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Thought Leadership Series on COVID-19 and Innovation in Africa

It is becoming increasingly evident that the COVID-19 pandemic will not subside anytime soon. Its impact across the world, especially Africa, with its own array of existing development and financial challenges, is multifaceted, daunting and yet to be fully realised. In response, we are called upon to think and act creatively, diligently and expediently. This pandemic poses a threat to every sector and all aspects of life - we will not simply bounce back to a pre-COVID-19 world. Our contribution as scholars is to offer immediate solutions with potentially lasting impacts that will help Africa prepare for and adapt to the new normal.

It is with this in mind that the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) based at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) in South Africa, and the Africa Portal, a project of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), issues this call for think pieces.



In a recent communique to staff, Garth Stevens, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Wits University challenged scholars to respond to the intellectual questions triggered by the pandemic. He mentioned some of the areas that would need rethinking:

“… the social epidemiology of disease, shock doctrine and disaster capitalism, the work or starve mantra for the economically precarious, health inequalities and the medical humanities, price gouging and profiteering, disaster management and the constraints on civil liberties, etc.”

One need not overemphasise the importance of timely innovation given the grim, clear and present danger that confronts the African continent as we contend with this unprecedented crisis. The imperative question for scholars and intellectuals is: what contribution can we make in tackling this pandemic?

With this question in mind, we invite contributions that draw on academic and industry expertise to offer solutions for preventing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in Africa. The articles should feature innovative ideas that lead to cost-effective and efficient outcomes for specific sectors of society.

Key objective:

Collectively, the articles will constitute a package of multi-sectoral strategies and action plans that the target audience can adopt.

Target Audience:

Governments, international organisations, academia, businesses of all sizes, civil society and individuals.

  • 4 May 2020: Submission of articles
  • 11 May 2020: Feedback and edits to authors from the editorial team
  • Week of 18 May 2020: Publication on Africa Portal and Wits University websites



Articles selected by our editorial team will be published on the Africa Portal and Wits University websites. At a later stage, the think pieces will be packaged into a magazine-style publication.

After publication, authors may be invited for a short virtual conference organised in conjunction with Venture Lift Africa, a digital marketplace creating economic connections to promote business growth between Africa and the US. This virtual conference will be recorded and edited into a webinar. The goal of the webinar will be to explore actualisation and implementation of recommendations related to economic recovery, Africa diaspora engagement with Africa and new business models relevant for African markets.

Suggested perspectives:

Authors may address one or a combination of the following issues:

Harnessing African advantage

  • Africa is a young continent facing a virus that affects older people more
  • Africa has had more time to prepare for the arrival of the pandemic
  • Africa can learn from the successes and failures of other countries
  • The possibility of assistance from the developed once they contain the pandemic
  • Hope the discovery of anti-coronavirus vaccines and medicines

Overcoming African disadvantages

  • Health systems in Africa are woefully ill-equipped to cope: poor budgets; acute shortage of medical facilities, equipment and kits; shortage of medical personnel
  • Poverty and informal forms of employment hamper containment measures
  • Some of the measures could trigger poverty and hunger
  • Misinformation and disinformation hamper scientific approaches
  • Illiteracy and ignorance in both urban and rural areas
  • Pessimism about Africa’s capacity leads to losing of confidence
  • Self-isolation and social distancing impractical in the crowded settlements
  • Lack of financial reserves and stimulus packages to mitigate losses by businesses
  • Lack social safety nets for vulnerable communities
  • Poor coordination between African countries
  • The impact of geopolitical battles
  • Little or nothing learned from past pandemics and epidemics
  • Endemic ailments worsen the situation
  • Economic downturns as commodity prices plunge
  • Broken supply chains deny countries foreign exchange
  • Revenues from tourism and agricultural exports lost
  • Reduced revenues from taxation affects national incomes
  • Public debt burden will worsen
  • Remittances from abroad as a key source of income will fizzle out
  • Potential for capital flight as investors relocate
  • Dire implications if governance systems collapse: civil unrest and the potential for armed conflicts
  • Rise in xenophobia as competition for scarce resources escalates
Diaspora Engagement
  • Remaking remittance support for healthcare through diaspora or social bonds
  • Research partnership between African universities and historically black colleges and universities in the US on advancing technical solutions in medicine, business, engineering and other sectors
  • Diaspora without borders: collaboration in telemedicine, ed-tech for healthcare workers and trade and investment related to medical supplies, equipment, healthy food and more
  • Diaspora co-investment into healthcare, manufacturing, agro-processing and other strategic sectors in Africa



  • Word count of between 1000 and 1500 words, maximum
  • Background and context should be kept to a minimum
  • Focus on specific innovative strategies and action plans
  • Write in compelling, easy-to-read and engaging language
  • Do not use footnotes or in-text references. References to academic works/authors should be integrated into the article.
  • Hyperlinks are encouraged but not mandatory
  • Options to focus on the continent as a whole, regions or individual countries
  • Articles must be situated in specific disciplines, fields, professions or trades
  • Authors should provide provisional titles to their articles.
  • Authors must provide a brief bio at the end of their articles.

The pieces should be submitted to  | Please use the subject line: COVID-19 SUBMISSION


Selected articles will be identified for development into policy briefs. Selection decisions will be based on the quality and relevance of the submission, and is subject to agreement between Wits University and the author of the article.

Download Innovation and COVID-19 Call for Submissions

For any queries, please contact: