By Gabriel Ewepu
AS African Union, AU, formerly known as Organisation of African Unity, OAU, marked 57th Africa Day on May 25, 2020, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Nigeria, Thursday, tasked African leaders on health, water, agriculture, innovative governance, discontinuation of external borrowing to bring about a new development order that will transform the continent with renewed commitment and determination to be independent in all fronts.
Speaking with Vanguard on commemorating the day, the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, said African governments are to properly tackle and address gaps the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, which they have to focus on strengthening healthcare facilities; financing, staffing, data management, medical supplies, hygiene behaviors, regulation of the private healthcare providers, WASH access, and others.
Also read: COVID-19 presents unique opportunities to speed up Africa’s integration agenda and implementation of AfCFTA
Huge demand for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, facilities to enable frequent hand-washing with soap as a first-line defense against the pandemic.
Focus on the credible suppliers of manufactured goods, including medical supplies to the world; engaging and training of Africa’s youth manpower, addressing the energy deficits, and decisively dealing with insecurity.
Harnessing innovations from young people to meet needs identified in the response to COVID-19; demand for contactless hand-washing facilities. Encourage research into our own indigenous Adrian medicine.
Africa moving from the point of exporting primary products including oil and raw agric produce abroad to finished goods.
Mere said: “Strengthening our healthcare facilities from a systems perspective. It is clear that various components of the system require attention. These include financing, staffing, data management, medical supplies, hygiene behaviours, regulation of private healthcare providers, WASH access, etc. For WASH, the situation is dire. In Nigeria alone, existing data indicate that 95 per cent of healthcare facilities lack access to WASH. Addressing this must be the focus starting from now and moving to the long term. This opportunity should lead to health systems strengthening in the post COVID era.
“The pandemic created a huge demand for WASH facilities to enable frequent hand-washing with Soap as a first-line defence. This has proven impossible for the majority of Africans, especially the poor who lack WASH access. Post COVID-19, Africa, especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa like Nigeria need to take targeted steps to increase access to Clean Water, Decent Toilets, and Good Hygiene to reduce the disease burden on its citizens, realize SDG 6, proactively prepare for the next pandemic and increase economic productivity.”
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nisa Group, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, said self-help is the best help to address most of the health issues affecting the continent if African governments would realize that heavy investments and sacrifices must be made to provide much-needed alternatives for those who seek care abroad in droves.
Wada said, “The main concerns from a healthcare perspective include the following: Self-help is the best help: will African countries now realise that heavy investments and sacrifices must be made to provide much-needed alternatives for those who seek care abroad in droves?; Will nations embrace the Private Public Partnership, PPP, models for rapid developments in healthcare, more like the revolution shown in GSM communications all over Africa; Will African countries embrace the production of basic medical items rather than depend on imports almost 100 per cent; Will African nations now truly engage the medical Diaspora to help bridge the skills and research gaps and also provide medical training?
“Are there any early signs to show that things will change after the pandemic? Well yes and no. In Nigeria, the recent move by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to provide cheaper and long term loans to private-sector health is a potential win. It is never too late to start! But this can only be useful if private-sector strength can be incorporated formally into the provider schemes as seen in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).”
The President and Founder, EO Foundation, Prof Cyril Otoikhian, advised African governments to rely more on local content in all areas of their economies otherwise the developed world will continue to take the continent for a ride and create untold hardship anytime they deem it fit to enslave and colonize the continent again.
“As Africans, we must be self-sustainable and trust what we have. Africa is blessed so why must we be colonized on the invitation for lunch. Our leaders must rise up to the challenge and prepare a sustainable developmental leadership for generations to come.
“Enough of prearranged pandemics enough of sickle cell anemia being classified as African disease enough of Africans being used to test vaccines enough of Africans being victimized all over the world.
“In Nigeria my country let our leaders take the challenges of the biggest scam by the develop world ever COVID-19 pandemic as a lesson and develop our country so that in the near future when the world powers are hungry for world leadership we will not be enslaved and rubbished with virus pandemic conditions were the educational and economic development of our children will be compromised. We must live above fear and panic and we must live above poverty”, Otoikhian stated.
