Coronavirus pandemic

Weekly Summary

Updated

  • 49 African countries have reported at least one confirmed coronavirus case as the continent scrambles to formulate an effective response  
  • Finance ministers have appealed to G2O nations for an emergency $100bn stimulus package 
  • $44bn of this could come from waiving interest payments on sovereign debt, according to UNECA 
  • AfDB has issued a record-breaking $3bn social bond in an effort to support African countries 
  • South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and others have started lengthy lockdowns

East Africa must support the informal sector while managing COVID-19

Guest post: Wayne Hennessy-Barrett, CEO and Founder, 4G Capital. 

As East Africa responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, it must balance managing the infection without threatening the most vital, yet excluded, segment of the economy – the informal sector.

The majority of the 150,000 informal micro-businesses 4G Capital has served operate in crowded open-air markets.  They provide affordable food, medicine and daily provisions to densely inhabited local villages and towns.  Here, isolation and social distancing are impossible.  The lack of access to running water and sanitation add to their difficulties.   According to a survey conducted by the Kenya Integrated Household Budget, 80% of living quarters have no place for handwashing near a lavatory.

The continuation of micro-enterprise trading is critical to the welfare of local communities and the broader economy.  Africa’s informal sector provides over 80% of employment and contributes over 50% of GDP.

As COVID-19 spreads, the majority of Africa’s population may have no option but to prioritise their economic needs over the health implications of the virus.  This is not through ignorance, but because national welfare systems are still developing and the government safety nets available in the UK, Europe and elsewhere are not available to them.  The recently announced reduction in VAT and PAYE is a bold, welcome and sincere measure.  Regrettably, it will not help 95% of Kenya’s businesses who operate in the informal economy.  They need to trade to live.

Governments across Africa must make provisions for these markets to remain open.  In Africa, we are best known for our innovation and creative problem-solving.  We might take advantage of the closure of schools and suspension of sports events to utilise large open fields as temporary market places where necessary to enable greater social distancing and distribution of essentials.

4G Capital and other industry leaders have formed a coalition to provide access to sanitisers and handwashing facilities for communities in greatest need.  The company will continue to adapt its procedures to ensure business continuity and the safety of clients and employees.  4G Capital has over 100 local branches across Kenya and Uganda, and all will operate within government guidelines.  4G Capital’s clients can access its services seamlessly over its mobile technology platform, allowing them to continue their critical economic activity throughout this challenging period.

Financial inclusion and access to health services are more critical than ever.  We have all been forced to realise how connected we are, how the well-being of our neighbours, rich or poor, is as important as our own.  We are each other’s keeper.

Beyond the immediate crisis, we must plan to rebuild the global economy in a way that gives fair value for everyone.  We can re-start globalisation in a way that recognises everyone’s contribution, and doesn’t allow the exploitation of those with fewer advantages.  The COVID-19 virus allows us to demonstrate the strength and necessity of social enterprise as the ‘new normal’ for business.

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Tunisia records 50% increase in foreign exchange reserves, boosting its capacity to fight COVID-19

In a statement issued yesterday, the Tunisian Central Bank announced that its foreign exchange reserves had increased to $7.1bn, an increase of 50% on the same period last year.

There are numerous reasons cited for the increase over the past year, but the main recent increase has been related to fall in the price of oil (the country is a net importer, importing more than half of its needs) as well as a fall in demand of oil, given the slowdown in activity following the enforced lockdown the country has been under the last ten days.

Economic slowdown has also reduced the import of other goods. The positive news will be overshadowed by economic damage from the synchronised global slowdown as a result of COVID-19 and expected fall in tourism (which accounts for approximately 10% of GDP).

The country has been struggling to get back on its feet economically speaking following the Arab Spring.

Following this latest shock, the recent government has applied a number of fiscal measures to assist companies and the most vulnerable in society in a stimulus package estimated to be worth $850m

This will be part financed by a $250m aid package from the European Union.

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Kenya: 5,000 health workers and $50m World Bank loan

Kenya will hire 5,000 skilled health workers at county levels to prepare for the growing number of coronavirus cases that have risen to 110 today.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe directed county commissioners and boarding schools to prepare for any eventuality by creating an additional 1,000 beds for quarantine.

