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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 60-64

Will the current coronavirus disease 2019 affect progress in the attainment of sustainable development goals in Africa?

1 PT Department, Research Unit, School of Health Sciences, The University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
2 Department of Public Health, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, The University of Lusaka, Lusaka, Zambia

Date of Submission14-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance11-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication13-Aug-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Brian Chanda Chiluba
Research Unit, School of Health Sciences, The University of Zambia, Lusaka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/bbrj.bbrj_55_20

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The global coronavirus pandemic which has already caused unprecedented damage and misery has put an almost complete halt to our way of life. The epidemic will have significant and enduring economic and social implications in every corner of the globe. Only through successful cooperation and coordination between scientists, experts, innovators and policymakers can we solve the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing observations and perspectives in real time will be crucial to improving the connection between research , policy and community, and leading to the solutions we need. When the Covid-19 pandemic is under control, and the world economy is back on track, it is important to reassess the status and fate of the 2030 Agenda, also known as Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs). The Decade of Operation was scheduled to kick-off the year 2020. With only 10 years to go, plans have been made to undertake “ambitious global efforts” to deliver the promise of 2030—by mobilizing more governments, civil society, businesses, and calling on all people to make their own the Global Goals.

Keywords: Africa, coronavirus, coronavirus disease 2019, economic crisis, economy, recession

How to cite this article:
Chiluba BC, Chitangala F, Dube G. Will the current coronavirus disease 2019 affect progress in the attainment of sustainable development goals in Africa?. Biomed Biotechnol Res J 2020;4, Suppl S1:60-4

How to cite this URL:
Chiluba BC, Chitangala F, Dube G. Will the current coronavirus disease 2019 affect progress in the attainment of sustainable development goals in Africa?. Biomed Biotechnol Res J [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 7];4, Suppl S1:60-4. Available from: https://www.bmbtrj.org/text.asp?2020/4/5/60/292086

  Introduction Top

A senior UN official says, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic will both have short- and long-term effects across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Coronavirus has already had “tangible effects” on SDG 8 in the short term, decent work and economic growth, as well as “reinforcing the value of critical SDG 3, good health and safety, goals related to communicable disease resolution and improved access to health care,” Smita Nakhooda. Furthermore, although governments could impose lockdowns in urban areas, the effect would be immediate and meaningful. With little social security network and little public resources to mitigate the effects, the national economies will still split. Germany said at least € 150 billion ($163 billion) would be spent on mitigating the economic consequences of a national shutdown. Yet, while countries like Germany can borrow money at almost no cost, African governments would become vulnerable to a debt crisis if they were to spend on a similar scale.[1]

Africa has undergone a period of prolonged political and economic uncertainty, but signs of future economic growth in the coming years have indicated a modest increase in Africa's M and A production. COVID-19 is likely to hamper this predicted upturn and lead to greater short-term uncertainty as to how it will affect investment opportunities in Africa, continental competitiveness, and consumer demand.[2],[3] The Africa Development Bank (ADB) estimates in a new study that the pandemic could lead to a loss of US$ 16–43 billion across the developing Asia, except China. The worst affected sector is tourism, which could spell disaster on this industry-dependent Asia-Pacific countries such as Cambodia, Maldives, Palau, and Thailand. “There is already anecdotal evidence that in February 2020, tourism arrivals in many emerging Asian economies fell by 50-90 per cent compared to the previous year,” the study notes.[4]

Restrictions on the movement of people, goods, and services, as well as containment measures such as factory closures, have cut production and domestic demand sharply within China.[5] As a result, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) lowered its forecast of China's gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020 – from an initial growth estimate of 5.7% in November 2019 to a significantly lower 4.9% in March 2020. Similarly, despite China's weight on the global economy and the rapid expansion of COVID-19 globally, the OECD suggested that the global GDP growth could drop from the already slow 2.9% in 2019 to even lower 2.4% by 2020.[6]

Although the economic effect of COVID-19 on China's and the world's economy is being carefully monitored and calculated, at the moment, little is known about the effects of the outbreak on other “noneconomic” sectors such as development. The Brookings Institution released a report analyzing the top priorities for Africa from now until 2030, including areas where progress toward tangible SDG targets should be made as a matter of urgency. Eighteen out of the 44 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa will reach the SDG goals in less than half way by 2030. Furthermore, the report states that success in adopting the SDGs has been inconsistent across countries, strategies, and goals. All sub-Saharan African countries are expected to make substantial strides toward the SDGs by 2030, though only 18 out of the 44 countries will meet the targets in less than half. Many nations in Africa have made progress on a number of SDG 3 (good health and well-being) priorities.[7]

