is mostly rolling savanna and the south is both savanna and woodland plateau. A more interesting fact is Togo is located very close to the equator and thus, experiences tropical hot and humid climate in the central regions and the south and dry, arid weather towards the north.

While many languages are spoken in Togo, mainly those of the Gbe family, French is its official language. People with indigenous beliefs make up the largest religious group, but Christians and Muslims also make up a significant minority. Greetings are elaborated in Togo with it being very important to say hello to everyone when coming and going. More so if you want to greet somebody in Togo, you should shake their hand a say a verbal “Hello” in French (Bonjour), Ewe (Woezo-lo!), Kabiye (Alafia-we) or another tribal language. When it comes to food, it is seen as rude to smell food that has been cooked for you for any reason. It is rude to ask what it is you are eating as well. Togo is much a starving country, and a meal cooked for you in the country is a big deal. So, you are to eat it without asking any questions and while you at if the meat is served, break the bones and suck the marrow. Not doing so is seen as wasteful to the Togolese. However, since independence, Togo has struggled to build a stable country and economy with the Eyadema family at the helm for decades. Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema succeeded his father, who died in 2005 after ruling the country with an iron fist for 38 years but in recent years hundreds have died that challenged his victories at the polls.

Togo’s economy is small and depends on subsistence and commercial agriculture. Phosphate mining used to be the primary industrial activity, but due to increased foreign competition, and the collapse of world phosphate prices, Togo has been relying more on the export of cement and clinker to nearby countries. Several setbacks in the early 1990’s such as strikes and political unrest hurt economic growth by shrinking the tax base and disrupting the economy to a point that education in Togo was compulsory only for six years mainly because of teacher shortages and poor infrastructure.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 1.69$ – CFA franc (R 0,50) and the price of litre petrol is 1. 25$ – CFA franc (R 0,38). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Togo moved over the past 40 years between -3.5% and 39.2%. For 2019, an inflation rate of 0.7% was calculated and was recorded at -0.40% in June of this year (2020).

Togo has received validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for having eliminated human African trypanosomiasis or “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem, becoming the first country in Africa to reach this milestone. Togo’s achievement comes after more than two decades of sustained political commitment. The wish of the Togolese people is that the same sustained political commitment can be made to their election crisis. According to the 2019 corruption perceptions index, Togo is among the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 130 out of 180 with only North Korea’s ruling dynasty that has held executive power for longer. The overall feeling is that it is time for a change. But all the opposition parties can hope to oust this regime is a post-electoral crisis. And that, sadly, could lead to fresh bloodshed and more suffering for the Togolese people.

Liberia – The Path to Light

Liberia was perceived as an example of Africa’s ability at self-rule and self-determination and due to this known as the Black Zion. After overcoming two civil wars, the country still has an interesting historical, cultural and landmarks to flaunt. Few people knew that the country was found by freed slaves from the Americas hence the deep connections between the U.S. and Liberia. Its capital, Monrovia, is named after the fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, who served in the White House from 1817 to 1825. More interestingly the connection runs in billionaire media producer Oprah Winfrey NDA, who traced her ancestry to the Kpelle Tribe of Liberia. Speaking of female dominance, it is the only African country that had a female president in office, Lady Ellen Johnson Sirleaf known as Africa’s Iron Lady. Liberia in the current day is run by the “people’s president” George Weah, a footballing icon.

