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Coronavirus: harsh lessons from an awful reality

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Coronavirus: harsh lessons from an awful reality

As the latest New African goes to print, and the world goes into lockdown, Anver Versi considers what we might learn from these unprecedented times. 

We were sorely tempted to make the coronavirus pandemic this issue’s Cover Story, because everybody seems, and rightly so, to be obsessed with it but we resisted the temptation precisely because there is so much about it in print and digital media, on the radio and across social media.

I think there is far too much talk, especially when a good deal of it is ill-informed, totally baseless and seems produced simply to confuse and alarm people.

Everybody feels compelled to add their tuppence-worth – so we have religious leaders sometimes dangerously extolling the power of prayer to protect you from the virus and thus contributing to its spread; we have quacks of all kinds offering medication; we have sangomas and other traditional ‘doctors’ suggesting revolting remedies and worse, we have a plethora of false reports, some disguised as proper news items.

All these add to the fear, confusion and panic that seems to have gripped the world. The only authority that has a handle on the issue globally is the World Health Organisation and it makes its findings and recommendations freely available and all responsible media report on it. Please ignore all other sources.

At IC Publications we have launched a live blog that gives you the most reliable information as it becomes available, to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe. It contains up-to-the-hour news reports along with daily updates on the number of cases across the continent and a map that provides an easy way to check on the spread of the virus.  

Given the fact that many people will find themselves in social isolation during this time, we are making the digital edition of this month’s magazine available free online to provide you with quality reading material for free. To make use of this opportunity click here. You will also be able to access our archives.

Africa’s ignored crisis

What we have focused on, however, is another crisis in Africa that
is being largely ignored by the world media because its effects so far only concern Africa. This is the reign of terror by the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS and their extremist affiliates in the Sahel and parts of West and Central Africa.

We have turned our full spotlight on this orgy of violence with in-depth reports from the Sahel and Mozambique as well as Kenya in the hope that the good and the great in Africa and among the many forces involved in the conflict will come up with a solution to silence the guns. This is one crisis that is caused by human agency and which can be solved tomorrow – also by human agency – if the will is there.

That said, I will give the final word, so to say, to Alfred Mutua, the governor of Machakos in Kenya. He said the pandemic was a blessing in disguise because it will force the big shots, the rich who make decisions in the county, to now fall back on national medical resources instead of rushing off abroad.

“Where will you go? Washington DC is closed; India is closed, Europe is closed. You will be treated right here, like everybody else and whether you live or die will depend on how good the facilities are. We need to fix our health facilities.”

He says that this system which the country has inherited from colonial times, where the rich and the poor live different lives, has to change. “When there are huge potholes in the roads, the rich buy bigger cars; when hospitals do not work, the rich ship out to South Africa or London. Now they cannot move – those places are shut.”

The pandemic, he argues, has taught us the need to depend on our own resources to create expertise and build world-class health and other facilities, so that we can provide the best quality of life to all citizens – the rich and the poor alike.

He is perfectly right. We must get rid of the dependency culture that has taken root in many African countries – the feeling that whatever we do is second or third class and that others can do it better. So instead of working to improve the situation, our politicians, who also generally happen to be rich, simply look to buy their way out of trouble.

Now, thanks to the virus, all their wealth is of no earthly use – they stand to face the same fate as the poor – an important lesson driven home by an awful reality.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua has suggested the pandemic, which had hit Kenya with 15 confirmed cases at time of writing, is the darkness before the dawn, saying it will push the country to fix its systems, especially the health and manufacturing sectors.

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Written by Anver Versi

Award-winning journalist Anver Versi is the editor of New African magazine. He was born in Kenya and is currently based in London, UK.

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