Over a year after the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly pulled the brakes on the global economy, things appear to be returning to normal. Although the pace of recovery has varied across countries, with the possible exception of India where a late resurgence of a particularly deadly mutation of the virus claimed thousands of lives, it seems safe to conclude that the worst is now behind us. With slow but definite progress on the distribution and administration of the vaccine, the next few months should bring further relief to countries where, in the closing months of 2020, large swathes of the public feared the worst.
This edition of Democracy and Development is dedicated to an examination of the effects of the pandemic on Africa. It is underpinned by the conviction that it is never too early to draw crucial lessons from such a momentous event, even as scholars continue to disagree on basic facts about the virus, not least its origin. Like previous pandemics across human history, COVID-19 has had a profound effect on state-society relations. Whether in the advanced Global North or the struggling Global South, the pandemic has fanned the winds of social mistrust; in the process, it has forced many people to rethink their basic assumptions about the state, civil society, the global economy, and everything in-between.
The four papers in this edition, written in the dark winter of the pandemic and therefore stamped with some of the gloom that then prevailed, speak to CDD’s ongoing effort to provoke a debate about the social meaning of the pandemic. Together, they constitute an opening salvo in what we hope would be a sustained and productive debate.