Will the centre hold after the Covid-19 pandemic?
One can safely say the world is not going to be the same after COVID-19. At least businesses will try to strengthen their systems in order to ensure more workers are able to work from home. The use of nose masks and keeping of safe distance may continue in the foreseeable future, at least until a vaccine is developed for this dreadful disease.
Prior to the emergence of COVID-19 there was a global tussle between two heavy weights in world politics. This power play involved US and China accusing each other of unfair trade practices resulting in the imposition of tariffs and counter tariffs on each other’s products. This tit-for-tat approach by the two largest economies in the world in terms of GDP affected some countries and even has the potential of further weakening the economies of many developing countries if allowed to continue.
Although, issues relating to the trade-war are still pending, a much more serious issue the world will have to contend with when the dust settles on COVID-19 is whether there will be cordiality in the international arena to ensure countries recover from their loss. This is because countries have suffered political, economic and social damages due to the impact of COVID-19 and will need to recover from that.
However, so far, there seems to be tension brewing up between China and some heavyweight countries, although news on COVID-19 seems to be overshadowing the real extent.
The role of China in the spread of the virus has come up for query with countries having varied opinions. US and Europe believe China played a major role in the spread of COVID-19 across the world by suppressing information relating to human-to human transmission of the virus. Reference to COVID-19 as the ‘China Virus’ by President Trump gives an idea of how US views this entire episode. This has led to the US taking drastic measures like suspending funding to WHO for siding with China and covering deaths.
Chinese diplomats have had the difficult job of using every opportunity at their disposal to dispel this assertion. China on its part believes they did what was expected of them by informing the WHO as early as January 10 the genetic code of the virus which was key to effective testing worldwide. China is also leading the charge in finding a vaccine for the virus.
Whether or not the world is going to move past COVID-19 smoothly will depend on how US and its allies will want to treat China going forward. There is however no doubt that the world will not be the same.
What is in for Africa?
As the saying goes, ‘when two elephants engage in a fierce fight, it is the ground that suffers’. Africa may suffer the brunt of this fight if it is not proactive.
The seeming mistrust between the world powers may create an imbalance in the international arena. China continuous to dominate in the world economic space and may be able to withstand the aggression of the enemies they have created for themselves.
Obviously, to ensure the balance of power, these heavyweights will turn their attention to Africa and other developing countries in terms of trade and cooperation to enable them recover.
This is where African countries must stand and be counted. They can turn this to their advantage. For whichever block they choose to transact with, African countries must demand what is due them.
African diplomacy must step up to the challenge. It is time to use hard power in negotiating deals. As it stands now, every country needs help and whatever deal is negotiated must ensure a win-win outcome.
African countries must collaborate more and negotiate with a united front when dealing with developed countries.
Having said that, some deals will require sound judgement and diplomacy must be on a case by case basis.
This is the time for Africa to process its raw materials for export to countries in need. After COVID-19 many developed countries will need African products in order to recover. African countries must collaborate to process products for export where they lack the capacity. This will ensure foreign exchange is retained.
Africa can be on the rise in the mist of this global catastrophe if the right diplomatic approaches are adopted by individual countries and also en bloc.