Key Impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

africa map Key Impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

As soon as Africa recorded its first case of coronavirus in mid-February, multiple projections on the disease’s impact on the continent were made.  Though it is still difficult to ascertain how COVID-19 is evolving on the continent due to very limited testing and research at national levels, four months after the coronavirus outbreak, here are some of the most important effects of the pandemic on Africa in health, socio-economic and politics.

 

1. Impact of Covid-19 on Health

Impact of Covid-19 on Health

According to Africa CDC data, all 55 countries in Africa are now affected by COVID-19. The numbers on June 12, 2020 (9 am East Africa Time) show 216,446 reported cases, 5,756 deaths and 97,068 people recovered. Specifically, these data showed that:

  • Southern Africa appears to be the most affected region (for total cases) with 61,772 Cases 1,239 Deaths 33,156 Recoveries. But northern Africa is very close behind in terms of total number of cases (61,615) and recorded more deaths (2,454) than any other region. It is to be noted however, that the Northern African countries were the first to begin testing and have, on average, tested in larger numbers than the rest of the continent except South Africa.
  • South Africa, which is the country that has tested the largest number of people (1,028,399 tests), is the country with the highest number of Covid-19 positive cases with 58,568 cases, while Egypt has the highest death rate with 1,377 fatalities.
  • The 10 most affected countries (South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Morocco, Sudan, Senegal and DRC) account for 166,864 positive cases out of the 216,446 cases reported, i.e. more than 77% of the continental record. Once again, these are, for the most part, the countries with the highest testing numbers.
  • Health facilities are overcrowded with growing number of COVID-19 leading to patients with high burden diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria lacking access and/or adequate care. In most countries COVID-19 is predictably having a negative impact on access to healthcare in general.
  • Increase of Sexual and gender-based violence: Across Africa, governments, police and activists report an increase in attacks against women and girls who are locked up with an abusive partner or parent. In the first week of confinement, the South African police received 2,320 complaints of domestic violence, an increase of 37 per cent. As a result, on May 6, 2020, 6 African countries joined 53 others to sign the Joint Declaration on Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Promoting Gender Equality during the Covid-19 Crisis.

On the basis of official figures to date, Africa appears to be the least affected continent by the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is clear that the impact of the virus appears for the moment much less catastrophic than anticipated by everyone.  However, the truth is that these numbers are only telling part of the story.

Given the newness of COVID-19, research is also at very initial stages. Several factors are being examined that may explain the seemingly reduced impact in Africa.

reduced impact of Corona virus in Africa

  • Demography – In other parts of the world, COVID-19 has had devastating effects on the elderly. In a continent where 60% of the population is less than 25 years old, youth may be providing resilience to the disease.
  • Heat – Though the research is far from conclusive, some studies appear to show that the virus is less potent and multiplies less quickly in hot, humid environments.
  • The Malaria Advantage – Malaria medication including the now famous hydroxychloroquine may provide some protection from coronavirus. Given the prevalence of malaria in Africa and the large percentage of the population that have taken malaria treatment, this may be providing some resistance to COVID-19. Many of the remedies both clinical and herbal developed and used against COVID-19 in countries such as Benin, Madagascar and Cameroon use anti-malaria components as a base.
  • Less Travel – Africans travel less, and the continent only receives about 5% of the world’s tourists. Given the coronavirus was largely spread by travellers, Africa may have simply not “received” the virus in as large quantities as the rest of the world.

While it is clear that COVID-19 is present and that numbers of infected are climbing, it is also clear that the disease is not behaving in Africa as it did in other parts of the world.  Unfortunately for now, the level of testing and the research do not permit conclusions beyond these initial observations. We are still far from getting a true picture of the African COVID-19 story.

