Covid-19: Mo Ibrahim calls for coordinated governance

01Apr 2020
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Covid-19: Mo Ibrahim calls for coordinated governance

THE Mo Ibrahim Foundation yesterday launches its report on COVID-19 in Africa, calling for coordinated governance, improved health structures and better data to mitigate this crisis.

In the publication, the Foundation analyses Africa’s readiness and capacity to manage the pandemic. It draws on a wealth of data, statistics and information from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and other sources to examine the current COVID-19 context and its immediate challenges. In providing this analysis, the Foundation aims to present a clear and accurate picture, highlighting where efforts can be concentrated in the management and mitigation of this health crisis across the continent.

Based on data and indices collated from the IIAG and a number of sources and organisations, the publication identified some immediate challenges calling for action:

One of them is sound and coordinated governance needed across the continent, noting that ny pandemic requires, by nature, a general coordination of efforts across national and regional borders, and with multilateral actors and partners, even more so in a globalised world.

 “There is an urgent need to act on the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in 2015 and address the specific weaknesses of Africa’s health structures: improve health systems, and citizens’ access to them, and more generally strengthen data and statistical capacity,” reads the statement.

It adds that only 10 African countries provide free and universal health care to their citizens, while healthcare in 22 countries is neither free nor universal. Governments need to make swift improvements in handling and improving access to basic health services.

According to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), 43 African countries can test for COVID-19. However, countries are less prepared for the effective point of entry screening and monitoring of travelers and treatment of cases. Efforts to strengthen and enhance preparedness could help to save lives.

 “Data coverage on health facilities and health outcomes in Africa is low. Only eight African countries have complete birth registration systems. This impacts the timely production of data, crucial during health emergencies. Quality statistics, and the funding and autonomy of National Statistics Offices, are essential for all stages of evidence-based decision-making and policy formulation, namely in health care,” reads the statement.

With the general weakness of health structures, from human resources to equipment and supply chains, the publication notes that working together is critical now more than ever. Many National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs) have been created after health systems failed to respond to crises due to fragmented and insufficient responses. Finding ways to collaborate and work together to fight this challenge, protect lives and improve health capabilities is critical.

 It ads however that Africa has shown increasing improvement in Public Health Campaigns (+0.6 since 2008 according to the IIAG) with 20 countries seeing an improvement in score. But 15 countries have also registered a decline. All parties should contribute to national information and awareness-raising campaigns and help tackle misinformation and fake news.

“Infrastructure weakness can prevent personnel from reaching affected areas at the required speed, while communications infrastructure is similarly important as it allows for reporting and diagnosis. The data show that any action to strengthen services in these areas would be beneficial.”

In terms of the wider impact of COVID-19, on the economy and beyond, according to UNECA, the pandemic will hit economic growth from an expected 3.2 per cent down to 1.8 per cent.

“If not addressed in a collective and organised way, this could reverse the positive growth of the past decade and impact areas where Africa has steadily progressed, be it the fight against malaria or against poverty. Moreover, this could spill over beyond the economy and put to test the institutional fragility of some countries, fuelling further conflicts and instability.”