The Covid-19 crisis and the future of the state in Africa

It is customary after each event that causes great upheavals, such as wars, natural disasters or serious economic crises, that the foundations of society are revisited. In Africa as elsewhere, there will be a questioning of our value scales and of a certain number of fundamentals: social, cultural, economic, etc. Beyond the difficulties linked to the fragility or inadequacy of health systems In some countries, the health crisis poses the deeper problem of the society in which Africans want to live, at the current stage of their development. It is a questioning of what exists that challenges the future, and invites decision-makers and members of society to answer important questions. Such reflections have already started in certain countries (those in the North in particular) and we would be wrong to water them down, at a time when in almost all African countries, we seem to be “looking for each other” in the response processes in order to either slow the spread Covid-19, or take care of those affected.

The question was posed to ALG experts from various skill areas. About fifty experienced personalities present on the continent or living in the diasporas shared their feelings and thoughts with us. They are unanimous in admitting that this health crisis requires that the state entity be rethought in Africa in key elements of the attributes that characterize it: it is a question of rethinking (from top to bottom) our society, our governance model, the architecture of the State as a whole, the public services which would be the most adapted to the current challenges and the responsibilities which fall to the various actors as well as the role which the citizen of tomorrow must play. It is clear that the approach we are proposing must lead to more democratic societies backed by a state whose capacities on several fronts must be strengthened.

How to rethink Africa and rebuild a new hope society?

ALG proposes to pursue and deepen these reflections and focus them on key aspects of governance which will not only help to understand the phenomenon of the COVID 19 pandemic, but above all, to identify avenues to stem its effects in the near future. To do this, we have identified seven (7) areas of public management by which our team makes a summary analysis by identifying research questions. Intervening on the continent with States and with reference partners who act on the ground in these fields, our approach constitutes an invitation to operate as quickly and on the scale of each country the participatory prospective studies which will clear the paths towards better strategic decisions.

Here are the areas of our preliminary reflections:

The health system: which health system is suitable for post-Covid-19 for African countries? From one country to another we have seen the limits of healthcare systems. Cross-sectional observations have shown here and there: the lack or insufficiency of personnel, the scarcity of resources allocated, the lack of material and equipment, the lack or insufficiency of investments in research, etc. Research questions of ALG concerning the sanitary system are: How to improve public hygiene? What equipment for the health of the population? What protection for public health personnel?

African education of tomorrow: the health crisis has also shown the limits of current education systems. Faced with the pandemic, governments have taken the precaution of closing schools. But the short and medium term consequences are to be feared. The solutions exist and must be thought of in order to integrate into current educational practices. These include educational continuity and online continuing education, integration of EdTech and Moocs, courses and assessments via social media, etc.

Work and public services: the health crisis has also shown the weakness of the administrative systems in place both at the level of the central state and of local governance entities. In the era of containment, the solution for many companies is telework. But what percentage of the staff of a company or organization can keep operations at bay and guarantee productivity? The question becomes even more crucial with public administration, where the procedures faced with the imperative of telework require a fundamental adaptation. We must rethink work (seen as employment) in the new context of governance in the age of technology and social networks. New tools need to be developed, new training implemented, to ensure the viability of work in normal and crisis situations.

Digital: The health crisis has demonstrated in all countries of the continent the importance of digital in public management. Whether it is informing populations, engaging communities or even apps to face the challenges of social distance or for the distribution of masks, we have seen the emergence of multiple beneficial initiatives. The penetration of mobile telephony and the new uses of the Internet in African societies are creating indisputable opportunities. Some questions arise, however, which challenge public authorities: How to popularize the positive potentials of digital uses in the service of the population as a whole? How to protect personal data? How to provide training for users of information technology for development and social protection purposes? How to make these technologies more accessible to the greatest number?

Democracy and governance: The Covid crisis19 has tested the various governments across the continent and has revealed weaknesses from one country to another in the edifice of the institutional models in place. Decision-making processes have changed in places and the state has had to forge rarely used mechanisms to continue to use its public power. The level of receptivity of citizens demonstrates the importance of rethinking or strengthening some of these mechanisms. The post-pandemic situation prompts us to anticipate actions that will enable us to meet the challenges that will make governance more capable of meeting the expectations of the populations. ALG raises various research questions on this point: what new approaches to land use planning? What contributions can technological innovations and new modes of participation make to democracy? How to involve citizens in a crisis situation? What interactions between elected officials and citizens in exceptional circumstances?

Local governance: The health crisis has revealed the gap between African urban centers and rural worlds. While cities are the expression of globalization, they have been the primary recipients of the spread of the virus. However, the villages had to face precariousness with the remoteness of adequate health centers and equipment. Local authorities have played questionable roles from country to country because of their normal skills. Some governments have failed to take advantage of the benefits of proximity mechanisms in pandemic response solutions. Faced with these different experiences, ALG’s research questions are of various orders: how to best distribute competences between the central government and local communities? How to settle the question of social inequalities induced by “territorial inequalities” by considering the capacities of urban communes alongside those of rural ones? What and what role for the diaspora in the decision-making process and the management of local affairs?

Solidarity and sharing of wealth: The Coronavirus by its modes of contamination has erected a de facto equality between rich and poor in Africa. But in reality, situations of state of emergency, curfew or confinement have revealed more poignant realities. From one country to another, the situation of vulnerable people has not failed to challenge observers as well as leaders. The most vulnerable groups: the elderly, street children, widows, workers in the informal economy, have shown why it is necessary to have appropriate public policies. Governments have been able to implement national solidarity decisions to deal with certain situations. However in the medium and long term, the questions that arise relate to the distribution of wealth. How to ensure economic recovery after the pandemic given the situation of disadvantaged groups? What tax justice systems to protect actors in the informal sector and SMEs-SMIs?

Faced with all these questions, ALG experts propose a diagnostic analysis for each country considered and identify areas for priority action. They formulate approach methodologies adapted to each situation studied, and then recommend practical methods for accompanying change, according to Covid-19.

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