…”Africa needs stronger communities and stronger institutions I.e that is stronger people” Observation
Every challenge facing human being in every part of the world has the same method of solutions. In a situation where challenges persist, it means that the right methods have not been applied. Clearly, the reason why the challenges facing the continent of Africa such as war, poor leadership, corruption, tyranny, nepotism, wickedness, poverty, disease, hunger, unemployment and lately terrorism are persisting is because of the fact the people of the continent are yet to embrace and adapt the right methods of solution or what could be defined as “global best practices”. While it is certain that Africa has failed to emulate its counterparts world over in addressing human challenges, the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic also known Covid -19 has put the people of the continent on their toes in a very loud voice that “it is time” to embrace global best practices. In an elaborate essay titled ‘Can Africa Afford Lockdowns’ former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Chukwuma Charles Soludo exposed the lapses of Africa and expressed the fears that the continent of 1.3 billion inhabitants may be overwhelmed with the challenges posed by Coronavirus pandemic owing to lack of development lapses with attendant ills of possible system collapse and excruciating health and economic challenges.
Expressing fear on Africa’s weaknesses towards the fight against the spread of Coronavirus based on the existing lapses Soludo wrote “First, monitoring the spread requires effective testing, and Africa cannot afford effective testing of its 1.3 billion people. New York State, with a population of 20 million and a budget of $175 billion, is pleading with the US Federal Government to assist with testing kits and facilities. Check out the number of testing centres and facilities in each African country relative to their populations. A joke in the social media narrated that the health minister of Burundi was asked to explain the miracle in his country whereby the number of infections was reported as zero. His response was: “it is simple: we don’t have any testing kits”. Besides, there is stigma associated with the infection, and on the average Africans only go to the hospital as the last resort. There are also asymptomatic cases, and only the critically ill ones will report. So, there will always be massive under-testing, and gross under reporting.
The former CBN boss went further to also express fear that lockdown in Africa is impracticable owing to the lapses. Hear him “Furthermore, social distancing in most parts of Africa will remain impractical. From the shanties in South Africa’s townships to the crowded Ajengule or Mararaba in Abuja/Nasarawa, or Cairo or Kinshasa to the villages and poor neighbourhoods in much of Africa, social clustering, not distancing, is the affordable, survivalist culture. Communal living is not just about culture, it is a matter of economic survival. Hence, the statistics on infections will be coming in fits and stats: shall we be locking down and unlocking with each episode of surge as there may probably be several such episodes (unless and until a cure is found)? Even with over four weeks of “stay at home” or lockdowns in some African countries, the reported daily infections continue to rise. Some may argue the counterfactual that without the initial lockdowns, the number of infections could have been multiples. It is a reasonable conjecture or anecdote, albeit without any proof. The question is the end game for a poor society such as Africa? New infections have re-emerged in Wuhan, and both Singapore and South Korea are going back to the drawing board. Since we cannot sustain lockdowns indefinitely or even until the spread stops/declines, it means that we would sooner or later remove the restrictions. What happens then? There would still be infections, which can still spread anyway. Why not then adopt sustainable solutions early enough without weeks of avoidable waste and hardship? Let us think this through
“Without government support, no more than 5% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people can possibly survive any prolonged lockdown on their own finances. Most of the others have no assets or savings to live on for any prolonged period, and there is no social insurance (welfare system). Without the pandemic, the African economic space is already in dire straits, with unacceptable unemployment rate (especially youth unemployment) as well as endemic poverty. In 2007, I evaluated the structure of deposits in Nigerian banks and found that only 8% of the bank accounts had balances of N300,000 (over $2,500 then) and above, and these accounted for 95% of the total deposits. The remaining 92% of bank accounts had 5% of total deposits. I understand that a recent study showed that only 2% of bank accounts had N500,000 (about $1,300) and above. Also imagine the dependency burden on this 2%. The dearth of infrastructure (basic electricity is deficient) makes compulsion to stay at home hellish for most people. We have lockdowns in Africa but without pausing several pressures for private expenditures on the people: monthly house rents; banks’ interest payments for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), electricity charges, etc.
