Coronavirus Will Slam African Economies, Experts Say - VOA

March 18 2020

By Simon Marks

ADDIS ABABA - As the coronavirus spreads across Africa, countries are taking stronger measures to curb its spread.  The restrictions may contain the virus, but will likely have a deep impact on the continent's economies.   

With several African governments closing borders, canceling flights and enforcing strict quarantine requirements to curb the spread of the virus, experts say there will be consequences for the continent's economy.  

The United Nations said it now estimates Africa's GDP rate will fall from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent this year. 

"This is going to deal a very severe blow to growth," said Vera Songwe, secretary-general of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, "even though the numbers of cases on the continent are quite small.  If you look at that Africa does not seem to be affected. But then when you look at the economics, I think that is where the big story is for Africa. We are being severely affected." 

Over the weekend Kenya shut its border to foreigners, while Ghana banned entry to anyone who visited a country with the coronavirus in the last two weeks.  

South Africa, already in a recession, declared a national state of emergency and banned travel to and from China, Europe and the U.S.

People ride a boat past an oil discharge facility in Lagos, Nigeria, Nov. 10, 2016.
FILE - People ride a boat past an oil discharge facility in Lagos, Nigeria, Nov. 10, 2016.

Economists say these restrictions and others around the world will disrupt global supply chains and decrease travel, which in turn should cause oil prices to drop. 

Songwe said African oil exporters will feel the impact.  

"If you're a country like Nigeria, which is a net oil exporter — one, we're demanding less oil from you, but secondly the amount of oil that were demanding from you has dropped in price. We've estimated that Nigeria could lose almost $19 billion if the trend continues and that's a big shock to Nigeria's economy, which was already growing at quite a low rate of 2.8 percent." 

In order for Africa to meet its global targets under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, economists say Africa must grow at a minimum of 8 percent.  

Stephen Karingi, the director of the trade division at the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, told VOA that the impact on Africa's economy and health systems would be devastating. 

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Steven Rich
Sep 17, 2018:
Well done

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