Trials and Tribulations of Covid-19 in Africa

My Thought and Experience with Covid-19

Part 1 By Meme Writes 2020

If, like me, you have had first-hand experience of the effects of Covid-19 and are forced to change your lifestyle, you’ll probably be counting down the days until you can live without its effects again!

I am going to share in parts how people have been affected differently by the outbreak of the disease. In part ,1 I will do a “fly past” over the general effects of Covid-19, and in part 2, I will zoom into Africa and look at how this disease has and still is negatively affecting the ordinary man. I will explore some business practices which have, for time immemorial, downplayed the importance of the ordinary African man. In part 3, I will look at Covid-19 may have negatively or positively affected some households on a personal level.

What is Covid-19?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus Disease of 2019 which is commonly referred to SARS Covid-19 or simply Covid-19 is a pandemic that gripped the world in early 2020 and brought many countries to their knees. The fast-spreading disease was first detected in Wuhan, China, in November 2019 hence its name: Covid-19.

From endemic to pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) the monitor of the world’s health always steps in when there is a threat to the health of humans across the world. When the disease broke out in China it was declared an endemic but quickly became a pandemic. What is the difference? When a disease breaks out and affects a certain area or community and is contained within that community, it is endemic. However, when containment fails and it leaks into other countries and spreads to all corners of the world, it becomes a pandemic. According to the Longman Dictionary for Advanced Learners, “A Pandemic is a disease that affects almost everyone in a large area.

By April 2020 the rate of infection around the world was unbelievable.

The rate of infection for Covid-19 was unbelievable from the onset; it swept across the world in record time and the world witnessed country after country going into lockdown as governments were forced to put a stop all movement for weeks or even months depending on the severity and threat of the disease. The world was taking a hard knock from this disease.  Therefore, the lockdowns were meant to slow the spread of the disease by keeping people apart and “socially distanced.”

The New Normal!

The screening of travellers, quarantine periods, social distancing and masking up became the new normal across the world with the hope of cutting down the spread of the disease. These are currently the best survival tactics since no vaccine or cure has been found. Doctors and scientists have been working around the clock in search of a vaccine or a cure without any known breakthroughs.

So, when Covid-19 hit our streets, there was only one possible play: go into hiding! This, however, has had its own effects behind the scenes. The biggest one was that people would not be able to physically go to work and for many it was, thankfully, possible to work from home. This is something that is common in countries like France where they encourage what they term “Télé-travail” where one works from home on most days and only checks into work occasionally. All communication with the workplace would be done via emails or phone calls. This way of working is good for the environment as it reduces pollution and its effects because there would be fewer commuters on the road. It was, definitely, easier for countries that were already employing this way of working to mostly continue operating. Even their schools were able to continue digitally.

What does it mean for Africa?

Then we come to our beautiful Africa. Locally speaking, I must say the effects of Covid-19 were not as severe as they were in Europe, America and other parts of the world. The figures of infected people and those who died daily were shocking. When I was following the day-to-day statistics for the European countries and they were giving daily deaths figures of close to a thousand for one country, it was shocking! In about 30 days, countries like France and Italy recorded a total of close to 30,000 deaths each! They say the situation was aggravated by the cold weather as the virus seems to thrive in cold conditions. So, how did we get spared from such high losses in Africa?

In the early parts of the year, this was the situation in Africa.

Africa is generally a warm to the hot continent, but we did get Covid-19 cases in many African countries. South Africa topped with very high cases and infection rates. This could be also due to the fact that they conducted tests rigorously across the country. But then again, if one contracts Covid-19 they can still die even if a test was not done. So, in those countries were tests were not conducted on a large scale, we still did not have that many deaths; and in Africa if there is one thing you cannot hide, it’s death. When there is a funeral everyone knows about it. So, what is the reason for having not so high figures even when the disease is present in Africa?

Covid-19 cases remain low in Africa

Could it be due to our normal way of life and the food we eat which have rendered us stronger against Covid-19? You see, one of the safety measures against Covid-19 is the constant washing of hands and in Africa that is actually our way of life. We wash our hands to eat all the time and we eat many times! The fact that Africans mostly use their hands to eat forces them to wash them before they do, whereas non-Africans who use forks and knives to eat do not necessarily need to wash their hands to eat as they do not touch their food with their bare hands!

