Original Research

Impact of pre-COVID-19 epidemic preparedness on the trajectory of the pandemic in African countries

Talkmore Maruta, Sikhulile Moyo
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 11, No 1 | a1571 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v11i1.1571 | © 2022 Talkmore Maruta, Sikhulile Moyo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 February 2021 | Published: 31 March 2022

About the author(s)

Talkmore Maruta, Laboratory Department, African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Lusaka, Zambia
Sikhulile Moyo, Laboratory Department, Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership, Gaborone, Botswana


Background: The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, has taught us about the importance of epidemic preparedness.

Objective: We analysed the pre-COVID-19 preparedness of sub-Saharan African countries and how this may have influenced the trajectory of COVID-19 cases.

Methods: The WHO Joint External Evaluation (JEE) tool and the Global Health Security (GHS) Index were used to determine the epidemic preparedness of countries in the WHO African Region. The relationship between pre-COVID-19 preparedness and the reported number of cases per million people was evaluated over the first 120 days of the first reported case in each country, between February 2020 and September 2020.

Results: The overall performance of the 42 countries was 40% in the 19 JEE core capacities and 32% in the six GHS Index indicators. At Day 1, the mean number of cases per million population was significantly higher among countries rated as ‘prepared’ in the JEE legislation, policy and finance (p = 0.03), ports of entry (p = 0.001), and international health regulation coordination, communication and advocacy (p = 0.03) categories. At Day 90, countries rated as ‘prepared’ in the national laboratory systems (p = 0.05) and real-time surveillance (p = 0.04) JEE categories had statistically significantly fewer cases per million population.

Conclusion: This analysis highlights the importance of building capacity for pandemic preparedness in Africa. The WHO African Region was not adequately prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic as measured by the WHO JEE tool and the GHS Index.


COVID-19; preparedness; response; World Health Organization Joint External Evaluation; Global Health Security Index


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