Health crises are not new in Africa. The continent has grappled with infectious diseases on all levels, from local (such as malaria) to regional (Ebola) to global (COVID-19). The region has often carried a disproportionately high burden of global infectious outbreaks.
How cities are planned is critical for managing infectious diseases. Historically, many urban planning innovations emerged in response to health crises. The global cholera epidemic in the 1800s led to improved urban sanitation systems. Respiratory infections in overcrowded slums in Europe inspired modern housing regulations during the industrial era.
Urban planning in Africa during colonisation followed a similar pattern. In Anglophone Africa, cholera and bubonic plague outbreaks in Nairobi (Kenya) and Lagos (Nigeria) led to new urban planning strategies. These included slum clearance and urban infrastructure upgrades. Urban planning in French colonial Africa similarly focused on health and hygiene issues, but also safety and security.
Unfortunately regional experiences with cholera, malaria and even Ebola in African cities provide little evidence that they have triggered a new urban planning ethic that prioritises infectious outbreaks.
References are often made to historical successes of urban planning in Africa. But colonial use of planning for cultural and structural isolation, as well as for socio-economic and spatial segregation, limited its capacity to respond to health emergencies. With the widespread nature of COVID-19, is it reasonable to argue that it could possibly be the pandemic that inspires a new way of “doing” urban planning in Africa?
Our recent research paper discusses three areas that can transform urban planning in the continent to prepare for future infectious outbreaks, using lessons from COVID-19.
Integrating the informal
The first relates to the integration of the city’s informal sector into the formal planning process. This is reflected in two ways. The first is the non-inclusion of informal settlements (mostly slums) in urban planning practice. The second is the lack of planning focus on the informal economy that results in exclusion. Yet this is a sector that constitutes more than 80% of Africa’s urban economy.
In a time of COVID-19, slums and informality are critical due to the sector’s vulnerability to transmission. It is challenging to deploy testing and contact tracing , as well as adhering to social distancing rules. Many slum residents in African cities lack access to basic essential services such as water, sanitation, housing and healthcare.
And, given that the informal sector is characterised by unregulated economic activities including uncontrolled hawking and unplanned open markets, overcrowding is impeding social and physical distancing rules in African cities.
Change is needed. Perhaps COVID-19 will be the wake-up call to spur the consolidation of existing and formal structures to becoming more responsive to managing health crises in slums and the informal sector.
Geographic and economic imbalances
Second, there are geographical and economic imbalances in urban planning in Africa. Investment patterns and development mostly focus on the major cities with limited focus on its adjoining districts and regions. Yet what happens in cities does not stay in cities.
Infectious diseases often have cascading effects on adjoining districts and regions with functional relationships to major cities. COVID-19 has affected both cities and their adjoining regions. However, adjoining districts continue to receive limited investment in critical infrastructures such as health, housing and other essential social services.
Given the disruptions to the supply chain between major cities and the adjoining districts due to the pandemic, it’s about time that planning practitioners and educators learn to prioritise urban planning to reflect these imbalances. A poorly managed relationship between cities and adjoining regions can create inequality that may lead to unhealthy city-regional inter-dependencies, environmental damage and unmanaged waves of health crises. These can have ripple effects across the urban-rural spectrum.
Planning in Africa should ensure city-regions are more resilient by addressing imbalances to produce a more integrated city-regional planning around health, economies, transport networks and food production.
Third, public health matters should be considered in urban planning. Health outcomes traditionally do not drive urban planning practice in Africa. In our study, urban green spaces are used as an example because the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted their importance in managing emergencies. Literature evidence suggests that African cities are rapidly losing their green spaces. This is due to, among other things, poor urban planning.
A new approach should bring open spaces into the heart of how African cities are planned, and management systems for local green space must improve. Integrating larger open spaces within the urban fabric allows cities to implement emergency services and evacuation protocols during health crises.
What frequently seems to be effective in advancing responses to health crises is an urban planning approach that integrates a range of infrastructure. This includes grey (such as treatment facilities and sewers), green (trees, lawns and parks) and blue (wetlands, rivers and flood plains) systems.
Although COVID-19 has profoundly transformed urban life globally, this article provides cautious optimism of its potential in managing future health crises in Africa. Going forward, urban planning in Africa needs to reflect the aspirations of urban residents and address multiple spatial inequalities, including access to better spaces in times of a pandemic.
Patrick Brandful Cobbinah, Lecturer, University of Melbourne; Ellis Adjei Adams, Assistant professor, University of Notre Dame, and Michael Odei Erdiaw-Kwasie, Research fellow, University of Southern Queensland
Recent media reports claim that a covert Kenyan paramilitary team is responsible for the unconstitutional killing of terror suspects in nighttime raids. The reports are based on interviews with US and Kenyan diplomatic and intelligence officials.
The team was trained, armed and supported by US and British intelligence officers.
It has been reported that since 2004, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programme has been operational in Kenya without public scrutiny. For its part, the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) has played a key role in identifying, tracking and fixing the location of targets.
This has drawn renewed attention to the reality of widespread foreign security operations in Africa.
Several African governments are hosting foreign military bases. This is despite the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council’s ongoing concerns about the proliferation of foreign military bases on the continent. The AU is also concerned about its inability to monitor the movement of weapons to and from these military bases. Regardless, a host of bilateral agreements between AU member states and foreign powers underlie the spread of foreign military forces across the continent.
At least 13 foreign powers have a substantial military presence on the continent. The US and France are at the forefront of conducting operations on African soil.
Moreover, private military groups are active in several conflict zones on African soil. Northern Mozambique is the most recent case.
These dynamics coincide with claims that Russian MiG-29 and Su-24 warplanes have now conducted missions in Libya in support of Kremlin-backed private military forces to extend Moscow’s influence in Africa.
Military base mapping
Currently, the US has 7,000 military personnel on rotational deployment in Africa. These troops carry out joint operations with African forces against extremists or jihadists. They are hosted in military outposts across the continent, including Uganda, South Sudan, Senegal, Niger, Gabon, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition, 2,000 American soldiers are involved in training missions in 40 African countries. American special forces operate across east Africa in so-called forward operation locations in Kenya and Somalia.
Like the US, France has either deployed military forces or established bases in a number of African countries. The country has more than 7,500 military personnel currently serving on the continent. Its largest presence is in the Sahel, especially in the border zone linking Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The presence of foreign military forces in Africa is not limited to Western powers. China has been particularly active with its military presence in the Horn of Africa. It has become more engaged since 2008 when it participated in the multinational anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.
Since then China has maintained an anti-piracy naval presence in the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden. Between 2008 and 2018, the Chinese Navy deployed 26,000 military personnel in a variety of maritime security operations.
Lemonnier was established alongside French, Italian, Spanish, German and Japanese bases. China has developed a 36-hectare military facility to host several thousand Chinese troops and provide facilities for ships, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
China’s military base in Djibouti was set up to support five mission areas. These are counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden; intelligence collection on other countries; noncombat evacuation of Chinese citizens in East Africa; international peacekeeping operations where Chinese soldiers are deployed; and counter-terrorism operations.
India is another Asian nation that has increased its naval presence in Africa. The country has established a network of military facilities across the Indian Ocean to counter China’s rising military footprint in the region.
It also wants to protect its commercial sea lanes from piracy.
India has ongoing deployments that monitor developments in the Horn of Africa and Madagascar. The country also plans to establish 32 coastal radar surveillance stations with sites in the Seychelles, Mauritius, and other locations outside Africa.
