AFRICA IS BEST:
MY BROTHER Ntong Victor Sunday HAS PUT ME TO THE QUESTION: WHY HAS AFRICA FARED SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE REST OF THAT WORLD WITH COVID 19?
The African region is the best performing region in the pandemic. Africa’s total deaths are less than 10% of the United State’s daily deaths.
But what are the structural reasons for Africa’s superb performance?
1. SWIFT ACTION: In February 2020, a number of African nations - like Lesotho - shut down public institutions immediately, whilst implementing social protocols. Students of strategy should not see this as merely a decision to act quickly. Instead, it must also be seen as a tactical understanding of the implications of low facilities capacity and financial resources. Understanding these facts about their status, led African governments to act to prevent even the “best case scenarios”.
2. YOUNG POPULATION - I have written that the future belongs to Africa because its the youngest of all regions of the world. It turns out that this is also crucial for Covid 19 infections, since (at least initially), Covid 19 attacked the elderly disproportionately to younger persons. Africa has an added benefit: it does not “warehouse” its elderly. Africa and Japan - followed by the Caribbean - are the zones in which the elderly enjoy a near sacred deference; though in the Caribbean, we are beginning to copy American and European models of parking the elderly in ‘death barns’.
3. POPULATION DISTRIBUTION - Most African nations are arranged and operate on the “city-village” dynamic. As such, the elderly tend to live in the village, whilst younger people crowd to cities. This means the most vulnerable demographic were largely outside the hotspots for Covid 19 infections.
4. COMMUNITY vs. COMMERCIAL HEALTHCARE: Africa - for the most part - does not have large commercial healthcare systems, as in the US and Europe. It turns out that these commercial systems are not very flexible and could not react swiftly to the onslaught of the virus spread. They were limited in capacity, manpower and resources. In Africa, 90% of healthcare is delivered by small clusters of community clinics and a large volunteer sector. This produces a complex local information ecology, but one which can metabolise the best in formation quickly and adjust immediately at the community prevention and treatment levels.
5. EXPERTISE: Africa has a growing number of experienced medical personnel, (like Dr. Denis Mukwege, Dr. Stella Immanuel and beloved Dr. Evan Atar Adaha), who worked (suffered) through AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, Malaria, Dengue and a host of other maladies. Those physicians - as in Senegal - are amongst the most seasoned medical professionals in the world. In fact, they face a conundrum: come together to collect those skills and knowledge or remain in their communities where they are most effective. What is more important, they must not try to adopt Western Institutional models, which failed miserably in this pandemic. Even in countries like Taiwan, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand, which have the best performance records outside of Africa, those nations followed the same decentralised script as African nations.
6. LOCAL KNOWLEDGES: My favourite aspect of the Africa pandemic story is the local knowledge. In Liberia in 2013-15 International Organisations found themselves not only defeated, but found their medical professionals dying in droves in Liberia in the heat of the Ebola outbreak, which spread to Guinea and Sierra Leone. THEN CAME THE GRANDMOTHERS: quietly, they put the men and boys outdoors on cots under trees and in tents, sanitised the entire homesteads, open the little hovels in which people lived to fresh air, and made everyone stay off the streets, such as they were and cooked soups. This broke the spread to nearly nil. (I THOUGHT THESE WARRIOR GRANNIES DESERVED THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR 2014 and 2015, but they are forever in my heart). This exhibition of local knowledge particularly in places like Monrovia and Bensonville, Liberia (one of my favourites), demonstrated a high degree of “social trust”, the same social trust exhibited in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea for their nationals governments.
7. CLIMATE: It is now well-established that SAR-CoV2 - the Coronavirus that caused the pandemic Covid 19 retreats in heat and expands in cooler temperatures. It is also interesting to note that in larger segments of Africa, Covid 19 emerged near the end of their Summer and into the Fall. As such, by time as Winter fell, in South Africa for example, three months ago - social practices had hardened already and populations had been well-schooled in the proper protocols, which they followed reinforced by local systems.
These are the major reasons for the low count in Africa of both infections and deaths compared to the rest of the world. I do not doubt there are anomalies in record keeping, categorisation and other statistical integral systems. However, its been 11 months and likely those anomalies would have collapsed by now. I am concerned about the new strains in Britain and South Africa - an unusual distribution pattern - because a virulent strain that replicates the ‘superspreader’ would be deadly, not only in Africa, but worldwide.