RE-THINKING AFRICA POST COVID 19
The earth has been stricken by series of pandemics since as far back history records it. Whereas many of such were recorded even in biblical doctrines like God’s famous plague unleashed on Egypt (Exodus: 7), far more went by unmentioned. Either by reasons of lack of documentation or the misplacement of such, the few records illuminate the hideous repercussions tailing such outbreaks. So much terrifying they left in their wake trillions of deaths, economic recessions and as well exposed human frailty and the foramen in health and social policies. Far from what was is the truth that such reoccurrences are far from over. Whether these would be as a result of human negligence, a bad outcome of a laboratory test result, terrorism, or wrath from God himself, we would have to do our humanly best to counter such attacks unless of course, it was “judgment day”. Unfortunately, our beloved Africa would not be spared from such epidemics/pandemics for all the “sufficient” reasons. We would be better off braising ourselves for what lays ahead.
Scholarship on global pandemic points to the various recovery stages and programs of continents and states who have once upon a time been victims of epidemics. Asia for one has endured several of the worst epidemics such as the Black Death (1331-1353), Bubonic Plague (1910-1912), Asian Flu (1957-1958) among others. These have not however hindered the emergence of the Asian continent into the global economic power play. Even more than ever, they have become a force to reckon with.
Africa has not been spared from epidemic outbreaks either but the turnout/recovery from such attacks, unfortunately, has not been that glorious. The 2013 -2014 Ebola outbreak exposed how Africa’s ailing health systems threaten global health security during pandemics. It is not just the gaps in health policies that are exposed, but also the flaws in policies, which are heightened when pushed to shove.
Global health politics nexus stable health as the underlining precepts to all other functioning facets of any vibrant economy and hence the breakdown of the fore wreaks education, governance, finance and productivity. The below are high lights of the twists and turns many African countries would observe or may have to consider as we battle COVID -19.
Most African states since their independence have pursued democratic educational reforms mostly within schemes and prospects of social reconstruction. Although developed states have evolved from the primitive classroom-board and chalk teaching method to E-learning, most developing countries are just getting around the concept of the right to education and that of the girl child for that matter. For the exception of few countries like South Africa and Rwanda who are re-visioning the rhetoric, several other African countries are yet to purge education at the very top of their national policy agenda. The outbreaks of pandemics like the recent novel COVID – 19 and other unplanned events expose the gaps between Africa’s social policies. Upon the outbreak of the Corona Virus, most African states closed down their schools from basic to university levels without engaging contingency plans whatsoever whiles, western countries quickly rolled out E-Learning.
If the reoccurrences of disease outbreaks are inevitable and so is unpredicted unfortunate circumstances like power overthrows, then we may have to re-evaluate our educational reforms. To halt academic activities in the wake of every pandemic or outrageous event defers academic activities as though teachers are not already struggling to keep up with their yearly schedules uninterrupted with holidays among others.
We should prepare to engage and roll out an online academic curriculum for the various educational levels. This will require the availability and access to technological devices and the internet. Not only will it amount to an uninterrupted academic schedule, but it would also give the larger population access to online education. This should not undermine the relevance of school facilities but rather make way for educational advancement.
Not so popular in Africa is the patronage of online services. It is a rather pious culture of Africans to engage in face to face exchanges with very minimal online engagement. But the reverse has been the case with the awakening of the novel COVID 19 pandemic. The continent has eloped several stages of change development to embrace the full scale of online services. This has vitalized E-Commerce in many ways most people possibly hadn’t considered. Like online church activities which I for one didn’t anticipate its patronage any sooner. Whiles, we may be slacking in rolling out E-Learning which is one very important facet of internet mobility, we seem to be engaging pretty well with other services like Internet banking. As we have been unconventionally introduced to this system of operation, we should seek to further advance the attitude into a perpetual behavior even post COVID 19. If this is the new trend, then the government would have to introduce cyber-security systems to check the infiltration of cybercrimes and terrorism which may attempt to expose, alter, disable, destroy, steal or gain unauthorized access to or make unauthorized use of data. This may also include very robust censorship laws to protect the patent-ship of citizen assets.
Katherine Butler, a writer of the Guardian throws light on the possibility of the EU creating a new “Bretton Woods”(IMF and IBIRD) system to combat the slash backs the COVID -19 has slapped on the world. She anticipates this new system or systems would be a resurrection of the European Union in terms of consolidated economy, democracy and even restoring brain drain for the better purposes of growing a stronger unilateral European economy post COVID – 19(Butler, 2020).
It happened that as part of the end of world war II, 44 countries including some African countries came together and negotiated a monetary order intended to govern monetary relations among independent states. Recent scholarship and literature point to porosity in these negotiations and the blatant conspiracy these institutions have posed to African economies at the advantage of European countries. Needless talk about trade rules and regulations the continent has had to endure lest face trade sanctions and high export scrutiny and leverages on taxes.
Whether the Corona Virus will cause a renegotiation of the global order or not, the African continent would have to wake to the reality of it. We are in hard times where most countries are looking inwards, disengaging franchises and robustly perusing realistic national interest. Countries are seizing the opportunity to re-wind strategies and circumvent the most out of the situation to their interest. It will be a very bad approach for African states to still represent themselves as the “anything goes/helpless receivers” of aid. Unlike never before, there is a rare opportunity for the continent to also “matter” in global discourse and to engage for the most beneficiary negotiations. A lot of things will have to be revisited especially in regards to commerce. For it is in such a time as this that the continent would have to bring to the forefront and to bare our intellect, innovation and resources. Africa needs to start mastering and pushing out the agenda even better, through pan-Africanism.
Build and Rebuild
Most governments, private institutions, and even some individuals are experiencing delays in shipment, the rising cost of air and sea freights and the three times fold cost of importing products. Not only price on the high now, but there is also “manufacturing delays, trade show cancellations and slower port operations” (Kavas, 2020). This inconvenience has pushed individuals, organizations and states to make do with available resources and that, right there, could be a gateway to our in-grown development. Encouraging the consumption of locally produced foods and maximizing our local produce unless for products beyond our production (nothing comes to mind).
With people staying home and with very little at their exposure, they are making do with inventions and renovations and this is what we should encourage. A complete and sudden ban on imports would have jeopardized most African economies and that left lingering worries for states who might have considered the possibility of it. Now the opportunity presents itself uninvited and we are already enduring the full weight of our dreaded paranoia. The circumstance presents the opportunity to build and rebuild our local industry, re-echoing the necessity to consume local produce.
It is difficult to be piously prepared. Especially if the recovery of an episode is swift and reoccurrences are over longer periods. This is evidence in the global preparedness to fully combat health pandemics although science and research may have made such predictions. Yes, there are global institutions like the WHO and other research institutions that are mostly in the front lines of providing predictions and details to outbreaks for prevention and protection. But these have not proven adequate enough. Following pandemic outbreaks since as far back as “hunter-gatherer” days to 430 B.C in Athens (a suspected case of typhoid fever) during the Peloponnesian War all through 2019 Corona Virus Disease, one would assume that with science and technological advancement, the 21st century would have a firm grip on managing the current pandemic. I dare say there is not much done and I cannot attribute the reasons to lack of science any more would I suggest human negligence.
With the rise in human pollution and our effects on climate, it can be predicted that the world would experience reoccurrences of pandemics and we will be damned to think otherwise. Whiles we are currently engaging to address the current pandemic that faces us, we should not forget to take notes and lessons for posterity’s sake.
Mary Dansoa Danso
M.A International Relations and Diplomacy