More Covid analysis by African authors, and a first instalment from India

April 17, 2020

     By Duncan Green     

The responses to yesterday’s post were so enthusiastic that I’ve put together a second instalment and included a couple of links at the end to Indian authors. Seems like it would be a useful exercise to keep publishing these kinds of syntheses as the crisis evolves, so if you see particularly perceptive or striking analyses from Africa, Latin America or Asian writers, please send me the links.

Some big picture pieces

David Mwambari: ‘As African countries started cancelling flights from former colonial countries and putting their citizens under quarantine, the myth of Western invincibility fell apart, alongside its corollary that only the Global South is susceptible to infectious epidemics….. while [Africans] will certainly also go through a tough period, they should see this crisis as an opportunity to fast track the process of decolonialisation.’

African Development Bank economists Martin Fregene and Atsuko Toda remind us that even before the COVID-19 crisis, Africa was already facing 3 crises: locusts, droughts and foreign exchange losses. The arrival of COVID-19 on the African continent creates a convergence which “sets the stage for an imminent food crisis—unless measures are taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.”

Caroline Bowah, Korto Reeves, and Lakshmi N. Moore have a great gender analysis of Covid in Liberia and proposals for a feminist response:

 ‘The lockdown mandates people to stay home and limit movement to an hour within their communities. Yet, for women and girls, a home is not always safe and secure. In addition to the increased burden of caregiving, it will become a space where sexual and other forms of gender-based violence is further normalized.  It is where the family friend lurks to plan his sexual assault. It is where the father beats on the mother for not cooking food on time. It is where fiancés are murdered; partners are stabbed over allegations of affairs; and children have been abused and killed. Traditionally, long distance between communities and police stations, poor logistics for police officers, and high transportation costs hinder survivors from reporting cases of abuse, harassment and domestic violence.’

African realities and alternative ways of responding

‘Curfews are a safer plan than total lockdowns to slow Covid-19’s spread in informal economies’.  W. Gyude Moore on Quartz Africa

‘We keep houses in Nairobi, but our true north is back in the place where we grew up. I believe that this aspect of our identities and the identity of our cities may have an important bearing on the way that Kenya and other African countries deal with the coronavirus pandemic.’ From Where to Face Death: Coronavirus and the Villager, by Alexander Ikawah

The BMJ Global Health blog has some truly alarming accounts of the situation in Guinea and DRC:

In Guinea, Abdoulaye Sow and Bart Criel report that:

‘At the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Guinean population felt unconcerned because according to the rumours this was “a Chinese, a white men’s and finally a rich “bosses” disease” that mainly hit high-ranking individuals such as a minister and the chief official of a republican institution.

Panic broke out as a result of more rumours, fake news and the state of emergency that was declared with immediate effect. Restrictions included the closure of all places of worship, a ban on group gatherings, a limit on the number of people allowed on public transport. The closure of mosques and the cancellation of Friday prayers are seen by the population (85% of whom are Muslim) as a violation of faith.’

In DR Congo, Didier Chuy Kalombola and Bart Criel report that:

‘The people of Lubumbashi are misinformed and there is complete panic. In addition to other health problems and killer diseases such as malaria, and the low socio-economic status (living on less than 1$/day), the increase in the price of food and basic necessities comes as an extra blow to an already impoverished population. Essential and generic drugs, mainly from China and India, have become expensive. Burglaries by armed bandits and awareness raising with inaccurate information about COVID-19 increase anxiety and terror among the population. The popular perception of COVID-19 is that it is caused by a demonic spirit.

The COVID-19 vaccine that we want to test in Africa is seen as “a drug meant to kill African women”. The public believes that such a vaccine should first be tested in countries with a high COVID-19 death toll such as France and Italy.

Politicians have side-lined and forgotten the first line of care in their response to COVID-19, a disease that will stay with us for a long time.’

Good sites to trawl

Two useful sites suggested by Teni Tayo:

The WATHI Covid-19 site is aggregating pieces on West Africa in particular, in English and French. Many of them are by outside organizations (eg World Bank, McKinsey, Reuters). Mix of African and non-African authors.

Africa’s a Country hosts essays that are largely broad brush political critiques from a left perspective (typical title: ‘How COVID-19 reveals the paradoxes of neoliberal logic’)

And thanks Catherine Kyobutungi for pointing me to The Conversation Africa site

Meanwhile, a first instalment from India:

‘In India, these are difficult times for all of us, but even more so for my Adivasi neighbours. How many will we let starve or die in the name of preventing the further spread of the virus?’ Powerful piece from ‘Mukesh’ (not their real name) on Open Democracy

This blog archives the covid-relief efforts and other localisation initiatives coming up in response to the crisis across India.’ 

And then of course there’s Arundhati Roy’s extraordinary essay in the FT. Still the best thing I’ve read on Covid.

‘As an appalled world watched, India revealed herself in all her shame — her brutal, structural, social and economic inequality, her callous indifference to suffering.  The lockdown worked like a chemical experiment that suddenly illuminated hidden things. As shops, restaurants, factories and the construction industry shut down, as the wealthy and the middle classes enclosed themselves in gated colonies, our towns and megacities began to extrude their working-class citizens — their migrant workers — like so much unwanted accrual.’

Keep them coming please!

April 17, 2020
Duncan Green