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The Thorny Politics of Gratitude

China's Ambassador to Mali, Zhu Liying, handing over donations from the Jack Ma Foundation to local authorities. Image via @LiyingZHU1.

The COVID-19 crisis is nothing if not instructive. It has functioned like an X-ray, revealing hidden weaknesses in systems across the world. This isn’t only true in the narrow sense, relating to health care, insurance, and protective gear manufacturing systems. It’s also true in the wider, political sense. 

In some ways, the pandemic reinforces depressing stereotypes about the continent. The discussions around possible debt relief, and regular donations of PPE, ventilators and other medical gear, present a familiar scenario of Africa as a continent acted upon by external actors, defenseless against economic decisions made in Washington, Brussels, and Beijing.

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