Prevalence and risk factors for long COVID and post-COVID-19 condition in Africa: a systematic review

Lancet Glob Health. 2023 Nov;11(11):e1713-e1724. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(23)00384-4.


Background: An improved estimation of the clinical sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection is crucial in African countries, where the subject has received little attention despite more than 12 million reported cases and evidence that many more people were infected. We reviewed the evidence on prevalence, associated risk factors for long COVID, and systemic or sociocultural determinants of reporting long COVID.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review, searching PubMed, the Living OVerview of Evidence platform, and grey literature sources for publications from Dec 1, 2019, to Nov 23, 2022. We included articles published in English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese that reported on any study type in Africa with participants of any age who had symptoms for 4 weeks or more after an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. We excluded secondary research, comments, and correspondence. Screening and data extraction were performed by two reviewers. Summary estimates were extracted, including sociodemographic factors, medical history, prevalence of persistent symptoms, and symptoms and associated factors. Results were analysed descriptively. The study was registered on the Open Science Framework platform.

Findings: Our search yielded 294 articles, of which 24 peer-reviewed manuscripts were included, reporting on 9712 patients from eight African countries. Only one study exclusively recruited children, and one other study included children as part of their study population. Studies indicated moderate to low risk of bias. Prevalence of long COVID varied widely, from 2% in Ghana to 86% in Egypt. Long COVID was positively associated with female sex, older age, non-Black ethnicity, low level of education, and the severity of acute infection and underlying comorbidity. HIV and tuberculosis were not identified as risk factors. Factors influencing reporting included absence of awareness, inadequate clinical data and diagnostics, and little access to health-care services.

Interpretation: In Africa, research on long COVID is scarce, particularly among children, who represent the majority of the population. However, existing studies show a substantial prevalence across settings, emphasising the importance of vaccination and other prevention strategies to avert the effects of long COVID on individual wellbeing, the increased strain on health systems, and the potential negative effects on economically vulnerable populations. At a global level, including African countries, tools for research on long COVID need to be harmonised to maximise the usefulness of the data collected.

Funding: None.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Female
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2