COVID-19 impact on higher education in Africa

By Peter Koninckx, Strategic and Commercial Advisor, Cunégonde Fatondji, Analyst Intern, and Joel Burgos, Senior Project Manager, ShARE

Beyond the death toll and illness of millions of people due to COVID-19, businesses, healthcare, culture and education have had to cope with severe disturbances. But in our opinion, one could argue that higher-education students are amongst the most affected populations, particularly those in Africa. Although Africa is the continent with the least reported cases, the closure of higher education institutions was more widespread, and mitigation measures less effective than in other regions, according to a survey we conducted with more than 165 students across 21 African countries. No quick-fix solution exists, but the current crisis has highlighted the weaknesses in higher education in Africa, indicating where governments, international institutions, NGOs, and the private sector should focus their efforts.

Strong initial reaction to the COVID-19 crisis…

According to the Association of African Universities (IAU) Global Impact Survey on COVID-19, university closures in Africa in response to the pandemic were very effective: 77% of African universities compared to around 55% in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. However, while the percentage of higher education institutions where teaching was entirely cancelled remains low in all other regions (~3%), in Africa it is currently reported to be at 24%. Furthermore, over 40% of institutions in Africa were still developing alternative solutions at the time of the study, while other regions had already implemented them. Based on our own study, 88% of the surveyed students said that their school had discontinued in-person classes because of COVID-19.

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Migración urbana y COVID-19: Las ciudades están en la primera línea de una respuesta inclusiva y de la recuperación

Por Samer Saliba, Líder de Proyectos, Mayors Migration Council1

Foto: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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La comunidad internacional no está haciendo suficientes esfuerzos para apoyar económicamente a quienes más hacen por las personas migrantes, refugiadas y desplazadas durante la pandemia global: los Gobiernos de las ciudades. Aunque numerosas Alcaldías tienen el mandato de atender a las personas en situación de vulnerabilidad, tales como migrantes y residentes desplazados, frecuentemente las ciudades no cuentan con suficientes recursos económicos para responder a las crecientes necesidades de quienes van llegando. Asimismo, los Gobiernos locales de las ciudades han dejado de percibir ingresos debido a los impactos económicos del COVID-19, lo cual este año limita aún más su capacidad de brindar servicios fundamentales a los residentes. Según algunas estimaciones, los Gobiernos de las ciudades experimentarán una pérdida de ingresos de hasta un 25 % en el 2021, precisamente cuando necesitan incurrir en un mayor gasto para impulsar la recuperación y para atender a una población que crece continuamente. En una encuesta reciente, 33 funcionarios a cargo de las finanzas municipales de 22 países de todos los continentes expresaron que ya se observa una disminución del 10 % en el ingreso total y un aumento de aproximadamente 5 % en el gasto. Este “efecto tijera” de los ingresos y gastos de los Gobiernos locales tendrá un mayor impacto en las ciudades de países en desarrollo. Las ciudades africanas, por ejemplo, podrían dejar de percibir hasta un 65 % de sus ingresos en el 2021.      

Si bien la comunidad internacional está cada vez más atenta a las finanzas municipales en relación con el cambio climático, el desarrollo sostenible y el desarrollo urbano en general, no puede decirse lo mismo respecto a la migración y al desplazamiento urbanos. Pocos mecanismos de financiamiento municipal se centran exclusivamente en la atención de personas migrantes y desplazadas en las urbes, a pesar de que la mayoría de ellas reside en las ciudades. Además, muchas veces las agencias donantes con baja tolerancia al riesgo no toman en cuenta a los Gobiernos de ciudades en países de medianos y bajos ingresos.  Atendiendo a estas necesidades no satisfechas de las ciudades, mi organización, el Mayors Migration Council (MMC), lanzó recientemente el Fondo de Ciudades Globales para una Respuesta Inclusiva a la Pandemia, con el fin de apoyar a cinco Alcaldías en la implementación de programas de respuestas inclusivas y recuperación diseñados por ellas.

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Think global, act local: unpacking progress towards ending child marriage and averting the setbacks of COVID-19

By Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser and Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Save the Children UK1

In 2021, over 28,000 girls got married on International Women’s Day. Ten years from now, the number might still be as high as 26,000 – a far cry from the net zero target of Agenda 2030 (Fig. 1). The grim estimate for 2030 doesn’t even take into account the impact of COVID-19 on child marriage rates, although evidence shows that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on girls’ rights. With only 10 years to go to 2030, we reflect on progress made on one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and call for urgent action on inequalities in particular, which COVID-19 is exacerbating. The Generation Equality forum convened by UN Women is a timely process to prioritise gender equality in recovery efforts, building momentum around economic and political investment in girls’ rights.

