MUNA NDULO: OK, so welcome to part of the webinar on the topic COVID-19-- Health and Social and Economic Impacts on Africa. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, people in Africa, as elsewhere in the world, are feeling its effects. Political leaders and medical personnel are struggling to effectively manage governmental responses to this public health crisis. Health experts are dealing with inadequate health care systems. Industry leaders are dealing with massive transformation in their sectors to deal with the changing consumer habits and manage volatile economic situation. Families are struggling to stay healthy and provide food for the family.
Worldwide food security is threatened. And there is a noted increase in gender balance in the wake of the pandemic, which is reversing many of the gains that had been made in this area. Our major focus in this forum is to see how these factors impact on Africa, and how Africa has responded to these challenges.
So to lead us in this discussion, we have assembled a distinguished panel of experts. And I would like to introduce them to you. We have four panelists.
The first panelist I'd like to introduce is Professor Sayndee. He is a professor and a development practitioner. He focuses on conflict analysis. And he has extensive experience in monitoring and evaluation.
He's an author of numerous publications, including social mobilization and the Ebola virus crisis. His main focus is on the complex nexus of West African conflicts, particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone. And he has done a lot of work in this area, and he has served as a consultant on peace, security, and developmental issues.
The next panelist is Dr. Jarra Jagne. She is Syria extension associate at the Animal Health Diagnosis Lab here at Cornell, at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research focuses on the pathology of poultry diseases in the tropics, and the field investigation of common diseases in poultry, including avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and various about such diseases.
She previously served as a senior veterinary advisor, Development Alternative Incorporated, USAID-funded Stop Avian Influenza project, and was the poultry medicine representative on the American Veterinary Medical Association. She has authored a number of publications, including "'One World, One Health' in Practice-- integrating public health and veterinary curricula on emerging infectious diseases in Africa."
Our third panelist is Dr. Tolbert. He is a senior associate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research focuses on infectious diseases, surveillance, and emergency response system, Ebola vaccines, detection of persistent Ebola, and transmission dynamics. He is also the founder and director general of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.
He previously served as deputy minister of health for public health in Liberia, and also as assistant minister of health and social welfare, as well as deputy chief medical officer for disease probation at the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. He's also a member of the Global Health Index international panel of experts, which assesses overall health of nations, globally, based on a multitude of health indicators.
The fourth panelist is Professor Vusi Gumede. Professor Gumede is a professor of economics at the University of South Africa. He's the former director of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute. He previously worked in various capacities in government, including as chief policy analyst in the presidency during the Mbeki administration. He is a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council of South Africa, and also the South African association of political scientists and Pan-African defenders movement. He has lectured in many universities.
He is also, I must add, an alumni of the IAD Distinguished African Scholar. He spent three months in that capacity here at Cornell.
He is author of numerous publications, including Political Economy of the Post-Apartheid South Africa, published by Codesria Press.
So those are the four panelists that will lead us in the discussions that we are going to have. The program will be that first I will give the panelist each panelist five minutes to give us their view of the challenges that we face. And after that, I will pose some questions to the panelists, which we will respond to. And then we'll open the discussion to the audience to ask questions. And the procedure on asking the questions, as indicated in the documents that were sent to you, that you should send the question to Ms. Jackie Sayegh, who's the program manager of the Institute for African Development. And she will then read out the questions.
Some of you have already submitted questions. And that's great. And those that have not can submit questions as the program is going on. So to start the program, then, in terms of the panelists, I would like Professor Gumede to go first and give us his view of the challenges as he sees them. Professor Gumede.
VUSI GUMEDE: Greetings and, thanks, moderator, and greetings to the fellow panelists. And all of those that are following the conversation here. So my input is focusing mainly on the political economic issues. And I won't say much on health, but also not so much on peace and security, though I might say something around health, but might focus largely around the political economic issues that are relevant for COVID-19 and the challenges of the economies that we face currently in Africa.
And as many people have been saying, COVID-19 comes when Africa was working towards the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area that many Africans had high hopes for. And this has actually been affected. And a number of other critical issues that have not yet been resolved regarding the Continental Free Trade Area have not been resolved. And that means the activity with regards to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is a very critical initiative that Africans-- or our leaders-- initiated.
Secondly, when it comes to our economies in Africa, many of the challenges that we face are around the structure of the economy and character of our economies and their abilities to create jobs, to advance development. All these challenges have not yet been addressed although there was work taking place around this, so for instance around economic transformation, around the structuring of many of our economies work was under way, and that has stalled, or we are going to lose a lot of ground.
And as I indicated, of course, well-being and human development has remained comparatively weak if we look at, for instance, other regions globally. And partly the challenge we faced in Africa is that we've not had really robust social policies. So there are pockets or aspects of social protection, but we've not really been able to implement very comprehensive social policies, which further impacts on the economy, not just on well-being.
And what we know as a result of COVID-19 is that our economies in Africa are declining further. And of course some of the economies are affected much more than others. So we can think, for instance, of South Africa. There may be other countries where COVID-19 comes when already economies were in recession or were performing very poorly. And the decline in commodity prices is worsening the economic situation in Africa. And we also know that the economic stimulus package and the social relief packages that are being implemented are not enough, although our leaders of course have been trying to coordinate the response, including approaching multilateral institutions.
So that has been encouraging. But as we know, this is a big challenge that we do not have with tight fiscal spaces, tight public finances in some instances is completely non-existent, and very high, of course, budget deficits that make it difficult to have an economic stimulus for our economies. And the capacities of our governments in Africa are weak. This is another factor to take into account. And of course the emphasis that many people are making, the need for partnerships and the need to improve our implementation capacities.
Of course a lot of social and economic challenges that we've been facing are getting exacerbated. So it's estimated that, for instance, about 50 million people globally are going to fall into poverty, and that half of them will be in Africa, sub-Saharan Africa in particular. And the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa recently estimated that about 27 million people in Africa are going to plunge into extreme poverty. So not just bad but extreme poverty. And of course food insecurity is going to rise, as the moderator highlighted. Inequalities are increasing. Unemployment is rising across the continent, where people are estimating over 90 million jobs are lost. And of course remittances and income support are declining sharply. And we know the implications of this because they play a very important role in many poor societies in Africa.
