Which African countries are most vulnerable and resilient to the global COVID19 slowdown?

 In analysis, infographic, Social Media

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Last week, our regular infographic update highlighted the actions and challenges African countries are facing in directly managing the COVID19 health crisis.

This week, prompted by a concern that economic woes on the continent appear to be being blamed on “lockdowns” we wanted to check the facts on behalf of our clients, analysts and investors, and explore the potential effects on Africa of the global economic slowdown (i.e. due to COVID19 challenges elsewhere). Our analysis reveals that we need to take the effects of global slowdown seriously, and as usual there is a mixed picture. There are some African countries that are forecast to be more resilient to the slowdown and others that will have major recovery challenges – but not necessarily the usual suspects on both sides.

So which African countries will be most resilient to the COVID19 global slowdown?

While we typically look at countries in much more bespoke detail for our clients, we do also draw on the broader economic models and forecasts out there, such as those from the IMF. Interestingly, while the headline when the latest IMF forecasts came out in April 2020 was “the worst reading on record” for Africa, our analysis reveals that 23 African countries are expected to have positive (above zero) growth in 2020, despite COVID19. This includes countries that were previously on the IMF’s “top 10” list for global growth in 2020, such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, as well as Benin, Guinea, Uganda and South Sudan, which is one of the poorest countries in the world but still forecast to grow faster than all other economies globally in the COVID19-inflicted 2020, primarily due to oil demand from China.

In addition, if we look at “resilience” – as in are some countries predicted to be able to weather the COVID19 storm better than others – we find that the majority of African countries perform somewhat better than the rest of the world. The IMF predicts that only 13 African countries will face an over 6.3 percentage point drop (the average percentage point drop for the world and Africa due to COVID19)…. including Libya whose economy is forecast to contract by over 50% in 2020, in particular due to conflict.

So which African countries will be most vulnerable to the COVID19 global slowdown?

The challenge with forecasts like the IMF’s is that while useful, they hide a great deal of specificity.  Although Africa accounts for less than 4% of global investment, tourism and trade, the fact is there are many African economies that depend on all of these “flows” hugely for growth. And most of these “flows”, according to various UN and international organisations, are due to drop massively in 2020 – whether or not African economies themselves lock down.

Our analysis this week explores this, by first identifying the most vulnerable 20 countries across the continent in both exposure to trade and tourism, and overlaying this with the IMF’s analysis (in terms of percentage point drops) as well as figures of countries’ indebtedness.  The results may surprise those that do not follow African economies in depth as well do.  While some of Africa’s largest economies such as Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt do appear on our “vulnerability matrix” or “Venn diagram”, many others which are seen as very “stable” (such as Rwanda, Senegal and Ethiopia) also appear, and some economies that have been subject to “downgrading” by traditional ratings agencies in particular for external debt issues do not appear at all (e.g. Kenya).

Our analysis highlights the countries that will face major challenges, which we know are already being felt by countries such as Mauritius and Seychelles who appear on the matrix yet are – like New Zealand – already in a “post-COVID19” environment. Our analysis also raises some major questions about how country risks are being assessed with regards to COVID19 by ratings agencies and others, an area that we plan to investigate further with partners in due course. 

So, what are countries doing to counter these challenges?

First, African countries are continuing to roll out new measures and expand their budgets for COVID19 response. The number of pro-poor measures we have tallied is now 220 (a rise of 23 from two weeks ago),  and the budget has risen by $4bn over the past two weeks, which translates to an average 2.5% of GDP (current) being spent by African countries. That’s a big uplift, both across middle-income and low-income countries. Togo and Lesotho in particular stand out as making significant efforts. We have also detected a trend in many new measures being targeted towards the Agriculture sector, to especially to deal with food security concerns. That said, some countries such as Somalia, Angola and Algeria seem to be very behind others in both budget and economic policy terms.

Is the international community rallying around to help?

Development partners are continuing to expand their support for African countries with new loans and grants.  The data we have collated shows that direct pledges from development partners adds up to just over half of this spending, excluding debt relief measures and medical teams/equipment-based aid. This is a rise from around a third two weeks ago, and it is clear that this additional finance could fill some major gaps. 

However, loans from the IMF make up over 80 percent of this finance from the intentional community (as opposed to grants), and of those loans, 65% have gone to some of Africa’s largest economies – leaving very little wriggle room for smaller African nations to manage the economic fallout from global slowdown.

With this new analysis in mind – we can only reiterate our three recommendations from two weeks ago.

To African governments – Keep going. Continue to ramp up the economic and poverty support measures, coordinate requests for support to get the best results, and learn from each other.

To private sector actors and development finance institutions – do not just take headline numbers for granted. Look in depth at each country and look at investing in Africa more now rather than turning the taps off.

And finally, to Africa’s development partners. Keep going, especially in providing grants to the most vulnerable low-income countries identified in this analysis. The more African countries that can weather the storm the better for the world.

Digest our data below.

To find out how Development Reimagined can help you, your organisation or Government during the COVID-19 outbreak please email the team at clients@developmentreimagined.com .

Special thanks go to Rosie Wigmore, Rosie Flowers, Angela Benefo, Chazha Macheng and Wang Yu for their work on the graphic and collecting/analysing the underlying data.

The spending/policy measures data was collated from a range of sources including: the Milken Institute Africa  Trackerthe IMF policy tracker; the US Chamber COVID19 Dashboard; a tracker of social support measures by Ugo Gentilini, as well as government websites and media reports. Other COVID19 data was collated from our world in data and Africa CDC. Data for most vulnerable countries was collected from the IMF’s October 2019 and April 2020 World Economic Outlooks, and World Bank sources including the International Debt Statistics database, and the WITs database. Our methodology for classification is entirely in-house, based on analysis within four social measures categories and spending data gathered.

Note that for spending data, we have excluded “non-specific” and “non-financial” contributions to Africa such as finance for the Africa CDC, the Jack Ma Foundations donations of medical  equipment, or Chinese government medical teams (see our analysis from last week here).

If you spot any gaps, please send your feedback to us at drteam@developmentreimagined.com, we will aim to verify and rectify asap.

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Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.