The pandemic in Africa: local responses and global strategies

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While the Covid-19 is affecting the world, African countries appear to be particularly self-reliant and resilient in dealing with the ongoing pandemic regarding the low infection rates recorded in the continent. National initiatives supported by strategic regional and international cooperation have played a major role in tackling the effects of the crisis. This is the main takeaway from the 10th GRFDT Virtual Panel Discussion convened on Tuesday 30th June, 2020, with the theme: “The pandemic in Africa: local responses and global strategies”. The webinar was moderated by Mrs Paddy Siyanga Knudsen, Migration Governance Analysist based in Malaysia.
The impact
Despite the current challenges, Africa countries have been less affected by the Covid-19 experiencing the lowest infection rate in the world compared to the western countries. Within the continent, urban areas are more affected than rural where there is a lack of facilities. But the situation has got a huge impact on local economies leading to the shutdown of businesses and shortages/reduction on migrants’ remittances and diaspora’s investments in Africa. In that vein, the World Bank is announcing one of the biggest depreciation in financial remittances ever accounted (about 23% of reduction). This will have huge implications in livelihood and lead to a potential financial crisis as many households depend on diaspora’s remittances. In many countries, Returnees in Africa have been subject to stigmatization and marginalization as a result of the virus’ spreading. Covid-19 pandemic mainly affected the tourism sector (which is one of the biggest sources of incomes in many African countries) but also labor mobility. As a result of the pandemic the informal sector is been transformed into a formal workforce in most of the African countries. The Covid-19 had direct and indirect implications on vulnerable migrants. Indeed, the lockdown measures have jeopardized the connectivity between villages and cities in most African countries thus impacting cross-border livelihood.
Local responses
There have been four main types of responses against the Covid-19 in Africa: information and communication (collecting and sharing information relevant to the situation), nudging and guiding (measures to be taken), coordination and collective action (harmonization of measures and gathering resources). National insights from South Africa, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mauritius revealed that during the pandemic, governments adopted several measures to fight the crisis and of course save their economies. In Ethiopia for example, the government has made preparations and performed surveillances as well as health monitoring at arrivals. The country also created taskforce composed of government officials at the rank of ministers. In most African countries, protective measures have been adopted to address the virus including social distancing, work safety and health issues at the place. On economic area, some governments have allocated resources to stimulate and save local businesses. Governments also took emergency measures to evacuate their citizens living abroad. However lockdown measures have led to decline in earning falls and remittances
International cooperation
International cooperation has been the key global strategy developed against the sanitary crisis in Africa. In that perspectives, Diaspora’s organizations where highly mobilized to assist local governments in addressing the pandemic. Ethiopian Diasporas residing abroad have contributed over 100 million Birr and equipments to support the efforts against Covid-19 (ENA, May 5/2020). Post-Covid-19, the country is looking forward to engaging more Diasporas in economic activity, such as investment. Multilateral institutions also brought a significant contribution in supporting national authorities in their purposes to deal with the impact of the crisis. The support or intervention of the international community during this period has been very encouraging. The World Bank has provided 86 million to stimulate the African’s economy and IMF supported with 411 million dollars. Thus, the global collaboration and collective action are highly required to fight this global pandemic. In the context of Africa, Covid-19 has reinforce the regional cooperation at a time where international cooperation is at its low. This can be seen as a value added. ECOWAS for instance is trying to have a harmonized approach to find a way out.
Policy Options
There are many possible options and strategies for African counties. There are also visible best practices that may provide lessons for other countries. Considering both local and global responses and strategies the following can be identified.
1. The first and most important area is the informal sector in Africa is likely to be formalized by relevant authorities. The pandemic presents opportunities for African countries to find innovative and inclusive solutions.
2. There should be a bit of equity especially for those (migrants) who are more vulnerable to the pandemic’s effects
3. The migration is going to be much more selective and complicated due to the reinforcement of restrictive measures prior to the pandemic
4. Intra-Africa cooperation must lead the way forwards and regional measures must be improved
5. African governments have the opportunity not only to redefine agency but to essentially recalibrate and calibrate agency to its own advantage
6. The challenge brought by the current context in Africa is to see how governments manage migration issues in a better and clearer way than what they use to do before the pandemic
7. Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the necessity of putting “Humanity” more than ever at the center of any form of international cooperation rather than to the logic of power that has long dominated the global scene.

Post Covid 19 and Way Forward
In the post Covid scenario in Africa, they will be a realization of the need to invest in the social sectors mainly health and food security and there will an emphasis on manage domestically items of basic necessity. Thus, the post Covid world will be Africa for Africans and early increasing reliance on social sectors, production of medicines locally and there has to be an improvement in south-south cooperation (between Africa and India) and of course other countries from the world. There should a lot of researches to be taken on Africa’s resilience as the rest of the world has a lot to learn from Africa and it is only on mutual interdependent basic that we can fight Covid-19

Report by Charles Simplice Mbatsogo, PhD in Geography (in progress), Migrinter Lab, University of Poitiers, France. Email : [email protected]