COVID19 in Africa: Can early momentum be maintained?

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This week, African countries recorded more recoveries relative to the rest of the world than recorded new COVID19 cases. That said, Africa now, as a whole, makes up almost 5% of the world’s COVID19 cases. Over 6 days, Africa’s cases rose from 800,000 cases to their current level at almost 900,000 cases. Yes, the rest of the world took 2 days to make the same progression but it is nevertheless concerning.

Why is the spread of COVID19 progressing so much slower across Africa than the rest of the world? Over the last 6 months with these graphics we have constantly asked ourselves the same question, and we are about to launch some work based on our extensive data collated over that period to analyse this more closely within the continent.

But one clear trend we saw early on in our analysis marked Africa out – early action. Our graphic this week reviews what that early action looked like… Not only closing borders and quarantining at borders earlier than many other countries across the world, but also bringing in lockdowns and social distancing measures such as mandatory facemasks in early on. It was an impressive record for a continent often seen as “behind”. In the case of COVID19, most African countries were “ahead”.

At the same time, our analysis does raise some cause for concern health-wise. Almost six months since COVID19 entered Africa, can African countries remain “ahead”? Especially having opened up more… Yes there is still social distancing in most African countries and use of masks in almost all countries, but as countries open up to international travel these challenges may increase if not well managed.

In addition, there remain gaps for others to help with. By April, for instance, all 55 African countries had 20,000 free testing kits each that had been provided by the Jack Ma Foundation. The majority of African countries used these up weeks ago – only 16 have still not made over 20,000 – and the majority of those countries appear to have managed COVID19 quite well so far. The biggest challenge is the countries that need to do more mass testing because their cases are rising fast. Indeed, the majority African countries have fairly low testing rates compared to the rest of the world. There are only 13 African countries that are testing more than 30 people per positive case detected – and Africa’s most populous country Nigeria is NOT one of them…

More donations of test kits, for instance, could go a very long, long way in most African countries.

That said, we must reiterate another trend we have noticed throughout our analysis. No one African country is the same – and how African countries are dealing with COVID19 in the short and medium term is no exception. Each country requires deep and careful analysis in terms of future strategy and international support. That’s why we are here, doing this analysis, and have the data to help chart the way forward based on real evidence of what does and doesn’t work, rather than conjecture, wishful thinking or even ideology!

Take a look at our data below and let us know your reflections and suggestions for further lines of enquiry.

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

Special thanks go to Rosie Wigmore, Rosie Flowers and Jinyu Chen for their work on the graphic and collecting/analysing the underlying data.

The data was collated from a range of sources including: government websites and media reports, the IMF policy tracker; the US Chamber COVID19 Dashboard; Our World in Data, Africa CDC and Worldometer. Our methodology is entirely in-house, based on analysis of social distancing categories and other trends.

If you spot any gaps or have any enquiries, please send your feedback to us at, we will aim to respond asap.

August 2020

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