COVID-19 Continues To Exacerbate Poverty And Exert Pressure On African Economies — World Bank
World Bank West and Central Africa Regional Director, Dena Ringold, says COVID-19 has exacerbated poverty on the African continent.

Africa’s delayed COVID-19 vaccine rollout could cost the continent close to $14-billion a month – and the situation could get worse.

World Bank West and Central Africa Regional Director, Dena Ringold,  said in addition to the severe impact of weak health systems, the pandemic was straining economies across Africa and has “exacerbated poverty” on the continent with tens of millions of people falling deeper into poverty.

Addressing a World Health Organization (WHO) African Region press briefing on Thursday,  Ringold said the delays in accessing COVID-19 vaccine on the continent is having significant impacts on economies.

“In addition to the loss of lives and human capital, we estimate that every month of delayed COVID-19 vaccination has the potential to cost the African continent close to $14 billion in lost GDP,” Ringold said.

The World Bank has recorded an increase in requests for financial support from governments and institutions in Africa and beyond, Ringold revealed, noting that the COVID-19 response has been the global financial institute’s largest and fastest response to a crisis in the history of the institution. 

“If I roll back to March of last year, our initial global package for health funds involved preparing in 100 days to help countries fight the pandemic through building capacity for testing, surveillance, and treatment. In Africa, this involves  $2-billion for 39 countries in Africa,” said Ringold, adding that they were “saving livelihoods through social protection estate, ensuring sustainable business growth and working to build more resilient recovery”. 

“We’ve been doing this in partnership with regional institutions such as the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and the Africa CDC, which have been playing a critical role during the pandemic,” Ringold said. 

Paying for Vaccines

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, warns that a blockage on supplies are delaying Africa’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and risks curtailing plans to expand the continent’s rollout later this year.

Health Policy Watch recently reported African countries were reluctant to borrow funds to pay for COVID-19 vaccines,  but the Ringold revealed that the World Bank  has been supporting African countries with access to funding with which they can procure and deploy vaccine doses to their citizens.

As of Thursday 20 May, the World Bank had received requests from 36 countries in Africa for vaccine financing, amounting to close to US $2-billion.

The WHO also announced the COVAX Facility is now seeking other options towards addressing the global shortage of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa warned that a blockage on supplies and financial challenges are delaying Africa’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and risk curtailing plans to significantly expand the continent’s rollout later this year.

Moeti said deliveries to Africa through the COVAX facility ground to a near halt in May as the Serum Institute of India diverted doses for domestic use. Between February and May, the continent received just about a quarter – 18.2 million – of the 66 million expected doses through COVAX.

“As people living in richer countries hit the reset button this summer and their lives start to look normal, in Africa our lives will stay on hold. This is unjust,” Moeti said. “We are optimistic that vaccine availability will improve significantly in the second half of the year. We can still catch up and make up for the lost ground, but time is running out.”

Embracing Dose Sharing

To cover the wide vaccine supply gap that disproportionately affects African countries, Moeti recommended the adoption of dose sharing. 

“The supply gap can be closed if countries with surplus doses set aside a percentage of vaccines for COVAX,” said Moeti. 

She commended the decision of the US government to share 80 million doses with other countries, in addition to recent shipments of vaccines from France to Mauritania

“Dose sharing is key to ending the supply crunch and the pandemic as a whole, as no one is safe until everyone is safe,” said Moeti, further revealing that COVAX Facility is actively negotiating with other manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines to diversify the portfolio while supporting the medium- to long-term scale up of manufacturing capacity. 

In spite of the call for more doses, Moeti admitted that funding for operational costs is also a critical barrier as only eight African countries have used up all their vaccines while over 20 countries have administered less than 50% of their doses.

Even though COVAX is providing its share of vaccines for free to lower-income countries, 60% of every dollar spent on delivering vaccines is needed for operations. 

“The World Bank calculates that on top of the money needed to buy enough vaccines to ensure adequate protection from COVID-19, another 3 billion is required to deliver the vaccines into the arms of people,” 


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