“I urge all counties to heighten their level of preparedness,” he said.

Kenya also secured a $50m loan from the World Bank yesterday to increase the government’s ability to finance the production of sanitisers, protective gear for medical personnel and scaling up bed capacity, the health secretary said. 

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African Business Market Watch

Global stock markets have shed over $13tn since the Covid-19 outbreak. African economies will inevitably be hit hard.

 Currencies (against USD)

As investors took refuge in the dollar, the currency has strengthened against many of its peers. African currencies have on the whole stood their ground other than the South African Rand, which is down 32% since the start of the year (from 14.11 rand to the dollar, to 18.64 today).

Nigeria’s Naira is down 8% since the start of the year (YTD).

Ghana’s Cedi is down 6% since February and 2% YTD.

Egypt’s Pound has been stable, actually gaining 2% YTD.

Kenya’s Shilling, which was stable against the dollar throughout 2019, is down 5% YTD.

Oil & Gas / Mining

Commodities including oil and gas represent a huge portion of Africa’s exports – around 90% in Nigeria and up to 99% in South Sudan. African economies are therefore largely dependent on commodity receipts for access to hard currencies. Given the global slowdown many commodities, other than gold, have seen their prices fall on global markets:

Gold has stood its ground and is up a little under 20% since the start of the year, and given market volatility it’s often considered one of the ‘safer’ assets people turn to in turmoil.

Copper is down 20% since the start of the year. Copper bounced back on Tuesday after a rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity. Copper rose by more than 4% on Tuesday to $2.248 a pound ($4,955 a tonne). The metal has been highly volatile and in the middle of March traded below $2.00, levels last seen during the global financial crisis of 2008/09.

Oil and Gas has suffered from both a fall in demand and following a tit for tat spat between Saudi Arabia and Russia, an increase in supply. Having started the year at around $67/barrel, it fell to under $25 by the end of March. The Chinese and Americans have openly stated that they will use these low prices to replenish their oil reserves. Oil rallied following what appears to be a truce between the Saudis and the Russians increasing by 12% to $27.88 .

To read our Covid-19 economic analysis from our Head of Intelligence, Desné Masie, click here.

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Senegal moves towards $221m IMF loan to mitigate coronavirus shock

The IMF has completed discussions with Senegal over a $221m loan to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The support, to be considered by the Fund’s executive board in mid-April, will allow the authorities to meet urgent budgetary and balance of payment needs stemming from the deterioration in global economic conditions and the spread of COVID-19 in Senegal.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened the macroeconomic outlook for Senegal’s economy.

Containment measures to avoid the propagation of the virus, lower external demand, reduced remittances, and the sudden stop of travel and tourism are having a significant impact on growth and generating an urgent balance-of-payments need.

The IMF will help preserve fiscal space for essential COVID-19-related health expenditures, while catalysing additional donor support,’ reads a statement from the Fund.

Senegal has declared a state of emergency, closed schools, suspended flights, banned public gatherings, and implemented a curfew.

The IMF said last week that  20 African countries had contacted it with bailout requests and said it was expecting at least 10 more.

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South African miners suffer huge losses under COVID-19

Commodities are being challenged by the pandemic in all sectors.

The Covid-19 outbreak will affect mining companies, which have seen projects slowed or mothballed as social distancing requirements and lockdowns make their operations impracticable.

Some mines have thousands of men and women underground, working in close proximity. Share-prices of listed mining companies have all taken a hit as commodity prices have tumbled.

Platinum and palladium prices have dropped by more than 40% in just three weeks.

Resultantly, South African miners Sibanye-Stillwater’s and Impala Platinum’s share prices fell 60% in the past four weeks while Anglo American is down about 40%.

South Africa’s mining sector is particularly exposed to the spread of Covid-19 during the country’s 21-day lockdown.

According to the Minerals Council of South Africa, the industry employs a workforce numbering almost 420,000, many of whom are underground on any given day.

However, the South African mining industry’s experience with HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis should stand it in good stead.

South Africa has invested in health infrastructure and has experience with contact-tracing because the procedure with a tuberculosis diagnosis is similar to that of coronavirus.

