By Kimeng Hilton
China should forget and forgive all the gratuitous insinuations apportioned against her for master-minding the Coronavirus, says Dr Peter Sakwe Masumbe in the following interview with Kimeng Hilton NDUKONG. Citing an African proverb, he says when a house catches fire, the owner does not bother about where the inferno originated, but concentrates on putting it out – first.
As the world continues to battle the Coronavirus pandemic that broke out in December 2019, what lessons can Africa and the world at large learn from the manner in which the Chinese contained the outbreak?
China was confronted with a problem, and tackled it at the source with appropriate public policy strategies and instruments. African countries must first imbibe the lesson that once a social problem arises, the cure should be found. However, the strategies for finding the cure must meet international standards. Nobody has monopoly of knowledge, especially when it comes to public affairs. China is a Socialist state, yet all the citizens are involved in contributing their quota to governance, with each according to their capacities.
A political system comprises the totality of identifiable and interrelated institutions and their activities (not family issues), otherwise known as governmental institutions and political processes. They authoritatively allocate values in the form of decisions, which are binding upon society. Such decisions have determined the character of policy responses African have enunciated against COVID-19.
What are the lessons and implications of these responses on human capital and the economies of Africa, now and in the future? Are the policy responses against COVID-19 akin to impromptu approaches with weak physiognomies? Are there alternative policies open to African countries for combating COVID-19 in the manner China did? These questions must go deep into the minds of African political and economic leaders. This will avoid looking at things only on the spur of the moment without making projections into the future – in the case of eventual disasters or pandemics such as COVID-19. What if this pandemic broke out in Africa, like the Ebola Virus epidemic?
Does handling a pandemic of the magnitude of the Coronavirus have anything to do with policy issues?
Yes! African countries need to deeply reflect on the character of their public policies. Public policy can rightly be viewed as a political system’s highly calculated and correctly applied responses to public demands for solving problems. Such problems arise from the environment in domains such as transportation, education, agriculture, health, law enforcement, security, business, and so on. This depends on whether a chosen policy approach falls within the ambit of constituent, distributive, re-distributive or regulatory policy type.
Policy problems are conditions or situations, which generate a human need, deprivation or dissatisfaction, self-identified by a group or groups of people, for which relief is sought for a large number of people in society. On the contrary, it is not a policy problem if it affects only a few persons in society.
What do you make of conspiracy theories flying around that China created the Coronavirus?
China should forget and forgive all the gratuitous insinuations apportioned against her for master-minding the Coronavirus. The main concern now for African and other nations should be stopping the spread of the virus and saving humanity. An African proverb says that the person whose house is on fire does not bother about the source of the inferno. Instead of standing back and lamenting, his main concern is to use the most appropriate means available to put off the blaze.
These accusations are tantamount to putting the cart before the horse, crying over spilled milk, shifting the bulk and apportioning blame while the problem is left unattended to or poorly handled. China is the nation to look up to if Africa really wants to develop. I mean real development, not modernisation. African countries are immersed in modernising without developing their societies.
As the former Tanzanian leader, Julius Nwalimu Nyerere said, “Nobody can build a house for you and you claim it is your own house. Africans must build their houses even with traditional technologies of thatches, mud, ropes and sticks, in order to re-gain their lost dignity in the community of nations.” This is what China has tried to do and is still doing vigorously, irrespective of challenges.
China has been Africa’s leading trade and cooperation partner for years now. How can such ties be enhanced in the face of the Corona Virus pandemic?
China must continue to be Africa’s most important genuine development partner, in spite of the scourge of the Coronavirus pandemic. China will give Africa and the rest of the world the wrong impression if it withdraws or reduces the volume of its bilateral relations with the continent.
Rather, China must be seen at the forefront of Africa’s genuine development. It is important recalling that in the late 1950s, China was a rural peasant-dominated economic sphere in the Asian continent. But with zeal, hard work and unparalleled resilience, China is today becoming a world power in terms of high-tech, own manpower, science and technology, massive food production, abundant and widespread economic, social and political infrastructure, and so on. The Coronavirus, like other diseases, must disappear for mankind to continue its normal life.
Peter Sakwe Masumbe holds a PhD in Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. He is a lecturer in Public Policy, International Relations and Conflict Studies with the University of Buea, Cameroon. A Senior Executive Officer (“administrateur civil principal”), Dr Masumbe is a Senior Public Policy Analyst in the Prime Minister’s Office in Cameroon.
He is also a Visiting Scholar with the Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences of the Pan-African University, Yaounde, Cameroon and the Catholic Madonna University, Okija, Nigeria.