Last year, Save the Children’s Global Girlhood Report 2020 shed light on progress towards key targets since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years prior. Among others, child marriage emerged as one area where strides forward had been particularly fragile and at risk of a dramatic reversal due to COVID-19. Our analysis estimates that the economic impacts of the pandemic alone will put up to half a million more girls at risk of child marriage worldwide by 2025, although the real effect will likely be much larger.

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Urban migration and COVID-19: Cities on the frontline of an inclusive response and recovery

By Samer Saliba, Head of Practice, Mayors Migration Council

Photo: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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The international community is not doing enough to financially support those who are doing the most for migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people during this global pandemic: city governments. While many cities have the mandate to serve people in vulnerable situations, including migrant and displaced residents, they often do not have enough financial resources to meet the increased demand and need of new arrivals. Lost revenue due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 will further curtail cities’ ability to deliver critical services to their residents this year. Some estimates suggest city governments could see revenue losses of up to 25 percent in 2021, precisely when their spending needs to increase to pay for recovery efforts and continuously growing populations. In a recent survey, 33 municipal finance officials in 22 countries across all continents reported already seeing a 10 percent decrease in their overall revenue and around a five percent increase in expenditure. This “scissors effect” of local government revenue and expenditure will be most felt in cities in developing countries. African cities, for example,  could potentially lose up to up to 65 percent of their revenue in 2021.

While the international community is paying more attention to municipal finance in relation to climate change, sustainable development, and urban development in general, the same cannot be said of urban migration and displacement. Few municipal finance mechanisms focus explicitly on financing for urban migration and displacement, despite the fact that the majority of migrants and displaced people reside in cities. Moreover, donors with low risk tolerance often disregard city governments in low to middle-income countries. In response to the unmet needs of cities, my organisation, the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), recently launched the Global Cities Fund on Inclusive Pandemic Response supporting five cities to implement inclusive response and recovery programmes of their own design.

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For greater vaccine equity, first fix these misconceptions

By Philip Schellekens, Senior Economic Advisor – IFC (World Bank Group)

As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic’s dark tunnel, inequities in the distribution of vaccines across countries are coming under intense scrutiny. Unequal vaccine distribution is not necessarily unfair—after all, some population groups are more vulnerable than others. Yet relative to sensible metrics of need, the current inequality is excessive. Efforts to boost and balance deployment have galvanized under the clarion call for #VaccinEquity, but progress has been slow and marred by bottlenecks.

In addition to the various practical constraints—including financing, logistics, manufacturing, and patent rights—three misconceptions stand in the way: the view that COVID-19 is mainly a “rich-country disease”; a focus on herd immunity that detracts from the pressing goal of protecting the global priority group; and a belief that fixing vaccine hoarding in rich countries will fix vaccine equity on its own.

A global snapshot of vaccine inequity

Competing interests in diplomacy, economics, and global health shape the international distribution of vaccines, but overshadowing them all are universally recognized ethical principles that center on “need” and “priority for the disadvantaged.” Needs encompass a fuzzy spectrum. They include the burden of morbidity (e.g., long COVID), broader health effects (e.g., undermanaged illnesses), and wider socioeconomic effects (e.g., food security and poverty). But as long as this pandemic rages on, needs will first and foremost be defined by the vulnerability to premature death—which not only is devastating but also irreversible and hence hard to compensate for.

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From COVID-19 to “neglected diseases”: Time to deliver on pharmaceutical innovation

By Werner Raza, ÖFSE – Austrian Foundation for Development Research

The pharmaceutical innovation system’s disregard of “neglected diseases” primarily affecting countries in the Global South should no longer be tolerated. A substantial reform is necessary.

Triggered by SARS-COV-2, Covid-19 belongs to the group of new infectious diseases which until now had mainly occurred in emerging and developing countries. Since the first outbreak of a SARS epidemic in 2002, millions of people have been affected by the family of coronaviruses. But it took a global pandemic with serious impacts on OECD countries’ societies and economic systems, for such a disease to receive the health policy attention that the Global South has been sorely lacking.

The share of pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) funds for diseases primarily affecting the Global South is vanishingly small. This is true for the public sector, but even more so for the pharmaceutical industry. Accordingly, they have become referred to as “neglected diseases”.

