Africa: COVID-19 Daily Alerts – 23rd June
As the impacts of COVID-19 are becoming increasingly stark across the globe, our sense is that reporting on the crisis by traditional media has tended to provide broad, overarching data and information but does not capture or adequately convey how this crisis is impacting the operations of businesses, employees, and public services on the ground.
Speyside will be creating and circulating a daily briefing, like the one below, to provide this granular insight into developments in key market hubs. We appreciate that you may have staff, employees and partners across the region and recognise the importance of having a first-person view of impacts on day to day life and work market by market, in order to make key decisions in the weeks ahead. We are also circulating daily briefings covering the Lat Am, India, and ASEAN regions. Please let us know if you would like to receive these briefings.
If receipt of this daily briefing would be useful to you during this time, please click this link to be added to their distribution list at no cost.
Speyside is also circulating daily briefings covering the CEE, Lat Am, India, and ASEAN regions. For more information, or to receive bespoke reporting please email Speyside’s Africa Director, Frances Eberhard on email@example.com.
Thank you, and stay safe!
Johannesburg, South Africa
Overview: South Africa has breached the 100,000 case benchmark recording a total of 101,590 cases and 1,991 deaths. Infection rates are rising sharply with a rise of over 4,000 cases yesterday.
The Western Cape, which makes up 51,7% of the country’s infections, is reportedly entering its peak over the next few weeks. The Eastern Cape, which has poor healthcare infrastructure, is bracing for an explosion in cases as it is believed to be a few weeks behind the Western Cape. The Eastern Cape, which has already closed 132 schools, is planning to add 4,000 beds through field hospitals in preparation. Over the past week, the number of infections in Gauteng more than doubled. Gauteng Premier David Makhura has not ruled out moving the province to a higher lockdown level if infection rates become uncontrollable.
While the country’s mortality rate remains relatively low by international standards at 2%, the Western Cape recorded 600 more deaths due to natural causes over the past two weeks as compared to the same period last year. This indicates that due to fear around the virus and the strain at hospitals, more people are still dying albeit indirectly as a result of the virus.
Since the President announced the re-opening of further sectors last week Wednesday, there have been no media briefings or official amendments to the lockdown regulations. To date, only the Small Business Development Minister has issued directions for personal care services, although these directions have jumped the gun and should have only been introduced after the lockdown regulations were amended.
Impact: South Africa is under severe strain and is experiencing a “jobs loss tsunami”, according to a statement issued by the President. At last count, over 300 companies have filed retrenchment notices, which will see 80,000 workers lose their jobs, and 158 companies have filed for business rescue. These figures don’t consider the impact on the informal sector which are likely more severe. While no other sectors have received further funding, and none larger than R350 million, the Transport Department has announced a R1,135 billion relief package for the country’s taxi industry. Taxi unions engaged in protests yesterday asking for even further financial relief.
The latest predictions have the economy declining by 7% this year, with the country forecasted to lose R285 billion in tax revenue. The New Development Bank (BRICS Bank) has granted the country a R17 billion loan, the details of which are yet to be finalised. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Mboweni will release the Treasury’s emergency budget, which the Minister has warned has made some serious changes to reduce government spending as the country inches closer to a sovereign debt crisis.
The President and Cabinet are focusing on economic recovery plans for the country which are focused on large scale infrastructure projects aimed to stimulate the economy and boost job creation. Today, the President will launch the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, which will bring together funders, policymakers, State-Owned Enterprises, academics and representatives of the private sector to look at the investment opportunities in infrastructure. The projects will target building energy capacity, improving ports capacity, the licensing of high demand spectrum as well as improving and expanding basic services.
Overview: Kenya’s infection rates continue to increase steadily, however the low testing capacity in the country is likely behind the relatively low recorded numbers. To date the country has recorded 4,797 cases and 125 deaths. The Health Ministry has warned the public against the use of rapid antibody test kits circulating in the country which have not been approved and are not effective in testing for the virus. So far 87 health workers have contracted COVID-19, with unions indicating that healthcare workers do not have access to sufficient protective equipment. The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union has also complained that 5 counties have yet to pay salaries.
