Avuxeni Afrika!

The struggle for racial freedom is far from over! The English National Soccer team knelt as part of a pre-match tradition, recently, to show an anti-racism stance. English soccer fans booed their own national team. What further complicates this and makes  it sad is the non-committal response given by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, when he said: “We fully respect the right of those who choose to peacefully protest and make their feelings known. We are more focused on action rather than gestures.” Mr Prime Minister, let me put it to you: There is no right for anyone to condemn others based on their skin colour. Those hooligans must be told the truth. Here Is my message to those hooligan fans: “They are antiquated, pathetic, pitiable, irresponsible and unwise. Above all – they belong to the waste basket of history”. Period!

Jambo Africa Online congratulates Morocco for defending their title and winning the Pan African Mathematics Olympiad held in Tunisia for 2021. We also congratulate all the countries that participated in this intellectual jamboree. Keep that mind positive, young folks!

Congratulations are also due to Egypt’s Al Ahly Football Club for winning the 2021 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Super Cup. They were managed by the indomitable coach Pitso Mosimane. 

Without a fair global health system, there is no humanity

Franz Fanon predicted that colonialism, as a godfather of discrepancies, would result in an uneven global health system that betrays a post-independence Africa. 

The human dilemma is caused by the covert (sometimes overt) approach by some which tends to interpret health as merely a collection and control of diseases and the availability of medication and medical practitioners. As humanity, we need every other person’s health and livelihood to persist in order to assure our species of unceasing existence. 

Global Health is a complex system

The truth is that health is a complex system. It is not some solitary fractions superseding one another. This complexity shows its presence as an expression of power, exploitation, collusion, exclusion, access, discrimination and poverty.  Those with power play hide-and-seek with the intermediary tools that they possess. The captains of the global economy push citizens of developing and least developed countries to the periphery, colluding with some unscrupulous governments. They systematically exclude the possibility of developing local manufacturing capacities in order to keep developing economies begging for assistance. 

Global Health is under attack

We are all under attack and our enemy is the same. The enemy does not discriminate along the lines of the economic stratum, the tribe, the clan, the race, the geographic location, the political group, the level of education or the religion that you belong to. It is politics of difference and supremacy, among others that are delaying the creation of a truly fair global health system. These differences are nothing but entrapments of political buffoonery and are devaluing the story of humanity. 

The world, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been in a war to increase the life expectancy of all human beings over the past decades. In the middle of that effort – BOOM! – COVID-19 has reared its ugly head. 2020 presented one of the most shattering episodes in the history of humankind. 

The word COVID-19 can be broken up into four (4) elements. “CO” is for corona. “VI” is short for virus and “D” is short for disease. The first COVID-19 case was reported in 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China on the last day of 2019. Following this, human life has never been the same again. Yes, it will never be the same again.

Africa is under attack

The United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres observed that the pandemic has rolled back decades of hard work of entrenching human rights because it has opened space for “poverty, discrimination, destruction of the natural environment and other human rights failures”. That speaks more to our conditions in Africa.

His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda declared earlier this week that all Ugandan schools and places of worship be closed as well as forbade the use of public transport across the country and all social gatherings for 42 days (that is, until 18 July 2021). During this period of lockdown in Uganda, funerals will be limited to 20 people only.

Consider that Africa continues to be under-developed and under-resourced largely because of the legacy of colonialism. The huge responsibility on the table to fight this COVID-19 war is such a mammoth task. African governments have begun to prioritise this battle in order to ensure that each country does not provide a habitat for such a virus.

Overcrowding

Africa has such a big uninhabited amount of land. The irony is that Africa is also overcrowded. Africans run away from the rural areas to escape the ills of poverty and unemployment only to find themselves in spaces crammed with overcrowding, intenercine violence and disease. As a by-the-way, I must confess that I am a rural boy myself (born, bred, nurtured and still am a part of the best rural life that Africa possesses). 

Massive migration into the African cities has become a norm and has led to the subsequent high establishment of an array of informal settlements slums. This migration does not go hand in hand with securing employment opportunities or improvement in the quality of life. In fact, it provides a good habitat for the spread of COVID-19.

