COVID-19 in Africa – a call for coordinated governance, improved health structures and better data

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2020:

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation today launches its report on COVID-19 in Africa, calling for coordinated governance, improved health structures and better data to mitigate this crisis.

In the publication, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation analyses Africa’s readiness and capacity to manage this pandemic. It draws on a wealth of data, statistics and information from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and other sources to examine the current COVID-19 context and its immediate challenges.

In providing this analysis, the Foundation says that it aims to present a clear and accurate picture, highlighting where efforts can be concentrated in the management and mitigation of this health crisis across the continent.

Based on data and indices collated from the IIAG and a number of sources and organisations, this publication has identified some immediate challenges calling for action:

  • Sound and coordinated governance is needed across the continent. Any pandemic requires by nature a general coordination of efforts across national and regional borders, and with multilateral actors and partners, even more so in a globalised world.
  • There is an urgent need to act on the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in 2015 and address the specific weaknesses of Africa’s health structures: improve health systems, and citizens’ access to them, and more generally strengthen data and statistical capacity.
  • 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.
  • 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 travelers and treatment of cases. Efforts to strengthen and enhance preparedness could help to save lives.
  • Data coverage on health facilities and health outcomes in Africa is low. Only eight African countries have complete birth registration systems. This impacts the timely production of data, crucial during health emergencies. Quality statistics, and the funding and autonomy of National Statistics Offices, are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation, namely in health care.
  • With the general weakness of health structures, from human resources to equipment and supply chains, working together is critical now more than ever. Many National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) have been created after health systems failed to respond to crises due to fragmented and insufficient responses. Finding ways to collaborate and work together to fight this challenge, protect lives and improve health capabilities is critical.
  • Africa has shown increasing improvement in Public Health Campaigns (+0.6 since 2008 according to the IIAG) with 20 countries seeing an improvement in score. But 15 countries have also registered a decline. All parties should contribute to national information and awareness-raising campaigns and help tackle misinformation and fake news.
  • Infrastructure weakness can prevent personnel from reaching affected areas at the required speed, while communications infrastructure is similarly important as it allows for reporting and diagnosis. The data show that any action to strengthen services in these areas would be beneficial.
  • In terms of the wider impact of COVID-19, on the economy and beyond, according to UNECA the pandemic will hit economic growth from an expected 3.2% down to 1.8%. If not addressed in a collective and organised way, this could reverse the positive growth of the past decade and impact areas where Africa has steadily progressed, be it the fight against malaria or against poverty. Moreover, this could spill over beyond the economy and put to test the institutional fragility of some countries, fuelling further conflicts and instability.

Download report here

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is also publishing a daily summary of related news and analysis with a focus on the African continent.

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