One of the many side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has resulted in a world where racial tensions and xenophobia have been reinforced. In the past few months, we have witnessed xenophobic attacks on people of Asian descent in Europe and America, and mistreatments of Africans in Guangzhou, China.
Musings on the emergence of a virus in Wuhan, China and concerns of its spread at US borders by tourists and Americans returning mainly from China were the earliest pointers in the news on the roots of Ghana’s knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, it looked like a distant reality for the African and Ghanaian context. As the virus made inroads into Europe and other continents and countries within them, the reality of the potential challenges of this health problem became apparent.
As much as the COVID-19 pandemic currently seems to generate comparatively low numbers of recorded cases and victims in Africa, its wide-ranging social, political and economic effects are already apparent. African governments’ responses to the emergency partly mirrored the containment and mitigation measures adopted in Europe, but they collided with a social and economic environment where lockdowns and social distancing are simply not sustainable.
Mobilising additional financial resources rapidly and at scale and lesson-learning cannot be handled by every country on their own, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa. These usually have little room for manoeuvre – including borrowing in capital markets and expanding tax revenues. A debt crisis was looming even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every nation and is a truly global event of utmost importance to world leaders. The acute health, economic and social consequences of the crisis have underscored the need for a coordinated international response. The G7 and G20 platforms are practical institutions capable of advancing the dialogue on this critical issue.
The Covid-19 pandemic currently acts as a magnifying glass under which we can view the state of international cooperation. What we see there is cause for deep concern. We are observing a global health crisis to which only a few countries have reacted quickly, transparently and on the basis of facts. Too often, trivialisation, cover-ups or the spreading of conspiracy theories have prevented an effective response. As a result, over 400,000 people have died so far.
Leadership from the Group of Seven (G7) is needed more than ever as the pandemic continues to devastate economies and as we begin to grapple with the many legacies this global crisis will leave in its wake. Given the increased need for G7 leadership at this time, it is notable that the next meeting is being postponed to September, if it will be held at all.
The 2020 G7, the fourth of the Trump era, has been postponed to September. It is no coincidence: in the US, the novel coronavirus continues to take its toll (with over 110,000 deaths as of June 9th), unemployment has more than quadrupled from 3% to 13%, and George Floyd’s death two weeks ago has sparked racial and social protests that continue to this day. Hosting a G7 summit under these circumstances would have been extremely risky. Yet, paradoxically, Trump hoped to be able to pull it off until just a few days ago.
On June 10 a virtual G7 summit was supposed to take place in the US. As the Covid-19 pandemic is still taking its toll across the world, Donald Trump tried to hold the G7 in person in late June. After a (very) cold reception by the other leaders he had to postpone the meeting until September. However, this decision is raising further doubts, as the US presidential elections will be just around the corner, and as President Trump plans to invite other countries, most notably Russia. Is the G7 still a meaningful summit?