When it comes to the Middle East, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the two countries with a notable military presence in Africa.
Turkey joined the international counter-piracy task force off the Somali coast in 2009. In 2017, it opened a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia. The purpose is to train recruits for the Somali National Army. Turkey will also support the Somali navy and coastguard.
The UAE has had a military base in Eritrea since 2015. It comprises a military airfield with aircraft shelters and a deepwater naval port. The base has been used in operations against opposition forces in Yemen.
Foreign military motivations
It is clear that the Horn is the epicentre of foreign military activity in Africa. Foreign troops have been deployed there to counter threats to international peace, subdue terror groups and pirates, and support foreign security initiatives.
But there are other motivations to establish military bases in Africa. These include protection of commercial interests, aligning with friendly regimes, and expressing dominance on a continent that is the focus of rising global competition.
Of course, Africa is not the exception. The US, for example, also maintains a substantial military and security presence in the Gulf region. It has bases in countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE.
For some observers it might seem like foreign governments are imposing their militaries on Africa, but, in fact, many African governments are keen to host them.
Bilateral agreements with major powers generate income for African states. The opening of China’s military base in Djibouti is a case in point. Most of Djibouti’s economy relies on Chinese credit.
The presence of foreign military forces has also played a significant role in fighting terror groups. These include groups like al-Shabaab in East Africa and jihadists in Mali. This explains why several African countries are willing to turn to foreign governments for advice, intelligence and support.
But there is a downside to the presence of foreign forces on the continent. For instance, the African security landscape has become overcrowded by a multiplicity of foreign security and military activities. These activities often function at cross purposes.
The competition among some of the world’s powers has been heightened by the increasing presence of Asian powers. China’s expanding presence in Djibouti has caused concern.
Its influence in Africa and the Indian Ocean has ruffled feathers within Japanese and Indian political and security circles. A Chinese monopoly could impede their engagement with the continent.
Finally, African countries are not agreed on how to regulate foreign security and military activities. The approach so far has been disjointed.
Though Africa’s peacekeeping capacity has increased significantly, the AU is still highly dependent on external funding and resources for its peacekeeping operations. It does not have the freedom to take independent strategic, operational and even tactical decisions in its operations.
As long as these shortcomings exist in Africa’s response to armed conflict, foreign militaries and intelligence services will continue to operate on the continent.
These are matters that have to be addressed before African states can heed the AU Peace and Security Council’s concerns about extensive foreign military involvement on the continent.
There is no shortage of technological innovations designed to boost animal agriculture in Africa. These range from GPS tracking systems which identify and trace pastoralists’ herds to livestock vaccine SMS services that alert farmers to disease outbreaks.
But to unlock the economic potential of the sector as demand for meat and milk swells threefold towards 2050, countries must invest in the critical areas that will improve quality across the whole value chain. That is increasing productivity and quality from the breeding of the animal throughout the production process to the end product. This includes safe storage, handling and sale.
My native Uganda offers some useful lessons from its use of smart investments in technology and farmer organisation. These have made it the only East African country that is self-sufficient in milk.
In recent years, some private sector players in Uganda have invested in testing systems to detect aflatoxin in animal feeds. The goal is to prevent milk and meat contamination. Others have developed refrigeration units that are powered with biogas from manure. Both are among the innovations that improve the quality of the final product.
As highlighted by a new report from the Malabo Montpellier Panel on which I sit, the same can be achieved elsewhere. It can also benefit other livestock commodities, to give Africa food sovereignty across animal-sourced foods and greater access to international markets.
The report makes 11 recommendations for Africa’s livestock sector. These range from technological innovations and supportive policies to addressing trade barriers and challenges specific to each commodity.
African nations must be strategic in prioritising the infrastructure that will make the most difference to quality and productivity. The first priority is to increase consumer awareness around food safety, nutrition and sustainability to kickstart demand for better quality products.
Partly as a response to European consumer expectations around quality and safety, for example, Morocco developed a new system for animal identification and traceability in 2015.
Livestock can be identified using electronic tags that communicate with the national database via mobile phone networks. This increases transparency and traceability. It also promotes Moroccan animal products on international markets such as the European Union.
The second priority is then to direct technology towards opportunities to open up market access.
To unlock trade means investing in improved animal health, processing operations, storage and distribution. Meeting regional and international standards for food safety and quality is a vital goal. Africa currently contributes 2.8% of the global meat market, which translates to 14 million tons. The continent produces just over 10% of the world’s milk.
There are a number of barriers to increasing this production and gaining greater market share. They include limited availability of quality animal feed, access to affordable energy needed in producing and processing livestock, and limited infrastructure, particularly in the last mile.
With meat and milk being perishable goods, innovation in the cold chain and sustainable energy supplies will help strengthen the sector.
For example, an East African initiative which centralised milk quality testing and storage in chillers prior to sale increased yields sixfold within five years.
The volume of milk supplied to the 30km catchment area rose to three million litres a month. This increased income per smallholder household by more than 160% in Uganda, 120% in Kenya, and almost 65% in Rwanda.
The success of such projects in turn drives demand for continued innovation, such as solar-powered cold chains or interventions that protect other resources like water and grasslands.
Finally, countries also need to prioritise policies that support new technologies across the livestock sector.
To transform its milk production sector, Uganda privatised the state-owned processing company Dairy Corporation as well as creating a Dairy Development Authority.
The Dairy Industry Act of 1998 empowered the authority to enforce milk hygiene standards and quality controls. As a result, traders were licensed to meet public health and milk quality standards. This encouraged the modernisation of the sector through the expansion of pasteurisation plants and processing infrastructure as well as processing of high value products.
Certainly, the gains have trickled down to the farmers in better farm gate prices.
As the Malabo Montpellier Panel points out, many of the tools needed to tap into the potential of Africa’s livestock sector exist already. But with limited resources, they must be deployed smartly to improve the entire value chain.
Scaling up innovation at critical points will unlock new opportunities and help ensure animal agriculture keeps pace with a rising demand from a growing population.
Radisson Hotel Group announced the addition of six new hotels to its African portfolio, bringing the total to almost 100 hotels across 32 African markets.
The six new hotel deals include:
Radisson Collection Hotel Bamako, Mali
Scheduled to open within the next six months following a re-branding, the hotel introduces Radisson Hotel Group’s premium lifestyle brand to Africa, as the first Radisson Collection hotel to open in the continent.
The operational hotel is currently rated number one on TripAdvisor for its prime location in the heart of Bamako and proximity to the city’s diplomatic district and great accessibility. The 200-room affordable luxury hotel will offer exceptional dining experiences across its five food and beverage outlets, from an all-day dining restaurant and a specialty restaurant to a café, a bar and an executive lounge. The hotel also offers an expansive 1,200sqm meeting & events area consisting of a ballroom and seven conference rooms. For the ultimate contemporary living, guests can stay fit in the hotel’s fully equipped gym or unwind in a serene setting within the spa or alongside the pool.
With the introduction of Radisson Collection in the city, the existing Radisson Blu Hotel, Bamako is expected to commence a full renovation program towards year end.
Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja City Centre, Nigeria
The Radisson Blu Hotel Abuja City Centre, scheduled to open in 2024, is the Group’s first hotel in the city, complementing the existing nine hotels in operation and under development in Nigeria.