Better known as the Republic of Liberia is an African country located on the west coast of the African continent and one of the world’s oldest democracies having attained independence from the United States of America in 1847. According to the CIA World Factbook, the country has one of the youngest population with an average age of 17.9 years which can be correlated with the fact that women can get married at the age of 18, and men aged 21. Geographically Liberia is surrounded by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire on three sides, while the south coast borders the Atlantic Ocean and It serves as one of the biggest exporters of iron ore in Africa. The longest river in Liberia is named after a fish which is derived from the cavalla horse mackerel found at its mouth and the country is home to the endangered and mysterious pygmy hippopotamus. So, with these few marvels mentioned why are not many people visiting? Interestingly neither the World Bank nor the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), have figures for foreign arrivals. The country’s old infrastructure can be attributed to the civil war which lasted from 1989 to 1997 and the influence of the Cannibal Warlords. Power shortages in the country are common, facilities at tourist attractions rudimentary, the only proper hotels (in the Western sense) are clustered in Monrovia (the capital), and roads often little more than dirt tracks. Business and economy are constrained by a small domestic market, high transportation costs and poor trade links with neighbouring countries. To add to this, the country is struggling to recover fully from the effects of multiple shocks in recent years; namely, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, the collapse of commodity prices, UNMIL withdrawal and the perception of risk associated with the political transition in January 2018.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost L$150 Liberian dollar (R 5,96) and the price of a litre petrol is L$1.12 Liberian dollar (R 0,94). Liberia’s economy is projected to contract by 1.4% in 2019, following the modest growth of 1.2% in 2018. Inflation reached 31.3% by August 2019, up from 26.1% the previous year (World Bank, 2019).

Despite all the issues covered, President Weah has made necessary efforts to diversify the economy by investing more in public infrastructure, agriculture and supporting small and micro enterprises with capital, but it will be sometime before these yield results. The government intends to build a highway along Liberia’s 350-mile coast as well as connecting roads into the interior. He also maintains popular support in the legislature. Both will be crucial as he attempts to implement reforms and pro-poor development programmes. With five years left to go, hope in the president remains high.

Sudan – Time, Hope and Patience

Sudan is a country in North-Eastern Africa which gained independence from Egypt and the UK in 1956. Previously called Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the country has a rich history and before the split with South Sudan on 9 July 2011, united Sudan was the largest country in Africa and the Arab world by area. It is considered a treasure trove for archaeologists, due to a large number of prehistoric artefacts. Sudan’s post-independence history has been tumultuous, characterised by multiple coups and economic woes. These were exacerbated by international tensions – and later sanctions – following the government’s decision to allow terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to reside in Khartoum in the 1990s.

The country with a population of close to 42 Million (World Bank 2018) is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan despite the most populous city being Omdurman. Islam is an integral part of Sudan’s social fabric and media landscape as well as a politically mobilizing and polarizing force. The Arab presence is estimated at 70% of the Sudanese population. By far the most popular tourist attraction in the country, the Pyramids of Meroe are one of the last remaining symbols from an ancient civilization. The best time to visit is just before sunset when the sun illuminates the structures with a golden hue. The Pyramids of Meroe were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Sudan’s economy is basically agricultural, with inadequate infrastructure and ridden by the civil wars and social and ethnic conflict. Sudan lost most of its oil reserves (over 80 percent), after the secession of South Sudan. Unlike the rest of the Arab world that is mostly barren desert, Sudan has a significant size of arable land. The country has the potential to produce most of its food needs and export some to the Arab world. Despite Sudan accounting for less than 10% of Arab land, it counts for almost half of its arable land. GDP growth was an estimated 4.1% in 2018, up slightly from 3.3% in 2017. On the supply side, mining (growth of 6.3%), agriculture (3.7%), and manufacturing (1.5%) were the main contributors to growth. GDP growth is projected to be 3.6% in 2019 and 3.8% in 2020, benefiting from a strong commitment to ongoing macroeconomic policy and structural reforms, including removing tax exemptions and the like.

On the “Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 18,58 SDG (R 6,00) and the price of litre petrol is 7,70 SDG (R 2,44). Sudan inflation rate though fluctuated substantially in recent years from 16.91% in 2016 to 63. 29% in 2019 with a projected rate of 50.43% in 2020.

Sudan faces key challenges include institutional and human capacity weaknesses, high youth unemployment, a high external debt burden, and climate change. However, there is hope with time and determination in Sudan as there are key opportunities include huge unexploited agricultural potential, an improved national policy environment, and private sector potential. Sudan also holds huge private investment opportunities in large-scale irrigated agriculture, dairy farming and animal husbandry, forest enterprises involving gum Arabic, and the leather supply chain for regional and global export, with the potential to increase national income and foreign exchange earnings by promoting exports of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods.