The lasting impact that COVID-19 will have worldwide is undeniable, and it is imperative that all global players remain focused on achieving the 17 SDGs, as the need to solve our environmental challenges, invest in our education, and meet our global needs does not vanish or diminish. Expo 2020, which was supposed to serve as a catalyst and platform to accelerate the global initiative to hit the SDGs, might only open in 2021 due to the COVID-19 concerns.[4]

The short-run impacts will be alarming from SDG 8 (decent jobs and economic growth) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure) perspectives. More so, as one of the most critical factors to help SDG8 is human resources, and this has taken on a massive hit now. The same holds true for SDG 9. However, different types of systems will emerge over time to address this problem, and the drivers for growth should change. We estimate that the COVID-19-related disruptions mentioned above will reduce sub-Saharan Africa's GDP growth by 2020 to between 1.5% and 2.5%, down from 3.6% of the pre-COVID-19 forecasts.[8] In a scenario where African governments take decisive action to curb the spread of the virus and stabilize global conditions, regional GDP growth will fall to 2.5% by around 1% point. For a scenario where responses are not swift, the pandemic will last longer, and global conditions will take longer to normalize, the effect will be more severe, resulting in a 2.1% point decrease in growth to 1.5%.[5]

  Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Africa Top

The WHO says more than 3750 positive COVID-19 cases have been registered in Africa (WHO, March 30, 2020). More than twenty countries in Africa are now witnessing local transmission and COVID-19's shape and impact in Africa that look very different from that of Europe, Asia, and North America, with radically different population trends. Testing kits and medical supplies were distributed to several countries on the continent, allowing 45 African nations to test for the virus now, as opposed to just two at the beginning of the outbreak in January 2020.[1],[2],[3] The WHO has also sponsored public health ministries in Africa, training 36 rapid response teams. The training aims to improve their skills in monitoring and contact tracing along with data collection, reporting, and evaluation. COVID-19 is said to have more impact on the elderly, but that is cold comfort for Africa, which is a world region with the youngest population relative to other world regions. In Africa, COVID-19 vulnerability is mainly related to the underlying health conditions, of which Africans have a disproportionate share.[3]

Health services in Africa are still stringent on addressing that disease threats such as malaria and Ebola. Impact of the 2014–2016 West African Ebola outbreak resulted in fewer infectious disease programs and fewer individuals seeking maternal health, hypertension, and diabetes treatment. Health officials expect the same trend with COVID-19 regional outbreaks.[4]

To answer the question on what will be the effect of COVID-19 on SDGs, is to break down the 17 goals into three meaningful and representative sectors of any given economy in Africa. This is because somewhat all the 17 SDGs tend to be influenced by the health, economic, education, and tourism sectors in Africa. In addition, these sectors have demonstrated to be the engine upon achieving other goals could be driven on.

  Effect on Health Top

The 2014 Ebola crisis, which lasted 2½ years and resulted in over 28,600 cases and 11,325 deaths, revealed the inadequacy of the health-care system in Africa. Although valuable lessons from previous outbreaks have been learned, and health systems have since been strengthened, critical gaps in preparedness remain. Governments and health practitioners must work closely with the WHO and other stakeholders to ensure that hospitals and clinics have sufficiently trained personnel and sufficient capacity to diagnose and manage the virus.[8]

As in [Figure 1] and [Figure 2], In 2014–2019, Africa's low average annual growth of 3.3% was largely the result of misguided development policies focusing on unviable capital-intensive industries (often in commodity sectors), rather than promoting competitive labor-intensive industries. Furthermore, insufficient growth has reduced government budgets, resulting in underfunded health care, weak governance, dramatic rises in public debt, and major infrastructure gaps. Given the poor health systems in Africa, and its shortage of doctors, health personnel, medications, and medical supplies, COVID-19 infections are likely to increase, triggering an unreported humanitarian crisis.[9] The virus could spread widely in poorer areas with no water or sewage hookups, and in communities where low educational levels, dominant social norms, and governmental skepticism complicate containment efforts. The pandemic could devastate Africa unless COVID-19 treatment and possibly vaccine is made widely available early.[10]
Figure 1: Effect of coronavirus disease 2019 on regional gross domestic product growth. (Source: World Economic Outlook database)

