HOMEGROWN SOLUTIONS

Political meddling hampers medical research in Africa

In Summary
  • In 2019 Scimago Lab ranked Kemri top in Africa on health research output
  • Kemri outperformed even the distinguished South African Medical Research Council
A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19.
VACCINE TRIALS: A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19.
Image: REUTERS

The news that Africa is gearing up to produce its own vaccines could not have come at a better time. This will not only delink us from writing dissertations on the vaccines developed by foreign countries, but will also enable us to expeditiously solve medical challenges without looking to the West.

Kenya can easily be the pharmaceutical and biotechnology hub of East Africa but scientists must be allowed to do their work without political interference. In 2019 Scimago Lab ranked Kemri top in Africa on health research output. Kemri outperformed even the distinguished South African Medical Research Council

However, political machinations and frustrations like what happened to Director of Centre for Virus Research Dr Joel Lutomiah of Kemri in the wake of Covid-19 simply because he delayed the release of daily statistics must be eschewed.

Inasmuch as releasing results to inform the public on recoveries, infections and fatalities is important, the  more noble and paramount duty is spending more time in research geared toward saving lives. Resultant statistics would be the testament of the research.

The important function of the government to a research institution such as Kemri, besides ensuring the implementation of policies, is to avail enough funds for research, not starving them of cash. Going by Kemri’s Strategic Plan 2018–2023, funding from the donor community is nearly five times what is projected to be sourced from government.

If African governments want to revitalise research and achieve milestones as far as vaccine development is concerned, then deliberate funding (without government officials intending to collude with some unscrupulous researchers to steal the money) must be actualised.

For Africa to attain major accomplishments in the medical field, political leaders and research scientists must divest themselves of the unobtrusive way of doing things and meticulously perform their mandate with the interest of everyone at heart.

Africa has the potential to rise above any medical, economic and governance challenge but only when we disassociate from mediocre and archaic ways of addressing our problems.

For Instance, who advised the Kenyan police that Covid-19 should be fought with tear-gas, shooting, battering, maiming and even killing people on the streets in the name of maintaining Covid-19 protocols?

The war against this virus cannot be won and will not be won through artilleries. This act alone has portrayed our police force as the most rudimentary outfit in the world. Who doesn’t know that tear-gassing a crowd would instantaneously instigate uncontrolled coughing that would involuntarily release the virus from a victim’s respiratory system to the next person in the crowd?

This repugnant act of lawlessness by the very apparatus that should execute law and order is an emblem of leadership and governance devoid of wisdom and decorum. Africa can still rise from this low state to premier innovations not only in the medical field but in several disciplines as well.