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As The West Grapples With Covid-19, Keep An Eye On Africa

What’s happening? The World Bank has supplied the Democratic Republic of the Congo with $47m in aid to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The funds will predominantly be used to help with containment strategies, train key personnel and purchase necessary equipment. Resources will be particularly focused on Kinshasa, the centre of the outbreak. The funding is part of a $14bn assistance package the World Bank is providing to developing countries to tackle the pandemic.
 
Why does this matter? The potential impact of the virus on the continent of Africa has received scant media coverage in the West, perhaps understandable given the extent of the pandemic.

The World Bank, however, isn’t the only organisation to have realised Covid-19 could have potentially devastating effects in Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, announced in February that part of its $100m committed to tackling the virus outbreak would be directed to Africa.  
 
With widespread poverty and a lack of access to health care, regions such as sub-Saharan Africa could take years, rather than months, to recover from a pandemic of this scale, with some effects likely to be permanent.
 
From the West’s perspective, a prolonged outbreak in Africa will strain supply chains. The DRC, as is well known, supplies more than 60% of the world’s cobalt. While the country’s Covid-19 outbreak is reported to be concentrated in Kinshasa, and away from the cobalt mines in the DRC’s southeast, the virus’ spread, plus the closing of boarders could very quickly put supply chains in jeopardy.
 
Lateral thought from Curation – A lot has been written about lower emissions levels being one of the silver linings emerging from the Covid-19 crisis.
 
The virus, however, hasn’t been solely positive for the environment. Battery technology is key to a future transition to electrification. Without cobalt, and in absence of serious strides in alternatives, development in this area may stagnate.
 
It’s also worth noting reports have indicated the virus’ outbreak impacting the adoption of various forms of renewable energy.

Further reading: 

Covid-19 creates unexpected upsides for emissions and regeneration, Curation
Cobalt industry relies on DRC's artisan miners: opinion, Curation

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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