The United States’ military operations in Somalia are not well known because they are carried out secretly or via proxy armies. These operations have not been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic; on the contrary, they seem to have accelerated.
In the face of an onslaught of harrowing and, occasionally, life-affirming news, we reached out to our storytellers and editors to reflect on the times. The following is a journal bearing witness and foretelling the effects of an unfolding pandemic seen through African eyes.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed anything, it is that health is a multi-faceted sector that requires the cooperation of people with specialisation in the humanities, social sciences, life sciences and physical sciences. In other words, every discipline has to be involved in the discussions, knowledge and politics of health.
In a prolonged crisis, formal establishment workers are more exposed to job losses and financial insecurity than those in the micro and small enterprise informal sector. The jua kali economy is better cushioned and, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, the “job insecure” jua kali workers are more economically secure.
The difference lies in this: that as Mr. Kenyatta makes all the right moral pitches, Mr. Akufo-Addo canvasses all the right responses. If only Mr. Kenyatta would reach for the phone and give President Akufo-Addo a call.
The imposition of a curfew in Kenya in response to COVID-19 has been accompanied by increasing levels of violence against civilians by the police. This has, once again, underscored how poorly trained Kenya’s police “service” is and why it is the most dreaded institution in the country.
The government does not understand the magnitude of the response that is required. There is no appreciation that the key challenge of responding to the COVID-19 economic shock is policy instruments, not funding. And that is a problem.
African governments need to adopt a “whole-of-society approach” to successfully face the threat posed by COVID-19. They need to recognise that involving non-governmental actors in the formulation, as well as in the implementation, of policies to address the pandemic, need not be perceived as a threat to their own legitimacy.
There hasn’t been a pandemic control that has succeeded without social capital. How Kenya and Africa will deal with this pandemic will squarely depend on the strength, resilience and adaptability of our social capital to weather the storm.
As authorities the world over restrict the movements of their populations, and governments benchmark their responses on the worst affected regions, there are lessons to be learnt from South Korea which has eschewed lockdowns in favour of early detection through mass testing, contact tracing and treatment.