Attacking an educated Africa

COVID-19 is challenging Africa’s efforts to prioritise education. In some countries schools are closed (example is Uganda as afore mentioned in this script) whilst in others learners attend school on alternative days. The UN has warned that in some instances (not limited to Africa) girls are likely to face the ugliest outcomes of this pandemic with possibilities of them dropping out of school, being vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and domestic violence.

COVID-19 is instructing Africa to pull her socks up because the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is advancing and is beginning to exclude African children from being able to catch up with the demands of their curricula (whilst forced to seat at home without internet connectivity). Two weeks ago our Publisher’s Comment focused on mobile connectivity and how Africa and south Asia were lagging behind. And as such, home schooling is a challenge for many. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I tell you that beyond this pandemic, we are going to (as parents) face a deep psychological hurdle that our children will face when we resume the normalcy of our lives.

African economies  continue to decline

The decline in various African Countries’ Gross Domestic Products (GDPs), the poor participation by the citizens in the economy of those countries and corruption in the private as well as public sectors continue to steal a number of years in the average living years of Africans. This has gone hand-in-glove with a degenerating Gini co-efficient. COVID-19 has deepened the Gini co-efficient crisis and has been showing a relatable increase (on average) in statistics of a decline in achieving the acceptable levels of health outcomes. 

What is also worrying is the approach used by various African countries in the purchase of medical supplies. Importing medication that can be produced in Africa from other continents is one of our weakest spots. That argument can also be applied to the lack of transfer of skills in the health sector between African countries.

COVID-19 and AfCTFA

The World Bank, last year, projected that Africa stood to increase intra-African trade by 49% by 2035 and, resultantly, lifting 65 million people out of abject poverty. AfCTFA has, therefore, been grossly affected by this unfortunate pandemic. This has affected the production and export performance by various African countries. 

It will be deeply worrying to see some of the COVID-19 related effects in the near future. Africa is still battling to contain COVID-19 across the continent with no exception whilst the majority of the rest of the world has advanced in efforts to curb its spread. It has already impacted negatively on travel and trade within and outside Africa.

Africa may, if this is not speedily addressed in a co-ordinated way, see herself spending more on managing morbidity, burying lost lives and implementing economic lockdowns that will continue to negatively affect sport, manufacturing, mining, travel, tourism, arts and general trade.

The African Tourism industry continues to suffer exceedingly as travel between and within countries faces restriction.

COVID-19 can be a Personal Attack

I and my broader family are over a thousand kilometres apart and so when COVID-19 broke out, it was a period of serious uncertainty. I recall the perplexity that I felt when world governments and Presidents ran helter-skelter, suddenly restricting people’s movement and forcing people to stay at home. The rebel in me wondered if we were not about to live in Eric Blair’s (pseudonym George Orwell) 1984-inspired environment. At that stage, I could not comprehend the logic for one to be worried about an illness that is in China or Asia. Well, time proved that our leaders were correct. 

A call to one of my relatives was a revelation for me. We spoke for a few seconds and suddenly the relative in question was inaudible. I called again and one of my nieces picked the phone up, and told me that s/he had just gone numbed. Immediately, I called an ambulance and also my brother who resides around the homestead. My brother drove there and rushed the relative to hospital. The relative in question was hospitalised and transferred to another hospital overnight. Communication with the nurses and medical officers at the hospital was one of the most frustrating for me. Hear me well – they were very professional: it’s just that the rules were so strict. No talking over the phone was allowed; no visits were allowed. I tried to reason with them – “Look, how do you justify that if s/he wakes up and finds faces that she does not know, no visit and no telephone contact with his/her relatives?” 

Rightly, they informed me that visiting her or having her talking on the phone, at that stage, was unsafe as it may be in contradiction with measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. They freely gave me updates whenever I or other relatives made enquiry calls. As the days went by, only telephone calls at selective times were allowed.

Doctors, nurses, administrators, switchboard operators, Ambulance personnel, cleaners, security guards, Shop operators, petrol attendants are some of the unsung heroes and heroines that are in the frontline against this disease.

No One is Safe until all of us are Safe – A Battle that Africa and all of Humanity Can Win

Nature has shown unscrupulous politicians like President Donald Trump to be deficient as at core of their political dogma is an obsession with disunity instead of pulling humanity together.

