Effects of Coronavirus in Africa

As feared – and as expected – not even Sub-Saharan Africa has been spared the ‘new coronavirus’ pandemic. Although the numbers – or at least the known ones – are so far all in all contained, few African states are extraneous to the infection. The rapid spread of Covid-19 in the subcontinent feeds widespread concerns: if the first cases were essentially related to the outbreaks of contagion that emerged in Europe – an Italian citizen who arrived in Nigeria from Milan leaving ‘patient zero’ in sub-Saharan Africa – enough to feed a hunt for the European greaser in several countries, to frighten now is the activation of local chains of contagion, which aggravate the prospects of capillary propagation of the epidemic and threaten to test African management and response skills.

For the moment the World Bank has allocated sixty million for the emergency, practically crumbs for those who have nothing to oppose this epidemic. Moreover, countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have not yet recovered from Ebola, which between 2013 and 2016 killed over ten thousand people.

In this respect, the fragility of health systems, in a continent where intensive care places are dramatically limited – less than 1,000 in South Africa, for example, which has one of the best continental systems – constitutes one of the most worrying aspects of weakness, looking at the needs of prevention, diagnosis, control in emergency situations. However, the efforts put in place in recent weeks by African governments are encouraging. If initially only two health facilities, in Senegal and South Africa, were equipped to carry out tests for the detection of contagion cases, the continent’s capacity was rapidly strengthened and the number of “ready” countries increased to 43, thanks to the support of the World Health Organization. However, the concern persists.

Alongside the positive effect of “reaction” of the African countries, there is a negative effect: the discrimination towards Europeans and Americans.

With the exponential increase in the number of people infected in the African continent, which reaches almost 2,300 cases in 43 countries out of 54, the tension towards Westerners is growing, resulting in threatening attitudes, insults and the spread of fake news on “the foreign greaser”. From Kenya to Ethiopia, episodes of physical and verbal violence have been reported, involving in particular Europeans.

However, apprehension and tensions in Africa are understandable; as concerns the coronavirus, now the danger is Africa. Fortunately, the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation will donate medical supplies, including test kits, masks and protective suits, to 54 African countries to help them in the prevention and control of the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Other foundation will join them. We can only hope and pray that everything will end soon.

By: Domenico Greco

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