Africa Struggles with Economic Effects of Coronavirus
Ryan Cummings, independent consultant to international news outlets, publications, and think-tanks, and a Director at Signal Risk
Although the total numbers of infections and deaths registered in Africa have been significantly lower than those recorded in the USA, the public health impact of the pandemic is nonetheless anticipated to be acute for the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that coronavirus infections in Africa could reach 122 million, with 300,000 deaths, in what the agency termed a best-case scenario.
In addition to the acute public health impact of the pandemic, coronavirus has caused adverse economic externalities for Africa arising from both the decrease in global demand for African commodity exports — notably oil and raw minerals — and movement restrictions imposed by African states to contain the outbreak. Of these measures, among the most economically damaging has been the imposition of border and airspace closures to passenger traffic. Indeed, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention stated on 14 June that 43 African states had closed their borders to international passenger travel. The impact of these movement restrictions has rendered several African countries bereft of revenue they would have ordinarily garnered from international tourism. The impact has been particularly acute for tourism-dependent countries such as Gambia, Mauritius, and Tunisia, as travel restrictions will see these countries experience record-breaking economic contractions in 2020. Adding to the extent of negative growth is the impact border and airspace closures are having on foreign direct investment into the continent, which is often an outcome of business travel and commercial symposiums.
Despite the recessionary status quo, there is room for cautious optimism. On 14 June, Egyptian officials announced that Egypt would gradually resume regular international flights at all its airports from 1 July, while initially allowing tourist travel to the governorates of Matrough, Red Sea, and South Sinai. Other African countries that are dependent on tourism earnings for fiscal outlays have followed suit, such as Kenya and Tanzania, and many have indicated that they will soon be open for tourism.