Neil on Africa: Africa's challenges expose us more to the virus
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has stated that the worry was not about the ability of China to manage the virus, but the 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 offerings, whereas citizens are getting comfort from having the same health facility at their disposal as the government officials.
African political leaders have over the past long while been 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, March 16, the countries most affected in Africa with Covid-19 included Egypt, with 126 confirmed cases and two deaths; South Africa with 116 infected and rising, but no deaths; Algeria with 48 infected, no deaths.
And among the least-infected countries were Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Sudan, Chad, Somalia and others with zero cases.
From the African perspective, cities with the greatest connectivity - routes wise and for passenger complement - in Africa are Cairo in Egypt and Johannesburg, South Africa, with OR Tambo International Airport, which makes them the first and second most-affected countries in Africa.
Do these figures explain severity according to infrastructure and level of development? The question might 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 the US.
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 Organisation 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. 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 may be in far 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 5percent as the population of the elderly (+65) is only 5percent 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 as the humidity and temperatures are way higher than the most severely affected countries and regions.
Displayed with this article is diagram showing the 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 44percent, 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 29percent 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.
Infrastructure, such as access to electricity, is lacking and hinders communication in education and awareness about the virus as well as access to water and resources, which are essential for hygiene purposes. These are just a few problems that Africa has, and the next two months will be key in determining the fate of Africa.
Neil De Beer is the president of the IFA and advises numerous African states on economic development. www.ifa.africa or [email protected]