COVID-19: Up to 49.2 million Africans could become extremely poor by 2021, says report

More than half of Africa least prepared to deal with pandemic according to African Economic Outlook 2020 Supplement

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 09 July 2020
Only 21 of 54 African countries were clinically prepared to deal with epidemics, the report says. Photo: @SankaraJgh / Twitter__

Up to 49.2 million people in Africa could be be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021, if economies on the continent continue to underperform due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a new report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) has warned.

In 2020, COVID-19 could push 28.2-37.5 million Africans into extreme poverty, the African Economic Outlook 2020 Supplement, released virtually on July 7, 2020, said. 

Although the number of extremely poor people in Africa was projected to reach 425.2 million in 2020 under the no-outbreak scenario, COVID–19 could increase it further, to 453.4 million in the baseline scenario and 462.7 million under the worst-case scenario. 

The number could increase further in 2021, when an additional 34-49.2 million would face extreme poverty due to the pandemic as gross domestic product (GDP) growth continues to fall below population growth rates.

Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, two of Africa’s most populous countries, would record the largest increases — 8.5 and 2.7 million respectively in the baseline scenario in 2020, and 11.5 and 3.4 million in the worst-case scenario.

The current population of Africa is 1,340,817,552, based on the latest United Nations estimates. The African population is equivalent to 16.72 per cent of the total world population.  

Many African countries will be pushed offtrack from the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal target of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, AfDB said.

Only 21 of 54 African countries were clinically prepared to deal with epidemics, the report said, citing the Global Health Security Index.

In addition to COVID-19, Africa was also facing threats such as the locust swarms that have struck its eastern part, as well as extreme climate events, which could further add to the challenge.

GDP contractions

Real GDP in Africa was projected to contract by 1.7 per cent in 2020, dropping by 5.6 percentage points (pp) from the January 2020 pre-COVID–19 projection, the report said.

There would be a deeper GDP contraction in 2020 of 3.4 per cent, down by 7.3 pp from the growth projected before the outbreak of COVID–19, if the pandemic continued in the second half of 2020.

Africa could suffer GDP losses in 2020 between $145.5 billion (baseline) and $189.7 billion (worst case), from the pre-COVID–19 estimated GDP of $2.59 trillion for 2020. For 2021, the projected GDP losses could be from $27.6 billion (baseline) up to $47 billion (worst case) from the potential GDP of $2.76 trillion without the pandemic

Africa would grow at three per cent in 2021, from 3.4% in the worst-case scenario for 2020. But this will largely depend on how government across the continent act to flatten the curve, the report said.

The supplement has been published for the first time in AfDB’s 19-year history of the African Economic Outlook.

COVID-19 has infected over 483,799 people and claimed 11,519 human lives in Africa as of July 7, 2020. New cases of the virus infection are doubling every 7 to 14 days for most countries on the continent.

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