I write to draw your attention to an imperative concern in pursuit of the objectives of the Africa Union (AU), and on the basis of the African’s desire for an effective society which the Africa Union has long believed in and has manifested this through its recent report (Impact of the Corona Virus(COVID-19) on the Africa Economy.
In recent times, AU’s quest to promote unity and solidarity among African States, coordinate and intensify cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa, defend the sovereignty of member states, their territorial integrity and independence eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; and to promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has chalked a number of successes. . There is no doubt on the progress of your mandate.
However, we stand at another crossroad again after Ebola; The COVID-19 pandemic. The highly contagious disease which was officially confirmed in December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China. As you already may be aware, since its outbreaks in China, the deadly Virus has known no boundaries. This is evident in the upsurge of daily confirmed cases crossing a million and several thousand deaths.
Excellency, on AU’s website, COVID 19 Surveillance Update, on 7 th April, 2020, 52 African Union Member States reporting COVID-19 cases recorded 10,075. Out of these are 487 deaths and 913 recoveries. With this, it is obvious that while some countries experience high mortality and morbidly rates, there is also a tendency that some members are handling the issues better than others. Although the region has seen a significant increase in confirmed cases recently, these are still fewer cases compared to other parts of the world. How fast the COVID-19 in Africa is evolving is deeply worrying, causing more odds against a continent that already has so much on her plate.
I believe The African Union needs to press the ‘proactive button’ in order to protect lives and economies.
As your Excellency is aware, COVID-19 is taking a toll on human development. As medical and science researchers globally look into providing a solution to the pandemic, the Africa Centre for Entrepreneurship and Youth Empowerment (ACEYE) wishes to bring to the fore the concern that not only will Africa’s health systems be overwhelmed, but there are dire socio-economic ramifications for the continent, now and the future, I am happy to learn this is captured in your recent report.
Like many past turbulent issues with adverse global impact such as World Wars I and II, as well as other pandemics, this disease is spreading faster to nations developed and developing, far and near. Nearly all countries on the continent of Africa (with the exception of three so far) have recorded cases of COVID-19. But Excellency, the AU has not shown manifest leadership in driving countries along. This pandemic can also be slowed in its tracks only with a united continental response. A month ago, ahead of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) coming into force, the Africa Union could have been proactive to zoom into action to reduce the devastation of COVID1-19. Is it not worrying whenever Africa is on the path to economic prosperity, there are sudden disruptions which hinder progress? We need to rethink how we deal with emergencies effectively.
Your Excellency, in the absence of a decisive continental response, and while the virus is bringing considerable human suffering. coupled with socio-economic disruption, quarantines, travel bans , abrupt closure of factories and a decline in the activities of the service sector - there is also a growing concern of unilateral border closures and job losses among the poor in the informal sectors of the economy. The reprisals are dire as we already know and have seen how limited political and economic freedom have fueled violent extremism and protests.
As Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa puts it, “… but we can still change the course of this pandemic. Governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”
This we feel is one of the ideals that the AU has championed among member states. We feel the AU should rethink through some of the recommendations especially those meant for the short term. What is our continental response to border closures – a colonial relic? What is the continent’s response to effective monetary, fiscal and health policy during the pandemic? What respite or stimulus are we giving to the people and businesses in Africa especially the informal sector that employs about 75% of the labour force?
Your Excellency, we need not only a united front but also simple yet effective and sustainable interventions to fight this monster. According to Warwick McKibbin, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA) in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU) and Roshen Fernando1 PhD Student at the same institution, , The idea that any country can be an island in an integrated global economy has been proven wrong by the latest outbreak of COVID-19. Global cooperation, especially in the sphere of public health and economic development, is essential. All major countries need to participate actively. It is too late to act once the disease has taken hold in many other countries and to attempt to close borders once a pandemic has started.” Surely, for the future, we must learn from this outbreak.
Closing borders, by far, has been one of the measures to prevent the spread of a pandemic globally. It impacts on the economy; the lives of individuals have not changed that much. This has not effectively dealt with the other earlier pandemics. Africa must be prepared for emergencies, bold to face the next pandemic through a unified front and still open up its borders for trade whiles we put in effective and efficient measures in place to prevent the inception of an outbreak, It is also time to support budding entrepreneurs to develop tailored solutions that help mitigate these pandemics at such a time .There is the need for African countries to provide a suitable environment for a more robust entrepreneurial growth in the health sector. States need to understand and make reforms to attract more people into the health sector through entrepreneurial activities in a more business friendly environment.
Your Excellency, we are not in this alone. Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general also shares in the same fate. Recollecting his quiz on Monday, during his press briefing in Geneva, “How do you survive on lockdown when you depend on your daily labour to eat?”. He further cautioned Africa Countries on a lockdown without palliatives. The questions begging is, to what extent can Africa Countries provide palliatives? Is this sustainable? What is the effect afterwards?
Your Excellency regarding the recommendation which reads: “Check systematically all suspected cases in order to ensure early detection of the infection, and trace as much as possible infection, and forestall contacts between infected patients and the healthy population”, there is a need to learn from individuals who are able to recover. There are major lessons already suggesting a strong immune system is capable of combating the virus. We must encourage countries to advocate for healthy living and adoption of good lifestyle. This, among other preventive measures such as handwashing, social distancing are sustainable means to deal with COVID-19. Thus, we must end the mandatory lockdown. As you may be aware the ‘lockdown approach’ is rather rendering the pandemic endemic.
Unemployment in Africa is the driving force fueling violent extremism. We are also aware that hunger, so far kills more than the current COVID-19 in Africa. With agitations from far and near. We foresee this as a clarion call for AU to call on member states to end the lockdown.
While there is a need to be to tackle COVID -19, presently, the future of no poverty and a booming economy rest with the African – the young people. The issue regarding unemployment must not only be on the loose end of speech but more actionable and treated with importance and urgency. But how should a continent tackle unemployment without a reliable and credible data?
Finally, Your Excellency, a more united AU front with proactive measures, defense for human right, immediate basic free market policies, sound socio-economic policies in the absence of corruption among member states, would save Humanity, encourage freedom and promote a prosperous society. I dream of the realization of the ideal Africa, whereby emergencies do not create despotism but total liberation and healthy living.
Long live, Your Excellency. Yours faithfully, Emmanuel Acquah (Chief Executive Officer-ACEYE) Info@aceye.org CC: Heads of Member States The AfCFTA Secretariat Richmond Kwasi Ansah (Deputy CEO-ACEYE) Mathias Awuni (Head of Research-ACEYE) All Media Houses