Not only did the COVID-19 disease arrive on Africa’s shores (and at its airports) later than in Asia, Europe, and North America (Loembé et al., 2020), but for months the numbers of infections and deaths also appeared to remain relatively low. As of early August, the continent had experienced more than 1 million confirmed cases and 23,000 deaths (Africa CDC, 2020), though these figures were increasing rapidly.
Although Mozambique’s civil war ended in 1992, violence flared again in 2013 when the opposition RENAMO party renewed its insurgency against the FRELIMO government. Both sides stand accused of war crimes in a conflict whose death toll analysts estimate at near 1 million (France24, 2019). A peace agreed in August 2019 remains tentative as a small number of RENAMO rebels have vowed not to lay down their weapons (Mail & Guardian, 2019).
Embora a guerra civil de Moçambique tenha terminado em 1992, a violência voltou a explodir em 2013, quando o partido da oposição, RENAMO, renovou sua insurgência contra o governo da FRELIMO. Ambos os lados são acusados de crimes de guerra em um conflito cujos analistas do número de mortos estimam em cerca de 1 milhão (France24, 2019). Uma paz acordada em Agosto de 2019 permanece provisória, pois um pequeno número de rebeldes da RENAMO prometeu não depor suas armas (Mail & Guardian, 2019).
In a crisis, the ability to disseminate information rapidly and effectively can be a matter of life and death. During the COVID-19 pandemic, accurate, timely, and trusted information about the number of cases, ways to prevent infection, government curfew and lockdown orders, and reasons why they’re important can help reduce transmission, dispel rumors, prevent panic, limit the use of dangerous quack “treatments,” facilitate planning for a stay-at-home period, and improve compliance, ultimately reducing the impact of the virus.
According to UNESCO (2020), approximately 1.2 billion students and youth worldwide are affected by school and university closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To adjust to these new circumstances, governments must develop innovative solutions to ensure inclusive learning opportunities during this period of unprecedented educational disruption.
Like much of the rest of the world, Zimbabwe has confronted the COVID-19 pandemic with stay-at-home orders and advice to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing, hoping to prevent a wave of infections that would overwhelm the national health-care system.
“We’re all in this together” is a mantra of the COVID-19 crisis as leaders and activists argue for global and all-of-society responses to the pandemic (e.g. World Health Organization, 2020; African Union, 2020). At the same time, public fears have highlighted social fissures through acts of intolerance and violence against Chinese people, citizens of Asian descent in many countries, and even Africans in China (e.g. DW, 2020; Guy, 2020; Kandil, 2020; Al Jazeera, 2020).
More than half of all Africans go without needed medical care at least once in a given year, a new analysis of Afrobarometer survey data shows. Across the continent, citizens identify health as the second-most-important national problem they want their governments to address.
Even before the threat of overwhelming demand due to COVID-19, about one in five Africans faced a frequent lack of needed health-care services, including almost two-thirds of the poorest citizens.
More than half of Africans say their governments are failing them when it comes to one of their top priorities – the provision of clean water and sanitation services, a new Afrobarometer analysis shows. Half of survey respondents say they went without enough clean water for home use during the previous year – a particular concern considering the importance of proper hygiene for preventing the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Economic destitution – whether measured as the frequency with which people go without basic necessities or as the proportion of people who live on less than $1.90 a day – declined steadily in Africa between 2005 and 2015. However, the findings of Afrobarometer Round 7 surveys, conducted in 34 African countries between late 2016 and late 2018, demonstrate that improvements in living standards have come to a halt and “lived poverty” is once again on the rise.
Given its undisputed importance for almost any aspect of development – from health and educational achievement to economic growth and poverty reduction – access to electricity may have earned the status of a basic human right (Hughes, 2018). At a minimum, it is widely acknowledged as a prerequisite for progress on most of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where it is highlighted as SDG7, “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (United Nations Development Programme, 2019; Stern, 2016; Lloyd, 2017).
Climate change is “the defining development challenge of our time,” and Africa the continent most vulnerable to its consequences, according to the African Union (2015) and the United Nations (UN Environment, 2019). Farmers in Uganda waiting endlessly for rain (URN, 2019), cyclone survivors in Mozambique and Zimbabwe digging out of the mud and burying their dead (Associated Press, 2019) – these images bring home what changing climate and increasingly extreme weather conditions may mean for everyday Africans.
The new Global Corruption Barometer – Africa 2019, released on African Anti-Corruption Day by Transparency International and Afrobarometer, reveals that more than one in four people who accessed public services during the previous year had to pay a bribe.
Citizens’ views and experiences of corruption
A majority of citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think that corruption is getting worse and that their government is doing a poor job of fighting it, the report indicates.
Observers now commonly assert that multiparty elections are institutionalized as a standard feature of African politics (Posner & Young, 2007; Bratton, 2013; Cheeseman, 2018; Bleck & van de Walle, 2019). By this they mean that competitive electoral contests are the most commonplace procedure for choosing and changing political leaders across the continent.
Protection of individual rights and liberties has been on both the African continental agenda and the global agenda for decades, shaped especially by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. But the reality on the ground is often a far cry from the high standards set forth in these documents.
Africa has long been characterized as a continent of strong societies and weak states (Migdal, 1988; Chickering & Haley, 2007; Henn, 2016). This image suggests that, compared to an informal sector rich in networks of self-help, mutual aid, and private entrepreneurship, public sector institutions are ineffective at getting things done. As a set of formal structures imported during colonial rule, the centralized state for decades remained “suspended in mid-air” – that is, above society – with limited aptitude to address the everyday needs of ordinary Africans (Hyden, 1983; Boone, 2006).
By 2050, it is projected that one in every four humans will be African as the continent doubles its population, accounting for more than half of global population growth (United Nations, 2015; World Economic Forum, 2017). Even with a land mass greater than India, China, the United States, and Europe combined, and blessed with one-third of the earth’s mineral resources (Custers & Mattlysen, 2009; Bermudez-Lugo et al., 2014), will Africa be able to provide the livelihood opportunities its people demand and need?
Afrobarometer Round 7: Survey in Liberia, 2018.
Afrobarometer Round 7; Survey in eSwatini, 2018.