Senegal – Gateway to Africa

In the 16th century when the Portuguese visited the country’s coast, the fishermen said “sunu gaal”, which translates into “these are our boats”. The Portuguese, who understood nothing, simply named their land “Senegal”. Fast forward a few centuries, Nelson Mandela in his book “Long Walk to Freedom” stated that the Senegalese are handsome people and that the society showed how disparate elements– French, Islamic, and African– can mingle to create a unique and distinctive culture.” Provided this information we can see this in Senegal’s national flag which bears three colours: red, yellow and green. They are the official Pan-African colours and a star in the middle that represents universal unity.

Senegal has two prominent nicknames: the land of Teranga and the gateway to West Africa. The “Gateway to Africa” tag was earned through the presence of the Senegal River, by which the Portuguese and the French were able to make inroads to Sudan and Central Africa. The government is a multiparty democratic republic and became independent in 1960 after three centuries of French colonial rule. Dakar, the capital lies on the Cap-Vert peninsula, the most westerly point in Africa. In 1840, the French government declared Senegal a permanent French possession, abolished all forms of slavery, and granted full citizenship to those born in Senegal. More ironically Senegal’s traditional and national sport is wrestling, likely as a coincidence of wrestling France for three centuries.

Senegal has been among Africa’s most stable countries, with three major peaceful political transitions since independence. In a presidential election held on February 24, 2019, the Senegalese people voted in President Macky Sall for a second term. Predominantly rural, and with limited natural resources, the Economy of Senegal gains most of its foreign exchange from fish, phosphates, groundnuts, tourism, and services. Growth has been high, over 6% since 2014, and the forecast remains optimistic, particularly with oil and gas production expected in 2022. Growth accelerated to over 7% in 2017 and is expected to remain over 6% in 2018 and the following years. All sectors supported growth in 2018, but agriculture – due to support programs, robust external demand, and large infrastructure investments in the context of Emerging Senegal Plan implementation remain key drivers. Although the country is 93% Muslim, Senegal’s first president was Catholic (Renowned poet Léopold Sédar Senghor).

On the Neil Economic scale, a can of coke cost 431.11 CFA (R 10,59) and the price of a litre petrol is 593.50 CFA (R 18,74). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Senegal moved over the past 39 years between -4.1% and 32.3%. During the observation period from 1979 to 2018, the average inflation rate was 3.9% per year. For 2018, an inflation rate of 0.5% was calculated. Overall, the price increase was 317.72 %. An item that cost 100 Franc in 1979 was so charged 417.72 Franc at the beginning of 2019.

Despite Senegal having over 20 ethnic groups speaking more than one language, the different groups have coexisted in harmony. Senegal is the only country in West Africa that wasn’t overrun by a military coup and its democratic stability has earned it many allies in Europe and the Americas. The country truly fits the Senegalese proverb “The chameleon changes colour to match the earth, the earth doesn’t change colour to match the chameleon”. Senegal has a reputation for transparency in government operations. The level of economic corruption that has damaged the development of the economies in other African states is very low. Today Senegal has a democratic political culture, being part of one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa.

Nigeria – The Giant of Africa

“There is no country in the world with the diversity, confidence, talent and black pride like Nigeria” stated by Kenyan author, Binyavanga Wainana for Nigeria for being a stalwart of black pride and identity. The country regarded as the “Giant of Africa” has 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory known as Abuja, features over 250 different ethnic groups with many different languages. The former British colony is Africa’s most populous country with an estimated population of 202 Million (World Bank 2019) and will double in size to 400 million people by 2050. Nigeria has a diverse geography, with climates ranging from arid to humid equatorial. More spectacular, the Niger Delta (the second-largest delta on the planet), has the highest concentration of monotypic fish families in the world and is also home to sixty percent of Nigeria’s mangrove forests. The country with a name derived from Niger river which is the largest and longest river in West Africa is home to one of the Oldest Locations of Human Existence, The Nok Civilisation (dating back to 1500BC).

