The COVID-19 pandemic is another momentous challenge for African countries, albeit one that the continent should use as an opportunity to fast-track the process of development and welcome the chance of becoming self-reliant and autonomous, as the West focuses on its survival and recovery.

The epicentre of the pandemic has gradually moved from China to Europe and now the United States. Bringing each of these countries to their knees and dismantling the myth that only the global south is susceptible to viral infections.

This is a great time to lay strong foundations of socio-economic reforms that prioritize African innovation, and allow African markets to transition economies from relying on the extraction of raw materials to the West into establishing local industries that turn raw materials into products on home soil.

The past few months have seen a surge in innovations towards combating the pandemic, from African countries. WHO in Africa held a virtual hackathon, bringing together 100 leading innovators in Africa to explore creative solutions to the pandemic as it became evident that there is a need to explore local innovative solutions towards combating the pandemic. This is proof that the continent has enough talent for sufficient innovative development. The global reboot should be used by African countries to invest in healthcare, alongside a stimulated growth in local pharmaceutical industries and biotechnology, education, infrastructure, and Innovations. 

Additionally, the exploitative trade agreements with foreign countries that seek to make African markets and economies dependent on foreign markets should be jettisoned. The African Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) that would see African countries trade within its borders without priority to Western countries should be fast-tracked and made operational. This will allow the African Union and other African sectors to easily assert their agency globally.

An effective economic transformation and a sustained development of local talent will encourage the development of the social sector and boost the overall development of the continent.

Just as Western countries have realised the mistake of outsourcing major productions of goods to China, Africa should strive to increase its investment in education and the continued expansion of local innovation and initiatives that will ensure that their nations are self-sufficient in industries vital to national security, safety, and health.

Haleed Sulemana is a writing fellow at African Liberty and field officer in CAMFED Ghana. He can be reached on Twitter via @Haleed_Nemo

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