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Dear Friend and Partner, 

We are pleased to resume the regular publication of our Newsletter, an important medium through which TrustAfrica has been communicating with you about both global and the specifically African issues. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will profoundly change the world, as we know it, and mark a remarkable turnaround in the shape of global society. TrustAfrica was born from a vision to enable African actors to respond most effectively to the most pressing issues affecting the continent. And COVID-19 will surely be recorded as not only one of the most pressing issues of our time, but also as an occurrence which has most acutely highlighted the fault lines in our society.

We are just at the beginning of this long road, and there is so much and systemic work we need to do to ensure that those who have been left behind, including our environment, become the centre of our collective efforts for socio-economic-political transformation equality across our systems of governance. This crisis moment in our history requires us to think deeply and broadly about the society we are building. At Trust Africa, these are the big questions we are grappling with together with our broader community. As we think things through, we are also taking action.

African thought leadership

The urgency to invest in deep thinking about how we co-develop sustainable ways for the continent to evolve and reshape the dominant narratives about Africa and make breakthroughs required for our contexts could not be more critical. At TrustAfrica, we wholly appreciate the efforts being made by African governments, CSOs, communities and philanthropists. We associate ourselves wholeheartedly with the Open letter from African intellectuals to leaders over the COVID-19; urging African leaders to use the coronavirus pandemic crisis as an opportunity to spur radical change. Indeed, we are more convinced than ever that Africans need to lead the thinking, frame the policies and devise the mechanisms that will make the continent's response to the pandemic adequate and contribute to the building of a better, post-Covid-19 world.

It is with great sadness that during this period we said goodbye to two of our great African thought leaders Professor Thandika Mkandawire and Professor Ken Walibora who were at the forefront of such radical African-led thinking to put Africa firmly on the path of progressive transformation.

Professor Mkandawire was a prominent intellectual who had a profound impact on development thinking. After having led the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) for ten years, during which time he greatly advanced the building of a pan-African intellectual community, he also headed the United Nations Institute for Research on Social Development (UNRISD) for ten years, before becoming holder of the Chair of African Development at the prestigious London School of Economics. The author of numerous development publications, Thandika, as he preferred to be called, has also mentored and supported generations and generations of African intellectuals.

Ken was a great journalist and a brilliant academic who understood the importance of using African languages ​​hence his brilliant publications in KiSwahili.

They have left a great legacy of activism and carved out a path for inclusive and sustainable development for our continent. The greatest tribute we can give to them therefore is to continue the good work they have started. To start with, we cannot continue to cut and paste policies that we know to be detrimental to our citizens. Now is the time for Africa to challenge orthodox impositions and critically rethink its future within the framework of our dynamic and constantly changing world. At TrustAfrica we are continuing to invest in thinking about what it means to Challenge Orthodoxies in Economic Thinking as a counter to the replication of models for our continent with little critical thought to the implications on our communities.

We are also reflecting on the importance of local responses and local solutions. In particular the growing discourse around food systems and food sovereignty will be critical for Africa now and in the post-COVID era. In our partnerships with small holder farmers we are seeing great improvement as they continue to harness various opportunities to improve productivity. At TrustAfrica, we are steering local response and solutions to safeguard African farming communities and food sovereignty. We are also impressed to see local responses in the form of mutual aid networks, which have always been nested in our communities, taking the lead and getting some affirmation as some of the most impactful philanthropists. These self-organizing formations are raising key questions for us in the African philanthropy community about what it means to empower and invest in authentic local community response. In Ogoniland through the Kiisi-Trust Fund we are involved in ongoing dialogue with partners and grantees to better understand what sort of assistance would be most helpful. We also have initiating a series of Tweet Chats with other civil society actors in West Africa on a range of topics looking at challenges and opportunities from the COVID-19 crisis. In Zimbabwe, we have created a platform for community leaders from across the country to come together as Fellows under our Gateway Zimbabwe initiative to constantly check in with each other and share developments from their respective communities and offer each other support. This constant connecting led to the development of a series of widely shared resources on natural tips to stay healthy during COVID-19, including tips on mental health. While the effects of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe are still to be seen, community leaders are taking time to sense into what this time and the aftermath call for, and to share practical information with their communities and devise response to become healthier and more resilient in the present and future.

More Than Ever Close to Communities

Through our work as the Zimbabwe Alliance, we have been able to support sustained consultations of civil society under the banner of Citizens’ Manifesto which has enabled CSOs to release a series of joint advocacy statements and collaborate in local responses to the Covid-19 crisis. Our support to local partners include providing resources to informal sector networks, namely Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation and Bulawayo Venderos and Traders Association, working with City Officials to carry out awareness raising among their members and provide sanitary products. Additionally, we have supported Chitungwiza Residents Trust in helping organize food drives for the vulnerable during lockdown. We have supported Amandla Network in a community gardening initiative that aims to increase the knowledge, production and consumption of nutritious food.

Debt Relief

The indebtedness of African countries has always been one of our concerns at TrustAfrica. While debt is a global concern, the debt situation in Africa is both frightening and alarming. The IMF 2018 Regional Economic Outlook clearly shows that there is a new debt crisis in Africa requiring urgent steps to mitigate the debt burden. As of 2017, at least 43 African countries have exceeded the 55 percent debt-to-GDP ratio deemed as sustainable debt by the International Monetary Fund.

The impact of COVID 19 is certain to make matters worse as countries in Africa and elsewhere face looming economic recession. This raises serious concerns and highlight the need for international financial institutions to cancel the debt obligations of African countries to help them withstand the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only recently, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari reiterated this call after a meeting of member states of the Non Alligned Movement. TrustAfrica lends its voice to the debt cancellation plea. However, beyond debt cancellation, there is an urgent need for African countries to reform public finance policies to put in place more transparent and accountable conditions under which they contract debt.

Threat to Human Rights and Closing Civic Space

Fear is always a ripe breeding ground for the erosion of liberties and freedoms. COVID-19 is proving no different. While governments are working hard to protect their citizens from this public health threat, the resort to cutting freedoms of speech, freedom of association and the use of violence to enforce measures create a deep trust deficit between citizens and governments, thereby exposing the fragility of our democracies.

Finally, at TrustAfrica, we consider ourselves privileged to be able to take our lead from the communities and civic groups with whom we partner. It has always been our commitment to play a role in bringing these courageous actors to the table as agents of their own transformation. The COVID-19 season is no different in this regard. As the trend of this global pandemic became clearer, we quickly affirmed and signed the Philanthropy Call to Action in Response to COVID-19 as show of solidarity with our partners across the continent. We followed this by setting up a Covid-19 Africa Solidarity Fund to support Emergency Response Units deployed in several countries across the African continent, to help curb the spread of the pandemic. In this regard, we donated six million CFA to the government of Senegal, where our headquarters is located; and supported the above stated CBOs responses in Zimbabwe. Our latest Pan-African collaboration, to which we invite you, is the Community Immunity Initiative which is born of the core values of Ubuntu that we hold so dearly at TrustAfrica. The pandemic has reminded us that Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. So in with our partners Southern African Trust and African Philanthropy Network, we are working on a global campaign to mobilise support for communities most at risk of being left behind. Please join us in ensuring that the most vulnerable are supported and no one is has to be left behind today and in the future.

As the world enters, yet another great transition, we invite you to invest in and start building the future we want now. Stay safe everyone!

Ebrima Sall
Executive Director
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