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Ebola pandemic: Wake-up call for Africa

There are instances when I agree with the ideals, principles and vision of pan-African activists that include, but are not limited, to the late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe on African renaissance.

Sunday Opinion by Brian Sedze

To a large extent, I also agree with Gaddafi’s grandiose idea of United States of Africa.

The African renaissance was advocating for, among many other benefits, the propagation, deployment and development of robust and resourced African institutions that enable the continent to be at the forefront of solving inherent and new challenges across the broad spectrum of health, economic, social, legal, technological, safety, security and the environment in Africa.

If the continent had solid institutions, it would not have reacted in a pathetic, confused, comprehensively irresponsible and tragic manner to the Ebola catastrophe.

Inasmuch as the “international” community must be of great assistance, Africa itself should have been at the forefront with a working governance value proposition, systems, structures and reasonable resources to help fight the scourge. Africa is for Africans, a mantra of the renaissance activists is actually very true. Maybe the message was not taken by Africa due to the mistrust for the messengers or the continent leaders are directing their efforts to please new and old neo-colonial masters.

The Ebola scourge is surely a wake-up call for the continent to build its own robust institutions. I say this because the continent seems to be completely outraged at the “international community” for what they believe is a lethargic reaction to efforts at containing the Ebola epidemic.

Murmurs of disapproval within the social media are also that the death of our Liberian brother, Thomas Eric Duncan in United States was also some sort of racist action or negligence.

A more irrational and deep-seated critique of the international community’s relative inaction emerged in a recent BBC interview with Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, who is from Ghana who said, “If the crisis had hit some other region, it probably would have been handled very differently”.

Unfortunately for Annan, it’s true and he must be reminded that his generation of leaders in Africa failed the continent by not building institutions and resources that would have enabled a more resolute leadership in solving this health epidemic. The world should have followed our cues.

Africa has a white population of a mere 8,9%. Africa also has an Ebola outbreak — and as a matter of fact, the reason it is called Ebola is that the first outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus was in 1976 near the Ebola River in Zaire.

It’s an inconvenient truth but it is hard not to agree that race and geography do play a role in the world’s callousness. Race and geography help explain why “some other region” — any other region, really — would get more help.

Africa must live with that “truth” and concentrate on developing its own institutions for this epidemic, future epidemics, and other challenges now and in the future. A lot of African leaders are bad examples and more are jointly and severally liable for inaction because they failed to embrace the Africa renaissance initiative and the United States of Africa idea.

In any case, besides Ebola, how does Africa explain that France is at the forefront of negotiating with Boko Haram?

Efforts to make the Gulf of Eden safe is led by Americans, that ICC wants to superintend the trial of Omar Al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyatta, that Europeans and Americans are at the forefront in research and financing of the continent’s challenges on water, health, sanitation, defence, security, mineral exploration, education, democracy and governance? The list of the West’s footprint in Africa is just innumerable. They actually have centres of African studies at their universities!

Africa hosts some of the most resource-rich countries in the world and yet at the same time harbours some of the greatest poverty, corruption and tribal warfare.

Africa has huge potential to propagate forceful institutions as it is resource-rich and it has a great pool of human capital with knowledge, expertise and skills scattered all over the world. If, and only if, we have a united Africa with minimal corruption, good governance, democracy, open and transparent societies and value addition of its primary resources, will we be in the process of conquering this epidemic as a continent.

This virus has been known since 1976 and the continent still has no capacity to play a pivotal role in fighting this scourge 40 years later. The continent has not even invested in research on this virus like what the CDC and private pharmaceutical companies did. We have a misplaced belief that some countries in the world will do the research for us.

Africa should wean itself of the dependency and donor economy syndrome because it has enough resources to sustain itself and run its institutions. Africa has the capacity to deliver a better standard of living to its citizens.

There are also murmurs of disapproval that the US provided 3 900 soldiers to help in the fight of Ebola instead of medical personnel.

The question is how many doctors and nurses did Africa itself provide for this effort? Without doubt, insignificant human personnel have been dedicated so far by the continent itself to this effort because of the belief the world owns our lives and the ever present dependency syndrome.

America and Europe have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid — specifically for the Ebola fight. They also spent millions to treat Duncan, a black Liberian man, when he fell ill in the US. The first nurse who contracted Ebola from Duncan is the daughter of Vietnamese parents, the second, Amber Vinson, is black.

They are receiving the same all-out treatments as did the US Ebola survivors, Kent Brantley, Nancy Writebrol and Richard Sacra, all of whom are white, and who were flown back to the US from Africa for treatment.

Both Brantley and Sacra have donated blood in hope of helping the other patients. The very reason that these three Americans were even exposed to the virus was that they were over in Africa trying to provide better healthcare for Africans.

While the world was doing all this for us Africa was busy spending millions sponsoring tribal conflicts, billions of dollars on corruption, funding lavish lifestyles of its corrupt leaders, siphoning billions of dollars to tax havens and sponsoring warped priorities that only encourage political expedience at the cost of lives of its citizens.


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