African countries are increasingly trying to coordinate COVID-19 responses with those of their neighbours. This is done largely through regional economic communities, and is a potentially important response to the pandemic. Yet their efforts have had mixed results.
In many cases the regional bodies haven’t communicated their strategies sufficiently to the African public. Some have deferred to the continental action taken by African Union (AU) chairperson South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, rather than duplicating efforts such as creating special COVID-19 funds. In West Africa, both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) are coordinating their member countries’ efforts. ECOWAS held an online heads of state COVID-19 summit on 23 April, and designated Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to coordinate its initiatives. The strategy involved creating regional mechanisms to link scientific communities in each country and exchange good practices.
UEMOA countries – which share a common central bank and currency – met on 27 April to discuss COVID-19 measures with an emphasis on economic responses. They decided to allocate almost US$9 billion to alleviate the pandemic’s impact on employment and production. UEMOA also temporarily suspended the ‘convergence, stability, growth and solidarity pact’, which aims to limit debt and inflation in the monetary union.