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Tribune: After the Covid-19, Africa needs to « focus on fundamentals »

Africa has not been unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the worst fears about the health safety in the continent have not, fortunately, materialized as the disaster that commentators were expected.

 

Par Taieb Talbi*

 

Those who will survive the disease and the fear will have to conceive a different world. Otherwise, they will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes or, as we have seen in occidental or Asian countries, to destroy what remains of fundamental freedoms.

About the African continent, before even thinking about building a new world, we have to look at the past economic and societal models that harmed an African way of life and the way we interact with the rest of the world. To see things change, we need to focus on fundamentals.

 

“Covid-19 is hitting us with all the capital sins our African rulers and populations yield to.”

 

Covid-19, small in terms of size but huge when it comes to deconstructing our globalization model and our economic certainties, is hitting us with all the capital sins our African rulers and populations yield to.

We have to admit it: the pandemic resembles more and more an evil that cruelly strikes rich societies of the world and less the poor countries that forecasters were expecting the worst for.

It is valid for Africa but also for Europe. For example, Greece manages to get good performances against Covid-19 despite the mismanagement of its health system. Portugal has also had a good record.

But it is because of this weakness and its resulting pragmatism that the authorities were prompted to test and treat early to protect the population. Pragmatism and respect of realities are probably the best qualities applied in Africa.

France became, once again, arrogant and hid behind a sanitary “Maginot Line”. The USA, followed by United-Kingdom, were in denial of reality.

Countries of the continent acted like real poor and did the best with what they had when big nations, as always, talk endlessly, have been arrogant, showing their muscles before a fight they were guaranteed to win.

Everybody was sure that the African continent would suffer and lose a lot of people during this pandemic. This cruel fate that will strongly hit Africa was almost reinsuring for developed nations.

 

“We can say that Africa was able to get by alone”

 

Facing thousands of death in European countries, we could expect the worst from the pandemic in Africa. And at the time the epidemic would have been at its top, nobody would have been, once again, able to help Africa. Everything is different today, and we can say that Africa was able to get by alone.

Nevertheless, all people experienced anxiety, fear, and death that hits, more than ever, brothers, parents, and friends who died alone and sad.

The pandemic ran like a tidal wave and is still spreading. The revelation of our bad decisions, the enslavement of peoples to a silly consumption, the cowardice, the greed, and the irresponsibility of some of our rulers will lead us again and again, to the worst situation if we don’t put human interest in the center.

Instead of a healthy pragmatism, the association between economy and finance shows the indignity of those “Health-makers” during the pandemic.

Only the naive didn’t understand that the vast interests that appeared created an appetite for pharmaceutical companies attracted by the vast and unexpected amount of money coming down the pike.

We will wait for the vaccines because auctions just began. With honor and pride, African populations rejected all projects that target them, once more, as the “beneficiaries” of vaccine trials.

We can see that logic is still trying to find a way through the general panic in which improvisation and lies still reign.

Most of the media spread those impostures supported by junk scientists who help pharmaceutical, financial or political lobbies after spending the last years taking money from them.

To admit that a huge mistake has been made, that we process in a world that doesn’t exist, all of that for the interest of a few would be real courage. And this kind of courage will deserve forgiveness if selfless and sincere actions can follow it.

We do concede that African countries have been helped by luck. Against the virus, the youthfulness of the population has been crucial. Countries of the continent also have particular experiences for decades of devastating viral diseases with AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and Malaria…

Westerners are like some characters from The Plague by Albert Camus. At first, they didn’t feel really concerned about the situation and didn’t feel obliged to do anything.

Worst, Westerners took advantage of the situation to work on exception dispositions, which could last forever, concerning liberties and societal questions.

On the contrary, instead of extraordinary measures that destroy liberties and people’s initiatives, the consecration of new economic approaches should become the rule.

 

“The advent of global policies in the service of humanity in the center of society’s foundations will require a positive deglobalization.”

 

The advent of global policies in the service of Humanity in the center of society’s foundations will require a positive deglobalization. Especially one which follows procedures around trades concerning the rights of human societies.

First of all, it’s essential to focus on local development and the local economy.

Yet it should not be forgotten that tomorrow’s world will be dematerialized, global, and virtual. Financial, industrial and agricultural cartels will be the last parts of the traditional economy.

Africa can be reassured that if there is a break with the actual economic philosophy, there is so much work to do on the continent that it will be possible to create a prosperous model.

This practical and straightforward approach, which would improve the lives of millions of people, could also lead to stability and a new democratic ambition. In a way, the Covid-19 crisis could become the key to a revival.

This applies to any country, but even more for African ones. We must laud African politics that didn’t become too heavy-handed but instead positioned to advocate for development help and debts reduction. It just makes good economic sense since the debt burden could be used to launch sanitary investments that are missing. Caution, realism, pragmatism, and good sense are what Africa did best during this crisis.

Now, it is crucial to capitalize on those values and use them to support basic needs: access to dignified living conditions, to health, to sustainable energy, to water, to housing, to education, to food… and so create a real public action in all countries.

