Coronavirus and West Africa

Authors: Farzad Ramezani Bonesh and Chidiebere Favour Nwobodo

Coronavirus seemed to be the worst of its kind that have struck West Africa and the world at large in the recent time. This research analytically looks at the spreading of the Coronavirus in West Africa, using Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast as the most important axes. The researcher considers these three countries as the important axes in West Africa because researches have shown that these countries have been in the forefront when it comes to economic, political, social and cultural prowess, which are basically, the main focus of this research. Although Africa in general, seemed to have the lowest cases of this pandemic, researches have shown that this pandemic has continued to take its toll almost on daily basis, thereby causing a rise in new cases especially in West African countries. Having dealt with Ebola virus in the time past, West African countries seemed to have known what pandemic disease looks like and therefore have stepped up in their preparedness against this disease.

Corona and West Africa: An Overview

The disease started in the Hubei province of China in 2019 and has spread to all continents, affecting 177 countries by March 27, 2020. It is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Although claims have it that this virus may not likely survive in West African countries due to the tropical climate in these regions, yet this claim cannot be ascertained as new cases of this virus are being confirmed in these countries.

West Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The West African countries include  Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Coted’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra- Leone and Togo.

As stated earlier, the aforementioned countries are reviewed for a systematic study of corona virus in those regions. Nigeria, which is the giant of Africa, is widely known for her multiple ethnicity and cultural heritage. Ghana has been recorded to have spearheaded other West African countries in politics while Cote D’Ivoire is known for her economic prowess.

The Spread of Corona virus and Its Current Situation in West African Countries

Researchers have shown that the spread of this disease in West Africa countries has been relatively high, but the fatality ratio in these countries is much lower than that of the European countries.

According to Wikipedia, On 12 March, the health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu announced Ghana’s first two cases at an emergency press briefing. At the time of making this research, the number of confirmed cases in Ghana stands at 313 with 6 deaths and 34 recoveries. The affected regions are 25 districts in Accra Region, and 13 districts in Ashanti Region.

In Nigeria, the first confirmed case of the Corona virus was announced on 27 February 2020. According to Worldometer (2020), the current case of corona virus as of April 9th, in Nigeria is 276, with the record of 6 deaths and 44 recoveries. The disease has currently spread to 17 states in the country.

 Cote d’ivoire on March 11, recorded its first case of COVID-19.  Worldometer (2020), as at April 9, asserts that this country records 384 Corona virus cases, 3 deaths and 48 recoveries.

This research is of the view that the spread of this pandemic disease keeps rising in West Africa as new cases are being confirmed. The current situation is a thing of concern. Although the fatality ratio is not extremely high, containment measures should be deployed to curtail the epidemic of this virus, as the poor economy of most West African countries has already been crippled.

Social, Cultural and Political Influences of Coronavirus in West Africa

There is fear and trepidation as every social, cultural and political activity has been suspended.  In West Africa and Africa in general, social distancing is a privilege that only few can afford. When one wants to talk about greeting in Africa, one talks about handshake. The outbreak of this disease has left all hands in the confinement of one’s pocket. Every social gathering has been banned, ranging from religious activities to community activities. For example, in Nigeria and other West African countries, schools, churches, mosques, markets and all social activities are suspended. In recent news, the Ivory Coast Stock market has been closed.

Also in West Africa, one’s culture is one’s heritage. For example, traditional marriages and funeral rites have been part of the most cherished cultures but they have been affected by this disease.  In Ghana and Nigeria specifically, funerals have been put to a stop, thereby leaving the dead to their own fate.

Economic Impact of Corona virus on these Regions

The economic implications of this disease are detrimental not only to public health systems but to trade and travel, food and agriculture industries, various market types and retail chains, among others. The weak capacity of health care system in these countries is likely to exacerbate the pandemic and its impact on their economies. Most West African countries depend mostly on exportation and importation of goods. Due to the outbreak of this, restrictions have been placed and economy crippled.

Scenarios and Future of Corona in West Africa

According to the World Food Programmer’s analysis, 2019/2020 had been a strong agricultural season in West Africa ‘with an overall higher than average production of cereals,’ which is good for food security. That notwithstanding, since 2008, the consumer price index for food is at its highest in the Monetary Union of West Africa zone. More than 80% of people in rural areas depend on subsistence farming for survival; however, restrictions on market activities would limit market access. The Covid-19 epidemic is currently forcing governments to cut agricultural expenses and prioritize health-related expenditures. This will heavily affect the economy in the future if the restrictions continue.

Also the measures taken to control the spread of the disease are expected to bring additional economic hardship in the nearest future because in most West African countries, informal laborers substitute about 83.6% of the total workforce.

Farzad R. Bonesh
Farzad R. Bonesh
Researcher and Senior analyst on regional issues