Latest News Editor's Choice


Opinion / Columnist

Don't Africans get tired of being poor?

26 Apr 2020 at 12:03hrs | Views
And so it begins - Africa's gladiator fight with the most virulent of viruses to affect mankind in recent memory.

And for the umpteenth time we are being reminded that this would be another David and Goliath affair, but this time with a different outcome to the biblical tale.

They say the coronavirus will flog Africa like a piñata.

Well, not exactly a piñata, which is uncommon, or even superfluous, in this part of the world that is stereotyped for its begriming poverty.

You see, a piñata is a multi-coloured container that is usually moulded out of paper mache and filled with sweets and candy before being suspended from a height.

Blindfolded kids are then armed with sticks to flog it until it ruptures enough to rain sweets on the expectant floggers.

So it is much more an imagery of the rich than the poor.

In this part of the world, we know that nothing is bludgeoned much more violently like snakes, which present a much present and known mortal danger.

Where Bishop Lazi comes from, there are even devilishly crafted whips specially reserved for snakes.

These contraptions are made by fastening a thong made from salvaged broken bicycle chains to either a metal or wooden handle.

Depending on the size of the snake, a blow delivered by these whips can either dismember the poisonous reptile or instantly immobilise it.

The result is always invariably fatal.

But, although this weapon is devastatingly efficient and effective, one has to be wary that a snake doesn't become accidentally entangled on the thong and fall on the flogger to deliver one last venomous bite.

Otherwise, I bet that flogging anywhere and everywhere doesn't become as violent and fatal as this.

And this is the kind of blow we are being told to anticipate in Africa.

Covid-19, as the current strain of this novel coronavirus is known, has already barrelled through China, Europe — particularly the UK, Spain and Italy — and the United States of America, where the death toll is grimly and sadly creeping towards the 50 000 mark.

Winter is coming!

It is quite apparent that Covid-19 has become the most fatal pandemic in the past 102 years, especially after the infamous 1918 Spanish flu.

While we do not know exactly how many people were infected and succumbed to the influenza pandemic in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia), which was first recorded in Bulawayo in October 1918, we only know that it managed to spread to Harare, Mvuma and Kwekwe, among other cities.

Worldwide, however, this flu killed a jaw-dropping 50 million to 100 million people around the world.

The only other influenza pandemic that reached these shores since then was the swine flu that originated in Mexico in 2009 and infected an estimated 15 000 people in Harare, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.

Bishop Lazi knows of only one reported fatality in Tsholotsho that was linked to the virus.

But, even before then, the world seems to have been living under the spectre of coronaviruses, starting with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) — which began in China in 2002 and only killed less than 1 000 people in less than 35 countries — followed by the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

In Africa, SARS seemed to have only affected South Africa, while MERS only managed to spread to three countries on the continent — Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia.

Covid-19 has proved to be a different animal, having claimed the lives of more than 1 200 people on the continent by the end of last week.

Fifty-two of Africa's 54 countries, with the exception of Comoros and Lesotho, have confirmed cases of the disease.

Worryingly, winter, which is supposed to coincide with rising incidences of respiratory diseases, including the coronavirus, is around the corner, and we are again being reminded how this is potentially devastating to us.

Sickman

Whenever Europe, Asia, America, Australia feel downcast, they always look to Africa as a soothing and reassuring reference of how better off they are.

Perhaps it is compensatory behaviour.

Africa is always considered as the proverbial sickman of the world, and the only tragedy nowadays is that 60 percent of the population on the continent — who are youths below 25 years — have been indoctrinated to think likewise.

You might have read a story by one of the American publications, which dutifully reminded us last week that South Sudan, with a population of about 11 million people, has more vice presidents (five) than it has ventilators (four).

How funny!

We were also told that the CAR (Central African Republic) has three ventilators for five million people.

Liberia, with five million people, has six ventilators, including one proudly owned by the United States Embassy in Monrovia.

DRC, which has 84 million people, has five only.

Overall, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 41 African countries are believed to have only 2 000 working ventilators.

And Zimbabwe, despite being hamstrung by sanctions for the past 20 years, has an estimated 17. In fact, they could be more.

Imagine: The Chinese billionaire Jack Ma recently donated more than 500 ventilators to the continent.

Even if we had the ventilators, we don't even have enough power to support our medical facilities, the oxygen for those who might fall sick and specialists such as the intensivists for critically ill patients.

However, it gets worse.

We are also told by the "dutiful" New York Times that 36 percent of Africans (about 450 million people) have no access to household washing facilities, while 56 percent of the population on the continent — that should be about 670 million people — live in overcrowded slums.

If you think this is not bad enough, we are also being reminded as a continent that we import close to 94 percent of our medicines.

Argh!! This, if true is embarrassing.

Well, bean counters from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimate that Africa needs US$100 billion for safety nets and an additional US$100 billion to pep up the economy after the coronavirus.

We all know that this needs nothing short of a miracle.

If you ever came across the works of economist Thomas Friedman, you will know that in 1969 he coined the term "helicopter money", which simply implied releasing cash to households and businesses to sustain economic growth.

Put simply, this is a euphemism for printing money in order to keep the economy going.

The US is spending big money.

Its stimulus package to support households, industry — big and small — was nearing US$3 trillion by last week.

EU, China and Australia are also spending big. By comparison, Zimbabwe's Treasury has spent just over $1 billion (an estimated US$20 million) on various interventions.

It is high time that we change this sorrowful narrative. Right now, everything that we eat — maize-meal, bread and flour (wheat), rice, et cetera — is imported, yet we have hungry able-bodied youths who continue to walk the streets of our towns and cities while fertile, productive land lies fallow in our rural areas.

Covid-19 is clearly a catalyst to what the UK's Guardian economics editor, Larry Elliott, called deglobalisation, which means every country is expected to be self-sufficient, especially considering the rising protectionism and nationalism around the world.

For Zimbabwe, the plan to create a moderately prosperous society in the next 10 years (Vision 2030) is already there; it only needs to be maniacally pursued.

Currently, we can only hope that God's grace will see us through.

As the Lord says in Psalm 12:5: "Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now rise . . . I will protect them from those who malign them."

Surely, there comes a time when we should be tired of being poor.

Bishop out!
Source - sundaymail
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.