Tackling the Coronavirus (COVID-19): West African perspectives

The Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat is monitoring the coronavirus (Covid-19) situation closely. The pandemic is unfolding as the region faces a food crisis of exceptional magnitude and high levels of insecurity. This webpage features updated data, analyses and articles on the situation. 

Fact Sketching & the COVID-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic adds an additional layer to pre-existing crises. A new collaboration with Cartooning for Peace offers an alternative look at the challenges facing the region. More

Maps & Facts: Face mask use

West Africa makes face mask use compulsory. More

Maps & Facts: Social safety net spending is low

In the context of Covid-19, social safety nets are a key tool for improving food and nutrition security, eradicating poverty and building resilience. But spending remains too low. More

Global virus, local realities

A new policy brief explores some of the potential impacts of Covid-19 in West Africa and outlines a number of policy implications to help support government actions (Image: GPE/Tabassy Baro). More

Policy responses by country

What are countries in the Sahel and West Africa doing to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19)? Find out what actions are being taken to help people, small businesses & the economy in your country. More

COVID-19 & food security

The coronavirus (Covid-19) risks overshadowing and compounding the already severe food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel and West Africa that threateneds millions of people (Image: K.Sulaimon/AFP). More

COVID-19 & the pastoral situation

Pastoral communities were already facing many challenges long before the Covid-19 outbreak. Find out more on the current situation and what is being done to support the agro-pastoral sector. (Image: J. Wanjiru) More

Maps & Facts: Handwashing & COVID-19

More than one-third of West Africans have no handwashing facility at home. More

OECD COVID-19 policy hub

The OECD launched a policy hub in response to the crisis to provide information on policy responses in countries around the world, together with OECD advice. More

COVID-19 and West Africa in numbers

In late February 2020, the first case of Covid-19 in West Africa was recorded in Nigeria. Within one month, the virus had spread to all 17 countries in the region.

The number of confirmed cases depends on how much a country actually tests. For many countries in the region, data on testing is either incomplete or unavailable.

Similarly, death tolls must be interpreted with caution. They may exclude people who did not die in a hospital, or who died before they could be tested. They are also likely to exclude people who died from other causes because hospitals were overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 patients.

Along with the rest of Africa, the region was faced with a third wave of Covid-19, which began at the end of June 2021. 

Testing policies by country


The epidemic plateau of the third wave was longer than that of the second wave (January-February 2021). The fairly sustained incidence levels may have been caused by the dissemination of the more contagious Delta variant. However, genome-sequencing capacities are extremely weak in West Africa, making it difficult to accurately monitor the pandemic’s evolution. 


Confirmed cases, recoveries & deaths


Despite a scarcity of available and reliable data, some of the trends which have emerged during the third wave are all the more worrying because of limited hospital capacity and almost non-existant intensive care units. Vaccination ratea are also very low (nearly 4.8% for the whole region, excluding Cabo Verde where the vaccination rate will have reached 55% by September 2021).

Evolution of confirmed cases


A study recently published by the Lancet (“Patient Care and clinical outcomes for patients with COVID-19 infection admitted to African high-care or intensive care units (ACCCOS): a multicentre, prospective, observational cohort study”, The lancet, 2021, 397:1885-94) shows that the mortality rate of critically ill patients with Covid-19 is higher in African countries than those reported in comparable studies elsewhere in the world.

The study shows that this increased mortality is directly attributable to insufficient critical care resources, low number of intensive care units and severe malfunctions in hospital admission systems, as well as comorbidities such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, chronic liver disease, and kidney disease. In addition, due to low testing capacity, many Covid-19 victims are excluded from statistics.

The lack of reliable and comparable statistical data also contributes significantly to underestimating the number of deaths in Africa. This is particularly true in West Africa.

Many countries in the region are not able to report the number of deaths on a daily or even weekly basis due to a lack of data collection, compilation and centralisation of statistical data that spans from hospital registration processes to national civil registration systems.

This statistical vacuum, which prevents an accurate assessment of excess mortality,  is due to the long processing time of death certificates, and the fact that less than 30% of deaths are registered each year in African countries. In addition, most of the region’s countries do not report the cause of death on medical certificates and do not comply with the coding system of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) on mortality as recommended by the WHO.

Without attempting to make comparisons between Southern Africa and West Africa, the analysis based on the weekly monitoring of excess deaths produced by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is unequivocal. A comparison of the number of recorded deaths per month in 2020 with those in 2019 shows that there is an average increase of 60% more deaths than would normally be expected. 

Testing is a window into the pandemic

By September 2021, the number of tests carried out in Africa will have reached just 5% of all the tests performed worldwide (Our World in Data, 2021). More worryingly, West Africa’s testing capacity represents just over 8% of all tests performed in Africa. Additionally, testing capacity in Africa has decreased by nearly one-third (28.68%) as of September 2021 compared to the number of tests carried out one year ago (Our World in Data, 2021).

COVID-19 and gender

Women's livelihoods under threat

Millions of girls are missing out on an education

Key documents

For more documents on Covid-19 its impact on food and nutrition security, visit the dedicated page from the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA)



When a global virus confronts local realities: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in West Africa (11 May)

More than one-third of West Africans have no handwashing facility at home (3 April)

COVID-19 and Africa: Socio-economic implications and policy responses (7 May)

Developing countries and development co-operation: What is at stake? (28 April)



Final communiqué from the ECOWAS Extraordinary Session of Heads of State and Government (24 April)

ECOWAS communiqué no.2 of 6 April 2020 on the fight against the coronavirus disease (6 April)

WAHO Providing Financial and Material Support to ECOWAS Member States to fight Covid-19 (1 April)

Relevé de synthèse des conclusions et recommandations : Consultation régionale des Ministres en charge de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation de la CEDEAO, de la Mauritanie et du Tchad, sur les impacts du COVID-19 et des nuisibles des cultures sur la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle en Afrique de l’Ouest (31 March)

ECOWAS Statement on Support to Member States against Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (21 March)



Final communiqué from the UEMOA Extraordinary Session of Heads of State and Government (27 April)

Lutte contre la pandémie du coronavirus (COVID 19) : la Commission de l’UEMOA prend d’importantes dispositions



Note d’information et de veille – Impact de la crise de COVID-19 sur la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, CILSS (April)


African Union

Impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the African Economy

COVID-19 & Other Epidemics: Short & Medium Term Response (AUDA-NEPAD white paper) (2 April)

Communiqué of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government Teleconference on COVID-19 (26 March)

African Union Joint Continental Strategy for Covid-19 Outbreak (20 March)


G5 Sahel

G5 Sahel coronavirus pandemic statement (27 April)

Communiqué of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel (15 April)


West African Central Bank

Communiqué de la Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO)



G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting (15 April)



African Finance Ministers call for coordinated COVID-19 response to mitigate adverse impact on economies and society


World Health Organization

African Region COVID-19 Readiness Status