Economic Challenges

Over the last 14 months, Africa and the entire world experienced the worst Socioeconomic challenges of alarming proportion. Specifically, on 30 December 2019, an epidemiological alert was issued by the Chinese Wuhan local health authority of the emergence of a new strand of the coronavirus—severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2)—which causes what has come to be known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19). Africa’s first case of COVID‐19 was recorded in Egypt on 14 February 2020, followed by Nigeria on 27 February 2020. Early in March 2020, Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia reported positive cases. From then, the virus spread to all over Africa as in other parts of the globe.

With the exception of a few, most governments all over the world initially downplayed the pandemic until it turned to sustained community‐level transmission. Once governments noticed cases getting out of hand, the first response became mask mandates, closure of the international borders, with more stringent social distancing measures, and subsequent physical restrictions (lockdowns and shutdowns) of the Socioeconomic activities to restrict human movements, excepting those on essential services like medical and security personnel. Testing, tracking, therapeutic management of those infected as well as quarantines and isolation of positive cases became the norm.

Governments’ economic responses included fiscal (budget support for the health sector, through either re‐prioritization or expansionary policy), expansionary monetary and macro‐financial policies, as well as exchange rate/balance of payments adjustments. These responses were adjusted according to local country conditions as the pandemic progressed. Following the approval of some vaccines for emergency use in developed countries, vaccination is gradually progressing in Africa—after what was dubbed ‘vaccine nationalism’ in parts of Europe, preventing the exportation of vaccines to Africa, and thus prompting the intervention of Covax (the GAVI Vaccine Alliance) to help procure vaccines for African countries.

International financial institutions (including the African Development Bank) collectively mobilized a global response package of US$230 billion between 2020 and 2021, to aid the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. The funds were raised to reduce the pandemic’s impact, of which US$75 billion were to be directed to the world’s poorest countries in 2020. The African Development Bank (AfDB) in April 2020 created the US$10 billion COVID‐19 Rapid Response Facility (CRF), and launched a US$3 billion ‘Fight COVID‐19 Social Bond’, the largest of its kind at the time to combat the crisis. Also, AfDB approved a grant of US$27.33 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) meant to support the continental strategy on COVID‐19. There is also the African Union (AU) COVID‐19 Response Fund, aimed at raising resources to strengthen the continental response to COVID‐19 by supporting pool procurement of diagnostics and other medical commodities by Africa CDC for distribution to the Member States, and mitigating the pandemic’s Socioeconomic and humanitarian impact on African populations. All entities and individuals can contribute to the fund, provided that the objectives and purpose of these are not inconsistent with the AU’s purpose and objectives.

We note that highly contagious mutants of the SARS‐Cov‐2 variants have emerged in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1, which causes the E484K mutation), California (L452R), New York (B.1.526) and India (new ‘double mutant’ variant—L452R and E484Q mutations coming together), among others. These have engaged experts to determine their impacts, especially their impact on the effectiveness of vaccines approved so far for emergency use—Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (mostly deployed in the United States and a few developed countries) and AstraZeneca (mostly being used in the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and Africa).

The rest of this introduction to the special issue can be adumbrated as follows. Section 2 examines COVID‐19 confirmed and active cases in Africa. Section 3 discusses the Socioeconomic effects of COVID‐19 on African economies, and Section 4 summarizes the papers selected for this special issue. Section 5 presents a brief conclusion. Read more

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