At the latest when the locals started to avoid German-speaking visitors out of fear of infection and the supermarket staff was afraid of sweating when they saw Europeans, it was clear that the corona virus had also arrived in South Africa. And that this trip was ended prematurely in mid-March 2020. What started as a research trip to market opportunities for Austrian companies on the Cape ended with a hasty departure using one of the last flight connections to Vienna. Shortly afterwards, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced what may be the world's strictest lockdown, a far-reaching restriction on freedom of movement, to which measures such as a ban on alcohol and cigarette sales were added. The president mobilized more than 70.000 soldiers - the entire South African army - to enforce them, sometimes firing rubber bullets at people who did not comply with the curfew. 

Course still open

In the meantime, the restrictions have been significantly eased - but the health crisis is far from over. “In countries with a draconian lockdown like South Africa, the economic pressure has increased  so big that they forcibly loosened the measures before they reached their peak in infections, ”says Tim Heinemann, economist and Africa expert at the German development and development bank KfW (see interview on the right).

The number of infections in South Africa is now increasing relatively quickly, with around 80.000 cases (and almost 1.700 deaths) in mid-June. This is a lot more infections than in all other countries in Africa, but still significantly less than in the corona hotspots in Europe, North and South America and now also in South Asia. In addition to the short-term increase in test capacities and the number of hospital beds, the establishment of decentralized health care in the fight against HIV in recent years has paid off once again - tens of thousands of community health officers specifically examine the population for Covid 19 symptoms. The country also produces masses of ventilators in local production.

With its determined fight against the corona pandemic, despite many unresolved problems, South Africa represents a symbol for the entire continent. The pessimistic forecasts of up to three million deaths that the United Nations made for Africa at the beginning of the crisis have at least so far been correct not confirmed. In mid-June there were a total of around 260.000 reported infections and 7.000 deaths in Africa. In view of the current rates of increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) still fears that almost 200.000 people in Africa could fall victim to the virus by the end of the year. Nevertheless, it must be positively emphasized that almost all African governments and many companies reacted quickly to the crisis and thus produced relatively large quantities of protective equipment and masks as well as disinfectants in a short period of time. 

Creative private sector: hand disinfectant production in Zimbabwe

Existences in danger

Regardless of the further course of the infection numbers, the dramatic socio-economic effects of the crisis are already visible. And while in South Africa, as in many countries on the continent, the coronavirus was initially regarded as a disease of the rich - after all, it was travelers and business people from Europe as well as locals returning from Europe who brought the virus into the country - that ultimately it is mainly the Are the poorest who suffer the effects. 

A serious direct consequence of the lockdown measures is the almost complete closure of the informal sector, which is vital for a large part of the African population: social distancing and home office are simply impossible for a street vendor who shares a few square meters with many family members, the strict ones Measures therefore directly threaten the existence of the company. Then there are the indirect effects of the global downturn, which is shaking African economies to their foundations. A lack of export opportunities, falling raw material prices and currency devaluations can only be influenced to a limited extent by the individual African countries, as can the loss of income from the idle tourism industry and the lack of remittances (see boxes). According to the United Nations Development Program, almost half of all jobs in Africa could be lost due to the crisis. The World Bank expects 60 million people who will slide into extreme poverty this year due to the crisis, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Differentiation necessary

In addition, other fatal diseases are rampant much more than in previous years because they can hardly be adequately treated due to the concentration on the corona control. Last year, 405.000 people died of malaria worldwide, mostly children under the age of five - and almost all of them in Africa. For 2020, the WHO fears that this number will almost double due to closed hospitals and the lack of distribution of medication and mosquito nets. The number of deaths from tuberculosis and AIDS is also forecast to increase significantly this year due to the corona measures. In addition, acute hunger crises threaten: According to the World Food Program, the number of people affected by acute food insecurity worldwide could double to 265 million people. 

Should the measures in many African countries have been more differentiated and more adapted to socio-economic realities - for example with bans on social and religious assemblies, but without the massive restrictions on (informal) working life? Lee Crawfurd of the Development Think Tank Center for Global Development points out that many people in Africa have supported the measures for a certain period of time, according to a study carried out in Senegal, around three weeks. "The fact that there are still undifferentiated restrictions in some countries seems to be too high a price despite the caution required," he says. 

In recent months, it has been shown that locally organized campaigns that point out distance rules and promote practices such as wearing face masks and washing hands are very helpful and can do without the enormous collateral damage of the nationwide lockdowns.

In all of this, the big differences between the individual African countries should not be neglected. While Ghana acted professionally within its means, Tanzania failed across the board. President John Magufuli not only relies on conspiracy theories and natural healing methods, but has not had the rapidly increasing number of cases published since the end of April. 

Mobile corona test station in Madagascar

Interview with Tim Heinemann, African economist

Outlook for Africa

African economist Tim Heinemann believes that the African institutions' crisis work to date has been successful. To master the long way out of the socio-economic misery, the European private sector is also needed.

