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The Founding Co-Director and Professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management and 2015 Tutu Fellow, Landry Signe, has published an analysis piece in The Washington Post. In it, he argues that COVID-19 prompted Africa to promote multilateralism through cooperation and coordination among its countries in the struggle against the impacts of the pandemic on the continent. 

The piece, which he co-wrote with Mary Treacy of the Brookings Institution, goes beyond COVID-19, though, and makes an argument for its potential to build the continent’s resource coordination and governance capacity.

In his analysis, Landry writes that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the African continent has promoted a multilateral response. Taking into account the continent’s considerable health and other infrastructure deficits, managing the pandemic was always about more than just combating the spread of infection, but also about minimizing social and economic disruptions as much as possible. This has resulted in what the authors call a “broader recognition of the critical importance of agile governance and multi-stakeholder collaboration to mobilize resources and successfully implement policies.”

The authors commend the African Union, and particularly the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) for taking an early lead in establishing this kind of effective coordination and cooperation among African countries and with external stakeholders. In early February, Africa had just six labs capable of testing for the coronavirus. The sample from the first suspected case in Côte d’Ivoire had to be sent to Paris for analysis. Africa now has more than 844,000 confirmed cases, and virtually all African countries have some testing capacity, even if mass testing capacity is limited. The Africa CDC has been instrumental in facilitating this collaboration among African countries, allowing them to activate better detection and response mechanisms, particularly when compared to the response to Ebola..

More than this, the piece notes that this kind of multilateralism has not only strengthened regional ties, but has improved government accountability in the eyes of its people, reflecting the “rise of political ownership and accountability… and increased initiative and ownership of global and local solutions by African leaders.” Critically, they argue that this approach has the incredible power to unlock the continent’s full potential.

Read the full analysis at the Washington Post.