Africa’s mining sector continues to thrive against the backdrop of COVID-19 and major political changes

Against the backdrop of COVID-19

Has the African continent been spared the worst of COVID-19?

Most of us in Europe and elsewhere are now confined or locked down due to the spiralling cases of COVID-19. The African continent has been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic according to the figures. In many countries’ life is returning to semi-normal with the re-opening of regional travel, the economy (such as the hospitality sector) and even the organisation of events. How has the African continent been touched so lightly by the pandemic and can the figures be trusted?

The continent has had 1,893,619 cases with 45,433 deaths up to 8th November 2020 according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Taken into context that is equivalent roughly to the amount of cases in France and slighter lower than the death toll in the United Kingdom. The top six countries in the continent for COVID-19 cases are: South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Ethiopia. South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Algeria, Angola, and Uganda have recently recorded minor spikes in cases, as restrictions have been relaxed.

The continent’s death rate per capita is quite low compared with other parts of the world. The World Health Organisation said that the low death rate could be attributed to the African continent having a young population with more than 60% below the age of 25. At the same time the climate means that many people spend more time outdoors than indoors, thus limiting the spread of the disease (as witnessed during the warmer months in Europe, cases dropped). Problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes which contribute to the COVID death rate are also less common in Africa.

So, if this is the case, why are African countries not included in air bridges to Europe, as surely, they have similar low case numbers to other countries outside of the continent who are afforded the privilege to travel? The main issue seems to be the low testing level in Africa compared to other continents.

Testing times for the African continent

According to a recent BBC report, ten countries account for 75% of total tests conducted on the continent (South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana). In the report it states that South Africa carries out 82 tests per 1000 people, whereas the United Kingdom tests 437 per 1000 people. Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria just carries out 3 tests per 1000 people. Therefore, the lack of confidence in the continent’s COVID statistics seems to emanate from lack of tests per capita.

What would be an interesting survey could be to study the amount of deaths on the African continent, pre-COVID for example November 2018 – November 2019 vis a vis November 2019 - November 2020. This could give a clearer figure if the mortality rates have increased due to COVID-19. However, it is good to be optimistic and we all wish that figures stay low and Africa once again proves its resilience.