Africa Faces a Covid-19 Dilemma – and Must Take Its Own Path to Dealing With It


Africa Faces a Covid-19 Dilemma – and Must Take Its Own Path to Dealing With It

Posted on: 21st May 2020

Foreword by Tony Blair

Africa faces a dilemma which is sharper and more difficult to resolve than that facing Western countries. It has to take its own path to dealing with Covid-19. 

The continent has to deal with Covid 19. But it must not do so in a way which imperils the treatment of other diseases or causes massive collateral damage to food supply and jobs and therefore damage to the health of the people.

There is much we know about Covid-19 but much that we are yet to find out. One of the biggest questions we face is about the course that the virus is taking in Africa.  

So far, the number of deaths in Africa is low, and we do not know why this is, so we must urgently take steps to find out. It seems that there are three possible explanations. 

The first is that swift action, which many governments took to lockdown at the beginning, may have prevented Covid-19 from spreading. The second is that Africa’s relatively young and more resilient population may mean that the virus will take a less severe course than in other parts of the world. The third is that the low levels of testing in Africa mean we simply don’t yet have a handle on how the virus has spread and is spreading – and that it will rise fast, and is perhaps already doing so.

The priority must be to urgently investigate the Covid-19 situation in Africa to find out what factor or factors lie behind these apparently low mortality figures. We make no judgement on which of these factors, or a combination, is behind them. However, amid the lack of clarity, one thing is very clear. We must not let the steps taken to combat other very serious diseases – such as HIV, TB and malaria – get downgraded in the name of tackling Covid-19.

The West has thrown unprecedented resources at health-care facilities and mass testing to combat the virus. Africa does not have those resources.

This means that Africa needs to take its own lockdown path, in recognition of the particular challenges it faces. 

Tony Blair
Executive Chairman

A new report from the Institute, published today, details the unique challenges African and other low-income countries face in confronting Covid-19 and examines the pathway African governments and the international community should take in pursuit of three critical objectives: Safeguarding as many lives as possible, from Covid-19 and other diseases and conditions; safeguarding livelihoods and the economy, which have been severely affected by containment measures and the global recession; and ensuring Africa remains globally connected and open for business – especially if the virus were to still be endemic.

Read the full report
Also available in French

Find out more