So, our African way of life which others would consider as a sign of poverty is what could really be protecting us from this pandemic. And ‘social distancing’ is already our way of life in Africa. Why? Because we do not hug and kiss each other for greeting or cuddle too much even among families as other cultures do! Our biggest weakness is the shaking of hands! We do shake hands a lot to greet, in fact too much! But then, we would have washed our hands a lot to eat and after eating, so that basically keeps our hands clean in most parts.

Do not get me wrong, people! I am not saying Covid-19 does not spread that way, remember, it is a respiratory disease that is transmitted through breathing in droplets let out when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks or by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth eyes and nose before washing one’s hands. The disease cannot enter your body through the skin! Because you can introduce it into your system through touching a surface where it has been deposited and touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, it then means keeping a distance of at least a metre between people and masking up would minimize the risk of breathing in the contaminated droplets.

We went to bed to a normal world and woke up to a totally different one with a ‘new normal’ and all sorts of protocols. We moved from traveling freely and willingly to lockdowns, frequent hand washings, hand sanitizers and face masks! The world went into a frenzy and was brought to a practical stand still. Airplanes parked, city centres and markets were empty for weeks to months, schools stood deserted, and health facilities became the busiest.

This was all because of this pandemic which manifests itself with flu-like symptoms which culminate in respiratory infections.

The effects of Covid-19 on our lives?

What does Covid-19 mean for you and me? For our children, relatives, friends and acquaintances? Or even our employers or employees? This is where the trials and tribulations begin: each person has been directly or indirectly touched by this scourge, some as infected and many as affected.

I part 2 I will share personal experiences and those of others. Most of them are just due to unscrupulous business owners who are taking advantage of this problem to manipulate and exploit their workers and the digital divide that is evident where school children are concerned!  

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When the hard times hit…..

Hello, lovers of Peace!

Figure 1 On a lovely July afternoon in the heart of Africa.

I am calling you lovers of peace because I presume, we all want some sort of peace, no matter who we are or where we are from. Peace is the word that binds the world: some have it and enjoy it, while others seek and it and long for it, not forgetting those who prevent others from having it and seem to find that normal.

Peace goes hand in hand with love. If you have a love for the next person and want the best for them, you will be a vessel of peace. There is nothing wrong with self-love, we all have it and need but the loved one has for someone they do not know would go a long way in making our world a better place. Please do not get me wrong about the kind of love I am talking about; I am talking about the one where you just care about what a person who is not a family member or an acquaintance of yours is going through. This is the love that I am referring to.  

I believe that every human being is important and has a role to lay to the world ‘going around’. What role are you playing in the world? Do you bring other joy and happiness or misery and sorrow?

During the times that we are currently living in, the whole world has buckled under the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 popularly referred to as Covid-19. The effects of this disease have been felt across the world by all walks of life. This has seen the world coming together with the common goal of stopping the spread of or managing the disease which still has no cure or vaccine. Lockdowns were put in place in many countries, schools were closed, public international examinations canceled, flights were brought to a halt, borders closed, etc.

Figure 2 The world may have seemed desolate at times, but nature did not take a respite.

All these were measures several countries adopted without thinking twice. For once the whole world acted alike with the same goal. There was an unwritten need for the world to stand together to combat the spread of this novel disease which claimed lives and caused many to lose jobs and incomes. Some unscrupulous business owners saw this as an opportunity to save money by unjustifiably cutting their employees’ salaries even when the employees continued working throughout.

When the lockdowns were announced in many countries, some enterprises including many schools resorted to performing their duties online. Schools were teaching online full time, but this did not stop the school owners from cutting teachers’ salaries. What these bosses failed to understand was that just because teachers were working from home did not mean they were working less.

Teaching online entails a lot of preparation which means that the teacher must transfer the textbook onto a digital form to enable sharing tasks with learners as well as ensuring that pupils can submit completed tasks digitally.  

While this was and still is happening to some unfortunate workers, other companies and schools who, similarly, resorted to the same platform to execute their duties did not, however, cut their employees’ salaries and benefits. Hats off to such employers! The world needs more like you!

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Black Lives Have Always Mattered!

Lately, I have taken a huge interest in the true history and facts of Africa and its people – the Bantu speaking people.

What is Bantu? According to the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, “Bantu languages are a group of related languages spoken in Central and Southern Africa.”

There are several Africans of the past who I find very fascinating such as Sigidi son of Senzangakhona and uNandi, a Princess from Elangeni, better known as Shaka Zulu, the gallant warrior who rose from a bitter childhood of being a mocked outcast son of a King to become the most talked about Zulu warrior to date after he invented tactful and effective fighting methods that saw him gain popularity and territory across Southern Africa. But, how much do we really know about him and his era?   

