All across the world, governments, and their peoples are resorting to unconventional means of living their lives in recognition of the threat posed by the coronavirus global pandemic.
These adjustments which have had to be made require resources and time that may not be conveniently at hand.
Africans have in no small way had to copy the rest of the world too. From the professional to the personal spaces, Africans have been forced to reckon with a virus that once seemed so far away.
The Googles and Facebooks of the world have asked their workers to work from home until a certain time. A lot of public spaces and gatherings in western Europe have also been banned by national and local governments.
In Spain, the government has been forced to nationalize all private health facilities while similar proposals are being considered in other countries.
Italy, statistically the worst-hit country by the coronavirus, has literally been locked down – no flights in or out except for essential travels. So, how have Africans been challenged to readjust their ways of life by the coronavirus pandemic? These are three observations.
Forced to work and learn from home
In 2019, research found that more than 520 million people on the continent logged onto the internet. Within the time under discussion, more Africans were on the internet than those who did the same in North America, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The percentage of Africans who have access to the internet has more than doubled in a decade. In 2011, it was about 14% – now, roughly 40%.
But this growth has not come with a whole lot in digital and internet employment opportunities. An overwhelming majority of white-collar “9 to 5” jobs on the continent are still carried out in brick-and-mortar offices.
The panic over coronavirus pandemic has forced those people with the means and ability to work from home to do so. In Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, governments have strongly encouraged private employers to let employees work from home.
Similar trends have been noted in the education sector. Ashesi University in Ghana, for instance, has given 10GB in internet data to its students so they could join online classes.
Religiosity and spirituality confronted
Africa promises to be home to the largest Christian population over the next 10 years. Aside from that, religious symbolism is instrumental in either the state or the personal lives of the peoples.
But the global health crisis is challenging how much Africans are willing to entertain spirituality in actual problem-solving.
The seeming incurability of the coronavirus reveals how the limitedness of human capacity has forced state-sanctioned “prayer meetings” in places like Ghana. But that is the same country where churches have been shut down because of empirical public health concerns.
In Rwanda, a traditional healer who claims they are capable of curing the coronavirus has been arrested for spreading false information. Islamic mosque prayers have been discouraged in countries with a sizeable Islamic population, too.
This development perhaps reveals a pragmatism that may be present in all of us.
The idea that things are better outside Africa
Africa is still the poorest continent. A good majority of its countries still lack the economic and political wherewithal to make lives better for its people.
But in this case of the coronavirus, Africa is looking like the safest place to be, statistically. Infection rates in Africa are way behind Europe’s, North America’s and Asia’s.
The most affected country in Africa, Morocco, still does not compare to Spain or Canada.
No one knows how long this pandemic will last but hopefully, in the shortest possible time. But if recent trends stay as they are, Africa will probably be the safest place to be in the coming months.
Ironically, this challenges a widely-held view on the continent that the grass is always greener on the other side. That view is surely under challenge as things stand.