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Tackling COVID-19 in Africa

An unfolding health and economic crisis that demands bold action__

By Kartik JayaramAcha Leke, Amandla Ooko-Ombaka, and Ying Sunny SunOpen interactive popup.

The COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis and a human tragedy, but it also has far-reaching economic ramifications. In Africa, it is already disrupting millions of people’s livelihoods, with disproportionate impact on poor households and small and informal businesses—and the pace of this disruption is likely to accelerate in the weeks ahead. No country or community is exempt; in oil-exporting countries, COVID-related challenges are compounded by the collapse of the oil price.

Across the continent, leaders in the public, private, and development sectors are already taking decisive action—both to save lives and to protect households, businesses, and national economies from the fallout of the pandemic. But several leaders have told us that they need a clearer picture of the potential economic impact of the crisis. At the same time, many African countries are still in the early stages of organizing their responses into focused, prioritized efforts that make the most of the limited time and resources available.

To address these needs and help inform the response of leaders across the continent, this paper presents:

  • An initial analysis of COVID-19’s economic impact, which finds that Africa’s GDP growth in 2020 could be cut by three to eight percentage points. We find that the pandemic and the oil-price shock are likely to tip Africa into an economic contraction in 2020, in the absence of major fiscal stimulus.
  • A framework for near-term action by governments, the private sector, and development institutions to mitigate this impact. These actions are drawn from a global scan of economic interventions already being implemented or considered, plus our recent discussions with public- and private-sector leaders across Africa.

Our message is clear. Governments, the private sector, and development institutions need to double down on their already proven resolve—and significantly expand existing efforts to safeguard economies and livelihoods across Africa.

In many countries, there is an opportunity to take bolder, more creative steps to secure supply chains of essential products, contain the health crisis, maintain the stability of financial systems, help businesses survive the crisis, and support households’ economic welfare. They also need to consider an extensive stimulus package to reverse the economic damage of the crisis.

Governments, the private sector, and development institutions need to double down on their already proven resolve—and expand existing efforts to safeguard economies and livelihoods across Africa.

This paper is the first in a series of rapid analyses by McKinsey, intended to provide decision-makers with data and tools to strengthen their response to the COVID-19 crisis in Africa. In subsequent papers we will extend our focus beyond the immediate need for resolve to four other imperatives highlighted in our global analysis of how institutions can address the crisis—namely, resilience, return, reimagination, and reform.

Click to Read Part 1

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