Africa is two to three weeks away from the worst of the coronavirus storm and needs an emergency economic stimulus of not less than $100 billion to bolster preventative measures and support its fragile healthcare systems.
Almost half of the funds could come from waiving interest payments to multilateral institutions. That would give countries the fiscal space needed to impose social-distancing measures, widen social safety nets and equip hospitals to treat the sick ahead of an expected surge in infections.
If Africa is to have a fighting chance, this support is needed immediately.
In the next two to three weeks, if decisive action is taken, Africa may be able to flatten the curve and then when the storm comes it will be not as brutal as it has been in Europe.
One measure that can provide some immediate relief is the creation of the special purpose vehicle through which interest payments on sovereign bonds could be sequestered and provide all countries on the continent, regardless of income level, with support.
A lack of resources and staff means that African governments must work fast to limit the spread of the disease on a continent where hospitals have an average of just 1.8 beds per 1,000 people. While Africa accounts for one per cent of global health expenditure, it carries 23 per cent of the disease burden, including hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Africa’s hospital systems are so weak and so stressed already that another stress on them is going to break them.
There are more than 3,000 COVID-19 infections in 46 countries across the continent.
Africa has never experienced a crisis of the scale and magnitude caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While its impact is likely to be felt for 12 to 18 months – with a loss of lives, jobs and businesses as economies grind to a halt – the potential loss of health care providers and schooling would also weigh on the continent’s health and education sectors for years to come.
A coordinated global effort is required to assist countries and businesses, and support the recovery of economies across the continent.
If there is one African country or one country anywhere in the world that still has the coronavirus, the whole world has it. We’ve seen the speed of contamination and how quickly it can re-spread.