My 2021 Wishlist for Africa

As 2020 drew to an end, a cautious hope lingered in the air.  Unlike previous years, social media statuses were not awash with new year’s resolutions. Instead, the dreaded #RIP was awash social media statuses as Covid-19 statistics became names of acquaintances and in some cases close friends and family. Creating new year’s resolutions seemed futile, as the same hopelessness and despair that had graced us in 2020 seemed to be migrating with us into the year. 2021 simply felt like an extension of 2020.

In 2020 the world was blindsided by the Covid-19 pandemic. 2020 ended with the beginning of the deadly second wave and a discovery of a more contagious variant of the disease in Southern Africa and the UK. As if the pandemic was not enough to deal with, 2020 was marred with anti-corruption demonstrations which resulted in police brutality and loss of lives across the continent. Governments attempted to stifle the voice of the people through harsh lockdowns however, protests such as those in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda captured the global stage raising awareness to the plight of the citizens in those countries.

Be that as it may, I feel hopeful about 2021. Despite being in the middle of a second wave, I am of the firm belief my wishes are within the grasp of most African’s – all we simply need is a change of mindset. Below are a few wishes I hope to see come true in 2021;

Better governance practices

Governance can be defined as the process of which decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented or not implemented.[1] Good governance takes into account the accountability, transparency, how corruption is combated, citizen participation and an enabling legal framework. [2] Good governance fosters an environment where we as Africans can foster our entrepreneurial spirit and fight against poverty. Good governance provides a platform where historically marginalized communities such as women, youth or minority ethnic groups can actively participate in the economic growth, political spheres and be engaged citizens in any societal development programs. I am hoping to see more African governments taking a stand against corruption in 2021 particularly as the embezzlement of scant funds during this Covid-19 pandemic could be the difference between life or death for someone. Standing against corruption is not difficult – it’s simply about putting the needs of the majority over your individual needs as a person in a position of authority. I am hoping to see enhanced regional cooperation now that trading has been commenced in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA is poised to build our continent’s economic resilience and if leveraged well, will provide market opportunities to business minded African women.

Growing trust in our healthcare institutions and systems

Trust in our healthcare systems has always been low even before the Covid-19 pandemic. I was raised by a mother with numerous comorbidities and frequented public hospitals a lot. Poor service delivery, rude medical staff and poor healthcare infrastructure was the norm each time we visited public hospitals. My level of public healthcare distrust developed from such a young age that I tend to only go to consult a doctor when it is absolutely necessary and my home remedies are no longer working. Public healthcare distrust is at such an all time high that sentiments such as, “it is better to die at home than go to a hospital” are common. With the Covid-19 pandemic rampaging through the continent, can we afford mistrust in our healthcare institutions and authorities anymore? Can we still afford to entertain the damage that social media echo chambers that peddle fake news and rumours as a supplement truth and rationality? The absence of trust in our health care institutions has detrimental effects on the health outcomes of African countries and opens up opportunities for alternative sources of ‘authority’ and information. The mistrust in our governments is why people are still not masking-up, not socially distancing and do not adhere to lockdown regulations or curfews. Our ignorance and distrust in our public health institutions is the only ammunition that Covid-19 needs to continue propagating, lost lives are the casualties of our persisting ignorance. In 2021, I hope to see more Africans trusting their local healthcare institutions. Yes, I know the hospitals are not equipped, are understaffed and overcrowded. Let us at least choose to trust the information that they give us. Let us actively refuse to echo false information and seek out healthcare information from reputable sources – all our lives depend on this. Likewise, governments need to understand that trust is earned and not abuse public trust. I hope to see governments and those in public health sharing information, reporting cases as they are and not manipulating or embellishing medical data to fit a specific political rhetoric. Public trust in our healthcare institutions is imperative if we are curb the spread of Covid-19.

Better sanitation and hygiene services

Sanitation is defined as the provision of means that allows people to be hygienic by providing facilities and services for the safe disposal of biological waste and rubbish. Hygiene is the ability to participate in those conditions and practices that help maintain health and prevent the spread of disease[3]. I was recently appalled by what I witnessed while driving through one of the Southern Suburbs of Harare. Next to the communal borehole was a pile of decaying rubbish. Our governments need to pull up their socks and provide basic services such as running water, waste removal services and build better sewage systems. As engaged citizens, we need to make better hygiene decisions and not wait for our ill-equipped governments. Let us actively choose not to dump our rubbish next to our communal boreholes. Let us educate our children and constantly remind ourselves not to litter. If and when funds permit – let us raise funds to build toilets to prevent open defecation and repair our sewage systems. The first step to solving a problem is taking responsibility of the problem. While it is the local council’s responsibility to do this, it is our children who die with cholera and dysentery – it is us not the council officials who live with vermin in our homes. In 2021, I hope to see our African sisters and brothers standing up where our local councils have failed and improving their sanitation and hygiene facilities for better healthcare outcomes. In 2021, I hope to see local governments allocating funds to improving sanitation facilities for those in low-income yet densely populated suburbs. How else will they wash their hands to curb the spread of Covid-19 if there is no running water to begin with?

In my next blog, I will discuss my three remaining wishes that I hope to see come true in 2021. For completeness I have mentioned them below:

  1. Financial and digital literacy skills for women in Africa
  2. Better mental healthcare programs
  3. Free, fair and uncontested democratic election wins in African countries.

[1] United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, What is good governance?

[2] John Mukum Mbaku, ‘Good and inclusive governance is imperative for Africa’s future’, Brookings , January 2020

[3] Water for South Sudan, “The importance of sanitation for all, especially children”, www.waterforsudan.org , April 2016

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