Located in the heart of the central business district of Nigeria’s Federal Capital, the 258-room hotel will boast five different food and beverage outlets from a specialty restaurant and all-day-dining restaurant to a Lobby Bar & Café, a picturesque pool terrace and a premium business class lounge. The leisure facilities will include a 555sqm wellness spa, a gym and a swimming pool to maintain guest’s wellness.
Radisson Hotel & Convention Centre Johannesburg, O.R. Tambo
Scheduled to open before year end, the hotel will introduce the Group’s upscale Radisson brand to Johannesburg. Located on a private estate in Bredell, Kempton Park, the hotel has easy access to major highways joining Johannesburg and Pretoria and is approximately 10 minutes’ drive away from O.R Tambo International Airport, Africa’s biggest and busiest airport, facilitating over 21 million passengers in 2018.
The newly built hotel will offer an array of dining options, including four restaurants, three bars an entertainment deck and an executive lounge.
The hotels 289 modern and timelessly designed rooms comprise of 248 which are newly built and 41 which have been converted from an existing hotel. In addition, it has a large MICE facility, which includes a significant conference centre with a 1,260-seater auditorium and five conference rooms. The leisure facilities will include a gym, spa & wellness centre as well as three outdoor pools.
Scheduled to open within the next six months following a re-branding, the hotel introduces Radisson Hotel Group’s premium lifestyle brand to Africa.
Radisson Hotel Addis Ababa
Radisson Hotel Group’s fifth hotel in Ethiopia, scheduled to open in 2021, is located just 4km from Ethiopia’s newly expanded Addis Ababa Bole International Airport terminal, now the biggest airport aviation hub in Africa, expected to accommodate 22 million passengers a year.
The 114-room hotel will boast a wide variety of food and drink outlets, the hotel will offer guests a truly local experience in a traditional Ethiopian specialty restaurant and bar and appease international taste buds in a bespoke all-day-dining restaurant which leads out into a pool bar. In addition, the hotel will also have a third bespoke panoramic bar.
Radisson Hotel & Apartments Accra, Ghana
The hotel, scheduled to open in 2023, is a full renovation of an existing 121 room hotel and construction of an additional tower which will offer 54 hotel apartments, creating a mixed-use development. The hotel is located on Tema Highway, Ghana’s largest port located to the East of Accra. Within a 3km radius of the hotel is the Kotoka International Airport, Accra Mall and the Airport City complex, a mixed-use development with several Grade AAA office towers and retail outlets.
From an all-day dining restaurant, lobby bar and rooftop restaurant, bar and pool terrace, every culinary preference will be catered for. The versatile meeting and events facilities are made up of 12 different venues with an area of 1,173sqm. The hotel will also include a gym, spa and swimming pool.
Park Inn by Radisson, Durban Intl. Airport, Dube, South Africa
The new-build hotel introduces the upper midscale Park Inn by Radisson brand to Durban and strengthens Radisson Hotel Group’s current portfolio of 15 hotels (3,007 rooms) in operation and under development in the country. It will also complement the national business circuit with a Park Inn by Radisson in each of the three major cities of South Africa (Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg).
Claiming its foremost milestone, it is the first hotel within Dube Trade Port Special Economic Zone, which forms the heart of the first purpose-planned aerotropolis in Africa, around King Shaka International Airport. The 168-room hotel scheduled to open in 2022, will have a lobby bar, rooftop all-day dining restaurant and rooftop pool terrace with eight different meeting & event venues.
This is a flashback. Just about a year ago, the tough speaking Ugandan President, Yuweri Museveni blamed the World Bank and the West as a whole for driving Africa into Chinese arms by their refusal to fund railways projects across Africa.
Hosting some Chinese officials then, President Museveni lashed at the World Bank for refusing to lend Uganda money to build a railway network,noting that the World Bank told off Uganda when it sought for funds, that countries that “build railways use own money.”
He said that such a statement from an economist purports to support Africa’s transformation through private-sector led growth shows that some actors are not serious. Museveni, who was in China for a four-day visit, told a meeting in Beijing that Uganda Railways tried to get money to fund railway construction from the World Bank but in vain.
“One of our engineers recently told me that the Uganda Railways tried in vain to get support from the World Bank until one official told them that countries that build railways do so with “their own money,” Museveni said.
“How will the private-sector grow if it is bedevilled with expensive transport costs, expensive electricity costs or no electricity at all, expensive cost of money, etc.? It is against that negativity, that China’s solidarity should be measured.”
“As we gather here, therefore, we cannot forget to salute the Communist parties of China, the USSR, Cuba and the other socialist countries that constituted the third factor in our emancipation,” he said.
Reality a Year After
A year after , Uganda appears to have fallen out with Beijing on railway financing. China was unwilling to commit such fund after the faltering experience of Kenya.
Kampala has eventually resorted to a mixture of private public sector funding of her railway revival. It has slowed down the SGR agenda and in turn opted for rehabilitation of the old guage lines.
Interestingly, the Ugandan government has engaged a western led consortium in the rehabilitation efforts. Just two or so weeks ago, the national government of the Republic of Uganda approved US$ 376M for the 215km Malaba – Kampala meter-gauge railway refurbishment project.
An additional investment of over US$ 12M has also been approved to purchase eight locomotives for the line and more than US$ 2.5M for routine repairs across the network.
This was revealed by Charles Kateeba, the managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) in a letter addressed to the parliamentary committee on matters of national economy.
According to Mr. Kateeba, the Malaba – Kampala meter-gauge railway refurbishment would not only bring to life cheaper means of transport but also help reduce the number of trucks on the roads which would consequently lead to the reduction of wear and tear effect on the East African country highway roads.
Furthermore, the government hopes that the Malaba – Kampala meter-gauge railway refurbishment will reduce cross-border road traffic and help to limit the transmission of any future pandemics such as COVID-19.
The ambitious Uganda Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project
The above-mentioned investment is part of the ambitious Uganda Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project which aims to improve freight connections particularly between the capital city of Uganda and the country’s eastern border with Kenya.
The project includes the redevelopment and reconstruction of the East African country’s dilapidated 1,266km, 1000mm-gauge network to standard gauge and extension of the network to approximately 1,724km.
All this will be done in four sections: Malaba – Kampala, Kampala – Mpondwe, Tororo – Gulu, and Bihanga – Mirama Hills.
The construction of the Tororo – Gulu section has already been contracted to Vinci Group subsidiaries namely Sogea Satom and the ETF.
The two companies will replace the entire section 375km meter-gauge railway with a standard gauge railway.
They will also be responsible for the production and installation of 200,000m3 of ballast and the replacement and repair of sleepers, rails, and fastenings.
When Khimbini Hlongwane spent most of his small safari tour company’s savings on the deposit for a new minibus in February, it seemed like a safe bet.
His revenues had doubled in the previous year. And bookings by American, British, and Brazilian tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of elephants, giraffes and lions at South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park were up.
Now, with borders closed and airlines grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Africa’s multi-billion-dollar safari industry is unravelling and he can no longer afford the payments on the new 21-seater, which sits collecting dust in the parking lot.
“It hasn’t moved since the day we bought it,” said Hlongwane, who has been forced to stop paying the salaries of his five employees. “We could’ve been using that money to survive right now.”
From Kenya’s Masai Mara to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, rural communities that depend on safaris for income are seeing their livelihoods and dreams shattered. Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the sector, not to mention their dependents.
A slump in tourist dollars has hit conservation projects hard. And even as countries around the world loosen lockdowns, game parks, lodges and travel agencies face a grim future.
The safari industry generates some $12.4 billion in annual revenues for South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania Uganda and Zambia - Africa’s top wildlife tourist destinations - according to an estimate by SafariBookings.
