By Dr. Oyewole Sarumi
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before” – Rahm Emanuel
This is just a musing from someone who is just coming out of deep thought. There are a few more things that we can critically consider as we view the convulsions around the world as the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. A crisis like this pandemic is part of our daily experiences and life. Everybody, every nation, every family, every business has to face them, and it doesn’t make any difference what the crisis is. What is important is your response to the crisis.
There have been several reports on the economic and social impact of COVID 19, including the opportunity for new jobs and what the new normal entails in the future. It’s been quite a rough ride for the nations of the world especially Africa since the pandemic came calling a couple of weeks back. Many nations’ healthcare systems have been stretched, some threshed. The stock market has tanked according to reports. Many of the wealthy nations especially the G20 introduced stimulus packages of various shapes and sizes to help businesses, the vulnerable, and stabilize their economies. African nations are also in a race against time to do something worthwhile especially with the trust deficit of most leaders across the continent.
A recession looks likely, and many are now borrowing and re-adjusting budgets in conformity with the present realities. That’s why I strongly agreed with Judy Smith’s assertion that “there’s always an opportunity with a crisis”. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to re-examine its policies and practices.” The question is, are the African leaders using this pandemic crisis to re-examine policies and practices so that they can be redesign and realign to the present realities and serve the interest of the public they were elected to do in the first instance.
It was gladdening to read a write up by Professor of pharmacology and fellow of Nigeria Academy of Science who currently exploring the use of local herbs for cancer therapy, Isa Mate Hussaini, that Africa may not be devastated by COVID-19 as seen in Europe and USA. He posited that the African population being young with lower average life expectancy [males 61year & females 65years] when compared with Asia, EU, and the USA, and that ages below these averages of life expectancy have relatively good immune systems and lower number of patients with debilitating diseases of the aged. He further stated that Africans exposure to abundant sunlight gifted her citizen with Vitamin D3 [an immune booster] than the Asians and Caucasians. He also touched on the lack of R/D capacity in Africa with the exception of Senegal and South Africa that came up with innovative products to assist in the combat against the rampaging pandemic. He went further that there is proven medication already used in both the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 in patients [sample size of 30] who tested positive and were in isolation centres. This corroborates the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. As you will see below, maybe, this pandemic is a divinely sent revolution to help Africans especially turn things around for the coming generation.
It is crystal clear that Africa and the world is facing its first major pandemic since a century ago, and there are many lessons for the discerning. However, philosophers, academics, deep thinkers and egg heads in politics have rightly observed that every crisis has a silver lining. I think it was Ryan Reynolds that said, “any kind of crisis can be good. It wakes you up.” That is a fact. This crisis for us in Africa is a great opportunity to rediscover ourselves, so that we can start the journey to take our continent to where it ought to be. Many great empires like the Egyptian blazed the trail for inventions for which the world is benefiting today. History can repeat itself if African nations can exploit this pandemic crisis to thrust our nations forward to where they ought to be using the abundant human and natural resources at our disposal. No wonder, the wise sayings of Maxwell Maltz that “close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance or stay where you are” is very truer for us than ever!
This is the time to ask ourselves some questions: why should we keep exporting our cocoa, hides and skin, coffee, gold, diamond etc. at cheap prices for finished products of the same material at multiple prices? We have men and women who can compete intellectually with the best from the western world. There are several African intellectuals in key positions in many nations serving those nations with their intelligence at the detriment of the continent just because of the misrule of our parochial leadership that is already asphyxiated of transforming ideas and ideals that can change our continent for the better. When they were facing a crisis in the then Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin said, “I understand that it’s hard for everyone, but one cannot give in to emotions… we’ll have to draw lessons from the current crisis and now we’ll have to work on overcoming it.” This not time for emotional outbursts from critics, governed and the government. It is time to wake up, and face reality. Africans can only be salvaged by Africans, so giving the pedestal to anyone from outside the continent to lead this crusade, wouldn’t be to our favour. Prof Lumumba of Kenya asked rhetorically, ‘why is everyone courting Africa as a bride?’ It is because Africa is very attractive and has great potentials – abundant human and mineral resources that aren’t elsewhere in the world! Like Michelle Dean said, “crisis forces commonality of purpose on one another”. The time of this crisis is now the time to do the needful for our continent and create the legacies that will endure.
So, Mary Meeker threw a challenge to us all as she asked: “What if COVID 19 serves as a common enemy that unites and serves as a forcing function to do some things in a better way? I tend to agree with her. What if this COVID-19 game is orchestrated, organized and arranged to reshape the world equation? What of if it is enacted by the divine hand to transfer wealth and loss opportunities to correct the imbalance structure in the present world arrangement? What of if this COVID-19 dance is not a conspiracy but a well-designed and calculated attempt to reshape and re share the world wealth? Just thinking and musing!
What if this COVID-19 pandemic is permitted to convey and correct the following:
- To modernize and improve government/healthcare/education driving lower cost and more efficiency.
- To make us especially Africans to look inward and create the needed value chains for our huge agriculture and other raw materials with great potentials.
- To improve coordination between government and business for the good of citizens of our nations.
- Help people find jobs (and training) best suited to their skills and lifestyles.
- To challenge and give space to our youthful population who are computer natives to be integrated into the national systems as they are whiz kids in technological skills that the nation is in dire need of now.
- To direct attention to revive and challenge the numerous research institutions across the African countries to do the needful by coming up with invaluable innovation across all sectors that will set the nations free from the jugular of the enslavement of the western world.
- To awaken the religious leaders who have transformed themselves to pulpit businessmen and women to repent and return to serving God in a godly and acceptable manner pleasing to their maker.
- To promote a more considered consumption especially of goods and services locally produced to boost local and national industries.
- To help government and stakeholders in the educational industry to re-evaluate and re-engineer the sector to compete with international best practices through heavy investments in the sector to embrace digital technology in all its entirety for blended teaching and learning.
- To get us back to basics of life relationships involving staying closer at home and bolster family connectedness, through the cultivation of seriousness of purpose, and building of community of faith among neighbours and society at large.
It is clear that none of what we are going through is comfortable or fair. Many are convinced that things will likely get worse before they get better, perhaps our nation can wake up now – there may not be another opportunity – to get to us the better place we all desire and deserve.
At the end, we may all give thanks to this COVID-19 revolution that represents the wakeup call and the nudging we need to start strutting on to become a nation. Jawaharlal Nehru of India said, “crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think.” Are the African leaders putting on their thinking caps, to come up with strategies that will rescue the continent from the jugular of the ‘wild, wild, west’ who interest in Africa is self-interest subsumed under the euphemism of love for Africa and the worldwide crusade of rescuing us from the glaring poverty that has been constrained upon us through aids and surreptitious loans.
My hope is that our leaders are thinking, and we will not allow this opportunity to slip away. Why? This is because “something good comes out of every crisis.” – Dave Pelzer
Dr. Oyewole Sarumi – Lead Coach with The Coaching Network Nigeria – a firm that helps businesses and leaders gain new insights and perspectives wrote this piece from Lagos