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COVID-19 Thought Leadership Series Articles

The impact of COVID-19 in Africa, which has its own array of existing development and financial challenges, is multifaceted, daunting and yet to be fully realised. This pandemic poses a threat to every sector and all aspects of our lives - we will not simply bounce back to a pre-COVID-19 world.

In response, we are called upon to think and act creatively, diligently and expediently.

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 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), publish this thought leadership series.

It features contributions that draw on the authors’ academic and industry expertise to offer solutions for preventing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in Africa. Collectively, these articles constitute a package of multi-sectoral strategies and action plans that should be considered by governments, businesses, the media, civil society and individual actors.

Series editors: Qudsiya Karrim (Africa Portal), Constance Gikonyo (University of Nairobi), Yarik Turianskyi (South African Institute of International Affairs), Bob Wekesa (Wits University/African Centre for the Study of the United States).

For any queries and/or further details, please contact: 

Africa and the Geopolitics of Covid-19

Gilbert M. Khadiagala and Bob Wekesa

The Covid-19 pandemic has provoked multiple geostrategic uncertainties among nations and regions and schisms in various levels of global governance. Faced with the growing unpredictability of these developments, analysts are hard put as they gaze into the crystal ball to figure out global geopolitical trends and prospects in the coming months, let alone years. It is for this reason that just about every analysis over the last couple of weeks has cautiously inserted “if” into its projections.

COVID-19 as an opportunity for African knowledge production

Bob Wekesa

Lockdown has become a metaphor for all forms of state-sanctioned and self-imposed restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. While lockdowns have been highly disruptive, the internet has also served as an opening for an alternative sphere where semblances of human activity can happen. Information and knowledge production is perhaps one of the major activities that have shifted online in a big way. The question that arises is: Is there a danger of Africa being marginalised in terms of knowledge production and dissemination because, among other factors, the continent’s presence on the internet is below other regions of the world?

COVID-19 has spurred knowledge production in Africa – but to what end?

Gilbert M. Khadiagala

Momentous occurrences such as the COVID-19 pandemic often create tremendous opportunities for major paradigm shifts in policies and approaches toward improving the management of political and social affairs. These events could potentially ignite innovations and learning that are critical to social transformations. Equally vital, such crises galvanise attention and resources that are significant in the articulation and implementation of reforms to address existing challenges. Akin to the Great Depression of the 1930s that helped jumpstart the welfare state, COVID-19 may contribute to new approaches to contemporary problems. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis, new institutions such as the G20 and BRICS arose to spearhead reforms. 

From informal worker to African legal subject: thinking through and beyond COVID-19

Amy Niang , Lionel Zevounou, Ndongo Samba Sylla

Domestic workers are amongst the economic victims of the pandemic. The Senegalese state has not made any arrangements to assist people in Ndèye’s professional category and in the absence of strong trade unions to defend their rights, domestic workers are part of the informal economy and will live through the pandemic in anonymity, silence and destitution.


Bob Wekesa

It is difficult to talk of the COVID-19 pandemic in positive terms. But, as a growing number of analysts have noted, the crisis provides silver linings as underlying problems are exposed and pathways for resolving them considered. It would be a waste of the crisis if the opportunities presented for addressing the challenges wrought by the pandemic are not tapped and leveraged. 

Surveying the impact of COVID-19 on Africa's higher education and research sector

Kari Mugo, Naliaka Odera, Maina Wachira

Academic and research institutions find themselves tasked with learning how to adapt in real-time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that is significantly disrupting the global higher education sector. Most of the focus so far has been on western countries, leaving major gaps in our understanding of how Africa's own centres of knowledge production are faring in this crisis.

Journalism in jeopardy: Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on newspapers

Ntibinyane Ntibinyane

The impact of this global pandemic on the media industry is being felt acutely. Hamstrung by loss of advertising revenue and low sales, newsrooms across the world have announced staff layoffs, suspended or cancelled their print operations and downsized significantly. The industry is under immense strain and Africa has not been spared.

No calm after the storm: Re-imagining the role of ‘the media’ in post COVID-19 Africa

Ivan Okuda

The media will need to further the conversation already underway in the USA and Europe on how best it can negotiate revenue sharing with tech giants like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter.

COVID-19: Implications for the 'digital divide' in Africa

Yarik Turianskyi
In a time of social distancing and government-enforced lockdowns to curtail the spread of COVID-19, digital technology has enabled the continuation of work, education and communication. But for millions of people who are unable to connect to the internet, the offline world is economically and socially isolating. COVID-19 has emphasised the ‘digital divide’. 

Linking energy, food security and health to face COVID-19

Olivier Dubois
A COVID-19 continues to spread in developed and developing countries alike, not everyone has the privilege of applying basic prevention measures such as physical distancing. Almost 1 billion poor, oven living in cramped housing conditions, have little or no access to reliable, affordable energy to stay connected, or to remotely communicate with public services and one another.

COVID-19: How to save the African entrepreneur

Allen Mutono

Nawabisa Ntuli, a hair salon operator in downtown Johannesburg, will remember March 2020 as the month her business was knocked out of the economy. Her salon is among the estimated 2,5 million small enterprises that were ordered to close as South Africa implemented one of Africa’s strictest lockdowns instituted in attempts to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 infections.

Tapping diaspora capital for the post-COVID-19 economy

Michael Sudarkasa

The COVID-19 pandemic has slammed the brakes on most activities globally, with business operations halted, initiatives postponed and some time-bound deals and events summarily cancelled. While this is clearly a drawback at all levels, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on and plan for a post-pandemic world. A potential area is the deepening of the involvement of the African diaspora via co-investment with African businesses and governments in sectors as diverse as healthcare and manufacturing, infrastructure and agro-processing, tourism and import-export, among others.