2020: An African Response
In this climate it’s anyone’s guess how African countries will cope from the number of cases in their regions. Where middle-income economies will do relatively well with quarantining and self-isolation due to the modernization of most jobs and food infrastructure, the question remains whether African countries should copy such measures that would leave their poorest unable to access basic necessities such as food and water in urban cities where they survive off a daily’s wage.
The hardest hit areas in any country are the cities and the hardest hit people are those who depend on their daily income for that respective day’s meal. Such hand-to-mouth workers could be compensated by the government through the provision of necessities to citizens who meet the requirements. NGOs, charities and community-run programs are pivotal to this end. Entrepreneurs may help too by creating programs that financially benefit these small-scale earners such as online quizzes, puzzles, surveys or app and game testing which one can do on their smartphones and get paid via avenues such as mobile money to make some money during a lockdown event. Since most people are at home, now is a good a time than ever to take advantage of the bored middle income population by the creation of content rich videos such as simple tutorials on how to weave, change a tyre, cook some fufu or mandazi. Once uploaded to YouTube, people can make money out of running ads off of simple tutorials on the kind of labour they do. Such programs would not need extra supervision from public servants whose chief concern would be to getting food to the wider public and making sure that it never runs out. The most vulnerable people in this are working adults who take care of both the elderly and their own children in any given demographic. They therefore must find a stable income during a lockdown.
Money to buy food is one thing but the infrastructure to deliver the food to a person, while they work from home is another. For Africa, a lockdown may mean the inability to get food for those living in cities who rely on grocery shops or markets for their food. Once again, small-scale earners who run market stalls are at the biggest risk of contraction and therefore they must be guarded from the virus through the enaction of mandatory safety measures such as the use of gloves, masks, antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers when working. A most effective lockdown most likely will not see the complete restriction of urban citizens from things such as grocery shopping but rather an increased alertness when shopping and handling store-bought goods. Precautions should be taken according to WHO guidelines when farming, harvesting, moving and selling food in whatever places will be designated safe for city-dwellers to shop in.
Finally, universities can take advantage of this period by investing their resources in moving their degree programmes online while at the same time creating short programs suited for the everyday person unskilled in IT in the very same field. This would raise awareness on the subject of IT and perhaps encourage more of the region’s city dwellers to move into jobs compatible with a lockdown event.
Let me know if you have any ideas in the comments below.