The Global COVID-19 Health Pandemic and its Implications for the African Economies

The current Covid-19 pandemic is damaging business ecosystems, affecting livelihoods, and threatening to reverse sub-Saharan Africa’s development progress and growth projections. It has once again exposed the fragility of many of the institutions across the continent. The pandemic has compromised Africa’s state of public finance significantly: Firstly, in most African economies it has wiped the fiscal space leading to unprecedented contraction of tax revenues. Secondly, it has placed extreme stress on public spending as governments struggle to respond to the health crisis, including increased funding for: the health sector, social and business relief, as well as measures to reduce and combat the spread of the disease. Yet, as the virus was late in arriving to the continent, governments across Africa took decisive actions to keep citizens safe and continue to implement global best practices and policies. While there are obvious capacity and execution shortfalls, there have also been several successful areas of practice. The twenty-third AERC Senior Policy Seminar was held virtually on the theme: The Global COVID-19 Health Pandemic and Its Implications for the African Economies. This seminar featured four presentations by thought leaders: Session One on “Consequences for Poverty and Fiscal Implications with Covid-19: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda” was presented by Rose Ngugi, Kenya Institute for Public Policy research and Analysis, (KIPPRA). This paper looks at the distributional consequences of the COVID-19- induced lockdowns and related measures for poverty and fiscal response in selected five countries. Session Two was on “Trade-offs between Lockdown Measures to Control the Spread of the Covid-19 and the Economic and Social Consequences”. The presenter was Abebe Shimeles, from the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC). In this paper, we try to provide an update on the degree of compliance, particularly on guidelines to restrict mobility across countries and examine if these measures tended to mitigate the infection rates. The Third Session was on “COVID-19 and the Health Sector in Africa”. The paper was presented by Augustine Asante, University of New South Wales, Australia. The paper discusses policy options and strategies for targeted strengthening of Africa’s health systems and draws lessons for low- and middle-income countries elsewhere. The fourth paper was on “The Interrelationship between Growth, Inequality and Poverty: Some Implications for the Fight against the Covid-19 Pandemic”. The paper was presented by Erik Thorbecke, Cornell University, USA. This paper highlights some lessons for policymakers in SSA about how to fight the pandemic and in the following sections a preliminary assessment of how Covid-19 has, so far, impacted health and the economy in SSA is discussed.