Covid-19, the return of the state in Africa ? - The Point

The epidemic of Covid-19 has created significant constraints and freedom. Experts and intellectuals (the media) are likely to have yielded to a fear coupled wit

Covid-19, the return of the state in Africa ? - The Point

The epidemic of Covid-19 has created significant constraints and freedom. Experts and intellectuals (the media) are likely to have yielded to a fear coupled with a mistrust : fear of the virus, the knowledge of which evolved the day-to-day (which is normal, but scary), and distrust of governments which have at various times of the crisis changed your mind to hide some inability to predict and therefore to... govern ! This is in stark contrast with the chinese regime, which is based on State capitalism coupled with a control policy of the company, and which is managed to protect its population : 1.4 billion people and only 4 638 deaths (according to the figures "official" as of may 26, 2020).

of Course, we know that the figures produced in this country or that country today are impossible to compare : persons screened, number of tests, compilation of death, etc, It does not prevent the governments of the western democracies have found, empirically, to warm, a source of inspiration in china's scheme to justify their own rhetoric of sanitary control in the name of a precautionary policy ; in this, the Covid-19 offered them a degree of social rehabilitation. And this was finally an easy one since the population is afraid and, as the figures of misfortune are produced by the States themselves.

also Read Fred Eboko : "Africa has kept the memory of Ebola"

management is A dynamic and organized of the crisis

It is a fact : over the last two months, there has been a form of re-conquest of the people by the State, which is initially focused on a comprehensive approach to the epidemic : its dynamics (the international movement of persons and, by a shortcut amazing, the globalization as a threat) as much as its health co-ordination (as embodied by the WHO, whose guidelines were adopted or fustigées, in good faith or not). This reference to the global has been concomitant clearance of the errors of the local : this is not my fault, it is that of China, says the West ; it is the one of Europe, said the France ; it is that of the West, said the Africa. And now, the global is put to evil – the trial of incompetence and bias is to the WHO. And that is that the governments of the most liberal in arrive to plebiscite borders, short cycles, patriotism industrial. And lo and behold, we rediscovered the merits of the State strategist, the arbiter of knowledge, the holder of the authority for the common good : the State's paternal societies become abruptly infantile.

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The epidemic of Covid-19 is the ultimate demonstration of this return to the border and to the State. Last, but by no means new : epidemic and State have always made good bedfellows. Some historians (see, in particular, William Naphy and Andrew Spicer, 2003, The black Plague. Great fears and epidemics, 1345-1730, Otherwise) argue that the bureaucratic State in europe, the model of the State's contemporary, was born from the need to organize, to govern, support social and economic development of the epidemics of plague that struck Europe since 1345 (coming from China... already !) until 1730.

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The return of the State as a strategist ?

however, and this is another fact, this return of the State is not the preserve of western democracies, fascinated by the efficiency of the chinese State. It is also for the african regimes, and this, in a way that is both sensitive, imaginative, original, and unexpected. The States in Africa, usually subject to the representations undercut, if not post-colonial, as it is to address it on compassionate suspects, go bankrupt, corrupt, and néopatrimonialisés to be inventive, far-sighted and experts of their company. If we can discuss each of these terms, the perspective depending on the country and stay careful on the balance sheet of the pandemic, one thing is clear though : the States in Africa have nowhere been "weak" since they are returned to the prescribers of standards, guidelines, closure of borders, the publications of figures.

Their choice to deal with the pandemic have also been strongly singular, special, making untenable the image of "an african answer" to the epidemic, which would imply that there exists a country called "Africa," or that the african States would have a single strategy, just as it is inadmissible the talk of the " catastrophe ".

The african States have reacted by playing on two registers. The first was to draw on the toolbox of measures proposed by the WHO : closure of the land borders, and airlines, schools and universities ; prohibition of gatherings ; containment ; the blockade of cities ; curfew ; wearing a mask ; screening selective with hospitalization of the sick ; quarantine of suspected cases. Not only each State has selected in this offer which seemed to him to be appropriate and realistic, but there has very generally redefined the terms : size of the gatherings, the proportionality of the containment (partial), hospitalization (sometimes asymptomatic cases which were in isolation). In sum, the States have decided, they have made an act of sovereignty, and they have been far from blindly following the instructions comprehensive.

a Second characteristic of the reaction of the States in Africa : adaptation in real time to the evolution of the situation, not not as medical or epidemiological that social, economic and political. More fundamentally, the trade-offs have often been simultaneously health, socio-economic and political, and not successively, as in many other european countries. Did you not here the sign of the return of the State in Africa, which is more of a State making a choice, a State strategist ?

Naturally, the effectiveness of these postures of States in respect of control of the epidemic cannot be guaranteed : not more than can be the trajectory of health of the epidemic by simple models that do not take account of the measures taken by the member States, their modality of application and the reactions and consequences they have generated.

It is not intended to give a blank cheque, or a "good point" to african States. And, if we takes things from the point of view of society, it is not certain that the State is everywhere "back" ; all the more will there be aroused here of discontent, there reviews, here still the rebellions of the law. On the other hand, it is essential to place the responses of these african States, various, not necessarily related to coordinates, in the concert overall, of all the States across the world : if one wants to be bothered to overtake and départiculariser an illusory " african answer ", then one will find that the States in Africa were marked by their uniqueness – in short, they have made their return.

Read also : Africa: How the border closure has limited the spread of the Covid-19

* Fatoumata Coulibaly is a geographer, university of social sciences and management of Bamako.

** Gilles Holder is an anthropologist, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS).

*** Laurent Vidal is an anthropologist, a representative of IRD in Mali, research director, Institute of research for development (IRD).

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Updated Date: 13 June 2020, 09:33

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