COVID-19's Impact on Tanzania's Economy and Key Sector Prospects

COVID-19's Impact on Tanzania's Economy and Key Sector Prospects

Nyanjige Mbembela Mayala (Mwenge Catholic University, Tanzania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6632-9.ch006
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Many governments in developing countries cannot respond to COVID-19 as solely a health crisis given the economic and political crises that also emerge. Tanzania's unconventional approach to COVID-19 may be slow in response and may lack direction, but its uniqueness illustrates the need for governments to form context-specific smart containment strategies and recovery plans. The government can increase public health funding to local health centers to implement mass testing, enforce social distancing and sanitation measures, and invest in agriculture and other key sectors to produce for the domestic economy. These initiatives enable the government to maintain multiple competing priorities: managing the transmission rate while ensuring food security and protecting jobs.
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Since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020 and yet the pandemic disease, its epidemiology has been reported to change rapidly as pointing to over 118,000 cases in over 110 countries. For the first time, since the onset of symptoms of the first identified case of COVID-19 on 8 December 2019, there has been a 13-fold increase in cases reported from countries outside China. As of 16 March 2020, 10:00 AM CET, there were 81,077 confirmed cases and 3218 deaths in China while the authorities outside China’s borders had reported 86,434 confirmed cases, 3388 deaths in 151 countries and thousands more fighting for their lives in hospitals. The statistics tells us that even countries with advanced health systems are still struggling to cope with this epidemic. As the number of cases continues to rise outside China, moving to low-income countries, we should be deeply concerned about the impact it can pose to such population which for decades is characterized by high HIV prevalence, chronic non-communicable diseases, and malnourished individuals (WHO, 2020). It is thought that high time to report newly recorded incidences and provide clear recommendations while reflecting on China’s experience. On 16 March 2020, the Ministry of Health of Tanzania announced the first case of COVID-19. The victim happened to be a female traveller aged 46 years who departed the country on 3 March 2020 to Belgium and had visited Denmark and Sweden between the dates 5th and 13th March 2020. On the 15 March 2020, the lady flew back to Tanzania from Belgium and arrived at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) at 1600 hours using the Rwandan airplane. As of other countries, Tanzania had also prepared for the reception of travellers from abroad in terms of diagnostics and trained health care providers and much more. A victim was effectively screened for the symptoms of COVID-19 at the airport and showed none. She took a cab all the way to the hotel located about 28 miles away from the airport. On the 16th March 2020, she felt unwell and decided to surrender herself to medical tests on the same day just to find out that she was infected with the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2).

She came to put it clear to the authorities that the reason behind staying at the hotel overnight instead of going home directly was a need for self-quarantine. She further uncovered that, back in Belgium, she was accommodated by her female friend whose husband had acquired the infection. An important thing to learn from this brief story is there is a questionable strategy for screening for this disease as it can obviously miss the truly affected individuals. In addition, body temperature assessment might not be an adequate or sufficient attribute for the screening of COVID-19. The situation might also mean Tanzania may have a number of imported cases currently large, posing a huge threat to public health.

The pandemic COVID-19 crisis has affected societies and economies around the globe and will permanently reshape the world as it continues to unfold. While the fallout from the crisis is both amplifying familiar risks and creating new ones, change at this scale also creates new openings for managing systemic challenges, and ways to build back better the business world. It has been mentioned by the World Bank (WB) that, governments in developing countries are not in the position to treat the COVID-19 pandemic as only a health crisis (WB, 2020). For the African continent, COVID-19 has meant that several challenges and multiple crises will have to be dealt with at once. In terms of the potential economic crisis, it is estimated that 150 million people are at risk of losing their jobs and incomes across the formal and informal sectors. In countries with planned 2020 elections, such as Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Burundi and Ethiopia, the loss of livelihoods directly resulting from the pandemic may be increased together with the likelihood of political and civil unrest.

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