Go back

Africa is ‘coping’ with pandemic, says AU science commissioner

Continent’s disease control savvy highlighted by scientists’ panel

Africa is coping with Covid-19 despite predictions that the continent would be overwhelmed, a panel discussion has heard.

“Why are we Africans not responding to the Eurocentric view that Africa won’t cope with Covid-19? We are coping,” said Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union commissioner for human resources, science, and technology.

Agbor and others spoke during a webinar for African women scientists organised by the AU Commission’s Human Resources, Science, and Technology bureau on 26 August. 

Researchers shared Agbor’s views. Nancy Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya, an epidemiologist and deputy vice-chancellor for research at South Africa’s North-West University, said the southern hemisphere has traditionally been less affected by pandemics than the north. She rejected the idea that low testing rates are responsible for Africa’s lower disease burden compared to Europe and North America.

“Testing in Africa is comparable to other regions. The low burden of Covid-19 cannot be explained by limited testing,” she said.

Agbor and Phaswana-Mafuya both praised African governments and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for their early interventions against the pandemic. Phaswana-Mafuya added that Africa’s experience in dealing with infectious disease outbreaks has also been beneficial to the response.

Phaswana-Mafuya said that more research is needed to explain the disparity in case numbers. “It will be a huge mistake to follow a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.