Open Journal Systems

COVID-19 and socioeconomic development in Africa: The first 6 months (February 2020-August 2020)

M. Michel Garenne


The study covers the first 6 months of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemics in 56 African countries (February 2020-August 2020). It links epidemiological parameters (incidence, case fatality) with demographic parameters (population density, urbanization, population concentration, fertility, mortality, and age structure), with economic parameters (gross domestic product [GDP] per capita, air transport), and with public health parameters (medical density). Epidemiological data are cases and deaths reported to the World Health Organization, and other variables come from databases of the United Nations agencies. Results show that COVID-19 spread fairly rapidly in Africa, although slower than in the rest of the world: In 3 months, all countries were affected, and in 6 months, approximately 1.1 million people (0.1% of the population) were diagnosed positive for COVID-19. The dynamics of the epidemic were fairly regular between April and July, with a net reproduction rate R0 = 1.35, but tended to slow down afterward, when R0 fell below 1.0 at the end of July. Differences in incidence were very large between countries and were correlated primarily with population density and urbanization, and to a lesser extent, with GDP per capita and population age structure. Differences in case fatality were smaller and correlated primarily with mortality level. Overall, Africa appeared very heterogeneous, with some countries severely affected while others very little.


COVID-19; Demographic transition; Health transition; Economic development; Africa

Full Text:



Anderson RM, and May RM. (1991). Infectious Diseases of Humans: Dynamics and Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Buvé A, Bishikwabo-Nsarhaza K, and Mutangadura G. (2002). The Spread and Effect of HIV-1 Infection in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lancet, 359(9322):2011-7.

FAO-Stats. (2019). Data on Food and Agriculture. Roma, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 01].

Fortson JG. (2008). The Gradient in Sub-Saharan Africa: Socioeconomic Status and HIV/AIDS. Demography, 45:303-22.

Garenne M, Collinson MA, Chodziwadziwa W, et al. (2016). Completeness of birth and death registration in a rural area of South Africa: The Agincourt health and demographic surveillance, 1992-2014. Global Health Action, 9:1.

Hajizadeh M, Sia D, Heymann SJ, et al. (2014). Socioeconomic inequalities in HIV/AIDS prevalence in Sub-Saharan African countries: Evidence from the Demographic Health Surveys. International Journal of Equity in Health, 13:18.

Index Mundi. (2020). Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Sep 02].

Joubert J, Rao C, Bradshaw D, et al. (2012). Characteristics, Availability and Uses of Vital Registration and Other Mortality Data Sources in Post-democracy South Africa. Global Health Action, 5:1.

Kramer AM, Pulliam JT, Alexander LW, et al. (2016). Spatial Spread of the West Africa Ebola Epidemic. Royal Society Open Science, 3:160294.

Linard C, Gilbert M, Snow RW, et al. (2012). Population Distribution, Settlement Patterns and Accessibility Across Africa in 2010. PLoS One, 7(2):e31743.

Martini M, Gazzaniga V, Bragazzi NL, et al. (2019). The Spanish Influenza Pandemic: A Lesson from History 100 Years After 1918. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, 60(1):E64-7.

McSweeny K, Colman A, Fancourt N, et al. (2007). Was Rurality Protective in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand? The New Zealand Medical Journal, 120(1256):U2579.

Medline. (2020). Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 07].

Mehtar S, Preiser W, Lakhe NA, et al. (2020). Limiting the Spread of COVID-19 in Africa: One Size Mitigation Strategies do Not Fit All Countries. Lancet Global Health, 8(7):e881-3.

Mishra V, Assche SB, Greener R, et al. (2007). HIV Infection Does Not Disproportionately Affect the Poorer in Sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS, 21(7):S17-28.

Pramanik M, Udmale P, Bisht P, et al. (2020). Climatic Influence on the Magnitude of COVID-19 Outbreak: A Stochastic Model-based Global Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Health Research. [Online ahead of print, 2020 Oct 22].

Pramanik M, Udmale P, Bisht P, et al. (2020). Climatic Factors Influence the Spread of COVID-19 in Russia. International Journal of Environmental Health Research. [Online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 16].

Preston SH. (1976). Mortality Patterns in National Populations. With Special Reference to Recorded Causes of Death. New York: Academic Press.

United Nations, Population Division. (2014). World Urbanization Prospects, 2014 Revision. New York: United Nations.

United Nations, Population Division. (2019). World Population Prospects, 2019 Revision. New York: United Nations.

Velavan TP, and Meyer CG. (2020). The COVID-19 Epidemic. Tropical Medicine and International Health, 25(3):278-80.

Wojcicki JM. (2005). Socioeconomic Status as a Risk Factor for HIV Infection in Women in East, Central and Southern Africa: A Systematic Review. Journal of Biosocial Science, 37:1-36.

World Bank. (2019). World Development Indicators. Washington, DC: World Bank. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Aug 25].

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Daily Situation Reports (No 42 to 210). Geneva: World Health Organization. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Aug 22].

Zhao Z, Li X, Liu F, et al. (2020). Prediction of the COVID-19 Spread in African Countries and Implications for Prevention and Control: A Case Study in South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and Kenya. Science of the Total Environment, 729(10):138959.

(139 Abstract Views, 44 PDF Downloads)


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Garenne

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.