Africa needs strong partners to overcome pandemic and conflict
By Adhere Cavince
The high level meeting by the United Nations Security Council at the urging of China to address the double challenge of conflict and post pandemic economic reconstruction in Africa is a step in the right direction. Africa remains the most economically afflicted by the global health crisis. The pandemic has wiped out millions of jobs, created social vulnerabilities and pushed additional estimated 114 million people back into absolute poverty. Africa’s Economic growth prospects have equally dwindled and are estimated at 3.4 per cent for 2021, compared to 6 per cent globally.
Only 1.5% of Africa’s population has so far been vaccinated with a first dose, compared with 35% in Europe and 52% in the North America, according to Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. With a case fatality rate of 2.7% compared to the global 2.2%, the head of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong, has since warned that the pandemic situation in the continent could worsen even as India export ban on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continues.
The Pandemic also unfolded on the backdrop of multiple intra and cross-country conflicts that were already threatening sustainable basis for peace, stability and development across the African continent. With the debilitating impacts of the pandemic playing out in more resource deprived regions of Africa, the world could witness even more erosion of peace and stability.
China’s own comprehensive approach to peace and security bears much relevance to the African continent. Internal volatility and instability that often calls for government response by the police or military could be fueled by despair as a result of joblessness, poverty, and corruption. Yet these challenges cannot be sustainably addressed through hard power. A carefully designed economic empowerment interventions could be the key to resolving such conflict.
Beyond the traditional conceptualization of national security, new threats like cybercrime, climate change, pandemics, and violent extremism require novel approaches grounded in progressive and inclusive forms of international relations such as multilateralism. States can’t act in compartments. They must be willing to reach out to each other as a way of generating solutions to the cross-border challenges that are currently afflicting the world.
That is why the new Partnership for Africa’s Development recently launched by China and Africa is important. The initiative seeks to move beyond the traditional conceptualization of peace and security into holistic approach that seeks to resolve root causes of conflict while powering development in the continent.
External actors must be willing to listen to the African voices and contribute to the search for the intrinsic and endogenous solutions to the challenges facing the continent spanning governance, economics and politics.
On the Covid-19 pandemic, China has extended substantial support to the continent. Beijing has marshaled an all of society approach to offer not just epidemic control experience but also massive donations and direct purchases of essential medical supplies needed to counter the disease in Africa. China has also followed up on its commitment to assist African countries to manage economic difficulties through loan restructuring and debt cancellations; besides making available its vaccines to the continent.
Only inclusive development can cement the foundation for post-pandemic economic recovery and for lasting peace and stability in Africa. Chinese enterprises on the continent have continued to operate even in the face of the pandemic. This has not only enabled completion of projects crucial to Africa’s productive sectors; many young Africans engaged by the companies have enjoyed sustained employment when as millions of jobs are wiped out by the global health crisis.
China is setting a good precedent that can be emulated by other development partners to assist the continent navigate the difficult terrain occasioned by the pandemic and forge a new path to socio-economic progress. Beyond access to vaccines, targeted investments that can spur job and wealth creation across Africa are also needed. African has proven to be a rational business case for partners who have successfully decoded the continent’s potential.
The writer is a scholar of international relations with a focus on Africa-China relations. Twitter: @Cavinceworld