The African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) provides the latest updates on the spread of the pandemic throughout Africa, with statistics by region and by country, as well as resources, guidance, infographics and policy updates.
On the African continent, the region most affected by the epidemic is North Africa (Algeria, Egypt and Morocco) in terms of number of deaths. South Africa is the country with the highest number of reported cases. Central and Eastern Africa are the least affected regions, with the highest number of cases in these two regions in Djibouti and Cameroon, respectively; in Western Africa Nigeria has the highest number of reported cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for joint actions by the various countries in East Africa to curb cross-border transmission. In addition, since the end of 2019 East Africa has been suffering an unprecedented locust invasion. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) reports that large numbers of people are becoming food insecure.
(Source: RFI, 26 April)
The authorities have had to close down businesses again in several regions, including Algiers (RFI, 4 May), following the failure of hygiene and social distancing rules. In the face of the crisis, the state’s operating budget will be halved in anticipation of the serious financial crisis threatening the country due to the fall in oil prices. In addition, the authorities have undertaken to increase the minimum income as of 1 June by more than 11%.
Since 9 April the wearing of masks has been compulsory in Cotonou, as well as in about 15 communes in the south of the country, isolated by a sanitary cordon. The measures are being well respected in Benin.
Wearing a mask has been mandatory since 27 April. Young stylists and fashion designers from Burkina Faso have started to produce masks. The aim is to be able to offer them to healthcare personnel and patients in big cities, but also to poor populations. The national public health laboratory is controlling the products. There has been no announcement yet about the reopening of classes, and in the meantime students can follow lessons at a distance through new technologies.
The authorities have been trying not to interrupt the flow of goods arriving through the ports of Douala and Kribi to the other CEMAC countries, even though land borders cannot be crossed by people as part of the fight against COVID-19. However, the customs authorities have announced an 80% drop in trade flows in the Douala–Ndjamena and Douala–Bangui corridors for March 2020, compared with 2019 (Investir au Cameroon, 27 April). Groupement inter-patronal du Cameroun (Gicam) has announced that many companies have been displaying good citizenship, and despite losses of activities and income have so far decided not to lay off workers (Investir au Cameroon, 27 April). Instead, they have opted for transitional safeguarding measures such as partial leave, reduced working hours and short-time working. With a list of 18 fiscal and financial measures, Gicam is calling for a pause in the payment of certain major taxes owed by companies, and improved access to finance.
On 30 April, the authorities announced a relaxation of restrictive measures based on the results of an impact assessment. Pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities are again allowed to stay open after 6 pm, there are no more restrictions on the number of passengers on public transport by bus and taxi, but the wearing of masks is compulsory and overloading is prohibited. The sectors most affected by the crisis are transport, hotels and restaurants, and commerce. To support companies’ cashflow, the authorities are paying an allocation to companies that provides for the establishment of a MINFI–MINEPAT (Ministry of Finance–Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development) consultation framework, with the main economic players, to mitigate the effects of the crisis and promote a rapid resumption of activity. According to the BEAC, the Central Bank of the six CEMAC States, the budget deficit in Cameroon was 2.6% of GDP in 2019. For 2020, it is planned to reduce it to 1.5%, but this will be difficult in view of the economic situation marked by the COVID-19 crisis. On 4 May, the International Monetary Fund granted a Rapid Credit Facility of about $226 million (CFAF 135.56 billion) to meet urgent balance of payments needs due to weak global demand, falling commodity prices and national containment measures. From 1 May, Cameroonian and Central African road carriers and passengers can cross the border again. The Central African Republic closed its border to passengers and truck drivers on 28 April as a measure to control the spread of the virus. Goods were transhipped from one truck to another on each side of the border to continue their journey. (Sources: Investir au Cameroun, 29 April,1 May, 4 May, 4 May4 May).
