Coronavirus: Renewed opportunity to rebuild Africa – African scholars

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Some scholars have called on African governments to use the opportunity of the coronavirus crisis to develop models to improve the continent’s health sector, public policies, and infrastructures in the service of its people.

Newsmen on Tuesday obtained the letter which advised African leaders and citizens to seize the opportunity to develop the continent’s potentials.

They asked African leaders “to break with a model of development based on the vicious cycle of indebtedness and break with the orthodox vision of growth for the sake of growth, and of profit for the sake of profit.”

The letter was signed by 50 scholars including Wole Soyinka (Nobel laureate), Inocência Mata (University of Lisbon), Anthony Obeng (The African Institute for Economic Development and Planning), Lionel Zevounou (Paris Nanterre University), Amy Niang (University of the Witwatersrand) and Ndongo Samba Sylla (Economist, Sénégal), among others

As of April 14, Africa has 15,738 cases and 838 deaths, data obtained from the African center for disease control revealed.

The scholars said the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to shatter the foundations of states and institutions whose profound failings have been ignored for too long.

“Like a tectonic storm, It is impossible to list these, suffice it to mention chronic under-investment in public health and fundamental research, limited achievements in food self-sufficiency, the mismanagement of public finances, the prioritization of road and airport infrastructures at the expense of human well-being.

“All of this has in fact been the object of abundant specialized research, except that it seems to have escaped attention in spheres of governance on the continent. The management of the ongoing crisis constitutes most glaring evidence of this gap,” part of the letter reads.

The coalition also said coronavirus “has given rise to a call for radical change in direction of governance as African leaders are being urged to take the destiny of the continent back onto its own hands”.

“More than ever, we call upon leaders to ponder the necessity to adopt a concerted approach to governance sectors related to public health, fundamental research in all disciplines and to public policy. In the same vein, health has to be conceived as an essential public good, the status of health workers needs to be enhanced, hospital infrastructure needs to be upgraded to a level that allows everybody, including leaders themselves, to receive adequate treatment in Africa. Failure to implement these reforms would be cataclysmic,” they said.

“Our belief is that ‘emergency’ cannot, and should not constitute a mode of governance. We must instead be seized by the real urgency, which is to reform public policy, to make them work in favor of African populations and according to African priorities. In short, it is imperative to put forth the value of every human being regardless of status, over and beyond any logic of profit-making, domination or power capture,” they added.

The scholars also said the lockdowns being implemented by most of the African government are punitive and disruptive and African leaders need to look beyond the state of emergencies and be in a state of preparedness.

“Let’s be clear: we are not advocating an impossible choice between economic security vs. health security but we wish to insist on the necessity for African governments to take into account the chronic precarity that characterizes the majority of their populations. Yet, as a continent that is familiar with pandemic outbreaks, Africa has a head start in the management of large-scale health crises.

“Our belief is that ‘emergency’ cannot, and should not constitute a mode of governance. We must instead be seized by the real urgency, which is to reform public policy, to make them work in favor of African populations and according to African priorities. In short, it is imperative to put forth the value of every human being regardless of status, over and beyond any logic of profit-making, domination or power capture…” the statement reads.

The group called on African leaders to adopt a ‘converter approach’ to government sectors related to public health, fundamental research in all disciplines and public policies as failure to implement these reforms would be cataclysmic

“This letter is a small reminder, a reiteration of the obvious: that the African continent must take its destiny back into its own hands. For it is in the most trying moments that new/innovative orientations must be explored and lasting solutions adopted.

“The present letter is addressed to leaders of all walks of life; to the people of Africa and to all those that are committed to re/thinking the continent. We invite them to seize the opportunity of the coronavirus crisis to joint efforts in rethinking an African state in the service of the well-being of its people, to break with a model of development based on the vicious cycle of indebtedness, to break with the orthodox vision of growth for the sake of growth, and of profit for the sake of profit.”

“The challenge for Africa is no less than the restoration of its intellectual freedom and a capacity to create—without which no sovereignty is conceivable. It is to break with the outsourcing of our sovereign prerogatives, to reconnect with local configurations, to break with sterile imitation, to adapt science, technology, and research to our context, to elaborate institutions on the basis of our specificities and our resources, to adopt an inclusive governance framework and endogenous development, to create value in Africa in order to reduce our systemic dependence.”

The scholars said the dearth of political will and the “extractive practices of external actors” can no longer be used as an excuse for inaction.

“More crucially, it is essential to remember that Africa has sufficient material and human resources to build shared prosperity on an egalitarian basis and in respect of the dignity of each and everyone.. We no longer have a choice: we need a radical change in direction. Now is the time!” the letter reads in part.


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