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Africa’s Covid-19 response has been admirable, but the economic costs will linger for years

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Source: Wilmot James and Lewis Rubin Thompson, Daily Maverick, 17 January 2021, photo credit: bbc.com/wikipedia/Daily Maeverick

The economic impacts of Covid-19 for Africa are expected to cause the first recession for the continent in 25 years, threatening to undo years of economic progress. Government interventions to combat the virus have been effective from a public health perspective, but they are not economically sustainable.

When Egypt reported the first African case of Covid-19, many expected the continent to become the next epicentre of the disease. However, swift and pre-emptive action by Africa’s leaders largely managed to prevent outbreaks on the scale seen in countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Unfortunately, these measures have led to severe social and economic consequences for the African continent, threatening to undo years of hard-won progress. Without innovative and sustainable recovery efforts, Africa faces an uncertain future.

This column draws on the findings of a report authored by a team of researchers at Columbia University and the Brenthurst Foundation. The report identifies common successes and challenges in responses to Covid-19 in five African economic and cultural hubs – Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa; it also outlines optimal pathways for economic recovery and bolstering future epidemic preparedness in the five countries and Africa as a whole.

The report’s findings were presented on 12 January at the Futures Forum on Preparedness, a two-day event focused on global health security hosted by the philanthropic organisation Schmidt Futures.
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