It is interesting to know that Nigeria has more Muslims than Saudi Arabia and has the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa with a religion composition of 52% Islam and 47% Christianity. The country is dominated by Sunni Muslims concentrated in the North whilst the South is dominated by Christians. Religion in Nigeria has also influenced some of the customs and the way of living in most of the Muslim Families as they consider the left hand to be unclean and using it to be a sign of disrespect. Those that believe this do not eat, shake hands or receive items with their left hand. Nigeria’s economy has been driven over the years by Crude oil exports as the nation is the largest producer and exporter of Crude Oil in Africa. The country is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and is a major source of U.S. imports. The region’s biggest economy (an estimated GDP of $397 Billion in 2018) and largest consumer base is reliant on oil and gas for its revenue, the economy itself is more diversified, with manufacturing, banking and insurance, retail and agriculture all major contributors. However, each of these sectors could grow faster and create more opportunities if structural problems are overcome, among them, the country’s electricity shortage, corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 150 Naira (R 5,96) and the price of a litre petrol is 138.62 Naira (R 6,30). Though Nigeria inflation rate fluctuated substantially in recent years it tended to increase through 1999 – 2018 period ending at 12.1 % in 2018 with a 4.43% decline from 2017.

Nigeria has managed to turn the entertainment industry into a major GDP contributor by transforming showbiz from an African perspective. In 2009, UNESCO reported the Nigerian film industry – also known as “Nollywood” – had overtaken Hollywood to become the world’s second-largest film industry, behind India’s Bollywood. In the following decade, output more than doubled to 2,500 films a year – and the industry is continuing to grow, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is estimated to employ more than 1 million people and to generate more than $7 billion for the national economy, accounting for around 1.4% of Nigeria’s gross domestic product. New cinemas are opening, and box office revenue is predicted to reach $22 million by 2021.

 

How Africa’s Economy is Impacted through the lens of COVID-19?

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020, COVID-19 has become a global emergency, given its impact on the entire world population and the economy. COVID-19 is disrupting an interconnected world economy through global value chains, which account for nearly half of global trade, abrupt falls in commodity prices, fiscal revenues, foreign exchange receipts, foreign financial flows, travel restrictions, declining of tourism and hotels, frozen labour market, etc. The Covid-19 crisis is affecting the entire world economy and that of Africa to which many believe is experiencing the lull before the storm. This was echoed by World Health Organization Head of Africa, Matshido Moeti who stated that not only could coronavirus “cause thousands of deaths” in Africa, but it has the potential to “unleash economic and social devastation on the continent”.

African growth has improved considerably over the decade 2000-2010. However, after this decade of “growth”, there were extreme doubts risen on the continents ability to sustain high growth rates for the future. Since then Africa’s growth rates had fallen to 3.3% between 2015 and 2019. The forecasts are projecting a growth rate of 3.4% for 2020. However, with the negative impact of COVID – 19 on key sectors of the economy such as tourism, travel, exports; with falling commodity prices, declining governments’ resources to finance public investment, it would be virtually impossible to achieve this optimistic forecast of growth rates in 2020. Africa is once again facing insufficient growth rates to catch up on the economic lag in the COVID – era.

The Covid19 outbreak has taken a heavy toll on the top five African economies (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa) which represent more than 60% of Africa’s GDP. The level of the impact of Covid19 on these 5 economies will be representative for the whole of the African economy. The tourism and petroleum sectors represent on average a quarter (25%) of the economy of these countries. As such, growth is expected to drop in these nations. The effects of Covid-19 on global value chains are seen in the fall oil prices which will lead to the deterioration of the Nigerian and Algerian economies. Morocco’s automotive industry, representing 6 % of GDP over the period 2017-2019. Egyptian industries that depend on inputs from China and other foreign countries are affected and unable to meet both domestic and international market needs. The tourism sector is seeing a decline with the restrictions that will negatively impact domestic investments and employment in the country. Remittances are one of the Egyptian foreign sources of financing. It reached in 2018 over $25.5 billion, compared to $24.7 billion in 2017 while in Nigeria, remittances were US$25.08 billion in 2018, contributing to 5.74 % of the GDP. Both countries account for more than 60 % of Africa’s remittances inflows. Lastly, we can surmise that the COVID-19 pandemic will be susceptible to two valuable main sources of income for South Africa: mining and tourism.