“With some 80% of Africa’s population living from hand to mouth on daily toil and hassle, complete lockdown would never be total, almost impossible in our social settings. In most cases, the orders simply create opportunities for extortion for the security agencies: those who pay, move about! Attempts to force everyone into a lockdown for extended period may indeed be enforcing a hunger/stress-induced mass genocide. More people could, consequently, be dying out of hunger and other diseases than the actual Covid-19. In normal times, thousands die every day in Africa due to other illnesses and communicable diseases—cholera, malaria, lassa fever, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, heart diseases, stroke, HIV/AIDS, yellow fever, zika virus, measles, hepatitis, typhoid, small pox, Ebola, Rift valley fever, monkey pox, chikungunya virus, pregnancy and child-birth related deaths, renal failure; pneumonia, etc.
In view of Soludo’s points, Africa has to rise up to the occasion not just to fix its system inline with Global best practices but also take the opportunity of the challenge posed by Covid-19 to unleash its own endowments and virtues to the world and so doing present its own version of solutions to the world. He posited “We should think African but act locally and opportunistically to survive and prosper, and exploit the global opportunities offered by the crises. Every shock or pandemic presents opportunities. Solutions need to be multidimensional, far beyond economics and western medicine. Ad-hoc response will be a wasted opportunity. Africa needs a package for creating sustainable prosperity in a world of continuous techno-economic-health disruptions. Such disruptions will become the new normal in the decades ahead, and we should better get used to that. Only societies that anticipate and plan for such disruptions will opportunistically exploit them, while others mourn and blame the shocks. The way we work, socialize, meet etc will not be the same after these crises. Welcome to the decade of rapid creative destructions!
Clearly, it is unfair to the present generation and the succeeding ones for Africa to come out of Covid -19 and live the same way that Covid – 19 meet the continent. Expectedly, Africa has to take the challenge posed by the Coronavirus pandemic to do introspection and make disruptive moves to eliminate all the negative challenges-characters and practices militating against the continent such as war, poor leadership, corruption, wickedness, poverty, disease, hunger, unemployment and lately terrorism to a reasonable degrees and substitute them with positive characters practices that produce love, quality leadership, corrupt free society, quality standard education, good health care system, job creation, poverty eradication, food security and a crime free society. Let post Covid -19 be a starting point for a new Africa which the present generation is yearning for and which the world wish to see in place with quality education taking the center point.
Yeah, the revival of Africa into a workable place where things can favorably and affordable work for the good of the people starts with quality education. Education encapsulates all other sectors such as leadership – governance and politics thereof, religious practice, socio- cultural life with programs and services good enough to improve on the general life style of the people. At first, Africa need education about leadership – governance and the politics thereof. Take Nigeria as a case study, most people in Nigeria don’t know how government is formed and run. A lot of people are not interested in participating in the process of government formation such as belonging to a political party and coming out to vote in election days. They prefer to sit at home and expect magic from those who don’t know about their problems and who don’t have qualities and capacity to lead them. Majority of those who participate in political process in Nigeria are those who wish to have their tribesmen occupy leadership positions and those who are interested in what to take from the treasury of the country and not what give out for the good of the country.
The problem of Nigeria is coiled like a snake with its head hidden somewhere. The worst however is those who are not interested in how government is formed and run. In a country where its citizens are more concerned about how their tribesmen will continue to rule over others and how to continue to milk the resources instead providing service for the overall interests of the citizenry, the best things for every section to do is to come out and unleash its strength to drag for its own fair share of the national cake (as they use to term the scenario of selfishness and greed in Nigeria). Certainly for any part to earn its fair share of the national cake, they have to unleash its full strength into the political arena. Take for instance, if there is a process to chose a local government Chairman and one particular community did not participate in the process, automatically there are chances that such community may not benefit equal service with the rest that participated.
People are their own service. People lie on their bed the way they prepare it. Africa in general and Nigeria in particular need a much better education about leadership- governance and politics thereof. Major part of the cause of the problems we have in Nigeria is that we believe so much in leaders even when it is clear that leaders don’t do magic. And in most cases the leaders we rely on don’t have the capacity to lead.