But a survey of over 300 tour operators conducted by the online safari travel platform this month showed that almost 93 percent reported a drop in bookings of at least 75 percent due to the pandemic. Cancellations have also spiked, the majority of them said.
‘HOW LONG CAN WE CARRY ON?’
Leon Plutsick’s Distinctly Africa lodge on the Manyeleti private game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park had been full in March.
Today, his employees are sitting at home and baboons have ransacked his unstaffed kitchen.
“We’re getting to a point where we have to ask ourselves how long do we carry on?” he said. “A lot of us are living on reserves just to survive.”
Plutsick is not alone.
A survey of close to 500 businesses in the Kruger Lowveld district - South Africa’s safari heartland - conducted by the local tourism agency last month, found 90 percent believed they would not survive even if international borders opened immediately.
Over two-thirds of them have laid off employees.
The lack of tourist dollars is forcing wildlife projects across Africa to make cuts, and beyond the human cost, conservationists worry that growing desperation in rural communities hit by Covid-19 could fuel a wave of poaching.
Three popular game parks in South Africa recently dehorned dozens of rhinos as a preventative measure, hoping that it would make them less attractive targets for poachers.
In Mabarhule, a community on the edge of Kruger National Park, roughly half of residents were already jobless before the pandemic.
Freelance workers like Sipho Nkosi - a tour guide and father of four who typically makes around 550 rand ($33) per tour - have found themselves without a safety net.
“We’d saved some money. But its running out, so we’ll start starving,” said Nkosi, standing outside a half-completed community hall that was being built using tourist donations.
‘A BIGGER HOLE?’
The Madilika Craft Centre sits so close to the boundary of the Kruger National Park that lions can sometimes be heard roaring in the distance.
A layer of dust now coats the pink walls of the women’s cooperative, which shut when the private game lodges where it sold its traditional Xitsonga beaded jewellery closed down in March.
Now, with her income gone, co-founder Jane Mashele is hoping the sweet potatoes and spinach in her garden will be enough to feed her four orphaned grandchildren.
“We started the centre because we were tired of sitting at home with no jobs,” she said. “This is terrible.”
In South Africa, which has recorded the most Covid-19 cases of any African nation, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane warned parliament last month that up to 600,000 jobs were at risk if the sector remained shut until September.
Governments’ relief initiatives - like South Africa’s offer of 50,000 rand ($3,000) one-time grants to small tourism businesses - will do little to staunch the losses, some operators said.
In the face of looming financial calamity, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa - the industry’s lobby group - is pushing for international tourism to resume as early as September.
With the pandemic’s peak on most of the continent still predicted to be months away, that appears unlikely.
South Africa’s government has instead said regional and international tourism are only expected to resume next year.
Kenya, Namibia and Rwanda also remain closed to international visitors, while in Zambia tourists are permitted but face a two-week quarantine upon arrival. Tanzania has dropped quarantine requirements and is welcoming foreign guests.
One East African tour operator said even if restrictions were eased, international travellers could be discouraged by the possibility of quarantines when they return home.
In the meantime, South Africa, for one, hopes domestic visitors can drive the first phase of a recovery. South African national parks are now opening for self-driving safaris.
But overnight visits and travel across provincial borders remain banned under current restrictions. Even when permitted, some operators worry that local visitors will not be enough to save their businesses.
“To open for two or four or six people, is it actually worth it?” asked lodge owner Plutsick. “I’ll just be digging myself a bigger hole.”
The traditional leadership and redeemer posture of Nigeria in Africa has, in recent years, been put into question.
Issues like corruption and infrastructural decay have held the country down from playing a leadership role in Africa. As have transitions from one poor leadership to another. A visionary leadership is lacking while public institutions are weak, inept and compromised. Decades of political patronage and nepotism have seen a corrosion of quality and performance in the public service.
In addition, the intractable problem of Boko Haram and Islamic State, coupled with kidnappings, have created a security crisis. All continue to shatter the myth of military invincibility and the might of the Nigerian state.
In the beginning, it was not so. From independence in 1960, Nigeria took upon itself the role of uniting Africa against western recolonisation. The continent, from then on in, became the centre-piece of its foreign policy. The fact that nations were living under foreign rule made it possible to galvanise them around a common cause. This led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity – now the African Union – in 1963 and Economic Community of West African States in 1975.
Nigeria assumed a leading role in these events as it forged a foreign policy with a strong Afrocentric posture. In fact, so frenetic was its involvement in this role that it sometimes paid little attention to the home front.
Nigeria’s leadership role on the continent was a product of the vision, dreams and, sometimes, whims of the founding fathers. They were nevertheless premised on real national capacity. Jaja Wachukwu, Nigeria’s first external affairs minister noted in 1960 that:
Our country is the largest single unit in Africa… we are not going to abdicate the position in which God Almighty has placed us. The whole black continent is looking up to this country to liberate it from thraldom.
This defined the country’s behaviour and continental outlook and has continued to influence successive administrations – weak or effective.
Assuming a leadership role
The sheer size of Nigeria’s population – the largest on the continent which rose from 48.3 million in 1963 to over 200 million in 2020 — gave the country the idea that Africa was its natural preoccupation.
In addition, its colonial experience and the abundance of its oil resources and wealth have empowered Nigeria economically. This made it possible for the country to pursue an ambitious foreign policy. It also permitted Nigeria to finance its Civil War, strengthening its international independence. And oil made possible an unparalleled post-war recovery.
Nigeria has used its influence to good effect and to good ends. For example, it worked with other countries in the West African sub-region to establish the Economic Community of West African States in 1975. It went on to push for the prevention and resolution of devastating conflicts that engulfed Liberia in 1992. The conflict spilled over into Sierra Leone and other countries in the region. Nigeria spearheaded the cessation of hostilities and created the cease-fire monitoring group to bring a total end to the civil strife and restore democracy in both countries.
Many observers agree that the sterling performance of the monitoring group is unparalleled in the history of regional organisations the world over. It has now become a model to emulate for its operational efficiency and for giving regional actors pride of place in the resolution of regional conflicts.
It spent over US$10 billion in these peace campaigns and also lost soldiers in the process.
Nigeria has not limited its peacekeeping role to West Africa. It has also been engaged in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia-Eritrea.
The country also played the most important role in fighting apartheid in Southern Africa and supporting liberation movements on the continent.
But Nigeria has not been immune to challenges facing countries on the continent. Corruption, misappropriation of public funds, electoral malpractices, insurgency and terrorism have devastated its capacity and weakened its moral fortitude to lead the continent.
Amidst enormous wealth, poverty in Nigeria is endemic . It could even become the poverty capital of the world, according to The World Poverty Clock. Nigerians have been reduced to the behest of the politicians that tie them to gridlock of “stomach infrastructure”. This is a new trend which reflects institutionalised and structural poverty. Deprivation puts people in a vulnerable and compromised position where the desperation for survival makes them sell their votes and conscience.
The slow movement of the current administration is also killing the Nigerian spirit and leadership posture. South Africa, Ghana and even Madagascar have acted faster in continental and global politics, including during times of emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. But Nigeria seems content with a spectator position.
Nigeria has been relegated to the background of international affairs. To turn this around requires a revisit to the roots – and mowing the lawns afterwards. Nigeria must take stock of its own performance and capacities and re-position itself – first from within.
