IFK Panel 3 June @ 17.30 (SA), Inequality after Covid 19 – Letlhokwa Mpedi (UJ Dean of Law), Sridhar Venkatapuram (KCL Global Health Institute), Steven Friedman (UJ Professor, political scientist and public intellectual) – please register: https://universityofjohannesburg.us/4ir/covid-19/

Please join us for a panel discussion on Inequality after Covid, Wednesday 1 June @ 17.30 South Africa, W Europe |  16.30 UK | 11.30 US East Coast | 23.30 Beijing China | 01.30 [Thu] Sydney). Please “arrive” (log in) 15 minutes beforehand to ensure time for you to be admitted prior to the event as we admit participants individually for security reasons. We start sharp on the hour. To join you first need to register here: https://universityofjohannesburg.us/4ir/covid-19/


  • Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi is Executive Dean of Law at the University of Johannesburg and a specialist in labour law and social protection.
  • Dr Sridhar Venkatapuram is Senior Lecturer in Global Health and Philosophy at King’s College Global Health Institute.
  • Professor Steven Friedman is Professor at the University of Johannesburg. He is a political scientist, columnist, public intellectual, activist, former trade unionist and journalist.

Facilitated by Professor Alex Broadbent, Director of the Institute for the Future of Knowledge at the University of Johannesburg

You need to register to watch this live, and it will be posted as a recording afterwards. Register here:


This is the fourth in a series of webinars on Reimaging the World After COVID-19, organised by the Institute for the Future of Knowledge in collaboration with the UJ Library and Information Centre on the initiative of the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the University of Johannesburg.

Inequality After COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified inequalities between and across different groups and countries across the world. Effective social protection has been critical to the reduction of vulnerability. However, as many countries struggle to provide universal healthcare, the outbreak of COVID-19 has put pressure on healthcare systems globally. This has seen governments redirecting fiscus towards curtailing the effects of the pandemic, including in countries where healthcare systems are under-resourced and poorly staffed.

So far as we know, COVID-19 is markedly more dangerous for older people. Higher proportions of serious, critical and fatal COVID-19 are also observed among those suffering from certain other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and pre-existing heart disease. On the other hand, certain population groups are disproportionately impacted by economic and social disruption caused both by the disease itself and measures that are taken in an effort to curtail its spread. These include groups already marginalised by pre-existing structural inequalities among others: women and children, the elderly; racial, ethnic and religious minorities; People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA); Persons with Disabilities (PWD) (physical and/or mental); and migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Not all of these people are not at high risk from COVID-19 itself, while many people who are at risk from COVID-19 are not in this group. In particular, the very strong age-related gradient in risk of serious, critical and fatal COVID-19 means that the wealthier populations, which tend to be older, are over-represented among the groups at highest direct risk from COVID-19. Conversely, the poorer and thus younger a population is, the less at risk it tends to be from COVID-19, but the more at risk from disruption to economies, societies and health services created by the disease and associated response measures.

The world is more unequal than any single country. According to an Oxfam’s 2020 report titled, Time to Care: Unpaid and Underpaid Care Work and the Global Inequality Crisis, the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than 60% of the global population; and the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa. With closure of schools, many girls and children from low-income households have been affected, and some may not be able to go back to schools. Lockdown regulations restricting mobility have affected activities of younger workers as well as those in precarious types of employment. As rates of relative deprivation increase, states have introduced cash-based assistance and other forms of social support. Migrants have been responded to negatively across the world – Chinese descendants have reported xenophobia, with their businesses attacked; and African migrants in China have also have also suffered the same fate. COVID-19 has been seen the rise of right-wing nationalist-populist governments. On the other hand, the pandemic has also underscored the way that individual fates are intertwined in public health, and the necessity of strong public healthcare provision for responding to collective threats. It is fair to surmise that universal healthcare may in future be elevated in a number of countries’ policy priorities.

This webinar will explore the various issues concerning inequality that COVID-19 has highlighted as well as those created by the response to the disease. How should nation-states strengthen public health systems for future threats of this kind? Will conditions for precarious workers change post-pandemic? Governments will, for the short term at least, want to find alternative ways in which to support livelihoods, on pain of widespread malnutrition or even famine. How they are going to respond to increased deprivation? Will governments be able to fund these interventions? Will loans from international lenders come with conditions that may impact such schemes? How will COVID-19 influence migration regulation and border management, and ultimately, how are governments going to achieve a more inclusive society in which the respect for human rights for all will be achieved? Fundamentally, are there choices we can make now, as nations and a world, that will reduce the inequality and the hardship that falls on those at the bottom of the global pile?

Register here: https://universityofjohannesburg.us/4ir/covid-19/



UJ Panel on the Post-COVID World, Wed 13 May 5.30pm SA time, with Johan Giesecke, Joyce Banda and Sehaam Khan. I’ll be facilitating. Can’t wait! Register for the webinar here: https://universityofjohannesburg.us/4ir/covid-19/ #epitwitter

This is the first in a series of webinars on Shaping the Post-COVID World, organised by the Institute for the Future of Knowledge on the initiative of the Vice Chancellor’s Office at the University of Johannesburg.