The Minerals Council of South Africa has also published a 10-Point Action Plan for COVID-19 which outlines several measures to deal with COVID-19, using WHO best practice.

The pandemic may lead to increased and accelerated automation in mining as companies adapt to the changed working conditions under the pandemic.

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African greats not spared by the virus

In the past week a number of African superstars from music, football and science have lost their lives to COVID-19.

The Cameroonian musician and super star Manu Dibango died in Paris last week after catching the virus shortly before.

You can read, in what is possibly his last official interview, an exclusive interview with the singer by our sister publication New African Magazine.

Another African icon, this time from the world of football passed away from Covid-19.

Senegalese Pape Diouf was the president of French giant Marseille, the first black president of a global football club. Tributes poured from all corners of the football community.

You can read a tribute from our French sister website as well as an excellent profile of his life here.

Yesterday, it was announced that South African scientist Gita Ramjee died on Tuesday of Covid-19 complications.

Prof Ramjee had recently returned home from a trip to London and was admitted with pneumonia to a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal province, the Daily Maverick news website reports.

Her research work focused on ways to prevent HIV transmissions in women in South Africa, earning her global recognition in the world of science and beyond.

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USAID allocates $7m to Somalia for COVID-19 response

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated $7m in humanitarian and health assistance to help Somalia combat COVID-19.

Confirming its first case last week, Somalia today has five COVID-19 cases.

As the government contends with al-Shabaab, regional disputes and locust swarms, many fear that Somalia will be unable to deal with the onset of the virus.

USAID had earlier released $8m to help Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia control the second generation of locusts which had troubled the region at the start of the year.

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COVID-19 increases public-private collaboration

Across the world, COVID-19 has forced government, industry and people to collaborate in a way that was unimaginable six months ago.

Car manufacturers have shifted their production units to produce ventilators. Supermarket carparks have become testing labs. Stadia and conference centres are being transformed into field hospitals.

Uber is using its drivers to offer free trips for critical health workers. In the UK, Deliveroo, a food delivery business, and a chain of restaurants will be providing 500,000 meals free of charge to nurses and doctors on the front line.

And luxury brands, from perfume makers and distillers to fashion houses, are using their facilities to produce alcohol-based gel and personal protective equipment.

In Kenya, in an initiative called Safe Hands Kenya, a number of start-ups including Twiga Foods, Jumia and Cellulant are collaborating to provide hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectant.

Another consortium of businesses is collaborating to turn sugar cane into ethanol (a key component to make the alcohol gel) and working with other manufacturers to help bottle and distribute free of charge to the masses.

In some cases, what’s needed is cash to help sustain businesses. In South Africa, the Oppenheimer family have donated $55m in cash to help small businesses.

Given limited time and limited capacity, government, people and business are having to look at new ways to overcome the health and economic challenges that have been exposed by the virus.

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Sierra Leone announces three-day lockdown

Sierra Leone has announced a three-day lockdown from Sunday 5th April, following its second confirmed coronavirus case.

The West African nation had already declared a year-long public health emergency and banned all commercial flights and schools.

It adds to a growing list of African countries entering lockdowns including Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

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Mobile money surges due to coronavirus

While mobile money is the preferred method of payment in East African countries like Kenya and Uganda, its adoption has been less successful in other parts of the continent.

Since staying indoors and avoiding contact is a key way to prevent coronavirus from spreading, cashless transfers are surging in Africa.

Mobile money providers have reduced or waived transaction fees and governments are encouraging digital payments to reduce person-to-person contact and potentially slow the spread of the virus.

In West Africa, only one in four adults use mobile money.

“I think right now there is a really key trigger point, and that could be seized on to leap forward,” Jill Shemin, an independent consultant on digital finance in West Africa told Reuters.

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Only five African countries without confirmed COVID-19 cases

Since Africa confirmed its first COVID-19 case in February, the virus has spread to 49 out of 54 countries as the continent braces for an escalation similar to Europe and North America.

The five countries in Africa without confirmed coronavirus cases today are São Tomé and Príncipe, Comoros, South Sudan, Lesotho and Malawi.

