How’s West Africa Doing With COVID-19?

What’s happening in Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, etc?
4 min readMay 21, 2020


Colored by death rate. Liberia is at 5/million. Nigeria is at 1/m. For comparison, Germany is at 97/m

What’s going on Africa? I tried answering that, but it’s a stupid question. Africa is a continent. We need to zoom in a bit. What’s going on in West Africa?

West Africa stretches from Senegal to Nigeria. Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria) have over a dozen direct flights to Europe between them and connections to China through the Middle East, so they’ve been at risk, and indeed they have had infections for months.

The region is home to over 375 million people. It is hot here, which gives us some marginal advantages, but nowhere near enough to just stop an outbreak. There are numerous outbreaks in hot places like Singapore, India, Indonesia — Ra will not strike COVID down for us. Public health responses are still required.

But before that, let’s look a bit closer.

Throughout this I’m relying on data from OurWorldInData, which in turn gets it from the European CDC. Some countries have reliable data and some don’t, this is true in Africa but also in places like America. Be critical, but note that I’m just comparing using the data we have.

How Many People Have Died?

Please note the scale. Nigeria has 192 deaths TOTAL. In the UK, 163 people died yesterday alone

I’ll start with deaths because that’s a bit more reliable than cases. Note that death counts are off in every country, except maybe global leaders like Mongolia. Most of us simply living (and dying) in the fog of pandemic.

West Africa has 540 reported deaths total, over their entire epidemic. This would sadly be known as ‘yesterday’ in a backwards region like Western Europe.

Given this sense of scale, let’s look at how different responses are doing. Nigeria has nearly 200 million people and The Gambia 2.3, so it doesn’t make sense to compare them directly. What are the death tolls like per capita?



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at