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Africa’s COVID-19 figures

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There were forecasts that much of the continent would be overwhelmed, with many countries affected with weak healthcare systems, corruption, war or large cities where social distancing would be mostly impossible. In April the Financial Times reported that Sierra Leone had just one ventilator for its 7.5M population. In the Central African Republic there were just 3 machines, while Burkina Faso had 11.

Meanwhile, as we approach the middle of May, majority of African countries doesn’t experience many cases but more importantly, they are also reporting very few deaths. On a continent of 1.3B — 17% of the world’s population — Africa accounts for barely 1% of total infections and even less than 0.5% of deaths. As one Senegalese academic, Felwine Sarr, said:

“The Europeans are worried about us, but we are worried about them.”

It could be due to under-reporting or that tests are simply not being done and people aren’t recognising the symptoms. But, there is little to no evidence that hospitals are being flooded, or that there has been a noticeable spike in deaths.

Demographics might have helped. 60% of people are under the age of 65 and we know the novel coronavirus mostly affects the elderly generation. As well as, some African countries, such as Rwanda and Uganda, locked down early and very hard. That would definitely have helped, as it did in some European countries. South Africa has been admired for its management, for example.

We are still very much in the early stages of this global pandemic to judge. Most of Africa is less connected than Europe or North America and the virus might eventually take hold.

Ultimately, it still seems inevitable that, economically, the poorest people will yet again be hit hardest, with devastating consequences.

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