"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
We’re still in Niamey… So far, so good, at least for us personally. Nevertheless, a few repatriation flights have taken place, so it feels strange to be here. (We’re not the only foreigners still here, but you can sense there’s less of us, understandably so). The closure of the school’s been extended, warning posters have gone up all around Niamey, and a curfew has been put in place (from 19:00 to 6:00). More worrying, there are more and more cases and Africa (in Niamey, Niger and throughout Africa). Of course, the medical capacity in Niger is dramatic when compared to the West or richer Asian countries. There is some hope that Africa may be less hard than other parts of the world (e.g. because the virus seems to have less impact on younger people and the population in Africa tends to be younger) but you can also argue the other way (e.g., as people have more underlying health issues and less access to medical care, the impact could be larger).
One thing that seems clearer, is that the impact on the global economy is likely to be large. In the US, throughout Asia and in the EU, there has been a huge drop in economic activity, massive rises in unemployment claims, and certain reduction in overall growth. Around the world, in particular in richer countries that can afford to, massive action – often unimaginable a few weeks ago- has been taken to limit the damage. Even the IMF is enthusiastically supporting expenditure.
For African countries, the scope of economic tools is limited. McKinsey has provided an overview, including a range of scenarios. Even the minimum foreseen drop in GDP – 3% - would have significant consequences in a country like Niger (of course, the estimation is not country by country but total). Furthermore, with large informal sectors, much of the damage will be difficult to assess and help difficult to direct. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that food security – for example in West Africa – could be impacted. And while the shift of much of the aid sector (in particular with regards to health) to Covid 19, one does wonder what the overall impact will be with regards to the overall health sector and more structural diseases like malaria, diarrhea and TB that kill hundreds of thousands across Africa yearly.
Unfortunately, a further challenge for Africa, in particular its poor. After the financial crisis from 2008, with international solidarity already strained, this will not be easy.
08.04.2020, Niamey, Niger.
Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.