Nigerian Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has said African countries made a mistake trying to streamline their response to the COVID-19 pandemic with that of other societies.
He pointed to what has happened in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries as to why Africa should be more self-reliant.
Soyinka was speaking on Wednesday during a web-based series of dialogues with Africa’s leading intellectuals seeking to explore new ideas and solutions to influence more people-centric policies to combat the impact of covid-19 on African societies.
Soyinka was guest in the first of the series tagged the Hekima Series Solutions for a New Africa and convened Ahunna Eziakonwa, the Assistant Secretary General, Assistant Administrator and Director, United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Africa.
In response to a question on what assets Africa had which could have been used in response to the pandemic, Soyinka said, “The first recognition, at least in my view, is that COVID-19 was inevitable. Why do I say that? We had a series of epidemics. We had SARS, we had HIV and of course, the world itself has had a long history with plagues.”
He said every society should always be prepared and that each had its own very peculiar problems, conditions, history, economic and productivity patterns.
“The mistake, I believe we make on the African continent is to believe that our own methodology of coping with these has to be exactly along the same lines as other societies,” he said.
He added, “And so, when something hits other societies and gets to us, we tend to respond exactly the same way as other societies, where as we have possibilities of recognising differences, of harnessing what other people have discovered, what they applied and also adjusting these to our own potential.
“I think that has been the mistake which is made. This COVID is very special. And let me tell you, I am not astonished. I don’t blame too many countries for not responding as they should have, this was sudden and it is phenomenal.”
However, on this continent, he said, “I think we made the mistake of trying to streamline our response as others. On look at what happened in the United States. Look at what has happened in the United Kingdom, etc. Up till today, I haven’t seen an update of those claimed cures by Madagascar, in Nigeria over here.
“I haven’t seen anything pursued. Flash in the pan and then suddenly we don’t hear anything more about it. At least let us know if this works. Let us know if this what charlatans talking or whether there were potential.”
This was an aspect he said bothered him not as failures in general, not the escalations, but simply the fact that he sees no leadership response to remedies that could potentially combat the pandemic.