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Africa: new challenges in the post-pandemic era

The new 'Africa 2021 Report' has highlighted the challenges that the African continent has been facing for years and which, thanks to the pandemic, have now begun to be addressed
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In a globalised context in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every country in the world, Africa, paradoxically, has been one of the continents least affected by this fateful crisis. Possible causes include the fact that more than 92% of the African population is under 52 years of age, along with genetic factors in the population that already make them immune to certain types of coronaviruses. However, the COVID pandemic has highlighted the precariousness of the continent's social and health systems, together with the scarcity of vaccines and treatments related to the treatment of the new virus.

In this context, the Alternativas Foundation has presented the 'Report Africa 2021: Joint challenges for Africa and Europe under the pandemic', with the aim of clarifying the patterns by which Europe and Africa are closely linked, as well as the new challenges that both countries must face in order to promote the fruitful development of the continent. In this article, several professionals have intervened to address the new challenges from the perspective of diplomatic relations between Europe and Africa, migration policies in Spain and the presence of the Black Lives Matter movement in Africa.

In order to address and resolve the new challenges, the director of the Fundación Alternativas, Diego López Garrido, argued that "a new discourse on Africa that makes its complexity understood" is necessary, and that the components that carry out the discursive practice "must have balanced and non-asymmetrical relations", with the aim of leaving behind the conception that has been maintained of paternalism from Europe to Africa and thus eradicating "the supervision of a superior over an inferior". With this transformation, it would be hoped that peer-to-peer relations between Europe and Africa would begin to be built.

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Garrido also stressed the need for rich countries to carry out an "exercise in solidarity", given that only "2% of the African population has been vaccinated, bearing in mind that 14% of the world's population is African". In view of this, he expressed the need to urge the Security Council to "speed up the vaccination process in Africa".

In addition to this, the pandemic has highlighted the need to carry out a clear development not only in health matters, but also in immigration policies, security and the defence of social rights. The latter has become evident over the last year with the global protests carried out by the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that "goes beyond the extrajudicial killings of black people by police and vigilantes" and embraces intersectionality.

In line with the fight against the pandemic, anthropologist, Berta Mendigueren, states that the problem with vaccination is "that global vaccination is happening at different speeds" and that Africa's own production capacity in this regard remains "very low". Mendigueren reaffirms that there is not only a problem of production but also of "distribution and maintenance", processes that are necessary to effectively carry out the vaccination process, but equally costly. In this sense, he gives as an example the monopoly held by countries such as China, the United States and Germany in the production of the components of the vaccines themselves.

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In this sense, the difficulty in constructing the process of working between the two continents on the same level of equal treatment has been highlighted. For Marta Íñiguez Heredia, the main obstacles to achieving this equality of treatment are related to the traditional way in which Europe has been viewed vis-à-vis Africa due to its colonial past, in which an asymmetrical donor-recipient relationship has been constructed. In addition, trade relations between the two countries have been characterised by the fact that Africa is the supplier of raw materials to Europe and Europe is also the leader in technological development, which means that there is inequality between the sectors.

Likewise, according to Heredia, "Europe invests in Africa so that it becomes an immigration stopper", which is why it would be necessary to "opt for a migratory regime that is more favourable". The researcher Lorenzo Gabrielli affirmed that it is necessary to "transform the migratory transition into a question of security", given that "instruments of control" continue to be privileged and there continues to be a policy of "obsession with border control".  In this sense, migration policy should be approached from the perspective of "a human phenomenon".

On the other hand, Beatriz Mesa linked immigration problems to the countries of North Africa. She also criticised the repressive policies carried out in Algeria and Libya when it comes to managing immigration, as well as the labour mobility of people and repatriation, problems that arise as a result of the different African regional policy issues.

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In terms of the more social sphere related to the demonstrations by the African population in favour of their rights, the president of Cedre, Antomi Tuasijé, has linked the expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement to "the historical colonial relationship in which the countries of Europe have extracted and continue to extract raw materials". This movement has been magnified in the United States after the promotion of several speeches made by Trump that have been heard by the so-called forgotten sector, the white and poor sector of the population, who have felt empowered in relation to the black population. Tuasijé concluded by affirming that "the coronavirus has not been a brake on this movement" since it is in itself an institutional problem that is sustained by "the colonial past and present".