The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, has taken the world by surprise. The good news is that tremendous scientific and technological advances have permitted scientists to understand a lot about this virus in a short amount of time.

Within just two months of the first case, the causative virus has been identified, its genetic makeup has been determined, and detection methods have been optimised. Scientists have also found that there is more than one strain circulating.

Despite these rapid advances, there is still significant uncertainty. Scientists don’t yet fully understand its transmission route, although person-to-person transmission, through inhalation of droplets in the air, is the most common mode. Another uncertainty is its low detection rate, especially with mild or asymptomatic cases. A third is how weather could affect transmission.

Currently, Africa has very few cases of COVID-19 compared with most other parts of the world. The highest number of cases has been reported in Egypt (currently 126 cases). It remains unclear why this is so. But the trend has generated several kinds of reactions, such as doubts around the slow spread despite the weak health systems in most of the countries, and some attributing the low spread to a low level of urbanisation.

Other factors being cited include the fact that cases are more recent, giving countries more time to prepare, as well as a lack of testing capability.

There is also speculation that the virus has not spread because it cannot thrive in warmer regions, like much of sub-Saharan Africa.

The environment and respiratory virus transmission

Among the several environmental factors that influence the survival and spread of respiratory viral infections, air temperature plays a crucial role. Cold weather makes the respiratory system sensitive to infections. This is why people tend to suffer from respiratory infections during cold winter months. In tropical climates, influenza and respiratory viruses are transmitted more during the cold rainy seasons.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding its spread, the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be following this pattern.

Other members of the coronavirus family have displayed a certain degree of sensitivity to weather patterns. For instance, cases of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were 10 times higher in lower temperatures than higher ones.

However, the effect of air temperature is also related to other factors, such as relative humidity as these viruses prefer low humidity.

Also, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus was stable in air at low temperatures which could favour its spread. Despite this, the virus did not observe a seasonal trend but rather occurred sporadically. Other factors, such as animal (camel-to-human) transmission and weakened immune systems, also favoured its spread.

Temperature and SARS-CoV-2

A look at the temperature data of the most affected countries outside China – South Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain – shows that the mean monthly temperatures between January and March of 2020 range between 6 and 12 degrees Celsius.

In sub-Saharan Africa, most countries that have recorded cases of COVID-19 – such as South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon and Benin – had mean monthly temperatures of 20 to 32 degrees Celsius in this same period. Meanwhile, Algeria and Egypt – North African countries that have seen cases – had monthly temperatures between 11 and 17 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, previous coronaviruses spread more during the colder winter months. Also, there are marked temperature differences between the most affected (colder) and least affected countries (warmer) in the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this pattern alone cannot fully explain the current low number of cases in affected African countries.

The first reason is that following the onset of the outbreak in December in China, measures were taken to prevent the transportation of the virus to other places outside China. This allowed many countries to prepare for any new cases. Secondly, the cases in the African countries are recent, and the first affected persons have been quarantined. Thirdly, many countries do not have adequate capability to test for the virus.

These factors, together with the higher temperatures, could contribute to the apparent lower spread.

African countries need to prepare more

Now that the virus has made its way into Africa, countries on the continent need to be more prepared for greater action to contain the virus, especially if it follows a seasonal pattern.

For example, the peak circulation of flu in South Africa is in the winter season between April and July. In Senegal, the peak season is in the rainy season, from July to October. Many other African countries experience these peaks during the cold rainy season. This could mean that the preparedness of most African countries may soon be tested when these seasons come, especially as many more countries are confirming imported cases into the continent.

African countries need to strengthen their capacity in terms of identifying new cases. Health-care facilities and personnel need to be well equipped to manage identified cases. The general public needs to be sensitised on how to go about getting medical attention if they suspect any signs or symptoms. Personal and household hygiene practices using detergents, such as bleach, need to be encouraged to prevent possible environmental transmission.

The Conversation

Akebe Luther King Abia is affiliated with the Antimicrobial Research Unit, University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is also an Aspen New Voices Fellow, Class of 2020.

