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A Continent with Bated Breath. In Africa, Any Virus Can Cause a Catastrophe

Africa waits with bated breath. The Coronavirus epidemic is slowly but surely arriving here, too. The experts reiterate that in these circumstances, any virus can cause a catastrophe.

An inadequate healthcare system, the lack of structures, equipment and skills, are holes that cannot easily be filled in a short period of time, notwithstanding the WHO’s commitment to provide at least 36 out of 54 nations with the necessary kits to identify the virus by the end of March.

In February, only two laboratories (in Senegal and South Africa) were equipped to carry out specific analyses. In Africa, healthcare is privatized in many places, therefore access isn’t guaranteed to the majority of its population. Consequently, a healthcare system has never been created to guarantee public health services with the necessary equipment.

The strain of dense populations is significantly high and concentrated in constricted areas like shanty towns where there is a lack of access to running water, sanitary facilities and sewage. The risk of transmission is substantial. The African population (younger than the population in Europe and Asia) wouldn’t hold up to a pandemic because of the scarce sanitary measures.

However, the effects of the global economic crisis that will follow the health crisis are already being considered. Africa is expecting a serious backlash from the foreseeable reduction of Chinese investments on which it is totally dependent. In fact, Peking is either the first or second major partner in all the countries in Africa. The effects of the blow generated by the drop in oil prices that has hit Algeria and Nigeria, that ranks eighth largest oil producing country in the world, are already being felt. The stock market turmoil is already penalizing South African and Zambian currency. The probable general slowing down of the big economies will coincide with a downtrend on the demand for raw materials (bauxite, coltan, copper, etc.) with which Africa supplies the entire world.

Furthermore, the processing industry is not present in Africa and it needs to import manufactured goods. The foreign debt accrued (due to the collapse in sales of raw material) will be difficult to pay back.

All the conditions for taking the clock of development back at least twenty years are in place, albeit contradictory in snatches, just beneath the skin registered in Africa.

For some time, African economists have been questioning the Chinese neo-colonialism that has created complete economic dependence, without the possibility for self-development and “complicit” with widespread political leadership careful to retain power thanks to extremely generous, but not selfless, loans granted by Peking. The future generations will have to pay them back with interest.

The effects of the Coronavirus on the economy can already be felt.

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