I have followed the debates about Ebola with interest.
As the virus has raged on so has the blame. Although some of this blame is about who is responsible for the spread of Ebola in West Africa, in this post I am concerned with timing, precisely that who should have taken action and when.
Opinions as to who should have taken action and when have come from Eminent and high profile Africans, the Media, International Institutions, Heads of State and Africans at large.
As far as I can work out, views that apportion blame onto the west have tended to be the loudest. In this camp, the West is blamed for not acting quickly enough or to be precise for not coming to the aid of Western African governments grappling with Ebola in a timely manner and as such compounding the spread of Ebola.
Amongst those voices are the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan who asked the question whether the reaction to Ebola would have been the same if this was happening in a western country.
For her part, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has urged the west to do more to save her country. She has argued that “It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves against an enemy that they do not know, and against whom they have little defence.”
CNN new anchor, Isha Sesay joined those loud voices and pleaded with the west to do something to stop the spread of Ebola. She argued that these are not problems that in far away lands but rather that they were problems for us all
However journalist Charles Onyango Obbo took a different stance and asked the question, What has African done for itself with respect to ebola?
A pertinent question in this instance and one that calls for serious soul searching
A question that led me to reflect on a phrase that sometimes crops up in the speeches of African leaders “African solutions to African problems”
Whilst on the face of it this is a straightforward statement, I have often wondered the extent to which it is a reality for most Africans on the continent. The cynic in me has in fact wondered whether this isn’t a statement that some African leaders throw out there when it suits them.
These same leaders will resist calls for change when called out on their human rights records and or governance track records. They will cry foul and call out the west for interference matters that are to do with their nations’ sovereignty and even accuse the west of neo-colonialism.
With respect to Ebola, West African leaders have been accused of “hiding” the presence of the virus in their countries and as such contributing to its spread as well as delays in containing it. Was this in the interest of the common man on the street given the state of healthcare institutions in these countries?
Is this the African solution to Ebola?
I don’t mean to imply that these leaders are wrong to call for help but rather that they should have been more proactive or even by taking swift action and being open when the first cases of Ebola became known. Ultimately the aid that is meant to improve healthcare institutions should have been used for precisely that reason. Whether or not this would have made a difference given the circumstances, we will never know.
Are other African countries offering African solutions to fight Ebola?
The answer is Yes and No
For whilst countries such as Uganda and Nigeria have acted by sending healthcare workers to West Africa, African owned airlines and countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde and others have responded by closing their borders to travellers from affected countries.
It therefore seems to me that the case for this notion of “African solutions to African problems” has in some parts been left to communities to implement.
Take for example Memuna Janneh a London woman of Sierra Leone extraction. Janneh did not add her voice to those blaming the west for inaction but instead took action. She and her friends decided that their fellow country folks would need sustenance the lock down in Sierra Leona and to that end provided 2600 meals using their own money and have pledged to provide a further 50000 meals.
Was Daniel, a fellow blogger here right in his call for Africans to forget about their governments and take action to address problems in their communities?