Retreat to Nationalism in the 21st Century Globalization: Lessons for Africa from COVID-19 - Conference Report

The conference was organized to provide a platform for African scholars and policy practitioners to deliberate on the challenges to globalization occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant containment measures. Specifically, the conference set out to achieve the following objectives: Map out the effects of the pandemic on international cooperation in the world and Africa in particular; Assess Africa’s foreign policy options in a divided, increasingly nationalistic international system; Understand the impact of an accelerated hostility between leading world economies on African countries; and lastly, Assess the role of multilateralism and international cooperation in the post-COVID-19 world. Organized into four sessions, the conference featured an opening address by the Vice-Chancellor of University of Nairobi, Chairman of the HORN Institute, and the Director of IDIS. This was followed by a keynote speech on the nexus between globalization, nationalism and COVID-19, followed by four presentations which focused on two subthemes: rising nationalism in the wake of COVID-19, and the place of Africa in international relations in the Post-COVID-19 era. In a nutshell, the conference found that the outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a rise of nationalism and protectionism as countries seek to contain the virus outbreak and its social-economic disruptions. Nationalism has manifested itself in international border closures, disruptions in the global value chains, parallel and competing vaccine-making efforts, and sustained attacks on multilateral institutions. There was general consensus that COVID-19 has revived and elevated the role of the state in international relations.