Impact of COVID-19 on East Africa - Recommended Reading

11 May 2020 Ryan Bourque

We wanted to share some of the interesting articles we've read recently on the impact of COVID-19 on East Africa.

1) ODI has released a short blog on the economic impacts of COVID-19 in Tanzania – and how the government and donors are responding.

  • Economic impact: with tourism set to take a severe hit (e.g. hotels in Zanzibar are now closed) and key commodities selling at low prices (cotton -21%; coffee -12%), there’s some concern about how Tanzania will earn foreign exchange this year. Having said that – the shilling remains stable: the country has enough reserves to cover 6 months of imports and the price of gold - another major export - is up 7.6%.
  • Government response: the government is yet to announce any fiscal or monetary measures. Despite high public spending linked to this year’s election, the IMF still considers Tanzania to be at a low risk of debt distress.
  • Donor response: Jack Ma has donated 100K masks and 20K testing kits and regional/domestic banks and SMEs have contributed considerable sums to aid Tanzania’s response.

Read more by clicking here. 

2) An opinion piece in the Financial Times lauds Africa’s response to COVID-19.

Swift and stringent lockdowns appear to have rapidly flattened the curve of new infections in many countries. So, why has Africa’s response been relatively well co-ordinated?

  • The stewardship of The Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention has been instrumental. Africa CDC is now leading a continent-wide contact tracing and testing mission, enlisting 1M healthcare workers.
  • The continent’s prior experiences with Ebola & AIDS mean certain protocols are now in place.
  • The early warning Africa had as the virus spread in China & Europe allowed for solid preparations (e.g. South Africa locked down before the country suffered a single death).
  • There are innovative approaches to disseminating healthcare information (e.g. Sierra Leone has depended on "Mammy Queens", religious figures, radio jingles and boom-box-carrying “town criers” to disseminate key messages).

Read more by clicking here. 

3) The East African Business Council has produced a short brief about the impact of COVID-19 on East African Community trade.

As well as highlighting the disruption to formal and informal trade within the bloc and globally, we were interested to read the Council’s three medium & long-term demands which include:

  • Encouraging EAC members to improve the business and regulatory environment
  • Encouraging EAC members to embrace Buy East Africa Build East Africa (BEABEA)
  • Encouraging EAC members to specifically expand the production capacity of their private manufacturing sectors

Curious to hear from others on what COVID-19 might mean for regional value chains & manufacturing over the long-term – will EAC members seek to integrate further to help aid their economic recovery and insulate themselves from global shocks? Might there be an opportunity to encourage governments to play a more active role in supporting new industries and the private sector?

Read more by clicking here.