The deadly coronavirus is spreading across the world and it seems only a matter of time before South Africa falls to the illness due to strong links with infected countries.
So far, only Egypt and Libya have reported cases in Africa, but health authorities are worried many more cases may have passed undiagnosed across the rest of the continent that is home to 1.2 billion.
The epidemic has quickly spread to Asia, Europe and North America despite health authorities quickly taking emergency measures to stem the number of cases.
The fear is already over-stretched health services in Africa could soon be overwhelmed if coronavirus strikes, leading to the deaths of thousands.
South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa see a regular flow of air passengers to and from China, with a reported 200,000 Chinese workers based in Africa.
Rand hits four-year low
Algeria, Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zambia account for two out of three of these workers, but South Africa has a large expat work force with many based in some of the worst disease ravaged areas.
Already an economic impact linked to coronavirus is emerging.
South Africa has followed other world markets in to the red, with the rand plunging to a four-year low as stocks and bonds slump.
“Investors have largely been caught off-guard by the serious and far-reaching economic consequence of the coronavirus.,” said Nigel Green, founder and CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest wealth managers and financial services advice firms for expats.
“This, despite major multinational organisations already lowering their profit guidance, and many more likely to do so in coming weeks. Clearly, this will hit global supply chains, economies across the world and ultimately government coffers too.
Advice for investors
“However, it does seem that this week the world is waking up to the reality of the situation as the containment of coronavirus hasn’t yet materialised and confirmed cases soar in different countries.
“Until such time as governments pump liquidity into the markets and coronavirus cases peak, markets will be jittery triggering sell-offs.”
And his advice to investors?
“I am confident that we’ll narrowly avoid a global recession in 2020, but no-one can accurately predict the future – as we have seen with coronavirus, which markets wrongly assumed would be limited to mainly China,” said Green.
“Therefore, in the current volatile environment, investors – including me – will revise their portfolios and drip-feed new money into the market to take advantage of the opportunities whilst reducing risk at the same time.”