Book / Publication · Published 30 November 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted Africa’s perennial development and governance challenges. From strained healthcare systems to fragile and commodity-dependent economies, the crisis has thrown the continent into a recession for the first time in a quarter of a century and created widespread economic upheaval.
The crisis offers a moment for African leaders and policymakers not only to reflect on the ensuing health and economic challenges, but should demand a review of why the continent remains so vulnerable to such events.
While there is much to learn from the continent’s shortcomings in the wake of the crisis, there are also positive signs of growth and reasons for optimism.
Firstly, Africa has recorded the lowest COVID-19 death count of any continent. Institutions such as the African Union and African Development Bank have demonstrated the value that multilateralism offers in playing a leading role in co-ordinating the continent’s response to the pandemic and supporting governments through financial mechanisms. Consequent disruptions to global supply chains have also highlighted new opportunities for commerce on the continent, including local industrialisation for key products and goods.
While such relative success stories provide reason to celebrate, governments cannot become complacent; there cannot be a return to ‘business as usual’ in the aftermath of this crisis.
This is because COVID-19 is just one of many crises in which Africa – and the world – will face over the coming years: From climate change, to population growth, and increasing competition over scarce resources. The next crisis is coming, and it is imperative that African governments are prepared if they wish to mitigate large-scale damage.
The COVID-19 crisis should therefore be seen as an opportunity to learn from the policy missteps of the past and better prepare for the future. As this paper illustrates, African governments and policymakers can achieve this by focusing their attention around five key areas, namely: preparation, context, robustness, collaboration, and leadership.