 

Evolution of numbers in Africa as of June 16th

COVID-19 reported cases  by Region in Africa

2.Economic effects of Covid – 19 crisis

Economic effects of Covid – 19 crisis

The African Union commission Forecasts show a negative growth from 3.4% to between -0.8% to -1.1% due COVID-19 outbreak. (1)

There have also been significant disruptions in some of the continent’s economic dynamics:

  • Decrease in export revenues due to weak global demand for raw materials. This concerns both oil exporting countries such as Angola or Nigeria and mineral exporting countries such Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania just to name a few. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates COVID-19 could lead to Africa’s export revenues from fuels falling at around US$ 101 billion in 2020. (2)
  • Decreased in diaspora transfer. The World Bank estimates that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to decline by 23.1 percent to reach $37 billion in 2020 in comparison to $48 billion in 2019. ​
  • Increase of the unemployment rate due to the cessation/ reduction of activities. The African Union notes that the pandemic could cause the loss of nearly 20 million jobs on the continent.
  • Tourism, which accounts for a consistent percentage of some African countries Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like Morocco (12.3 million tourists), Egypt (11.35 million tourists), South Africa (10.47 million tourists), Tunisia (8.3 million tourists), Zimbabwe (2.57 million tourists) are witnessing a deep contraction, as is the airline industry that contributes to it. A recent study from the African Union estimates that the tourism and travel sector in Africa could lose at least $50 billion due to the pandemic outbreak and at least 2 million direct and indirect jobs (3) .  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on its own estimates the economic contribution of the air transport industry in Africa at USD 55.8 billion, supporting 6.2 million jobs and contributing 2.6% of the continent’s GDP.
  • Graph Top five of most visited african countries
  • Food insecurity due to trade disruptions, lower agricultural production, food shortages, rising food prices, fewer imports and transport difficulties. The United Nations estimates that nearly 30 million more people could fall into poverty and the number of acutely food-insecure people could significantly increase. In addition to climate change, growing violence, agricultural disruptions, locust plague in East Africa, there is therefore an urgent need to provide adequate responses to food insecurity so that post-coronavirus Africa does not sink into starvation.

While the health impact of COVID-19 in Africa is uncertain, the economic impact is not.  The African economy is suffering greatly and will continue to suffer throughout 2020 and more than likely 2021. As many as 49 million people may be pushed into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, 27 million of them live in Africa.

 

  1. Political impact of the Covid – 19 crisis

While the political impact of COVID-19 is at various levels, we will take a close look here at the impact on elections.

  • The 2020 Electoral Calendar

              Elections and political impact of covid19 in Africa

Elections in Africa are still for the most part precarious operations which in many cases have direct impact on the levels of violence, security and stability in the country. COVID-19 puts countries which have elections scheduled in a dilemma. To hold or not to hold? Both options entail significant risks.

Table from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies 

Covid19 and elections in Africa

  • To hold or not to hold elections in this context?

Over 30 elections (presidential, legislative, municipal and regional elections) were scheduled this year in Africa.

  • 10 of the 12 presidential polls are scheduled as of June 2020
  • Over 10 elections (legislative and other local elections) are also scheduled in the same period.

Countries are caught between holding elections on schedule and risking the lives of millions. Some countries such as Burundi (general elections of 20 May 2020) and Malawi (presidential elections scheduled for 2 July 2020, have decided to go on with elections as scheduled.  A few weeks after intensive campaigns former President Nkurunziza of Burundi is dead and his wife is undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in Nairobi.  Other countries have decided to postpone as Ethiopia has done with its legislative elections. Neither solution is ideal.

Elections held in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic will:

  • By default, extend mandates of current elected officials which poses the challenge of legitimacy and could be problematic in many countries
  • More than likely limit the participation of citizens in a key moment for exercising political rights.
  • Provide cover for actions of fraud and corruption in the countries where this is already a problem.
  • Put the country in a budget dilemma where it must choose between providing resources to fight COVID-19 and providing resources to organize elections.

With either solution, in countries where political stability is precarious, there is a risk of increased instability, insecurity and violence.

4 – The urgency of an effective, systemic, comprehensive and sustainable response

An analysis of the direct effects and repercussions of COVID-19 in Africa shows that while there is still much uncertainty in many areas, it is unquestionable that effective management of the crisis requires a real paradigm shift in governance in many African states. Proactivity, anticipation and evidence-based planning should be central to the vision and actions of every leader and every government.

Furthermore, it is imperative for our states to really put the human beings that are their citizens at the heart of decisions and policymaking. The African Union, development partners, international organizations and RECs that design and implement programmes with countries need to be supporting and insisting on systemic solutions that now more than ever, address the practical needs of citizens as the utmost priority.

