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Southern Powers in a Post-COVID-19 Development Landscape

18 May 2020

By Srimal Fernando

The coronavirus pandemic receives unprecedented press coverage around the world, not just because it is a public health emergency, but also because it is has caused a global economic crisis.  Currently the developing countries in the Global South are faced with an unprecedented challenge from this Covid-19 pandemic.

The Jindal Centre for the Global South (JCGS) organised a webinar on the topic ‘Southern Powers in a Post-COVID-19 Development Landscape’, to discuss the matter more broadly. The keynote speaker, Dr. Philani Mthembu, the Executive Director for the Institute for Global Dialogue, an independent foreign policy think tank in   South Africa, delivered an insightful lecture.

The webinar was facilitated by Dr. Hebatallah Adam, Executive Director of Jindal Centre of the Global South (JCGS) of Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA) . Eminent scholars from different think tanks and a number of university students joined in on the webinar as webinars become the new normal in the practice of social distancing.

Addressing the Jindal Centre for the Global South webinar Dr. Philani Mthembu said “the very notion of southern powers draws from work by emerging powers”.  Obviously the emerging southern powers could be a vital channel to counterbalance the increasing economic power of the global north. Furthermore the nations of the global south has maintained good relations with IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa),  SADC (Southern African Development Cooperation), and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member states on a number of key issues. Moreover the improvement of socio economic indicators in Africa has not just touched the African continent but has also had an overwhelming reflection on the global south.

Dr. Mthembu pointed out that “North –South cooperation remains relevant “. Change by nature comes from the past as well as moving towards the future. Global South nations have a powerful influence on the way forward of the global north.   In this context Dr. Philani Mthembu clearly emphasized the influence of the rise of the southern powers is a vital part in stabilizing the global development agenda.

Of late there have been many deliberations on the possible cooperation between the Global North and Global South for enhancing trading opportunities. These initiatives have the potential of linking all the resourceful economies of the north and south together.  However, the crucial question is how to secure such integration.  Although problems do exist, nonetheless as an international expert in North –South dialogues Dr. Mthembu said, “the question is whether the global south countries can step in and step up within the multi-lateral framework.”   

For the last couple of decades the countries in the global South have created newfound optimism in the relationship with many northern global countries.  Furthermore aid has played a major role in development efforts in Southern nations.   “The international    development   landscape   was already experiencing a number of changes before Covid- 19, “said Dr. Mthembu.  

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis the authorities in the Global South have enforced nationwide curfews that were followed by strict border control measures. The unprecedented nationwide lockdowns in the global south and the spillover effects of a global economic downturn due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis is likely to impact various sectors including tourism.  In this regard, “more intra-regional tourism can make a significant contribution to the   economic growth of these nations,” said Dr. Philani Mthembu to a question raised by the author. Nevertheless many countries of the global south know that they must begin to make sacrifices now for the long run revival of these economies.

In essence the coronavirus pandemic has brought economic activities   in many countries to a standstill.  However desperate times call for desperate new measures, thus countries in the global south are not ready to continue with the old approaches to revive their economies. However the domestic political set up needs to set priorities to bring about a different economic normalcy. It is clear that everything depends on how thoroughly the Global South and Global North learn from past mistakes.  The Global South must establish a mutually beneficial relationship among nations to find satisfactory solutions during the Post Covid-19 economic revival space.

Srimal Fernando is a Doctoral Fellow at Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), India and Advisor / Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa. He is the winner of the 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ award in South Africa, and has been the recipient of GCA Media Award for 2016.In the field of politics, and Policy affairs, Fernando is a specialist, with over ten years of first hand experience in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.




February/March 2020


















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