Whose Crisis?: The global COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of communities in Africa

Whose Crisis? is a AHRC-GCRF project. The AHRC – Urgency Grants pilot programme recognising the fast-moving nature of many of the challenges facing low or middle income countries (LMICs). The AHRC has launched this scheme to provide an accelerated funding outlet for urgent arts and humanities research priorities. This project will run for 12 months, from September 2020 to August 2021, with a total funding of £150,000.

Project Team

PI, Co-Is & PM 

Mia Perry, School of Education, University of Glasgow (PI)

Jude Robinson, Institute of Health & Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

Jo Sharp, School of Geography, St Andrew’s University

Zoe Strachan, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow

Nicol Keith, Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow

Prof Sola Ajayi, First-Technical University, Ibadan, Nigeria

Vanessa Duclos, School of Education, University of Glasgow (PM)

Advisors

Deepa Pullanikkatil, SFA; Abundance, Eswatini
Sizwe Mabaso, University of Eswatini, Eswatini
MmaB Modise, University of Botswana, Botswana
Tom Ketlogetswe, Thapong Arts Centre, Botswana
Priscilla Achakpa, World Environmental Program, Nigeria
Femi Babatunde, Governor’s Office, Osun State, Nigeria
Helen Todd, Art and Global Health Centre, Malawi
Jonathan Chiwanda, Ministry of Health, Malawi
Boyson Moyo, LUANAR, Malawi
Alex Okot, Apala Widows and Orphanage Centre, Uganda
Reagan Kandole, ECOaction, Uganda
Richard Kagolobya, Makerere University, Uganda
Sola Ajibade, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
Elson Kambalu, Art House Africa, Malawi
Alasdair Currie, Multiplied by, Scotland

Research Assistants

Stewart Paul, LUANAR, Malawi

Bosco Chiconda, ArtGlo, Malawi

Daniel Abiodun, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Eunice Tofunmi Ajibade, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Research Administrators

Grace Awosanmi, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Goitse Mmeko, University of Botswana, Botswana

Dora Nyirenda, LUANAR, Malawi

Dalton Otim, Makerere University, Uganda

Project Scope

Although COVID-19 is a health issue, the crisis is far more than a health crisis. It is a social and cultural one that is currently poorly understood and minimally represented in the context of the Global South. The project is an urgent response to a rapidly evolving global pandemic whereby the North is leading — by example and economic pressure — a response to an emergency affecting communities all over the world. The “Whose Crisis?” project aims to co-curate representations and develop understandings of the social and cultural crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and expose unseen and misunderstood aspects of this time. The project will provide critical insights and inform and contribute to more equitable global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education.

Immediate cultural production, critical commentary and public policy are being showcased and circulated globally with substantial affect – this may prove to be the most documented pandemic in history. However, the dominant discourses are generated in the Global North, overwhelmingly by a minority of wealthy and powerful authors, reflecting on a crisis that, while impacting the whole world, is experienced in vastly different ways. This project positions our Southern partners centrally as agents of change within the volatile environment of the COVID-19 crisis.

The overarching aim is to amplify the voices of under-represented and under-served communities in Africa to contribute to the understanding of Global Health in a pandemic context. It will be achieved through two main objectives:

  1. To document and communicate the plural and diverse lived experiences of, perspectives on, and responses to, COVID-19 in vulnerable communities in sub-Saharan Africa at a community and household level.
  2. To share perspectives and experiences in participatory and culturally responsive ways to mobilise Northern and Southern expertise, resources and engagement.

This project will mobilise the rapidly evolving COVID-19 expertise within the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network, and the capacity of partner communities, to create the SFA COVID-19 Global Voices Hub, that curates, consolidates, acknowledges and catalyses experiences, perspectives and responses to the pandemic. This project will create a platform and a pathway for understanding and exchange for societal, health, economic, government and public stakeholders, to inform responsive action. The implications of ignoring cultural perspectives and practices and missing the opportunities to learn from all, will lead to further inequity, misdirected policies, misallocated resources, increased dominance of certain viewpoints and increased ignorance of the plurality of our experiences.

Project Deliverables

This initiative will support interconnectivity, a plurality of perspectives, and a more balanced response to COVID-19, as well as inform related global health issues. The main outputs are the documentations of the experience of COVID-19 at community and household level from communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Within that, digital artefacts will vary from audio narratives to written accounts and stories, to images, performances, songs, and materials brought together in:

1

SFA COVID-19 Global Voices Hub (Digital space)

2

The Collection (Co-curated book)

3

Academic articles & media outputs

4

Regional policy recommendations

ESRC Festival of Social Sciences

The Whose Crisis project will participate to the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Sciences (FoSS) which will take place online from Nov 7th to 15th.

Although COVID-19 is a health issue, the crisis is far more than a health crisis. It is a social and cultural one that is currently poorly understood and minimally represented in the context of the Global South. The Whose Crisis? event will showcase and explore the essential social science expertise and insights required to provide critical insights to the complex nature and sustainable pathways to recovery of this pandemic. In this way, the social sciences are positioned to inform and contribute to more equitable global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education. Decisions, perspectives, and opportunities are being made and missed every week as the global condition shifts. It is possible that the peak of the pandemic is yet to happen in Africa and the unintended consequences of an unchecked monolithic Northern narration of this global issue will be devastating to already vulnerable populations. This social science event contributes to an international project that is an important part of the re-balancing of knowledges and perspectives.

Register to the event