The COVID-19 pandemic has had and still has important consequences on political stability, economic growth and social cohesion worldwide and the Sahel region doesn’t make any exception. The Department of Economics and Management (DISEI) of the University of Florence involved ARCO’s Inclusive Development Unit in a in depth study that aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on the socio-cultural and economic contexts of Burkina Faso and Mali. Researchers focused on the spread of the virus and on local governments’ and of the civil population’s responses. Secondly, they investigated on the effects produced by the virus on the two countries’ labour markets and on their employment dynamics, on food security levels, on the access to basic services (including response to vaccination campaigns), on transfers and remittances and on the impact on migration trajectories, within and outside the region.
When COVID-19 arrived, Mali and Burkina Faso showed both a low level of human development: most of their population lived in rural areas with low access to basic services, there was a quite low educational attainment and around 50% of total population in both countries lived with less than 1.90$ per day. The economy is very fragile, mostly based on agriculture (which heavily suffers from seasonal fluctuations), manufacturing is almost absent and activities in services are mostly low-skilled and low-paying; 90% of total employment is in informal sectors in both countries.
Moreover, the Sahelian areas of both countries have experienced in the last 10 years growing instability due to the spread of jihadist extremism, inter-ethnic violence, and institutional fragility, coupled with climate change’s very adverse consequences.
Given this fragile and complicated framework, it is not surprising that many scholars and policy makers, already at the very beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, started to warn the public opinion about the alarming impact that the pandemic could have on the African continent, and in the Saheli region in particular.
DISEI and ARCO Researchers, therefore, investigated how the COVID-19 impacted dimensions such as employment dynamics, food security, access to basic services, migrations movements, transfers, and remittances.
For the study they started by focusing on the spread of the virus and on local governments’ and of the civil population’s responses. They adopted a mix-method, analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data. In a first step, they conducted a quantitative analysis of the data collected through the High Frequency Phone Surveys project, coordinated by the World Bank.
This survey covers the living conditions of households and allows to monitor the effects of the pandemic on many of the dimensions of interest. In a second step, they triangulated the quantitative results with qualitative information from interviews with key informants from governmental institutions, international organizations, NGOs, and academic scholars, selected for their expertise on these topics.
When possible, they also adopted an intersectional study approach, seeking to measure the heterogeneity of the impact on various population groups and to identify the most affected ones (e.g., looking at the differential impact between female and male workers, or between rural and urban households).
The interviews have been instrumental to explore and qualify specific processes that emerged from the quantitative analysis and, thus, helped to explain the dynamics that characterize the post-COVID scenario. In the third and final step, we discussed the results in a pro-active workshop with key stakeholders and key informants organized in Rome in September 2022.
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