While small island nations are less likely to be affected by a pandemic, it’s less clear why certain mainland countries have taken longer than others.

Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa which has almost double the number of cases than any other African country.

Despite closing all borders and prohibiting any movement since March 12,  these measures have not helped other countries to keep the virus at bay.

Malawi also declared a national disaster and shut down schools without any cases, but this has not proven to help in other examples.

One factor to be considered is the lack of adequate testing equipment.

South Sudan announced yesterday it had only tested 18 patients since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, all of which were negative.

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Somalia sends 20 doctors to help Italy battle coronavirus

Somalia has sent 20 doctors to help contain the spread of coronavirus in Italy which has seen its death toll surge past 10,000 as one of Europe’s most affected countries.

The doctors are volunteers from the Somali National University and have been sent following an appeal from the Italian government for international help, according to government spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar.

“The 20 doctors have already been registered in Italy and are expected to team up with doctors from across the world to help Italy contain the coronavirus,” he said.

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‘Kenya could have 10,000 coronavirus cases by end of April,’ says health official

By the end of this month Kenya could have as many as 10,000 coronavirus cases, the director-general of the Ministry of Health Patrick Amoth said on Monday.

“We postulate that we could have 1000 cases by first week of April, 5000 by mid-April and 10,000 by end of April,” he said.

While the first cases were imported from Europe or North America, the virus is now being spread through community transmission.

Despite implementing a dawn-to-dusk curfew and banning internal travel, many fear the virus will spread to Nairobi’s informal settlements and slums which could lead to a rapid spike in cases.

Though initially registering fewer cases than other African countries, Kenya is beginning to witness significant overnight increases which is a trend that is slowly taking hold across the continent. 

Last Wednesday, Uganda had no confirmed coronavirus cases.

Within a week the number of cases had risen to 55 to match its East African counterparts. 

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Ethiopia postpones August election due to COVID-19

Ethiopia has postponed parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for August due to the coronavirus pandemic, the electoral commission has announced.

“Because of issues related to the coronavirus, the board has decided it can’t conduct the election as planned… so it has decided to void that calendar and suspend all activities,” the commission said on Tuesday.

The original date caused concern among analysts who feared the electoral board were behind schedule, and that the vote fell during Ethiopia’s rainy season.

The commission said a new date would be given “when the pandemic is over”.

Despite prime minister Abiy Ahmed implementing widespread democratic reforms, his tenure has also been defined by increased instability and ethnic tension.

Fearing that coronavirus will spread easily in Ethiopia, Abiy has called on G20 leaders to finance a response to the pandemic in Africa.

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Looming crisis in developing countries threatens to devastate economies and ramp up inequality, says UNDP

The coronavirus pandemic could disproportionately hit developing countries as they suffer both a short-term health crisis and “devastating” medium to long term social and economic upheaval, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Income losses in developing countries are already estimated at $220bn, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be more severe in countries with fragile education and health systems and limited food security, the UNDP says.

Poor urban planning and overpopulation will further undermine the response of developing countries. 

“This pandemic is a health crisis. But not just a health crisis. For vast swathes of the globe, the pandemic will leave deep, deep scars,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner

“Without support from the international community, we risk a massive reversal of gains made over the last two decades, and an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity.”

The UNDP has launched a $20m rapid response facility but predicts that a minimum of $500 million is needed to support 100 countries.

 The organization has emphasized the need for resources to help stop the spread of the virus, support to respond during the outbreak, and resources to prevent the economic collapse of developing countries.

In the longer term, UNDP will work with countries to assess the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

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Mo Ibrahim Foundation calls for coordinated governance and better data to combat COVID-19

Africa needs coordinated governance, improved healthcare structures and better data to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Based on data and indices collated from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), only 10 African countries provide free and universal health care to their citizens, while healthcare in 22 countries is neither free nor universal.

“Governments need to make swift improvements in handling and improving access to basic health services,” the foundation said today in a report.

Data coverage on health facilities and health outcomes in Africa is also low.

Only eight African countries have complete birth registration systems, the report finds.

“Quality statistics, and the funding and autonomy of National Statistics Offices, are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation, namely in health care,” it says.

