• The fact that our government preemptively moved to reduce taxation and help the people who will be affected the most is a testament to the kind of leadership we have elected to power.
• A leader’s capability, indeed, his legacy, is marked by how he behaved in a time of crisis - not when everything is running smoothly.
The novel coronavirus reached Kenya weeks ago and it is not going to disappear on its own.
This is the tough reality that we face, but the first step of overcoming the pandemic is acknowledging that it cannot be ignored. In some ways, we are more fortunate than in Europe and America. In other ways, we, as Africans, face a much more difficult challenge in the coming months.
African states cannot match the amounts Western governments pump into preventative and healthcare measures initiated specifically because of Covid-19. We have less hospital beds, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. We have less access to medicine and less money to attain more kits. Social distancing is a challenge in crowded informal settlements and lockdowns will not be easy when such a large percentage of the functioning economy is informal.
But not all of our thoughts need to be shrouded in pessimism. African countries are experienced in their response to other infectious disease outbreaks. Approximately one out of every three deaths in Africa is a result of an infectious or parasitic disease. In comparison to Europe, where it is closer to one in 50, sub-Saharan Africa has more knowhow in dealing with these kinds of issues.
We also have had more time to prepare. Some countries such as Uganda and Sierra Leone took serious preventative measures before even confirming cases. The Uhuru administration also chose to begin tackling Covid-19 swiftly. If he had not done so, we might have been heading in the direction of Italy, New York, or the UK by now.
Of all of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, however, only Kenya and South Africa have introduced social protection schemes to protect workers across industries and businesses large and small. This has already become a widespread practice globally, with 70 countries all proposing measures of their own.
The fact that our government preemptively moved to reduce taxation and help the people who will be affected the most is a testament to the kind of leadership we have elected to power. A leader’s capability, indeed, his legacy, is marked by how he behaved in a time of crisis - not when everything is running smoothly.
Among the measures the government has taken include shutting down schools, calling for people to stay at home, reducing social contact as much as humanly possible, and discouraging gatherings.
We all must observe to ensure that the President’s mitigation plan is effective.
The next few months will be difficult for all of us. Pressure on our pockets is already being felt, and the national purse will mirror that. The development growth trajectory we have enjoyed over the past few years is going to be put on hold, as infrastructure projects and educational programmes are paused. That is something we will all have to cope with in our own different ways.
But a state of emergency is not synonymous with a state of disaster. Kenya is not in a state of disaster, yet. And if we all are willing to participate in the President’s plan, then it need not be. As you rest at home involuntarily in the coming weeks, try to put things in perspective.
We have a young and robust population, that is only growing bigger. We were one of the last regions in the world to be affected, and the cases here are relatively low. Our leadership was thoughtful and proactive, in comparison to some of the thoughtless and negligent presidents and prime ministers of some of the world’s wealthiest nations.
At times like these, a nation can go in two directions. It can spiral further and further towards its own decay, or it can work to overcome the crisis and rise from the ashes, stronger, wiser, and self-aware.
Thanks to the choices that our President has made from the beginning of this pandemic, we are moving in the latter direction.
Maore is MP, Igembe North