Africa behind in global race for medical equipment as it braces for coronavirus surge

Africa behind in global race for medical equipment as it braces for coronavirus surge

Africa is struggling to compete with other regions to procure much-needed medical supplies as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent has passed 27,000. 

African countries, whose collective population totals about 1.3 billion people, have been forced to combine their buying powers under the African Union (AU) to stay competitive with wealthier nations, The Associated Press reports.

“We are competing with the developed world,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the wire service. “The very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled.”


The U.N. has predicted that even in the best-case scenario, Africa will need 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators by the end of the year to properly combat the pandemic. Ten African nations have no ventilators at all, according to the AP.

By pooling its resources under the AU, the continent was able to purchase 100,000 tests from a German supplier and is also receiving assistance from the U.N. and the World Health Organization.

Still, over 70 countries around the world have restricted exports of medical supplies during the pandemic, and closed borders and travel restrictions have weighed heavily on the continent's supply chains.

“It’s like people hoarding toilet paper, which I still don’t understand,” Amer Daoudi, senior director of operations for the U.N.'s World Food Program, told the AP. “Countries in Europe and North America are paying attention to their own internal needs, but we think that will ease off very soon.”

China has said that it won't restrict the exports of medical goods. 

The Trump administration has said that the U.S., the continent's top aid provider, won't provide aid to at-risk countries in the form of key medical equipment, such as ventilators, as the government struggles to meet demand of its own, the AP reports.