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Why Africa needs coordinated governance to stunt Coronavirus spread

…confirmed cases in continent rise above 5,000 with 157 deaths – WHO

Africa will require more than having young majority population and harsh climatic conditions to stunt the spread of the deadly coronavirus currently destabilising normalcy across the world. Governments across the continent especially need to harness sound coordination of efforts at pushing the pandemic to a standstill, The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has urged in a new report calling for improved health structures and better data to win the crisis.

There is an urgent need to act on the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak of 2015 and address the specific weaknesses of Africa’s health structures including unhindered citizens, says the report entitled ‘Covid-19 in Africa: A Call for Coordinated Governance, Improved Health Structures and Better Data’.

This is coming as the World Health Organisation, African Region (WHOAFRO) said on Tuesday afternoon that over 5,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Africa with 157 deaths, with South Africa, Algeria and Burkina Faso most affected by the outbreak in the region.

South Africa has 1,326 confirmed cases with three deaths, making it the country with the highest number of cases, while Egypt has a total of 40 deaths making it the highest, WHOAFRO said via an update through its official Twitter account.

Only 10 African countries provide free and universal health care to their citizens. Health care in 22 countries is neither free nor universal, stirring inevitable need for governments to make swift improvements.

Although 43 African countries have capacity to test for COVID-19, according to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), The Mo Ibrahim Foundation laments that they are less prepared for the effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travellers and treatment of cases.

Data coverage on health facilities and health outcomes in Africa is low. Only eight African countries have complete birth registration systems, impacting the timely production of data, crucial during health emergencies. Quality statistics and the funding and autonomy of national statistics offices are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation.

“Efforts to strengthen and enhance preparedness could help to save lives. With the general weakness of health structures, from human resources to equipment and supply chains, working together is critical now more than ever,” the report says.

“Many National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) have been created after health systems failed to respond to crises due to fragmented and insufficient responses. Finding ways to collaborate and work together to fight this challenge, protect lives and improve health capabilities is critical,” it says.

According to the 24-page analysis, Africa has shown increasing improvement in Public Health Campaigns – +0.6 since 2008 according to the IIAG – with 20 countries seeing an improvement in score. But 15 countries have also registered a decline, necessitating national information and awareness-raising campaigns to tackle misinformation and fake news.

Infrastructure weakness can prevent personnel from reaching affected areas at the required speed, while communications infrastructure is similarly important as it allows for reporting and diagnosis, the report says, adding that any action to strengthen services in these areas would be beneficial.

In terms of the wider impact of COVID-19, on the economy and beyond, the pandemic will hit economic growth from an expected 3.2 percent down to 1.8 percent, according to UNECA. If not addressed in a collective and organised way, this could reverse the positive growth of the past decade and impact areas where Africa has steadily progressed, whether the fight against malaria or against poverty. Moreover, this could spill over beyond the economy and put to test the institutional fragility of some countries, fuelling further conflicts and instability.

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