For Africa, the Corona pandemic should be an opportunity to rebalance the stakes in international relations, and the emergence of political leaders who are able to face challenges and who have an interest in investing in people, education and scientific research.
Within a long historical path, Africa struggled to escape its deepening political, economic and social crises, until Africa was linked to the phenomenon of crises in all its forms. However, we must be careful not to overdo it; Environmental and disease crises and phenomena are not a special African aspect, as the mainstream media tries to market it. Fragility and weak infrastructure and institutions have long contributed to making the continent vulnerable to epidemics transmitted from other continents, including HIV, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Africans, and the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and its continuous transformations and the continuous pain and suffering it has caused.
In general, the spread of high-level human, animal and plant epidemiology in the African continent would create continuing threats to public health in these countries (1) ; It has become a major phenomenon among the growing challenges at the African level. It is worth noting that the slowness in addressing these problems has led to a general situation of restlessness and uncertainty among citizens and residents, in whom poverty is mixed with destitution, and tyranny leads to more internal conflicts, without the map of crises concealing its ability to undermine the state of relative stability. Add to these factors, the disruption of normal economic activities and familiar daily life, which is evident during the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the containment measures that characterized it, which increased the unemployment rate due to reduced opportunities and increasing restrictions.
An optimistic continent within a challenging space
In Africa, the first case of the emerging coronavirus ( Covid 19 ) was announced on February 15, 2020, two months after the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Significantly, the reported cases show a rapid and increasing spread of the pandemic in all 54 countries of Africa due to the high population density in urban areas with many hotspots emerging in Southern, North and West Africa; The WHO’s Africa region, which has 47 African countries, recorded more than 113,100 deaths in 2021. Experts say that the true number of corona deaths in Africa is likely to be much higher than the number of deaths recorded by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the beginning of the epidemic. The pandemic has exceeded 253,500 deaths (2) .
In the beginning, the responses of different countries were somewhat similar, most of them imposed comprehensive closures and urged the population to wash hands frequently and practice physical distancing, which generated a state of fear and pressure on the few health facilities that did not have sufficient beds as well as the scarcity of available medical equipment. breathing devices. But after several months passed and the emergence of multiple variables and variables, African countries began to deal with the epidemic differently. More information became available: the shelters expanded and the panic was reduced thanks to the sensitization campaigns, which facilitated the decision-making process after the vision was clear, as well as the acceptance of the majority of the population to cooperate with the health authorities.
Of course, exceptions have remained notable; Some governments have promoted disinformation, such as the late Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s call to adopt spiritual policies to eradicate the disease rather than adhere to universally applied health protocols before his successor changed them. However, the continental rate of infection did not exceed 6% per day; A rate that indicates a state of balance given the magnitude of the risks faced by other continents. Perhaps this is due to the demographics of the African continent, which contributed to the continent not being affected by the epidemic like other regions of the world. Africa alone has more than a quarter of the Earth’s population.
In fact, the age group most vulnerable to pandemic complications in the global population as a result of the epidemic is the over-65 age group, while the population pyramid in Africa tends to be youthful. In addition, experts mentioned that among other factors of hope, the existence of a continental climate characterized by its dry nature, in which it is difficult for the virus to live and expand, and without a doubt, these factors combined contributed to spare Africa the worst effects of this epidemic, which was considered an unprecedented global problem.
Today, it is important for us to mention these factors despite the warnings issued by the World Health Organization, at the beginning of the pandemic, about the fragility of the health system in African countries, which included its famous declaration that “Africa must prepare for the worst.” However, the organization still doubts the validity of the human casualties index announced by African countries, as the latter displays deaths in the range of 256 thousand across the continent (3) , while the organization insisted that the real number may be higher than what is implied by various official assessments.
As for vaccination assessments, the results remain disappointing; Indications are that there is poor coverage within the population, even with the availability of the necessary laboratories and vaccines, after the temporary lifting of patents on Covid-19 vaccines, which allowed the circulation of inventions in this field and prompted many scientific institutes to invest in the efforts made within the continent; In this context, the German laboratory, BioNTech ., opened, on June 23, 2022, in Kigali, in cooperation with the Rwandan government, the first factory to produce RNA vaccines on the continent, and although it is a symbolic but important step, it highlights the efforts of Africans to stop the path of the pandemic and not rely on imports for medicines and medical equipment, as well as Other similar laboratories were able to quickly understand the nature of the omicron mutant with a study by the South African Institute of Health Research that revealed the ability of people with omicron to develop antibodies.
