Omicron shines spotlight on low vaccine coverage

The emergence of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 reinforces the need to boost vaccine coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa from current low levels. Most countries have administered at least one vaccine dose to less than 20% of their populations. The South African authorities’ initial response to the ‘Omicron threat’ was to urge the take-up of vaccines, rather than tightening containment measures. And so long as vaccine coverage is low, the risk of intermittent curbs on activity to relieve strains in health care sectors will linger with future virus waves and variants. Achieving such vaccine coverage will probably take some time even as Africa’s vaccine supplies – including from China and India – look set to increase over the coming quarters.
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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) kept its benchmark rate on hold at 11.50% today as it shrugged off the unexpected rise in inflation in December and maintained its focus on supporting the recovery. We think that the current accommodative policy stance is unlikely to change in the coming months, but rate hikes will probably come onto the agenda in the second half of 2022.

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Balance on South African MPC tipping towards rate hike

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South Africa Activity Data (Nov.)

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Africa Chart Book

Hope on vaccines, but still a long way to go

COVID-19 vaccine coverage remains pitifully low across much of Sub-Saharan Africa, with less than 10% of populations having received at least a first dose in most countries. But there are signs that things may be slowly turning a corner. The rate of vaccination has picked up in recent weeks and there are growing hopes that this trend will continue as the supply of vaccines to the continent improves. That said, there is still a long way to go to reach the high vaccine coverage achieved in other parts of the world. What’s more, even as supply improves, other hurdles such as logistical challenges and vaccine hesitancy may still hinder progress. In the meantime, the region will remain vulnerable to fresh virus outbreaks and the threat of tighter restrictions will continue to cast a cloud over the economic outlook.

28 October 2021

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Headwinds beyond vaccine woes intensifying

Extremely low vaccine coverage continues to cast a dark cloud over recovery prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa and this will be compounded by deteriorations in the terms of trade and tighter fiscal policy. As a result, rebounds in most economies will lag behind other EMs. Sovereign debt risks look acute in Ethiopia and are growing in Ghana, while South Africa faces a slow-burning problem.

27 October 2021

Africa Chart Book

Contrasting currency tales

Currencies of the two biggest economies in Africa have had contrasting fortunes recently, with Nigeria’s official naira exchange rate recently devalued but the South African rand soaring on the back of higher metals prices. Nigerian policymakers have taken a step in the right direction but, while we expect further falls in the naira, the authorities will stop short of the unified and fairly valued exchange rate than many are hoping for. Meanwhile, the star performance of the rand is unlikely to last as we expect most commodity prices to fall back, and that US long-term yields will begin to rise again, putting renewed pressure on EM currencies. In addition, we think the SARB will not tighten policy as quickly as investors now discount, and that concerns about South Africa’s fiscal situation will eventually resurface.

27 May 2021
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