The human tragedy of Covid-19 and the predicted effects of the outbreak on the global economy are putting a strain on the very fabric of our societies. Other looming issues, such as climate change, contribute to a picture that is all but bleak, and which will require brave choices and strong international leadership. In the current crisis, developing countries are faced with additional challenges, including shortages of healthcare workers, lack of fiscal and monetary capacity, income losses, poor urban planning, and overpopulation. As people in most Global South countries are likely to suffer the impact of such crisis more than in the developed world, solidarity beyond borders is being invoked and South-South solidarity is increasingly called upon as a necessary means to achieve global development, even by leaders of multilateral organisations such as the World Bank. In the past, the idea of a Global South has proved a successful source of identity for developing countries, incapsulating the common experience of colonialism and imperialism, and it has been used as a mobilising strategy based upon a critique of the inequalities of the current international system. China’s leadership often draws on this rhetoric to strengthen its own official discourse of a ‘shared community with a common destiny’.
In the face of current struggles, can the Global South and the values it claims to represent offer reasons for hope? Are there any lessons learned? Crises such as the outbreak of Covid-19 urge us to move beyond what are too often empty slogans and make concrete progress. China-Africa relations, which have been at the centre of many recent debates around the pandemic, offer an example of the potential of South-South cooperation, as well as what doesn’t work with it. Based on the events of the past few weeks, a few key issues have emerged as central to China-Africa relations and offer a glimpse on what the future of these ties holds: racism; the youth; social media & digital connectivity; debt; and narrative power.