Now they're gone and no one knows when they will return, victims of a global economic crisis linked to the coronavirus that could wipe out jobs for millions across the African continent, many who live hand-to-mouth with zero savings.
"We've been through a lot on the continent. Ebola, yes, African governments took a hit, but we have not seen anything like this before," Ahunna Eziakonwa, the United Nations Development Program regional director for Africa, told The Associated Press. "The African labor market is driven by imports and exports and with the lockdown everywhere in the world, it means basically that the economy is frozen in place.
"And with that, of course, all the jobs are gone."