Covid-19 is pushing SubSaharan Africa’s leading economies back into poverty, according to the results of GeoPoll’s six-nation survey on the financial and social impact of the pandemic across the continent.
The poll of 2,400 respondents in South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Kenya found rising unemployment, further falls in incomes, drastic cuts in spending on essential and non-essential items, and mounting concern over meeting bills in the three months ahead.
“The picture that emerges is of a further sharp deterioration in the financial position of many individual Africans in the first quarter of 2021,” said Scott Lansell, GeoPoll’s VP – International Development.
The poll, which was conducted from March 24th to April 12th, found two-thirds of respondents, at 66 per cent, reporting that their income had fallen since January 2021, with 42 per cent saying it had fallen by a lot. This follows from large percentages of reported falls in the three months to end-July 2020 and November 2020.
“The picture is now one of considerable progressive deterioration,” said Mr. Lansell.
Across the six nations, the most widespread Q1 income falls were reported in Kenya, which was entering a new lockdown at the time of the survey on a third-wave surge in Covid-19 infections. The lockdown proved quickly effective in reducing infections and was lifted on May 1st, but the financial impact looks set to be far-reaching, with 79 per cent of Kenyan respondents reporting falling incomes in the three months to end-March 2021.
The survey also found the hardest hit were youth, with 66 per cent of the 18-25 year-olds surveyed in Kenya reporting they had suffered sharp drops in their income during the first quarter of 2021.
As a result of the new income cuts, reported across every nation, concerns have escalated about meeting everyday expenses, with 53 per cent of all respondents saying they were now extremely concerned about paying their expenses in the next three months. For most, as they also reported declining spending on essential items and on non-essential items, the biggest squeeze on their spending was due to reduced earnings, but, in Nigeria, over 90 per cent of respondents said it was due to rising prices, as they face escalating inflation too.
The third wave of the pandemic has also pushed back hopes on when life might return to normal, with 24 per cent of respondents now believing they will only return to pre-Covid routines during 2022 and 2023. In South Africa, which has suffered the most confirmed Covid cases in Africa, a third, at 33 per cent, believe they won’t see things creeping back to normality until next year at the earliest.
Yet, across all the countries surveyed, greater numbers were reporting that they felt inadequately informed about vaccinations and there was a sharp drop, compared with the November 2020 survey, in those who were keen to get vaccinated as soon as they can. In November, 62 per cent of respondents were keen to get the vaccine. But by April 2021 that had fallen to 43 per cent.
“Across all, we see deteriorating confidence in the efficacy of vaccines and rising complaints at insufficient information,” said Mr. Lansell. “Yet, if Africa cannot move to herd immunity, the ongoing toll of the pandemic will prove insupportable, with many respondents now losing hope that their incomes will return as life goes back to normal, and income scales now tumbling.”
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