You need to register to watch this live, and it will be posted as a recording afterwards. Register here: https://universityofjohannesburg.us/4ir/covid-19/

Historians distinguish two ends to a pandemic: the biological end, consisting in the eradication or control of the disease, and the social end, when people stop fearing the disease and society resumes its normal shape. The “Post-COVID World” may never come from a biological perspective, and some are also saying that it may never come from a social perspective either – that the world will never be the same again. Whatever the case, it is clear that the pandemic that took us by surprise was in fact highly predictable, and indeed predicted by the World Health Organisation, the former President of the United States, and many others. It is, moreover, anything but unprecedented. Sometimes, we cannot predict; but other times, we can, but don’t. Whatever the Post-COVID World is like, our first lesson must be to think more carefully and openly about the future – starting with the Post-COVID World itself.

Our first panelist, Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda, founded and leads the People’s Party in Malawi. She was President of Malawi 2012-2014. She is an advocate for the rights of women and children, two groups who have been disproportionately affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic despite being less at risk from the disease itself. Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with over half the population living in poverty and a quarter in extreme poverty (food insecurity and malnutrition), with significant dependence on foreign aid, rendering it vulnerable to global economic downturn. The human consequences of economic downturn will linger in Malawi and elsewhere long after the lockdowns in Europe and America have eased. When the world looks to the future, it must bear these consequences in mind.

Professor Johan Giesecke is an infectious disease epidemiologist, and the scientist masterminding the Swedish response. He has advocated focusing on what comes next – most strikingly, when he asked Australia whether it intended to keep its borders shut for 30 years, in the unlikely event it succeeded in eradicating the virus within them. Contrasting with the “lockdowns” implemented in many countries, the Swedish approach has been to focus on evidence-based (rather than precautionary) interventions to slow the spread of disease, and on protecting vulnerable groups. This is sometimes referred to as a “herd immunity” strategy, which is inaccurate; protecting the vulnerable is the goal, while herd immunity is a by-product of any strategy short of eradication. The Swedish approach stands in contrast to lockdowns pursued in many European countries, and is motivated in part by an eye on the medium and long term future.

Professor Sehaam Khan is a microbiologist and Dean of Health Sciences at the University of Johannesburg. Under lockdown, South African universities have moved to online delivery of teaching. Opinions differ as to how successful this is proving, and how sustainable it may be. Not all students are able to access online resources, and not all subjects are amenable to online teaching. Disciplines requiring hands-on training, including some medical disciplines and laboratory sciences, are heavily impacted by lockdown. Much more than schools, universities mix generations, and while evidence suggests that schools can be reopened without much risk, there is little evidence about universities. The sector will need to think ahead, bringing together health expertise with a deep understanding nature of the university and its and societal role, in order to emerge strong from the chaos.

A Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World: an aid to policy-makers in South Africa. A report of the Institute for the Future of Knowledge at the University of Johannesburg

A Framework for Decisions in a Post-COVID World – South Africa – Report 1.2

Decision Tool SA 1.0

Executive Summary

The document identifies six fundamental policy priorities which, together, constitute a framework for making all-things-considered policy decisions. These decisions must respond to immediate needs for action, but must also be taken with a view to the future (the post-COVID world). The policy decisions that frame them are not created by this pandemic: they existed before it, will persist beyond it, and constitute the reason that we care about COVID-19 and its consequences.

Available evidence suggests that South Africa’s lockdown lacks a strong evidence base, especially when compared to moderate scenarios rather than complete inaction. A one-page analysis (two-pages in the case of health) is provided for each of the following priorities.

  1. Health
  2. Food security and nutrition
  3. Education
  4. Economy and unemployment
  5. Vulnerable groups
  6. Governance and enforcement

A decision tool is offered for scoring these components to represent the impact of lockdown or other measure on that policy priority, and weighting them to represent the relative accordance afforded to e.g. health, the economy, and so on. This approach is customizable: items may be altered, added and subtracted from the list of policy priorities.

While the report writers offer their own recommendations based on the rationale encapsulated in their one-page summaries, in the end these are of secondary importance. This document is meant to support rather than prescribe to policy-makers, by enabling a decision process that makes implicit assumptions and value-judgements clear.

Our primary recommendation is that this framework be adopted, adapted and used by policy-makers for both making decisions and communicating the rationale for decisions, especially (i) decisions to allow and prohibit particular behaviours at different lockdown levels and (ii) decisions to move from one level to another.

Read the report | Access the decision tool

Note on versions: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 etc denote minor corrections and updates, e.g. spelling, references, etc. Versions can be used interchangeably for all intents and purposes. Substantive new editions are marked by an increment from 1.1, 1.2 etc to 2.0, 2.1, etc.