COVID’s Aftershocks in Africa: A tale of 2 global economies

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A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and read on for ONE’s updated COVID-19 Tracker, who’s taking over the US global pandemic response efforts, and the world’s economic outlook.

Top news

Torn in two: The IMF projects a stronger recovery for the global economy compared to its January forecast, with growth expected to be 6% in 2021. Upward revisions are mainly due to advanced economies, with low-income countries looking gloomier in the face of vaccine monopolies and limited economic support. The Economist has a helpful viz. We’re now looking at a two-speed recovery. The IMF chief said “vaccine policy is economic policy” as the agency said 90 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020-21.

Full force Gayle: ONE’s commander in chief Gayle Smith was asked to take charge of the US international COVID response for six months. Knowing her as we do, we couldn’t be happier for the world. As Bono said, “Gayle Force Smith doesn’t do business as usual.”

Free gift: We have the latest data points on everything from cases, tests, and vaccines, to debt service payments, how much is owed to China, and how much the World Bank is actually helping. For every country on the continent. We’ll also have new data stories and insights from the data every week. You’re most welcome.

New wave: The tracker is telling us that COVID-19 rates are shooting up in East Africa, driven by a third wave in Kenya and Ethiopia. Botswana tops the continent for mortality with 78.4 deaths per million people. Health systems are increasingly overwhelmed with a lack of oxygen, a major constraint.

Take the shot: 45 countries in Africa have received a total of 31.5 million doses. 891,000 health workers and 654,000 older people have received a shot. Remarkably, Seychelles has vaccinated 95% of its people. But due to a lack of investment in capacity — and scepticism over efficacy and side effects — some doses are sitting unused. A shipment of 1.7 million Astrazeneca vaccines that landed in Kinshasa on 3 March are still in the warehouse. They expire in three months.

Billions!: Ghana raised $3 billion in a eurobond sale, confounding critics. The sale was oversubscribed. ONE’s COVID Tracker tells us that half of Ghana’s debt is owed to private creditors — and analysts worry it is getting more commercial and more expensive.

Loan shark?: Following last week’s announcement of a $2.34 billion IMF loan to Kenya, Kenyans are circulating an online petition demanding that these loans be stopped, accusing the IMF of aiding corruption. The scars of the fund’s structural adjustment policies run deep and shouldn’t be underestimated. Analysis from Boston University shows that austerity recommendations have not diminished significantly since the financial crisis.

Rights defenders: G20 finance ministers threw their weight behind the proposal for $650 billion Special Drawing Rights and the IMF’s governing board approved the decision. This follows a raft of influentials that came out in support of the IMF’s proposal for $650 billion SDRs including Janet Yellen, UN relief chief Mark Lowcock, and Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso. The G24, which coordinates the position of developing countries, emphasised the importance of now “recycling” these SDRs to the countries that need them most. The Economist published a bizarre piece criticising the move, despite this being the only proposal out there at the scale needed.

Sweet relief: The G20 also extended debt service suspension to the end of 2021 — something ONE has been calling for. This call was supported by John Kufuor, Joyce Banda, Mo Ibrahim, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and many others. The IMF Executive Board approved a third tranche of grants for debt service relief for 28 countries under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT); it covers $238 million in debt service due to the fund from 14 April to 15 October. The Pope called for more.

Commitment issues: The World Bank committed $72 billion in COVID lending. But so far it has only disbursed 60% of what it promised, according to new analysis from CGD. It is on track to meet its target of committing $104 billion by the end of June. Last year the bank promised $12 billion for vaccines, but so far has committed just 13% of that with rumors that countries think the mechanism is too slow and bureaucratic. The bank plans to get to 33% by the middle of the year. Ambitious…

Investment climate: Over 30 African leaders called for more money to address the pandemic alongside climate change. Separately the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action representing 63% of global GDP underscored that green growth investments should underpin a global shift toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19.

Back on track: Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu, ordered a reversal of the ban on some media outlets and said she’ll set up a committee of experts to re-evaluate the denialist COVID-19 policy.

Toxic: Trump’s toxic legacy lives on. An explosive piece from Vanity Fair shows how contracts he signed with pharma companies explicitly prohibit sharing excess doses with other countries even if they aren’t needed in the US. There aren’t words…

Hunger: 73% of city dwellers in Guinea report COVID affecting their diet. The World Food Programme estimates that 880,741 of the country’s people are food insecure because of COVID.

From the ONE Team: ONE’s Policy Director David McNair told CNBC Africa and the Financial Times that the G20’s debt suspension is good news, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the true financing needs.

The numbers

  • 90 million: people pushed into extreme poverty in 2020-21
  • 27.3%: increase in food prices in Zambia
  • 891,000: healthcare workers in Africa who have received a COVID vaccine

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