How Financially Prepared was the Eastern African Region for COVID-19? An Analysis of the Disbursement and Management of COVID-19 Funds

posted Dec 27 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged a lot of countries this year and has subsequently caused adverse impacts on the global economy. Governments around the world along with different institutions have been implementing various fiscal measures to mitigate the adverse effects and provide relief for households and different businesses. In this article, we highlight the measures that have been taken through the year to provide aid and funding to the Eastern African region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the East African countries; Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda have been swift in their response to COVID-19. These countries benefited from Ebola preparations, and have over the years been dealing with outbreaks such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS. Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and Uganda all border the Democratic Republic of the Congo and were forced to respond to its Ebola outbreak in 2018(WHO). Each country already had rapid-response teams, trained contact tracers, logistics routes, and other public-health tools and procedures in place, which they have modified to respond to the coronavirus.

A proportion of that success is  also owed to aggressive measures enacted early on during the discovery of the disease to restrict people’s movements and slow transmissions within communities, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa. “Governments took early, quite drastic action through the lockdowns at great cost to their economies,” Moeti said in one of WHO’s briefings.(WHO)

Within the East African region, economies have also subsequently suffered and a total of 262 initiatives were undertaken in the region, with 50.8% being country specific and 49.2% being multi-regional.(Tableau).

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, various entities across Africa such as NGO’s like World Bank and IMF, intergovernmental unions such as the EU and the private sector have all come together to help countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis through a combination of new operations in health, social protection, economic stimulus and other sectors, as well as redeployment of existing resources.

One inadvertent effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn across Africa has been the harsh spotlight on shortcomings of social safety nets across the continent. In addition to boosting public health systems and infrastructure, African governments have also been faced with the task of providing economic relief for the citizens worst affected: the millions of low-income households and informal economy workers who depend on daily earnings. 

East Africa’s GDP growth for 2020 was expected to fall. This was due to the enforced partial or total lockdown of economies brought on by the pandemic. The outbreak has led to disruption in the various sectors, most notably the financial industry and the tourism and hospitality sectors. A lot more funding should understandably go into these sectors to protect the industries’ workforce alongside coming up with creative and innovative ideas to stimulate them. These could be possibly in the form of campaigning for and encouraging local tourism once the lockdowns start lifting off.

As the social and economic impact of COVID-19 are still unfolding across the region,it is critical to come up with short term and long term strategies to cope with the pandemic .In the short-term,governments should channel fiscal and monetary measures to support SMEs,households and informal workers,especially in the most vulnerable economies.In the medium-to-long term, in collaboration with the international community, governments should continue to strengthen health systems and extend health and social protection coverage. These measures will be key to building human, societal and economic resilience for future global crises.

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