Africa must also create a coordinated and organised response to the virus.

If it does not, the virus could reverse the positive growth of the past decade and impact areas where Africa has steadily progressed, be it the fight against malaria or against poverty, it warns.

Read the full report here: https://mo.ibrahim.foundation/sites/default/files/2020-03/2020%20COVID-19%20in%20Africa_1.pdf

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Nigeria’s private sector make donations to fight coronavirus

Many of Nigeria’s private sector leaders have made large donations to the government to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Bankers and industrialists including Aliko Dangote, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Femi Otedola, Tony Elumelu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje and Jim Ovia have each donated $2.5m.

Access Bank and Dangote Industries – with the help of Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, MTN and others – spearheaded a private sector initiative last week called the Coalition Against Coronavirus (CACOVID).

The organisation will work to fight coronavirus by raising public awareness, supporting healthcare professionals, institutions and governments, and by mobilising private sector leadership and resources.

“We are pulling together resources across industries to provide technical and operational support, while providing funding and building advocacy through aggressive awareness drives,” said the CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe.

Nigeria today has 131 confirmed cases as Africa’s most populous country announced a lockdown for major cities starting yesterday.

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Botswana declares state of emergency

Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi has declared a state of emergency until further notice following the confirmation of three coronavirus cases in the southern African country.

Rather than the 21-days allocated to a state of emergency in the constitution, Masisi said it “would not be sufficient to employ the necessary measures to fight this pandemic”.

He also announced a lockdown for 28 days starting on Thursday.

“The threat to Botswana has escalated considerably in view of the fact that our neighbouring countries have seen a rapid rise in confirmed cases, some of which have resulted in fatalities,” he said.

“The other challenge is the low rate of testing of suspected cases in Botswana and cumbersome health protocols. The return of some of our citizens and residents from high-risk countries has also escalated the threat of the virus in our country.”

Of those countries reporting cases, Botswana has the least in Africa along with Somalia and Liberia.

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Libya releases prisoners to stem spread of coronavirus

The UN-backed government in Tripoli has released more than 450 prisoners as part of measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The detainees were in pre-trial detention or had qualified for conditional release, a statement released by the justice ministry said on Sunday.

In the midst of fighting a civil war, Tripoli’s overcrowded detention centres were seen as dangerous areas of transmission.

While Libya’s north-African neighbours have reported the most cases on the continent excluding South Africa, the war-torn nation only recorded its first case last Tuesday.

The number of cases has today risen to eight, while many suspect the actual figure is much higher due to the country’s poor capacity to properly test for and identify the virus.

Since April 2019, forces loyal to eastern-based Khalifa Haftar have been fighting to seize the capital in an offensive that has killed hundreds and displaced 150,000 people.

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Moody’s downgrades South Africa to junk status

Guest post: Jeff Gable, Head of Research at Absa Bank

South Africa’s sovereign credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s Investor Services on Friday 27 March 2020.

Thus for the first time since South Africa’s return to global markets in 1994 the country is no longer rated investment grade by any of the large global credit rating agencies.

It is tempting to ask the question, “how long does it take for a country to regain investment grade status?”

Often answers are informed by looking to the experience of other emerging markets with a sort of average time figure being used.

This misses the underlying point, however.

South Africa’s credit rating has deteriorated because of very low (and currently negative) economic growth, large fiscal deficits and sharply rising public debt, loss-making state-owned entities, and deep contestation of proposed social and economic policy reforms.

 That all agencies currently hold the country’s credit rating under negative outlook suggests that they do not see significant improvement likely soon.

And it will be that significant improvement, if delivered, that will ultimately determine whether South Africa will be able to plot of a difficult return to investment grade in the years ahead, move sideways at current levels, or slide further away from investment grade.

The answers will be found here in South Africa, rather than by looking at the examples of other emerging markets and the specifics of their economies, policy choices and politics.

It is hard to argue that South Africa hasn’t witnessed a steep deterioration in fundamentals, in part by our own ability to act over the last decade and in part due to the new risks due to the global virus.

And so it is the agencies’ duty to reflect that in their ratings.

Similarly it is clear that it is up to South Africa, and not the credit rating agencies, as to which direction that country would like to take going forward.

