The number of COVID-19 infections across Africa surpassed half a million on 8 July said the World Health Organization, as it flagged growing concern of countries in the continent experiencing a sharp rise in cases.
Tony Blair: Covid-19 has exposed the urgency of government reform
For the 14 governments that Tony Blair advises across the continent, the virus has underlined the need to overhaul the institutions of government.
“[African leaders] want to be much less reliant on aid”, says Blair, saying the continent was, “taught a sharp lesson in the problem of global supply chains, scrabbling around trying to get Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators.”
Beyond reforming African governments, reforming the international architecture is also an imperative for the former UK Prime Minister.
This includes the World Health Organisation (WHO), which he believes has been unfairly maligned, given its small budget and limited mandate.
“Criticising the WHO for not handling coronavirus correctly is like criticising a [second division] team for not winning the Champions’ League – its never going to happen”, says Blair.
He points to other bodies within the UN system which made sense after the Second World War, but not in today’s world, where newly-powerful Asian countries feel excluded.
Blair believes new initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Zone show the drive of a new generation of African leadership to create their own bloc, and make Africa’s voice heard on the global stage.
For instance, African leaders regularly ask about how to navigate the confrontation between the US and China, says Blair.
While Britain’s exit from Europe makes it hard for the UK to play a role in promoting bodies such as the African Continental Free Trade Zone, Blair believes the substantial budget wielded by the UK’s Department for International Development will help it retain a role on the continent.
He suggests that a UK marginalised in world affairs post-Brexit will need to seek ‘niches’ in which to operate.
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