North-South relations have dominated the science and practice of contemporary international relations, particularly with regard to morality and justice. The main concern was to answer whether and to what extent the Global North had a moral responsibility or owed its wealth to the South. Second, is the South justified in seeking justice against the North to make up for previous concerns? Historically, the north has gained its considerable wealth through the exploitation and impoverishment of the south through direct and indirect colonialism and imperialism, and its strong economic position depends to a large extent on the south remaining subdued and ripe for further exploitation (Levander & Mignolo , 2011).
Effects of COVID-19 on developing countries in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) took steps at the beginning of the pandemic to develop guidelines for developing countries that are considered to be at risk during a pandemic. This included detection measures, laboratory testing, community infection management, engagement and risk, travel advisories and restrictions, clinical management of critical cases, and case monitoring. To reduce the spread of the virus, the rally was based on three main measures for individuals: maintain social distance from other people, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, and stay home unless necessary (WHO, 2021 )).
Many developed countries in the midst of the pandemic were implementing strategies that had proven successful in China, such as partial and complete closures and restricted entry and exit to their countries (Yiu, Yiu & Li, 2020). As the pandemic continued to wreak havoc, tighter restrictions were put in place, especially in countries whose response time was delayed when the disease was first reported within their borders. This included Spain, Italy, the United States, and countries that experienced rapid transmissions and reported thousands of cases in a single day (Liao, Zhang, Marley & Tang, 2020).
Given the overwhelming speed at which the virus was spreading in developed countries, it was predicted that developing countries, particularly in Africa, would bear the brunt of the pandemic in both health and economic sectors. African countries in particular are considered fragile health systems and it was believed that they would quickly become overwhelmed with devastating results. Low testing capacity, overcrowded slum housing and poor access to health care led the WHO, the United Nations and other experts to predict the deaths of over 300,000 Africans in the first year of the pandemic. However, the spread of the virus and the resulting deaths in Africa were far less than predicted, a factor that sparked debates about why the spread was less than other parts of the world. In September 2020, the Covid-19 death rate in Africa was 2.4%, down from 2.9% in North America and 4.5% in Europe (Winning, 2020).
Some reasons were fast reaction – Most African countries have restricted travel to reduce the number of imported Covid-19 cases. public support – Citizens in African countries supported their governments’ efforts to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Majority youth – The age question in Covid-19 assumed that older people (over 60 years of age) would be severely affected and that the African population is largely younger. favorable climate – The virus is believed to spread easily in cold temperatures, but most of African countries are tropical, with the exception of South Africa. and, good community health systems – Some African countries had mastered the necessary measures to fight diseases such as Ebola in a pandemic and were able to act decisively and quickly (Soy, 2020). Other reasons alluded to the fact that Africa was later affected by the pandemic and thus had sufficient time to prepare measures; Their exposure to previous SARS-CoV strains may have increased their resistance. Some scientists believe a tuberculosis vaccine reduced the chances of death from Covid-19 (Winning, 2020). It is important to note that most of the above reasons are awkward at best and have yet to be proven as the world is still affected by the pandemic.
Africa’s response and impact
For the global south, this article evaluates case studies from various African countries based on their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. An assessment of the impact of the responses on these countries, particularly the economic, political and social sectors, will also be included.
Kenya reported its first Covid-19 case on the 13thth March 2020 and within a week, schools were closed, a curfew was imposed, a quarantine for international arrivals was introduced and large gatherings such as concerts and social events were banned (Health, 2020). Nigeria also imposed restrictions on interstate travel, introduced a curfew and confirmed a pre-existing land border closure to prevent smuggling, and South Africa introduced one of the toughest lockdowns to reduce infection rates after confirming 400 cases (Winning, 2020 ). Uganda has also implemented some tough measures with a curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. and a ban on private vehicles from roads after ignoring previous guidelines for carrying only three passengers (Kyeyune, 2020).
Most African countries have also introduced home stay policies advising citizens not to leave their homes unless they move around, shop for groceries and other necessities. This policy was among WHO recommendations on how the best countries could reduce infection rates. Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe closed non-essential shops, recreational facilities such as restaurants and kept markets open for the sale of essential goods and groceries. South Africa, whose restrictions were by far the strictest in Africa, issued a Home Restriction Order that banned exercise outside the home, with all essential activities being considered only between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. These were later slightly relaxed to allow movement between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and a night curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. (Haider, Osman, Gadzekpo, Akipede & Asogun, 2020).