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Ghana provides life insurance to healthcare workers

Ghana announced on Saturday it will provide insurance for healthcare professionals and other associated workers who are on the front line in the fight against coronavirus.

In a statement signed by the minister of health, death will be covered up to $60,000 and critical illness up to $4,300.

According to World Bank data, Ghana had 0.2 physicians per thousand people and 1.2 nurses in 2017.

The number of physicians places it behind north-African countries like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt; richer sub-Saharan Africa countries like South Africa; and Africa’s island nations including Seychelles and Cabo Verde.

The top four countries worldwide are Cuba, Monaco, San Marin and Sweden, although most recent data varies.

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Tax breaks for South African businesses struggling under coronavirus

The South African Treasury has announced a series of tax breaks to help businesses cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The country called a state of disaster and imposed a 21-day lockdown last week as it struggles to contain the virus, which has infected over 1,280 people and taken two lives.

It had previously banned visitors from major trading partners including the US, China, Germany and the UK.

Employers will be offered a tax subsidy of up to $30 per month for the next four months, which could benefit over 4m private sector employees earning below $365.

An estimated 75,000 small and medium enterprises with a turnover of $2.8m or less will be allowed to delay 20% of their employees’ tax liabilities over the next four months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments, while the South African Revenue Service will accelerate the payment of employment tax incentive reimbursements.

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Security forces terrorise citizens as African governments enforce lockdowns

A number of African countries have enforced lockdowns over the past few days in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, leading to violent clashes between security forces and citizens.

On Friday, dozens of people were injured in Kenya as security forces took to the streets hours before the 7pm deadline to enforce the dawn-to-dusk curfew announced last Thursday. 

In Mombasa, police officers were filmed beating and firing tear gas at passengers who were waiting to take the ferry home across the Likoni channel.

In the capital Nairobi, commuters caught out after the curfew were whipped and hassled by security forces as videos of further mistreatment circulated well into the night.

In Nigeria, policemen attached to the Lagos State Task Force were seen last Thursday vandalising people’s shops and goods as part of the partial lockdown on Lagos which came into effect on the same day.

Ramping up measures over the weekend, president Muhammadu Buhari ordered the “cessation of all movements” for two weeks in Lagos and the capital Abuja.

South African police used rubber bullets on Saturday to force shoppers gathered outside a supermarket in Johannesburg to return home.

The incident came a day after South Africa entered a 21-day lockdown as the country battles the highest number of coronavirus cases on the continent.

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Tanzania’s COVID-19 response ‘grossly insufficient’, writes opposition leader

Despite adopting measures such as reducing unnecessary gathering and encouraging frequent handwashing, Tanzania’s response to the coronavirus has been “grossly insufficient”, writes Tanzanian opposition leader Zitto Kabwe in an open letter to president John Magufuli.

Whereas countries like Germany have been able to keep a low mortality rate due to massive public testing, Tanzania tested only 273 out of 39,000 individuals arriving from affected countries, he writes.

“Why is this the case? Why are we not testing more, and if we are, why are we not sharing the results of the tests? Transparency on data regarding current infections, new infections, critical patients, and deaths is very important in dealing with the coronavirus. There is no need for us to revert to secrecy,” he says.

The role of science will be key in mitigating the pandemic, and leaders must follow the advice of experts rather than personal beliefs or ideas, he adds.

The leader of the ACT-Wazalendo party also criticised Magufuli’s disregard for social distancing, as the president continues to address large crowds and encourage people to worship in mosques and churches.

Lastly, he urged the president to use the crisis as an opportunity to unite an increasingly divided country, saying ” the coronavirus does not care about political party ideology, religion, tribe or race.”

Read the open letter in full here: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-03-29-a-letter-to-my-president-john-magufuli-of-tanzania/

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Africa reaches ‘break the glass moment’, says Ghana’s finance minister

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa soars to almost 5,000, Ghana’s finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta has warned that the continent has reached a “break the glass moment.”

Although reported cases are far behind Europe and North America, international actors need to take drastic action to support Africa’s fragile health systems, he told the Financial Times.

Global lenders like the World Bank and IMF need to continue to offer financial support and debt relief.