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Figure 2: Drop in crude oil prices in 2014 versus coronavirus disease 2019. (Source: IMF Primary commodity price system)

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Africa still accounts for majority of global maternal mortalities. By 2018, the sub-Saharan Africa's skilled birth attendants were only 59%, while the HIV incidence rates only reduced by 37%. The level of adolescent fertility is still high by any standard in the sub-Saharan Africa, at 101 births/1000 adolescent women. The region still carries the heaviest burden of disease, accounting for more than 90% of the global malaria burden.[11] Due to the foregoing, combined with an already-struggling health system base coupled with the expected shift of both attention and resources to the fight against COVID-19, Africa may not manage, by 2030, to attain <70 maternal deaths/100,000 live births; end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age; end AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other tropical diseases; reduce by a third premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases and promote mental health and well-being; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services; and achieve universal health coverage.[12]

  Effect on Economy Top

The COVID-19 pandemic could place high human, cultural, economic, and social costs on Africa. However, the crisis also offers an opportunity to re-establish the continent's fiscal and economy, build stronger health and social sectors, and construct a global fund for sustainable investment. Therefore, sustained halt to economic activity in the G20 countries (some experiencing extreme recessions) will result in a rapid deceleration of global growth. It will hurt African exports, the key driver of the continent's rise, and worsen trade and current balances.[13]

This would force policymakers to make disruptive macroeconomic reforms in the most difficult moment. In the short term, Africa needs greater fiscal room to enhance health spending, contain COVID-19 spread, help the hardest hit industries, and boost domestic demand, while on the continent, central banks should cut interest rates and channel liquidity to firms and households. However, all budget policies should be implemented transparently, managed by independent fiscal councils, and complemented by practical policy proposals that strengthen the medium-term budget mechanisms. To achieve these targets, heads of state and government of the African Union will hold a virtual emergency meeting to collect roughly 10% of the continent's GDP ($250 billion), including from central banks and development banks, and organize cross-border investment. More than three-quarters of African exports to the rest of the world rely heavily on natural resources and any decline in the demand affects much of the continent's economies. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Nigeria, and Ghana, which have minerals such as tar, iron ore, and copper, face major threats to China's exports of industrial commodities. As a result of the outbreak, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries scrapped its outlook for oil demand this year.[14]

The consequences of such a slowdown on hunger and food insecurity depend on the assumptions made about the duration of the pandemic and the transmission mechanisms. As reported, over the time frame, we expect, maybe optimistically, to be able to control the global spread of the virus in the coming months so that the global economy does not need to fall into a deep recession, but slow down by 1% point in 2020. We present the economic impacts across the following three possible scenarios:

  • Labor productivity shock: Significant impacts come from employees unable to do their jobs, resulting in an average fall in labor productivity of 1.4% during 2020. (this will reflect a 1.4% decline in labor supply)
  • Total productivity shock: Impacts are felt by temporary paralysis of domestic economic operation triggered by disruption of the distribution systems, inability to provide employees with inputs and services due to quarantines, etc., We calculate this by raising the total productivity growth factor by an average of 1% to minimize global GDP
  • Trade shock: Impacts are felt through fluctuations in foreign trade, leading to the cost of trading rising by nearly 5% on an average and sufficient to produce a global economic growth cost of 1%.[13]

  Effect on Tourism Top

The COVID-19 pandemic is not hard to see, leading to even worse outcomes. Because of travel limits, tourism and business trips have largely stopped worldwide, which would take months, if not years, to be completely lifted. Demand for natural resources would plunge with all major economies facing a recession. Copper and oil have been selling at their lowest rates ever since 2016.[4] Tourism, an important economic activity field for many countries, will be significantly affected by COVID-19 as countries begin imposing travel restrictions and promoting social distancing. In the Seychelles, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe, the sector contributes more than 10% of GDP, and in Gambia, Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Egypt, and Rwanda, more than 5%. Tourism hires more than one million people in each of Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania, and tourism jobs in Seychelles, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Mauritius account for more than 20% of the total employment. In previous crises, African tourism suffered losses of up to $7.2 billion, including the 2008 financial crisis and the 2014 commodity price shock. Similarly, remittances to Africa will experience significant declines in many developed and emerging market countries, with economic activity in the doldrums. Remittances as a share of GDP in 13 African countries surpass 5% and range as high as 23% in Lesotho, and as high as 12% in the Comoros, Gambia, and Liberia.[15]

