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

This brief is an outcome of the webinar conference held on July 16, 2020 and co-hosted by the HORN Institute and the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS) at the University of Nairobi. The webinar brought together leading scholars and researchers in the field of International Relations drawn from across Africa to discuss actual and potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on international cooperation and globalization agenda with a view to drawing lessons for Africa. With the rise of nationalism and protectionism across the world, it was established that the pandemic has induced significant changes to the practice of globalization. Multilateral cooperation has shrunk at all levels as countries have become more inward-looking, with weak or completely lacking inter-country coordination and support. With the acceleration of the United States-China power struggle, new dynamics have emerged in the international system with Africa becoming the new centre for geopolitics. As such, strategically re-evaluating Africa’s agency in the international system, recalibrating relations with both America and China, expanding regional and continental markets, intensifying inter country cooperation across the continent and promoting domestic industrial growth are some of the policy actions that African governments and multilateral institutions can adopt to preserve their space and advance their interests in the ongoing shifts.