For the last 25 years, STRATEGIES has worked with local, regional and international organizations in the areas of governance, management systems, planning, capacity building and more. Through its work, STRATEGIES! supports government agencies, organizations, international and regional institutions in developing effective and innovative strategies to address the complex challenges of improving local, national and regional governance structures in various areas in Africa.

Today more than ever, STRATEGIES! believes that there is a need to accompany political, economic and social actors on the African continent in developing appropriate responses to mitigate the effects of the current crisis and put in place robust systems to enable African communities to bounce back stronger than ever by building resilience to crises as a whole.

In the current context imposed by the COVID-19 and characterized by the closing of the borders and reduced mobility of people, STRATEGIES! and its team of consultants have adapted quickly, developing tools and processes that allow us to continue to support clients and partners from a distance.

In this COVID-19 period, the health of individuals, companies, organizations and governments is at stake.  We must preserve all. At STRATEGIES! we continue to develop solutions to enable organizations maintain their performance and achieve their goals.

 

By STRATEGIES ! Team : Franck ESSI, Vanessa TCHINDJE & Joel S. SOSSO Njanga (Consultants)

Working amidst Covid-19 at STRATEGIES!

STRATEGIES! in the world. We are globetrotters. We earn our living by travelling around the world and gathering people together to plan, think, learn, solve problems, create, share and so on.

With the spread of Covid-19 across five continents, everything happened so quickly: closing of borders, sharp slowdown of economic and social activities, closure of schools, universities and training centers, imposition of measures for “social distancing”.

What an incredible crisis for us!

 

A few key words describe how STRATEGIES! consultants are working amidst and despite the Covid-19 crisis, three months in.

 

STUNNED: An unprecedented impact on mass transport and travel

In our wildest imaginations, we could not have imagined that a disease would cause all commercial flights worldwide to be suspended overnight, causing the temporary closure of airports, train stations and subways, as well as thousands of hotels and hospitality facilities around the world.

As consultants, this meant we could not travel, we could not work.

Or could we?

An unprecedented impact on mass transport and travel

PROACTIVITY: A need to adapt, adjust and plan as never before

Faced with this sudden global paralysis, we had to understand, adjust and plan both for ourselves and for our clients. It was time to truly test the proactivity which is one of the fundamental principles of our brand.

Understanding the disease

We had been following COVID-19 and wondering about its impact on our clients.  In early March when the first case in Cameroon was confirmed, reality hit home. We did what consultants naturally do. Gather information (there was so much of it, yet so much was uncertain), analyze and make decisions.  After a series of initial analysis and meetings with our team, we made quick decisions.

  1. We had to keep everyone safe and healthy. This meant shutting down the office and working from home.
  2. We were extremely lucky to have work that could tide us over the next six months, on condition that we adapted quickly and found solutions for our clients.
  3. We had to determine the equipment, methods and tools that would enable us to make this adjustment within about 10 days in order not to lose contracts and enter a company financial crisis.

The shift to teleworking

We had always prided ourselves on remote work, 98% of our business is done outside Cameroon. However, having everyone shift to remote work and delivering from start to finish at a distance was a whole different level.  We realized some people needed equipment; everyone needed stable, strong internet connections from home, a whole new type of methodology needed to be developed.

The frequency and timing of meetings in the first week was absurd. Meeting after meeting, brainstorming after brainstorming, almost everyone at STRATEGIES! was online from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. We were thoroughly exhausted and luckily figured out in the following weeks how to pace and space online meetings so we could get offline work done and so we could rest.

METHODOLOGY: Figuring out how to do full workshops online

The crisis hit 15 days into a 58-day consultancy and two weeks before we had the first workshop to deliver. The consultancy included three in-person workshops. The client was at project closure. STRATEGIES! was determined to meet initial contractual deadlines despite the crisis.

Using a combination of WhatsApp, Skype and Google Suite tools, we figured out how to work as a 6-person team to deliver three virtual workshops with participants from 15 countries.

Zoom was our very best friend as we wrote the first draft of a Youth Agribusiness Strategy for Africa with five consultants in five locations.

