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From Ebola to COVID-19: what explains institutionalized manias and the ultimate preference for non-optimal solutions in global health governance?

Frederick Ahen (Department of Marketing and International Business, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 5 April 2021

Issue publication date: 17 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how “manias” in global health governance lead to health inequalities even before, during and in the aftermath of acute health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. “Manias” as used here refer to obsessive ir/rational behaviors, misguided policy/strategic choices and the exercise of power that benefit the major global health actors at the expense of stakeholders.


From post-colonial and historical perspectives, this study delineates how the major global health actors influence outcomes in global health governance and international business when they interact at the national–global level using an illustration from an emerging economy.


Power asymmetry in global health governance is constructed around the centralization of economic influence, medico-techno-scientific innovation and the geopolitical hegemony of a conglomerate of super-rich/powerful actors. They cluster these powers and resources in the core region (industrialized economies) and use them to influence the periphery (developing economies) through international NGOs, hybrid organizations, MNCs and multilateral/bilateral agreements. The power of actors to maintain manias lies in not only how they influence the periphery but also the consequences of the periphery’s “passivity” and “voluntary” renunciation of sovereignty in medical innovations and global health policies/politics.

Social implications

As a quintessential feature of manias, power asymmetry makes it harder for weaker actors to actually change the institutional conditions that produce structural inequalities in global health.


This timely and multidisciplinary study calls for a novel architecture of global health governance. Thus, democratizing global health governance with sufficiently foresighted investments that prioritize equitable access by and the inclusiveness of vulnerable stakeholders will help dismantle institutionalized manias while decreasing health inequalities.



The author would like to express his profound gratitude to Prof Dr Christoph Dörrenbächer, Prof. Rudolf Sinkovics and the Editors of the Special Issue for the constructive feedback on the earlier versions of the paper.

Funding: This research has been financially supported by Stiftelsen för Handelsutbildning i Åbo, Liikesivistysrahasto, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Anja and Erkki Toivanen’s Fund, Matti Koivurinta Foundation, Wallenberg Foundation, TS Concern’s Fund, University of Turku, the Turku School of Economics and the Turku University Foundation.


Ahen, F. (2021), "From Ebola to COVID-19: what explains institutionalized manias and the ultimate preference for non-optimal solutions in global health governance?", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 165-187.



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