It’s been a slow-moving train, but the coronavirus is now definitely in Africa. In fact, according to the latest UN statistics, at least 45 of Africa’s 55 current countries are now having to deal with the spreading disease.
The countries with the largest outbreaks thus far are South Africa (with over 2,500 cases), Algeria (with at least 1468), Egypt (with over 1300 cases),Cameroon (with over 680 cases), Burkina Faso (with over 360 cases), Ivory Coast ( with a little over 300 cases), Ghana (with 290 cases), Maritius (with 260) and Kenya (with at least 170).
Most of the world had expected far larger numbers in Africa, given the region’s previous battles with HIV, Tuberculosis, Ebola, and the annual struggle with malaria. In fact, malaria is still the largest, most persistent disease threat in Africa annually. But the covid-19 virus has not followed either expectations or predictions so far, and Europe has clearly had the worst of the infections at this point.
South Africa immediately attacked the disease once it was detected there, with President Cyril Ramaphosa issuing a quick 21-day countrywide shutdown and shelter-in-place executive order. Egypt did the same, as did all the other African countries with greater or lesser degrees of aggressiveness. South Africa has also generated an effective nationwide testing program, having learned a lot by paying attention to other parts of the world.
Wild conspiracy theories and rumors have also hit African countries hard, as they did in other parts of the world. The South African government has had to quell a massive Internet rumor that its testing swabs were giving citizens the virus, and thus people needed to avoid being tested. Rumors have also spread that a cup of black tea daily would kill the virus, that dark skin made one immune to the disease, and that cutting off one’s beard cured covid-19 for men.
Of course, a large population has already heard that the virus is part of a secret Illuminati scheme to take over the world, and that innovators like Bill Gates were part of it. That rumor has had to be killed several times, yet it still re-surfaces every other day.
The most damaging rumor so far is one that still has teeth, no matter what truth is provided to end it. That is the rumor started by two French doctors several weeks ago that any new vaccines developed by Western countries should , of course, be tested first in Africa, as if the population is quite fit to be human “guinea pigs” for the rest of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly spoken out against that rumor and the negative Internet comments have been overwhelming.
In fact, the current Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghehreyesus from Ethiopa, just said again a few days ago that the suggestion to test covid-19 vaccine samples in Africa and on Africans was a racist, colonial-minded suggestion, and that it was not going to happen.
Stay tuned though. There are thousands of diasporans and home-country Africans who have taken the position that they cannot simply rest on that affirmative reply. Currently, there is a growing movement to loudly petition the African Union to order all of its member countries to refuse any offer, no matter how remunerative, to allow their citizens to be subjects in European-sponsored vaccine testing.
This will be a good test of the developing relationship between the Diaspora and the AU. It will also be a great episode to demonstrate exactly how unified Africa and Africans now are.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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