So given all of this, what is a critical question really that we should be addressing. I mean, from an economic point of view, perhaps, you could argue that we need to be thinking about the opportunities for Africa given COVID-19. So we know that it's a problem, it's going to be with us for long, it's causing a lot of challenges that I've highlighted and many others have highlighted, and fellow panelists are probably going to talk more about this.
And in my view, the point I'm making is that one of the critical opportunities that we need to explore is an opportunity for Africa to rethink our approach to social and economic development. So we followed the same approach, the same economic ecosystem that has not really worked for Africa, but also has not worked for many countries globally. And that gives an opportunity for us to think about what could be a better approach to social and economic development. And I could say more about this later on, but I want to highlight and emphasize this because I think it's the most critical point for Africa, but also critical globally, that there needs to be a rethink in the approach to social and economic development.
In other words, we need a better philosophical framework that can guide how we approach development. And the implication of that is that we need to revisit some of the frameworks that exist, that guide how we approach development, globally and in Africa, for instance. In Africa it means that we need to rethink Agenda 2063 or revisit it. Similarly, we need to revisit the Post-2015 Development Agenda so that it can better achieve-- it can achieve what was envisaged.
But as it looks-- and the point was raised-- make this point I remember myself making a presentation to the UN around this, that just coming up with the targets and the goals without an overarching macroeconomic framework or what we think of as a philosophical framework, we come to a bit of a problem in achieving those targets.
So partnerships are critical globally. But we need the different kinds of partnerships so that we do not entrench the status quo. We know globally that this distribution of influence or power, and we know about the [INAUDIBLE] model of market fundamentalism. And this of course has not worked well for Africa, as much as it has not worked for many countries. And that we need to think differently as we think of partnerships. So it's good that our leaders, through the AU, have been engaging the World Bank, the MF. But it's very important that that engagement takes into account that we need to think differently about how we approach development.
As the last point, Chair, in the interest of time, I was thinking whether don't we have lessons in Africa from how we have dealt with Ebola virus disease? So I read a paper, for instance, that was suggesting that we've had 34 Ebola virus disease outbreaks in 11 countries over a 42-year period, since 1976, in Africa. It's a very recent paper that just came out. And I think there's the question about having this COVID-19 now, but how have we evolved [INAUDIBLE] disease, and if there are no lessons from that that can help us to better manage COVID-19. I'm going to stop here for now, moderator. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah. Thank you very much for that incisive presentation. Clearly the economic challenges as you have identified them are immense, but they also need thinking-- rethinking, as I think you emphasized. It shouldn't be business as usual in terms of approaching development issues.
I think this will lead us to of course, also, discuss some of the issues that you raised in terms all the lessons learned. And I would like now to call or know the next panelist, Dr. Tolbert Nyenswah, to give us his view in five minutes. Thank you.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Thank you, Mr. Moderator, for the time. And hats off to fellow panelists and colleagues. Our participants, thanks for taking out time to join us. It is indeed a privilege to join you from the United States, from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where I am a senior associate at the Department of International Health. Our moderator was very clear on that.
My talk will focus basically on some of the challenges of combating COVID-19, low/middle-income countries, especially developing countries, Africa being one of them, countries in Southeast Asia and other areas, are really, really struggling to battle this disease. And we've had a lot of experiences that we can count on-- myself, leading the Ebola crisis in Liberia as the incident manager when the West African region was struck with Ebola virus disease, and [INAUDIBLE]. Establishing an incident management system that was used and had a lot of thematic areas for disease case management, looking at an incident management system, that [INAUDIBLE] body-- how we managed [INAUDIBLE] testing capacity, stand it up, and putting system in place to test people, how we managed [INAUDIBLE], and some of the experiences. My colleague Gumede was very clear when he talked about experiences that we can learn or we learned from Ebola in Africa that are very much necessary to COVID-19.
If you look at the epidemiology of first of the two diseases that we are talking about, Ebola they acquired recently in DRC is still on countdown on its Ebola crisis after having these 10 Ebola outbreaks in the region, and what happened also in West Africa. I think we've learned a lot of lessons with our surveillance system, how you can build an effective surveillance system. We also learn lessons on Africa standing up public health institutes. I've led the establishment of the Public Health Institute in Liberia, and built surveillance system before COVID-19 struck. The Africa CDC, as we are aware, has been doing very critical work in helping African countries that have experience in dealing with infectious diseases. Nigeria is one of the countries, in Ghana, in Senegal, in South Africa, in Kenya, and other countries that been doing very well dealing with COVID-19.
And if you look at Ebola, we had a worst-case scenario with Ebola in West Africa, where by the time the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak there over, we've lost at least 11,000 people and 28,000 infections. To let you know, the statistics was very bleak between 2014 and 2015, when Ebola struck. The CDC, WHO, and other people published in The New York Times that West Africa would have had a worst-case scenario of over 1 million cases and over 200,000 deaths. But because of the work that we've done as epidemiologists and public health workers, coming together and building a strong incident management system, we were able to halt that kind of grim picture that was depicted with that.
Outbreak responses are not new to the world. I know you remember about the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the Middle East-- MERS, that happened in 2015. We also know about the Ebola crisis. And all of those outbreaks are without economic cost. The cost of recent pandemics and epidemics have been very, very skyrocketing. For example SARS, we saw that about $50 billion were spent, with H5N1 in 2005, we had close to $60 billion. In 2009, N1H1 was very devastating, up to $40 billion dollars. Ebola, the world spent close to $60 to $70 billion.
And if you look at some of the leading issues that affect people in those areas-- 50% drop, for example, in tourism, 51% of people were no longer going to work, there was fou4.8% to 9.4% of decline in revenue, 20% of drop in GDP in the three most-affected countries. So these things have very great, significant impact on economy.
