#COVID-19: This African proverb says a lot about Africa’s response

Quartz Africa recently published an article that said:

The first reason South Africa has been unable to stem the tide of infections is its strategy always assumed a severe epidemic was inevitable. It is hard to fight anything if you assume you are bound to lose. This followed advice from South Africa’s medical scientists, almost all of whom embrace this view despite the fact that scientists in other parts of the world have helped to prevent great damage.

When you attempt a tour of Africa, studying it’s leadership and the people, you might come to an assumption that Africa needs responsible leadership – a phenomenon that is largely lacking across the continent. The world is probably weary seeing that this is a regular demand.

Now, COVID-19 is here and nothing has changed. In fact, the ‘new normal’ did not affect African leadership and it already looks like Africa will stay a little while before we move from surreal leadership to responsible leadership that translates to actual development. However, we are all in this together and this routine call will have to continue for there to be real change.

Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.

In simpler terms, imagine you wanted to know if you could swim further than the border line and did not think about it first: can I do this? Is this necessary? Can we find other paths instead?

COVID-19 took a little while before an index case was confirmed on the continent. It also took a while before cases started rising fast. So, Africa had time to think about how to curtail the adverse effects the pandemic was going to bring. But what happened?

Leaders – and citizens – of countries in Africa downplayed the spread of the coronavirus. Up till date, you cannot start a conversation in Kenya saying the coronavirus is real. In Nigeria, many citizens believe the numbers are fake and the government wants to use the opportunity to continue looting. In South Africa, too many citizens want to resume social gatherings, creating a divide between those who want to resume alcohol consumption and the ones who think alcohol should be banned completely. It is a dramatic series across Africa and it’s leadership are only onlookers.

The news of COVID-19 spread faster than news of recession and instead of Africa’s leaders to understudy how to go about it, coming out relatively unscathed, they only decided to pay attention to photo-optics, and lockdown measures without recourse to how citizens – largely surviving on daily means – will tell great stories post-pandemic.

The continent keeps looking at the Western world for ideas on how to do it better. So, if the West fails to show solutions Africa can imitate, there is an imminent danger. In plain terms, there is hardly thinking leadership in Africa. If the continent hopes for a better future, driven by progressive leadership, we cannot continue to vote in the kind of leaders we have now.

And again, you don’t jump straight into a situation without thinking about it first.


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