Africa’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was quicker and more comprehensive than any other region globally. South Africa was one of the speediest — closing down its borders and putting residents into physical lockdown, even before it announced its first death from COVID-19.
Since May, nations have been lifting mobility restrictions in order to resume economic activity. Case numbers have been climbing: it took 100 days to reach the first 100,000 cases, and less than 20 days for cases to jump to 200,000. Cases have since been rising at a rate of 10,000 per day to reach 303,000 by 22 June.
The immediate policy priority for all governments has been to ramp up health capacity and spending to save lives and contain the virus outbreak. Increasing the number of tests has featured prominently in most strategies. So too has securing medical equipment and PPE. On 19 June, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union, launched the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) – to enable AU member states to purchase certified medical equipment, such as diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment and clinical management devices, with increased cost effectiveness and volume aggregation as well as quota management.
Aside from efforts to ramp up health capacity, many African governments have also been offering fiscal policy support to aid economic recovery. Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut interest rates, followed by Kenya, where the central bank has worked with commercial banks to provide relief to individual and corporate borrowers.
Each nation will try to set a recovery path, and each nation will want to tune its engine differently. Whatever strategy they adopt, it seems clear that demand for public services will increase, and levels of private consumption will decrease. After the worst of the emergency is over, governments will reduce spending and introduce new duties and taxes to plug deficits. Companies that operate across multiple jurisdictions will find themselves having to navigate a plethora of different political priorities and regulatory regimes. Engagement with policy-makers and regulators will assume a higher priority in this new environment.
Authored by Marcus Courage and Arnaud Liege.
Marcus Courage is the CEO at Africa Practice, a pan-African strategic advisory firm. A specialist in public affairs and advocacy, Marcus has evolved into the continent’s most sought-after advisor on risk and reputation.
Arnaud Liege is a Senior Consultant at Africa Practice. In this role, he advises clients on political, regulatory, reputational and security risks to support opportunity identification and strategic investments in sub-Saharan Africa.