And COVID-19 being a pandemic, every country is struggling right now. Countries within West Africa, for example, common challenges for combating COVID-19, low/middle-income countries that we should be aware of, for example, which surveillance system and response systems, significant at-risk populations, multiple generations of [INAUDIBLE] people don't have these services and all of that, limited health care capacity, and other conditions that the world will have to deal with. And so managing this outbreak, there are some measures that we need to put in place that will work for developing and low/middle-income countries.
So thank you. I will stop here and take your questions as the panel goes on. Thank you, Mr. Moderator.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. Thank you very much again, and especially bringing the comparative aspect. You can see not only regional, but also the diseases. But you know, we have had other epidemics. And this is good to highlight the kind of approaches that were made, but also the expenditure, actually, the cost of those crises, in terms of employment, economies, and also health care systems.
So I'll go to our next presenter, Dr. Jarra Jagne. She is going to speak to us now. Thank you.
JARRA JAGNE: Thank you very much for having me on the panel. I am a veterinarian by training. So my background is in animal diseases. But the WHO states that 70% of new and emerging diseases in humans originate from animals. And those are the diseases we call zoonotic diseases.
And it's been said that COVID-19 probably came from bats-- they're still working on elucidating that-- and jumped into a wild animal species, and showed up in a market in China. So I think our experiences in the animal health world are very important.
I worked on the avian influenza, H5N1, program under USAID and under the Food and Agriculture Organization. And we went through the same things that we are going through now with the COVID, the preparedness, outbreak response, in over 60-something countries. And we learned a lot of lessons then that we could share with our human counterparts. And that comes through what we're calling One Health, where, in human medicine, we should not forget that we do a lot with animals before, for example, medications, vaccines tried on humans. And that I will go into more when we talk about vaccines.
But before we proceed any further, I would like to share my screen and show you the figures right now that we have in Africa associated with the COVID-19.
So this is the cases, starting in March. The first case was seen in Nigeria. And now almost all-- I would say all the African countries have seen cases. The last one was Lesoto, joining in earlier this month.
And as you can see over here, we see this rise in cases. It doesn't look like the cases in Africa have peaked yet. Like we've seen, for example-- oops, sorry-- like you've seen in New York City, for example, where we're seeing a flattening of this curve. In Africa, it is slowly going up. And that's very concerning.
So the cumulative cases so far that have been confirmed this is confirmed by testing-- 129,452. We have had reported deaths of 3,792, recoveries of 53,400, and active cases, 72,260. Now, these figures that I got latest last night, I'm sure they have changed a little bit. But so far, South Africa is the most affected country in Africa, at 27,403 confirmed cases. Egypt is the second highest, at 20,793 cases.
Other top countries that we need to be watching-- Algeria, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Cameroon, and Sudan. Now the country of Cameroon, we might comment later, is a little bit of a problem. Because no one has seen the president since the beginning of the outbreak. And that should fall into the political things we are going to be talking about.
So overall, African cases account for 1.6% of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, and 0.7% of the deaths, and our case fatality rate, is about 2.7%. So I'm just cautioning that some of these numbers probably have changed in the past 24 hours.
So that's my contribution for now. And so I will wait to hear-- oh, I need to stop my share-- will wait to hear questions, and contribute, probably, to the talk about vaccines. I'm very excited about that, of what companies that produced avian influenza vaccines. And I can talk about my experience with avian influenza and producing vaccines.
In fact, it's really interesting that, for the longest time, we were preparing for an avian influenza pandemic. The H5N1, everyone thought, was going to be causing the next pandemic. And surprisingly a coronavirus pushed it out of the way. But there's still a danger that this H5N1 is still smoldering in many countries. It's still in Egypt, it's still in Indonesia, it's still in Vietnam, and it's still in China. And there are other zoonotic influenza viruses, avian influenza viruses, also in China, H7N9, that have killed quite a few people in the last three years.
So when we approach this COVID-19, I think countries should also be thinking about the possibility of other pandemics coming up in the next few years. We've been waiting for this for decades. But the way we see emerging diseases, there's so many of them now that I don't think we are going to wait long to see another pandemic. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, thank you very much. Again, an insightful presentation. And yeah, similar issues, I think, come up. I mean, we have the statistics. And I think one of the other issues that I think the panelists-- I'll invite them to debate-- is how do we actually read these statistics? Because especially accompanied by inadequate testing, and also sort of regional dimensions to the whole thing, that we see the numbers highest in North Africa and South Africa, but they also tend to be the most developed states. And so that means they have more capacity, actually, to test, and therefore can bring up more resource. And probably-- how do we read African statistics about it.
And then of course I think the important aspect that we should not forget, that there are other epidemics in the making or likely to arise, and that we should continue to see how we can build on the lessons that we're learning from COVID as countries in West Africa have built on the lessons learned from Ebola.
So I'll go to our next panelist. And this is Professor Debey Sayndee. So he's going to speak to us next.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Thank you very much, Professor Ndulo, and thanks to my previous speakers. Hats off my dear brother, Nyenswah.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Hi, how are you?
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Another Liberian. I'm very proud to see you here.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Thank you.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: I know it's very difficult to speak after these very high experts and specialists have spoken on an issue like this. Coming to this more from the community impact and community dimension, I think they've made a point-- 2/3 of the people in our least developed countries, of course, live in rural areas. And that's [INAUDIBLE] we need to know about Africa. Populations are rural.
And many of them reside in overcrowded urban cities or semi-urban areas. And so the whole idea of social distancing and so forth is definitely a challenge by itself. And we need to understand that when we put all the mechanisms into place. We'll talk about COVID and how to go about it.
They've given the statistics-- over 5 million people today are confirmed-- I mean total have been confirmed COVID. Death rates going to almost 300-something-thousand. Policymakers around the world are really grappling with what are the ways to look at this and what are some of the issues to consider. But what I like to refer to, coming back at the community level is that in the last decades economies of most of our countries in Africa have not seen growth. And those ones that have shown growth, if you truly disaggregate this growth, you will see that a few segments of our economies and our communities have been elevated in this status, and therefore a vast area where the real people are-- and I'm talking about rural communities-- many times are not captured in a lot of the studies of our economy.