The virus, which has affected 46 African countries to date, could wipe out 5-10% of the continent’s GDP as sectors such as tourism, aviation and trade are worse hit.

Ofori-Atta last week co-chaired a meeting in which African finance ministers called for a $100bn stimulus package.

“The Fund and World Bank are moving quickly, the sentiments I hear from G20 finance ministers are in the right direction,” he said.

“But we need to increase the pace and increase the amounts.”

Ghana is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most affected countries after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.

Managing to issue a $3bn Eurobond in January before the pandemic took hold, Ghana is better equipped than other African countries to finance a decent response to the virus.

“Without it, we would have been in tatters completely,” Ofori-Atta said.

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AfDB issues record-breaking $3bn coronavirus bond

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has issued a $3bn bond in an effort to help alleviate the economic and social fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.

With a three-year maturity and an interest rate of 0.75%, the ‘Fight COVID-19’ social bond is the largest of its kind ever launched in international capital markets to date.

Gaining interest from central banks, bank treasuries, asset managers and socially responsible investors the bond was oversubscribed by $1.6bn.

Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB president, said: “These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries.”

“This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries.”

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Bobi Wine releases song on coronavirus

Ugandan lawmaker and musician Bobi Wine released a song on Wednesday called ‘Coronavirus alert’ to raise awareness about how to minimise the spread of the virus.

Working with fellow artist Nubian Li, the controversial figure in Ugandan politics used East Africa’s rumba melodies to inform listeners about the importance of personal hygiene.

“The bad news is that everyone is a potential victim,” Wine sings. “But the good news is that everyone is a potential solution.”

After reporting very few cases, Uganda’s number of confirmed cases has risen sharply to 18 over the last few days.

President Yoweri Museveni’s government has already taken a raft of measures including sealing off borders, closing bars, and banning public gatherings to contain the outbreak.

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Morocco is world’s fourth-largest coronavirus donor by GDP

Morocco has mobilised $3.24bn in financial resources in the fight against coronavirus, making it the fourth-largest donor worldwide.

Amounting to 2.7% of GDP, the north-African country was bested only by New Zealand (4%), Chile (4.7%) and Sweden (6%).

Adding to its contribution, a special fund worth $1bn was announced by King Mohammed VI last month to combat the spread of the virus.

Several banks, government officials and the king contributed to the fund which has more than doubled in size.

Companies such as Afriquia Gas and OCP Group also made major contributions donating $100m and $305m respectively.

The Ministry of Economy launched an SMS campaign for anyone wishing to contribute to the fund.

Morocco today has 275 coronavirus cases, the fourth-highest in Africa.

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Nigeria announces partial lockdown amid fears of undetected cases

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari announced yesterday a host of travel restrictions and the release of emergency funds to help counter the spread of coronavirus.

Land and air borders will be closed for a period of four weeks while only cargo ships which have been at sea for more than 14-days will be allowed to dock in Nigeria’s ports, the president wrote on Twitter.

Commuter trains running from Lagos to other parts of the country are also suspended, as the country’s commercial capital is the epicentre of the virus.

The president also released a $27m grant to Lagos State to help the region “increase its capacity to control and contain the outbreak”.

A further $13.5m was given to a Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NigeriaCDC) to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.

He also hinted at coming fiscal interventions once the federal budget had been concluded.

These measures add to partial closure of public spaces across many states and the directive given yesterday by Lagos state authorities to close all markets and shops for seven days.

Nigeria today has 65 cases, though many believe the figure is much higher due to the lack of testing capability by local authorities.

Read our story from Lagos yesterday as our reporter spoke to small businesses being affected by the restrictions: https://liveblog.africanbusinessmagazine.com/2020/03/27/small-businesses-suffer-as-nigeria-fears-spike-in-coronavirus/

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African Continent

African continent
967
Confirmed cases/Cas confirmés
6500
Confirmed cases

Data: Cédric Moro, I-Resilience

Updated

Top 5 confirmed cases by country

Country Cases
South Africa 1462
Algeria 986
Egypt 865
Morocco 708
Tunisia 455

Map of Coronavirus Cases in Africa

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