In Nigeria, we have leaders who don’t understand the problems of the people they lead not to talk of how to address problems. We have leaders who don’t really have the required love for their subjects. In some cases leaders give more attention to some sections of people and less to other sections. In some States in the Southeast some sections of Christian denominations receive more attention from government than others. We have leaders who like strong men stole the people’s mandate and do whatever they like while in power. The only time Nigeria politicians show much strength is when they are contesting election.
“Africa needs strong institutions not strong men” This was what former President of United States Barrack Obama told Africans while on visit to Ghana as a sitting President of the United States. Following Obama’s message some current affairs analysts argued that Africa at this point in time needs both strong men and strong institutions because strong institutions are products of strong men in the first place. From a clear point of view, Obama did put it to Africans that they are their own service and the best way for them to move forward is to move from relying on strong men to relying on strong institutions. The same Obama as President told Muhammadu Buhari as President elect of Nigeria that “it is the duty of Nigerians to end corruption in Nigeria”. Those political activists who put hope on International Community to come and address the problem of Nigeria in general or problem of a part of the country in particular are wasting their time.
One more important area Africa needs to pay very important and imperative attention is religion. From monotonous Christian message that engineers money love and corruption to blood thirsty Islamic fanatics that engineers terrorism, religion is dealing Africa in general and Nigeria a big blow. Take Nigeria as a case study once more, Christians are at the center of life in Nigeria but corruption and wickedness are thriving on a large scale in the country even in Christian dominated environment, so where is the impact of righteousness of God that Christians are called to champion? The kind of things they teach and practice in the Church are no where near the needed knowledge and character of Nation building via righteousness of God. Church leaders are terribly self centered with no vision and program channeled at enforcing righteousness in the society. I went to be part of my neighbors child dedication at his Church. After the dedication prayers, a visiting man of God in the Church picked up the microphone and said with louder voice that he was highly disappointed and ashamed with the members of the Church for allowing the General Overseer to move around with an old Nissan car. He then asked the audience this question: Is it bad if your overseer in the Lord is moving around with a jeep – a Highlander or at least a clean Toyota Camry?
After the question, he asked for donations to raise money to buy jeep or Camry for the General Overseer. Few days later I went to see a Pastor in a Church and met the wife of the Pastor addressing women of the Church on the need to take care of the Pastor. Hear her “it is true that God is going to reward the Pastor in Heaven but that doesn’t mean that he is not entitle to good things of the world. So it is not a bad thing if you go to the market and buy good wears- clothes, shoes and even wrist watch for your Pastor” Most Church leaders rely on their subjects to make a living on the ground that such would make their subjects prosper and have solutions to their problems. Is that true? No, it is not true. If giving to men of God and the Church solves problems, Igboland would have turned to paradise considering what Ndigbo have contributed into Christianity. And they are still contributing. I won’t ask Ndigbo to stop contributing to Christianity, what I am asking them to do is introspection and possibly enact new convention and new perspectives of life generally.
One more things that Africa need to do also urgently is to look beyond fathers and reputation of others and embrace the art of greatness inline with global best practices. At the dawn of the new millennium in year 2000 the United Nation (UN) observed with dismay that the “myth still prevail” that Africa has remained underdeveloped 40 years after independence with war, corruption, disease, poverty, hunger and lately terrorism ravaging the continent. According to UN, it was expected that Africa would have cast of poverty and other underdeveloped tendencies 40 years after casting out the Colonial Masters. In my own understanding, the prevailing myth is the scope and path of fathers as well reputation of others which the African rest their lives. Politicians and Religious leaders operate on the scope and path of fathers and reputations of others not in the context of art of greatness inline with global best practices and that is why Africa is not moving forward.
Clearly as a backdrop of the ravaging effect of Coronavirus pandemic it is very important for Africans – Nigerians, Ndigbo and Christians and Moslems to embrace the art of greatness inline with global best practice and thus develop and organize themselves into a stronger communities and stronger institutions i.e in other words stronger people so as to able to undertake the best practices and overcome the challenges facing development . Let Africa therefore churn out ideas and knowledge into creating programs and service inline with global best practice as such will not just expose the continent into the art of greatness inline with global best practice but also inspire the continent to find and proffer lasting solutions to the challenges facing development.