Monday, May 11, 2020
The world has lived through several wars and natural disasters in our generation, but it has never been shut down by any of them. It is therefore worrisome to see the world completey and practically shut down because of the ravaging coronavirus. The economies of the global economic superpowers have been shaken and brought to their knees by the rampaging COVID-19 virus; everyone is on edge!

We are therefore filled with the trepidation of what will become of the African economies in the coming weeks. The same way that globalisation was denied of a human face, we are even terrified that the human and economic tolls of the pandemic will follow similar pattern. It paints a depressing picture of a world that is yet to recognize the value of human solidarity in policy. More than any other thing, COVID-19 has stripped naked the hypocrisy and lies of the developed nations of the world to Africa. It is up to Africa to learn the hard lessons of COVID-19 or continue with business as usual.

That the COVID-19 pandemic began in China may be considered an accident in history, but that the Chinese word for “crisis” is “opportunity” is providential. The COVID-19 may probably be a new opportunity offered by the invisible hand of the divine mystery to re-examine the quality of our shared humanity and global solidarity. We live in an interdependent world, but whether that reality underpins global policy is yet to be seen. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be another classic example! What we have observed so far is that efforts to contain the rampaging Coronavirus are in silos. AEFJN underlines that a global pandemic such as COVID-19 requires a more coordinated global action. In a globalised world, as we have today, silos actions to salvage own country may turn out  eventually to be an exercise in futility. Thus, AEFJN considers the decision of the US at this time to cut her funding to the world health organisation (WHO) not only condemnable but reprehensible. It equally stands in condemnation of China for her lack of transparency to the pandemic ab initio. When two elephants fight, the grass surfers!

The economic intrigues associated with the pandemic among the industrial powers is expected and is already raging. Even though there is no explicit scientific connection between COVID-19 virus and the 5G technology ,yet; we see in the recent altercation between two global economic powers linking the two an avalanche of the same underlying mindset that has ruled our economic system through the centuries. Suddenly, the interest has moved away from containing the virus to exploiting the vulnerability of other nations to gain more economic power. It is this same mindset that constantly seeks to hold meetings with heads of African governments, not because it is genuinely interested in Africa but for their  own interest. It looks for official opportunities to systemically grab and control natural resources of Africa. It is the same mindset that systemically impoverishes Africa and turns around to massage the bleeding wounds of hunger and the pain of deprivation with dead aids. It is the same mindset that promises development to Africa but services the same economic structures that have kept Africa underdeveloped through the centuries. The  COVID-19 pandemic offers the world a new opportunity to choose between global solidarity and global domination.

Economic globalisation has its winners and losers because the entrenched global economic mindset has not allowed a fair sharing of its dividends. The result is the strengthening of the existing economic structure, widening of the global inequality and increasingly and crushing poverty level for Africa. All the while,  the propaganda was that globalisation would change the fortunes of Africa. In addition to its loser position in the globalisation agenda, the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic for African are monumental.

While we wait for their data for analysis, some  socio-economic analysts have suggested that more than 50% of the small & medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa could fold up for a lockdown of  four weeks. Meanwhile, the SMEs provide more than 70% of the employment figure in Africa. Found in this situation, we do not need a soothsayer to foresee that the resulting unemployment and crushing poverty will once more trigger a new wave of migration of young African population to Europe, along with banditry, illegal mining, communal conflicts, terrorism and other forms of social vices. It remains to be seen how Africa will navigate herself through this challenge. In this vein, AEFJN sees the call of Pope Francis for debt pardon of developing countries very timely. The money for debt serving could now be employed in stimulating the economies and practical global solidarity with Africa.

African leaders have extra lessons to learn from the current pandemic. When the chips are down, the champions of the meetings of the African heads of government chicken out. When the nations of the world begin to shut their doors against each, Africa must recognise that its survival is in its own hand. While we insist that the pandemic and its economic fallouts need a more  coordinated global action, we also recognise the power and instinct of self-preservation.  African leaders must recognise that Africa is not on the priority list of the global North at the moment; who are keen on revamping their economies. Thus, it is imperative to see the pandemic as a golden opportunity to look inward, be creative about it and do away with one size fits all approach. Employing the same pattern of lockdown in Europe to Africa without the basic database, public enlightenment and palliatives to make the lockdown work will be counter-productive and make the policy a laughingstock. Since the arrival of the pandemic in Africa, there have been pockets of initiatives to respond to the situation. It is an opportunity for African leaders to emancipate from her mental colonialization and promote her indigenous knowledge

It is now urgent for Africa to wake up to the harsh realities that their good has never been an objective priority for the global North. The recent disparaging comments from two French scientists to use Africans as the guinea pigs for the COVID-19 vaccine trial should drive this point home. The pandemic is an opportunity to the African leaders to wake up from the trifles that suck up their energies. The pandemic more than ever before exposes the degree of decay in African healthcare and food systems. The lies of industrial agriculture as the gate way to African food security are most evident. More people may die out of hunger than the COVID-19 disease not because there is no food but there is no effective distribution system for what is available in the midst of the crisis. It is now certain that there is no alternative to sustainable local food production for Africa’s food security. Now is Africa’s chance to unite and protect herelf. A word is enough for the wise!

Chika Onyejiuwa
[AEFJN]