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 !!!