The coronavirus outbreak ensured that the Year of the Rat did not get off to the most favourable start at the beginning of the year as the Chinese market had anticipating effect on the South African market. Based on the research analysis the disruption of Chinese market would undoubtedly reduce the demand for South Africa raw materials including iron, manganese and chromium ores to China (which worth an equivalent of 450 million euros exports every year). In late last year, South Africa entered a recession during the fourth quarter of last year, the current crisis will add on to the already deteriorated public finance, health infrastructure and mass unemployment in the country.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that for the period (2015-2019), total Africa trade average value was US$ 760 billion per year which represents 29% of Africa’s GDP. Intra-African trade accounts for only 17% of the total trade of African countries. Intra-trade between African nations is one of the lowest compared to other regions of the world, at 16.6% of the total. To date, organisations have not fully addressed the economic impact on individual African countries. This makes the African economy an extrovert economy and vulnerable to shocks and external decisions. A major shift is needed in order to change the trade patterns of African countries within themselves and with the rest of the world particularly with China, Europe, USA and other emerging countries.

The Coronavirus disease poses many serious challenges at global, national and regional levels. The consequences, even if they are difficult to calculate, are expected to be enormous in view of the rapid spread of the Covid-19 and the drastic measures taken by countries whatever their size worldwide. Even if African countries are relatively less affected compared to other regions, for now, the spillover effects from global developments or broken supply chains may still lead to faltering economic activity.

COVID 19 – AFRICAN LOCKDOWN NOW?

Global leaders in their quest to fight COVID-19 have put in place different measures to ensure the safety of their Citizens. Africa in recent times has had questions asked of its precautions to fight the virus spread in all the 55 States.

South Africa, DRC, Rwanda and Tunisia to date are the only nations in Africa that have announced full-scale citizen lockdown. The fact that only 3 of 55 nations have taken these measures is truly sad and unacceptable. Based on this, leadership in the African Union (AU) is placed under considerable interrogation and severe pressure.

President Cyril Pamaphosa announced a 21-day national Lockdown for South Africa starting midnight 26th of March. It is also common knowledge that President of South Africa is also the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) and has the responsibility to show the same leadership for the country at AU level to the other African states. Today there is no rhythm in Africa’s band as the players seem to be concerned about the sound of their instruments more than cohesion into producing a great song.

The opportunity for Africa, to defend itself against the mass spread of COVID-19 is imminent and now. Leaders will now be judged and remembered for what they did in the time knowing the cause and effect of this pandemic. Africa, from current statistics, lags behind the world-known infections if you compare it to Europe and Asia for example. No doubt​, ​the time has come to take drastic measures to ensure that Africa keeps the spread of the COVID-19 to its bare minimum.

Africa has had the global picture well in advance and no person can deny that the worldwide channels of communication are not effective enough. On all street corners, social gatherings that still take place, the only topic today is COVID-19. The fact that this pandemic crosses all borders, religions, cultures and social classes and has no distinction between rich and poor, is a fact.

The challenges though in Africa is so obvious but needs to be brought up repetitively, but history has shown us it is sadly not done enough. Most African people on the continent are poor, have less access to basic sanitation and no doubt hygiene. The other problem and challenges facing us are that a huge number of Africans are uneducated and thus make the education process on fighting the spread of COVID 19 more difficult.

The huge movement of basic supplies to combat the COVID virus needs to be led by the AU. As of current actions, we also find a huge collective gap coming from an AU central COVID command structure, health updates led aggressively by the AU and indeed if there was such, the promotion, media and continued guidance would be poor if not indeed sad. Leaders must take a collective decision and must make these not to be popular but be secure and in defence of its people. More than one billion people on the continent are in need now of action not talk.

The fact that we have a central body for Africa called the AU, was surely created for such pandemics and the united approach to combat such. Simple daily stats on 55 countries spread and indeed actions to curb it, is needed. Gross public panic versus informing our people needs balance, but global trends like received from the US, Italy, etc are vital.

The question will remain today, apart from lack of a continental lockdown, are we settling supplies for states in Africa for example masks, gloves, and sanitizer stock. I know that we are maybe asking for a form of a federal central state approach, but there is no better method and time to Unite Africa than in this crisis. Africa LOCKDOWN NOW OR NEVER !!!

