Covid-19: Africa more resilient than expected

“You have to see how we are suffering here, you can’t even move to do your business, and people are hungry, that’s what’s the saddest thing,” says Anna on the other end of the phone from a country of ‘French speaking Africa. His government is, however, well placed to have quickly set up a solidarity fund accessible by simply sending an SMS. But nothing helps, the young woman trader between two isolated cities seems simply won over by anxiety. From the African continent, it is not uncommon to hear people say that they fear more dying of hunger than of coronavirus disease, raising the idea that behind the health crisis, another scourge is preparing its return : hunger. How to measure this feeling? Is it real? How do Africans actually live this period?

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Specific African concerns

It should be noted that hunger riots have marked the history of the continent, the last of which in 2008 marked the memories of Egypt in Cameroon, passing through Senegal and Mauritania. On the other hand, the images that have come down to us when we announced the restriction measures are not reassuring either. In some countries, we have seen the police demonstrate incredible violence to impose orders from above, we have seen images of women, men running with their goods on their heads. sheltered. Since then, what has happened?

Just over two months after the first cases, we are not the only ones wanting to learn a little more. The Deloitte firm, the OpinionWay polling institute and the 35 ° North consulting agency immersed themselves in an analysis of African public opinion in eight English-speaking and French-speaking countries *. They interviewed almost 4,017 people in total, representative of the population aged 18 and over, between May 2 and May 14, 2020. The results were released these days in the form of a survey. Entitled “African public opinion facing the Covid-19 crisis”, the 46-page study confirms the fears of all the experts. Africans are indeed concerned about the impact of the coronavirus and its socio-economic consequences, but less than the Europeans. And that is a surprise.

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The specter of the economic crisis

Africans are primarily concerned with the economic situation, with the recession looming. According to World Bank projections, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa should drop by 2.4% in 2019 to become negative and range between – 2.1% and – 5.1% in 2020. Translation in the survey: 60% of respondents believe that the economic situation of their country will deteriorate and 12% that it will not change, while the continent has been for twenty years on a dynamic of sustained economic growth and confidence in the future . Despite the responsiveness of governments, very specific concerns about the consequences of the crisis are emerging. At the very top of the list are fears for the job. 53% anticipate a deterioration in the situation of their company or their professional situation. Then come poverty and the food crisis. For Hugues Cazenave, President of OpinionWay, “the specter of a return to hunger riots, as in 2008 in certain countries, probably contributes to reinforcing these worries and increasing these results. These concerns reflect the very concrete economic problems caused by this pandemic, “he explains in this study, of which Le Point Afrique has received a copy.

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The food crisis, a reality already there

Difficult to miss this subject, especially when governments themselves recognize the weaknesses of their country. The government of Burkina Faso, which is not part of the Opinion Way study, announced on Wednesday June 3 that 12 of the country’s 45 provinces will experience a “food crisis” between June and August 2020. During during this period, 2,151,970 people in all regions will be severely food insecure and 137,175 people in the Sahel, Center-North, East and Mouhoun loop regions could be in a situation of food emergency, according to the same source. It is precisely in this tense region in the south of the Sahara that the equation is the most complicated for the authorities. According to the 35 ° North agency which co-directed the study, there is a dividing line between the north and the south of the Sahara. It’s simple, in the north, Algerians and Moroccans say they are 67% and 96% confident in their ability to meet their food needs. For sub-Saharan Africa, it is a completely different story since 82% of those questioned in South Africa – the continent’s leading economic power – consider the risk of food shortage “significant”. These fears relate mainly to basic necessities such as rice, flour, vegetables or even oil.

Read also Delhommais – From big food to hunger riots

Strong support for preventive measures

Despite this rather bleak global picture, the Africans interviewed showed a strong sense of optimism about the future. Already because a majority of them, 81%, have confidence in governments “to limit the effects of the epidemic”. A significant rate which has not completely convinced or which, in any case, raises many questions since the publication of the survey. To understand, we have to go back to the very beginning of the crisis, at that time, experts feared that African leaders would not be up to the task. Especially since health systems are failing in many countries. But it should also be pointed out that some have shown unprecedented responsiveness with border closings from the first case. “The worry about the economic situation is lower than that assessed in France at 88% and in Italy at 76%, for example. This shows a remarkable sense of responsibility and African resilience, fueled in particular by the responsiveness of many African governments which, beyond the early health protection measures, were able to quickly put in place plans to support the economies and social support for populations, analysis Brice Chasles, Managing Partner for French-speaking Africa at Deloitte.

On the honor roll, doctors and scientific experts also come out as the big winners in the ranking of actors, benefiting from the highest level of confidence to inform about the pandemic. This level remains comparable to those observed in Europe.

Governments put to the test

As everywhere in the world, the measures seem to have gained consensus at first, leaving the authorities a lot of room for maneuver. Including visibility in the media. For communication specialist Philippe Perdrix, partner at 35 ° Nord “African governments benefiting from the highest confidence rates have been very active in terms of communication both to their international partners and to populations,” he says. , continuing that by directly engaging in dialogue with their citizens, certain African states have succeeded in ensuring that the pandemic is taken in hand by both the rulers and the governed, and this transcends, for the moment, the cleavages or tensions policies that can sometimes be observed on the continent. All without parliamentary debates, without public debates, which can sometimes crystallize tensions, as is currently the case in South Africa, where justice has reversed many of the measures decided by the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa. These last days, after the time of consensus, the Senegalese took to the streets to demonstrate to demand the end of the curfew and the state of health emergency. In Mali, the authorities have not decided to close the mosques, which has certainly made it possible to avoid violent protests, but the end of the health emergency measures also heralds the return of the opposition, hitherto silent because of assembly bans.

Read also South Africa: justice puts pressure on Cyril Ramaphosa

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