Powder keg Latin America

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recently ruled that the total number of corona deaths should no longer be announced in his country - which the constitutional court reversed within days. In fact, Latin America is currently the global center of the corona crisis. In Brazil, where the death rate is not expected to peak until August, there were around 950.000 corona cases and more than 46.000 deaths in mid-June. Peru, Chile and Mexico are also badly affected. While Uruguay and Argentina reacted early with measures, Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador are hesitant - Bolsonaro long dismissed the virus as harmless flu. "In Latin America we see very clearly the differences between populist heads of government and decision-makers who rely on scientific evidence," says Merike Blofield, director of the GIGA Institute for Latin American Studies in Hamburg. 

In addition to the enormous health and socio-economic crises, the next clashes are threatening - Latin America was already a political powder keg before the current crisis, and this situation is now likely to worsen. Not only in Brazil, where around 30 impeachment requests have been filed against Bolsonaro and the currency is currently losing massive value. "Especially in Chile, where there is enormous inequality and the government is slow to respond to the needs of large sections of the population, things will go up again," predicts Blofield. 

The anger of the people in many Latin American countries is further fueled by the massive embezzlement of funds in the direct context of the crisis: The Vice President of Panama resigned when it was discovered that he had purposely bought significantly overpriced ventilators, and Bolivia's health minister was arrested for a similar offense. In Brazil, hundreds of millions of euros that were intended for emergency hospitals disappeared, in Colombia 14 out of 32 governors are being investigated for corruption in connection with corona funds, and the state hospitals of Ecuador spent more than thirteen times their market value on body bags. 

Little Uruguay, on the other hand, is a beacon of hope in Latin America. The country reacted quickly, closed the schools after the first Corona case, but otherwise relies primarily on voluntary work. There were fewer than 1.000 people infected in Uruguay in mid-June and daily life continues almost normally. According to Blofield, this is also due to the fact that in addition to the significant improvement in the living situation, the country has succeeded in formalizing a large part of the jobs in recent decades. As a result, many citizens benefit from the social system - and can comply with social distancing requirements. Marco García, WKÖ business delegate based in Buenos Aires, also sees Uruguay economically as the "new model boy" in the region: "There is a small dent in economic growth, but Uruguay will recover quickly and ironed it out again in 2021" says Garcia. 

First lessons

It is too early for a real conclusion about the corona situation in Africa and Latin America. While successful countries are already working on economic reconstruction in the containment of the pandemic, the number of infections is skyrocketing elsewhere.

But what the crisis has already made clear: Populist solo events - from Tanzania to Brazil - do not help. International cooperation is needed to tackle both the virus and the economic crisis that will keep us busy for a while.

Photos: World Bank / Sambrian Mbaabu, KB Mpofu / ILO, World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia

Sectors badly affected

Broken supply chains

Queued: Ivory Coast Cocoa

Many developing countries are raw material exporters, the temporary shutdown of production facilities in industrialized countries and the global recession are leading to severe cuts. In the past few months, South Africa has hardly been able to export minerals, Ivory Coast has hardly been able to export cocoa, Zimbabwe has hardly been able to export macadamia nuts and Kenya has hardly been able to export flowers - demand from Europe is currently increasing again for the latter, but the transport options are not available. The complete collapse of the oil price is also shaking countries like Nigeria and Angola - in Nigeria, income from crude oil sales will fall by 80 percent this year.

No tourists

No access to paradise:
Hotel in the Fiji Islands

Tourism has come to a standstill worldwide - from the pyramids of Giza to the ruins of Machu Picchu, the hot spots of tourism are deserted. This is a disaster for many developing countries, in Africa alone tourism accounts for almost ten percent of economic output. South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa described tourism as the "new gold" - now it remains in or on the ground. Because even if tourist attractions are currently opening their gates again, the flight connections are missing. Many airlines are in immense trouble. So the previously stricken South African Airways could possibly no longer take off. 

Missing cash flows

Closed until further notice: Money transfer agencies in Nepal

Remittances from migrants to their countries of origin are important sources of foreign exchange in many developing countries and account for more than a third of economic output in Tonga, Haiti and South Sudan, for example. The World Bank is now forecasting that due to the current crisis, remittance flows will decline this year by around 20 percent, and thus by more than 100 billion dollars. In addition to a lack of income, the closure of many agencies that handle money transfers has proven to be a major problem in recent months. The World Bank demands that businesses that offer money transfers are classified as systemically relevant and allowed to keep them open. 

A big plus

On the upswing: Healthcare sector in Ghana

The health systems of most developing countries are overwhelmed by the corona pandemic. Many states are now trying to create additional capacity at lightning speed, stomping emergency hospitals and trying to get protective equipment. There is now hope that more will be invested in health care beyond the pandemic. The Ghanaian government has already announced plans to build 40 additional hospitals. In this regard, the Nigerian private sector is already stepping into the breach for the overwhelmed state. In the health sector, there should also be enormous market opportunities for European companies. 

Photos: Nestlé / Flickr, ILO / Elena Gerasimova, Brooke Patterson / USAID, Shejal Pulivarti