 

 

Corona Virus – The African Perspective

Over the past few weeks, African governments have been holding on tight and asking themselves hard questions concerning the effects of the spread of the virus into Africa. The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta stated that the worry was not on the ability of China to manage the virus but effects on the countries with poor health systems. Today African Governments are forced to look at the decisions they have made previously in addressing public service offering whereas citizens are getting comfort in having the same health facility at their disposal as the Government Officials. African Political Leaders have been over the past travelling to Malaysia, China, India, and other countries to get special medical assistance and now that the global lockdown is active, they get to face the music with exposure to the same quality health infrastructure as their citizens.

As of Monday 16 March 2020 the countries most affected in Africa with Covid-19 include Egypt with 126 confirmed cases,2 deaths, South Africa with 61 infected, no deaths, Algeria with 48 infected,4 deaths and among the lowest infected countries there are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Sudan, Chad, Somalia and Others with zero cases.

        The Corona Belt Cases recorded and Severity                   The Dominant Flight Routes Network

From the African perspective countries with the greatest connectivity routes wise and passenger compliment in Africa is Cairo (Egypt) and OR Tambo (South Africa) which make 1st and 2ND most affected countries in Africa. Do these figures explain severity according to infrastructure and level of development? The question may not be easy to answer but today the need to contain and reduce the spread remains a top priority as we do not know the severity of the African context with regards to the strength of our economies, health services, and infrastructure.

The effects of the outbreak are undoubtedly devastating to Africa more than anywhere else in the World as Africa is a net importer and relies on Imports from China, India, Europe, and America. With the largest sectors dominated by small scale businesses affected by the inability to procure raw materials and markets outside Africa due to the imposed lockdown, Africa’s vulnerability remains immense and beyond measure. The recent developments that have highlighted that the virus can be passed on before symptoms can be detected are nothing to undermine. Only a handful of countries have the ability and facilities to test for the Coronavirus in labs and the World Health Organization hopes that the number may reach half by month-end.

The state of health facilities Is a mere reflection of the effects that are yet to come. In 2016 the top 5 killers in the world according to the World Health Organisation were:

Rank Top 5 causes of Death (Africa) Top 5 causes of Death (World) Top 5 Causes of Death

(Low-income countries)

1 Lower respiratory tract infections Ischaemic heart disease Lower respiratory tract infections
2 HIV/AIDS Stroke Diarrhea
3 Diarrhea Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Ischaemic heart disease
4 Ischaemic heart disease Lower respiratory tract infections HIV/AIDS
5 Parasites and vector-borne diseases Alzheimer disease Stroke

Africa and Low-income countries have been haunted in the past with high mortality rates from respiratory tract infections. If the major killers from 2016 are still in action, Africa maybe in far much more trouble as this will add on to an existing family of killers. Covid-19 has been known to attack the old, sick and weak, which makes Sub Saharan Africa’s exposure up to 5% as the population of the elderly (+65) is only 5% of the total population.

Today the slogan and change in lifestyle required to contain and manage the spread of the Covid-19 need the support of an enabling environment that works in favour of the people and not of the virus. Mother nature has already proven to be on Africa’s side already as the humidity and temperature are too high than the most severely affected countries and regions.

The above diagram is a true reflection of the population distribution and vulnerability, as this shows that Asia (Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western) where the virus emerged from has the oldest population of more than 44% hence the cases are more fatal. The same can be said for Europe and North America which also have an ageing population of up to 29% of its population.

Despite efforts being made to reduce the panic and detrimental effects that Covid-19 has had globally, Social Media and Technology have not been helping as these platforms have perpetrated more than enough panic attacks in communities, cities, and countries.

Africa remains greatly exposed to the threats brought about by the spread of the virus but mostly because of the capacity to process information and resources for research on the matters of the pandemic. The lacking infrastructure such as access to electricity which hinders communication in education and awareness on the virus and access to water and resources which are essential for hygiene purposes. These are just but a few problems that Africa has, and the next two months will be key in determining the fate of Africa.