ONE Africa COVID-19 Tracker: Country deep dives

South Africa


HEADLINE: Government announces US$100 million to build hospitals; 88 districts currently lack any hospital access

Key Facts:

  • 9.6 million children are affected by school closures
  • The country has 9 hospital beds per 10,000 people
  • US$1 billion in debt relief has been provided

Ghana’s healthcare system was inadequate and riddled with inequalities prior to the pandemic. Last year, the government of Ghana spent 28 times more on debt payments than it did on healthcare. According to the World Health Organization, the country has only 9 hospital beds for every 10,000 people across the country, leaving many of the country’s residents with limited or no medical access.

Despite that, Ghana has been praised for its quick response to the pandemic, including banning public gatherings within two weeks of the first in-country cases, mandatory quarantines, and closing the country’s borders. In April, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo announced that the government would construct 94 hospitals in the districts throughout the country without any hospital access. That pledge has been met with skepticism: President Akufo-Addo has not announced how this will be funded (the 2020 health budget is only about US$7.5 million), and there are not enough doctors or healthcare workers to staff the promised hospitals.

The country has experienced rapid increases in food prices and is looking to other countries to understand how to manage food supply in lockdowns and with closed borders. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture issued a note and plan for the food and agriculture response and provided a subsidy of 11,000 million tonnes of seed rice. It has also issued a US$103 million loan stimulus package to assist the National Board for Small Scale Industries in value addition.


HEADLINE: Food price increases, coupled with trade drop is reducing food security

Key Facts:

  • At least 130,000 formal jobs have been lost, while 500,000 workers have been put on unpaid leave
  • 15.2 million children are affected by school closures
  • The country has 259 ventilators, 1 for every 206,000 people

Torrential rains and destructive flooding contributed to the largest locust infestation in decades, which has ravaged East Africa since January. Lower harvests and rising food prices have been compounded by COVID-19, which has caused further disruptions to trade and farming, including efforts to protect crops from the locusts. In the coming weeks, a second swarm of locusts is looming, and it could be up to 400 times larger than the first. Locusts are decimating grazing land and threatening to reach farmlands. Tens of thousands of litres of pesticides have been delayed from reaching the region because of COVID-19 restrictions. These overlapping threats leave many Kenyans at risk of dying from COVID-19 and or from hunger in what has been dubbed “Locust-19”. Kenyans have been moved by the video circulating on social media of a woman appearing to cook stones for her children.

Grain reserves can hold until the end of June, when new grains from this harvest season take over. A deficit in maize is being bridged by imports from Uganda, but since the end of April, coronavirus tests for drivers can lead to up to 30km queue for lorries at the border.

The Kenyan Government is using direct distribution and cash transfers and is piloting an innovative programme to use horticulture warehouses for prepping up the food system. The Ministry of Health is preparing detailed guidelines for eateries and restaurants as they partially re-open. It plans for all food handlers to be tested. However, Kenya depends on state-level implementation and capacity varies significantly, leading to inconsistent approaches. Not all cash transfer programmes reach the people they need to for lockdowns to work.


HEADLINE: Drop in oil prices and massive fall in remittances is crippling economy 

Key Facts:

  • The IMF has approved US$3.4 billion in emergency funding to Nigeria, the largest tranche disbursed for any country so far to fight COVID-19
  • School closures resulting from COVID-19 have left nearly 40 million children out of school
  • The price of a bag of rice increased 6-8% during March and April
  • 3.6 million people are to receive cash transfers for COVID palliatives
  • There are 14 hospital beds per 10,000 people

With most transportation at a halt around the world, Nigeria’s oil exports have plummeted and they’re expected to fall 90% overall in 2020. This has devastated the economy and the government’s budget. Oil exports have accounted for two-thirds of government revenues and more than 90% of Nigeria’s export receipts over the past decade. Since nearly 60% of its budget is spent on servicing debt, the fragile economy leaves limited resources for pandemic response.

The government has been forced to eliminate fuel subsidies, which cost an estimated 10 trillion naira (US$27.78 billion) from 2006 to 2018. Previously planned projects to improve the country’s infrastructure and its education and health systems are also being squeezed. With fewer workers processing incoming cargo and food stuck in shipping containers at the docks, prices are going up: bags of rice became 6-8% more expensive in March and April, an increase which will be felt most painfully by the 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty. Nigeria depends on state-level implementation, and capacity varies significantly, leading to inconsistent approaches. The government is struggling to have its cash transfer programmes reach the necessary people for lockdowns to work.


HEADLINE: Country in semi-lockdown, hit by supply chain disruptions on vital stapes

Key Facts:

  • Rice imports have allegedly fallen by around 30%
  • The country has one ventilator for every 787,000 people and 3 hospital beds for every 10,000 people
  • US$442 million has been provided in debt relief, just over a third of total aid

With the recent measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Senegal — including a semi-quarantine, halted travel between cities, closed borders, and limited access to high-traffic areas like wharfs and factories — Senegal’s government expects the economy to take a significant downturn. President Macky Sall announced that the country’s GDP growth is expected to drop from 6.8% to less than 3% due to the virus. Adding to the economic strain many Senegalese will feel, the country’s rice imports have allegedly fallen by around 30% due to international supply disruptions.

South Africa

HEADLINE: Despite strong government response, COVID-19 and a remittance drop have serious economic, security, and governance implications

Key Facts:

  • 13% of the population (1 million people) are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the crisis
  • Police and army patrols have used lethal force to enforce lockdowns
  • Controversial new regulation criminalising misinformation can easily be exploited to limit free speech

South Africa, which currently has the most cases on the continent, was already experiencing a recession when the economy took significant hits from the pandemic. Current estimates project it could contract by 10% this year. Over 6.7 million South Africans were unemployed prior to the pandemic, and another 1 million are estimated to lose their jobs because of COVID-19, nearly 13% of the population. While South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a first-of-its-kind stimulus package for the jobless, the monthly payments of R350 are too little to even cover food costs, given South Africa’s food poverty line is R561 per month.

In the midst of the dismal economic situation, other systemic problems and governance concerns have been highlighted. Police and army patrols have used lethal force to enforce lockdowns, sometimes in areas with informal housing that makes staying inside and social distancing impossible. Inequality in the water-scarce country has manifested in access to running water, which some communities have lacked for decades, making hand washing in those areas impossible without government intervention. Disinformation on social media has been rampant, and a controversial new regulation criminalising misinformation can easily be exploited to limit free speech.

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