If Nigerian leaders are increasingly determined to proffer African solutions to their problems, then political structures and institutions must be reformed to reflect conditions suitable for sustainable development. Without a formidable political base, the economy will remain weak and fragile. The political base is crucial, because, the state is the repository of all ramifications and dimensions of power – political, economic, technological and military. And the purpose of the state is to authoritatively allocate these resources.
There is also a need to empower people to mobilise their local resources and to use them for development. And, of course, public funds should not be concentrated in the hands of few individuals, who may be tempted to steal them. An accountable system is one in which money management has several checks.
Oil wealth has been the country’s nemesis, a curse that has promoted corruption and blatant bleeding of the economy. But it is declining in value and as source of national revenue. Now is the time for Nigeria to make good its repeated and well-advertised intentions to diversify the economy.
A de-emphasis on oil would open the door to smarter ideas about how to create wealth. It would also herald in getting rid of a great deal of the phlegm of corruption which has played such a central role in Nigeria’s infrastructural decay, eroded its influence and given it such a negative image.
Added to this is the succession of weak rulers since 2007.
African leaders do not look towards Nigeria anymore for counsel, inspiration and help. They think Nigeria has a lot on its plate already and needs help. The potential is still there for Nigeria to return to power; but it takes leadership to (re)build the auspicious atmosphere and to activate the country’s potential – the two steps required to regain that enviable frontliner spot on the continent.
The Supreme Court of Zambia has just delivered a fundamental and remarkable Judgement. It has fined Mopani Copper Mines $13 million!
This is a case in which the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has been battling with Mopani Copper Mines and its Swiss parent company Glencore since 2009. Glencore PLC is a British multinational commodity trading and mining company with its headquarters based in Baar, Switzerland.
The background is that the ZRA conducted an Audit of Mopani Copper Mines for the period 2006 – 2009, which revealed that the transactions between the company and its Swiss parent multinational, Glencore International AG (GIAG) violated the Arm’s Length Standards (ALS).
An arm’s length transaction refers to a business deal or transaction in which a buyer and seller act independently without one party influencing the other.
Chief Justice Ireen Mambilima sitting with Justice Nigel Mutuna and Justice Mumba Malila ruled that any tax authority would find serious misgivings on the lack of arm’s length on the revealed transactions between Mopani and Glencore.
The Court found Mopani liable of abusing transfer pricing and used it as a mechanism to avoid paying full taxes due to ZRA.
The core part of domestic revenue mobilization for any country is taxation of its citizens and the private sector. For Zambia, its mineral resources present an unparalleled economic opportunity to increase domestic revenue through effective taxation of the mining sector.
Despite the tremendous wealth inherent in this sector, Zambia has been struggling to obtain significant financial benefits through taxes from the sector.
This is due to various factors including the volatile mining tax regime policies but also the increasing tax-avoidance schemes perpetrated by mine houses that might appear legal but are aggressively aimed at reducing the amount of tax payable.
Multinationals increasingly abuse transfer pricing as a mechanism to avoid paying tax. Developing economies are now increasingly aware of these schemes especially the abuse of transfer pricing. African governments are now establishing robust legislative and administrative frameworks to deal with transfer pricing issues.
For Zambia, curbing the abuse of transfer pricing, is a development financing issue, because without adequate tax revenues, our ability to mobilise domestic resources for development is heavily hampered.
The sensitive challenge for Zambia has been to balance the need to protect its tax base while not seen to be discouraging or hampering foreign direct investment in the mining sector.
Zambia has joined many African countries that have begun to put in place, legal rules on the taxation of cross border transactions and the latest Supreme Court Judgement will go a long way in enhancing these measures.
It should be noted that this “arm’s length principle” as emphasised by the Supreme Court of Zambia is at the core of most global standards on controlling transfer pricing perpetrated by multinationals.
AFRICA LOSES $50 BILLION A YEAR IN ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS.
Over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess of $1 trillion in illicit financial flows (Kar and Cartwright-Smith 2010; Kar and Leblanc 2013).
This amount excludes capital flight. Capital flight is a large-scale exodus of financial assets and capital from a nation due to events such as political or economic instability, currency devaluation or the imposition of capital CONTROLS. This process could entirely be legal or licit.
To resolve the crisis of illicit financial flows and outflows from Africa, the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa tasked the fourth Joint African Union Commission and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (AUC/ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in 2011to handle the matter.
The Conference established a High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa. Illicit financial flows (IFFs) is defined as money that is illegally earned, transferred or
utilize. These funds typically originate from three sources: commercial tax evasion, trade mis-invoicing and the abuse of transfer pricing.
Other origins of illicit financial flows include criminal
activities such as the drug trade, human trafficking, illegal arms dealing, and smuggling of contraband, illegal wildlife trade and bribery and theft by corrupt government officials.
The Panel headed by South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, established that Africa loses over $50 billion a year through tax avoidance and fraud schemes largely perpetrated by multinational corporations operating in Africa.
It became clear that Africa was a net-creditor to the rest of the world, despite the regular inflow of official development
assistance. The continent continues to suffer from a crisis of insufficient resources for development, largely caused by illicit financial flows.
The Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa recommended that Africa must implement measures to radically reduce illicit capital outflows from Africa.
The Panel recognised that the goals of ending poverty in Africa, the goal to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at reducing inequality within and among nations, and the hope to give practical effect to the fundamental objective of the right of all to development, was attainable if African governments and its partners curbed the illicit financial outflows.
About The Author: Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba is Zambia’s Permanent Representative to the African Union and to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
I must repeat that Africa deserves to be paid a compensation for the damages COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on lives and livelihoods.
In their prickly reaction to my April 16 Washington Post #ChinaMustPay article (a response published in the Guardian Newspaper of May 3, 2020), the Government of China through their Embassy in Nigeria missed the opportunity to responsibly address the serious issues raised.
I must repeat that Africa deserves to be paid a compensation for the damages COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on lives and livelihoods.
Unfortunately and unfairly, my country, Nigeria, is one of fifty-four countries in Africa that are struggling to respond to the disruptive effects of China’s failure to take responsibility for a pandemic that could have been easily contained and localized to avoid the ruin it has caused our continent and the world at large.
Since Beijing failed to adhere to basic scientific and research transparency in the critical early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, it must accept responsibility with humility. Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili
Therefore, a legitimate demand for accountability and payment of penalties by rich and powerful countries for damages their behaviors do to vulnerable people ought not to attract the kind of sour response China released.
There are six points that authorities in Beijing ought to humbly consider.
First, it is now clear to the world that China’s opaque handling of the pandemic is costing my country, our continent and people too much in lost lives and livelihoods. The unjustified suffering of the poor and vulnerable brought on by the actions of a comparatively rich and powerful country demands a new system for addressing global inequities.
I maintain that information in the public domain points to the fact that China suppressed vital information from the rest of the world on COVID-19. The burden to present convincing counter-factual information lies with China and,so far, it has failed to do so.
Second, I assert again that China owes Africa yet-to-be-estimated compensation. Its acts of negligence in December and early January resulted in a fast-spreading global pandemic that collapsed the continent’s economic growth from 2.9% in 2019 to negative 5.1% in 2020. Most importantly, China should, in the interim, take responsibility and ease the severe fiscal pressure on our countries, by announcing a cancellation of over $140 Billion in loans its government, contractors and banks have advanced to Africa over the last two decades.
Following this debt cancelation, an international consortium made up of the G20, China, Africa Union Commission and global institutions like the United Nations, World Bank and IMF should be constituted to assess the full extent of damages and the compensation due.
