In the early days of the pandemic, until about three months ago, the modelling predicting the volume and death rate in Africa was almost casually catastrophic. These early models have been proven wrong, and the continent, home to over 1.5 billion people, has seen 34,000 confirmed deaths and just over a million cases. According to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (ACDC), it is through pan-African solidarity, timely lockdowns, avoiding panic and strategically using resources that Africa as a continent appears to be faring better than many other regions.
There is a sub-genre of science fiction that has almost been forgotten now, as dystopian future fantasies — symbolic of the anxieties around democratic politics, the pandemic, and AI — have become the norm. The idea was that faced with an existential crisis — climate change, disease or even an alien attack — humanity would band together. In much of the world, that has not been the case. The US is more polarised than ever, Europe is still struggling through Brexit and in South Asia, the cleavages seem to have deepened.
The countries in Africa, though, present a more hopeful picture. The region was ravaged by colonialism, civil wars and ethnic violence to an unmatched degree. It continues to be a theatre for the geo-economic manoeuvrings of external powers. And it is still haunted by the over 12 million deaths from HIV in the time it took to get treatment medicines there cheaply. Solidarity and strategy in dealing with the pandemic have proven effective in Africa, and the ACDC has, in just three years since its formation, lived up to its mandate. Now, as the competition among countries over a vaccine and the infrastructure for its distribution intensifies, the rest of the world could do well to follow Africa’s example.
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