How much are African countries spending to help the poorest deal with COVID19?

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COVID19 first entered the African continent on 14th February 2020,  and since then many African governments have been responding with both speed and determination. Last week, we explored what governments are doing to “flatten the COVID19 curve”.

This week we return to the question of what African countries are doing to support their populations – especially the poorest people – to manage the manage the economic fallout of COVID19.

First, the good news.

The good news is that 44 African governments – the majority – have already introduced a total of 156 measures to support their citizens and businesses to help address the implications of COVID19 economic shifts and movement restrictions.

Of these, 36 African countries have allocated a specific budget to provide for these support measures as well as the direct COVID19 healthcare costs. On average each country is spending 1.07% of their GDP to respond to COVID19 – budgets that together add up to US$ 37.8 Billion.

From the poorest to the richer, the vast majority of African countries are acting and spending even though 23 African countries still have less than 100 cases. And both poor and richer countries on the continent have valuable ideas and lessons to share with others on these topics – as our updated list of “Top 10 Performers” demonstrates.

But now for the bad news.

First, Africa’s cases have now – for the first time this week – risen to over 1% of case worldwide. In terms of spending, the vast majority – 85% – of the US$ 37.8 billion has been allocated in just two countries – South Africa and Egypt. For the majority of African countries, their budgets are no where near this level.

Some African countries – such as Ghana and Senegal – have already negotiated new loans from the IMF to expand their budgets soon, loans which are not yet reflected in our figures. The G20 have also made available (by suspending debt service payments) an average of US $260 million each for the world’s 77 poorest countries, including Africa, which will help.

But this is not enough. Indeed, 6 African countries have not introduced any measures or set aside any budget to fight COVID19. All are Least Developed Countries.

With this evidence in mind – we have two recommendations.

First to African governments. Continue to ramp up the economic and poverty support measures, learning from each other and spending appropriately.

Second, to Africa’s development partners, including the US, China and others. Ramp up even faster the support to African countries to expand their budgets to help their poorest citizens. Even South Africa’s seemingly huge $26bn budget – an equivalent to 7% of its GDP – is the same size as the investment the USA is putting just into vaccine research for COVID19. More can and should be done to support African countries.

The early action African countries have taken will only have a chance of working for the world IF the action can be maintained.

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 .

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

The data was collated from a range of sources including: the IMF policy tracker; the US Chamber COVID19 Dashboard; a specific tracker of social support measures by Ugo Gentilini, as well as government websites and media reports. Our methodology for classification is entirely in-house, based on analysis within four social measures categories and spending data gathered.

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

April 2020

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