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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The good news is that most of Africa has done surprisingly well in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

  • The bad news is that the pandemic has greatly exacerbated a continent-wide economic crisis. Even before the virus hit, Africa was suffering from weak commodity prices and a devastating plague of locusts.

Why it matters: There's not remotely enough money to help finance the needed recovery.

The big picture: The pandemic has killed far more Americans (225,000) than Africans (41,000), despite the fact that Africa has a much larger population.

  • The U.S. might be behind epidemiologically, but it has a huge advantage economically. Like other rich virus-hit countries in Europe, it can respond to the crisis by borrowing as much money as it needs.
  • African countries, by contrast, have lost their market access, and one of them — Zambia — has already defaulted on its bonds as a result.
Data: Dealogic; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

By the numbers: Zero sub-Saharan African countries have managed to issue an international bond since the crisis hit, according to data from Dealogic.

  • Rich nations, by contrast, painlessly issued 288 bonds with a combined value of more than $430 billion in just the second and third quarters of this year. Those countries — the 37 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — are paying roughly 0% interest on the money they're borrowing, and using it to rebuild their economies.

Between the lines: There is some funding available for sub-Saharan African countries. Nigeria, Ivory Coast and South Africa all managed to borrow in their local currencies, and the International Monetary Fund has lent $26 billion in emergency funding to the continent. Still, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva estimates that Africa has an eye-popping funding gap of $345 billion between now and 2023.

  • The lack of money means a lack of growth: The IMF forecasts that Africa will grow by just 3% in 2021. That's well below the expected global growth rate of 5.2%.
  • Georgieva has begged her counterparts at the World Bank, where she was previously CEO, to provide grants to needy African countries.
  • An analysis from the Center for Global Development found that the World Bank has moved more slowly this year than it did during the global financial crisis, even as global poverty rates rise alarmingly.

The bottom line: More than 60% of Africa's population is under the age of 25. That has helped keep the death rate low, even if some individual countries' COVID-19 statistics are unreliable.

  • 1.2 billion Africans don't just need to live, however; they also need economic hope. And that, currently, seems further away than it has done in years.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Where global investment is flowing

Data: UNCTAD; Chart: Axios Visuals

Cross-border investment fell off a cliff in 2020, dropping 42% to $859 billion from 2019's $1.5 trillion, according to official UN figures.

By the numbers: Developed countries saw a 69% reduction in inflows.

Report: U.S. calls for UN-led Afghan peace talks

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, D.C., in February. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani steps including a UN-facilitated summit to revive stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Afghanistan's TOLOnews first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Blinken expresses concern in the letter, also obtained by Western news outlets, of a potential "spring offensive by the Taliban" and that the "security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gain" after an American military withdrawal, even with the continuation of U.S. financial aid.

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfrey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.