Total containment of the population was imposed over a period from 31 March to 30 April. Community shops are still closed, and government services are distributing food to orphanages, homes for the elderly and vulnerable people. The authorities have announced a campaign to disinfect Brazzaville’s main road arteries in the city’s nine arrondissements, although travel is still banned. Taxi drivers, who have been idle since the beginning of the confinement, are in great financial difficulty. They are being replaced by pushers who transport goods and passengers throughout the city. No date for lifting containment measures has been indicated.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Heavy flooding has occurred in South Kivu. While the border is closed with Burundi to fight the current pandemic, the population of the town of Uvira does not seem to be worried about the barrier measures: no masks, no disinfectant, many hugs and distancing measures not respected. The inhabitants being very hard hit by the floods do not want to add further constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Markets are crowded. Yet provincial officials point out that the COVID-19 virus is a reality in the region. However, the vast majority of infections and deaths are in Kinshasa.
A study on ‘How Côte d’Ivoire protects its local food systems’ (CIRAD, 21 April) finds that people can still access food products under restrictive measures. For the most widely consumed food products, food security stocks should make it possible to limit supply disruptions (e.g. availability for 3 to 6 months for tubers and bananas; 1 month for local millet, maize and rice; and 4 months for imported rice). Vegetable production at the beginning of the year covers needs until the end of the second quarter, but planting in March is behind schedule. Aid amounting to CFAF 50 billion has been announced for this sector in the country’s support plan. In spite of the traffic bans between the capital and other parts of the country, a permit system is in place to supply the cities with food products. All traditional markets and modern hypermarkets have remained open and the autonomous port of Abidjan is still operational (CommodAfrica, 5 May).
The state of health emergency is extended at least until 10 May.
The country is still in a state of health emergency, but the authorities believe that the most difficult part is yet to come. Thanks to the support of the World Bank, the Ministry of Health has acquired or will soon receive medical equipment to cope with the worsening of the pandemic. The country is experiencing an economic crisis that threatens the most fragile Gambians. Basic food aid capable of covering more than 80% of households has been announced.
The state of emergency decreed at the end of March is renewed for two weeks.
Few health facilities are available to the population, and access to them is difficult. There is one doctor per 10,000 inhabitants, and 20% of the population have no access to drinking water. Port au Prince, the capital, has a population of 3 million inhabitants out of a total of 11 million, working mainly in the informal sector. COVID-19 arrived late, and it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the situation because there are few tests performed. The containment measures are effectively unworkable because many people are forced to work to survive. As large cities are densely populated, social distancing is difficult to apply. (Source: CETRI, 14 April)
A national emergency plan for food security, nutrition and livelihoods has been put in place by the Ministry of Agriculture (CommodAfrica, 29 April). It includes several actions: stimulating local production of staple crops – rice, cassava, edible oils, beans, vegetables – to mitigate the slowdown in world trade and the effects of the global recession; emergency purchase and distribution of seeds, tools and equipment; support to agro-processors; and building up food stocks (especially in hard-to-reach areas). Emergency food distribution will target the most vulnerable households, as well as those facing income loss due to COVID-19. It should be noted that the country is heavily dependent on imports for food.
The Directorate-General of Customs has banned the export and re-export of products such as rice, millet, sugar, milk, pasta, oil, livestock feed, butane gas, masks and hydro-alcoholic products (CommodAfrica, 22 April). The measure is intended to ensure continuity of supply of basic foodstuffs to local markets, but it comes at a time of difficult macroeconomic conditions.
Under virus control measures, the authorities have allowed some supermarkets and shops to sell fruit and vegetables while municipal and village markets have been closed (Fresh Plaza, 23 April). Producers sell their produce to middlemen who will market it either to supermarkets or at the roadside. A limited number of work permits have been granted to the horticultural sector. Lack of labour has resulted in lower yields and higher prices for produce. On the greenhouse production side, a strong demand for seeds for market garden products has been observed (cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes) in recent weeks.
