Why Forecasters Can’t Make Up Their Mind About Africa And The Coronavirus

When the new coronavirus started spreading around the world, there were dire warnings about what would happen when it hit African countries.

An earlier U.N. estimate predicted up to 3.3 million deaths in Africa, if no interventions were put in place. Top epidemiologists predicted panic, saying the death rate would be higher than Europe or China. But things have so far turned out differently in sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, there are a range of predictions – from pessimistic to guardedly optimistic.

NPR takes a look at why it is difficult to forecast what the coronavirus pandemic will do in Africa. Many countries took early and aggressive action to implement lockdowns. Also many models were based on what would happen in large cities and basing those assumptions across entire countries including the rural areas. Each country and region is different with many factors including nutrition and other diseases that are difficult for forecasters to model.

Even with a relatively low rate of deaths compared to earlier predictions, Africa’s healthcare system is limited and will struggle to deal with even this lower death rate.

One hundred and ninety thousand additional deaths on a continent that is suffering from many co-infections, many diseases, malnutrition and everything else, there is no rosy picture here.

Ngozi Erondu, a research fellow at the Chatham House Centre for Global Health Security