The World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30, 2020, declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The disease is derived from a family of viruses that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and cold-like illnesses that have sickened more than 34,900 people in China, affected 24 other countries and has claimed more 600 lives in China. The outbreak of the disease has been linked to the Huanan seafood wholesale market, the Chinese authorities have reinforced the quality of trust and transparency in the process of the epidemic by being forthcoming with updates to World Health Organization and the world at large. Beyond the outbreak, there is a bigger picture of loss, particularly in the global economic circle. China’s economy is the second-largest economy in the world, this outbreak is shaking the wall of the world economy.
The Chinese stock markets and prices crashed immediately, it was opened after their Happy New Year holidays due to the outbreak, but it was stabilized through the high injection of 1.2 trillion yuan, which is equivalent to £156 billion or $171 billion to keep the banking system and the domestic money market running. The outbreak has caused a huge impact on economic activities, harming the world economy and the Chinese economy.
Not only is the stock market crashing, but every facet of the economic activities has also reduced tremendously, many new year events were cancelled, tourist attractions reduced, doors to many eatery places, including Starbucks, McDonald restaurant were closed losing huge markets, and profits, as well as airline companies, suspending all flights to China. China and other countries have received its share of the business and economic downside, however, this impact has hit Africa’s economy hard. Africa, in particular, is vulnerable in this situation because the region is most exposed to the Chinese market than any other region in the world.
Massive supply chain disruptions
According to the World Bank Data, 17% of Chinese exports are considered intermediate goods, where they are classified as inputs other manufacturers globally used to produce finished goods. China is a momentous supplier to the rest of the world. Other economies are equally facing this supply chain predicament, the fifth-largest carmaker Hyundai announced it has closed all its car factories in South Korea because it has no stock and has run out of components made from china for production, other carmakers like VW AND BMW have all temporarily closed due to low supply of electronic components including auto steel and engine wire harness.
Although every economy is taking their due share of the crisis, the African economies are being hit hard and twice as our export commodities are being lockdown cutting down foreign exchange earnings while facing declining of the supply of goods and services received from/by China. Africa is highly dependent on its natural resources, commodities and exports. Africa topmost business partners and investors are from the Chinese market. Therefore, the epidemic is also a crisis in Africa as it is to the Chinese. The outbreak has impacted the African economy in various ways.
Injection of Funds to Support Africa citizens.
There are more than 60,000 Africans in China most of them are students on scholarships supported by the Chinese government. Most of these students are being quarantined and lockdown and support derived from the Chinese government might be affected, as resources and attention have been diverted to the outbreak.
Different Africa governments have to inject funds to support their citizens in other countries like Morocco, Egypt, Algeria so far has been able to evacuate their citizens from China. This unplanned support and funds for African citizens in China, especially students, is slowly taking a toll on each country’s economy as these students are equally pleading with their Governments to evacuate them from China, however, these requests have materialized for some African students.
Global Investors Pull Out
Africa and China over the years have built a great relationship in business, infrastructure development, human development and big brother relationship. Most infrastructure projects happening in Africa are mostly funded by the Chinese government and global investors. As there is no clear indication when the outbreak will cease. Most projects are being run by the Chinese are on hold, spiking investors to withdraw their investments. A major setback for the Africa economy, as these projects promise a boost in employment, manufacturing, and production of natural resources. Also, the tourism sector is experiencing a negative impact, Mauritius, for example, has been enjoying an increase in Chinese nations tourists. However, there has been low patronage from both leisure and business Chinese travellers as flights have been cancelled due to the outbreak. Aside from the economy, the African health system is for a cause for concern form most African on the continent. The teething question that lingers on Africans is how ready Africa is if the virus is diagnosed in the region. Thinking of our fragile public health system and considering our close ties to China, Africa is very prone to the spread of the disease. The WHO has identified 13 African countries Ghana, Zambia, Algeria, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Mauritius, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa as high priority countries for support base due to the high volume of travel from China.
The continent has a populace of 1.2 billion and only 6 labs are available for the test of coronavirus. Which will make detection take longer, limited laboratory capacity, and insufficient provision of protective supplies. This is deadly and questions how weak our health system is in Africa. However, this outbreak could also serve as an opportunity to improve health systems. The continent ahead of time can increase and strengthen laboratory facilities, test kits and intensifying support to prevention and control through screening at all points of entry.
Various authorities in Africa should put measures in place to carry public awareness, and communication for citizens and health practitioners as cities in Sub- Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions with densely populated crowds and can easily elevate the risk for respiratory infection Coronavirus has a grievous impact on human health and economic activities in China and globally, however, Africa might have an extremely significant impact if the outbreak should extend to the region, already other continents has started receiving its share of negative impact economically.
It would be the worst time in Africa’s history if the outbreak should extend here, thus it is critical for Governments to intensify measures in the health sector as well as putting on their thinking caps to find ways Africa can diversify its international partners. For Africa, the outbreak would be a double dose of crisis; a weaker health system and dwindling economic status.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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