Third, Chinese authorities should know that we are Africans who are not lackeys of any power. Laying a baseless charge of “dancing to the tune of others” to an African reveals an appalling mindset toward our continent. It may in fact be this same sort of attitude that frames the extremely offensive profiling of Africans who are resident in China.
We do not dance to the drumbeat of any country or any continent -- our sole tune is the African Beat.
Fourth, the spirit of transparency ought to be in China’s own interest. It is intriguing that Beijing has so far failed to embrace my suggestion to allow an Independent International Panel of Experts to review and assess China’s handling of the COVID19 pandemic. Why? Is China afraid of full disclosure that can help the world learn vital lessons on how to manage global threats and risks better?
Fifth, this global New Normal requires faster prevention of cross-border risks and threats. The best antidotes to minimize global negative externalities that harm the weak and vulnerable are absolute transparency and removal of information asymmetries by countries.
As part of this New Normal, the global community has a duty to learn and correct past failures to penalize bad behavior. My #ChinaMustPay article is a call therefore to innovate global mechanisms that compel countries to start now to do the right things whenever risks and threats emerge.
Innovation is what China rode on to economic greatness. What then is wrong with asking for such as a legitimate part of our global New Normal?
Sixth, it should be in China’s historic and conscientious national interest to prevent future exploitation of vulnerable countries by economic supwerpowers. I did acknowledge previous global risks that similarly emanated from other rich and powerful countries and injured Africa’s economic growth and development. I find it hard to believe that China, given its history and experience with colonial mistreatment, would want this cyclical pattern to continue. Do the authorities in Beijing really want Africans to simply accept harmful actions of rich and powerful countries?
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in an April 2020 report on coronavirus pandemic stated that “over 300,000 Africans may lose their lives due to COVID-19.” According to the Africa Union Commission, the coronavirus is already collapsing many economies in Africa and worsening poverty. Already, the livelihoods of hundreds of millions on the continent, especially children, young people and women are already lost to the damaging economic disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The IMF calls the impact of the pandemic on Africa as “the worst reading on record”. It went further to state that Africa’s “Fiscal space is limited, and fiscal financing needs to address the crisis are large - at least $114 billion for this year”. International rating agencies have massively downgraded the credit ratings of African countries making investors more skittish.
I proposed a penalty system in the form of a Global Risk Burden Tax that will from now be payable to weaker and more vulnerable countries and their people whenever forced to bear a disproportionate burden from preventable global risks that emanate from rich and powerful countries.Such penalty tax would also serve as a disincentive to prevent the kind of unbecoming actions and decisions that escalated the spread of the deadly virus out of Wuhan.
China must know that where our lives and livelihoods are concerned, no country, regardless of how powerful it may be, can intimidate us Africans ever again.
Beijing should do the right thing now and accept the debt it owes Africa as a result of its failures on COVID-19. That is how responsible world powers should behave in the 21st Century if they are to be taken seriously.
Ezekwesili is the former vice-president for the Africa region at the World Bank and the former minister of education for Nigeria. She is the co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls Movement.
“We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we don’t know is how to bring the dead back to life.” – Nana Akufo Addo, president of Ghana
The total number of deaths in the coronavirus pandemic has passed the 250,000 mark. The health and economic calamity continues to evolve rapidly; the world is scrambling to understand it.
Even as there are signs that the curve is flattening in the U.S., scene of one-third of the world’s fatalities, estimates of how many will die have doubled from 60 to 120,000. Italy and Spain, two of the worst hit countries in Europe, have peaked.
California, the largest state in America, has flattened the curve, joining Asian nations such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and, of course, China. Europeans and North Americans are starting to emerge from lockdown. New Zealand claims to have totally eliminated community transmission of coronavirus.
But the virus is continuing to take its toll. The United Kingdom has passed the 20,000 death mark; Russia, which appeared initially to have escaped the worst, is battling with an outbreak that led President Vladimir Putin to declare that “we don’t have much to brag about.”
New infections and deaths are on the rise in Brazil and Ecuador, giving rise to fears that the third wave of the coronavirus will be experienced in the developing world.
Despite dire forecasts, Africa has so far experienced only a fraction of the number of cases seen elsewhere.
By late April, the known infections worldwide was 3.4 million and the number of deaths about 240,000. Africa had only 45,000 reported cases, with 1,800 deaths – less than one per cent of the total in both categories.
Though it is too early to claim anything conclusive, fears of a tsunami of cases in Africa have not been lost yet.
In a continent as large as Africa with 54 countries, it is hard to pinpoint what explains this. One possibility is that, other than South Africa and Ghana, there has been less testing. This is suggested by the fact that Africa’s morbidity rate – the number of people who die after contracting the virus – is around 5 per cent, compared to a world average of less than two per cent.
South Africa – with 90 deaths and about 5,000 cases – has a case fatality rate (CFR) of about 1.8 per cent, somewhat less than the rest of the region but close to the global average.
The global CFR could in reality be much lower, as it is believed that many more people have been infected than tested positive. This is certainly the case in the U.S. where, as more testing has been carried out, the CFR has decreased.
Further complicating the picture are suggestions based on data from New York, Italy, the U.K. and Spain that the actual number of deaths from COVID-19 is at least twice the official number. People who die at home or in nursing homes before they are tested are not counted.
Curve flattens in South Africa’s powerhouses
While the number of positive cases in South Africa has risen along with more testing, it is still not increasing at anywhere near the level of the worst hit regions.
Relatively speaking, South Africa has contained the spread since the first cases were brought in on a flight from Italy in early March.
The South African response was decisive and carefully thought out and much credit goes to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in the way they have led the response and mobilised the country.
Because of our history with the HIV/AIDS crisis, the country has some of the best infectious disease experts and epidemiologists in the world, exemplified by the husband and wife team of Salim Abdool Karim and Qarraisha Abdool Karim.
South Africa was also willing to learn from what worked in other countries such as South Korea and China.
Most experts agree that the lockdown has limited the spread of the virus, reducing infection rates and delaying the onset of the peak and buying us time.
But there is no cause for complacency. Professor Salim Karim has warned that preventing exponential spread in South Africa is very, very unlikely.
Professor Shabir Madhi, of Wits University, who is heading the public health subcommittee advising the president, estimates that up to 45,000 South Africans could die from COVID-19. That means the worst is yet to come.
Nigeria, with a long experience of dealing with infectious diseases – and a history of containing Ebola during the 2014 epidemic – has also flattened out the number of positive cases, although new cases continue to rise.
Still, there is growing concern out of the most populous State, Kano, where a number of elderly people, including some of the State’s most prominent citizens, have died in recent weeks. These deaths have been attributed to other causes but with the negligible amount of testing, we are unable to know for sure.
But while the continent’s two biggest economic powers are not typical, it is striking how uniform the African numbers are. No African country has yet been affected anywhere close to the scale of the worst affected countries.
The African Exception?
From the beginning, there have been warnings that Africa, with its dense urban slums, large numbers of people with chronic illnesses, and inadequate public health systems could be facing a catastrophe.
But this has so far proven not to be the case.
In response, there have been suggestions on social media that people are resistant to the disease by virtue of being black.
The U.S. is, sadly, proving the opposite. African-Americans are dying at alarmingly higher rates than other population groups.
In Chicago, about 70 per cent of deaths are black, while the city is only 30 per cent black. In Milwaukee in Wisconsin, where only 26 per cent are black, 73 per cent of those dying are black. In the nation’s capital, Washington DC, it is 44 per cent and 72 per cent.