Some countries, such as Tanzania and Sierra Leone, have implemented slight restriction measures, with brief suspension of international flights and quarantine of international arrivals. By May 2020, Tanzania had resumed international flights and removed the quarantine for arriving people and kept places of worship, parliaments, shops, restaurants and cafes open and ready for use. However, schools, colleges and universities have been closed in both countries, and public gatherings of more than a hundred people in Sierra Leone and 25 people in Tanzania have been banned for a short time (Haider et al., 2020).
Most African countries have launched public safety campaigns to educate the public about the specifics of Covid-19, prevent and counteract misinformation about the virus, and ensure public health measures are in place. This included social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks communicated by the government and other stakeholders on print, digital and social media. Health workers were also encouraged to raise awareness and take preventive action in their communities, and hand-washing stations were set up in public places where people could encourage compliance. Coupled with contact tracing, testing, and quarantine services, this has been shown to be effective in slowing the dynamics of the virus (Binagwaho & Mathewos, 2020).
Rwanda and Kenya, among other African countries, sought to cushion the most vulnerable populations as the informal sector was hardest hit by the pandemic. In Rwanda, for example, the informal sector accounts for 64% of economic output (Rukundo, 2015) and the disruption of economic activity caused by the pandemic prevented families from making a living. The government, through local leaders, identified vulnerable members of the community and provided financial grants and food aid (Binagwaho & Mathewos, 2020). This was achieved through an initiative during the lockdown in which leading government leaders forfeited their April salaries for the cause, which other Rwandans were quick to emulate (Matengo, 2020).
While the pandemic has caused more harm than good, some bright spots have emerged in the wake of Covid-19. The main focus of preparation was the health sector and it was believed that the health sector in many countries in Africa is fragile with fragmented access. The pandemic offered these countries the opportunity to strengthen their health sectors by building new hospitals, bringing them up to date with the latest technology and improving the education of health care workers on infectious diseases.
Second, innovation was at a record high and people were looking for alternatives to ensure survival, especially after economic activity was disrupted. In Kenya, some people made masks in their homes for sale or to give away to those who could not afford them. Some textile mills have been repurposed to manufacture masks and personal protective equipment, with the aim of supplying millions of them to the public and healthcare sectors (Bearak, 2020). This reduced reliance on developed countries to provide protective equipment for Kenya through grants and loans.
The improved sanitary and hygienic practices have reduced the incidence of certain diseases due to poor hygiene. Frequent hand washing has reduced the spread of diseases such as typhoid, influenza, cholera and diphtheria, according to a study conducted in India between May and July 2020. Similar results have been reported in Ethiopia and Kenya, proving that frequent hand washing prevents more than just Covid-19 (Thomas, 2021).
Many of the negative effects of the pandemic around the world have been economic, but this does not mitigate the psychological, socio-cultural and political effects. The economic impact includes:
- Unemployment – The lockdown restrictions have severely disrupted the economy by closing businesses and causing job losses.
- Reducing tourism, which is an important industry in many countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia;
- Withdrawal of investors leading to a decline in the flow of foreign direct investment;
- Worsening food insecurity and poverty;
- Significant reduction in aid flows from developed countries grappling with the worst pandemic; and,
- The shift in government budgets towards the health sector is slowing economic development in other sectors (Lone & Ahmad, 2020).
Other effects of the pandemic include increased mental health problems, higher rates of gender-based violence and domestic violence, increased pregnancies and dropouts among teenagers, political repression and undermining of democratic principles through police brutality, and increased physical and financial obstacles to health care for fear of contracting the virus (UNESCO, 2020).
When pandemics cause paradigm shifts
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a global paradigm shift in the functioning and interaction of individuals, states, organizations and the international system. For most of the past year (2020), the world appeared to have stalled after the devastating coronavirus, which forced governments to impose full and partial lockdowns, keep orders at home, and impose curfews. Businesses and organizations switched from personal work to giving their employees the ability to work from home to help contain the spread of the virus.
The impact of the pandemic has been a wrecking ball on the economic, social and political dimensions, and those effects will be felt for a long time, and the pandemic is not over yet. Global economic growth has plummeted to new lows, increasing poverty and accelerating inequality within and between states, which is very dangerous for global stability as it could lead to reactionary nationalism. This term essentially describes a situation in which part of society would like a status quo to change, in this case with regard to the economic inequality caused by capitalism and free market systems.