Infection rates in Nairobi, Mombasa, Busia and Kajiado counties are experiencing the largest surges. Screening and testing of truck drivers at Kenya’s borders, particularly at Busia county, have resulted in truck backlogs.
The Nairobi Hospital is experiencing service disruptions and issued a statement asking patients to consult doctors online. The hospital also announced that it will no longer accept patients using Jubilee Health Insurance, after allegations that the insurance company owes the hospital Sh96 million since the beginning of 2020 alone.
Kenya continues to use community leaders to lead public awareness campaigns to educate on curbing the spread of the virus and encouraging Kenyans to test for the virus. The country has expanded its community worker network by adding 59,000 trained community health volunteers, who have been deployed in all the 47 counties, and have so far been able to reach over 12 million households. Volunteers are working to screen and test Kenyans, as well as implement the country’s new home-based care and isolation guidelines in order to reduce the burden on the country’s hospital network.
Impact: A poll released this weekend indicated that the majority of Kenyans would like more restrictions to be eased because they are experiencing personal financial issues. 63% of the participants said they were struggling to pay their rent on time, while 67% said they were unable to pay for utilities like electricity and water. 75% of those polled have defaulted on payments of formal and informal loans while 67% cannot afford to buy medicine.
Factional divisions within the ruling Jubilee Party continue with the replacement of the majority leader in the National Assembly, who is an ally of Deputy President Ruto, with Amos Kimunya, a former finance minister who was removed from government 12 years ago amid corruption allegations. The decision forms part of a series of changes in the party and in government that has seen President Kenyatta seek to marginalise and weaken Deputy President Ruto and his allies. The President is building support for a referendum ahead of national elections in 2022, which could seek constitutional changes that would allow President Kenyatta to take on another powerful role in Kenya’s government.
Kenya will take over the remaining non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council after having defeated Djibouti in an election. While President Kenyatta has announced that the country will endeavour to consolidate and voice Africa’s position in the Security Council, the battle with Djibouti over the seat speaks to greater tensions within the region which may impact post-recovery coordination efforts.
Overview: Nigeria has recorded over 20,000 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 20,919 and 525 deaths. The country is starting to see a sustained increase in cases due to ongoing community transmission of the virus and increased testing capacity across states. The Nigeria CDC has said that no state can claim to be virus-free , and that it will work to ensure that every state has the proper testing equipment by the end of this week to test for COVID-19.
As more hospitals come under strain across the country, we are starting to see the introduction of homecare and isolation guidelines being implemented to treat mild cases, including in Kano state, which saw a large number of unexplained deaths in May which have since been linked to the virus.
The Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have suspended their nationwide strike due to low pay and poor conditions. NARD will hold a virtual meeting with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and will continue with work with the NGF and the Federal Health Ministry to finalise hazard and inducement allowances, as well as the provision of protective equipment for frontline workers.
The Federal Minister of Water Resources announced that N10 billion will be distributed among states for the construction and rehabilitation of water schemes as part of efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The program would include hiring volunteers to educate the public around handwashing and personal hygiene.
Impact: The recent approval of the USD 5.513 billion external loan request, sourced from the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank, has raised the country’s external debt profile to USD 33.18 billion, representing close to 90% of the country’s foreign reserves to date. The Organised Private Sector (OPS) has asked the Federal Government to look at ways to diversify the economy and stimulate private sector contribution to the economy. The OPS is concerned that if structural changes to Nigeria’s economy are not made, and the oil price does not rebound, the country’s external debt may exceed its foreign reserves and plunge the country into a debt crisis.
Diplomatic tensions between Nigeria and Ghana rose over the weekend after armed men reportedly stormed a building under construction that was part of the Nigerian High Commission’s residence in Accra and demolished it. Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo has apologised and said the country will launch a full investigation into the incident.
President Buhari has met with multiple governors to discuss internal tensions within the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). The meeting was necessitated by the suspension of the party’s national chairman and the defection of the Governor and Deputy Governor of Edo state to the Peoples Democratic Party. Insiders have suggested that tensions within the APC are being caused by the concentration of power within the National Working Committee of the party, which is failing to convene meetings and consider the views of the entire party.
The information provided here is accurate at the time of publication but as circumstances in some countries are changing regularly please contact Speyside Group at Frances.Eberhard@speyside-group.com for latest information.
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