Covid-19 has exposed the lack of preparedness on the African continent. Many of our leaders have up to this moment not yet addressed the issue. It seems like many of them are still waiting for their masters in the west to tell them how to prevent disaster in their own countries. We commend South African President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet for coming out in the open and showing leadership by announcing measures to curb the spread and containment of the virus. Special thanks also go out to Cde Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya for confronting the pandemic head on.
In the rest of Africa, political power in the hands of our leadership is being used as a vehicle to loot, enrich and widen the social economic poverty gap between the haves and have nots. The second half of the 20th century saw a breakdown in educational structures, law enforcement and continued breakdown of economic infrastructures in most if not all African countries. Politicians have failed to provide the necessary mechanisms to ensure the upliftment of the downtrodden. Many of our people from Cape Town to Cairo, live in squatter camps where there is no proper sanitation and running water and massive overcrowding is the order of the day.
A lot of people on our continent lack proper toilet facilities and are still using the bucket system or bush toilets. All these conditions are a recipe for disastrous outbreaks of killer-diseases of the magnitude of the current pandemic. It certainly would be a catastrophe if it were to go out of hand. The current crop of our leadership on the continent has not invested much to improve peoples’ housing and sanitation on the continent. One sees development in areas where the elite and rich of society live. In many African countries, the public health delivery system is completely broken down and many countries are failing to provide primary health care to their citizens while the rich and exclusive who have the means are able to fly out to Europe and Asia to access superb health facilities.
In the meantime, Africa has just become a dumping ground for dangerous expired medicines on its markets. Governments are not taking care of what their citizens are consuming. Because of corruption, there are many unqualified and unscrupulous people dealing in medicine procurement in many African countries.
Perceptions of Africa’s unpreparedness to deal with any possible outbreak of epidemics are not good for the continent’s image. US Press TV reported recently that billionaire and software developer, Bill Gates, warned that the coronavirus could incapacitate the health services of Africa and trigger a pandemic which may lead to 10 million deaths on the continent. God forbid that the virus explodes inside our countless informal settlements on the continent. In such an event, this calamity will not be confined to the poor and destitute only, it will affect the rich and wealthy as well.
It is 2020 and there is no excuse for an entire continent to be largely unprepared for modern challenges. Many of our leaders put the whole world in danger by not developing their healthcare systems to modern standards. While this is easier said than done for developing nations, hopefully they can address the problems before the next outbreak hits.
Dr Mustafa Mheta is the Researcher and Head of the Africa Desk at the Media Review Network located in Johannesburg, South Africa.