Africa is managing COVID-19 very well so far

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
July 2020, Issue 23
by E.G. Nadeau

Why an article on the coronavirus in Africa? Two reasons: I have spent much of my 50-year co-op career living and working in about 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, so I have a personal interest. Secondly, there is not a lot written in the Western press about the impact of coronavirus on the continent, and much of that is ill-informed.

Slogging through the morass of data and conflicting projections of the impact of the coronavirus on deaths, poverty, and hunger in Africa is a daunting task. This is a brief report of some findings.

Here is what we know, or think we know, about the impact to-date of the virus on this continent of 54 countries and 1.3 billion inhabitants – a population that exceeds that of Europe and North America combined.

  • As of July 27, there were almost 850,000 cases of the virus and almost 18,000 deaths attributed to it in Africa.* (The State of New York alone has almost 33,000 coronavirus deaths – approaching twice the number for all of Africa.) The level of infection in Africa is far less than many international organizations projected back in April. For example, one UN report stated that there could be up to 3.3 million deaths within a year.
    * Note that some observers believe that Africa’s cases and deaths are being undercounted.
  • Those deaths still may happen, but it is highly unlikely given the current trend. Africa has the lowest rate of infection of any continent except Antarctica. About one in 1,500 Africanshave been infected so far, compared to almost one in 75 Americans – a rate about 20 times that of Africa.
An African farmer takes her goods to market.  iStock/gaelgogo
  • Most African countries have done a good job since March of imposing travel restrictions, sheltering in place, and enforcing other measures to reduce the spread of the virus. In the two-week period from July 13 through July 26, 21 African countries and territories experienced an increase in the number of new coronavirus cases, 13 decreased the number, and 17 were stable or had no cases.In contrast, during the same time period, 32 U.S. states had increasing numbers of cases, 16 maintained approximately the same level, and two had decreases.
  • COVID-19 has not spread as widely in Africa as originally predicted, primarily as a result of the public health policies mentioned above, but also for a variety of other reasons, including limited travel into the continent by people from infected areas of the world, and the high percentage of rural residents in many African countries. 
  • Despite the relatively gradual trajectory of the virus in most of Africa to date, it is nonetheless taking a big toll on the economy of the continent. For example, the International Monetary Fund projects that gross national product will drop by over 4% in 2020.
  • Food shortages are already an issue in some countries, for example in Zimbabwe. The United Nation’s World Food Program is stocking up on food supplies to meet what could be a food crisis in Africa.
  • There is plenty of uncertainty and disagreement about what is likely to happen in the next year. Some sources suggest that Africa is experiencing a lag in the spread of the pandemic, and that it is still going to face a large increase of cases and deaths in the months ahead, while others are more sanguine about the continent’s prospects for avoiding such a disastrous near-term future.
  • The availability of a vaccine within the next six months to a year may be the biggest factor in containing the pandemic and resuscitating the economy in Africa.

To conclude this brief review of the coronavirus in Africa, it’s good news that the continent has had as few cases and deaths as it has thus far. But, it is way too soon to predict that these low rates will continue during the next year.

If you want to keep an eye on what’s going on with the coronavirus in Africa, I recommend this BBC website.

Unfortunately, I don’t recommend the WHO website on Africa. For some reason that WHO doesn’t clearly explain, the site covers 47 African countries and not the entire continent, and thus its data are incomplete and misleading.


A heads-up on an upcoming book from The Cooperative Society Project

The working title of the book is Strengthening the International Cooperative Community. It is scheduled for publication late this fall. Many of the case studies and recommendations in the book are based on my 50 years of international cooperative research and development experience. The book will be available through The Cooperative Society website, Amazon, and local booksellers.

E.G. with colleagues, working on a cocoa co-op project in Madagascar in 2008


The Cooperative Society 2020 Report is available as a PDF on our website. We encourage you to read the report, share it with colleagues and friends, and send us a note about your own observations and interpretations as to how to make our world a better place.

We appreciate your interest in and support of The Cooperative Society Project. Thank you.
—E.G. Nadeau and Luc Nadeau

Will the coronavirus pandemic help us to solve the climate crisis?

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
May 2020, Issue 22
by E.G. Nadeau

Will the coronavirus pandemic help us to solve the climate crisis?

