Although the number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities might still appear comparatively low in Africa than in other world regions, the looming health shock of COVID-19 could have disastrous impacts on the continent’s already strained health systems, and could quickly turn into a social and economic emergency. Beyond health risks, the COVID-19 shock to African economies is coming in three waves: (i) lower trade and investment from China in the immediate term; (ii) a demand slump associated with the lockdowns in the European Union and OECD countries; and (iii) a continental supply shock affecting domestic and intraAfrican trade. It is shaking commodity-driven growth models that had largely failed to create more and better jobs or improve well-being. On the health front, greater capacities to test, protect, treat and cure are essential. On the socio-economic front, policy measures should cushion income and jobs losses, while tackling the specific challenges of high informality. Beyond the immediate response, recovery strategies should include a strong structural component to reduce dependence on external financial flows and global markets, and develop more value-adding, knowledge-intensive and industrialised economies, underpinned by a more competitive and efficient services sector. Effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the African Union’s productive transformation agenda can strengthen regional value chains, reduce vulnerability to external shocks, advance the digital transition, and build economic resilience against future crises.
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