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08.04.2020

The corona virus and Africa: from foretold disaster to expected upturn

Kako Nubukpo, an economist, is the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management at the University of Lomé (Togo).

Image: of Katumba Badru Sultan, FES Gonzaga Yiga, a 49-year-old community chairperson, appeals to residents through a speaker from the tallest building of the area in morning and evening, on how to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Kampala, Uganda, on March 24, 2020.

The corona virus pandemic (Covid-19) tilted Africa into a systemic disruption, the magnitude of which, we do not yet fully grasp.  In the short term, arbitrations promise to be painful between preserving the health of the populations, which requires strict lock down of the populations, and maintaining a strong economic dynamism, incompatible with a long-lasting lock down of populations with very low salaries and generally without any economic and social scheme.  In the medium term, the question will arise as the structural transformations to be implemented within the African economic area, in order to increase the economic and social resilience of the populations.

Any crisis, no matter how dramatic it may be, can nonetheless offer opportunities to grasp in order to co-construct a more equitable and ecologically reliable globalization. In this regard, three emergencies deserve to be taken into account, from the most factual to the most conceptual:

There is, first an urgent need to assess the impact of the both shocks (supply and demand) which currently constitute the most remarkable consequences of Covid-19 on budgets.  Indeed, there is a break in the supply chains, resulting from the fall in Chinese production and its induced effects on all global supply chains.  In terms of the demand shock, it is the impact of the fall in world demand for raw materials, that of tourism and therefore that of the incomes of economic agents that will have to be assessed.  Likewise, the foreseeable rise in health expenditure should certainly lead to a reassessment of the financial resources devoted to human development, with a view to effectively taking into account the basic principles of equity, inclusion and sustainability, in accordance with the sustainable development goals (SDG).  Nothing would be worse than favouring demand-enforcing measures, such as remittances to households, at the expenses of increasing production capacities and internal supply of goods and services.  If such an articulation were not carried out, there would be a general rise in prices linked to the excess of demand over supply.

The second emergency consists in directing and revamping African economic policies (budgetary and monetary) in the sense or in the form of a structural increase in the supply capacities of essential goods and services. As a matter of fact instead of supporting the demand dynamics of African economies likely to generate productive investments to meet them, the Bretton-Woods Institutions preferred to inflict on those economies a serious budgetary austerity cure from the early 1980s,  as part of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP), the obvious failure of which, is today illustrated by the multiple deficiencies identified in terms of appropriate health care to deal with the corona virus pandemic.

Finally, the African continent should urgently endeavour building an endogenous development paradigm based on the promotion of a local economy illustrated by short channels particularly adapted to the measures of population lock down, with low carbon economy so as to avoid fuelling global warming for which it is absolutely not responsible for, and finally a solidarity-oriented economy based on the requirement to redistribute the economic surplus.  African economy has always shown resourcefulness, a genius which allows it to harmoniously reconcile its internal production and self-consumption system with long-distance trade.  The economy of colonial slavery has created the tools of its dependence vis-à-vis a globalization as unequal as destructive of the natural ecosystem.  The corona virus pandemic today presents Africa with its worst face, that of a vulnerable continent, fuelling the worst fears of a human disaster foretold by the Western chanceries foresight exercises.  It is paradoxically time for Africa to show the secret tools of its resilience by ensuring change.  Change can be scary, scary because there is the unknown.  This is not new, the question is existential.  But to face it, we must be prepared for it, debate it, consider different scenarios, act and precisely not feel any fear, have confidence in ourselves.

(English translation of the French original version)


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