While confined to my home in New Jersey, I have winced at each new report of the coronavirus spreading back in Nigeria. Like many Africans, I have vivid memories of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and the palpable fear that permeated that season is hard to forget. On Friday, my family's WhatsApp group received a mass message that scared us: my aunt’s coworker in a government building in Nigeria had been exposed to the virus, but still came in to work. Panic and confusion set in—it took us three days to verify this information was in fact false.
Discussions of COVID-19 often cast the Global South as the tragic victim of an imminent surge in cases. Doctors and public health experts have lamented the weak health systems in the Global South—there are fewer than 130 ICU beds in Haiti and perhaps only 500 ventilators for 190 million people in Nigeria. However, this focus on tertiary care, while justified, neglects the lessons that places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has battled many epidemics before, could teach the United States about how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NYU Center on International Cooperation, like our partners and colleagues around the world, is adapting our work to cope with the impact of the COVID–19 pandemic and contribute within our own areas of expertise. This message from CIC Director Sarah Cliffe explains how our work on peace, justice, inclusion, and reducing inequalities will continue, as we also strive to to contribute to the global conversation about how governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society can respond to COVID–19.
A neighbor in her seventies or eighties paused last week when she saw my husband playing in the garden with our four-year old daughter, in the lockdown we now face. She told him that she was on her way to have her one daily cigarette—no doubt medically inadvisable, but why not have a small pleasure now?—and that she was thinking about how the world had changed with “the virus.” And then she said, “you know, I think that there are birds chirping now in Beijing, people can breathe the air better in Rome and Madrid.
South Africa is preparing to back one of the largest infrastructure projects on the continent: the Inga III hydroelectric dam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A new report from CIC’s Congo Research Group and Phuzumoya Consulting, I Need You, I Don’t Need You: South Africa and Inga III, places South Africa’s backing of Inga III in the context of foreign policy, arguing that the contradictory and uncertain dynamics of South African support for the dam puts into question the bankability—and indeed the feasibility—of the whole project.