The gap between developed and developing countries became significantly evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. For one thing, developed countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and the like have been able to save their businesses, provide safety nets and financial cushions for their citizens, while developing countries have been barely or unable to do so. Income inequality has increased significantly, with the pandemic being a godsend for the one percent, especially in developed countries. In the US alone, an estimated 44 million people lost their jobs between April and June 2020, while unemployment rose to over 15%. Over the same period, the top five billionaires (Bezos, Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg, and Ellison) increased their net worth 26% (to $ 102 billion) and increased the total wealth of American billionaires to $ 3.6 trillion (Rushe, 2020 ). This amount is comparatively higher than the prosperity of the 54 African countries combined. (Goldin & Muggah, 2020).
Pandemics, while indiscriminate in terms of infection and direct consequences, have historically been shown to discriminate against the most vulnerable in the short and long term. A significant percentage of citizens in developing countries rely on the informal sector for a daily wage, and the restrictions on free movement and economic activity have severely hampered this, leaving them with no significant income and little protection from insecurity about survival (Casola, 2020)). While many governments in developing countries have tried to protect their poor from economic hardship, this pales markedly in comparison to rich countries that support their workers through various programs. Developing countries’ efforts are barely enough and often fail to reach the majority of the poor due to underhand tactics and corruption (Sen, 2020).
The pandemic has contributed significantly to the outbreak of technological advances, especially because many organizations, businesses, and even schools are forced to stay open (Magsamen & Shutko, 2020). Most switched to digital platforms to enable remote working that was previously unlikely, and rich countries with access to advanced technology, internet services and adequate education can benefit from a smooth transition to digital platforms. Countries in developing countries will exhibit differentiated growth in technology as the rich are likely to have access while the poor have little to no education, poor access to electricity and internet services, or the technological devices themselves (Turianskyi, 2020). This will leave developing countries behind while rich countries make strides with little hiccups.
Growing global gender inequality has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, with women bearing the brunt of the consequences. For example, women made up 55% of jobs lost in the US, while women make up less than 50% of the US workforce. In the UK and even in the developing world, women are more likely to work in a sector that has been closed due to restrictions such as hospitality, tourism and other service-oriented sectors (Madgavkar, White, Krishnan, Mahajan & Azcue). 2020). Even those with children who kept their jobs and worked from home were more likely to be interrupted by these children than their male partners. Compared to previous economic recessions, men were harder hit than women as they affected manufacturing, construction and other similar sectors. Employment for women was stable at the time, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit the consumer-facing industry hardest, and women are largely affected (Goldin & Muggah, 2020). This is very likely to affect progress on gender equality, especially in developing countries that have only just made progress.
The pandemic has shown the importance of having female leaders as the countries that responded best to the coronavirus had women in strategic leadership positions. Women-run countries were locked in quickly and their countries had significantly fewer deaths compared to male-run countries. Some reasons for this are due to risk aversion among women who prefer to save human life, empathetic leadership style i.e. H. More interpersonal and participatory as opposed to a male-centered autocracy and directive (Garikipati & Kambhampati, 2020). Statistics have shown that women are often given the chance to lead in a crisis, and this can be said because people in a crisis need leaders who are honest and with integrity, sensitive and empathetic to their stress and frustration (Darrah, 2018) (Sigurdardottir, 2018). These traits are stereotypically viewed as feminine, along with their ability to collaborate with others and communicate effectively and with inspiration (Zenger & Folkman, 2020). All leaders, men and women, should strive to meet these needs, particularly during the pandemic.
The pandemic came at a time when major powers in the international economy were straining their ties, and it did nothing to relate the behavior between the US and China during the Cold War. Former US President Donald Trump undermined the role of key international organizations, particularly the WHO and the World Trade Organization. The US, which got its support from the WHO, undermined efforts to reduce the impact and manage the pandemic (Lancet, 2020) (Ghebreyesus, 2020), and US and UK withdrawal from key trade deals spawned the idea of economic nationalism (OECD) from 2021). Developed countries began taking protectionist measures to protect their markets, effectively restricting or severely restricting access to their markets for developing countries, which is a significant contributor to their gross domestic product (GDP) (Sen, 2020). These protectionist measures will only limit the ability to reduce economic disparities between the global north and the global south in the short and long term.
The political ramifications caused by the pandemic were felt to varying degrees in both the Global North and the Global South. On both sides there have been cases of political repression by governments who abused their power and exploited the restrictions to silence critics, weaken opposition and key institutions, and undermine the available accountability systems, all in the name of public health security are. Human rights records were appalling during the pandemic, and research by Freedom House concluded that the pandemic exacerbated an already diminishing freedom. The situation was particularly bad in developing countries with young and fragile democracies (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2020).
