The scandal in plain sight: Measuring COVID-19 and its aftershocks in Africa

The ONE Campaign is a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030 so that everyone, everywhere can lead a life of dignity and opportunity. The devastating effects of COVID-19 are putting this vision in peril, and world leaders need to step up their game in order to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere.  

The Donor Tracker publishes the latest commitments from top OECD donors to combatting major global issues, including COVID-19. Measuring the aftershocks of these policy decisions, and of the pandemic itself, is vital to understanding the contours of this crisis and making real commitments to finally bring it to an end. That’s why ONE created the Africa COVID-19 Tracker and weekly newsletter

The Data Behind the Stories

COVID-19 is the crisis of a generation — one so significant that international experts have called it “the 21st century’s Chernobyl moment” — but the global response to the pandemic has been marked by “scandalous inequity”.

Long after the virus itself is contained in wealthy countries, the secondary effects of the pandemic will continue rippling across the globe. In Africa, the aftershocks of COVID-19 have driven up food prices, debt levels, and poverty. Sudan has seen food prices increase 500%, the Nigerian government at one point spent 99% of revenues on debt service, and the World Bank has predicted the first global increase in extreme poverty in two decades. Neither the pandemic nor its economic and social consequences will end any time soon but, as a recent report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) articulates, immediate action is needed to save millions of lives and trillions of dollars.

To combat this crisis, researchers, journalists, and development practitioners must have the latest data at their fingertips. That’s why ONE created the Africa COVID-19 Tracker, a powerful tool compiling data and analysis from global institutions, governments, and universities on the multi-dimensional impacts of the pandemic across the continent.


Total vaccinations per 100 people


ONE’s Africa COVID-19 Tracker delivers high-level figures – such as the daily caseload, vaccinations, and economic indicators – which provide insights on macro trends for the pandemic. One of the most crucial ongoing trends to watch is what Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is calling a vaccine apartheid.

COVID-19 vaccine doses adminsitered by income level

Our data dive on vaccine access illustrates this point: As of May of 2021, more than 80% of all administered COVID-19 vaccine doses were delivered in high-income and upper-middle-income countries. Just 0.4% have been given in low-income countries.

This should sound alarm bells through the halls of lawmakers and leaders everywhere; while vaccinations have been constrained by borders, COVID-19 has decidedly not. Billions of people are currently vulnerable to COVID-19 and to variants of the virus that, if unchecked, may resist vaccines and bring us all back to square one.


More cash, more cache


Meanwhile, by the end of the summer, wealthy countries could have enough vaccines to protect their entire populations and still have enough surplus doses — around 1.9 billion — to vaccinate the entire adult population of Africa. The relationship between cash and a vaccine cache is clear: wealthy nations hedged their bets early in the pandemic and secured contracts with multiple vaccine candidates with the hope that at least one would pay off, while low-income countries couldn’t afford to make multiple risky payments at that scale. Now, with several safe and effective vaccines on the market, wealthy countries’ early bets are paying off, and hedging is looking more like hoarding.

ONE’s analysis of this dynamic includes a breakdown of how the current rollout is progressing in Africa and the role of donor countries in catalyzing global herd immunity. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that everyone, everywhere has access to vaccines. Moral arguments aside, there could be twice as many COVID-19 deaths if rich countries continue to monopolize vaccines, and world economies could lose as much as $9.2 trillion.


Vaccine progress in Arica


Of course, the contours of the crisis look different across different African countries. As South Africa enters its third wave – with many unknowns about scale and severity – they are also expanding vaccine access beyond healthcare workers and scaling up vaccination sites. Though Morocco’s efficient, digitized rollout of its early supply of vaccines has rivaled France’s response and that of other European countries, the country now risks running out of doses due to global supply constraints. Other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are struggling to distribute what limited vaccines they do have because of public concerns over their side effects and gaps in healthcare infrastructure, including a shortage of trained vaccinators. This led the country to return 1.3 million of their 1.7 million allocated COVAX doses this spring. These nuances and capacity gaps at the country level are important to understanding the shifting dynamics of the crisis, so ONE’s Tracker includes country-specific pages with data on caseloads, COVAX doses, debt burdens, and more.

Connecting the Dots

The key indicators that ONE has compiled – from vaccinations to debt levels and poverty indicators – help tell the story of how foreign and domestic policy decisions are playing out in African nations, complementing the Donor Tracker’s analysis of the outflows of development assistance at the source.

Beyond the tremendous human toll of COVID-19, estimated to be as high as 12.7 million deaths as of May of 2021, the economic toll continues to broaden and deepen. One consequence is visible in the cuts to the United Kingdom’s official development assistance (ODA). The government announced that from 2021, it intends to shrink its development finance to just 0.5% of gross national income (GNI), or just $13.3 billion in 2021 – a reversal of its codified commitment to 0.7%. The Donor Tracker breaks down the complex picture of UK development assistance and what this could mean for their priority sectors including combatting COVID-19 and the future of pandemic preparedness. These insights are vital in tracking the aftershocks of the pandemic on the continent, and to holding leaders to account.

Stay Informed

ONE is keeping the Africa COVID-19 Tracker data up to date, so decision-makers have the data they need to craft policies and interventions. This means delivering rapid updates on figures as they become available — for the above measures and many more — and ONE will be rolling out new features and insights as they become relevant. To stay up to speed with the latest numbers, headlines, and analysis, sign up for the Aftershocks newsletter and follow @ONEAftershocks.