Plans, principles, and rules must be created right now to preserved and to revived Humanity. In this type of ethical and social approach, globalization could be legitimate, leaving on the side competition between countries for cooperation and mutual support to benefit people rather than the pursuit of greed.

Africa shows that it can do great things by itself, even during a crisis putting in place simples and adapted solutions. This progress must be built on and apply independent thinking in cooperation and economic domains by refusing to be a structural adjustment variable for the world.

It is necessary to get away from the fact that African human and physical wealth is the stock of developed countries’ growth.

The development aid looks too much like a magic trick, where people want to take more than they gave. We need to ignore those people also.

Some other countries could stop to be the playground of low-cost tourists who are crammed without any respect or consideration in some magical places of the continent. Those magical places become vulgar and dirty, with local companies that have to work with tour operators that destroy cultural and environmental wealth.

Tourism is a specific sector, and the continent can no longer have the scraps of isolated tourists who are in all-inclusive packages for a ridiculously low price.

At some point, we must realize that those poor tourists, aware or unaware, are pushed into a low cost “entertainment therapy,” which offers nor sense or development to anybody.

The continent can offer way more with its cultural wealth, the diversity of its landscapes, and its history. Benefits could be more evenly spread, and Covid-19, after decreasing the flow of peoples worldwide, could help the African continent create new local ways for tourism.

After this crisis, we have to understand that Humanity has a future only if it focuses on itself, not on natural resources. The slowdown of oil use during the pandemic demonstrates the artificial characteristic of our consumption.

 

“Establish a real economy, adapted to the needs and desires of populations, is an urgent and fundamental necessity. “

 

Africa could be transformed. Establish a real economy, adapted to the needs and desires of populations, is an urgent and fundamental necessity.

More than 20 million people on the continent will indeed be in a terrible situation regarding employment. And we can expect them to join the rank of those men and women who live in extreme poverty.

What do we need to do? Trust forever in diplomatic and promises from European countries or trust and be grateful for China’s masks diplomatic?

We should definitely use a third path. And this third path is African, and as for Covid-19, we’ll have to do what we can do with what we got.

Africans had to be wise. A prioritization imposed itself. If all around the world, countries had tried to pay the social cost thanks to debt, this option is, and still will be impossible for African countries.

So we took money where there was money, and we had to, in a manner of speaking, undress Jack to dress John. Activities and work had to continue because every penny can make a difference between an empty and a full stomach. Outside major cities, confinement was impossible.

By looking at the future of Africa, we realize how we have an advantage. Because, in economic and development matters, the continent has a lot and can do a lot of things.

If we stop listening to people who play against us and trust our people, maybe thanks to this crisis, the continent will get an epiphany about its strength and skills.

Africa has to learn how to walk alone for a while. Without following developed countries, in which social violence had never been that strong since the preindustrial era. The political notion of classes that disappeared under the consumption’s hammer wakes up and shows who can remain safe and the others who have to work anyway.

The nation-state rationales show how a global, sanitary, or economic crisis can cripple resistance to financial stress.

Those extreme tensions highlight the continuing weaknesses of policies developed in an international union like the EU or the AU.

 

“Africa must learn from the mistakes of its big partners, which are giving lessons for too long”

 

Africa must learn from the mistakes of its big partners, which are giving lessons for too long. There are no lectures to take from those “big brothers.” The crisis highlights a great African capacity to resist.

Africa can keep those energies activated to become something else than a continent where a lot more people are starving than dying from the pandemic, which had killed at this day less than 100 000 people out of a population over 1.2 billion.

The challenge is hard but not impossible. To face it, it will be necessary, especially in Africa, to refuse to follow, once again, economists and growth specialists who promise us an economic recovery in every area. Like what we just lived was just a crisis, a strong one, but a classic one.

A lot of people would love to believe in that. But some others, maybe a little more pessimistic, ask: Why?

Is it to get on the same train which goes to the same abyss? In this case, we should revolt, rebel, and refuse. The world’s real wealth is made of men and women, flesh and bones, and dreams and efforts.

Restart the economic machine would be like a second suicide attempt for Humanity. Reform, reinvent, and revive those are the three fundamentals lines of recovery. The courage to go in this direction can only come from peoples themselves. Therefore, the democratic reconquest initiated before the pandemic all over the world should be stronger after the crisis.

If some people think they see a “worldwide plan” that would bless the manipulation of masses helped by technologies, it cannot be an option for Africa. Cyber-solutions that arrived since the beginning of the crisis don’t serve people nor security. It only serves the interests of some.

If there is a global plan to find a way out of the crisis, it must be made around people and how to fulfill their basic needs and the basic needs of their children. The overwhelming proportion of people under 25 years old must be involved in the future world.

The opportunity that now exists must be unique, and we cannot miss it. It would be paradoxical if Africa helped the world going on the right path. But the continent is not afraid of paradoxes.

 

 * Taieb Talbi is a French-Tunisian economist. 

 

 

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