COVID-19 In African Cities: Impacts, Responses and Policies

COVID-19, a global pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), is crippling the global economy and upending people’s lives thereby threatening sustainable development across all its dimensions. Africa is also facing the dire consequences of the crisis necessitating timely response, recovery and rebuilding policies and strategies. Globally, urban areas are the epicenters of the epidemic accounting for the vast majority of the confirmed COVID-19 cases. This report looks at the impacts, responses and policy pathways related to COVID 19 in the context of cities in Africa.The COVID-19 risk factors are acute in African cities in part due to the largely unplanned and poorly managed urbanization process resulting in widespread informal settlements and severe infrastructure and service deficits. In 2019, about 47% of Africa’s urban population lived in slums or informal settlements, which translates into about 257 million people across the whole of Africa. Only 55% and 47% of Africa’s urban residents have access to basic sanitation services and hand washing facilities respectively. Furthermore, most urban residents rely on the informal sector that employs 71% of Africans, making them highly vulnerable to loss of income and unable to abide by restrictions and lockdown measures. African cities often have high population densities coupled with overcrowded public transport and marketplaces making social distancing almost impossible. These factors combined make Africa’s cities hotbeds for COVID-19.