Virus pushing families below the poverty line everyday

Saturday September 11 2021

When breadwinners from vulnerable households lose their incomes it has a long term. PHOTO | FILE


While vaccines are finally trickling down to African nations, the pandemic continues to worsen inequalities.

Covid-19 has already started driving up the "black tax" because it has created many new dependants, as millions are relegated 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 as support for all sorts of expenses to ease their financial burden.

Teddy Kaberuka, an economist based in Kigali, said the pandemic has aggravated income inequalities, because many people have lost their jobs while livelihoods and consumption slowed down production.

"Many poor people lost their small informal businesses, while big corporations such as technology, communication and e-commerce companies earned windfall revenues since all services went digital during these past two years," Mr Kaberuka.

He added that some sectors were affected more than others, for instance the tourism sector which employed a large number of people from the low income cluster was gravely affected, hurting livelihoods.


"When breadwinners from vulnerable households lose their incomes it has a long term, compounded effect on the dependants" he said.

What is certain is that the economic destruction is real and worse in Africa.

The most affected people are from the poorest communities, hit by indiscriminate lockdowns, reducing the hand-to-mouth economy to almost nothing. However a number of corporate professionals continue to earn and even save money as companies effected changes to stay afloat such as working from home, reducing pay checks and reorganising some jobs.

However for those in lower rung jobs like security guards, cleaners, porters and construction workers, life stopped, and many were without savings.

In less than two years, the pandemic has undone decades of efforts to lift communities out of poverty through education and economic growth.

Some vulnerable families who sold their property to educate at least one of their children with a hope that he or she will pull the family out of poverty, have ended up losing these economic pillars to the pandemic.

Many women in Africa also lost their informal businesses, yet the financial burdens often fall on their shoulders.

It is a reality that gender-based income inequalities are also likely to be exacerbated, as the pandemic exerts more pressure on women while also compounding their vulnerabilities for instance 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 deal with it. It’s still early days in this Covid-19 pandemic.