Today STRATEGIES! has a clear methodology not just for 1-2 hour webinars, but for 2-3 day workshops online to do problem analysis, work through solutions and develop strategic plans. STRATEGIES! can do research, analysis and report-writing using a team of consultants working 100% virtually. We can deliver what we did in-person, online.

Developing this methodology has enabled many of our clients to stay on course and deliver their own work on schedule. In a world economy that is faltering, keeping our clients, our suppliers and ourselves working is an achievement we are extremely proud of.

 

HOME: The pleasures and inconveniences of working from home

Working from home of course has at least as many advantages as inconveniences.

The pleasures:

  • All of us are appreciating more time with family and especially with children. Both enjoying the moments and discovering various anomalies that time at the office made us blind to.
  • Recipes, menus and cooking – almost all of us are enjoying food more.
  • Reduced travel time. For those who live far away from the office, the reduction in travel time means a significant reduction in stress.
  • Exercise – with a few exceptions, most of us have been able to maintain our exercise (STRATEGIES! provides exercise sessions for staff at the office). Some have renewed with the pleasure of long walks.

The demands: Needless to say, working from home means more distractions and interruptions. We have gotten used to the noise of children, construction work and traffic in the background of online calls.

Strategies working from Home

Here are a few practical elements that have enabled us to maintain our productivity at home:

  • Choosing a corner of the house that is conducive to work.
  • Being strict about the hours dedicated to work.
  • Maintaining continuous contact with laptop and phone during working hours to stay permanently connected with the team.
  • Remaining focused even when distractions are present.

Three months into living with COVID-19, STRATEGIES! has negotiated what we hope will be the sharpest turn. However, we remain alert and continue to track the disease and adjust our working methods.  Unfortunately, it seems COVID-19 is here to stay and that we in Africa may have the longest curve.  Unfortunately, STRATEGIES! is based in a country that is not doing a very good job of managing COVID-19.

Within STRATEGIES! we are still stunned, struggling to be proactive and working to adapt methodology.  However, it is also clear that we as a continent and as a globe, shall surmount this disease. At STRATEGIES! we intend to stay at the forefront of those in Africa and in the world who are doing so.

By STRATEGIES!  Team | Led By Joel S. Sosso Njanga, Consultant

Finding African Solutions to African Problems begins with African Leadership

Exemple of Great African Leaders

Since the wave of independence in the 1960s, Africa has consistently experienced serious development challenges. In this moment, as we face COVID-19, our structural deficiencies are flagrant.  Faced with a disease that requires people to wash hands regularly, we must admit the fact that 40% of our population does not have access to running water. Confronted with the need to provide emergency services to millions, we must come to terms with our wholly inadequate healthcare systems.

In this moment when the population needs reassurance and encouragement to face extremely difficult choices, some African heads of state are on the frontline demonstrating vision, strategy, persuasion, communication as they build self-confidence, trust and ethical behavior in their people.  Sadly, the majority are not.

Crisis, by definition, demands leadership.  So, this moment of crisis, is as good a time as any to take a hard look at the fundamentals for African leadership on our continent, in our countries and in our companies.

To the question “Is there African leadership?” STRATEGIES!’s answer has, of course, always been a resounding “Yes!”. The reality of African leadership can be verified over centuries and is represented through countless figures including:

Exemple of Great African Leaders

Leadership is contextual and must be tailored to the specific elements of each society.

For African leadership to solve contemporary problems of governance, security, youth employment, education, etc., it is important to anchor it in:

  • African culture: African thought and philosophy that has captured leadership theory as seen in Adinkra symbols, ubuntu philosophy, etc.
  • African history and the leadership exercised during great historical events such as the ancient empires of Zaria, Ghana, Songhai, etc. as well in modern day companies and institutions.
  • African creativity and innovation: In African cities and rural areas a large number of individuals are already developing solutions to African problems. They are building companies, creating technology, developing approaches that are often unknown even in their own countries. Leadership must be anchored in this pool of innovators and creators to succeed.
  • The diversity of African societies. From its people to its social and economic environments, Africa is one of the most diverse continents on the globe. Leadership for today must draw lessons from the leadership that has been exercised with this wide variety of people and in this wide variety of contexts.

