23 Nov 2020

Whose crisis? The global COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of communities in Africa

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK

Principal Investigator: Dr. Mia Perry, University of Glasgow
Tech-U Project Co-PI: Professor Adesola Ajayi

Summary of the Project

“Whose Crisis?” is an urgent response to a rapidly evolving global health pandemic whereby the Global North is leading (by example and economic pressure) a response to an emergency affecting communities all over the world. Immediate cultural production, critical commentary and public policy are being showcased and circulated globally with substantial affect – this may prove to be the most documented pandemic in history. However, the dominant discourses are generated in the North, overwhelmingly by a minority of wealthy and powerful authors, reflecting on a crisis that, while impacting the whole world, is experienced in vastly different ways. This project positions our Southern partners centrally as agents of change within the volatile environment of the COVID-19 crisis.

This pandemic adds unprecedented pressures on communities in Africa which already live with many other urgent health and socio-economic issues. We present a plan for action now that also informs communities, leaders, and support systems for what’s next. Many fundamental assumptions underlying the current models of sustainable development have been upended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation calls for genuine engagement, innovative methods, and sophisticated communications to attend ethically to the current situation, as well as prepare for what’s next. Thus, this project is built on long standing partnerships, agility, and rapid knowledge transfer afforded by the existing Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network. The project is of relevance across sectors, disciplines and geographies and the outputs are transferable, scalable and adaptable – they can evolve.

This project aims to expose unseen aspects of living with COVID-19 by co-curating representations and understandings of the social and cultural crisis generated by the pandemic in Africa. This will be made possible by the development of the public-facing SFA COVID-19 Global Voices Hub which will provide critical insights and inform and contribute to global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education. The proposal addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 1. 3, and 17, in particular in Uganda, Malawi (Least Developed Countries), Eswatini, Nigeria (Lower Middle Income Countries) and Botswana (Upper Middle Income Country), with implications for broader impact across Africa and the Global South.

Our research asks: (1) What are the lived experiences of, perspectives on, and responses to, COVID-19 in vulnerable communities in sub-Saharan Africa?; (2) How can perspectives be shared in participatory and collaborative ways to share Northern and Southern expertise, resources, and engagement in a two-way relationship?; and (3) What can be achieved when the voices of under-represented and under-served communities in Africa are amplified, in terms of Global Health in a pandemic context? This research needs to happen now, as decisions, perspectives, and opportunities are being made and missed every week as the global condition shifts. It is possible that the peak of the pandemic is yet to happen in Africa and the unintended consequences of an unchecked monolithic Northern narration of this global issue will be devastating to already vulnerable populations.>/p>