Can The Real Africa Please Stand up and Take Her Correct Position?
The Aftermath of the Unannounced Arrival of COVID-19 in Africa
When the break out of COVID-19 was first announced, to many of us in Africa it sounded so far fetched, in some remote city of China many African never knew existed. We went on with our lives, traveling, hustling, partying, mourning and everything else we have always done. But two months into 2020, COVID-19 had crossed oceans and in different directions freely without a visa, arriving in Africa suddenly unannounced. Even with such uncomfortable arrival of COVID-19 in Africa, we went about our business, but constantly looking back on our shoulder ready to run if COVID-19 came close. As it came closer, governments sprang into action, sensitizing their populations on preventive measures; washing hands, sanitizing and social distancing! When Uganda "outlawed" shaking hands and hugging, the rest of Africa was still making jokes, but very soon many countries followed suit, with even more stringent measures like curfews or lock downs! At this point, many of us did not only go into a state of shock, but fear took over and it seemed like we could not think of anything else other than corona virus. Almost all news on radio/television, or posts on social media groups, was about corona this, or corona that, and there was no where to hide!. The news took a toll on many; I was not spared. The truth is people needed intermittent positive news to keep the hope. National and International news kept recounting new infections, and deaths instead of recoveries. I personally did get liberated one day when a friend sent me a video of a Spanish or was it Italian man destroying his television set because he could not enjoy his day anymore; the constant corona news was too much. His destruction of his television set gave me hope that I could do something; so I deleted some whatsapp groups and started posting positive messages on my social media and vowed not to forward any message that would increase fear. Overall, it seemed basic hygiene maintenance, and abstaining from handshaking and hugs was received well, but social distancing, curfews and lock downs drew frustration, anger, and revolt in some countries.
Re-awakening the African Spirit
During curfews or lock downs, Africans from South Africa, to Nigeria, to Kenya are finding time to read, follow and respond to World news. Africans from East to West reacted angrily to the television discussion of two French doctors who intimated that the COVID-19 vaccine trials should start in Africa. In these reactions, Africans argued that it was ironical for the French doctors to suggest vaccine testing start in Africa, given that the virus has to date caused more damage in America and Europe; why not then start clinical trials over there? The Africans read a sinister motive in the French doctors' suggestion. Then there is the Bill Gates' stories of his foundation spearheading the development, and eventual implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine, and Africans are asking why and how Bill Gates is so informed on the virus/medical research more than qualified medical professionals? Why is he and WHO so worried about Africa? Africans observe that, while such worry appears noble on the surface, they wonder why Bill is not worried about America right now or even Italy for that matter? Is Bill Gates really a friend of Africa? My conclusion from the stories circulating, whether conspiracy or not is that Bill Gates and his cohorts our "American big brother" are only interested in creating and monopolizing wealth, and Africa is just a means. Should Africa trust Bill Gates and the other American Foundations pretending to help Africa? NO! Africans must critique foreign aid more, and/or any other support provided by these foundations. In fact, more than ever before Africans should arise to the fact that, "free things are not always free". I, for one have become so suspicious to the extent that when a friend sent me an invite to attend Africa.com webinars in collaboration with Harvard Business School, to explore coping with COVID-19 in Africa, I was furious! Why Harvard? Why not University of Capetown or Makerere? or University of Nairobi or even Dar-es Salaam or Lagos? Should Harvard not be concentrating first on helping America, then second Africa? I'm not alone, there are many Africans that are as furious as I'm if not more.
On a different note, there has been wide circulation of videos showing discrimination against Africans in China, and Africans are not letting this pass like they would usually do, they are furious, and are demanding action from their governments, for after all, why should Africa play nice to millions of Chinese across the African continent, when their own are being treated like second class citizens in China? Guinea is leading the way according to reports circulating on the internet; they have arrested Chinese nationals and demanded return of its citizens in "one piece" for exchange of the Chinese nationals, and Africans are clapping their hands, and that alone should be a clear message of the mood. Africans are actually saying "enough is enough"! To the Chinese and those in the West who may want to treat our citizens like second class beings, remember, yours are also in our countries, and as the saying goes, "don't throw stones if you live in a class house".
On creativity and innovation, inability to import due to boarder closures is forcing Africans to innovate. In the last two weeks alone, I have read articles outlining innovative ways South Africa, Malawi and Kenya and probably other African countries are manufacturing their own COVID-19 preventive gears such as masks, sanitizers and medical protective clothing! If boarders were open I can bet that these countries could have found it easier to import these stuff, but they have been forced to look within for solutions. All of over sudden, we know that Africa has capacity, but probably due to greed and poor leadership and may be a bit of laziness, they have not leveraged on this capacity for the benefit of the people until now, but the tide is surely turning. Even African college students at home and abroad are taking to their social media to take a firm stand against any perceived injustices on Africans. Now our children are beginning to use Facebook, Instagram and twitter, not for posting pictures but pass relevant messages to each other and carry out debates on what Africa needs to do. I hope the sleeping African Union will wake up from its deep slumber and hear the crying voices of the continent's children.
Where Does Africa go from here?
I believe, having being woken up from slumber by COVID-19, Africans must believe more in themselves, and look more within for solutions. We should share more in regard to "made in Africa" whether products or people and subsequently buy more Africa. African Universities and research institutions should collaborate more and provide direction in innovation and development. Support our children in what they have started, using social media for more productive purposes in addition to sites and pictures and encourage them to be part and process of finding African solutions. African Union should stop sleeping and play its role properly or shut down. Lastly Africa should not tolerate greedy and corrupt governments; governments must begin to demonstrate that the government is for the people.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Teresa Maru