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Using COVID-19 to redesign Africa's economy


Olugbenga Adesida, an AFLI Director and Trustee, and a 2018 Tutu Fellow, Geci Karuri-Sebina, have written a powerful post in which they call for using COVID-19 as a global opportunity to shift the global economic paradigm. The times are urgent, they say, and the needs globally mutual. The article was published in The Daily Maverick in May 2020. 

COVID-19 is a rude awakening for the world, and they write it has laid bare for the world to see the underlying problems of the current paradigm. "It highlights the unsustainability of the current systems and the need for change – from the US with the biggest economy, to the smallest most fragile economies in Africa.”

Olugbenga is the co-founder of The Africa Innovation Summit and of Bonako, a tech company based in Cape Verde who has consulted to African governments extensively and worked on the United Nations Development Programme. Geci is the co-founder of the Southern Africa Node of the Millennium Project; a visiting research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa; and a SingularityU global faculty member on the future of cities and governance.

They begin by saying that as the world wakes up to a changed global economic landscape, it is time to look at what Africa can offer from her creativity, cultures and wisdoms. Africa's comfort with alternative and informal ways contains the seeds for resilience, new models, and better growth paths. The coronavirus pandemic highlights the unsustainability of the current global economic systems and the need for change – from the US with the biggest economy, to the smallest most fragile economies in Africa. COVID-19 impacts poorer nations worse and they reference a viral meme that says 'we may be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat'.

While rich countries have flooded their economies with stimulus packages, this is not an option available to poorer countries.  This has led to a discussion of the usual arsenal of options and instruments as the means to 'recover' from the pandemic, such as a moratorium on debt  payments, increased aid, reparations, etc.  Some intellectuals have called for the need for African governments to invest in the people, end corruption and aim for a second independence.

 But Olugbenga and Geci say that while all of these ideas may help, none are long-term solutions. "It is time to break out of this illusion of a box", they say, "The problem is not only African; it is a global challenge."  So at a time of global impact from the coronavirus, the times offer the level playing field in the realm of ideas about how to better organise our future economies.  They go on to propose a project to find ideas to restructure the global economy.  It calls for a real reset, and invites a much more radical, imaginative exploration of new economic foundations, principles, shapes, structures and systems. The goal is to design and propose to the world new socioeconomic systems that are more inclusive, sustainable, and just.

You can read the entire post at The Daily Maverick.

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