Why is the AU mum on Africa's Covid-19 breakthroughs?

Tuesday May 26 2020

Africa Day is celebrated on May 25 each year to mark not only the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), later changed to the African Union (AU), in 1963, but also to commemorate the continent’s fight against colonialism, apartheid and other common challenges. The theme for the day is set out every year around February when the AU, heads of states meet for an annual summit.

The theme chosen for the African Day in 2020 is the theme for the AU year, ‘Silencing the guns, creating a conducive environment for Africa’s development’. It is also in line with Agenda 2063, the current blueprint for transforming Africa into a power house of the future. The strategy hopes to make Africa a player in the global arena by pursuing pan-Africanism through unity. The Union also hopes to give more focus to inclusive social development, regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security.

Since the global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), it is clear that the reaction of the AU to issue is slow and not as progressive as it should be close to 60 years after her formation. It does not make any African enthusiastic to realise that the AU is not proactive enough to change the annual theme to realize safety against Covid-19, as the threat of gun fire takes a back seat for most of Africa and ways to deal with the novel disease take centre stage.

Africa continues to be a sleeping giant, listening to the doomsday theories of our colonisers and their ill-intentioned advice and double speak. Africa has slept soundly and long enough one would be think! The continent has refused to challenge the death predictions of the west and even the WHO, numbers that were neither scientifically nor logically derived. They were based on the assumption that since the west and China have been ravaged by the disease, Africa would be a disaster.

Instead, some AU member states have, at individual levels, made great strides to deal with Covid-19, but the Union is still dragging her feet in ensuring that the countries to whom this intellectual property belongs get the right financing to turn them into products which can benefit the continent and the world.

Madagascar claims that an herbal tea that their President drunk at a press conference can cure Covid-19 in seven days in addition to acting as a preventative drink. Labelled ‘Covid Organics’, the concoction is widely used in the country as treatment for Malaria. The AU should be galvanising the necessary financial resources for testing the efficacy of this herbal tea as a cure for corona.



Meanwhile, scientists in Senegal have developed Covid-19 testing kits that could cost as little as one dollar, using knowledge and experience gained in decades of struggle with HIV and Ebola virus. Such a kit is timely and cost-effective for the African population, a majority of whom can barely afford to live on a dollar a day. The AU is also pin-drop silent on this innovation.

Ghana is using a ‘pool testing’ methodology where tests are conducted in bunches and only if one bunch comes back positive are individual tests carried out on the samples in that bunch. This will not only save millions in tests, but also ensure that millions in the population that need testing can access the service. This makes sense as a testing methodology among traced contacts in nonspecific social gatherings such as churches or funerals.

Rwanda, a member of the East African Community, has developed five anti-epidemic robots, taking the Covid-19 fight a notch higher than most nations. The robots can screen fifty to one hundred patients per minutes, measure temperature, deliver food to the bed side of patients, capture data and notify medical staff of any unusual activities among patients. These high tech robots will especially reduce the risk of infections among hospital staff.

Even with all these achievements by members, individual countries still choose to follow an untested script from the western world, ignoring and sometimes even ridiculing home-grown solutions. Kenya has, for example, chosen to clap in honour of medical care givers, instead of addressing their long term labour-related grievances. Buildings have also been lit up to thank first responders, instead of giving sanitisers, soaps and masks to the poor, especially in urban areas where water is not guaranteed and streams are too toxic to use even for laundry water.

But the most tragic part is that the western world is busy planning how to use the African population as guinea pigs for their vaccines and are confidently announcing so to the world, without any protest from the AU.

Twitter: @muthonithangwa