Morocco has resumed its exports of potatoes and onions to Mauritania. Land traffic had been interrupted due to containment measures against the virus and fears of shortages on the domestic market. In the Mauritanian capital, a special area for parking trucks has been set up as part of the anti-virus barrier measures. Morocco regularly supplies West African countries with potatoes and onions: Mauritania, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria (Fructidor, 4 May).
Deconfinement began on 4 May in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State. The wearing of masks in public places is now mandatory and a curfew is in effect between 8 pm and 6 am. Kano State in the north of the country is not affected by the deconfinement measures (RFI, 4 May). Ramadan, which began on the weekend of 26 April, is particularly difficult for African Muslims to live in this period of confinement. Lagos accounts for half of the country’s reported cases and deaths.
Uganda has extended its lockdown for another 14 days, with a few exceptions for specified wholesalers (Nile Post, 4 May). The airports remain closed and private and public transport remain prohibited. Due to reports of newly imported infections by inter-state cargo drivers increasing in the past few weeks, there have been calls on the government to ban entry of truck drivers. The president has insisted that he cannot ban entry of cargo trucks, but has noted that measures have been put in place to deal with the problem.
Although deconfinement has been official since 4 May, and companies have resumed their activities, teleworking is still recommended. Hotels and restaurants are allowed to reopen during the day, and public transport is operating again. Places of assembly (places of worship, schools) and borders remain closed (RFI, 4 May).
New restrictions on the opening of the Dakar markets came into force on 4 May. Food shops will open on three days a week. Other outlets will only be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, all shops and markets will be closed at weekends (RFI, 4 May).
Containment measures will be relaxed from 1 May, especially for businesses, and the wearing of masks will be made compulsory on the same day. Residents will be required to stay in their homes. More than 1.5 million South Africans will return to work, including those in agriculture, mining and takeaway catering. These decisions have been taken in the face of a drop in economic growth and a high level of unemployment in the country of between 30 and 50%, depending on the sector.
The country has opted for the maintenance of activities because the authorities do not want the economy to come to a standstill.
As part of the anti-COVID-19 protection measures, the closure of access to certain cities in the country does not facilitate the movement of farm workers. The Civil Service Ministry in liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture is putting measures in place to ensure the continuity of food production in Togo. In addition to issuing passes to staff recruited by agricultural enterprises, the planned longer-term scheme will be managed by employment offices, which will collect the needs of enterprises in the agricultural sector, and job applications. At present, production agents, agricultural advisers, aquaculturists, agricultural engineers, farm managers, skilled workers, nurserymen, etc. are being sought (AgriDigitale, 24 April). The authorities have announced implementation of the “COVID-19 Agricultural Response Plan” aimed at consolidating food and nutritional security and improving the income and living conditions of producers (CommodAfrica, 28 April). The plan has three main axes: support in the form of irrigation equipment and kits; promotion of labour placement enterprises; and granting of input credits at subsidised rates. These measures are aimed primarily at the cotton, maize and rice sectors. The plan also includes facilities for access to credit for inputs. A survey has been carried out by the Conseil National du Patronat du Togo (CNP-Togo) among 110 major companies affected by the coronavirus health crisis in Togo, 2% of which belong to the agricultural sector (Agridigitale, 5 May). It emerges that 41% of the companies have suspended their activities completely, while 59% are still active but in slow motion; 91% of the companies have put their employees on technical unemployment, 6% have opted for paid holidays or teleworking, and the rest of the companies (3%) have reduced the number of their employees altogether; 64% of the companies estimate that they have lost more than 50% of their turnover. Among the recovery measures proposed to the authorities is the setting up of a guarantee fund to facilitate financing for the recovery of businesses, particularly SMEs.
New measures to reduce containment allow the restarting of activities in the public service, industry and the service sector, but at 50% of their capacity. Wearing a mask is mandatory, and a traffic permit remains necessary until 24 May (RFI, 4 May).