What has Africa learnt from the effects of COVID-19 on development and international relations? This is what the Institute for Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS) in conjunction with the Horn Institute for Strategic Studies sought to understand when they hosted a webinar titled “Retreat to Nationalism in the 21st Century Globalization: Lessons for Africa from COVID-19.”

The virtual conference provided an understanding and appreciation of the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on International relations, and lessons about Africa’s place in the post COVID-19 pandemic international system.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Paul Zaleza, Vice-Chancellor, United States International University-Africa gave an insightful presentation that shaped the conversation.

“The social formations of nationalism had been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “At the moment, tensions between nationalism and globalization are more potent than ever. The corona virus pandemic had enhanced nationalism from citizens working together to battle the crisis. On the other hand, globalization has been greatly affected following closure of borders and international travel restriction.”

Prof. Zeleza called upon African nations to actively participate in setting the global agenda including actively seeking the COVID-19 vaccine and medications.

“As Africans we need to believe in our capabilities rather than sitting on the receiving end because we have abundant natural resources and human capital,” he added.

The Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi, Prof. Stephen Kiama said that the discourses on response to the COVID-19 crisis have generated multi-stakeholder approaches at all levels of society including the academia.

 “This conference comes at an important juncture of current events that continue to question the current shifts in international relations occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” he noted. “In reality, universities of excellence such as the University of Nairobi are enjoined in various knowledge-based approaches through our various schools of knowledge to unravel the on-going debates regarding a post COVID 19 international system.”

Indeed, it is possible for states and other international actors to put aside their selfish interests and work for the common good of humanity. However, Post Covid-19 era does not look good for globalization. The retreat to nationalism is bound to create hurdles to contemporary globalization. Questions on the Moral value and effects of neoliberalism are bound to arise. Migration policies in the post covid-19 era will be more stringent and this will obviously affect the movement of people and also the movement of goods and services. There is an opportunity for reconfiguration of international trade.

Even academic institutions with global outlook like the University of Nairobi in Kenya and Harvard University in the US will experience the impact of stringent visa regulations in the post COVID period.

“We will have to re-strategize on the mode of delivery of our international programs or lobby for favourable policy regulations to support our Internationalization programs,” said Prof. Kiama.

Prof. Maria Nzomo, Director, IDIS, said that even though Africa had come up with sound policies and legal frameworks, few were actually being implemented.

“Why haven’t we implemented the 1994 Abuja treaty? Why haven’t we implemented the 1973 Addis Ababa declaration or the Kinshasa declaration on the common markets?” She posed.

The webinar held on July 16, 2020, brought together students, scholars and industry experts from different parts of the world.