But having said that, there is a trend that says, with the people living in those communities, this COVID-19 impact is going to hit them whether they have been captured in previous statistics, whether they have been captured in various kinds of status, the impact of COVID-19 is going to hit them.
Should this all come to a halt, what are some of the measures-- and I'd like to pre-empt that before somebody starts to ask-- but I'd like to pre-empt some of the measures that could be taken to begin to think about them even while we are still in the crisis. I'm looking at, particularly, four areas of intervention that will be most helpful for African countries, especially community-level intervention.
I'm looking at the health sector. I'm not a health practitioner, but I do know that the worst of our health sector affects most of our rural areas the most. So allowance need to be made so that our health systems can cope with some of the emergencies that are going to arise and that are currently arising, both as a result of COVID and far after COVID have come and gone.
I like to refer to a study which we have done some years ago. This is probably very aged now. But many people still think that some of these statistics are very relevant, because this is like seven years ago. When we did this study, for instance, we tried to see how many people were captured in the health system in Liberia. Our studies showed that less than 20% of Liberians in 2010 had access to basic health.
Now, we concluded this study in December 2013, and in 2014, the Ebola broke out. So no rocket scientist needed to come and say to us that we did not have the capacity, the mechanism, and the will to be able to resist Ebola. We are very grateful-- that's why I'm saluting Tolbert Nyenswah here-- and the team and-- I mean, the national goodwill have supported us, have gone over the prediction-- the dismal prediction that was put for Liberia.
You talk about environmental issues-- in Liberia, there is no mechanism currently to support environmental disasters for anybody in the country. And that is the same in many places around Africa rural areas. So if there was a fire, there was a flood, there was a storm that affected especially rural people, they are on their own and there are no safety nets to help them reorganize their lives. These realities are going to be compounded end of COVID-19.
So strengthening the health sector to improve these areas, to improve services in more rural people is going to be very essential. The second area I would like to propose would be to support efforts to reduce the risk of food insecurity.
In the sense that when we did study Liberia-- and again, this was end of 2013 when we ended this-- the study showed that one third of the population of Liberia were going to bed without food. Many people tell me that number may have been increased. But this is not just Liberia. Like I said, some of my work has been in other African countries. The situation is not much different.
When you take the statistics of Nigeria in that respect, you take the statistics of Uganda in that respect, you take the statistics of many other countries in Africa, their numbers might not be too far from each other. In fact, as part of-- during that particular study, four countries were selected for that study-- South Sudan, Burundi, Kenya, and Liberia. And the coordinator who oversaw the study, without any of us meeting to discuss, said that we all must have sat in one room to write the reports we came out with because the reports were so similar.
So full security is going to be a crucial need, and has to be a way of addressing post-COVID situations. Currently it's going to look at the development of infrastructures that preserve locally-produced food and other necessities and the mechanisms to transport them from one area to the other. There are African countries that have done some really significant moves in alleviating food production. But the mechanism and the infrastructure to move them from one place to the other-- and interestingly once you have don't have the means to move food production, food has been produced, in many countries, when we talk about the food chain, you talk about enhancing the production, you talk about processing, you talk about value added-- in most places in Africa, when we talk about food chain, they're talking basically about how food produced on the farm moves to the ultimate consumer.
Now, if those infrastructure [INAUDIBLE] well-- bad rules, adverse weather, and all the other mechanisms, the low level of transportation and these mechanisms-- if these things are not in place, and get exacerbated as a result of the COVID, a lot of countries and a lot of communities are going to have the worst effects of this.
Another key area of concern, of course, has to do with the whole issue of human rights. During COVID, we all know that industries are shutting down. A lot of means of production and a lot of means of employment are shutting down. What is going to happen is a situation where might makes right. So a few mighty two people are going to commandeer the little available resources and means that are available, especially at community levels. This is a major concern that needs to be addressed at this time, so that when we get to that stage, we are able to deal with it. If this is not done, a lot of human rights abuses are going to be seen because people are going to be so disempowered that they will not even be able to stand up for their basic rights.
So this is a few of the concerns I like to stress. And maybe I will take and elaborate during question and answer. Thank you very much for the opportunity, Mr. Moderator.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much for that presentation. I think it brought out the African condition as such, and the-- because whenever you're confronted with a problem, I think the context is so important, to realize that you have to deal with the context. And there you've outlined the challenges in the health sector, food, and also the developing concern of many human rights activists in terms of backsliding on human rights on the basis of trying to deal with COVID-19.
Yeah, so I would like to appeal to the audience that we are welcoming questions. And your questions can be sent, as I said, to [INAUDIBLE] via the Question and Answer at the bottom center of your Zoom screen. If you go to the bottom center of your Zoom screen, you will see Question and Answer. And you can submit your questions there.
So yeah, thank you very much, panelists. I think we have got off to a good start in terms of the general picture. And I think now I would like us to look at specific areas of this issue. And I would here appeal that in the interest of time, and so that the participants can also come in, that we be as brief as possible when dealing with these issues.
I think one of the major issues that we cannot run away from in terms of this crisis-- and that's in addition to its health and medical implications, is the economic implications, as I think many of you have already outlined. And here we have the IMF has actually issued a statement to say that the economic downturn is the worst since the Great Depression.
And we also have the world food program, for example, which estimates that 256 million people now face famine. That alone, in terms of job losses, projects $195 million losses in jobs. And of course there are government revenues that have gone bust because budgets have to be realigned now to deal with a crisis. But also the source of revenue has diminished. And I think, as it was pointed out, many of African economies are contracting-- that means they're getting smaller-- as a result of the COVID-19. And that, of course, means increased poverty.
So what suggestions do you have-- and here I'm going to add that it's not just the World Bank and IMF that have identified this problem. There is engagement with the African Development Bank who have also issued similar statements. The Economic Commission of Africa is also saying that we need [INAUDIBLE].
So what are some of the measures that we think should be taken in this area? Any of the panelists can comment on that issue.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: I don't mind going first on this. [CHUCKLES]
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, OK, good. Yeah.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: When you want to build-- and I'm going to remain focused on the community level, because that's my expertise. That's my specialty, looking at community development, community mobilization. That's my specialty. So I like to remain that focus.
