China today is Africa’s biggest trade partner with about 10,000 Chinese firms operating throughout the continent. It was a matter of time for the continent to begin registering cases of Coronavirus infections. The comeback of Chinese nationals back to Africa after the Christmas season was feared to pose a big threat to the continent. Ironically, the virus originates from the Chinese province of Wuhan but the cases in Africa are liked to other countries including Europe.
The first registered case of Coronavirus on African soil was the death of a German tourist in Egypt. Today, many other cases have been registered across the continent in countries including Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Ghana.
By the time of writing this article the African countries with confirmed cases of Coronavirus were 26 according to africanews.com.
Foreign travel and introduction of Coronavirus to Africa
All Coronavirus cases confirmed in Africa are foreigners or people who traveled abroad. Most of the detected cases are people from Europe. In Sudan, a man who visited the United Arab Emirates in early March became the first confirmed case. An employee of the European Union Delegation was confirmed to have Coronavirus. She had isolated herself on felling ill on her return from Europe.
Effect of Coronavirus on the African aviation Industry
The temperature of all passengers at the airports across Africa is tested with suspected cases quarantined. Most countries now prohibit flights to China with even flights to other countries stopped. This explains why the Africa Institute postponed the Ethiopia: Modern Nation – Ancient Roots (Part I) conference until the situation is under control. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the African aviation industry has so far lost about $400m. Countries that were to host international conferences had banned them. Many African airlines have suspended flights to and from China including:
- Air Tanzania
- Air Mauritius
- Kenya Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- South African Airways
How African countries are responding to the pandemic?
Kenya – The richest East African economy, Kenya is a hub for global firms including the United Nations. This is one of the latest African countries to record a Coronavirus case. A 27-year-old lady traveling home via London on March 6 tested positive. The people she had contacted including fellow passengers on the flight were required to have their temperature monitored for the next two weeks.
During the time of writing this article, two more cases had been registered to make the number of Coronavirus cases in Kenya to three. Local authorities have banned major public events and restricted foreign travel including stopping flights to South Korea, Iran, and Northern Italy.
Rwanda – The first case of Coronavirus in Rwanda was recorded on March 8. An Indian national who arrived from Mumbai tested positive. This made Rwanda 19th African country to record a Coronavirus case. Rwanda Air announced the suspension of all flights to India with a refund until April 30th.
Other measures in place include placing washbasins with soap and sanitizers for commuters to wash their hands before boarding public vehicles. In the capital Kigali, public rallies, trade fairs and concerts are banned. Rwanda’s neighbor, Burundi has not yet recorded any positive case of Coronavirus but put 34 people in quarantine in the capital Bujumbura as a precautionary measure.
Ethiopia – With a population of about 109 million, Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa. A 48-year-old Japanese male who traveled to the country on March 4 from Burkina Faso became the first Coronavirus case. Preventive measures in the country include avoiding crowded places and avoiding close personal contact. The country has no plans yet to cancel flights abroad according to Health Minister Lia Tadesse.
Uganda – Although Uganda has no Coronavirus case yet, the country is on high alert with positive cases in Kenya and Rwanda. Travelers for infected countries including the US, the UK, and various European nations have to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days. Otherwise, the person is advised not to visit anyway. Additionally, all travelers arriving at Entebbe International Airport are sprayed with a disinfectant.
Mauritius – This island nation had no recorded case of Coronavirus by the time writing this article. However, the pandemic is taking a toll on the country’s economy hugely dependant on financial services and tourism. Some of the measures to mitigate the virus effects include availing liquidity to banks for supporting struggling firms. Another measure is cutting cash reserve requirements for commercial banks.
There is a growing concern across the world on how to handle the escalating Coronavirus. All countries are enforcing quarantines and rapid testing in a bid to curb the transmission. With China, Africa’s major economic partner on its knees, there is growing outcry to find a vaccine for the Coronavirus before every economy crumbles.