From the ashes of Covid19, Africa can build a better new normal.

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Photo Credits: National Library of Medicine.

In April 1721, a smallpox outbreak swept through Boston. Cotton Mather, a local slave owner and preacher, claimed to be in possession of a method of preventing contraction of the disease. He had gotten this method from one of his former slaves whom Mather then named Onesmus, meaning “useful”, after a slave in the Bible.
Onesmus had stated that he was immune to small pox because his people back home had once rubbed pus from a person with small pox into an open wound of his. The science was that in exposing the body to a live disease-causing bug, it allowed it to build immunity and memory, enough to cause resistance to the disease. In modern vaccines, the bug has had to be inactivated and only the surface marker administered to the person via a drop or injection, to the same effect.
Caesarean sections were being performed in Africa long before many other places on the globe. In 1879, for example, one British traveller, R.W. Felkin, witnessed cesarean section performed by Ugandans in Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. The healer used banana wine to semi-intoxicate the woman and to cleanse his hands and her abdomen prior to surgery. He used a midline incision and applied cautery to minimize hemorrhaging. He massaged the uterus to make it contract but did not suture it; the abdominal wound was pinned with iron needles and dressed with a paste prepared from roots. The patient recovered well, and Felkin concluded that this technique was well-developed and had clearly been employed for a long time. And such medical knowledge, as advanced as it seemed, could only have been generated within Africa’s own social system as Africa was effectively disconnected from the rest of the globe at the time. Similar reports come from Rwanda where botanical preparations were also used to anesthetize patients and promote wound healing.
Playing it forward, the globe is being ravaged by a global pandemic of the novel corona virus, COVID-19. At the time of this writing, the total number of cases globally is 6.7 million cases with 390,000 deaths. Starting from China and spreading across Europe, America and finally Africa, the corona virus caught the globe by surprise. Highly developed nations were brought to their knees even with developed healthcare systems. Apart from measures aired by the world health organization like washing of hands, social distancing among others, all nations have had to gamble on strategies and fight from zero.
For Africa, measures like quarantine and lockdown have taken a bite into the livelihoods of people. Technology has proved pivotal in keeping people connected, working from home and receiving services. What struck me most coming out of Africa though is the herbal remedy from Madagascar that is reducing hospital stay and symptoms for COVID-19 patients. I was able to see Africa’s ingenuity and response to a novel global challenge. It gives me hope that even if Corona virus had come in the 1800s, Africans would have dug deep and created solutions that would sail them through.
The science might not be proven or well-articulated on paper but time and time again we have seen Africa with solutions that solve the problem at hand. We have evidence that Africa has always had, and will forever have, the urgency, ability and resources to respond to any human calamity.
Reports from before which predicted a coronavirus apocalypse for Africa in comparison to the rest of the world have not come true. In fact, one such release by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in April 2020 stated: \”Anywhere between 300,000 and 3.3 million African people could lose their lives as a direct result of COVID-19.\” As I write this, Africa has confirmed 176,778 COVID-19 cases with 4916 total deaths to represent 2.6% and 1.2% respectively of the global total. This picture has no doubt come at the expense of drastic measures like complete lockdowns which have left the rural and wage workers destitute. And unfortunately at the expense of healthcare provision for other medical conditions and maternal health.
But ultimately, given the massive corruption, inefficiencies, misappropriation and short sighted planning of most African governments, I can comfortably put it forward that Africa has not seen the worst of this global pandemic. Will it reach the worst? I don’t think so. African people have shown their resilience and forged a way through a dark history from colonialism, wars and global structural inequalities.
There has never been a better time for Africa to leapfrog to the position it ought to be. By 2050, Africa will have the youngest population and potentially the most productive force on the globe.
The time is ripe for Africa to trust and believe in its self as a source of solutions to current and future challenges, to invest strategically in science, innovations and its youth to enjoy a brighter future. This way, we will be prepared for, and better prevent, the next pandemic.

2 thoughts on “From the ashes of Covid19, Africa can build a better new normal.”

  1. It’s nice to be reminded of what we already know, the answers remain right here based off past experiences and the fact that our social and medical environment continually adapts. Thanks

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