We need to address some of these issues, whether at a big economic level or at a small-- the macro, micro, each one, whatever. The question has to be, do we understand the network of how African communities are structured? We have to take that on board and contextualize it in doing interventions.
I'm not an economist, but when the World Bank, and the IMF, and all these big monetary partners deal with economic issues for countries, they deal at governmental level, they deal at institutional level, they deal at these levels, without all of the mechanisms of how these filter down through the communities. And therefore, a lot of times the communities remain at the bottom end and never get affected. But they are taxed to repay a lot of these, especially the loans, they are high interest, and all of those imbalances.
If we mean to begin to plan for interventions-- economically, healthwise, socially-- we need to look at how structures at community levels are organized and set up. And most countries have some uniqueness. But generally, Africa is a communal continent. Africans live in social support networks. In the old days that I know, there were no outcasts in any community or village, because everyone's welfare was everyone's responsibility. We need to see how to rebuild those structures so that the disadvantaged, the less privileged, are not left out. This time that is called no one is left behind. It's actually generated based on Africa's way of relating to its people at the community level.
Somehow, without being whatever, even Africans seem to be dropping those principles in favor of high-level institutionalized mechanisms. I'll stop there.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you. Professor Gumede, would you have comments on this?
VUSI GUMEDE: Yes, Moderator. Yes, I wanted to just make a contribution. I agree with the points that have been made, right, it's important that we better understand our societies and communities so we can respond better.
But I think, amongst the key issues that we've not really addressed-- and perhaps COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to deal with this from any economic perspective-- is what sort of an economic path is ideal for our societies, for our communities? So as we understand them, as my fellow panelist explains, that we need to better understand our communities, our societies. And in that context, what sort of an economic path can work better.
So if you look at most of our countries, really, in Africa, we don't have very clear macroeconomic frameworks. Even here in South Africa there have been some attempts to come up with a robust macroeconomic framework. But we have not really gone very far. So I think that's a key issue that we need to think about-- what sort of an economic path we can follow. And we could use the opportunity of COVID-19 as we think about what should be the post COVID-19 reconstruction and development agenda for our societies for our continent. So as we think about how do we bounce back, how do we overcome the pandemic, but also how do we get our economies to grow faster, to contribute to well-being, that kind of an agenda, and construction, and development, that would help us, I think, to come up with economic interventions.
So for instance, the age of investments, how we use monies that we have and monies that we get as loans, it's very critical. So how do we, for instance, invest better in health care and dental facilities? How do we invest better on other infrastructure, because all those contribute to development.
And some argue-- I don't think we should worry a lot about debt. So I know, as economists, we panic when we see debt as a share of GDP increasing, as spending increases uncontrollably. But I think the issue really is about what that debt has done, so what are we doing with that debt. I mean, if we are investing in health care, we are investing in the current things that we could be investing in for future generations at least, we shouldn't really be worrying too much about that. So I think it's more in the content of that debt than worrying about debt as most of us seem to be concerned.
So whatever that the World Bank or the IMF may be giving to Africa, we need to use it well. And I think I'll stop there, Chair.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. Any other quick comments before we move on to the next issue?
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Yes, Mr. Chair, Mr. Moderator, thank you. It is very difficult, as a non-economist to speak when Dr. [INAUDIBLE] at Columbia, and my big brother Professor Debey has spoken on the issue. But let me put it in the context of disease control and prevention since in fact we're talking about COVID-19 and other infectious diseases on the continent.
My sister Jarra spoke about where Africa is right now in terms of the number of cases, for example, making up 1.6% of cases when it comes to the 5-million-plus cases globally due to the pandemic. This is the time for the Africa economies and African leaders to rethink this strategy, and don't think about the "one size fits all" lockdown strategy that the West is taking. Based on the number of cases and infections in Africa, this is the time to put in place the mechanisms that look for, granularly, where any disease is, do smart testing, ramp up testing, trace the contacts, isolate the cases, treat the people.
And then African governments can reopen their economy and start the trading among each other, since, in fact, some of them are basically export-based. Look at the importance of the small and medium-size enterprises that basically makes up 90% of the business units and the drivers of growth of the economy in Africa, so that we try to create amongst ourselves, the African countries, and invest into small businesses, and invest into our food production, service industry in Africa, and then gradually deal with the disease, get to zero, and open up the business climate in Africa.
I see Nigeria is starting to do that. Ghana did a great job to remove the lockdown, to start rebuilding the economy. I think we need to focus on that, deal with the disease, find the cases, and then remove the barriers that are stopping trade in Africa right now, pull people back to jobs. We did that in Liberia. When the Ebola crisis was going on, we didn't shut down the country, inasmuch as Ebola is more virulent as compared to COVID-19 when it comes to the case fatality rate. By the time Ebola was over, we had 50% of case fatality rate, as compared to COVID-19 where the case fatality rate is less than 1%. Some countries now have less than 0.4%. Some countries have less than 2.5% in the case fatality rate.
There's a study from WHO that 80% of the people that get COVID-19, whether or not they went to a health care facility, will survive and don't die from the disease. It doesn't mean that we should sensitize our population. It doesn't mean we shouldn't do the social distancing, the handwashing, the wearing of the mask. But my point is we can still do all of these things, save lives, and open up our economy. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. And I think we have some very good ideas on this issue. And the economic issue is clearly a heroic issue. And I think, going forward, we have to think also about, when we talk about rethinking, what institutions are going to do that. I think that's going to be a very, very important consideration.
Because 50 years after independence, if you look at Africa's participation in world trade, it's 5%. It's actually negligible. It's like Africa doesn't exist. And only through trade can you make money. And even that 5% is oil and mineral resources. So you can see.
And as we talk about even trade between African countries, one of the major problems is the capacity. What does Sierra Leone send to Liberia? And that of course means building capacity.
