Op-Ed Series – Vol.2 Issue: 6

May 14, 2020

Analogue Education, Digital Generation: Covid-19 and the Future of Higher Education in Africa

‘Wale Ismail*

In Summary

  • COVID-19 is a game-changer and a game-changing moment for higher education in SSA and across the globe.
  • The vast majority, largely public-owned HEIs in SSA, are struggling to adapt to disruptions occasioned by COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 has catapulted Africa into the future by at least 30 years accompanied by a fundamental message and a raft of lessons; higher education and higher education institutions as we know them will never be the same.
  • There is an emerging global higher education market where only HEIs that are competitive, adaptable and with innovative curriculum will thrive.

In February 2020, on the eve of the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa, King’s College London and its PluS Alliance partners, including administrators of selected public universities in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), held a High-Level Roundtable in which the future of higher education in Africa and other developing countries was of interest. The keynote paper explored ‘How Sub-Sahara Africa and its higher education might look by 2050? and What factors could shape higher education in Africa in years to come? The speaker emphasized demography and technology as the two biggest influences on higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 30 years. The paper painted a picture of a futuristic higher education without much of its current trappings such as expansive buildings and classrooms, face-to-face interactions between teachers and students, rigid curriculum, and heavy bureaucracies. Participants were challenged to re-imagine higher education in several ways; ways that transform classrooms and learning into a virtual reality, those that fundamentally change the notions of what and where a university is, that radically alter traditional lecturer-student relations and, most importantly, usher in new forms of skills and facilities that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will need to take up.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.2 Issue: 5

May 14, 2020

Covid-19 and Inequalities in Primary and Secondary Education in Africa: The Case Of Kenya.

Winnie Kishara * and Njoki Ngunyi **

In Summary

  • COVID-19 underscores the desperate need to rethink the delivery of learning in Kenya, and Africa broadly with questions arising as to whether the current education system meets the needs and aspirations of citizens.
  • Digital learning has largely been utilized in several private schools to cater for primary and secondary school learners. However, those in state schools and generally from the lower social class continue to miss-out on learning.
  • The reality of a tiered education system in the context of COVID-19 reinforces the prevalence of ‘analogue’ education and the digital gaps in learning in state schools in Kenya and most African countries.
  • It is not all doom and gloom; the current reality is also laced with opportunities. It could and should be a trigger for a genuine national reflection and conversation on human capital development in Kenya.

One unmissable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya and in most African countries is the reality of a tiered-primary and secondary education system. As most national governments closed all schools, all forms of formal learning for pupils in public schools halted. However, pupils from privileged backgrounds, attending private schools and actually following the so-called international curriculum, were able to resume learning through online platforms. This reality reproduces and exacerbates inequalities in society, as much as signpost faulty foundations of current development models in Africa.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.2 Issue: 4

May 07, 2020

Covid-19 in Africa: From Disruption to Opportunities for Sustainable Intra-African Maritime Security Cooperation

Dr. Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood*

In Summary

  • One evidential impact of COVID-19 on the region’s maritime governance is in the way it has shaped (limited) cooperation with international partners.
  • In a way, the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the neo-colonial and exploitative logic of maritime cooperation and collaboration by international partners in the Gulf of Guinea and Africa at large.
  • There is evidence to suggest that maritime enforcement is improving across the region and that enhanced intra-Africa maritime cooperation could negate the need for over reliance on donor partner support.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic presents a rare opportunity for enhanced intra-African cooperation in the history of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, and indeed coastal states throughout the African continent.

The onset of COVID-19 in Africa triggered national lockdowns as the default response strategy by most African governments. For some coastal states in the Gulf of Guinea such as Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, these measures included the closure of national air, land and sea borders, and  restrictions on port activities. Enforcing these measures even for a short period is clearly a ‘game-changer’ in terms of the priorities of government and how resources and capabilities are deployed. Not unexpectedly, other aspects of governance, including efforts to mitigate maritime crimes and insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea are hampered or likely to be constrained as COVID-19 spread in Africa.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.2 Issue: 1

April 27, 2020

Africa in the Storm of COVID-19: Lessons from Thandika Mkandawire’s Critique of Neo-Liberalism. 

Dennis Jjuuko *

In Summary

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that leaving public health, itself a public good, in the custody of market forces, is a nightmare for the poor and vulnerable people.
  • One of the greatest lessons from this pandemic is that Africa should re-think economic and development approaches from the view that neoliberal policies have not only failed its healthcare sector, but also opened the continent to exploitation by exogenous forces.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has taught Africa that Mkandawire was right when he passionately argued that public health systems cannot be abandoned to the profit-seeking mercy of market forces.
  • If African countries are to save the lives of their people, particularly from pandemics such as COVID-19, the state should play a greater role in building a robust and inclusive healthcare delivery system.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic, and its spread to Africa, coincided with the passing of Africa’s imposing political economist and thinker: Thandika Mkandawire (1940-2020). Mkandawire died at a time when the pandemic had started to show, quite incontestably, that his critique of neo-liberalism is on the right side of history. In the 1980s and 90s, developing countries adopted the neo-liberal inspired Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). SAPs were characterised by the extensive reduction of public expenditure on social services, including health.

Op-Ed Series – Vol.1 Issue: 3

April 24, 2020


Absorbing the Shocks or Irreversible Damage? The Impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s Political Economy

Clement Sefa-Nyarko*

In Summary

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have adopted lockdowns, virus testing regimes and social distancing measures. African countries have followed suit, mostly with ‘copy and paste’ versions of these actions, resulting in profound social and economic stresses on their people.
  • What is immediately evident is that without creativity, contextualisation and civil participation in political decisions, African countries will struggle to weather the storm and resuscitate after the pandemic.
  • It is important that the interventions, particularly lockdowns, are implemented without the brutal repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Agriculture is a key economic driver for Africa. This crisis presents an opportunity for African countries to harness potential in this sector and innovate across various industries.

Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has created chaos, panic, and hopelessness for people across the world. Markedly, and for the first time in recent years, an infectious disease has ravaged the global north defying modern stereotyping of contagious diseases. There is no known cure or vaccine yet for this disease. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout Africa, we must ask, will the continent be spared or left reeling from the fierce blows being dealt to all aspects of social, economic and political life across the globe? How is Africa absorbing the shocks from the disease and resultant policy responses? What will the policy responses produce when the economies are weak, the majority of citizens rely on the informal sector, contested legitimacy forces the state to largely rely on the use of force to enforce the responses, democratic rights and freedoms are routinely violated, citizens distrust the state and sophisticated corruption networks are embedded?


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