One’s first tendency is probably to respond, “No way! The pandemic will set back our efforts to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.”

But there are several reasons to think that getting the virus under control during the next year or so may in fact set the stage for a more serious and effective long-term approach to addressing the problem of climate change. However, there are also several counter-tendencies that may offset this potential progress.

2020 is forecast to see the largest drop
in energy usage since the end of World War II.

According to a report issued by the International Energy Agency in late April 2020, global carbon dioxide emissions are projected to decrease 8% in 2020, primarily as a result of the slowdown of the international economy – especially manufacturing and transportation – caused by the pandemic.

This 8% figure is important because it slightly exceeds the 7.6% carbon reduction goal set by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The caveat, however, is that the world needs to achieve this goal each year through 2030 in order to limit global warming to less than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial temperatures.

In the past, for example in the 2008-2010 recession, an initial drop in energy usage was followed by a big increase the following year. So, if the same thing happens in 2021 or 2022, the reduction in fossil fuel use during the pandemic will just be a blip, and not an indicator of a long-term decline in carbon emissions.

The economic competitiveness of fossil fuels with renewable energy
is expected to continue to weaken in 2020 .

Onshore wind and large-scale solar projects continue to be far cheaper than coal and slightly cheaper than natural gas in most parts of the world. Renewable energy storage costs are declining rapidly, and will further tilt the field in favor of renewables. Many large banks and investment funds have announced that they will no longer make loans to large fossil-fuel projects, especially coal plants.

However, it would be premature to conclude that fossil fuels are facing long-term declines. In particular, China is focusing on coal as a major part of its post-Wuhan economic recovery strategy. Not only that, China is also a major developer and financer of new coal mining operations in other countries. India also appears to be committed to continued dependence on coal as a cornerstone of its economy. Australia, despite domestic opposition and some commitment to renewables, is also counting on coal and natural gas for its future prosperity. Russia’s dependence on oil and natural gas production and exporting shows no signs of easing.

Given the economic disadvantages that fossil-fuel energy has vis-à-vis renewable energy, combined with its exacerbation of the climate-change crisis, it’s hard to understand the continued fixation of these countries on coal, oil, and natural gas. As many projects around the world have already discovered, they are facing a strong potential for big losses in “stranded assets” because of their inability to be cost-competitive with renewables. For example, for the first time ever, coal provided less than 50% of the electrical energy in the United States in 2019. US coal plants continue to close or go into bankruptcy in 2020.

Some world leaders and economists are championing
a “green stimulus” that would base the
economic recovery from the pandemic
on renewable energy and jobs.

The Guardian recently summarized the conclusion of an article from the Oxford Review of Economic Policy:

Projects which cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as stimulating economic growth deliver higher returns on government spending, in the short term and in the longer term, than conventional stimulus spending.

Also reported by The Guardian, the UN Secretary-General recently cautioned that:

Governments should not use taxpayer cash to rescue fossil fuel companies and carbon-intensive industries, but should devote economic rescue packages for the coronavirus crisis to businesses that cut greenhouse-gas emissions and create green jobs.

A number of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, reiterated recently their countries’ continued commitments to ambitious climate targets and their encouragement of other responsible governments to do the same.

As of mid-2020, the world is in a tug-of-war
between the green stimulus proponents and the fossil fuel diehards.

It is not at all clear whether we will see a continued decrease in fossil fuel use in 2021. Given the huge volume of coal and other fossil fuels produced and consumed by China, India, Russia, and Australia, I’m afraid that the clean-energy advocates will suffer a setback next year.

But, here’s a strategy that may help to get climate change back on track in 2022 – border carbon taxes. Such taxes are already under discussion by various governments, especially European Union members. The basic idea is that products manufactured using energy sources that generate large amounts of carbon dioxide would be taxed before they could be exported to low-carbon countries. For example, a computer made in China that is produced with 70% coal and/or other fossil fuel energy would be taxed by France or another European Union country to which it is being exported.

Such a border tax would further strengthen the economic advantage of renewable energy development and increase the likelihood that the 2030 goals for reducing carbon emissions will be achieved.

