Op-Ed Series – Vol.6 Issue: 1

October 28, 2020

How Zimbabwe is decimating Political Pluralism behind the smokescreen of covid-19

Moses Tofa*

In Summary

  • It is in the interest of public health and safety to restrict and suspend fundamental rights and freedoms to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is vile to use the pandemic as a smokescreen behind which to exterminate political pluralism.
  • The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should have objected to the suspension of by-elections, not only because it is illegal, but also because Zimbabwe is ready to conduct COVID-19 compliant elections.
  • The limitation and suspension of fundamental rights and freedoms is unavoidable during a never-seen-before public health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but such measures must be proportionate, restrained, circumstantially reasonable and constitutional.
  • In the new COVID-19 world, instead of using the pandemic to undermine political freedoms, Africans should use it as an opportunity to complete the decolonisation project which their ancestors started.

The arrival of COVID-19 in Africa was accompanied by two notable fears; one was dominant while the other was dormant. The dominant fear was that the pandemic will decimate African lives, livelihoods and economies. The dormant fear was that some African leaders will use the pandemic to justify the disproportionate repression and suspension of fundamental rights and freedoms. In countries such as Zimbabwe, where the legitimacy of the political authority is elusive and its capacity to deliver public goods is incredibly weak, the enforcement of COVID-19 containment measures has tended to be anchored to the use of force.

Op-Ed Series

September 25, 2020

The African Leadership Centre would like to inform the contributors and readers of the COVID-19 op-ed series that the publication of the series has been shifted from weekly to bi-monthly due to high submission of op-eds. We continue to accept op-eds from the ALC community and affiliates.

We are grateful for your continued support, contribution and readership as we provide cutting-edge analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and the world. 

Stay tuned!

Op-Ed Series – Vol.5 Issue: 4

September 24, 2020

Covid-19 and Manufacturing in Africa: Reflections on Syringe Manufacturing in Nigeria.

Eka Ikpe*

In Summary

  • Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been widespread efforts to energise manufacturing, particularly in the production of medical devices and health supplies, to support the response efforts.
  • The African Continental Free Trade Area heralds promise for industrial development given that intracontinental trade tends to be more diversified with greater representation of continentally manufactured goods than the continent’s trade with the rest of the world.
  • Despite the immense challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, within the current situation, there are opportunities to strengthen industrial development in the African context.
  • The production of syringes, one of the most widely used medical devices globally, constitutes a significant aspect in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the present, syringes are essential for the treatment of comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease and in the not-too distant-future, in the administration of vaccines.
  • While the literature on the benefits of foreign investment is vast, it is important to reflect on how surplus that is generated interacts with domestic development, including the realities around how science and technology transfers may or may not encourage wider learning and change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of manufacturing and industrial policy in responses across Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. Since its emergence, there have been widespread efforts to energise manufacturing, particularly in the production of medical devices and health supplies, to support the response efforts. Industrial policy responses have included mandating the private sector to fire up the factories and shift production priorities, especially to health supplies, alongside imposing export bans across North America, Europe, Africa  (in Senegal, South Africa and Kenya), Asia, South Korea and India, among others.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.5 Issue: 3

September 03, 2020

Covid-19, Digitization And Higher Education Reform In Africa.

Leonide Azah Awah*

In Summary

  • Conversations about moving beyond the analogue mode of delivery of higher education are not new in the African higher education context. As such, current conversations about the greater use of ICT triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic would benefit from being placed in the historical context of earlier debates.
  • Proposals for the implementation of digital strategies should sufficiently connect higher education institutions to the challenges of their contexts. Key amongst the challenges is the burden of costs and the risk of widening inequality on the higher education landscape.
  • COVID-19 puts Africa and its HEIs between a rock and a hard place; to innovate and embrace online learning to survive in the short- and long-term, yet this exacerbates inequalities and puts the transformational goals of higher education at risk.
  • The move to leverage technology in teaching will succeed and be sustainable only if it prioritizes (maintains) the transformational goals of higher education and transcend the typical notion of reform.

The onset of COVID-19 in Africa in March 2020 severely disrupted learning in most Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and halted collaborations that support innovations in these institutions. The on fall of the pandemic halted the planning of training activities for the Institute for Middle Level Academics within the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, (CODESRIA). These training activities, which aim at promoting innovations in research and teaching, were interrupted (and postponed) in March 2020. Four months down the road, CODESRIA, like many institutions around the world, is exploring alternative ways, including virtual options, of conducting its activities, especially those which involve support to universities. However, a major challenge is the level of preparedness of public universities in Africa, CODESRIA’s main constituency, to uptake virtual activities, even as calls for a transition to online teaching continue to increase.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.5 Issue: 2

August  14, 2020

Ana Taban: What can Art offer in the fight against COVID-19?

Chimwemwe A. Fabiano*

In Summary

  • Art provides potent, unconventional and innovative pathways for raising awareness and mobilising concerted social action towards a common goal – to stop COVID-19. 
  • The COVID-19 storm has made it clear that effective societal mobilisation is contingent on mutual trust between the state and society. 
  • In order to gain and retain trust, governments should acquire two forms of legitimacy: the legitimacy that is gained through the conduct of free, fair and credible elections and the legitimacy that is gained through performance. 
  • The ability to effectively mobilise society to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is and will remain the ultimate test of leadership in crisis. 
  • It is not accidental that those governments whose legitimacy is disputed have tended to rely on the brazen use of force in their convoluted efforts to enforce COVID-19 responses. 

There are three key governance factors and indicators that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested and highlighted, particularly in the African context. First, it has tested the capacity of governments to effectively influence and mobilise society towards a common good, particularly during crisis situations of a never-seen-before nature. Second, it has tested the level of trust which societies have vested in their governments, particularly the willingness and capacity to protect citizens and to search for the common good. And third, it has highlighted the interface between the legitimacy of political authority and its capacity to influence and mobilise societal response, particularly during seismic situations of crisis.


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