It is a pity that our African ancestors did not have ways and means of recording their experiences. Imagine if they had diaries and could write. eat stories they would have left for us! In the past, the passing on of information from generation to generation was, solely and unfortunately, reliant on oral methods.

Many questions come to mind: Was that even effective or some facts got lost in the transmission? Again, the dissemination of information depended on messengers. Did they pass on the correct message word for word? What happened if a messenger got attacked and eaten by wild animals before getting to his destination? The sender of the message would wait and assume the message had been relayed whereas it had not while the intended receiver would be oblivious to anything.

How effective was information sharing and collection of news of events that occurred from generation to generation? Had there been ways of scribing the goings on, we would have most certainly been able to get the true facts of what really transpired in all the “historical” events we read about in books written by Europeans. Was what we read about the truth and nothing but the truth or just the opinions and biased views of those who saw themselves as superior and wiser than the Africans ‘running around in their birthday suits’ as one put it in one of the episodes in the series Shaka Zulu. Did we really get the truth as it happened, or it was the view of the writer and how he perceived the reality?

The history was first written by Europeans who “spoke” to the Africans of that time. The so-called speaking was done through a European interpreter who had learnt the local language. How effective was the communication that occurred through an interpreter who had learned to speak the local language? How had the person learned to speak Zulu well enough to play the middlemen in discussions? Were the utterances of the two parties conveyed correctly? Were the words spoken really translated the way they should have been? Who knows?????

When you think of it, there are so many inconsistencies. The records of the history of Africans only starts when the Europeans arrive on the African scene; they also include events that took place a few years before then. How did they get those details and statistics? Because, for one, they did not speak the local languages. To achieve this, of course, they communicated through the Europeans translators. My question remains the same: who had taught them IsiZulu? And how long did it take them to become fluent enough to converse with the Zulus who did not speak a word of English? Now, can I trust the translation that, supposedly, happened between the two sides through a European who had invested interests? Had this interpreter learned all the local language’s idioms, proverbs, etc, to translate effectively?  

When I watched the movie Shaka Zulu and saw how Henry Cele (May his soul rest in peace) and his son Khumbulani Cele (who played the young 8 – 11-year-old Shaka) portrayed Shaka, I marvel at their excellence. You would swear they were the real Shaka! Why do I say that? It is because of what I read in some history textbook about the kind of person Shaka was. But, was that the real truth? Did he really do all those terrible things? In whose opinion was the story of Shaka told? Who told the story? Was it done through an interpreter as well? These are some of the questions I have concerning how this whole Shaka Zulu story is told. I guess we will never know the truth then!

I really do not believe Shaka was as barbaric as he is painted out to be. I believe that he was negatively portrayed to justify why the European settlers wanted to topple him from power. They found him to be a hindrance to their ‘Cape to Cairo’ dream and so, to make their job of usurping the African plains a done deal, they worked on his downfall and afterwards continued to smear his image in history books in order to make it seem like they saved people from him. With Shaka in power, their objective of controlling the African people and their resources would not have been as easy to achieve as they wanted it to be. Shaka would not allow them to have their way.

I find Shaka to be the greatest African warrior of the past known to us. He fought and won his wars using the original African tactics and weapons, untainted by western influences. If he had lived in a different era, he would surely have fought for the freedom of the African continent. Yes, he had his faults and weaknesses like all humans do, but I believe that he also had his incomparable strength which would have benefited the Africans. I guess we will never know the real facts about Shaka and his reign as well as his era.

I refuse to believe that the shared literature about my history and my people is the gospel truth. To start with, it is a product of a group of people who came to Africa with the sole aim of colonizing and taking over. They had ulterior motives and anything they said, and their actions were for their own benefit. It had nothing to do with benefiting the locals.

I am saddened by the fact that those beautiful African souls will never have their true stories told as anyone who had first-hand information is no longer there to verify anything written down as “facts”. Sadly, just because it is written does not necessarily make it the truth. The available literature could just be biased.

Although we will never know the true facts of his life, we know for sure that someone like Shaka Zulu graced the plains of Southern Africa in the early 1800s. He fought hard to become a force to be reckoned, ruled with an iron feast and brought dignity to the Zulu people – his influence was felt like a ripple across the better part of the sub-Saharan Africa.  

If Shaka Zulu had lived in a different era, how would Southern Africa be like? What would the story of the African people be like today amid the #BlackLivesMatter campaign?

More influential African people in history’s stories to follow!

Who was your favourite African person in history?