[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through VDARE.com]
I’m keeping a wary eye on Africa recently. When this new coronavirus first came up, there was a general vague opinion that Africa would not be seriously affected.
For one thing, the place is warm, and the virus doesn’t like a warm climate. For another, Africa is young. The median age in Kenya is 20; in Nigeria, 18; in Niger, fifteen. Median age in the USA is 38; in Switzerland 42; in Japan 47. The virus wreaks most havoc among old people.
Lately, though, I’ve been reading stories about the economic impact on Africa of all the lockdowns and slowdowns in the developed world provoked by the WuFlu.
On remittances, for example—money sent back to the home countries in Africa by Africans working in Europe, America, or the Middle East. Nigeria gets $24 billion a year from remittances; as people are laid off in the host countries, the World Bank says that number will drop by a quarter. [Migration and Development Brief 32: COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens, April, 2020]
Then there are falling commodity prices—oil only the most-publicized case. A lot of African countries depend on commodity exports:
Nigeria may have one of the worst governments in the world. Even in good times, the country was in poor shape. But now, with oil prices falling to all-time lows, Nigeria is about to go the way of Venezuela and Zimbabwe with total economic collapse.
The Nigerian government depends on oil for 60 percent of its revenue and 90 percent of its foreign exchange. But with prices for several oil benchmarks falling below zero, Nigeria is generating massive losses for every barrel it produces. Add this to a rising debt load, bad economic policies, and political instability, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Oil Price Apocalpyse Will Bankrupt Nigeria, Africa’s Richest Nation, by William Ebbs, CCN.com, April 21, 2020
And while it’s natural to mention Venezuela and Zimbabwe in this context, compare the population figures: Venezuela 29 million, Zimbabwe 15 million; Nigeria 214 million. (It may be more: at this point they’ve lost count.)
That’s nearly five times Venezuela and Zimbabwe together—a whole lot of human misery. [Virus triggers African unrest: Riots break out in Johannesburg over food shortages and Lesotho’s under-fire PM deploys army to ‘restore order’ as Covid-19 claims over 1,000 lives across the continent – including Nigerian presidential aide, by James Gant, Daily Mail, April 18, 2020.
Virus triggers African unrest: Riots break out in Johannesburg over food shortages https://t.co/nGENfZWe2n
— Fjordman (@Fjordman1) April 22, 2020
That’s just the economic consequences. The impact of the coronavirus itself is unclear. VDARE.com’s Lance Welton and science writer Jon (Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It) Entine have both noted that Africa seems to be a “cold spot” for coronavirus and have speculated on possible explanations. But African countries are not famous for rigorous statistics; nor, come to think of it, for excellence in provision of healthcare.
That latter point has led to some interesting sidebar stories. I liked this one, from BBC News, April 23rd: Coronavirus: Why some Nigerians are gloating about Covid-19.
Who is gloating, and why? It’s ordinary Nigerians doing the gloating.
"Nigeria's gross inequality has often been criticised, and rightly so, but the spread of Covid-19 is definitely one area where the nation cannot afford to have equality."https://t.co/qTDgBsqYyx
— Zakariyya Baba (@Z__baba) April 22, 2020
The targets of the gloating—the gloatees—are upper-class folk, especially politicians.
Quote from the BBC News story:
These are the kind of people who normally jet off to the UK, Germany, or the US at the slightest headache because Nigeria’s state hospitals are poorly funded, run-down, and lack adequate equipment …
But with borders closed and each country haunted by its own Covid-19 nightmare, Nigeria’s big men and women are now forced to use their country’s hospitals, prompting a stream of taunts and jokes.
The Chief of Staff to Nigeria’s president actually died from coronavirus April 17th, in a Nigerian hospital. [Abba Kyari, Nigerian President’s Right-Hand Man, Dies, by Ruth Maclean, NYT, April 23, 2020]
The phrase hovering in my mind here is “lifeboat ethics.” We’re talking about a billion people here, most of them at a low standard of living in badly-governed countries. Serious widespread economic collapse might send a lot of them—and a lot of a billion is a lot—fleeing to refugee camps, or across the Mediterranean—perhaps even across the Atlantic.
With our own countries in recession, our own people clamoring for help, and fears of contagion, shall we keep up our open-handed policy to refugees when refugee numbers swell into the tens of millions?
I fear we may find out.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.