In another reaction, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, expressed concern over the increased borrowing across the continent which subjugates African economies and development into the hands of foreign nations.
“Major concern is the increased borrowing across the continent which will further subjugate the continent into the hands of foreign nations.
“The health and social systems were shreaded by IMF in the 1980s to the 1990s and privatized which they apologized in 1996 but the damage done is where we find ourselves.
“Many of us struggled for our voices to listen through the student’s movements across the country but the government felt the opinions of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, was superior. When the IMF apologised, they had succeeded in destroying every structure.
“We need to believe in Africans for African solutions. We have more learned Africans today but corruption has eaten deep into our fabrics.
“As we celebrate African Liberation Day, we must look inward. COVID-19 should be a reflection time African leaders, politicians, and Africans to take their continent back. Africa has come a long way”, Obi added.
The Vice President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Daniel Okafor, called on African leaders to go into the deep investment to produce more food as a mitigating measure in the post-COVID-19 era and if nothing positive is done to help the farmers get it right at this first year of this pandemic the continent is going to experience food shortage, malnutrition, lack of revenue generation as well lot of job loss will occur.
“COVID-19 is a challenge to the whole world and African Countries are not exceptional. Its effect on Nigeria people in areas of agricultural development cannot be overemphasized.
“In regards to food security, we must prepare our minds towards all odds unless if the government can change their way of improving agriculture on the pages of newspaper and other social media outlets.
“Agriculture is the way to go for African countries, and Nigerians should not take that for granted. If nothing positive is done to help the farmers get it right at this first year of this pandemic Nigeria is going to experience food shortage, malnutrition, lack of revenue generation, etc and as well lot of job losses will occur after COVID-19 pandemic which has even started now.
“Food scarcity, health issues, critical moment, criminals will be everywhere. Nigerian farmers need enough agricultural inputs to enable them to have enough food produced for the country as we work towards achieving food secured country. Food security is attainable and sustainable if the farmers are giving the due assistance to produce food”, he said.
The Country Director, OFAB Nigerian Chapter, Dr. Rose Gidado, while envisaging possible outbreak of adverse hunger in the continent advised African countries to access more advanced technologies to combat farming challenges than at any other time in history.
Gidado said: “The resilience of the livelihoods of African farmers who constitute nearly 65 percent of the population will inevitably be tested during and after the pandemic.
“Nevertheless, it is our opined view that technological innovations can contribute to the management of the pandemic and mitigate its negative impacts. In managing the disease, the killer blow to COVID-19 pandemic lies more in scientific research and innovations including biotechnology that could deliver a vaccine soon.
“In addition, challenges in food production and distribution during the outbreak of pandemics can also be addressed through technology. Presently, Africa can access more advanced technologies to combat farming challenges than at any other time in history.
“Some of these technologies include high yielding crop varieties that can perform well under drought conditions, can resist pests and diseases, and can utilize nutrients more efficiently. Other novel technologies include farm mechanization options and digital agriculture solutions for crop management and knowledge dissemination.”
The Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, suggested that African governments should adopt innovative governance for Africa’s transformation and renegotiating the social contract with its citizens.
“As we celebrate Africa Day 2020, I recommend that African states and leaders deeply reflect on delivering innovative governance for Africa’s transformation and renegotiating the social contract with her citizens.
“Addressing unemployment and improvement of welfare systems to boost the informal economy; strengthening Africa’s healthcare systems, and leveraging technology and innovation for a post-COVID-19 world; are highly prescribed”, he stated.
Africa Day is celebrated was formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day, which is annually marked as the foundation of the former Organisation of African Unity, OAU, on 25 May 1963, and it is still marked on this date.
This is commemorated by African countries including the international community.
Also, it will be recalled that the organization metamorphosed into the present African Union, AU, on 9 July 2002, in Durban, South Africa.