Eugene Scott, in the Washington Post, puts this down to four factors that are specific to African-Americans: higher rates of underlying health conditions and less access to health care; blacks holding a lot of the “essential” jobs that make social distancing difficult; insufficient information from the government reaching the black community; and racial disparities in housing.
All of these factors are prevalent to an equal or even greater degree in South Africa, where housing for the majority of the population and the access to health care is often worse.
Unlike the Great Recession of a decade ago, all the major economies will be struggling or crashing at the same time. Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, said 170 of its 189 member countries will suffer falling output in 2020. “The bleak outlook applies to advanced and developing economies alike. This crisis knows no boundaries. Everybody hurts”…
What is extraordinary is how much we still don’t know about the silent killer that the New York Times this week described as capricious: “The question of why the virus has overwhelmed some places and left others relatively untouched is a puzzle that has spawned numerous theories and speculations but no definitive answers.”
What seems to be the case is that Africa was the last continent to be affected because of proportionately fewer air links with the rest of the world. By moving to lockdown early on, many African authorities have slowed the spread of the virus in the general population, but we have to contend with the reality that the constrictions on economic activity cannot be sustained.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control has warned that it is too early to draw any firm conclusion, but there are a few clues as to what is going on in Africa.
Africa benefits from having a youthful population.
A Lancet Infectious Diseases paper found that globally, the case fatality rate for those under the age of 60 is 1.4 per cent. For those over the age of 60, the fatality rate jumps to 4.5 per cent. For those 80 and over, COVID-19 appears to have a 13.4 per cent fatality rate.
The global CFR among those under 20 is 0.2 per cent.
Africa has a median age of 19.4, against 40 in Europe. Of the continent’s 1.2 billion people, only about 50 million are over 60.
Africa might have benefited from being in the tropics and from the fact that the virus first struck during summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore indicates that higher temperatures and humidity are correlated with a lower rate of coronavirus spread, similar to the correlation between climate and the influenza virus.
This is confirmed by researchers from Spain and Finland, who found that 95 per cent of positive cases occurred at temperatures between -2 and 10 °C.
Researchers from Beihang University in China, found that in the early days of the outbreak, hot and humid cities saw a slower rate of spread than cold and dry ones.
If this is valid, this is an ominous sign for South Africa, as it heads into the winter months.
Several recent studies have suggested a link between the BCG (the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine – which was developed to fight tuberculosis – and the rate of death from COVID-19.
Tuberculosis is caused by a type of bacteria, while COVID-19 is caused by a virus. But the BCG vaccine might help people build immune responses to things other than tuberculosis.
Medical researchers in the U.S. and U.K. concluded by analysing data from 178 countries that those countries that do not have a BCG vaccination policy saw ten times greater incidence of and mortality from COVID-19, compared with those that do. Some of the worst hit countries such as the U.S., Spain and Italy do not administer BCG.
Almost all African countries administer BCG, though some only began doing so in the 1990s.
This link has not been scientifically established, but clinical trials are now being held to determine whether those nations that make BCG vaccination mandatory at birth are less susceptible to high COVID-19 related deaths. If this could be conclusively shown, it would be a massive breakthrough.
A World On Life Support
The path of the coronavirus and response to the pandemic has devastated the global economy. The Financial Times describes it as the worst collapse since the Second World War, and the most difficult moment for the global economy in almost a century.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to shrink by 3 per cent this year. This is far worse than its 0.1 per cent dip in the Great Recession year of 2009.
The lockdowns, business shutdowns and travel restrictions are destroying demand, at the same time as a financial crisis is unfolding.
In a worst case scenario, the world is heading into a global Great Depression.
Unlike the Great Recession of a decade ago, all the major economies will be struggling or crashing at the same time. Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, said 170 of its 189 member countries will suffer falling output in 2020. “The bleak outlook applies to advanced and developing economies alike. This crisis knows no boundaries. Everybody hurts,” she said.
The IMF predicts that worldwide trade will plummet by 11 per cent this year. Global manufacturing supply chains are being broken.
During the Great Recession, China continued to grow at 9 per cent. Although it is reopening its economy ahead of the rest of the world, China’s GDP plunged by 5.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, dipping into recession for the first time in 44 years. Meanwhile, the country remains on guard against a second wave of infection.
The U.S. economy is at a standstill and economists are projecting unemployment to reach 20 per cent in the second quarter. The IMF expects the U.S. economy to contract by 5.9 per cent this year.
Most of Europe is on lockdown and Germany, France and the U.K. are in deep recession. The Eurozone will suffer a 7.5 per cent drop and Japan, 5.2 per cent. U.K. output could dip by 6.5 per cent this year.
Emerging markets and low-income nations across Africa, Latin America and much of Asia are at especially high risk.
On a more positive note, the recent monetary and fiscal policy responses from across the world have generated some optimism for a rebound.
The world is desperate for good news, but there will be no end to the pandemic and return to pre-crisis behaviour until a vaccine is developed, which could be well into 2021. The impact of the coronavirus is likely to be prolonged and the peaks could be followed by more peaks.
The IMF forecasts that there will be 5.8 per cent global growth in 2021, but this is at best a thumb-suck because there is still so much uncertainty.
Governments in the developed world have been willing to make massive interventions to stimulate demand and interventions by central banks to ensure liquidity by keeping the cost of borrowing low and financing credit supply.
The U.S. enacted three aid packages worth $2.7 trillion. The Federal Reserve has enacted a $2.3 trillion rescue package for the economy. But at least 32 million Americans have lost their jobs and there is more pain to come.
And President Donald Trump’s erratic moves could jeopardise a U.S. recovery, even as the rest of the world struggles to get back on its feet.
African Economies In Pain
Even though Africa is the continent least scarred by the health crisis, it could end up the most damaged by the economic calamity.
Emerging market assets have been precipitously dumped and there has been capital flight worse than during the Great Recession.
Commodity prices that have buoyed African economies for the last quarter century have collapsed. Major mining operations have been mothballed.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has been driven into deep recession by the oil price crash – and is expected to contract by up to 7 per cent this year. Angola has been battered as well.
The tourism industry, a key part of the economies of countries such as Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa, has shut down.
Remittances from diaspora communities have declined dramatically.
There has been a huge fall-off of trade with partners such as China, Europe and the U.S.
The World Bank predicts that growth in Africa could fall to between minus 2.1 per cent and minus 5.1 per cent, led by severe downturns in Nigeria, Angola and South Africa.
Africa’s domestic economies have had a stranglehold placed on them where countries have implemented social distancing measures, closed borders and imposed lockdowns.
The majority of Africans work and trade in informal markets, meaning that millions are now unable to work.
The African Union estimates that up to 20 million workers could lose their jobs. Even in developed countries, workers are just one pay-cheque away from being completely broke. The scale and impact in human terms are unimaginable.
People have no money to spend, further collapsing demand. There are signs of widespread hunger and the World Bank is warning of a food security crisis. Social and political unrest will surely follow.
And this is before the full health impact is felt.
The World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank have announced billions of dollars in emergency credit facilities to African countries and called for bilateral debt relief. But that will not be enough.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, estimates that emerging countries may need as much as $2.5 trillion in support. African leaders are calling for, at the very least, a debt standstill.
The needs are insatiable – scaling up the health sector response, maintaining wage payments amidst a massive wave of firm bankruptcies, relieving social distress and growing hunger and poverty, all while protecting the overall stability of the financial system.
