Covid-19: Mo Ibrahim Foundation study spells doom and hope for Africa

Public health officials from Naivasha check temperatures of passengers using the Nairobi-Nakuru highway as part of the measures meant to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease. The officials expressed their concern over the high number of passengers heading to upcountry from Nairobi which is the epicentre of the disease. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Africa stares at uncertain future in the midst of the coronavirus crisis thanks to its strengths and vulnerabilities, a study by Mo Ibrahim Foundation has established.

According to the study, which was published yesterday, March 30, 2020; Africa has a low risk of imported Covid-19 infections, hence the lower number of cases compared to other continents. However, various African countries are vulnerable and could be crashed should the spread of the virus increase like in Spain, Italy, USA and China.

“Though Africa has close ties with China, the risk of Covid-19 importation based on travel exposure to China is lower compared to Europe, which is 1 per cent to 11 per cent respectively,” the study reveals.

The study seeks to reveal the level of Africa’s preparedness and the glaring gaps in combating the spread of Covid-19. It examines past experiences like the Ebola outbreak and how various countries responded to the outbreaks, and, it gives a hypothetical view of how Africa can modify such responses to fight the coronavirus.

The research titled “Covid-19 in Africa: A call for Coordinated Governance, improved health structures and better Data: Data and analysis from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation”.

According to its findings, Africa having noted coronavirus cases could gain from its demographics. As has been noticed in other continents, the virus kills more elderly people than the younger ones. This is a situation that the study suggests could evade Africa given that the larger portion of the population are younger people.

“Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with a median age of less than 20, and it currently seems that younger populations appear to suffer milder symptoms than older people, who have a significantly higher risk of contracting severe symptoms,” it notes.

This corroborates the assertion by Kenya’s Director General of Ministry of Health Dr Patrick Amoth who said at a press conference that Kenya banks on her younger population to avoid higher mortalities.

Another advantage that study cites is Africa’s tropical climate which it says could minimise the spread of the disease. It argues that in ‘tropical climates, influenza and respiratory viruses are transmitted mostly during the cold rainy seasons. However, the varying temperature patterns which it says could also control the spread of the disease is still not verifiable.

On the other hand, the study states that most African countries have weak health system which cannot stand the wave of mass infections often occasioned by Covid-19.

An instance is where it states that some countries even up to now do not have the capacity to test coronavirus.

It states: “According to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), 43 African countries can test for COVID-19. However, countries are less prepared for the effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travellers and treatment of cases. Efforts to strengthen and enhance preparedness could help to save lives.”


That, added onto the weak health system where many countries lack universal health coverage equals a disastrous possibility.

“Only 10 African countries provide free and universal health care to their citizens, while healthcare in 22 countries is neither free nor universal. Governments need to make swift improvements in handling and improving access to basic health services,” study says.

It further mentions prevalence of respiratory diseases and congestion in urban setups as other probable weak links for Africa in fighting the bug.

It recommends that countries need to learn from how Africa fought Ebola outbreak in 2015 and modify the script for Covid-19.

By March 31, 2020, African countries had over 2,400 coronavirus cases and over 64 deaths on their books. South leads the charts with the highest number of cases 1,326 cases and three deaths. Egypt leads the chart with highest mortalities at 41 out of the 656 cases.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation was founded by Sudanese tycoon and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim in 2006 to focus on leadership and governance in Africa.