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Four lessons African countries learnt working together in fight against coronavirus

Despite poor health infrastructure, the African continent barring few countries has so far managed well in combating the coronavirus pandemic compared to other continents.

The 54 countries on the continent are tackling the coronavirus by working jointly and the continent’s successful policies have kept the death toll much lower than expected.

John Nkengasong, director, Africa Centre for Disease and Prevention said some of the early lessons that African governments have learned is confidence in the continent’s ability to take charge of its own future and respond in a coordinated manner to a common enemy.

Speaking during the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) Global Week of Dialogue held recently online with the theme “Science Advice & COVID-19: What are we learning?” He said Africa’s epidemic preparedness and response capacity highlight main lessons learnt as experience in controlling COVID-19.

“Lessons learnt include connectivity, coordination, commitment has enhanced detection, prevention and management of the outbreak,” said Nkengasong.

The International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) is running the Global Week of Dialogue across time zones around the world to shed light on real-time lessons from the global pandemic that jurisdictions and the multilateral system can draw on to improve their potential for better outcomes in the immediate, medium and long term.

With the reported cases in the continent so far, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, and Senegal account for 89 percent of all reported cases.

According to the director of Africa Centre for Disease and Prevention, we have supported the continent with over 5 million Covid test kits supplied, deployed over 10,000 community workers across the continent supported many countries with about 250 responders, and we are now distributing a lot of that personal protective equipment (PPEs) that are required.

“We are still early on this new virus, we are dealing with bears; there are four main things that are emerging from this already and these are the main lessons Africa have learned so far from this pandemic.

Firstly, is that we are more vulnerable, as the global community and as Africa than we thought we were, and especially for our continent.

“Secondly, this pandemic has further exposed the inequalities that exist across Africa, and across the world.

“Thirdly, Africans are more connected than we thought and have learned from this is that Africa can coordinate these efforts and can believe in self.

“Development is the choice; I think we choose to coordinate our efforts,” Nkengasong said all ministers agreed that we should have a joint strategic plan that is underpinned by the ability to coordinate, communicate and collaborate our efforts.

He continued: “I think we have since been doing that, we have a continental task force that brings everybody together. It brought into focus the need to strengthen our institutions, and the value-added to fight in pandemics if those institutions are supported.

According to Nkengasong, a good example is the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in Nigeria. NCDC is a relatively young organisation, less than five years but it has really shown tremendous leadership.

“It has become a model for our continent where and how the CDC, the ministry and national public health institutions could cooperate.”

People look at the numbers in Nigeria and see where we have worked less close to 60,000 cases but it could have been worse. We have seen how the numbers in India in Brazil and other places there make us believe that, without such concerted efforts, leadership and coordination, we would have been worse,” he said.

Lastly, Nkengasong said the commitment of Africa’s heads of states has been extraordinary.

“We carefully debate strategies and they carry that forward. So I think that teaches us that Africa can do it. We just have to believe in ourselves and believe in mobilising our own assets,” he said.

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