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Reimagining Africa in Post Pandemic, and Post DfID (UK Aid Office)

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Sombo M. Chunda
June 25, 2020

Introduction

It is three months since I wrote my first article for the PA Times in my series on Africa. In that article, I addressed the question—Is Africa prepared for the Coronavirus.? A lot has happened since that time, and Africa is now contending with both the pandemic and the announcement that the UK’s department for international development (DfID) will be merged with the foreign office. These two unfolding events present several opportunities to imagine what Africa could look like in the aftermath of both. In this article, I will focus on the idea of reimagining Africa in post COVID-19 pandemic, and post DfID.  

Africa in Post COVID-19 Pandemic

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” In the past world, before the pandemic, Africa’s politicians had the luxury to fly away from the continent to seek medical care, as ordinary citizens endure the local institutions. The pandemic has exposed Africa’s poorly funded healthcare system, and shown how everyone is vulnerable; politician and ordinary citizen when conditions are the same for all. The pandemic brought the politician’s escape from reality to an abrupt end, making true the statement, “We are in this together.” How shall we be in this together, after the pandemic, is a question that begs to be answered. The best answer to this question would be prioritizing funding to the healthcare system, and making access universal.

Africa in Post DfID (UK aid office) 

On June 16, 2020, British Prime Minister announced the not so shocking intention to end the “artificial and outdated” distinction between diplomacy and overseas development, scrapping the department for international development (DfID), and creating a new department by merging DfID with the foreign office. This development has been met by mixed reactions across the development community. In my view, what Boris Johnson is simply doing is leading the world’s poorest, Africa included, into a post aid era. Is it possible for Africa to develop and survive without aid? Perhaps there is need to ask why Africa hasn’t developed with all the aid she has received for many decades? These questions have no simple answers. However, we know that Africa loses over US$50 billion annually to offensive tax avoidance, tax evasion, transfer mispricing and other illicit financial outflows. With the illicit financial outflows, transparency is important to ensure accountability, and we know that the UK falls short on this. By not voting on a new rule last November to expose companies’ tax avoidance, the UK chose the side of the oppressor. Though the creation of the new department is an excellent initiative of the Boris government, as that would potentially streamline the management of aid and diplomacy, and give the world’s poor an opportunity to pursue a different relationship based on, say, business and trade; the UK needs to be held accountable for its decision to abstain from voting on the tax avoidance rule. All other EU countries that did not vote need to be accountable. If these countries want to wean developing countries off aid, they need to be willing to make the playing field fair and initiatives such as country-by-country reporting are necessary global policy reforms.

The Way Forward

How Africa emerges after the pandemic, and DfID merger is entirely her responsibility. Some things need attention:

Design Thinking: The continent, including individual countries have excellent ideas that need a chance. Articulated by the African Union, the Africa We Want has 7 main aspirations to change the trajectory of the continent to a more prosperous, politically stable and developed one. Operationalizing that at country level requires a new way of thinking. 

Trade: Africa should preoccupy herself with ensuring that there is trade within the continent. The collective customer base is excess of 1 billion people, yet trade is less than 5%. Effort should be invested in supporting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). 

Value Addition: Africa’s share of global reserves of minerals such as gold, gemstones, iron ore and others, is sizable. However, the continent is only an extractor with insignificant value addition capacity. This, coupled with illicit financial flows, makes many countries, and the entire continent not benefit in a substantial way. At a global level, Africa should be fighting for more investments in continent-based value-addition processes; an expansion of the value chain. Further, efforts to curb illicit financial flows from the extractive sector should continue with Africa’s voice at the center

To make the ideas of the Africa We Want a reality; Africa needs to understand what in this pandemic and post-UK aid is happening, and strategize as well as implement how we will stand on our own feet. 

Conclusion

We are in a postmodern phase where imagination and deconstruction run concurrently as imperatives. Africa is not exempted from this reality and the time has come to pursue a better way that Dambisa Moyo advances in the 2009 New York Times bestseller — Dead Aid. That better way requires an agenda anchored in the use of targeted universalism as a policy framework. And as John A. Powell at UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute says, “This type of agenda requires deliberate strategizing, ground -truthing and smart organizing.” The pandemic is the reset button. 


Author: Sombo M. Chunda is a Ph.D. student in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Prior to graduate school, Sombo worked as country manager in Zambia for the Swedish international development organization, Diakonia. She is 2019 recipient of the Walter W. Mode Scholarship from ASPA. [email protected]; twitter @ChundaSombo

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4 Responses to Reimagining Africa in Post Pandemic, and Post DfID (UK Aid Office)

  1. Racheal Reply

    June 28, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Well articulated and very relatable article!

  2. Danladi Saleh Idrisa Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    Africa need to integrate among itself for self sufficiency and self reliance. I totally agree with your design thinking approach.

  3. Saravanan Shanmugam Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Nice article focusing on development and points out the important factors to bounce back not just for Africa but for any developing country

  4. Bobbline Reply

    June 26, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Excellent article. I like the reference to Dambisa Moyo’s book. Levelling the playing field on health care in Africa is excellent

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