Immediate and longer-term impacts of Covid-19 on geopolitics in East Africa

17th July 2020
Author: Luke Kelly

This rapid literature review finds that the medium- to long-term effects of Covid-19 on geopolitics in East Africa are unknown. In the immediate term, the pandemic is likely to put stress on economies and healthcare systems, and thereby have the potential to exacerbate regional conflicts. It is also likely lead to East African countries re-evaluating their relationships with other countries in the region and further afield as they seek financial help from abroad (e.g. debt relief), and to build more resilience to global shocks. This rapid literature review outlines the main geopolitical issues in the region and notes where authors have suggested Covid-19 may lead to a change. For the purposes of this review, East Africa is taken to include Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. This literature review notes the main issues for the region, and where Covid-19 has been posited to have an effect. The evidence base for this question is weak as most analyses of East African geopolitics pre-date Covid-19. This literature review has therefore included policy briefs, blogs and news articles alongside peer-reviewed articles and longer reports. Nevertheless, discussions of the effects of Covid-19 are focused on the short-term effects on health systems and economies, with some discussion of internal politics (e.g. increased authoritarianism or instability). Where longer-term geopolitics are mentioned, discussion is brief and conclusions are tentative.

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Suggested Citation

Kelly, L. (2020). Immediate and longer-term impacts of Covid-19 on geopolitics in East Africa. K4D Helpdesk Report 846. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


17th July 2020


Continent: Africa

Country: Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan