Seventeen African leaders – national ministers and heads of state – had lost their lives to COVID-19 by February 2021. The continent is made up of 54 countries, so there’s a high number of leaders, but the number of deaths is out of proportion compared with other continents (where the global total is five).
In some cases, the deaths of leaders meant a shift in policy. This was notable in Tanzania and Burundi, which initially had strong COVID-19 denial in their policies. Now there is evidence of strategies being put in place to fight the pandemic. But ministerial deaths do not necessarily bring younger and more gender representative replacements. There are many more politicians with similar profiles waiting to fill gaps.
In today’s episode of Pasha, Jean-Benoit Falisse, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, notes five hypotheses for what has led to more African leaders dying of COVID-19 and what this means for health and political landscapes.
“President John Magufuli’s coffin during a public service in his honour on March 26, 2021 in Chato, Tanzania. Tanzanian officials said the cause of death was heart disease but it is widely suspected to be COVID-19.” By Luke Dray/Getty Images found on Getty Images
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