One big unknown related to the enactment of such a tax will be the outcome of the November election in the United States. President Trump has been a staunch denier of climate change and an equally fervid supporter of fossil fuel companies. If he loses the November election, there is a strong likelihood that his successor, probably Joe Biden, will look far more favorably at reactivating the participation of the United States in the Paris Agreement, an international carbon border-tax program, and other actions to reduce carbon emissions.

You may recall that on March 24 of this year, we released The Cooperative Society 2020 Report. The purpose of the report is to update the information we presented in the 2016 and 2018 editions of our book The Cooperative Society: The Next Stage of Human History and to make revised recommendations on how to make our world a better place in which to live.

We continue to ask this question: Is the world on the verge of a new stage of human history, one characterized by cooperation and equitable access to resources rather than by conflict and extreme inequality?

Based on the results of our research, we assign some order to the seven measures of human and environmental well-being by which we attempt to evaluate human activity: Economic Power, Wealth, Conflict, Democracy, Population, Quality of Life, and Environment.

The Cooperative Society 2020 Report is available as a PDF on our website. We encourage you to read the report, share it with colleagues and friends, and send us a note about your own observations and interpretations as to how to make our world a better place. Thank you. -E.G. Nadeau and Luc Nadeau

How have we been doing lately on reducing conflict in the world?

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
November 2019, Issue 19
by E.G. Nadeau

The short answer to this question is: There have been minor improvements in the last few years. Let’s review the numbers and a few examples.

To provide a longer answer, it is important to distinguish between two kinds of violence: Deaths from armed conflicts, and homicides.

Armed conflicts

The planet has become a much more peaceful place since the end of World War II. This is the case, despite the hundreds of regional wars, civil wars, and other armed conflicts that have occurred over the past 75 years.

In the past decade or so there has been an uptick in the number of deadly conflicts, but, counterintuitively, a reduction in the number of fatalities resulting from these conflicts.

According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP):

The number of fatalities in organized violence decreased for the fourth consecutive year [in 2018], to reach the lowest level since 2012. In 2018, UCDP recorded almost 76,000 deaths – a decrease of 20% compared to 2017, and 43% compared to the latest peak in 2014. . . .

The general decline in fatalities from organized violence does not correspond with the trend in the number of active conflicts. In fact, the world has seen a new peak in the number of conflicts after 2014, matched only by the number of conflicts in the early 1990s.[1]

The following figures illustrate this pattern of decreasing fatalities despite the increasing number of conflicts:


Note, in particular, the steep rise in the number of armed conflicts from 2014 to 2018, and the steep decline in the number of fatalities during the same time period.

This pattern of reduced conflict-related fatalities is also reflected in more recent data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).[3] ACLED’s highly detailed dataset on “political violence and protest events” shows a decline of fatalities between the first ten months of 2018 and the same time period in 2019 from about 254,000 to 129,000. That’s a reduction of almost 50%.

It is too soon to tell if these data indicate a temporary reduction in conflict-related fatalities, or if they signal a long-term trend toward less lethal resolution of differences among conflicting parties.


It is surprising to many of us, but intentional homicides are far more common than deaths from armed conflict – in recent years about five times more common.[4]

When viewed on a worldwide scale, intentional homicides have shown a gradual downward trend between 1990 and 2017 (the most recent year for which data are available). At the same time, however, there are major differences among regions and countries in terms of the number and causes and of homicides.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a report in July 2019 estimating that:

 [A] total of 464,000 deaths were caused by intentional homicide worldwide in 2017. The largest share (37 per cent) was registered in the Americas, closely followed by Africa, which accounted for just over a third (35 per cent) of the total. Despite its large population, Asia accounted for less than a quarter of the total (23 per cent), while Europe (4.7 per cent) and Oceania (0.2 per cent) accounted for by far the smallest shares. . . .

At the global level, the homicide rate has been slowly decreasing for over two decades, from a peak of 7.4 per 100,000 in 1993 to 6.1 per 100,000 in 2017, including a period of steady decrease from 1993 to 2007 and a period of stability thereafter.[5] [6]

The following figure from the 2019 UNODC report illustrates both the gradual decline in worldwide homicides and the different levels and historical patterns of regional homicides.