Strengthening leadership in Africa, therefore, requires knowledge of African leadership as it has been exercised at different moments in African history and in its wide variety of settings.

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Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

African leadership to meet the challenges of today          

Even as the African continent continues to face unique and complex challenges, it is unquestionable that each of these challenges also represents an opportunity. The inexistence and/or weakness of governance systems in Africa also means that there is opportunity to build systems almost from scratch taking into account key factors in our modern environment that can enable the continent to leapfrog. It is possible on this continent to build systems that take into account elements such as:

  • Climate change
  • Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • Technology

from their very inception.

The current moment in African history, requires leaders who are well anchored in their continent, who know their continent’s history, and culture, are aware of the contemporary creators and innovators in their environment, understand the complexity of African challenges yet still have the pulse on global trends and advances which provide opportunities for Africa to develop extraordinary solutions to its challenges.  This moment requires leaders who are anchored in Africa’s past, yet are active in contemporary environments where solutions are being developed from within and without the continent.

For STRATEGIES! it means that the leaders who are capable of managing teams that will provide solutions to the continent’s challenges on the scale of potable water, electricity, education and healthcare for hundreds of millions, must be truly African in their understanding of history and context, yet connected to the rest of the world and able to identify the knowledge, skills and opportunities within the continent and across the globe that will enable rapid, durable solutions to African problems on scale. This is leadership that is resolutely turned towards the future to find solutions from Africa’s unique perspective and integrating its unique contribution to the world.

If these are the types of leader we need, then how do we build them? – STRATEGIES! approach to African leadership development

At STRATEGIES! African leadership development has several key components:

  • First, we affirm that leadership, good and great leadership is African and we enable participants during training sessions to learn more about both historical and contemporary African leaders, taking a close look at their style, their fundamental principles as well as the strategies and tactics they deploy.
  • Second, in African leadership training, STRATEGIES! insists on the absolute necessity of evidence-based analysis to develop vision, strategies, and tactics. This means using research, data, and analysis to obtain objective understandings of situations. It also means identifying both micro and macro trends within countries, regions, on the continent and within specific sectors of focus.
  • Third, learning from the African and the global experience. This means learning from how others have addressed these problems in other African countries and at the global level, drawing from the experience of others and adapting to define contextually adapted solutions.
  • Fourth, at STRATEGIES!, leaders are taught participation as a principle as well as a wide variety of methods and approaches to ensure participation within teams. Leaders are taught to use collective intelligence and diversity as a competitive advantage.
  • Fifth, in the STRATEGIES! approach, there is a focus on management and implementation systems. It is not sufficient to develop a vision or strategy. Good leadership ensures that strategic and operational plans are developed; that human, financial, technological resources are mobilized and managed to achieve results. Finally, systems must be put in place to measure, monitor and evaluate the results that are being obtained.
  • Finally, and most importantly, STRATEGIES! emphasizes on the fact that good leaders build other leaders and teams. Leadership is about building people; enabling them develop new skills, new abilities, self-confidence, decision-making capabilities, ability to motivate and discipline themselves and others, ability to gather and analyze information to develop sustainable solutions in increasingly complex and challenging environments.

At STRATEGIES! we believe the measure of a leader is the number of other leaders s/he has built.

What does Africa’s leadership of today and tomorrow look like?

The leadership Africa is building today and what it’s leadership will look like tomorrow is:

  • Young, tapping into the 425 million-strong workforce of the world’s youngest continent.
  • Female as well as male, drawing on Africa’s history and tradition of strong female roles in leadership and management; building on the education and training of today’s young women, the continent has the ability to achieve parity in its leadership.
  • Diverse, in terms of ethnicity, culture, religion, socio-economic category, etc. as well as inclusive of people who have traditionally been marginalized on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender or because they live with a disability.

Africa will only succeed when its rich diversity is equitably represented in its leadership.

African leadership of today and tomorrow should resemble the African continent.

It is this vision and approach of developing African leadership that STRATEGIES! makes available to private and public institutions working for the development of Africa.

By STRATEGIES! Team, led By Vanessa TCHINDJE , Consultant.