The predicted ‘second wave’ of Coronavirus (Covid-19) seems to be knocking so fast and furious on the doorstep of many countries within the eurozone. Officials in Europe’s capital cities are bracing for a winter storm as figures of new cases climb steadily.
On Monday, the French authority ordered bars and cafe shops in Paris locked for 15days to interrupt the sudden spike among Parisians. On Saturday, a new daily record of 16, 000 cases was discovered across France.
In neighbouring Germany, the situation is similarly less than encouraging as the commendations that greeted the management of the virus back at the beginning of 2020 appear to have evaporated. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent denunciation of the laissez-faire attitude of residents, especially younger members of the population, reflects the deep concerns within the Reichstag. Going by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s leading disease control centre, the forecast for the coming months is scary. According to the institute, five neighbourhoods in Berlin are regarded as tipping points due to the surge of the disease in these densely inhabited areas.
Amidst the scrambling, and sometimes excruciating, efforts to safeguard the European economies from further strains, governments across the continent are stressed with additional worries of dealing with a growing sentiment among sceptics that what is at play is not a pandemic but what they termed ‘covid fascism’. Anti lockdown protest, aimed at forcing governments into rescinding the physical restrictions imposed since early March, has become a weekly dosage of activities in urban centres of Europe.
THE CAUTIOUS SUCCESS
For Africa, the doomsday prediction by Melinda Gates that the streets of the continent would be littered with corpses by mid-2020 did not see the light of the day. The continent has, surprisingly, been the least affected by the novel coronavirus. Figures from the Addis Ababa-based Africa Centres for Disease Control (ACDC) reveal that the continent has, till date, recorded 1.4million infections, and a miserly 36,000 deaths from the pandemic.
The general feeling is that, for a sum continental population of 1.3billion, Africa deserves to be cut some slack as far as the handling of Covid-19 is concerned. Director of the Africa CDC, John Nkengasong, attributes the secrets of this particular Africa’s success story to “joint continental effort”.
In Senegal, a team of experts at Dakar’s Pasteur Institute led by Dr Amadou Sall caught global attention in May with the discovery of a dollar test kit for the disease. Besides, officials at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) recently followed in the direction of their Senegalese counterparts with the announcement of a cheaper and faster test kit to scale up the snail-pace diagnosis of the current PRC test for the disease.
While one may continue to wax lyrical about Africa and its handling of the COVID-19, there is need to exercise some restraints. Africans should be told to continue to brace themselves for a more strenuous test in the weeks ahead.
For a start, it is difficult to conclude that the figures being brandished for Africa are accurate reflections of the reality on the ground going by reservations expressed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The test capacity of many African countries remains very low months into the pandemic and some deaths which may have been caused by COVID-19 were, possibly, not capture in the statistics from the continent.
Moreover, the territorial proximity between Northern Africa and Europe is now more or less a burden going by the traffic of humans between the two regions. For instance, Morocco and Egypt are witnessing a huge rise in new infections of the virus; the geographical romance with Spain where the pandemic ran riot in June/July should not be discarded as a possible cause for this trend. As the yuletide beckons towards the year-end, unsuspecting travelers to and from many African cities may unwillingly be carrying more than their baggage upon arrival for Christmas holidays.
FOREIGN AIDS AND CORRUPTION
The ability of Africa to scoop more financial aids from the advanced North to cater to her downtrodden populace, whose living condition had been made worse by COVID-19, may be hampered by allegations of corruption that characterized relief funds and donations in many countries.
Uganda’s Ambassador to Denmark, Nimisha Madhvani, and her deputy have been recalled after appearing in a leaked video conversation discussing how to share donations meant for the pandemic. In Kenyan, an investigation is ongoing into alleged financial impropriety at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMA) where it is believed that money was siphoned through dubious procurements of personal protective equipment for health workers in the country.
Although the decision of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to support some countries with $3billion as a cushion against the pandemic is worthy of note, it remains a drop in the ocean compared to the €6.2billion set aside by the European Union for the same purpose. This would be better appreciated when juxtaposed with the number of persons now desperately in need of government intervention in the continent’s worst-hit country, South Africa.
One is not unconscious of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 has left nothing in its sight untouched, yet the time calls for diplomatic retooling like never before. In the absence of the hitherto indispensability of Donald Trump’s United States, China appear to be taking charge, even on the forefront of the fight against the pandemic in Africa. Pictures of tons of relief and medical aids in more than one airport (in Africa) were common features in various media while the first phase of the virus lasts. Such diplomatic theatrics play perfectly into the image-washing strategy of Beijing in the eyes of onlookers far and near.
Scant European powers did thrust their hands to Africa, too, but that did not quite measure up to the Chinese’ bold statement.
Historically, Africa and Europe have endured seemingly inseparable ties which spanned trade expeditions to colonialism and bilateral relations. That, perhaps, inspired the Head of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen into submitting that, “Africa is the European Union’s natural partner and neighbour”. Largely dictated by trade and economic interests, the post-colonial interactions between the two are, however, being challenged by China’s ‘Road and Belt’ incursion into Africa to ignite a new theatre of a geopolitical cold war between Europe and China.
Europeans’ ties with Africa have over the years being predicated upon diplomatic treaties. Ratified in 2000, the Cotonou Agreement which serves as the policy framework for the EU relations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries is the most notable of such instruments and has a terminal date of December 2020. In recent years, there has been the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (2007) and the EU-Africa Summits through which Heads of governments of countries in the two regions hold formal intercontinental deliberations every three years. Unfortunately, the 2020 summits originally scheduled to hold in Brussels had been consumed by COVID-19.
One of the enduring lessons of the pandemic is the changing dynamics of what constitutes power in the twenty-first century global conversations. The failure of European governments to rise to the occasion is a sharp contrast to what obtains in Africa where a combination of cautious, pragmatic advocacy approach and practicable epidemiological experience in handling the deadly Ebola virus mitigated the spread of the Coronavirus. It is, to this end, crucial for the two continents to deepen existing collaborations and initiate new strategies to combat common threats through consensus.
The role of mutuality between Africa and Europe has never been more imperative on the scale of new global emergencies like migration, global warming, and threats to peace and security, all of which are uniform threats to national and global cohesion. Political leaders in the two continents should, therefore, further close ranks in the realization of their continents’ Siamese-like relationship, even in a post COVID world.