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COVID holds up a mirror to the face of African governance


2019 Tutu Fellow Ronak Gopaldas has written a paper on the double-edged sword that COVID-19 presents to Africa. It is forcing a re-emphasis of the role and importance of the state in a post-COVID-19 era. Bigger government with an expanding reach and relevance has significant governance implications for Africa, which has a record and history of weak governance, ineffective institutions, limited resources, corruption, and mismanagement.

Ronak says that if Africa uses the pandemic effectively for effective structural transformation, it could usher in significant opportunity for political and economic improvement.  If not, pressures will intensify, leaving Africa floundering under the impact of economic and COVID-19-induced shocks.

It is published in the June 2021 edition at Enact, an organisation enhancing Africa's response to transnational organised crime, and the paper is titled: The paradox of the African state in a post-COVID world - problem or solution?  The paper analyses the pandemic’s implications for governance on the continent, specifically the social contract between states and citizens. It highlights the impact on the geopolitical, economic, security and business spheres, and how African leaders can rise to the challenge. Failure to adopt radical reformist measures will see Africa remain a laggard continent, with grave socioeconomic consequences, he says.

Ronak argues that recalibrating the social contract between the state and its citizens and restoring public trust in government will be vital to the continent’s long-term success.  Economically, combatting debt, disease and dysfunction will remain the critical priorities. He calls for a younger, more female and tech-savvy form of leadership for the continent to effectively respond to its changing demographic landscape. At the same time, food, physical and economic insecurity presents a serious threat to the continent’s development and has the potential to magnify conflict. Policymakers will need to skilfully navigate a complex set of domestic and external challenges and prioritise African solutions to African problems.

He begins his paper by saying that COVID-19 has had many destructive consequences for the global political economy. The viral pandemic is a" seminal generational, ideological and geopolitical moment". 

"In this context, the role and function of the state becomes central, given its reach and relevance in everyday life. Put crudely, African states now face an existential dilemma: can they positively disrupt themselves to govern effectively and responsively in the face of these challenges – or will they continue to pursue failed policies and governance models? The paradoxical reality is that the state is both the problem and the solution in the post-COVID-19 era."

You can read a PDF of the full paper online. The cover image here is from the paper.

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Wednesday, 01 February 2023

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