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World War III is here! The enemy is Covid-19

Sunday March 29 2020


A sign alerts people to the closure of a beach, due to Covid-19, in Lisfannon, north Ireland, on March 28, 2020. PHOTO | PAUL FAITH | AFP 

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If you were of schoolgoing age in 1939 when World War II broke out, you would be a longevous octogenarian in 2020.

And now for the third time in history we are engaged in worldwide warfare. This round against the invisible scourge, aka the Great Social Leveller that is Covid-19.

So for the under-87s among us, the essay question today is: Compare and contrast WW II and WW III.

First, the good news. Although we have become home-based refugees, I would suggest the daily commute from bedroom to living room (now converted into a joint office/classroom) is not quite the same as fleeing for your life to escape an armed front.

In fact, a lucky few among us may still be providing value over a Zoom video call and getting paid for it.

In the world of winners, Safaricom has transcended to a league of its own – as we endeavour to maintain our status as social animals.


Regrettably, similar to WW II, the ratio between winners and losers will be one to many.


The rose as the gift that says ‘I love you’ appears to have been replaced by hand sanitiser and thousands of workers are now unemployed in Kenya’s flower farms.

Your favourite barber has no customers due to difficulties in plying their trade as per the recommended social-distancing guidelines.

If you work at KQ, you likely had a pay cut. If you work at a hotel, you can anticipate unpaid leave, in the best case.

The big unknowns here are: how long will this last? Will I live or die? (likely at less than three per cent mortality, the answer is yes, especially if we can #FlattenTheCurve).. but can we subsist on significantly lower or zero income?

To solve for “t”, time, let’s recall that from its first case in early December 2019, it has taken China just over three months of aggressive actions to reverse the build-up of new infections.

Note that this is a country that can track every one of its 1.4 billion citizens as soon as they step out of their front door through an extensive CCTV network utilising Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition.

For the Chinese, tracking an errant populace disobeying a lockdown becomes a more scientific exercise than the Italian mayors' ranting and swearing accompanied by Mafiosi-style threats to their constituents on broadcast TV.


Ergo, it will likely take the world a substantially longer time to delay disease spread with the accompanying economic collateral damage.

In the case of World War II, it started off with a seemingly contained altercation between Germany and Poland.

This grew to encompass the whole world, with both the Allies and Axis thinking they would decimate the other within a matter of weeks. It lasted 312 weeks.

Learning from the above, stocking up, if you can, is a logical course of action.

Now the caveat to this is unless you are a professional Doomsday hoarder, it is unlikely you will have bought enough for a multi-year siege.

And a couple of tips here: remember toilet paper is not a necessity to live; secondly, don’t forget crops grow in cities, too, so if things become dire - no unpaved ground is sacrosanct!

This is war and we need to adopt a ‘war economy’ approach on a global scale.


During World War II, the US government brought together private companies to ramp up production of ships, tanks, bombers.

At present, the world does not have enough armaments against ‘the coronavirus’ - such as testing kits, ventilators, drugs, masks and so on.

The heavy lifting required is akin to the Marshall Plan provided to Western Europe in the post WWII era.

In Britain, Her Majesty’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has literally provided a blank cheque to ensure markets do not collapse and businesses avoid bankruptcies.

As we brace ourselves for the next several months, every country will need to dip into its national piggy-bank, to ensure families can secure their daily ugali na sukuma and buy recession-proof school shoes when the time comes.

Lest we forget, though, this is a universal threat that requires everyone to act.

It’s about fighting this shoulder to shoulder on the beaches of Normandy; it’s not about preserving short-term liberties for countries, corporations and citizens; it’s about survival for the long-term.

The author is the Managing Partner of C.Suite Africa; [email protected]