Covid-19 in West Africa: Responses and Impacts

This special edition of West Africa Insight gives space to an array of experts to share their reflections on the way governments in the region have so far handled the pandemic and the wider impacts it has had on society at large.

Three pieces look at country speciëc responses. Bintu Mansaray questions the level of preparedness of the Government of Sierra Leone to respond to the pandemic despite the recent experience of Ebola. She writes instead of the critical role that individual citizens are playing to defeat the virus. Ramatoulaye Sonko is concerned that the Macky Sall administrations poor track-record of managing funds with accountability and transparency and the recent relaxing of lockdown restrictions could undermine Senegal's Covid-19 response efforts. Whilst Alhassan Ibrahim seeks to uncover if two Nigerian states – Kogi and Cross River – really have been able to remain free of the virus. Or whether they are simply denying its existence.

Wura Solomon and Juliet Ugwu then provide a brief round-up of regional response trends. Focusing on the challenges of enforcing lockdowns when trust in security personnel is low and the need for governments to provide ënancial relief to those operating on the margins. A West Africa wide perspective is also offered by Ebehi Iyoha who discusses the impact that the virus has had on trade in the region and ways in which governments can best prepare for trading under the African Continental FreeTrade Area; scheduled to start in January 2021.

In the Gambia the reduced ìow of remittances is having a serious economic impact as Haddija Jawara explains. Many Gambians in the diaspora have lost jobs during the pandemic, limiting their ability to support families back home. Violence against women and girls in Nigeria, a significant issue before the pandemic, has worsened due to the lockdown restrictions and reduction in support services argues Chitra Nagarajan who outlines ëve key reforms that the government should enact to better tackle the issue. Staying in Nigeria, Rosemary Ajayi looks at the role social media has been playing in spreading credible health information during the pandemic. But she raises concerns as to whether the 'infodemic' of misleading and false means that social media is doing more harm than good.

To conclude Kwabena Yeboah offers some personal reflections from life in Accra during Covid-19. For him, the virus has provided a potent reminder of the cities embedded inequalities and how these these different realities have shaped peoples experience of, and response to, Covid-19.

Idayat Hassan
CDD West Africa

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