The recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has definitely put the globe at high risk, as the disease spreads rapidly from region to region. To make matters worse, the disease has made its way to the African continent.
Nigeria confirmed its first case of coronavirus last week. Earlier this week, Senegal also confirmed their first coronavirus case in the country. The case in Senegal makes it the fourth African country to confirm the virus.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus would definitely impact business in the financial market and it could see a massive decline of stocks. More importantly, the spread of the virus would also massively hamper tourism. According to the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council, the coronavirus epidemic could cost world tourism a total of $22 billion. Losses could double if the virus lasts for a lengthy period. Ghana Web predicts that as much as $49 billion could be lost from the world tourism industry.
In South Africa, they receive about 95,000 Chinese tourists yearly. According to FIN 24, a sudden decline of more than 15% of Chinese arrivals equates to a loss of R200 million in Chinese tourist spending.
South Africa’s economy has also taken a massive hit in recent times. Last week, The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) had one of its worst trading days in about 20 years. FIN 24 reports that the JSE ended the week 4.5% weaker due to reports on the Coronavirus.
In the eastern part of the continent, particularly in Kenya, individuals have expressed fears over the loss of tourism business in Kilifi due to the disease outbreak. Kilifi is a small town located on the coast of Kenya, north of Mombasa. It is home to historic landmarks like the Mnarani ruins and Kilifi Creek. It also receives a bulk of foreign visitors, particularly from Italy, each year. This year alone Capital FM in Kenya reported that Kilifi received 3000 people for the three day Kilifi festival, which took place in January 2020.
Maureen Awuor, the Chairperson of the Kenya Hotel and Caterers Association (KHCA) reported in the Daily Nation, a newspaper outlet in Kenya, that some hotels in the area have either received cancellations of reservations or postponements of dates from European people, particularly from Italy.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Kenyan government also suspended direct flights from Kenya to Northern Italy, according to the Daily Nation.
The coming of the coronavirus has not only put the world on a knife-edge but has also affected all functions of life, which would cause business in the continent to suffer.
Though I am not opposed to the suspension of flights, I feel that many African countries must take the necessary steps to properly screen people before letting them into the country. There must be devices, such as an infrared thermometer, stationed at every airport to determine the temperature of each passenger.
We as Africans must not keep our fingers crossed even as we brace up for the challenging times ahead.
The over 150 passengers on the Turkish airline which brought the Italian with the virus to Lagos, Nigeria must be traced. Immigration data taken at the point of departure will be important to get their real names and details. Names should be published if their contact phone numbers are not reachable as the Lagos state government recently said. Even the Nigerian immigration officer who processed his passport should be assessed. Nigeria, as well as other African countries, have to be quite forward-thinking in reacting.
I believe that the continent would get over this problem. After all, we dealt with the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 and eradicated the disease.
We must remain hopeful for our beloved continent.
Paul Olele Jnr writes from Washington DC. He is a 2019 graduate of George Washington University and currently works as social media and research intern at the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington, D.C.