Study on Managing Sovereign Debt in Times of Crisis: Economic Impact of COVID-19, Policy Responses and Implications on Debt Dynamics


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented health and economic crisis across the world. Although sub-Saharan Africa has suffered a smaller death toll compared to the rest of the world, the pandemic has led to a sharp economic downturn in the region. As the pandemic spread, MEFMI member states joined the rest of the world in implementing measures to curb the spread of the virus. Such measures included national lockdowns, overnight curfews, border and port closures, social distancing, and greater rigour in hygiene, such as washing of hands and hand sanitisation.

While such measures have saved lives, they have at the same time severely attected economic activity and negatively impacted the livelihoods of millions of people, leading to declines in aggregate demand and output. The services sectors, which include tourism, transport, education, entertainment, sports and restaurants, were the most affected The economic effects of the pandemic were exacerbated by the presence ot a large intormal sector, which Is prevalent in most MEFMI member states. Besides domestic factors, the region was also affected by a deteriorating external environment, characterised by weak global demand and supply chain disruptions. T his affected tourism, exports receipts, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows and international reserve positions, and led to a shortage of key imports. As a result, COVID-19 led to a decline in GDP growth rates. This in turn affected local revenue collections, in the face of the increased expenditure required in order to save lives and livelihoods.

As elsewhere in the world, MEFMI countries had no choice but to respond to the crisis. The effect of the pandemic on member countries varies from country to country in view of the diversity of the group. MEFMI countries span three income groups. Four countries are classified as low-income: Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda; seven as lower-middle income: Angola, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and two as upper-middle income: Botswana and Namibia. The structures of the various economies in the group also differ. MEFMI includes mineral-rich and oil-exporting countries such as Zambia, Botswana and Angola, while other countries …