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Podcast: Covid in Africa: a smouldering crisis

In this week's episode of Policy in Pandemics we discuss the 'unprecidented policy crisis' Africa is facing, despite an unexpected delay in mortality rates

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In this week’s episode of Policy in Pandemics, we focus on Covid-19 in Africa. Our guest is Kate Dooley, who is West Africa Regional Director for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), and is leading TBI’s support to governments across the continent on their health policy response to Covid.

In this episode, Kate talks about her experience working on Ebola in 2014-15 in Sierra Leone, and reflects that despite Ebola’s many similarities with today’s Covid-19 crisis they are probably outweighed by the differences.

We tackle what Kate calls “the 1.2 billion person question”: what is actually happening on the ground with Covid across Africa? The reality is that the tsunami of mortality predicted in Africa has not materialised, and we discuss possible reasons for why that might be, including the potentially huge data gaps. We also explore which countries have responded quickly and effectively to the crisis so far, and which have not, as well the gender impacts of Covid in Africa.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, Kate stresses the scale of the ‘unprecedented policy crisis’ facing African governments. A deep economic shock threatens to reverse hard won growth of the past decade, a shock which could be deepened by a ‘delayed stigmatisation’ as the rest of the world returns to normal but isolates Africa in the same way it was isolated during Ebola. African governments also face a battle to make sure they are included in global vaccine development.

Kate’s advice to African leaders and policy is to not underestimate the challenge of reconnecting with the global economy, and plan as much as possible now to support businesses to do so; work rapidly on data gathering systems and technology to go alongside testing and tracing, and advocate to make sure that vaccine development addresses Africa.