President Ramaphosa’s R500 billion social and economic package is intended to go some way towards alleviating the worst of the crisis in the short term but much will depend on its execution and the fiscal sustainability of the programme. Given the experience of the past decade, can we expect those implementing the programme to ensure that this massive pot of money will find its way to the intended recipients?
The early signs are not encouraging.
In order to pay for it, Ramaphosa has indicated that he will use whatever is available to prop up the economy and prevent social collapse, including IMF loans, but at some point the bill will come due.
Other African countries do not have our options. They are being called upon to drain their treasuries to provide support for the poor and unemployed and to bolster their health systems, just as tax revenues have literally collapsed. Ken Ofori-Atta, the Ghanaian Finance minister, says he is green with envy at the “unthinkable stimulus packages” being announced by the developed nations.
“Their generous tool kits are not available to us,” he laments.
Living With a Pandemic
There is great uncertainty about the speed of the recovery, largely because it depends on the continued path of the virus – and medical advancements that have not yet happened.
The world is desperate for good news, but there will be no end to the pandemic and return to pre-crisis behaviour until a vaccine is developed, which could be well into 2021. The impact of the coronavirus is likely to be prolonged and the peaks could be followed by more peaks.
With so much at stake, there is an unprecedented global race underway to produce a vaccine, with seven clinical trials underway, and a group from Oxford University providing the most optimistic timeline of about six months.
For Africa, the main lesson is, in the words of Ken Ofori-Atta, that it is time to challenge the unbalanced nature of the global architecture. Which means, perhaps, that the point is not to replace one overlord with another but to imagine a world order in which we all have a place at the table…
The ability of the virus to mutate and to come back, maybe in a more virulent form, is why the Asian nations emerging at the other end of the first wave are not dropping their guard.
The lockdown strategy has been implemented to flatten the curve – to prevent the pandemic occurring in a compressed time frame – and buy time to prepare health facilities for a spike in cases.
In the absence of a vaccine, therapies of existing drugs are being used for COVID-19 patients. But while studies are being fast-tracked around the world, they are not yet conclusive. The drug, remdesivir, originally developed to treat Ebola, is said to be showing some promising early results but other therapies such as the much touted hydroxychloroquine are still viewed with skepticism and only used to treat the most severe cases.
In the absence of a vaccine, attempts to move countries out of lockdown – which are now underway – have to be strategic, phased, targeted and managed on a long-term basis – and accompanied by widespread testing and surveillance and proper equipment for health care providers. Countries could also go back into lockdown if there are further spikes.
There will be no way forward without knowing where the enemy is – tracking the virus and isolating it. South Africa has one of the world’s most innovative programmes, sending 28,000 health workers into communities for screening and testing.
Some of what we know about catastrophic viral pandemics is drawn from the experience of the 1918 Spanish flu which killed between 50 million and 100 million people.
The flu came in three waves. The first relatively mild version was in March 1918 and it appeared to have run its course by the northern summer. The second more virulent and infectious version struck in September 1918 and the third continued through 1919.
The second wave came to South Africa via two troopships of soldiers who were returning from the Western front and stopped in Freetown en route, where the flu was raging. When they docked in Cape Town, they were quarantined, but not effectively, and set off a wave of infections that ended with the deaths of about 300,000 people – six per cent of the population of the country at the time.
Epidemiologists have puzzled over why the diamond miners in Kimberley, almost a quarter of whom died in the flu, died at 35 times the rate of the gold miners in Witwatersrand.
It is now believed that the miners on the Reef had already developed some immunity from the first strain that had traveled up from Durban earlier in the year. The more isolated Kimberley miners only experienced the second, more lethal wave.
The End of Globalisation?
In seeking to find a culprit for the pandemic, we do not need to look too far: the globalised economy, the era of free and easy travel and movement between countries spread the virus. Globalisation made the globe more vulnerable to a pandemic.
The upside of globalisation – the free movement of capital and ideas and the free trade that has driven the global economy since 1945 – is presently being reassessed in a harsher light. Some assume that the age of globalisation is now over.
French President Emmanuel Macron sees the crisis as an “existential event for humanity” that will change the nature of globalisation and the structure of international capitalism.
Is it likely that nation states will turn themselves into fortresses surrounded by moats to keep out aliens and foreigners? Depending on the devastation to economies and the forces of populist nationalism that will be unleashed by the pandemic, that could well be the outcome.
But it would hard to see recovery in such a world. It was a global trade war in the 1930s – spurred on by the U.S. Congress’ Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act – that was one of the major drivers of the Great Depression and helped set the stage for the Second World War.
The stronger argument is that the moment demands greater community between nations in fighting a common enemy. What the coronavirus has taught us is that the existential threats of the 21st Century, from the pandemic to climate change, are ones that threaten us all.
The very qualities required to defeat this virus – scientific knowhow, capable and responsible government, global solidarity, basic humanity – are what we need for survival and prosperity in the years ahead.
These are the very elements that are threatened that at this moment.
However, instead of co-ordinated policy responses from governments around the world, we see a fracturing of international co-operation.
We should not forget what the last quarter century of turbo-charged globalisation has brought us. It has lifted billions of people out of extreme poverty, not just in India and China, but in many other nations, and in large parts of Africa as well.
However, as the gap closed between the developed and the developing world, it brought stagnation and job losses to the middle and working classes of the U.S. and Europe, and widened inequality between a global super-class with unimaginable wealth and just about everybody else.
It also gave us the pandemic which, if nothing else, is a moment to reflect and reset.
One reason for pessimism is that the U.S., which was the prime mover and leader of the post-1945 world, has been missing in action.
Trump has steered the U.S. away from any constructive international role. He has rejected calls to create a global taskforce to deal with the pandemic and threatened to cut funding to the World Health Organisation in the middle of the worst health crisis in a century. While his administration’s incompetence at home has cost many lives, its reputation abroad has been badly tarnished.
Trump has dashed hopes that the world’s two leading economic powers will co-operate. He has indicated that he wants to run for re-election on a China-baiting platform, exacerbating the ill feeling that has been generated by the last three years of trade wars.
With the U.S. abdicating, many people are finding it hard to imagine a globalised world without a hegemon, which is why many believe China will takes the U.S.’ place in a new global order. Xi Jinping has, for the last three years, already emerged as the most outspoken champion of globalisation.
But to be the leader of a free world, one must also possess the magic ingredient of soft power, which presupposes an admiration for one’s system of governance. China, with the recent experience of the Hong Kong protests and the many thousands of Muslim Uighars still in detention, not to mention its initial lack of transparency around the outbreak of the coronavirus, might not be best placed to lead the new world order.
There’s also a lot of anger towards China right now. Oby Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former minister of Education and a former vice president of the World Bank, has argued that China should pay compensation to Africa for failing to transparently and effectively manage the global catastrophe.
For Africa, the main lesson is, in the words of Ken Ofori-Atta, that it is time to challenge the unbalanced nature of the global architecture. Which means, perhaps, that the point is not to replace one overlord with another but to imagine a world order in which we all have a place at the table, and in which the two greatest powers find it in themselves to work together, and with the rest of us, for a common humanity.
If there’s any upside to the unprecedented uncertainty gripping the world right now, its that the economic fallout has opened up a new debate about the right sort of policies to have. Its time to think creatively about what we can do and where we want to take this country, this continent and this planet. Its time for new thinking, imagination and boldness.
Mcebisi Jonas is the chairman of MTN and former deputy Mminister of Finance in South Africa.