As a side note to these data, the homicide rate in the United States increased by 14 percent between 2010–2017, following several decades of decline.[8] The United States has one of the highest homicide rates of the 30 or so most developed countries in the world.[9]

What are the takeaways from these data on deaths from armed conflict and intentional homicide?

A key finding related to armed conflict is that the number of conflicts has been growing since the early 2000s, but the number of deaths resulting from these conflicts has been decreasing since 2014. It is not clear whether this pattern is temporary or marks a long-term approach to conflict that is less lethal than in the past.

Intentional homicides at the global level have been declining gradually, at least since the early 1990s. But regional and national levels and patterns of homicide vary dramatically. Central and South America, and parts of Africa, have maintained high homicide rates over the past 25 years, while other regions have had low and declining rates.

There are different causes for these regional homicide patterns. In Central and South America, many homicides are due to gang violence, especially related to the drug trade. In Africa, much of the unorganized violence stems from fighting among different ethnic groups. The discrepancy noted above between homicides in the United States versus other developed countries is often attributed to the much easier access to guns in the US than in these other countries.

All in all, there is a pattern of reduced violence in the world, but we have a long way to go before we can claim that we live on a peaceful planet.

Postscript to the November Newsletter

This newsletter is a partial preview, focusing on worldwide conflict, of the 2020 Cooperative Society Report to be published in February 2020.

This report will provide recent data on conflict as well as on six other measures of societal well-being: Economic power, wealth and income, democracy, population trends, quality of life, and the environment. The report addresses how well we are doing on these measures, and how we can do better.

The report will be summarized in the January newsletter, and the full report will be available as a free download on The Cooperative Society [insert proper link] website.

The second edition of The Cooperative Society: The Next Stage of Human History will continue to be available for purchase, and as a free download from this website.

We appreciate your interest in and support of The Cooperative Society Project. Thank you.

[1] Pettersson, Therese et al, “Organized violence, 1989–2018 and peace agreements,”

Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Journal of Peace Research, 2019, Vol. 56(4) 589–603,

[2] Ibid., p. 590.

[3] ACLED, Data Export Tool, accessed, November 2019,

[4] A comparison of UNODC and Uppsala data.

[5] UNODC, Global Study on Homicide 2019, Booklet 2, Vienna, 2019,

[6] UNODC, Global Study on Homicide 2019, Booklet 1, Vienna, 2019

[7] Op.cit., UNODC Booklet 1, p.20.

[8] Op.cit., UNODC Booklet 2, p.46..

[9] Better Life Index, OECD, 2017,

Problems with the UN’s 2019 population report

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
June 2019, Issue 16
by E.G. Nadeau

The United Nations “World Population Prospects 2019” is hot off the press. But it is lukewarm in terms of some key methodological and strategic issues – in particular, long-term trends of overestimating population growth and underestimating people’s willingness to change their reproductive health practices.

The report projects that the world’s population will rise from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 10.9 billion by 2100. It states that: “Global population trends are driven largely by trends in fertility – especially in the average number of live births per woman over a lifetime – which has fallen markedly.”

The UN issues periodic population reports. The last one was in 2017. As Rick Gladstone pointed out in The Globe Is Going Gray Fast, U.N. Says in New Forecast (NYT, June 17, 2019): The 2017 report projected a world population in 2100 of 11.2 billion. That’s 300 million more people than the 2019 report projects.

Why the difference? As the UN itself observed: Birth rates have “fallen markedly.”

Unfortunately, the UN’s population projections have a long history of being on the high side. For example, its 1958 projection for the world’s population in 2000 was overestimated by more than 200 million people.

A key reason for these population projection problems is a bias toward underestimating the decline in birth rates.

Which brings us to the second major problem with the UN report: Although it cites the relationship between population change and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it downplays the critical roles that reproductive health education, access to birth control, and improved economic well-being play in long-term decreases in birth rates.

For example, in a 2018 report, The UN Population Fund estimated that there were more than 200 million women in developing countries who “want to prevent or delay pregnancy but do not have access to contraceptives.”

Thus, the UN population report is methodologically flawed in its projection of birthrates, and strategically flawed in its failure to take into account the ability of women, couples, communities, countries, and international bodies like the UN to “bend the population curve” downward.