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Key findings
  • On average across 39 countries, 14% of respondents say that they or someone in their household became sick or tested positive with COVID-19.
  • About twice as many (29%) say that a household member lost a job, a business, or a primary source of income due to COVID-19. o At least half of Kenyans (55%) and Ugandans (50%) report the loss of a main income source.
  • About six in 10 respondents (58%) say they received a COVID-19 vaccine, ranging from 15% in Gabon to 95% in Mauritius. o Economically well-off respondents (72%) are more likely to report having been vaccinated than their poorer counterparts (54% among those experiencing high lived poverty).
  • Half (50%) of citizens say they trust their government “somewhat” or “a lot” to ensure the safety of any vaccines offered to them.
  • Fewer than one in four respondents (23%) say their household received pandemic related assistance from the government. o And only 27% think that government assistance was distributed fairly. This perception was much higher among households with no experience of lived poverty than among those who experienced high levels of material deprivation (38% vs. 21%).
  • Most Africans say that “a lot” (46%), “some” (22%), or “a little” (12%) of the funds intended for the pandemic response were lost to corruption.
  • Citizens were only moderately satisfied with their government’s efforts to provide assistance to vulnerable households (42%), to minimise educational disruptions (54%), and to resource health facilities (56%).
  • But overall, two-thirds (66%) of Africans say their government managed the pandemic response “fairly well” or “very well.”
  • Two-thirds (67%) of Africans endorse the use of the military or police to enforce public health mandates during a pandemic, but fewer than half think such an emergency justifies postponing elections (49%) or censoring the media (42%).
  • About half (51%) of Africans believe that their government is “somewhat” or “very” prepared for a future public health emergency.
  • Almost six in 10 (58%) say their government should invest more in preparations for a future health emergency like COVID-19, even if it means fewer resources are available for other health services.

According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2020), Africa’s first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Egypt in mid-February 2020. Six months later, the  continent’s death toll exceeded 19,000, representing 3% of global COVID-19 mortality. As the  virus spread across Africa, governments began to enforce national lockdowns and other  restrictions to minimise the impact of the pandemic.  

In addition to being a global health emergency, COVID-19 had other wide-ranging  consequences. Many parts of government bureaucracies, as well as the private sector, shut  down except for “essential” workers (Wickham, 2022). Children were unable to go to school  for months, increasing dropout rates with knock-on effects on their nutrition and mental  health (UNICEF Africa, 2022; Kidman, Breton, Behrman, & Kohler, 2022). Moreover, African  governments’ responses to the pandemic affected trends in poverty on the continent. For  example, Afrobarometer analyses found that “more restrictive government responses were  associated with larger increases in lived poverty” (Mattes & Patel, 2022, p. 1).  

Faced with economic uncertainty and mobility restrictions, Africans turned to their  governments for support and a coordinated public health response to the pandemic. The  latest Afrobarometer surveys in 39 countries document how citizens experienced the  pandemic, their views on how their governments handled the pandemic, and whether they  think their governments are prepared for future health emergencies. 

Responses indicate that about one in seven households experienced a case of COVID-19,  while more than a quarter suffered the loss of a primary source of income. Despite the severe economic effects of the pandemic, fewer than a quarter of households received pandemic related assistance from the government. Most respondents say that the distribution of relief  was unfair and that corruption claimed funds intended for the pandemic response. 

Even so, most Africans say their government managed the pandemic well.  

When it comes to giving up democratic rights during a pandemic, a majority of Africans  accept the use of the military or police to enforce public health mandates, but censoring  the media and postponing elections are more controversial steps. 

Africans are divided in their assessments of their governments’ readiness for a future  pandemic, and a majority say additional investments in such preparations are needed. 

Tunde Alabi

Tunde A. Alabi is a researcher.

Matthias Krönke

Matthias Krönke is a researcher in the Afrobarometer Analysis Unit.