On the level of institutional challenges, the health crisis that the African continent is currently going through is not the only crisis that has affected its societies in recent years and decades. For example, Africa bears the burden of malaria disproportionately alone with the rest of the world; In the same year in which the pandemic appeared, Africa recorded 96% of deaths from the disease at the global level (4)The Ebola health crisis caused the death of tens of thousands of people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016, and there are also other health crises that provided the affected countries with experiences gained in the framework of crisis management, while the pandemic added a state of dissemination of expertise and experience framed internationally and internationally. It remains difficult to determine precisely the extent to which African governments have absorbed the lessons learned from the pandemic. The volume of South / South solidarity within the health and medical aspects has increased significantly among African countries, and the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been revitalized to lead efforts in diagnosis, drug treatments and vaccines. Significant expansion of work with manufacturers of personal protective equipment to address the severe disruption witnessed in the market for masks, gloves, medical clothing and other personal protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic, a work that led to the emergence of many local initiatives that contributed to meeting the needsPatriotism is one of these elements that are much needed to protect against COVID-19.
There are fruitful efforts in terms of trapping the pandemic within this cooperative approach, especially with regard to the areas of technology transfer and contributing to regional and global efforts for genetic surveillance of Covid 19, as it allowed from the beginning to limit the evolution of variants according to the epidemiological waves that swept the continent since the emergence of the worrying alpha variant, delta, and finally control of the more transmissible and less lethal Omicron variant; These are healthy efforts that are not random or spontaneous, but rather the fruit of extensive international cooperation and solidarity.
However, countries directing their financial resources and preventive efforts towards the pandemic allowed the revival of counterbalancing and anti-state challenges, in the form of the flourishing of organized crime groups and jihadist organizations in East Africa (Uganda) and in the African Sahel, in which these movements increased their activity and strengthened their horizontal position, as is the case with Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, whose strikes and activities increased on the border triangle between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and the pandemic allowed the emergence of more structural challenges in terms of governance and transparency in the management and employment of financial resources allocated to the health emergency in Africa, but without a situation An end to such challenges remains the illusion of talking about recovery or building a more independent and sustainable future.
Lessons learned from facing the pandemic
According to the estimates of international institutions, the amount of African spending on emergency health policies has increased three times more than usual, and therefore huge sums have been unfairly spent on the budgets of poor and often underdeveloped countries that do not have sufficient health facilities to stop such epidemics or at least reduce the losses they cause.
Nor can we talk about the capabilities that have been redirected to preventing the spread of the pandemic without addressing the lives of health workers, among whom Covid-19 has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and created bleak human stories as well as the damage to the human resources that Africa needs, more than ever. gone.
Today, more than two years after the outbreak of the pandemic in an unprecedented way, Africa must already learn from the lessons of this exceptional crisis to face the next health challenges that it will inevitably have to face. Therefore, this crisis makes us face a sad reality. It is that in the event of a crisis in vital areas, whether health or economic, African countries must rely only on themselves.
The role played by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a leading role in bringing rapid screening devices ( PCR ) and coordinating the procurement of medical equipment for all African countries. The African Union also played an important role in mobilizing partners to obtain vaccines and respirators; Parallel to the WHO’s Covax Mechanism , the continental organization initiated the Avatt (African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force) initiative. It is important to mention that African countries have resorted to this mechanism, which has allowed to show more coordination of efforts in Africa. Thus, it allowed to demonstrate the ability of Africans to work together under such emergency and frightening circumstances, which indicates the existence of a continental response to the calls for the establishment of a real organizational base to meet the challenges facing Africa.
In fact, this crisis made it easier for Africans to access high-quality, non-counterfeit pharmaceutical and medical products, a behavior that would allow governments to continue developing and supporting the pharmaceutical industry within Africa, following the example of a few African countries that have invested in the pharmaceutical industry (Morocco and Egypt). Kenya, South Africa, and Rwanda), where some of these countries have begun to produce vaccines against COVID-19 (5) .
Finally, it is important that the sad scenes of the Covid-19 pandemic call upon African elites to draw constructive lessons from the pandemic. It is not reasonable for Africans not to benefit from history to evaluate their present and build their future. Perhaps some crises are better able to awaken consciences and determination instead of remaining mere consumers of Western products that can be prevented from them in time of need, as happened with the medical equipment (masks) of the pandemic at its beginning, and thus the epidemic must constitute an opportunity to rebalance the stakes in international relations and the emergence of Political leaders who are able to face challenges and who have an interest in investing in people, education and scientific research.
About the author
Researcher interested in African affairs REFERENCE
(1)Draft African Union Scientific and Technological Framework for Detection, Identification and Control of Infectious Human, Animal and Plant Diseases in Africa (AU Commission for Scientific, Technical and Research Affairs).
(2)WHO: Corona deaths in Africa drop sharply in a year, adf magazine website , June 22, 2022, (date of entry: August 10, 2022), https://bit.ly/3cwgsaI
( 4 )– Malaria, World Health Organization (WHO) website, December 6, 2021 (Seen August 15, 2022), https://bit.ly/2rS201P