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Handling of the epidemic: is the future of expatriation African?

Julie Leprohon
by Julie Leprohon Read time : 3min
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Article in partnership with Expat.com

For several years now, Africa has been more and more appealing as an expat destination. Many countries of the continent, for instance South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Botswana, offer political stability, interesting growth and attractive professional and investment opportunities. The fight against corruption, the measures taken for better management of natural resources and their industries (particularly oil and precious stones), a strong investment in the development of infrastructure or the establishment of advantageous tax systems are just a few examples of why Africa is well on its way to become the “continent of the future”.
While, as of December 2020, the COVID-19 virus is not yet under global control and many countries are keeping their borders closed as well as strict health restrictions, many African countries are now reopening their borders, having managed to contain the crisis. While in North America as in Asia, expatriation projects are hampered by the health context, what about on the African continent? And what long-term effects will the pandemic have on African countries as expatriation destinations.

Africa’s handling of the pandemic commanded

While the initial forecasts regarding the crisis on the African continent were not very good, a United Nations report in May 2020 commanded Africa's management of the COVID-19 crisis. Thus, according to the report, “The African Union reacted quickly by approving in February a common strategy for the continent and by complementing the efforts of Member States and regional economic communities by providing a public health platform”. Africa’s recent experience with contagious diseases, in particular that of Ebola, allowed for efficient and rapid management in the early stages of the epidemic, which translated into significantly better figures than those seen in Europe and America. The African continent has been efficient and rigorous, both through the training of its caregivers before the virus even reached its shores, and through the implementation of its health protocols. Mauritius  and Seychelles are two of the first African countries to have brought COVID-19 under control thanks to the rapid mobilization of their health personnel and a very strict lockdown which started right after the announcement of the very first cases.

The actions established to manage the crisis

The closure of its land and air borders, the quick supply of PCR tests and innovation throughout the continent have played a major role in the management of the crisis in Africa. The development of a serological test by the Pasteur Institute in Dakar or a PCR home kit are a good illustration of the research that has been carried out on the continent. In Togo, the government has set up an app, Togo Safe, which allows everyone on the territory to receive notifications if they have been in contact with a person who tested positive even if the two individuals do not know each other.

What explains the slowdown?

Africa’s rather young population and its particularly hot climate also seemed to be an advantage in the fight against the virus, although one cannot ascertain the causality of the relationship between the climate and the spread. Therefore, the climatic conditions of the territories, as well as African expertise in virology could weigh in the balance when one is choosing an expatriation destination.

It is not to say that Africa has been entirely spared, however. In November 2020, Africa had more than 2 million cases and exceeded the milestone of 50,000 deaths although the latest figures should be put into perspective given the continent's population (over one billion inhabitants). Furthermore, nearly half of the infected are in South Africa, the country most affected by the pandemic and the virus does not appear to be as active in all African countries. However, the “African mystery” remains. The virus is actively spreading but African cases still only represent a small percentage of cases globally.

Africa as an expat destination

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 crisis is weakening African health systems, which are already unstable for some. In fact, the WHO announced that 90% of countries affected by the virus have experienced the interruption of some essential health services such as the diagnosis or treatment of noncommunicable diseases, prevention and awareness of the importance of the disease, contraception or the treatment of mental disorders and cancer. And this has also been the case on the African continent.

The fight against the crisis continues

However, the continent could once again thwart the defeatist prognosis. Indeed, Africa is organizing its fight against the virus and in order to strive for equity of access to vaccines against COVID 19, WHO has implemented an initiative, COVAX, in which many African states are participating. This collaboration, which involves fundraising, aims to help develop vaccine manufacturing capacities and the purchase of supplies in order to bring into circulation 2 billion doses of vaccine before the end of 2021 and this, throughout the world, to prevent the less well-off countries from being disadvantaged in the fight against the pandemic

Last October, the WHO considered Africa to be at a pivotal moment in its fight against the virus. While the United Nations has commended Africa for its rapid response to the pandemic threat, the measures taken have, as in the rest of the world, had social and economic consequences. According to the UN, a drop of more than 10% in African exports is expected as well as a significant drop in oil costs (maybe up to 60% for unrefined oil), the African Gross Domestic Product could, therefore, drop by 1.4%, which would plunge the majority of the continent into an important recession.

Nonetheless, some countries are putting measures in place to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on their economies and populations. South Africa has announced US $ 160 million in aid for struggling businesses and more than US $ 8 billion in aid for the unemployment insurance fund. Egypt, for its part, has planned a contribution of US $ 6.4 billion to limit the economic consequences of the virus, while Tunisian aids amount to US $ 900 million and that of Morocco, 1 billion. In addition to the direct monetary aid injected by certain countries, others such as Ghana, Nigeria or Kenya are turning to aid in fiscal forms with lower interest rates or even more advantageous fiscal policies in order to relieve local businesses. Mauritius is working hard to revive its economy by offering new special visas to attract foreign investors and professionals in the midst of the pandemic.

It is undeniable that African countries have been able to combine responsiveness, rigor and innovation, both at the medical, social or economic level, while the whole world was cornered in the face of the COVID-19 virus. While some popular expat destinations are closing to foreigners and others have disappointed in their response to the crisis, could Africa not, more than ever, be the continent of all possibilities?

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