Viruses pushing families below the poverty line every day
As vaccines finally reach African countries, the pandemic continues to deepen inequalities.
Covid-19 has already started driving up the “black tax” as it has created many new dependents, as millions of people are pushed into poverty.
“Black tax” is a term used to refer to the amount of money African workers give to parents, siblings and extended family members to support all kinds of expenses to ease their financial burden.
Teddy Kaberuka, a Kigali-based economist, said the pandemic has worsened income inequality as many people have lost their jobs as livelihoods and consumption slowed production.
“Many poor people have lost their small informal businesses, while large businesses such as technology, communication and e-commerce companies have generated windfall revenues as all services have gone digital in the past two years.” Mr. Kaberuka said.
He added that some sectors were more affected than others, for example the tourism sector which employed a large number of people from the low income group was severely affected, affecting livelihoods.
“When breadwinners in vulnerable households lose their income, it has a worsening long-term effect on dependents,” he said.
What is certain is that the economic destruction is real and worse in Africa.
Those most affected are from the poorest communities, hit by blind blockages, reducing the day-to-day economy to next to nothing. However, a number of business professionals continue to earn and even save money as companies have made changes to stay afloat such as working from home, reducing paychecks and the reorganization of certain jobs.
However, for those in lower level jobs like security guards, cleaners, porters, and construction workers, life had come to a standstill and many had no savings.
In less than two years, the pandemic reversed decades of efforts to lift communities out of poverty through education and economic growth.
Some vulnerable families who have sold their property to educate at least one of their children in the hope that he or she will lift the family out of poverty have ended up losing these economic pillars due to the pandemic.
Many women in Africa have also lost their informal businesses, but the financial burden often rests on their shoulders.
It is a reality that gender income inequalities are also likely to be exacerbated, as the pandemic puts more pressure on women while exacerbating their vulnerabilities, for example through unpaid care work.
In his book Home Deus, author Yuval Noah Harari argues that the human race is capable of overcoming any existential threat. He predicts that even if a plague attacks, the human race will unite and face it. It is still early in this Covid-19 pandemic.