Recession and violence among COVID side effects in Africa, report finds

A police officer detains a man during a patrol as a nighttime curfew is reimposed amid a nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Pretoria, South Africa

Much of Africa may have been spared the death toll that COVID-19 brought to other regions, but it now faces recession, growing violence and higher unempoyment because of the pandemic, a report said on Wednesday.

“The global economic shutdown has driven Africa into recession for the first time in 30 years, with severe repercussions for unemployment, poverty, inequalities and food insecurity,” said the 2021 Ibrahim Forum Report.

It was released ahead of the annual conference this weekend of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which promotes good governance in Africa.

African countries implemented strict travel restrictions and robust contact tracing when the outbreak began, potentially saving millions of lives, the report said.

But Africa was the only continent where incidents of violence rose over the course of the pandemic. Mob violence rose by 78%, while more than 90 people were killed by security forces implementing lockdown restrictions, the report said.

Conflict resolution and counterinsurgency efforts were scaled back, opening doors for extremist groups to capitalize on the outbreak by filling gaps left by the state.

“COVID-19 has already been integrated into the propaganda of groups like Al Shabab and Boko Haram, to help justify their cause,” said Camilla Rocca, Head of Research at the foundation.

“They want to paint themselves as service providers, with Al Shabab, for instance, opening clinics and the Islamic State branch in [Democratic Republic of Congo] providing medicines,” she said.

A recovery strategy needs to emphasise the creation of sustainable jobs, the report said.

One solution would be for Africa to develop a vaccine manufacturing industry, which could produce jobs across different sectors and fulfill a dire healthcare need.

“Harnessing the lessons from COVID-19, our continent can build a more sustainable, self-reliant and inclusive future,” Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British billionaire at the helm of the foundation, said in the report.

“[But] Africa’s youth, who are the future of our continent, must be at the heart of the plan.”

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