A cartoonist from Burkina Faso, draws his interpretation of the African continent handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glez (Burkina Faso) 

An African exception?

Home to a majority of the world’s poorest people (90% by 2030) and many fragile countries, Africa is vulnerable to Covid-19. Its demographics — a median age of 19 years old — might limit the direct impacts of the virus. However, the very large number of people whose immune systems are already weakened by nutritional deficiencies and chronic disease, could accelerate its spread. In arid zones, regular sand storms expose populations to dust-related respiratory diseases.

In addition, the increasing number of dense and often polluted urban agglomerations, with little possibility for social distancing, the dominance of the informal economy, which depends on daily face-to-face contact, and the mobility of seasonal workers, will challenge efforts to fight the virus. Without the buy-in of affected communities, ill-adapted and restrictive measures could expose African coutries to unrest and disorder.

It is true that, for the time being, the pandemic appears to be spreading at a slower pace in Africa than elsewhere in the world and with a lower mortality rate. It is also true that the number of tests carried out is very low (with the exception of South Africa and Ghana) and that “Africa is ill-equipped to respond to the deadly coronavirus outbreak”, according to the World Health Organisation. The “African exception” to the virus is therefore a hypothesis that should be considered with caution.

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