#Talking COVID-19 With Dr Grant: COVID-19 And Lessons For Africa

THE world is currently undergoing one of the worst challenges ever; something nobody had foreseen. Millions of people have been infected by the novel coronavirus; hundreds of thousands have died, and a lot more have battled for their lives.

By Dr Grant Murewanhema

Governments have imposed lockdowns, and productivity has gone down. The developed world, especially the UK, USA and American countries have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and many of these are struggling to cope on many fronts.

Economies are expected to crash following protracted periods of suppressed productivity and trade. Trade is forecasted to be restricted for most of the year; universities and schools are closed and so are many industries that require the physical presence of human resources for production.

Africa has not experienced the pandemic to a magnitude similar to other parts of the world; however to curtail uncontrolled transmission most African countries also imposed restrictive lockdowns. Most African economies were struggling; some even at breaking point way before the pandemic.

African governments were badly exposed. It was noted that countries with millions of people hardly had any Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and if ever there was going to be a surge in demand most would not cope. With the exception of South Africa, most countries hardly had any ventilators beyond 50. It is hardly surprising that most of our leaders go to seek treatment in foreign lands when they fall ill.

We have highly skilled manpower, and most of the treatments sought externally could be excellently executed here, but the tools of trade have been missing for decades. A lot of the hospitals are quite dilapidated, and not fit to be called treatment centres for humans; some are way beyond renovation and need total demolition.

A number of public health programmes are supported through unilateral aid from developed countries. PEPFAR sponsors a lot of our programmes, and a lot of aid comes through USAID and the CDC, and many other donor organisations.

A few examples include HIV Care and Treatment, Cervical cancer screening programmes, medical male circumcision, provision of family planning services etc among others. If, for example, the American government is to stop aid and redirect its resources towards rebuilding its economy what happens to these programmes?

Africa was caught unaware, but hopefully, a few lessons were obtained from this. We must build our own capacity, build our own facilities and have reserve funds for emergencies. With such a resourceful continent its a shame that we have to rely mainly on aid.

Former bread baskets have been grounded by kakistocracies. Most of our resources have been sold unprocessed, fetching very little and then coming back to us as very expensive finished products. So many examples we can cite.

Hopefully, moving forward, our governments can start prioritising our own development. Africa needs solutions from Africa by Africans. With the natural resources we are endowed with we can achieve much, but in the absence of unwilling or unable leaders we wont go anywhere.

The future must lie in the hands of the young, but currently octagenarians and nonagenarians decide our fate. Not surprisingly most of the turns we take are wrong. Whilst others are progressing, we continue to regress on many fronts.

I hope that a few lessons can be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic, for the sake of development. We cannot continue to be breastfed by the West, and neither can we continue to sing the colonization rhetoric.

As Africa, we need to move forward; time is not on our side. As the youth in particular, we need to demand our future so we can build legacies for our offspring, otherwise Africa will remain stagnant for the next thousand years.

 (Dr Grant Murewanhema, MD. All the opinions expressed herein are entirely personal)

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