Covid 19: Can Africa rescue the world? By Tony Ademiluyi

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In an interview granted by the world’s former wealthiest man who held that position for close to two decades, Bill Gates attributed his mind blowing success to the environment that he was born into. He doubted if he would have been a runaway success if he had been born and raised outside American soil.

The African continent as a whole seems to be a cursed one as many of its inhabitants perform ground breaking feats outside its shores. Many were even rejected back home and were only validated when they left in frustration and anger.

We recall the cases of the Late Dr. Jeremiah Abalaka who claimed to have found the cure of HIV/AIDS. The government didn’t give him a listening ear till he joined his ancestors. The inventor of the yam pounder was also a Nigerian scientist who got frustrated and sold his invention to the Japenese. Now the same government that ignored him massively imports it from his newly adopted country. I can go on and on to say how the continent has been shortchanged because of its harsh attitude towards innovations and scientific breakthroughs.

The latest news making the invention rounds is the herbal drug named Covid-Organics (CVO) made by some scientists from Madagascar. The scientists got critical support from the government and the President Andry Rajoelina openly boasted that his country was ready to export it to the rest of the world.

The cold world didn’t greet his enthusiasm by opening their arms towards the labour of love by his countrymen. There was widespread skepticism especially from the World Health Organization (WHO) who was extremely cynical about the cure. WHO even went on to say that the covid 19 battle wouldn’t be won this year as the virus was going to be around for a long time.

The body language of scientists the world over was downright contempt with the caveat ‘Can anything good come out of Africa?’

WHO never failed to sound the warning bells that the drug hadn’t yet gone through any form of clinical trials and as such the veracity of it was suspect.

Some optimists were very happy that the death rate in Madagascar was zero and expressed delight in the bid of the country to export the drug. A few days after the tiny African nation recorded two deaths. The music didn’t change as they still touted the efficacy of the drug as the new messiah for those desirous of having a covid 19 free world.

I will be as objective as I can without any needless sentiments because of my African origin. While a part of me is crying to the High Heavens to emphatize with my African brothers, another – the voice of reason tells me that the ‘wonder drug’ from our African brother should be made to go through rigorous tests by countries who desire to purchase it. It is human lives we are talking about here and so it is necessary for the drugs to still undergo more tests before they are considered fit for human consumption. We mustn’t allow our hearts to rule our heads and there is the critical need for emotional intelligence here.

World leaders have been known to reel out controversial solutions to nagging global challenges. We recall that the erstwhile President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh said he had the cure for HIV/AIDS and the current United States President, Donald Trump said chloroquine could permanently keep the covid 19 at bay.

I commend the President Muhammadu Buhari led government for purchasing some and first subjecting them to more clinical trials locally before administering them to the general public.

We should be our brother’s keeper if indeed the drug is said to have all the curative attributes that its promoters say it has. Our solidarity shouldn’t stop at merely being members of the African Union as we should massively support it and do the best we can to ensure that it goes far beyond the shores of Madagascar.

African nations should use this pandemic to critically look inwards especially as we have the largest collection of herbs in the world. Researchers and scientists should be encouraged to find the cure through the use of herbs which has fewer side effects when compared to western medicine.

We should stop the colonial mentality of outsourcing our brains to the west when we can provide a home grown solution to this pandemic and in the process generate revenue for our efforts. The world has transited into a knowledge economy and it is high time Africa keyed into it in order not to be left behind. The era of wealth being held in natural resources is now something of interest to history students. Our crude oil is increasingly getting valueless by every passing day and we are currently in a gargantuan dilemma as we cannot even sell most of the ones we have. The world is also fast moving away from oil dependency and smart nations with the finite resource are smartly investing in the novel gold – knowledge economy. Saudi Arabia through the aid of consulting giant, Mckinsey are investing heavily in many companies in the United States and Europe in order to prepare for the post oil era. What is Nigeria doing? Nothing apparently!

The former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu claimed he has the cure for the dreaded virus. There is nothing so far on the part of the government to at least give him a listening ear. How tragic!

Going forward, Nigerian and African governments must create the enabling environment for intensive research to go on. The scientists cannot do it alone as the government needs to commit huge funds to make it happen. It is a huge shame that the medical doctors in Nigeria currently embarked on a strike to press home their demands for a better deal from the government.

The Afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once sang in a hit song ‘Colo mentality,’ that ‘dem don release you but you never release yourself. Africans must have belief in a home grown solution that will emanate from this continent and diffuse to the rest of the world. Afterall Egypt is the cradle of world civilization.

The continent must reinvent itself and this pandemic provides the much awaited grand opportunity to do so.

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