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Life courtesy of vaccines: The biggest driver of Africa's economic recovery

* 11 October 2021 2:02 PM
Bruce Whitfield
absa insights
absa insights 2021

COVID-19 vaccination programs will likely be the single biggest driver of economic recovery in Africa over the next 24 months.

The world is ever-changing and, so is the sector your business operates in. You don’t just need data to keep track of trends that are shaping the economy – you need the expertise to turn that data into valuable insights and sustainable growth opportunities that will unlock your business’ potential.

In the Absa Insights podcast series, The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield engages in conversation with the bank's sector experts about investment possibilities in Agriculture, Consumer Goods and Services, Enterprise Supply Development and Telecommunications, Healthcare and, Natural Resources and Energy.

Listen to the audio below:

As businesses continue to buckle under pressure and the burden of unemployment begins to weigh heavier and heavier on the shoulders of our citizens, it is becoming harder to imagine a life that is not overshadowed by the dark cloud of the fear and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought with it.

This picture might seem bleak, but there is hope that our collaborative efforts to increase herd immunity and to help combat health illiteracy with education around vaccinations will empower the population to see through the misinformation and fearmongering that has made them vaccine-hesitant.

At the moment, vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest threats to economic recovery.

The cost of failing to expedite the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination programs will have devastating effects on the African continent's economic recovery, says Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality at Absa Corporate and Investment Bank, Liza Eustace.

The sooner that we can, as a population or as a continent at least, get vaccinated, the sooner we can ensure that we can get back to normal across all sectors which will stimulate growth and recovery for the continent, which we desperately need.

Liza Eustace, Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality – Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

Health illiteracy amongst South Africans

“The most concerning aspect of this crisis so far is, we have the tools at our disposal but now we need to go on a massive offensive in terms of public relations,” says The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield.

The haunting reality that our economy is at the mercy of those that are health illiterate and more fearful of what the vaccine might do to their bodies than what the virus has proven to do, makes it so much more important to address the lack of effective health campaigns and to increase the messaging around the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

Creating awareness and empowering the unvaccinated populace with the facts and knowledge that vaccines are safe is key to getting more people vaccinated.

The more time and investment that we put into empowering the patient that the vaccination actually works… that’s going to be the quickest path to recovery. The longer we take to vaccinate our continent, the more we’ll be subject to lockdown, social distancing and then, potentially being on and off red lists across the globe, which will be devastating as we’ve already seen in our economy.

Liza Eustace, Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality – Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

The facts speak for themselves

In South Africa, the infection and death rates in front line workers have decreased significantly in the third wave versus the first, whilst the intensive care units and high-care beds are home to the unvaccinated, explains Eustace.

“There is unequivocal evidence of the efficacy of the vaccines yet by refusing to take them, we’re condemning ourselves to a really dreadful future,” says Whitfield.

Unless we break the chain of transmission, the virus will continue to mutate and we will run the risk of current vaccines not being as effective. The longer it takes to get vaccinated more people vaccinated, the more subjected the continent will become to what is known as “long-COVID” (long-term effects of coronavirus).

The rising cost of healthcare post-COVID

If left unchecked, the unvaccinated population will continue to put a strain on the hospital systems where utilisation levels are prioritised for patients who are suffering from COVID-19 and the long-term impact of this will ultimately increase the cost of medical insurance as recovery is prolonged.

Whilst the current reserves within the insurance industry can offset healthcare cost increases over a certain period, we need to protect our health more strategically to adequately curb these increases, explains Eustace.

With long-COVID in our sights, we can expect that the costs of insurance and the cost of healthcare can only go up and we need to be very mindful of that in an environment like South Africa where the cost of medical insurances are already very high.

Liza Eustace, Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality – Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

Less reliant, more resilient

Eustace believes that local manufacture and procurement should be at the centre of ensuring economic recovery.

The lack of manufacturing capacity has hampered the continent’s response to the pandemic and has resulted in Africa’s reliance on the rest of the world for everything from Protective Personal Equipment to the supply of vaccines.

In order to treat COVID-19 as quickly as possible, South Africa needs to consider increasing local manufacture to make the continent more resilient.

“I think that that is pretty key in spurring growth, putting Africa on the map in terms of getting their own production of vaccines available and being less reliant on the rest of the world,” says Eustace.

So, there’s quite a lot that we can talk about from a local manufacture perspective which will absolutely provide resilience for the continent going forward.

Liza Eustace, Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality – Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

Is there an argument to make vaccines compulsory?

The topic around compulsory vaccinations in South Africa is a contentious one.

In many healthcare companies, employees are duty-bound to accept a vaccine but while there is no policy in place to force ordinary citizens to get vaccinated – the slow uptake of vaccines has fueled the debate around whether it should be considered.

The companies that have announced that these vaccinations will be compulsory obviously have legitimate reasons behind them, most of them are in the healthcare business, so they’re in the business of keeping people healthy and out of hospitals.

Liza Eustace, Sector Head of Healthcare, Construction and Hospitality – Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

According to the South African Human Rights Commission, compulsory vaccinations will not be an infringement on human rights and could be constitutionally permissible for citizens that are eligible for vaccinations and as a last resort, given the large numbers of vaccine-hesitant groups in the country.

However, while this is not yet the case, it is important for the unvaccinated to remember that they are more likely to get infected and even more likely to infect others.

“As a person that is unvaccinated, are you comfortable with the fact that you could potentially infect those that you love and your community and allow the virus to mutate? So, whilst it may not be compulsory by corporates, I think as an individual it’s really important to consider the effect that you’re having on the rest of your community and the people that you work with,” asks Eustace.

For data-driven insights that match foresight with sustainable possibilities, re-visit our Absa Insights page regularly to listen to thought-provoking conversations with Absa Corporate and Investment Banking sector experts in the Absa Insights podcast series.

* 11 October 2021 2:02 PM
Bruce Whitfield
absa insights
absa insights 2021

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