As the year comes to a close, so much has happened in Africa and globally, and lessons must be drawn from such human experiences. The year has been replete with victories and losses in various contexts, particularly as shaped by the lived realities of Covid-19.
The hope that there would be a gradual triumph over the pandemic ushering a return to ‘normalcy’ has been countered with the lingering despair caused by the uneven global scales of capital.
At a time when the global north countries refuse to genuinely rectify global inequalities pertaining public health, the pandemic has increasingly become an ‘African pandemic’. Despite this, the continent is remarkably buoyed by optimistic resilience, even where its leaders have made it a routine to disappoint their people.
Inequalities relating to vaccines and critical life-saving medical equipment dominate the discourse aimed towards achieving global equitable access to quality healthcare. The industrially advanced countries hoarded superfluous vaccines while African countries have woeful vaccination rates.
And this is due to structural inequalities caused by centuries of colonial exploitation – perpetuated in the present by vicious neocolonialism. Countries such as South Sudan, Burundi, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among those with the lowest vaccination rates in the world. Others include Haiti and Yemen.
But ever since the World Health Organisation head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decried “vaccine apartheid”, African countries grapple with deplorable public health services. Clearly, other lives matter more than others; other lives are easily dispensable – “a life in Harare matters as much as that in Washington DC”.
Seemingly, a stubborn refusal to learn from history persists unabated. Covid-19 should have led Africans towards new paths designed to achieve equitable and democratic access to public services that include food, healthcare, education, water and sanitation, transport, land, and housing.
There should be greater reverence for human rights and public welfare – policies must be created with crucial aim of serving the public. Regrettably (as influenced by neoliberal capitalism) African leaders/policymakers indulge in polarized narratives that things should be run the same way. They have failed to create authentic values that respect the dignity and sanctity of human life.
The clamor for ‘normalcy’ to return is disingenuous – such normalcy furthers patterns of inequality where the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Instead, Africans, with a collective consciousness firmly grounded in principle of Pan-Africanism, must rethink a sustainable future where self-sufficiency takes centre stage.
Such patriotic lessons can be learned from Cuba – a country with a rich history of global medical solidarity despite imperialist demonization. It currently prides itself in having the highest vaccination rates in the world. It relies on its locally-produced Soberana 02 and Abdala vaccines. Cuba not only protects its population but extends help to countries such as Venezuela and Vietnam. Africa would do well to learn a lesson from this patriotic drive: self-reliance is the best response to Western-induced vaccine apartheid, and above all, Africans stand to benefit immensely.
The issue of foreign debt chokes the continent’s independence and sovereignty and rejecting unfair loan terms is a tremendous start. Where Africans fiercely defend their sovereignty under Pan-African unity and patriotism – the unconditional love for one’s land – the need to depend on foreign aid will cease to exist. This also entails rejecting the phenomenon of foreign military bases presently dotted all over the continent. Foreign bases by the United States (AFRICOM), France, China, and Russia must be wiped from African land. The reliance on the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor must be stopped.
All in all, African need to be fiercely patriotic in defending their sovereignty. The originality of Africa’s human, social, and financial capital must be used to benefit Africans. Leaders and policymakers must unite under Pan-Africanism to mould an African continent that benefits Africans not capitalists from the East or the West – especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.