Conspiracy theories and pandemic management in Africa: critical reflections on contexts, contradictions and challenges

Authors

  • Adeolu Oluwaseyi Oyekan Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18820/24150479/aa53i2/2

Keywords:

conspiracy theories, coronavirus, alienation, Africa, pandemic

Abstract

The coronavirus pandemic, though primarily a health issue, has had significant social, economic and political implications across the world. There are reasons to believe that some of the changes occurring are likely to be permanent even in a post-pandemic world, and there are even suggestions that the world may be entering a phase in which pandemics become recurrent. Making sense of all that the pandemic has brought has by no means been easy, even for scientists who have had to review and revise their claims as new discoveries about the virus are made. One of the fallouts of the pandemic has been a proliferation of conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, as well as efforts to contain it. Summed up, these theories of various shades allege that certain powerful forces are behind the pandemic, in pursuit of some narrow ends that range from the political to the religious. In this paper, I analyse conspiracy theories and the motivations behind them. Situating conspiracy theories within the pandemic, I argue that they are best understood not within the framework of a single theory but by an understanding of how diverse motivations generate different, even contradictory conspiratorial accounts. I argue that whereas conspiracy theories have become a feature of modern society, and have been amplified in the age of technology, they have low credibility value in explaining the pandemic, while having significant implications. I also argue that if left unchecked, conspiracy theories have the capacity to further undermine governments’ capacity to respond to big crises in Africa in the future. I conclude that conspiracy theories are best managed in a pandemic through consistent, transparent engagement rooted in trust-building between the people and governments, especially in Africa.

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Published

2021-12-14