By Chris Bishop
A briefing by the World Health Organisation on the fight against COVID-19 also threw up a grim view of the future of the continent’s economy.
Stephen Karingi, Director of Regional trade and integration, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said the economy of Africa would contract by as much as 3% in 2020. The UNEC calculated every month of lockdown cost the economy $65 billion.
“We are also seeing a reduction in export earnings because markets in the northern hemisphere are also closed. On top of that governments are collecting lower revenue because people aren’t working,” he says.
Karingi was also concerned about the number of poor people in the informal sector who were going hungry because of the COVID-19 lockdowns across the continent. He said 60% off Africans live in informal settlements, which is proving a problem.
“It becomes very difficult for them to be in lockdown. They have to get in the morning, go and work to get money and then have to go back out later to earn money for another meal. To make matters worse they have seen an increase in food prices in this lockdown. At least 87% say they are skipping a meal every day or eating less,” says Karingi.
“One person we surveyed said: ‘I don’t have a dollar and you want me to wear a mask that I can’t afford in the first place.’”
Yet Addis Ababa-based Karingi agreed that Africa, where 2,000 had died from COVID-19 by May 7, needed to make sure the infection rate is falling to reopen and not take risks.
On the other side of the COVID-19 coin, the Nairobi-based Amit Thakker, the Executive Chairman of Africa Health Business said at least 42 factories in Kenya 42 had put up machinery cleaned their machines and realigned them to make masks and sanitizers.