Little research and slow progress

Neglected diseases have been a major global health policy issue for decades. In the Global South, they cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses every year. Often with serious long-term health consequences. Depending on the definition, neglected diseases comprise several dozen diseases, sometimes including the so-called “big three”, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. But they also include “neglected tropical diseases” as defined by the WHO, such as Chagas, dengue fever and leishmaniasis, as well as other poverty-related diseases.   

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Gender-based violence: the ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ with devastating human and economic consequences

By Flavia Bustreo, Global leader for health & rights of women, children, adolescents & elderly & Former Assistant Director-General at WHO, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO and Felicia Knaul, Director, Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School of Medicine

Last year, in early February, we joined global leaders and Ministers from a number of countries at a landmark conference organised by the OECD on ending violence against women. The first of its kind, it reflected the rising recognition among OECD countries that violence against women is both a grave violation of human rights as well as an economic sinkhole. The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the existing ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ of violence, with devastating consequences for individuals, and for our societies and economies at large.

Even in non-pandemic times, the economic impact of gender-based violence is staggering and has traditionally been vastly underestimated. Considering only direct costs, gender-based violence reduces global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% per year, equivalent to an annual loss of more than US$1.6 trillion. In some countries, the annual costs of gender-based violence have been estimated at more than 3.5% of GDP, nearly half of what OECD countries spend on average on all healthcare. These figures, however, are but the tip of the iceberg, accounting only for direct medical costs and immediate productivity losses. A broader model – taking account of the lost capabilities of survivors and caregivers, and how these traumas and hardships are transmitted across generations – would reveal a far higher figure of the cost of inaction.

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How West Africa’s cashew companies have weathered the COVID-19 crisis

By Violeta Gonzalez, Head of Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

April is usually cashew marketing season across West Africa – a lively affair where traders tout bags of recently harvested raw nuts to buyers, most of whom have flown in from Vietnam and India. But 2020 was not a usual year. COVID-19 containment measures meant closures – of international borders, stopping major buyers travelling to West Africa – as well as domestic markets, leading to violent clashes between police and traders. It goes without saying that the impact of these border and market closures came at a great cost to the livelihoods of many West African cashew farmers, producers, and traders. Small businesses faced plummeting revenues or were at the brink of bankruptcy. Instead of offering support, local banks and financial institutions supporting West African cashew producers slashed lending during the pandemic.

Agriculture is a risky business at the best of times – good prices depend on good yields, which depend on good weather. While speciality crops like cashews can generate high returns, the risk of capital loss is also high, meaning many banks are hesitant to provide the capital that’s needed for small businesses in West Africa’s cashew sector to flourish. The cashew businesses that have weathered the economic storm created by COVID-19 have something in common – the long-term backing of impact investors who not only provide capital and technical assistance, but who also have a deep understanding of the challenges of the agricultural sector.

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Inégalités et migrations internationales : garantir des avantages pour tous dans l’après-pandémie

Par Jason Gagnon, Économiste du développement, Centre de développement de l’OCDE

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, mai 2020 : Les travailleurs migrants indiens quittent la ville en raison du confinment. Photo: Mukesh Kumar Jwala / Shutterstock

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La pandémie de COVID-19 a bouleversé les migrations internationales. Selon les Nations Unies, on comptait 272 millions de migrants internationaux dans le monde en 2019, soit 3.5 % de la population mondiale, ce qui reflétait une augmentation constante au fil des ans. Cependant, depuis le début de la crise, les migrations ont considérablement diminué. En raison des restrictions, l’accueil d’étrangers dans les pays de l’OCDE a chuté de 46 %. Dans les pays du Conseil de coopération du Golfe (CCG), et dans de nombreuses autres régions du monde, les tendances vont dans le même sens. Et la baisse générale des flux migratoires devrait se poursuivre en 2021.

Les répercussions disproportionnées de la crise du COVID-19 sur les migrants sont innombrables. La pandémie a également montré à quel point de nombreux pays dépendent fortement des migrants pour faire fonctionner leur économie, assurer leur sécurité alimentaire  et combler leur déficit de compétences. Sans parler des biens culturels immatériels dont bénéficient les sociétés dans tous les domaines, que ce soit en termes d’alimentation, d’événements culturels et d’art. Mais quel sera l’impact du COVID-19 sur l’avenir des migrations internationales ?

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The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

Diverse sectoral impact

The sectoral impact of COVID-19 has been and will likely continue to be varied. Some sectors such as tourism, aviation and crude oil exports have been disproportionately hit in Africa, while COVID-19 is spurring certain types of digital technologies (such as mobile payments in Kenya and Rwanda), and food production in some countries has been resilient. This points to four main COVID impact-recovery sectoral performance paths (the chart is illustrative):

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