Prof. Oumar Coumba Ndongo, Professor of American Literature and Culture, Senegal
Oumar NDONGO is professor of American Studies and Comparative literature at Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal. He is president of the Professors World Peace Academy, Senegal Branch. He served as scientific director of the First UPF African Summit held in Dakar. He attended the recent 2020 World Summit in Seoul and became member of the International Association for Academicians for Peace (IAAP). Professor Oumar Ndongo is member of the West African College of Peacebuilders in recognition for his achievements in peace in the West African region.
Our True Mother,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world is going through an unprecedented health crisis that caught by surprise even the most powerful countries in the world with consequences that are yet to be figured out. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has generated new discussions at the intersection of health and security and has scrambled down the most sophisticated contingency plans. As a result, it caused nations to think of themselves first and raise blockades through border closures. However, as the crisis evolved and in the absence of vaccine, people have come to realize that it could also be an opportunity for unexplored solutions to shared challenges, the more so the pandemic hit harder the wealthiest and the most powerful nations as it redefined global geopolitics and put doubts on governments for their capacities to address adequately the human, social, economic, and potentially political impacts of the coronavirus crisis. .
Experts have worried about the impact of Covid-19 in Africa due to weak healthcare systems, lack of access to personal protection equipment (PPEs), lack of funding, insufficient healthcare personnel and inefficient data transmission. It was feared that the pandemic could be difficult to keep under control on the continent, and could cause huge economic problems if it spreads widely. As such, many preventive measures have been implemented in different countries in Africa, including travel restrictions, flight cancellations, event cancellations, school and border closures.
It is however pertinent to note that due to demographic (a young population) and other environmental factors, the health impact of Covid-19 appears much less severe in Africa than in the USA, China, or in European countries. To support this argument, a recent article from USA TODAY Newspaper (September 6, 2020) ranks Senegal second among 36 nations affected by the pandemic and seen as having performed well. Senegal’s performance is based on the following factors:
- Availability of test results in 24 hours or less
- Temperature checks in public places;
- Availability of masks to the population.
- Transparent communication
Despite the fragility of its health system, Senegal comes after New Zealand, but before the US, Germany, and Canada. The article posits that Senegal faced the pandemic aggressively and in an efficient manner that helped reduce the contamination processes, as well as the social impacts of the pandemic. In fact, six months after the first contaminated case in Senegal, the overall number is below 14,000 people contaminated out of a total population of 16 million inhabitants.
Moreover, Africa is getting more and more connected to the global world despite border closures. Virtual communication is developing and most world powers find Africa attractive, due to its rich natural resources endowment. As such, the African continent is connected to economic, technological, political and cultural trends. Conversely, Africa is attracting more global powers to cooperate on goods and services critical in the development of an interconnected global market which opens up space for Africa, Europe, and Asia to interact constantly. Furthermore, Africa has become the highest growing connectivity community in the world through mobile banking.
Today, even though nobody can predict what the future of the pandemic could be, hope is looming ahead due the decline of figures. It also appears quite clearly that the number of contaminated cases and losses is much lower in rural areas than in urban areas, in particular in big cities where the spread has taken worrying proportions.
Now, as regards opportunities created, the lockdown period was a time of serious concern for many African countries. However, it brought to light names of local medical doctors who became famous, because of their dedication and talents in the fight against the virus. In Senegal, our heroes were neither European nor American in their well-equipped labs, but Senegalese doctors and anthropologists from local seemingly poorly equipped universities. Professor Moussa Seydi and his team have become emblematic figures of the whole medical personnel, doing tremendous work for the safety and health of the Senegalese population. Today, they have gained respect from everyone. Their reputation has gone beyond borders. In fact, the pandemic offered our universities opportunities to develop new strategies with creative responses, not only in the management of the health crisis, but also in finding innovative ways to cope with the pandemic through online courses offered to students at home. Giving the absence of vaccine to cure the Coronavirus infection, research on pharmacopoeia received a strong popular boost in universities with the support of traditional therapists. Modern medical practices have been combined with Africa Plant medical science to address some of the challenges. As a case in point, knowledge of Malaria that is endemic in most countries in Africa was very useful, as it were, in the fight against Covid-19
Besides, the closure of schools to avoid mass contaminations has somehow impacted negatively the sector of Education. However, some creative solutions can be noted, including the development of online courses through a variety of channels.
The fight against Covid-19 is also a period of great spirituality. Only the Heavenly Parent can save humanity from this calamity caused by a virus, so minute but so ferocious to kill people in large numbers. Many share the message that it was God-sent, a warning to humanity to echo these words from the Mother of Peace, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, who said in a recent address “We wish for a community of all people, one family of humankind centering on the Heavenly Parent, united under the values of interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values.”
To conclude, while the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic blurred the 2020 horizon in the world, affecting a wide range of social categories, societies found new ways to cope with it by reinventing new responses in line with sanitary measures, one of which is social distancing. In doing so, African communities, more than any other community, kept their connections with the global world while taking advantage of their traditions and the expertise of their people to innovate and adapt to circumstances.