But I'd like us to go to the next issue, I think, which is in relation to that in dealing with this crisis, many of you have pointed out a comparative aspects of it. Within Africa and the world, some countries have succeeded to control the virus. Others have failed. Asian countries have been given as an example, as a region where there has been a good measure of success.
And I think we shouldn't forget that Africa has its own successes. I think there's several African countries that have recorded zero death up to now.
And so the question, I think, I pose to the panel is, what are the lessons we should be learning from this?
JARRA JAGNE: I would say that preparedness and response to previous epidemics have really helped African countries. Over the years, we've had to respond to quite some major epidemics, whether it was just a few countries or many, many countries. So that has prepared governments.
We all-- I remember sitting in many meetings at many different African capitals talking about avian influenza that was going to come and kill everyone. And everyone was prepared, with their preparedness and response plans.
And so I think that's one thing that we have learned, that we are now in a phase, with COVID-19, where we are going from readiness to response, doing all the testing and the training of medical personnel, and surveillance, and all that, and all those things that are very familiar to many African countries. And I think that's where the successes are coming from.
MUNA NDULO: Mm-hmm. Thank you very much. Yeah. Any other comments in terms of the lessons learned, the successes, and I think Jarra has emphasized the lessons from the past in terms of how we have dealt with other epidemics. Any other comments from the panelists on this issue of what are the lessons that we have learned from those countries that seem to be doing very well in this? What approaches-- I mean, countries like Namibia, Uganda, have zero deaths up to now, and quite a number of other countries, I think.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Sir Moderator, I just have a small important to this. I know what my previous speakers have said are very, very important and in place. What I'd just like to add to this is one thing that is very important is the political will. In many African countries, we allow political [INAUDIBLE] to also affect our technical setups, our professional setups. And if Africa has to bring over its experiences, we have to be able to keep our technical, our professional, away from our politics.
There are lots of people in Africa who do excellent job and are performing judiciously. But they have no interest in serving a regime or a political interest. They just want to serve their people, and they want to do this with all of the professionalism and the passion that they bring to make their job efficient.
However, many times, Africa is restarting, reinventing wheels, because of the way we carry politics over in our technical setups and in our professional institutions. That's something we really need to learn as an experience. Let's keep our technical and professional contexts very separate from our political context. I would-- over and over, I would never rest about it.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. So I thin now maybe we should move on to the question of the vaccines. So there's a lot of discussions about all the research that's going on, and trying to find a vaccine. We also hear of countries that have already placed orders in advance.
So one of the issues that arises is really the question of, what are the challenges in developing a vaccine? But not only that, what is the role of traditional medicine-- we've heard the presentation from Madagascar to WHO-- but there's also a fear that when the vaccine is developed, it will not be affordable in Africa.
So one of the issues that I think comes up is, what measures can be taken at global and continental levels to address this problem to ensure that, if the vaccine is developed, it will actually be available in Africa. So I think here we can also talk about the progress that has been made in vaccines, and what the challenges are.
Yeah, so any comments? I think, Dr. Jagne, you expressed an interest to talk about this. So I think it would be good to start with you on this.
JARRA JAGNE: Yes. I mean, the chances to get a vaccine are very good globally. [CHUCKLES] I am really not sure about the capacity for Africa to produce its own vaccines. Because with all the vaccine projects going on, there is not one that's coming from Africa.
There are over 100 vaccine projects right now going on in the world. And eight have been cleared for clinical trials. And of these eight, most of them are in the US. There's one from Oxford University, Australia, and I think there is-- yeah, those are the eight, mostly in the US, one from Australia, and one from the UK. And these are the ones that have been cleared to go through the clinical trials in humans.
So even with these countries, I mean, it's still very challenging to produce a vaccine. It's not a very quick process. Vaccine production traditionally has to be-- the vaccine has to be produced in a lab, they have to do animal testing, and then they go on to human trials. But because of the situation with the COVID-19, they are skipping that animal testing period where they learn about the reactions and order of the vaccine, and jumping straight into the clinical trials.
So there's some risks there. The earliest that it has been announced that we can get a vaccine might be in January 2021. But it's more likely that it will be September 2021, because there are several phases to these clinical trials. There's a phase 1, phase 2, phase 3. But it's a big problem for Africa, because we really don't have that research background. We're not doing the necessary research.
We don't have big pharmaceutical companies that are based in Africa that are doing top research to produce vaccines. And it's surprising that we have really good vaccine production for animals in Africa. I can tell you that, in Senegal, Animal Research Institute, we produce a lot of vaccines for livestock. There's a big vaccine program for the whole of Africa that's based in Ethiopia. And these are vaccines for animals.
But I am not aware of something similar that we're doing for the human population.
The other thing that we're looking at also, in addition to vaccines-- medications or drugs. We've read about this drug called Remdesivir, that has been approved for studies also. In some studies with MERS, it was found to block the virus from replicating. So there are many of these already-proven drugs that are going to be tried for COVID. We've heard about the controversy with hydroxychloroquine. So malarial drugs, drugs that have been used for rheumatoid arthritis, drugs that have been used for antivirals, are all being studied now. And the reason why they're using already-existing drugs is because, again, just like vaccines, producing drugs and taking them through the regulatory process takes decades.
And so it would be much easier to test drugs that we're already using for other purposes and see if they can work on COVID-19. And that would be the quicker way to bring them to the market.
Again, there's a dearth of research on the African continent. African universities are not funded enough. The STEM education is low for these types of things to be occurring. Then the other thing we are talking about this potential cure from Madagascar. I've seen some of the questions coming in about that. But there has been no testing, no evidence really to show. Madagascar needs to show the evidence. They need to show what they have done in the laboratory to convince us that Artemisia works for COVID-19. It's an anti-malarial drug. So it works for malaria, but we have yet to see the science behind it.
And I think, when it comes to vaccines, Professor Ndulo, you said whether it will be affordable. I'm not worried about the affordability of drugs in Africa. I'm worried more about the acceptability of the vaccines in Africa. We have seen all these rumors going around, the conspiracy theories about Bill Gates wanting to kill Africans. Africans are being warned not to accept all these vaccines. That is the part that we need to work on. Our governments need to work on communications, and paint the pictures of vaccines.
