A woman passes a fence outside Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery adorned with tributes to victims of COVID-19, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in New York. The memorial is part of the Naming the Lost project which attempts to humanize the victims who are often just listed as statistics. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A woman passes a fence outside Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery adorned with tributes to victims of COVID-19, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in New York. The memorial is part of the Naming the Lost project which attempts to humanize the victims who are often just listed as statistics. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Covid-19 and the emerging world order: What does it mean for Africa?

By Oluwaseun Tella Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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The recent outbreak of Covid-19 and the great powers’ actions and inactions have ignited debates on the post-pandemic world order.

In a bid to assess the direction of the emerging world order in the post-Covid-19 period, the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for the future of Knowledge (IFK), in collaboration with the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies (JIAS), organised a webinar titled “Covid-19 and the Emerging World Order” on May 20.

The event was facilitated by Professor Alex Broadbent, director, IFK.

The four key speakers were Dr David Masondo, Deputy Minister of Finance; Grant Harris, former adviser of ex-US president Barack Obama on issues related to sub-Saharan Africa; Professor Dong Wang, executive director, Institute for Global Co-operation and Understanding (IGCU), Peking University, Beijing, China; and myself.

Engaging the topic from an American perspective, Harris noted that it was too early to determine the structure of the world order in the post-Covid-19 period, as the current power dynamics are still fluid.

He added that given the current political turmoil in the US, the emerging world order will be determined by the countries that are able to exercise global leadership to mobilise other states to combat the disease.

Harris highlighted the US and China’s blunders in their efforts to combat the pandemic, pointing to China’s cover-up and slow response in the initial stages and the US’s slow, reactive and unilateral response.

Professor Wang presented a Chinese perspective and argued that the fight against Covid-19 should not be a zero-sum game.

He called for a global response to combat the pandemic.

Contrary to Harris’ position, Professor Wang argued for “striking a balance between science and politics”.

My contribution examined the implications of the emerging world order for Africa. I stated that the lone superpower (the US) in the immediate period following the Cold War lost its status following the three major crises it has experienced in the past two decades, the global backlash resulting from the 2003 war on terrorism, the 2007/08 financial crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In my opinion, these crises have respectively punctured the US’s global image, economic strength and capacity for disaster management.

It is against this backdrop that it was argued that Africa needs to begin to imagine a world without superpowers; one with a number of great and middle powers.

Thus, beyond their relations with China and the US, African states should establish and maintain strategic and economic relations with key actors like India, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Iran.

I predicted Covid-19 would lead to a retreat from globalisation, especially at the global level, and thus advocated that Africa should look inward and strengthen regional integration.

Dr Masondo explored the impact of the emerging post-Covid world order on South Africa. He noted growing concern around the rise of economic nationalism.

* Tella is a senior researcher at the Institute for the Future of Knowledge at the University of Johannesburg

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media

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