From ‘commodity currencies’ to COVID loans: Africa and global inequality, past and present

by Toby Green

24 Aug 2022
Journal of the British Academy, volume 10 (2022)
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Abstract: This article focuses on the question of Africa and global inequalities, bridging research in the past with the experience of the present. It argues that frameworks of indebtedness and growing inequalities have characterised the African continent’s relationship with globalisation at times of structural socioeconomic crisis. This was true in the early modern period, and can also be seen to characterise the macroeconomic framework of the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Understanding the pandemic response through a structural and longue durée economic perspective opens up new avenues of interpretation and shows the importance of perspectives from the humanities and social sciences in shaping pandemic responses. Comparative historical approaches, socioeconomic continuities, and the critique of power provided by non-STEM subjects are shown to be vital in shaping a more holistic understanding of the pandemic time, and of how to respond to future pandemics.

Keywords: Africa, inequality, Covid-19, humanities, social sciences, pandemic response.

A British Academy Lecture, read 22 February 2022.

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