Vaccines are not bad. We are all alive today because we were vaccinated against smallpox, and measles, and polio. Africa has a wonderful rate of childhood vaccinations through the WHO. And that has helped save lives in Africa. We are talking about something that is given prior to getting a disease. It promotes herd immunity so that diseases don't spread.
But we have seen so much coming out of Africa especially. And I am disappointed that we see so many of our so-called scientists also pushing this talk about, oh, they should not test the vaccines. The medicines are being tested now-- on Europeans, on Americans, on other people. Why shouldn't we have the vaccine tested? Maybe it works differently for people living in the tropics? Maybe it was different for Africans, for black people. There are medications that don't the same way for everyone. So we need to have that testing in Africa for it to be valid. We just cannot depend on the testing that is done here.
So this is what African governments are going to be facing. I am not worried about the affordability, because I know we can probably work that out. The WHO has been very good about vaccines and distributing vaccines in Africa. They can get them at a cheaper price from pharmaceutical companies.
But it's the acceptability-- I've seen people attack medical workers in some African countries because they thought that they were coming to vaccinate their people. So that's my take on the vaccine part.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very, very much. And I'm glad you brought out this question of misinformation in Africa, because I think it's a major problem. I've also seen, like you, all these attacks on Gates and other people, and vaccinations, which are really very sad. And I think somebody said the misinformation in Africa is as major a problem a COVID-19 itself. But you really have to deal with both.
On the affordability aspect, I think the aspect that we need to be thinking about is, for example, if you look at the British government, they've already announced that Oxford, their drug, if it comes out, they've paid in advance, I think, $1 billion. And part of it is that they want to work out mechanisms of how they can cover developing countries to sort of try to help them. And that would mean that African institutions must respond in a way in which they have ways in which they could tap in to that, and how do you engage, those kind of things.
I think I also read yesterday that the American government has also placed an order for over a billion dollars with that Oxford project.
So any other comments? I think we should be going on to our participants, because there seem to be a lot of questions that have come through that I've seen.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: I wanted to chip in, Mr. moderator, on the issue of the vaccine. And my colleague Dr. Jarra made a very, very powerful point on the issue of vaccine, safety, and efficacy, and importance of vaccines. Actually, as someone in public health over the past 20 years, I do not see any public health intervention, cost-effective, cutting-edge, life-saving, "state of the art" public health intervention than vaccination. And she mentioned very clearly about the significance of eradicating smallpox. She talked about polio on the verge of being eradicated. She talks about the importance of measles vaccines and all of that.
If I may give you my experience, when the world was fixed with the Ebola crisis, we talked, in an emergency response, it was not possible to do a randomized clinical trial, which is the gold standard of finding vaccines and therapeutics. But in Liberia, in collaboration with the National Institute of Health, we formed a partnership called PREVAIL, a partnership for Liberia vaccines. And we were able to do phase 2, phase 3 randomized clinical trial for vaccine in Monrovia. So we have the infrastructure in Liberia, the very, very high-standard infrastructure, to do vaccine trials. Liberia did the Ebola vaccine trial. Today, the world have a safe vaccines that is being used in the DRC response.
What I think is very much important, and as a caveat, as my colleague said, is that putting the conspiracy theories out there about therapeutics and vaccines that have not being tested scientifically, and using them to be cure for a disease, I, as the person who led the incident management system in Liberia during the Ebola response, I saw a lot of rumors, conspiracy theories that people were bringing a lot of drugs, medications, vaccines, and say it will work for Ebola. What it did was to kill more people than solving the problem. So African leaders, our scientific community need to stand up right now and embrace therapeutics and vaccine trials that will save lives, and not reject them, and carry on the conspiracy theories.
What I do preach is that it should be ethically sound, and equity should be done to what is tested in Europe, what is tested in America, should be the same that is tested in Africa so that equity is ethics. Equity is important. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. So any other comments? I think we should now--
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Yes. Yes, Mr. Moderator.
MUNA NDULO: Very, very briefly, please, because we are running out of time for the participants.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: As you know, I'm not a technician like those previous two speakers. And I don't even want to go close to them. But I want to look at a dimension which I think they might have left out. The issue of people having rumors, and therefore the rejection of some of these processes has nothing sometimes to do with the vaccine or the situation itself. It has to do with the lack of trust in government and their institutions. And based on those low level of trust, if a message is given from [INAUDIBLE] that is not trusted, then that mistrust overcrowds the message. I'd just like to put that on the table. And I'm sure everyone will understand.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: I agree with you, prof. The messages are important as the messenger.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Secondly, just quickly, the issue of Madagascar-- again, not claiming anything in medicine. As you know, that's far from me. But is it possible, in Madagascar, as a country, an African country, have said, this is what they've been able to come up with. This is what they've been able to do. It's possible for other African countries to take and do some more testing and validation. Is that possible? I mean, I just want to throw that as a question.
We had a situation in Liberia-- my brother here, Nyenswah knows-- somebody got up and said they had the cure for AIDS. And at this time, you know, at least I was where I could make some decision. People just dismissed that completely, and not medics. Can we verify three, four patients who we know are positive and properly test this. Turn them over to such people, and see what could happen?
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: --to do that, to take a system that has not gone through the process of scientific testing, ethics, going through all the rigorous process that we know about to subject patient or human beings to take that kind of product is putting people's life at risks.
JARRA JAGNE: But testing is being done right now for Artemisia. It's being done at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Again--
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Good to hear that.
JARRA JAGNE: African researchers are not doing it. It's been done outside of Africa. So the testing is going on right now, for COVID-19, for Artemisia, whether it's OK to treat COVID-19.
MUNA NDULO: I could add on that that actually Ghana followed the Ghanaian Center for Disease Control has asked Madagascar that they would like to participate and test the drug in their laboratory. So that's an African initiative actually.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: That is great. That is great.
MUNA NDULO: So I think let's try and move on because we have a lot of questions from other-- I see we have over 30 questions, and we are remaining with 30 minutes. So I think we have to try to be brief and answer all the questions that have been raised.
