COVID-19 Reinforcing Economic Inequality in Africa, Study Claims

ADDIS ABABA – COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic damage has reinforced inequities in Africa and derailed achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, an annual report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has found.

The Goalkeepers Report claims the pandemic has pushed global development back more than two decades with many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals negatively impacted.

Africa has made tremendous improvements in poverty reduction with a 28% decrease in the number of people living in extreme poverty since 1990.

But at the end of 2020, 13 million Africans are expected to fall below the poverty line in the best-case scenario, and 50 million at the worst, according to the report.

“We could see double the number of malaria deaths this year compared to 2018, and 80 million children under the age of one worldwide may be at risk from preventable diseases,” indicates the report.

In addition, the economic damage being caused by the continent’s first recession in 25 years is reinforcing inequalities.

“Women and other vulnerable groups are suffering disproportionally, those in low-income countries are struggling with food and school closures are unfairly disadvantaging rural children,” it says.

The report, however, notes African countries are innovating to meet the challenge, and there is much the world can learn from the continent’s response despite tremendous constraints.

The government is deploying mobile testing units in South Africa, the private sector is raising money to bolster resources in Nigeria, and new and improved cash transfers are reaching millions in West Africa.

In Senegal, scientists are developing cutting-edge, low-cost ventilators, and public-private partnerships are bringing internet connectivity to rural and remote communities in Kenya.

The report makes clear that no single country will be able to meet this challenge alone.

Speaking to the BBC, Bill Gates said an effective vaccine was likely to be ready by early 2021. However, he stressed that any vaccine must also be made accessible to poorer countries.

Featured Image: A vendor sells face coverings on the streets of Kumasi, Ghana on August 21, 2020. [Photo: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/ Nana Kofi Acquah]