In Uganda, for example, President Museveni, who has been in power for over three decades, has been accused of using the pandemic to intimidate his opposition, given that it was an electoral term and Bobi Wine was seen as a more popular candidate (Okiror & Beaumont, 20020). After a series of attempts to undermine his influence, Wine and his campaign team culminated in November 2020 on charges of violating covid-19’s policies and regulations. His arrest sparked protests in Kampala and other cities in which at least 28 people died. Another presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat, was also arrested and later released on charges of planning an unauthorized political rally. The human rights watchdog accused the government of using the restriction measures to deter opposition and media and called for further investigation into the incidents (Dahir, 2020).
The industrialized countries, especially the USA, have repeatedly criticized and tried to check the developing countries for violations of human rights and democratic principles. This has branded the US as a defender of freedom, justice, human rights and democracy, and this moral authority gives the US the power to be an “overseer” for the rest of the world (Cohen, 2021). However, recent events in the US have diminished the world’s confidence in the country’s moral authority, especially during President Trump’s previous tenure. The pandemic, which was creating deep rifts in the country through racial inequality, came to a head and police brutality intensified and the government’s response was authoritarian rather than democratic (Sherman, 2020). Perhaps this is why countries like Uganda have violated democratic practice and human rights because the US and the global north have been preoccupied with the pandemic and systemic problems to play the big brother role. In (Akinwotu, 2021) Wole Soyinka aptly states: “If America stumbles, it will be a severe blow to democracy in other parts of the world. Dictators take courage from it. “He was referring to the attention that the elections in Uganda, little as it was, would get the Capitol riots in Washington.
The pandemic has also deepened rifts within US democratic institutions. The US had the highest death toll in the world, and an election year pandemic turned it into a political nightmare. The Trump administration has been heavily criticized for dealing with the pandemic through misinformation, promoting unsubstantiated treatments and statistics, and repeatedly downplaying the pandemic. Addressing numerous problems of confusion due to misinformation, millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths from the virus, the deep racial inequalities in the country worsening in 2020, the US claimed the Trump administration made a concerted effort to address the pandemic to use Avoiding due process in the application of questionable and downright inhuman immigration laws (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2020). Despite all of this, the country was able to hold a relatively peaceful election in November 2020, in which Joe Biden was elected new president, and his victory, despite being denied by Trump, was certain. This shows that while its democratic system is highly fragmented by historical injustices and divisions, United States democracy is strong enough to stand the test of time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every country in the world to varying degrees, and as it is still ongoing, the long-term effects cannot yet be foreseen. The impact has also been devastating in terms of deaths, long-term health effects, economic hardship and social injustices. The economic, social, technological, and power gap between the global north and global south is likely to widen the longer the pandemic continues, and developing countries will face the tougher end of that gap. While the pandemic has not wreaked the havoc (deaths and infection rates) that has been predicted, particularly in Africa, the long-term economic effects can prove to be devastating. Aid packages from the north are declining, trade is also falling, and these governments may not be able to feed their poor populations for very long, leaving them to chronic food insecurity, malnutrition and poor access to basic goods and services (UNCTAD, 2020)).
The gap between the global north and the south may always exist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the south is doomed to remain as relatively underdeveloped as it is. The COVID-19 pandemic had different effects on both sides, but the north is likely to recover from it relatively more easily compared to the south. For example, prior to the pandemic, many countries in the south, particularly Africa, were heavily indebted to foreign donors, and that indebtedness has grown exponentially to reduce the cost of policy action against COVID-19 (Sallent, 2020). Even with debt freeze or postponement, developing countries are very likely to default as it will take a long time for their economies, which have already struggled with depreciating currencies, unsustainable debt, and high budget deficits (Njoroge, 2020), to recover.
To mitigate the effects of the pandemic, it is time for the global south, especially Africa, to clean up the house and take the initiative for its own development. First and foremost, the dependence on Western aid, which has apparently caused more harm than good, must be removed. Alternatively, Africa could use its innovation potential to benefit from its considerable wealth of natural resources and a resilient and youthful workforce. Second, it is imperative that accountability systems work for the benefit of citizens in order to reduce corruption and mismanagement of public funds. These measures have seriously affected the course of the pandemic in developing countries.
Finally, the global South must step up its cooperation on South-South relations in the areas of trade and development. Africa has several regional economic communities, but the members fail to exploit the full potential of the common markets and strategies that would strengthen their standing in international markets. This will at least spur Africa’s reconstruction and transition to a better society in a post-pandemic world.
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