Fix the Health System Failures

The immediate focus must be on containing, preventing the spread of the pandemic, treating the infected and providing financial support to communities that are cash strapped and struggle to fight the impact of COVID-19. Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have recognised that it is obligatory to fix the health system failures within their countries and the continent because there is an undeniable link between poverty, job or economic opportunities and health. African countries must re-construct their economic policies to suit the new demand that COVID-19 continues to emphasise. 

Credit Rating Agencies

The Credit Rating Agencies must be called to suspend their assessment for developing countries until we are able to return to the pre-COVID-19 health and economic conditions.

Vaccinations

Very importantly, vaccination of world citizens is a must. Very few countries have the capacity to fully fund this. Some countries have vaccinated the greater percentage of their populace. African countries must be prioritised to receive support from these well-to-do countries so as to avoid any delays in the complete elimination of the disease and prevent loss of more lives. African countries must be supported to develop national capacity to manufacture their own vaccinations. We call on the G7 and all developed nations to heed this call.

It, also, does not assist anyone to fight COVID-19 whike believing denialist theories that are doing the rounds encouraging people to avoid vaccinating. If you are one of these ‘prophets of doom’, I challenge you to show me facts to your theory. If you cannot do that, then you should know that you are responsible for the death of every human being that loses their lives to this pandemic.

Disease prevention is an important pillar in maintaining our livelihood. Failure to prevent leads to an expense in treatment. Currently, COVID-19 does not have a cure. The vaccination is preventative and not curative.

Large companies and countries that possess the capacity to produce these vaccinations must not see a business opportunity when people are purely looking for, in the absence of a better word, a godly intervention to give them a chance to live. Companies looking to make a quick buck out of this pandemic-related pandemonium should rethink their strategic position.

Congratulations to Senegal and their plans to have a Vaccine manufacturing plant operating by 2022. The nation of Botswana deserves our respectful salutations – at the time when I wrote this piece, they were almost finished vaccinating all Botswana residents.

Play your Role

Everyone has a role to play. Yes – it is a very tiring exercise but let us do our best. It is very dispiriting to meet (on a daily basis) a growing number of some of the street walkers, shop owners, hawkers, car wash workers, petrol attendants, policemen, traffic cops, security guards, and others violating a guideline as basic as wearing a mask. 

Indeed, to err is human – but to err with arrogance is reckless. 

People must wear these masks, self-isolate or quarantine when instructed, allow their relatives to recover without putting unnecessary pressure on medical practitioners, maintain social distance, observe each country’s safety precautionary measures, not hide once statusreport potential incidences immediately and wash your hands regularly (or sanitise as we say in COVID-19 lingo). 

Communication and Marketing

Allow me to close by quoting one of my lecturers who made three statements that have lived with me since then. 

She instructed the class that all that she wanted was simplicity – if you were not simple and straightforward in your answers you lost 10%. Considering the many voices and prophets of doom in full swing, authorities must craft simple and easy to understand messages. This will give our people confidence and reduce the burden faced by the health sector and law enforcement agencies amongst others. In fact, I can bet you my last cent that if we can have simple communication, in people’s languages and using vehicles that people identify with, expenditure on containing COVID-19 could be reduced by over 75%. Buy-in is crucial.

My legendary instructor also instructed us that when we communicate we must do that to create a common meaning with those that we are talking to – the principle of “multiple voices, common message” must rule supreme. If we don’t, then we are simply talking to ourselves. Governments, the WHO and others must not hold expensive talk-shops without ensuring that they take the masses of our people along.

Lastly, my heroines coached us that “perception is reality”. Whatever impressions people are left with is as a result of the interpretation of what is communicated to them. If their perception is that vaccines are not the right choice, it is because authorities have failed to communicate a message that persuades people against this perception.

A simple, understandable and call-to-action messaging is one of the most critical elements that is missing in the current onslaught against COVID-19.

Stay safe, enjoy your weekend.

Andile Msindwana 

Editor

eMail: andile.msindwana@brandhillafrica.com

Follow me on Twitter: @MsindwanaAndile