Single title

West Africa – A stocktake on the COVID-19 pandemic

by Gunter Rieck Moncayo, Annika Schröder, Klaus Findt, Kimberly McEwan, Christian Lindfeld

An indicative outlook on the impact and future potential, based on more than 40 interviews with experts from the West African region

The COVID-19 pandemic hit many of the sub-Saharan African countries on their path toward growth and stabilisation, and like all other countries globally, they were completely unprepared. The restrictions on economic activities resulting from lockdowns and macroeconomic instability is increasing poverty and threatens livelihoods. Undoubtedly, sub-Saharan Africa is facing major economic and socio-political challenges.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung teamed up with Africa Advisors to take a closer look on the impact of the pandemic on the West African region: What kind of positive or negative developments in West African countries continue under the current COVID-19 pandemic? And how will West African countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis as well as its probable medium- to long-term impacts? These questions have led to this study, which is not intended to take an “external view”, but rather to include those experts’ knowledge who have been able to follow the developments in their respective countries over the past few years and are now therefore better positioned to evaluate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The study is based on more than 40 expert interviews, which were enriched with corresponding research on data and facts.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, there were commonalities in the fight against the pandemic as well as differences, which stem from the varying socio-economic and political environments of the individual countries prior to the crisis.
  • The quick and often strict lockdown measures adopted after the first registered cases is a common characteristic that prevented many countries from higher infection rates at the beginning, which would have overburdened the respective health systems.
  • In almost all sectors, two main weaknesses have once again become apparent: On the one hand, the lack of added value in the country’s own local production and the associated dependence on imports. And on the other hand, the extremely high number of informal employment, which are immediately affected existentially by any economic setback.
  • In the coming years, it will be even more important for the West African region to create more regional integration and cooperation in order to grow as a region and avoid being divided into front-runners and outcasts.
  • In this context, the economic heavyweight Nigeria must also play an important role, or even be the growth engine. But in order to become the region’s economic powerhouse, it needs to resolve its great dependence on oil and tackle their internal security problems.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa can and should play a more important role as a political partner for Europe in the discussion of topics such as the migration challenges, the dependencies from single countries such as China and the needed partnerships in the 21st Century.