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COVID’s Aftershocks in Africa: How many more years in Pandemica?


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 COVID’s impact on education, new data on how Nigeria’s remittances have tanked, and what’s next for Tanzania. And our new series Pandemica launches this week. It’s a preview of what’s to come if rich countries keep hoarding vaccines.

Top news

Truly depleted: African finance ministers met on Monday, agreeing that “our fiscal buffers are truly depleted.” They called for a liquidity package in the form of $500-650 billion in Special Drawing Rights — an asset that can be converted to hard currency — from the International Monetary Fund. They also committed to transparency in how they would spend the money.

Listening mode: The IMF’s executive board got the memo. They indicated on Tuesday that financial help is finally on its way. Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva will present a formal proposal for a new SDR allocation of $650 billion to the IMF Board by June. She will also look into ways for rich countries to transfer their allocations to vulnerable countries. This is about as positive as it gets in an IMF statement. And shout out to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak who convened G7 finance ministers to clear the way for this decision. Bravo was ONE’s response.

So what next? Janet Yellen (who holds the deciding IMF vote) must notify Congress 90 days before the final agreement. Following an IMF board decision in June, we’re looking at another couple of months before the IMF governors can rubber stamp the decision. Complicated, right? If you need a 101 on all of this, ONE’s Sara Harcourt has the lowdown on SDRs.

Where’s my cheque? Diaspora remittances in Nigeria have fallen by 27% to $17.2 billion. Vanguard’s analysis of Central Bank data shows the impact of the pandemic on remittances has been much worse than the 8.8% the World Bank predicted last year. African migrants in Europe and North America have been hit particularly hard by lockdowns, affecting their ability to send money back home. Last year ONE and the UN Economic Commission for Africa published a report on the issue.

After the Bulldozer: Samia Suluhu Hassan is Tanzania’s first female president. She is considered a capable leader who fought for the rights for young mothers to return to school — something her previous boss opposed. Bloomberg analyses the challenges her late predecessor leaves behind. And here’s a powerful personal story of COVID’s impact on Tanzania. Lots to sort out…

Odious debt: Mozambique will likely need to repay part of the $2 billion of odious debt taken out in 2013. Citizens were unaware of the loans, much of which remain completely unaccounted for. Elsewhere, Kenya secured a new IMF loan amid fears that it will need to hand over its port if unable to repay its Chinese loan.

Get out of jail free card: Last week an Italian court acquitted Shell and Eni of their involvement in a corruption scandal involving Nigerian oil block OPL 245, which cost the Nigeria federal government $1.1 billion. This is the case that kicked off a long run campaign for oil and gas transparency that ONE has been fighting for a decade. The Africa Report lays out what’s next for the oil bloc.

I can’t read: A new report from ONE highlights how half the world’s 10-year-olds can’t read and understand a simple sentence — a situation made 17% worse by COVID. This matters because a child’s 10th birthday is a critical milestone: they should stop learning to read and start reading to learn; kicking off a lifetime of self-directed learning. 70 million children this year face a lifetime of lost potential.

A shot of light relief (kind of): This week ONE released an irreverent animated series, “Pandemica” featuring Bono, Penélope Cruz, Stanley Enow, Carolin Kebekus, David Oyelowo, Teni, and a host of other stars. Pandemica portrays a world where vaccines aren’t shared, the virus mutates, and the pandemic never ends. Sadly, with rich nations continuing to hoard doses, it’s looking like a likely scenario for the near future.

More cash, more cache: New data from Duke University shows there will be enough vaccine doses produced in 2021 to reach herd immunity globally. But with rich countries hoarding 1.3 billion more doses than they need, the pandemic won’t end this year. In Kenya, Business Daily is reporting a new scheme allowing “vulnerable and wealthy” Kenyans to be vaccinated in private clinics. The country faces a third wave as opposition leader Raila Odinga is hospitalised.

The numbers

  • $205 billion: the gap between what advanced economies promised to spend in aid (0.7% of GNI) and what they actually spent last year. Aid is now lower as a proportion of advanced economies than it was in 1960.
  • 50% of the world’s 10-year-olds (70 million children) can’t read or understand a simple sentence.
  • 1% of administered COVID-19 vaccines have gone to people in low-income countries.

More reads

    • With political space opening for progress on international tax rules, Jeroen Lammers lays out ideas that might work for African countries.
    • ONE’s David McNair joined finance experts at the Sustainable Development Goals Festival of Action to share insights on debt.
    • What is COVID telling us about leadership? Heather Marquette and Sian Herbert take a fascinating look at compound crises, the value of trust and the scope leaders have to admit mistakes, and institutional failures that undermine good decision-making.
    • How African media covers Africa: A survey of editors and news reports shows the dominance of Nigeria and South Africa in new coverage — and how stories focused on successes, innovations, and technology are almost completely absent in coverage.
    • The World Bank’s 2021 World Development Report focuses on the need for stronger data systems. It’s packed full of examples of how disaggregated data has led to better policies and resourcing decisions, and the authors call for a new social contract for data, based on trust, value, and equity.

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