The scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, which our country has been fighting over the course of the past few months, has shown us the importance of international relationships in overcoming this silent enemy.
As part of these international efforts, President Uhuru will this month chair the first virtually held meeting of the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).
This organisation, comprised of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states, was founded in 1975 to encourage collaboration on common issues including economics and development, as well as facing joint challenges.
And never has the importance of working together to face joint challenges been as important as it is today.
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This meeting, titled the “Inter-sessional Summit on Transcending Covid-19”, will be chaired by Uhuru, the current rotating President of the organisation.
Considering the successful measures implemented thus far in our country and many other OACPS nations to contain the virus, sharing strategies will be high on the agenda.
A statement by the OACPS leadership paraphrased this well, explaining that “A coordinated approach is required in efforts to control and manage the multiplicity of threats, including economic and humanitarian challenges posed by the pandemic”.
This collaborative approach has mirrored similar statements made by our own president who in a recent virtual meeting with other East African leaders stated, “A unified stand is what we need to combat this pandemic in the region”.
Advocating for international cooperation in times of emergency might not at first glance appear to be a revolutionary approach. However, the history of relations between states tells us that in times of need, states more often than not ignore opportunities for cooperation and put their own well-being first.
This has been seen extensively in the battle against Covid-19, with states vying, often violently, for personal protective equipment (PPE) for their medical personnel as well as for much needed international funding.
Just look at the United States, a country which under normal circumstances prides itself on an unwavering commitment to fostering cooperation and assisting partners globally. However, the current crisis it has been facing at home has significantly limited its ability to do so. This has required the American government to drastically cut global development programs and even impinge on free market principles and prevent the export of much needed PPE to some of its closest partners.
Uhuru has understood, however, that independent actions by individual states will not bring an end to this pandemic. Viruses do not stop at international borders.
That is why Uhuru has made sure that his closest partners in what might be the biggest challenge of his presidential career are Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and South Sudan President Kiir.
Aside for stopping the virus, this regional cooperation will prove instrumental in maintaining the flow of goods between countries and preventing an economic crisis that would surely come with the hermetic sealing of our border crossings.
International cooperation and particularly the sharing of technological knowhow which it facilitates, has also proven important in limiting the impact of the virus.
This has been seen most prominently in one of our country’s hardest hit sectors, agriculture. The virus has hit this sector particularly hard both in terms of the farmers’ ability to export already harvested crops and to adequately prepare for the coming year’s harvest.
In order to help find solutions, the government has encouraged collaboration with international partners who are leaders in the field of research and development. These have included private sector entities with which our government maintains a working relationship, in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel. These already existing relationships have proven to be fertile ground for furthering cooperation in resolving challenges emerging from the current Covid-19 crisis.
Although crisis was the catalyst for the deepening of some of these international partnerships, relationships cultivated during this crisis will continue to serve the needs of our country long after the pandemic is gone.
Similarly, leadership displayed by our president during this global time of need will undoubtedly translate into future further regional and global leadership for our country. The new regional and global landscape which will emerge in the post Covid-19 era, will favour those who took advantage of the pandemic to establish and strengthen connections instead of utilising crisis to sow divisions.
Mr Leo is a public policy analyst