What is it about?

The COVID-19 epidemic has evolved differently in Africa compared to other continents. (I) It is shown that under-reporting and demographics can explain most of the differences observed at the continental level, compared to Europe. (II) There is evidence that the COVID-19 epidemic can undergo chaotic, and more surprisingly chaotic multistable dynamics. (III) An approach introduced to estimate the number of contacts reveals, in the short term, an effective role of mitigation strategies. Over the long term, it shows that control measures have helped keep the epidemic low. Finally, the gradual release of stringency did not produce a clear increase in the number of contacts, which may be a consequence of the multistability of the dynamics.

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Why is it important?

(I) Comparing the dynamics of the epidemic in Africa with other continents is important because it shows, here, that the specificities of COVID-19 in Africa do not result from the disease itself, but from the lower proportion of the elderly, and weaknesses in the health system. (II) The analysis of the dynamics highlights the predominant role of deterministic processes in the propagation of the disease: the dynamics cannot be reduced to a purely probabilistic (stochastic) process. It is not just a matter of chance. (III) Uncovering multistable dynamics is important as it can lead to develop new mitigation strategies.


Chaos modeling-based approaches are well suited to deal with emerging or re-emerging disease outbreaks (such as COVID-19, Ebola virus disease, plague, etc.). This is not only because they are insensitive to initial conditions, but also because their algorithms can be applied to very short time series. The discovery of multistable dynamics in epidemiology may lead to a new mitigation strategy. In the present case, this shows that after a period of strong constraints, these can be largely relaxed without a strong impact on the epidemic.

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement

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This page is a summary of: COVID-19 in Africa: Underreporting, demographic effect, chaotic dynamics, and mitigation strategy impact, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, September 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010735.
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