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 Africa, Gambia, the impact of COVID and corruption

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Momodou Posted - 21 Nov 2021 : 21:05:02
Africa, Gambia, the impact of COVID and corruption
By Sidi Sanneh

Fewer than 6% of people in Africa are vaccinated. For months, the WHO has described Africa as “one of the least affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.

“Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight Covid-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S.” observed Columbia University Prof. Wafa El-Sadr, “but somehow they seem to be doing well.” Why is that? The true and accurate answer may emerge only after the pandemic becomes an epidemic. When will that happen? That’s anybody’s guess given that there seem to be another surge in Western Europe and parts of the U.S.

Africa’s average vaccination rate is under 6% and yet the WHO describes the situation in the continent as “one of the least affected regions in the world. One reason advanced is the youthful population of the continent with an average age of 20 years while in Western Europe it is 43 years. COVID-19 attacks older folks more ferociously than the young as evidenced by nearly two years of data.

This brings me to the recent statement by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance made at a recent conference with the Theme: One Planet, Two Worlds, Three Stories where he spoke of how COVID served as a reminder to us of the interconnectivity of the world’s economies and how Gambia’s economy was negatively impacted, as other African economies were.

There is little doubt of the ricocheting effects COVID had, and continues to have, on world economies due to supply chain disruptions - a condition that impacts African economies negatively and disproportionately. The question keeps popping up - but why?

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance implied in his presentation that the pandemic has further aggravated the economic divide between the western industrialized countries and the rest of the world by citing the projected growth rate in 2022 of advanced economies to be 5% and sub-Saharan at 3.8%. But why?

The PS Finance attributes the slower growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa - and by extension to The Gambia - to two culprits 1. COVID-19 2. Climate change. While it is true that covid has ravaged the economies of the world and disproportionately, Africa is the least impacted by the pandemic and we thank our stars for it. You wouldn’t think that climate change is at the top of The Gambia government’s by watching what’s going on in our coastal settlements and what’s left of our forest cover.

CORRUPTION is one word that our African government are allergic to. They avoid mentioning it and any sighting of the word they wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. If you don’t believe me ask Gambia’s Health Minister what happened when he stood before the National Assembly and lambasted his own staff at the Ministry of Health by accusing them of corruption, how all his staff were more interested in per diem payments etc at the detriment of the mission of the Ministry of Health. That was the last we heard from him. A reasonable speculation was he was chewed by his cabinet colleagues and/or President Barrow for not being a team players. He now plays as good a game as any, unfortunately.

Corruption, according to a 2001 PhD thesis of Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, U of South Florida, “decreases economic growth directly and indirectly through decreased investment in physical capital”.

This is an empirical fact known for years. In the case of this study, figures have been generated on the impact of corruption on GDP and per capita income. This is an Africa-specific study.

A unit increase in corruption reduces GDP by 1% annually and reduces per capita income by almost half a percentage point. There is a positive correlation between corruption and income inequality and thus impacts the poor more.

Sidi Sanneh
Note: I’ll post the link to Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong’s research paper momentarily.
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Momodou Posted - 21 Nov 2021 : 21:10:35
By Sidi Sanneh

Abstract. This paper uses panel data from African countries and a dynamic panel estimator to investigate the effects of corruption on economic growth and income distribution. I find that corruption decreases economic growth directly and indirectly through decreased investment in physical capital. A unit increase in corruption re- duces the growth rates of GDP and per capita income by between 0.75 and 0.9 percentage points and between 0.39 and 0.41 percentage points per year respec- tively. The results also indicate that increased corruption is positively correlated with income inequality. The combined effects of decreased income growth and increased inequality suggests that corruption hurts the poor more than the rich in African countries.

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