Policy Brief: Impact of COVID-19 in Africa

It is too early to know the full impact of COVID-19 on Africa. To date the experience has been varied. There are causes for concern, but also reasons for hope. Early estimates were pessimis­tic regarding the pandemic’s impact on the conti­nent. But the relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases reported thus far have raised hopes that African countries may be spared the worst of the pandemic. While the virus is present in all African countries, most countries have recorded fewer than 1,000 cases. The African Union acted swiftly, endorsing a joint continental strategy in February, and complementing efforts by Member States and Regional Economic Communities by providing a public health platform. Caution is warranted, however, as these are early days in the life cycle of a disease that is still not fully understood and where we have seen repeated patterns of first slow, then exponential growth in the number of cases. The low numbers recorded so far could be linked to minimal capacities for testing and reporting cases. WHO has warned that the pandemic could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in 47 African countries in the first year, mostly depending on governments’ responses; and the socio-economic impacts could “smoulder” for several years.

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