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Control, Extract, Legitimate: COVID-19 and Digital Techno-opportunism across Africa.

Published version
Peer-reviewed

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Abstract

Across Africa, the deployment of digital solutions such as track and trace apps and vaccine passports to tackle COVID-19 largely failed in their public health objectives. Yet, in the process, these material interventions revealed and unleashed new potentialities of governance throughout the continent. This article examines these developments and their significance through historical and theoretical lenses. Since colonialism, African states have been built partially through responses to public health emergencies. Such emergencies have enabled authorities to experiment with and enact logics of control, extraction and legitimation. By interrogating the relationship between epidemics, power and technological artefacts, this article argues that COVID-19 constituted an exceptional event that both unmasked pre-existing logics of governance but also enabled experiments with novel techniques through digital technology. Digital techno-opportunist interventions did little to curb the spread of COVID-19, but such interventions nevertheless have ramifications and implications that extend beyond this moment. While the political outcomes of the rupture caused by COVID-19 are not yet fully known, and are subject to resistance and reimagination from below, the political opportunity of 'crisis' reveals distinctly new ways in which states and corporations are combining to pursue logics of control, extraction and legitimation across Africa in a digital age.

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Keywords

4404 Development Studies, 44 Human Society, Coronaviruses, Infectious Diseases, Emerging Infectious Diseases

Journal Title

Dev Change

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

0012-155X
1467-7660

Volume Title

Publisher

Wiley