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Africa - the Epidemic and the Future

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 2, 2020 09:06

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Africa has the potential to grow significantly in the coming decades. A young, dynamic population and vast resources could turn the continent around. The present pandemic will be a severe test, but could provide the impulse for a new beginning

Early in 2020 a South African futurologist, Dr Jakkie Celliers, published a book entitled  Africa First! Igniting a Growth Revolution outlining scenarios for the continent to reshape its long-term development.

Poor governance and corruption are structural issues that brake progress, but Celliers points out that by 2040 every second person born will be an African. The agricultural potential of the continent could serve as base for sustained growth, while flexible, renewable energy and a digital economy without the traditional capital-intensive industrialization could see wealth creation.

The lagging Health and education sectors are seen as potential drivers of growth that, according to Celliers' projections, could deliver an economy 150% larger than the present. 

Waiting for food handouts. Photo Alan Skuy www.dispatchlive.co.za

The African response to the Covid 19 threat highlights the dilemma. While the pandemic was slow to arrive, and figures suggest lower rates of infection and death, indications are that crime and gender-based violence have increased and terrorism in the Sahel, Mozambique, the Lake Chad basin and Somalia had not heeded the African Union call to a ceasefire during the pandemic. Some gangs in Cape Town had ceased warring to allow food parcels to be distributed, but heavy-handed enforcement of lockdown measures had caused resentment.

Kenyan farming. Photo agricultureworldsystem.blogspot.com

In South Africa, lockdown measures are increasingly challenged. Bans on the sale of tobacco and alcohol resulted in legal challenges, not only of the logic of these measures, but of the constitutionality of the Command Council that oversees the fight against the Coronavirus.

It was pointed out that while the State has foregone significant sums in 'sin' taxes illegal tobacco dealers, many with alleged links to political figures, were making massive profits. A 32% drop in revenue was expected. Race-based food- and financial support was alleged - white and foreign indigents claimed that they were not receiving food parcels, and financial support would only benefit black-owned tourism enterprises.

Modernization needed. Photo reapcanadainternblog.wordpress.com

Draconian sanitary measures created dictatorial temptations in many African states. The United Nations warned that quashing dissent and control of the population could tempt governments to perpetuate their time in power. In several countries, elections will be postponed as preparations are hampered. Television stations had been closed, opposition politicians disbarred and civic space restricted.

Most Southern African states are under some form of lockdown, and rubber bullets have been fired against medical personnel protesting inadequate protective equipment. Journalists have been warned not to publish 'negative news' and opposition politicians arrested for handing out food parcels. Hunger had become a serious problem as many who survive on daily wages are kept at home, and many companies are going under.

Celliers' research points to some answers: Massive investment in the health sectors, in construction of housing and infrastructure to get rid of unsanitary squatter camps, education and training, and the development of commercial agriculture in place of marginal subsistence farming could create a dynamic growth path.

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on May 2, 2020 09:06

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