When we started the year, I was sure it was going to be different. That it was going to be grand, and yes it has been all these things – but in a way no one ever imagined.
I was in Addis Ababa when Africa began to feel the pinch of COVID19. I remember not paying much attention to it because I thought – I would not be affected. I lived through the many Flu’s that came out of China and had not really been affected. But I also witnessed the terror & fear of Ebola. And as a Ugandan, I was subjected to many questions & filling out entry forms into countries because of Ebola. I later went on to do work with the African Union Foundation for #AfricaAgainstEbola. Therefore, I had an idea what an epidemic ‘meant’ or so I thought.
After Addis, I traveled again Mid February to Nairobi and back to Uganda. And later on in March, I traveled back to Nairobi and came back into Uganda on March 22nd. Uganda started to shut down by 18th March even when there was no reported case. Boarding Schools were advised by the ministry of health to stop all visitation days and the minister of health started working visit to the airport (yes Uganda only has one) to beef up the health teams and ensure that everyone was doing their part. We later started the lockdown on March 25 and are still in it to date.
Now, a few things have stood out for me throughout this period of a global pandemic
1. Africa has no well-wishers
I have lost count of how many times I have read from almost all leading global news sites, predictions of how Africa is going to lose so many people because of COVID19. The world has been very pessimistic towards Africa. And yet, we haven’t had as many cases & deaths as Europe and North America. There could be a second wave. I have been monitoring different countries like South Africa which eased their lockdown to level 4 but had almost 1000 cases for just today in Western Cape. Ghana eased too and then went back to tighter guidelines. If there is a second wave, I am still optimistic that we will then know what to do and will not plummet to the depths of what Europe or America has gone through.
COVID-19 could infect a quarter of a billion people in Africa and kill 150,000 within a year, WHO experts have said. https://t.co/scXwwOCoW6
— DW News (@dwnews) May 15, 2020
Nearly a quarter of a billion people across 47 African countries will catch coronavirus over the next year, but the result will be fewer severe cases and deaths than in the US and Europe, new research predicts. https://t.co/ZyFygI6CcB
— ONE in Africa (@ONEinAfrica) May 15, 2020
2. Inequality is far from over
At the start of the pandemic, there were claims (especially on twitter) about how the pandemic was an equalizer because it doesn’t segregate according to color, age, wealth, etc. But what we forgot was that inequality already exists and even though we may want to think that we are dealing with it, we are not. COVID19 showed us the depth of inequality and how it’s far from over. To quote Winnie Byanyima: “COVID19 reveals and widens the glaring inequalities in our countries. We have to deliberately fight inequality and do better for those relying on us as a society.”
"The #COVID19 crisis is exposing glaring inequalities between the rich & the poor in the developed world, and it is about to reflect even greater inequalities between the North & the South. We need to act," says @Winnie_Byanyima.
— UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) March 28, 2020
3. Ubuntu is still alive
One of the unbreakable things that the people of Africa have is oneness. We open ourselves to feel each other’s pain and rise to the occasion to make the world a better place. It has been amazing to see people all over the world (apart from politicians who across the board have been a huge disappointment) come together to support each other. There have amazing examples of community-led initiatives to give food to those in the frontlines of this fight, give essential supplies to the vulnerable and the poor. This ought to be our way of life every day.
The crisis we face is unprecedented. #COVID19 has fundamentally disrupted the economic and social fabric of society. SA communities are in dire need of support & together we can lend a helping hand. #Each1Feed1 #Ubuntu pic.twitter.com/xJfZ2RK4H1
— NelsonMandela (@NelsonMandela) May 9, 2020
Team mukuru Kwa Reuben Ready to serve the people of of mukuru Kwa Reuben.
Fighting Corona virus needs a personal responsibility and we @hope2shine we are not taking chances and we shall overcome.#COVID19 has taught us that we need each other and 'we are because you are' #UBUNTU pic.twitter.com/Pzxu4AEsr0
— #Sociologist🇰🇪 #GenderEquality (@maresiisaiah_) May 17, 2020
4. Africa has learned its lesson.
For a long time, Africa has been fighting a lot of infectious diseases: Dengue fever, Ebola, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, Rift Valley fever, etc. And because of this – governments knew what to do, and executed without hesitation. By the end of March, most of the airports in Africa were closed to travel. Before that, there were temperature checks for all passengers at airports, and health teams were alert. Because of handling infectious diseases, it was clear what needed to be done. For me, that speaks volumes. While we are low on testing most countries – none of the leaders was cajoled into a lockdown.
I've been thinking about this piece for a long time, trying to find the words for something that I think many of us have noticed with a great deal of concern. What will the archive say that Africans did during the COVID-19 pandemic? https://t.co/6qXszPeocM
— Nanjala Nyabola (@Nanjala1) May 11, 2020
"Bangladesh, a poorer country than many African countries, produces 97% of the national demand for medicines, in contrast to Africa which is almost 100% dependent on imports" | Africa’s response to COVID-19 will have lasting benefits https://t.co/aekW3CVYhP via @wef
— SAA (@samjrafemikhe) May 17, 2020
Cases of covid-19 do not seem to be accelerating in Africa at the same rate as they are in other parts of the world https://t.co/gI9MjVhTFK
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) May 17, 2020
The Pandemic is still here. Even though countries are opening up, it is being done cautiously. My hope is that we come out of this a stronger people. Not afraid to start where we left off.