Source: COVID-19 in Africa: fewer cases so far, and more preparation needed


Accra, Africa, AfroFuture, Angola, Cairo, Cape Town, Casablanca, Durban, Egypt, Ghana, Johannesburg, Kenya, Lagos, Luanda, Morocco, Nairobi, Nigeria, Pretoria, South Africa


Africa’s 10 wealthiest cities:

1. Johannesburg (South Africa): $276 billion


2. ​Cape Town (South Africa): $155 billion

3. Cairo (Egypt): $140 billion

4. Lagos (Nigeria): $108 billion

5. Durban (South Africa): $55 billion

6. Nairobi (Kenya): $54 billion

7. Luanda (Angola): $49 billion

8. Pretoria (South Africa): $48 billion

9. Casablanca (Morocco): $42 billion

10. Accra (Ghana): $38 billion



Africa, AfroFuture, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia
  1. According to projections by the United Nations World Populations Division, one fifth of the worlds population will be African by 2030. In simpler terms 1 in every 5 people walking the earth in 2030 will be African.

    Let that sink in…

  2. Since 2000 at least half of the world’s fastest growing economies are located in Africa. To boot, Africa’s most advanced economies —Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia— are diversified. Services, such as banking, telecom, and retailing, have accounted for more than 70% of GDP growth in these countries over the past decade.

  3. 93% of Africans have access to the mobile economy. The overwhelming majority of Africans today have access to a mobile phone service. According to research by Afro Barometer, mobile phone networks have grown faster than any other area of core infrastructure.

  4. Africa has the worlds fastest growing middle class. Currently only 5% of Africans pass the “Fried-Chicken Test” (can afford to spend $10 on a fried chicken lunch). In 2008, 16 million African households had incomes above $20,000 a year—a level that enabled them to buy houses, cars, appliances, and branded products. Another 27 million households earned $10,000 to $20,000. In addition, 41 million households reported incomes of $5,000 to $10,000—the level at which families start spending more than half their income on nonfood items. By 2020 the total number of households in all three segments will reach 128 million, which should make Africa one of the fastest-growing consumer markets of this decade.

  5. 25% of the worlds workforce will reside in Africa by 2050. The number of people in Africa in the 25-59 year age bracket – classed as the main working-age population – is projected to reach one billion by 2050. This implies the proportion of the world’s working-age people who are based in Africa will double – and they’ll make up almost a quarter of the world’s potential workforce.

The World Economic Forum has stated it best: The Future Is African.

Africa, South Africa

In recent times, South Africa has become one of the global best-emerging markets. The country has witnessed significant improvements due to a combination of advanced first-world financial markets and a fast-paced economy. As a result, existing and new products or services are gaining market entry.

As part of efforts to record a meaningful international growth in her economy, South Africa has provided a unique investment environment and entrepreneurial motivation programs that would, unavoidably, bring about global opportunities and competitive advantages. Some of these processes are captured in the National Development Plan (NDP) that aims to eradicate poverty by 2030 by expanding economic opportunities by ensuring exports diversification, encouraging market entry for new and existing businesses, implementing reforms to reduce the cost of doing business, and motivating innovation and entrepreneurship.

Why Existing and New Businesses Should Take Advantage of Market Entry?

With the international growth the country is enjoying, now is the best time for new and existing businesses to gain market entry. And here are some of the reasons to come on board:

  1. Construction and Improvements of Infrastructure

From a forward-looking perspective, the Government has committed to upgrading existing infrastructure and building new ones as evident in the construction of ports, railway systems, electricity plants, hospitals, and dams.

  1. Diversification of the Economy

South Africa’s manufacturing sector has been diversified to allow different types of business to gain market entry and grow stronger. The major sectors include metal fabrication, agro-processing, automotive, clothing and textile, pharmaceuticals, leather and manufacturing, capital and rail transport equipment, advanced manufacturing companies among others.

  1. Introduction of Incentives

That the country is gaining international growth is not enough to achieve a significant change in the economy of South Africa. The government offers a wide range of incentive schemes aimed at stimulating and encouraging market entry by various products and services. The incentive can be in the form of tax relief or provision of funding.

  1. Stable Exchange Rates

One of the factors that discourage market entry by new businesses is the volatile foreign exchange rate. However, the Rand- Dollar exchange rate has remained less volatile and tends to be predictable in the medium time. Thus, the differences in the cost of doing business will not be staggering.

  1. Developing Market Opportunities

South Africa is considered to be the stepping stone and a link for creating market opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. With this development, more suppliers will come up. A conservative market bias will also be eradicated and the door will be opened to new investors and businesses.

If you are a new startup or an existing business, South Africa is one of the best countries to take your business to. It is cheaper to run your business and expand your reach. Maximize the potential of your business by making a market entry in South Africa.