  Effect on Education Top

The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the worst global crisis of our time since the First World War. No country is unaffected and more than ever before, the world is searching for urgent answers. No industry has been left unscathed. The education sector, for example, which is anchored on a global SDG number 4, which looks at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, has not been spared. Education is an indispensable basic human right needed for humanity to attain sustainable development. Without education, girl child empowerment, climate change fight, attainment of equality, and ending extreme poverty would be unattainable. COVID-19 has come at a time when many developing countries still lack basic infrastructure and facilities to provide effective learning environments.[14] In the sub-Saharan Africa, for example, less than half of the primary and secondary schools have access to electricity, the Internet, computers, and basic drinking water. Moreover, a quarter of the global illiterate population lives in the sub-Saharan Africa, where only 65% of the teachers are trained. In the education sector, the pandemic was noticed as soon as it was announced. As of April 4, 2020, almost 90% of the world's students (over 1.5 billion learners) have been sent home due to emergence school closures necessitated by the pandemic. This is in more than 188 countries, where nationwide school closures have been instituted.[16],[17] With the pandemic projected to last few months, it is likely that the prolonged closure of schools will have lasting impact on the learners. This, on the other hand, presents an opportunity for schools and governments to start thinking about alternative learning platforms such as online facilities. However, given the weak economies, which are further negatively impacted by the COVID-19, this is likely to take a long haul.

  Conclusion Top

While the health of those affected by the virus is clearly of utmost importance, company owners, investors, and governments do need to prepare for the economic impact of the pandemic and make sure that their countries recover from the outbreak stronger than ever. Positive initiatives taken in many countries – but not all of them – are positive steps that will help to reduce the virus' human and economic effects in Africa. Both the African community and the global community need to work together to collaborate, coordinate, share lessons learned, and help each other fight the pandemic. No nation will be free until it is safe for every citizen. The outbreak would serve to demonstrate how interconnected and interdependent countries are, and should be an appeal for strengthening global institutions and the system of governance. No nation should be treated or think like they are an island. A nation is weak if its neighbor is weak and therefore, Africa should through the African Union and other organizations within Africa get to the tables to strategize the SDGs and how they can be attained after COVID-19 is over.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Hui DS, I-Azhar E, Madani TA, Ntoumi F, Kock R, Dar O, et al. The continuing 2019-nCoV epidemic threat of novel coronaviruses to global health – The latest 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Int J Infect Dis 2020;91:264-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
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Williams W. COVID-19 and Africa's Displacement Crisis. Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kock RA, Karesh WB, Veas F, Velavan TP, Simons D, Mboera LE, et al. 2019-nCoV in context: Lessons learned? Lancet Planet Health 2020;4:e87-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Coronavirus Spreads through Africa. Infographic; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 5
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Chinazzi M, Davis JT, Ajelli M, Gioannini C, Litvinova M, Merler S, et al. The Effect of Travel Restrictions on the Spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak. medRxiv; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 9
Crowley M, Luo X. Understanding the great trade collapse of 2008-09 and the subsequent trade recovery. Econ Perspect 2011;35:44.  Back to cited text no. 10
Vos R, Martin W, Laborde D. 'How much will global poverty increase because of COVID-19?'. 2020b. Available from: https://www.ifpri.org/blog/how-much-will-global-povertyincrease-because-covid-19. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 25]  Back to cited text no. 11
Cochrane J. Corona Virus Monetary Policy. Blog; 2020.  Back to cited text no. 13
Cecchetti SG, Schoenholtz KL. Bank Runs and Panics: A Primer; 2020. Available from: http://www. moneyandbanking.com. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 27].  Back to cited text no. 14
WHO Management of Ill Travellers at Points of Entry – International Airports, Seaports and Ground Crossings – In the Context of COVID-19 Outbreak; 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/publications-detail/management-of-ill-travellers-at-points-of-entry-international-airports-seaports-and-ground-crossings-in-the-context-of-covid--19-outbreak. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 28].  Back to cited text no. 15
WHO Emergency Ministerial Meeting on COVID-19 Organized by the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020. Available from: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/emergency-ministerial-meeting-on-covid-19-organized-by-the-african-union-and-the-africa-centres-for-disease-control-and-prevention. [Last accessed on 2020 Mar 28].  Back to cited text no. 16
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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