21st October 2021
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The COVID-19 pandemic arrived late on the African continent as it continues to take a devastating toll on human lives all over the world from the Italy and Spain in Europe to most recently the USA which is fast becoming the epicentre of the outbreak. This has brought major disruption to economic activities and is expected to affect African economies. According to the recently released regional analysis carried out by the World Bank, economies in sub-Saharan Africa may experience its first recession in 25 years. The Bank forecasts a -5.1% growth in 2020 from a mere 2.4% in 2019.

To ensure that this difficult period does not hit hard, African state governments will need to take a short term policy approach. This is due to the unique features and structures of the economies. For example, 89% of the workforce are employed in the informal sector which makes these jobs subject to precarious conditions. Furthermore, small and medium sized enterprises constitute business units and are the drivers of growth. They therefore need to be supported as they go through this difficult period brought about by the covid-19 pandemic.  

The World Bank recommends the following policies:

Strengthen the health systems: medical personnel needs to be protected by ensuring that they are well equipped with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to fight the virus. They also need to be well remunerated to keep them motivated and ready to work throughout this period. This means regular payment of salaries and bonus where possible.   

Read more: What Non-For Profit Organisations In Africa Can Do During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Implement social protection programmes: the region’s poor should be buffered during this difficult crisis through initiatives such as cash transfers, food distribution, social grants and fee waivers for basic services such as electricity and water.

Keep food supply chain and logistics open: this is to prevent hunger crisis and minimise disruptions to the daily lives of people. As much as possible, social distancing measures and hygienic practices should be observed in the crowded markets and areas where these logistics activities continue to take place.   

Government of African economies should also begin to think of ways of easing out of the isolation period once the crisis is over. Preparations should begin immediately and not at the tail end of the pandemic.

Read the World Bank Report here