Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 19 November 2020

COVID-19: A call for people-centred national security strategy in Africa


by Luka Biong Deng Kuol

Humanity has been extraordinarily challenged by the coronavirus with serious and unprecedented impacts on all aspects of human life and the ways states have been functioning and managing public affairs. COVID-19 may either consolidate global solidarity or it may take humanity on a path toward the demise of globalization and multilateralism. There is no doubt that the world will not be the same again after the end of this pandemic.

Unprecedentedly, the coronavirus has paradoxically hit the most prosperous and highly un-fragile developed countries first. It exposed the vulnerability of the developed countries to which many African countries look up to as the pinnacle of stability. This made many African countries concerned about how they can survive such a forceful pandemic and whether they would pass existential therapy tests with this pandemic.

Within less than five months, February to June, the virus exponentially spread to all 54 African countries with an average case fatality ratio of 4.2 per cent. If such a spreading rate persists and coupled with weak health infrastructure and difficulty in complying with physical distancing, Africa might become the reservoir for the coronavirus. Luckily the spread of the virus in Africa is not at the speed with which it was forecasted and relatively slow in comparison to the global toll. This might partially be attributed to a younger population, tropical weather and, importantly, to underreporting cases due to weak health capacity.

Threats to human security

The assessment of the impact of COVID-19 that focuses on health and economy may not capture well the gravity of the crisis. Human security is defined as freedom from “fear” and freedom from “want”. This can be used to assess the impact of COVID-19 in Africa. There are also key intertwined aspects such as economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, communal security and political security.

Besides its threat to health security, the real impact of COVID-19 is its enormous threat to economic security with far-reaching negative consequences on socio-political stability, international relations, peace, and civil rights. As a result of coronavirus, Africa will experience the first recession in 25 years with its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecasted to contract between 0.7 and 2.8 percentage points in 2020. For those projected to be pushed globally to extreme poverty by COVID-19, Sub-Saharan Africa will account for about 46 per cent (23 million). As a result of the pandemic, Africa is projected to experience the highest level of unemployment in 2020 with about 20 million jobs loss, mainly youth, that might potentially cause social unrest and violence.

This threat to economic security will be exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 on commodity prices, oil prices and global economy. The coronavirus is expected to cause the deepest global recession in the decades. As COVID-19 will globally depress demand and disrupt supply, the prices of most commodities exported by many African countries will plunge in 2020 and beyond. In particular, commodities such as energy and metal and commodities associated with transportation such as oil will be most affected by the coronavirus-induced contraction and slowdown of the global economy. The economy of China, the main trade partner of many African countries, is forecasted to be the hardest hit by the pandemic and that may result in the slowest growth in more than four decades.

Besides its threat to economic security, COVID-19 will have a more profound impact on food security in Africa than in other regions. It is estimated that the pandemic might double the food insecure population in Africa in 2020 from 130 million to 265 million. Additionally, the threat to political security is becoming a human rights and security crisis in Africa, as governments are increasingly using excessive force to effect lockdown and social distancing. This threat to political security is aggravated by the deteriorating quality of institutions and policies and the inability of many African governments to create a free political environment that resulted in a lack of trust from citizens and increased defiance of citizens to the social restrictions and physical distancing declared by their governments.

The threat of coronavirus to environmental security has mixed effects, as the policies adopted by various countries to confront COVID-19 such as lockdown and social distancing have on the one hand caused substantial improvement in air quality, clean beaches and less environmental noise contraction but they have also caused increased waste and the reduction of recycling. However, the positive effects the virus has on the environment are short-lived and not sustainable.

Reactive Response to COVID-19

The response to the COVID-19 has generally been reactive not only in the developing countries but also in the developed countries as countries struggle between saving lives or livelihoods. Addressing the threats of the pandemic to human security will require comprehensive, foreword-looking and proactive policies. The African Union acted swiftly by adopting the Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 in February 2020 that helped African countries to adopt a combination of mitigation and suppression measures to thwart importation of COVID-19. However, this strategy has focused on one aspect of human security; health security. In an attempt to reconcile the pressing and competing priorities of saving lives and livelihoods, many African countries “copy” and “paste” the contingency policies adopted by the countries first hit by the pandemic without adapting them to their unique contexts. This has resulted in the defiance and non-compliance of citizens with such top-down imposed policies.

Despite their uphill struggle to contain the pandemic, many traditional African donors and partners have been providing assistance to many African countries but not guided by a coherent national security strategy. Also, the Africa Joint Continental COVID-19 Strategy has been munificently implemented in partnership with multilateral, bilateral and private institutions but in absence of COVID-19 strategies adopted by the member states of the African Union. Without people-centred Grand National strategy that proactively addresses the threats to human security, the external assistance is less likely to be effective in helping African countries to overcome the impacts of COVID-19.

A call for people-centred strategy and whole-of-society approach

COVID-19 has exposed serious cracks in systems of government, capacities of states and public policies. Importantly, it has underscored the need to revisit how security is perceived, planned, managed and delivered to the citizens. The coronavirus has shown that human security is less at risk of the threat from the buildup of a nuclear arsenal than by a pandemic that can hardly be fought by conventional weaponry.

One lesson is that there have been reactive responses to the pandemic, as most countries do not have coherent proactive and forward-looking national security strategies. The absence of such strategies has resulted in the inability of many African countries to strike a strategic balance not only between economic and health priorities but also in the security-development-governance nexus. The pandemic has underscored the centrality of the concept of human security in shaping the forward-looking of how security could be better delivered to all citizens through the whole-society approach. So Africa might emerge from this pandemic well prepared for future pandemics if its leaders could learn from such a bitter experience of COVID-19 by designing proactive and people-centred national security strategies that will contribute to building resilience institutions for future pandemics.

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Toward viable future for South Sudan 2021-02-23 06:27:19 A critique of ICG’s Africa Report No. 300, 10 February 2021 Dr Lam Akol The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued its Africa Report No.300 on 10 February 2021. The report attempts to address (...)

18th anniversary of armed struggle in Darfur 2021-02-23 05:21:00 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman This article comes against the backdrop of the equal participation of members belonging to the armed struggle movements from the Darfur region in ministerial positions and (...)

Museveni proposal for political ethnicization in South Sudan is wrong prescription 2021-02-06 07:40:14 By Steve Paterno I just came across a video clip of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda addressing a delegation of the USA and UK on the situation about South Sudan. The meeting took place (...)


Latest Press Releases

Sudan: Performing arts is not a crime, assaulting women and artists is! 2020-09-20 08:54:28 The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) Sudan is still struggling with militant Islamist ideology KHARTOUM: Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five (...)

Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments 2020-08-14 07:11:00 A Collaborative Civil Society Statement in Response to The Law of Various Amendments (Abolishing and Amending Provisions Restricting Freedom) – Exposing ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ Sudanese women (...)

Remarks by SRF leaders at the Friend of Sudan meeting on peace 2020-08-13 07:58:58 Chairman of the Friends of Sudan Conference, Your Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Prime Minister of Sudan and the participating team from the (...)


Copyright © 2003-2021 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.