Introduction A novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread to all regions of the world. There is great uncertainty regarding how countries’ characteristics will affect the spread of the epidemic; to date, there are few studies that attempt to predict the spread of the epidemic in African countries. In this paper, we investigate the role of demographic patterns, urbanisation and comorbidities on the possible trajectories of COVID-19 in Ghana, Kenya and Senegal.

Methods We use an augmented deterministic Susceptible-Infected-Recovered model to predict the true spread of the disease, under the containment measures taken so far. We disaggregate the infected compartment into asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic and severely symptomatic to match observed clinical development of COVID-19. We also account for age structures, urbanisation and comorbidities (HIV, tuberculosis, anaemia).

Results In our baseline model, we project that the peak of active cases will occur in July, subject to the effectiveness of policy measures. When accounting for the urbanisation, and factoring in comorbidities, the peak may occur between 2 June and 17 June (Ghana), 22 July and 29 August (Kenya) and, finally, 28 May and 15 June (Senegal). Successful containment policies could lead to lower rates of severe infections. While most cases will be mild, we project in the absence of policies further containing the spread, that between 0.78% and 1.03%, 0.61% and 1.22%, and 0.60% and 0.84% of individuals in Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, respectively, may develop severe symptoms at the time of the peak of the epidemic.

Conclusion Compared with Europe, Africa’s younger and rural population may modify the severity of the epidemic. The large youth population may lead to more infections but most of these infections will be asymptomatic or mild, and will probably go undetected. The higher prevalence of underlying conditions must be considered.


Diop BZ, Ngom M, Pougué Biyong C, et al The relatively young and rural population may limit the spread and severity of COVID-19 in Africa: a modelling studyBMJ Global Health 2020;5:e002699.
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