Africa Briefs

18 June 2020 | Economics

Millions to boost health insurance in Egypt

The World Bank said on Tuesday it would provide US$400 million to support universal health coverage in Egypt as the country struggles with rising numbers of new coronavirus cases.

The funding will help Egypt increase the reach of its universal health insurance system in six governorates and offer temporary financial protection to those hit by high out-of-pocket health expenditures linked to the coronavirus outbreak, the bank said in a statement.

Though the government has announced increases in health spending during the coronavirus outbreak, the sector has suffered from decades of under-investment.

Quality of public health provision is often poor, and many Egyptians either lack health insurance or do not use it due to concerns over quality of care at government facilities, according to a World Bank report from 2018.

The World Bank launched a five-year, US$530 million programme to support Egypt's healthcare system in 2018 that includes screening and treatment for Hepatitis C and non-communicable diseases, health facility improvement and healthcare worker training. – Nampa/Reuters

Morocco cuts rates to shore up economy

Morocco's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 1.5% on Tuesday to help the economy recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bank also cut the reserve rate to 0% from 2%, a step it said would release 10 billion dirhams (US$1 billion).

Economic growth is expected to plunge to -5.2% from 2.5% in 2019 on the back of the pandemic and a drought which reduced the country's cereal harvest by 42% to 3 million tonnes.

However, Morocco's plan to issue an international bond will bolster foreign exchange reserves to 218.6 billion dirhams (US$22.6 billion), enough to cover five months of import needs, the bank said.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Morocco has raised US$4 billion in foreign debt, including US$3 billion offered by the International Monetary Fund under a precautionary liquidity line. – Nampa/Reuters

DRC mining provinces impose new lockdowns

Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo's southeastern mining heartland announced temporary lockdowns on Tuesday in an effort to widen coronavirus testing and prevent a worrying situation from worsening, governors said.

Cases have multiplied in the central African nation despite the imposition of short-term lockdowns in some urban centres and restrictions on movement. A lack of local testing has fanned fears the virus is spreading undetected.

On Monday, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned that many Congolese were waiting days and sometimes weeks to receive test results as the country only had one laboratory running tests.

Separately, the governor's office of neighbouring Lualaba province said passenger traffic would be suspended with Haut-Katanga between June 18 and 22.

Health workers will be able to analyse Covid-19 tests more quickly after the opening of a testing facility in Lubumbashi, the governor's office said. – Nampa/Reuters

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