So Jackie, can you go ahead and read some of the questions. Please be brief in our responses so that we can cover-- we don't want the participants to be disappointed that we didn't get to their question.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, I will read them in the order they were given. The first one is from Professor Howard Stein. And he says, the key to controlling the virus is testing, tracing, and isolation. The testing capacity is even more important than Ebola because of the large number "asymptomatic but highly contagious" carriers of the virus. The other areas are also very challenging. I would like to hear of the current capacities in these three vital areas in African countries.
MUNA NDULO: OK, quickly, just a minute in response. No one than a minute, please. Any of the panelists can respond to that.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: So thank you. I do quickly agree with the person who asked the question. Yes, testing, contact tracing, isolation, social distancing are very, very important, not to rename them. And a lot of the African countries are having challenges with the number of tests that they are doing. And so I agree with you that there should be increase in the testing capacity. That's the only way we can know who has the disease and who does not have the disease. And it is the testing that would trigger the rest of the interventions that we are talking about. So that's important.
I'm calling on and advising with-- a lot of the work that I've been engaged with since the COVID-19 outbreak is promoting testing, testing, and testing, tracing the contacts. In fact, those are things that [INAUDIBLE] do to help the state of New York. When you understand, Jarra, I was telling you about New York flattening the curve is because of the contact tracing course that we developed at John Hopkins. I was one of the contributors. And then the testing capacity that we promote at the NIH, and other institutions, and state level, to do the testing. So African countries need to invest more into testing based on the country's population.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. So the next question, Jackie.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, the next question was sent by email from Stacey Langwick, who's a professor here at Cornell. And she says, I was very interested in the connection between increasing extreme poverty in the wake of COVID-19, and at the same time, a likelihood that food distribution networks may well be interrupted. I wonder if the panelists find that this might shape how we think about debates about food security interventions, in particular the need to invest the support-- and support small-scale farmers over industrial farming. Some have long argued security is an issue of disruption before COVID-19, and that supporting independent farmers is the best way to end this hunger. Is this one aspect of the post-COVID development agenda that we might think about?
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, so I think maybe we should our economist, Professor Gumede, to respond to that. As part of the new thinking, what do we do? I mean, what are the new frameworks that we are going to be advocating?
VUSI GUMEDE: Thanks, Moderator, greetings, Tracey. This is a very important point, the point that Tracey-- Stacey makes. Sorry. So there is obviously a direct link between food insecurity and poverty. And the question is, how do we, as she puts it, going forward, think about addressing food insecurity?
And for me, I suppose it takes us back to the issue about whether are there not things that we can do ourselves in Africa to address this challenge? I mean, it's not really a problem of the availability of resources, how they are distributed, arguably.
And this doesn't talk to some of the issues that have been raised. I see, for instance, someone talks about self-sufficiency, whether is there an opportunity for us in Africa to work out mechanisms to be more self-sufficient. But I suppose people who work around food security and agriculture would be better placed to talk about this. But I do think that it's within our-- is this one of those opportunities that we can explore without-- we can't address this challenge of food insecurity ourselves in Africa, because there is availability of food. The issue is how it's distributed.
And then of course also it's putting the food that should actually be consumed within Africa. And some of the countries, like South Africa and a few others, that may have surpluses, how do we ensure that this actually serves the entire continent instead of increasing poverty as it seems to be the case. But of course it talks to the public finances too, that there must be investments in agriculture small-scale, farming, and so forth. That is what [INAUDIBLE].
MUNA NDULO: Yeah. And I think we need to extend-- and I think the AU had come out with a policy on how much you should spend on agriculture in terms of budget. And unfortunately the experience has been that many African countries have not met-- I think I'd put it that something like 10%, 15% of their budgets should be focused on agriculture. And this hasn't happened. So of course that's a challenge.
And it's interesting-- the Brenthurst Institution in South Africa came out of this report showing that, I mean, 60% of arable land in the world is [INAUDIBLE] in Africa. But Africa is food insecure and imports food from the others.
So what's the next question?
JARRA JAGNE: Professor Ndulo, can I just add a little bit?
MUNA NDULO: OK, yeah. For sure.
JARRA JAGNE: About agriculture. Our African countries need to know that agriculture is the base. They need to put more money into agriculture. Because agriculture will solve issues of nutrition. If we solve issues of nutrition we will not have as many health problems and we will not have to spend as much money on health care.
Agriculture is the base, but agriculture right now in Africa is something that's pushed onto poor people. We need to change the face of agriculture. We need to put agriculture education into schools. Agriculture education is almost non-existent, when 70% of this continent relies on agriculture and participates in agriculture. We don't teach agricultural education in schools. We need more research on agriculture.
We spend $32 billion importing food into Africa. When only, if I can count nine countries in Africa, if we put our resources together, can feed the whole of Africa. You said about 60% of the arable land. Most of that land is not under cultivation.
And there's just so much. I mean, I am very passionate about agriculture and agriculture in Africa, both animal and crop agriculture. And we need to put a different face to it. And I hope COVID-19 is going to wake up our African countries. We're just sitting ducks waiting for other people to send us food. What if the COVID-19 disrupted the importation of rice from Thailand? What if a major disaster stopped the importation of maize from the United States? What are we going to do? We are all going to starve.
We need to look at some production in Africa. And we need to put more than 30%, 40% of our national budget into improving agriculture and making sure that agriculture is not seen as something only poor people do. Push the processing, and you make it into a business. I see some good signs coming out of some countries, but we still have a lot of work to do.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, thank you very much. I share your passion completely. Because we could save all those billions we are using to import food, and actually use them on other needs in the economy.
Yes, Jackie. Can we go to the next--
JACKIE SAYEGH: So while we are on the issue of capacity, there's one that says here, what is the role of the ADB and the AU in combating the COVID-19 pandemic? How prepared is the continent to be buttressed by the fairly strong economies to augment the weaker countries? And this is from Franklin Weller in Baltimore, Maryland.
MUNA NDULO: Mm-hmm. Any comments? I think-- I mean, if I may come in here, one of the things that of course the ADB is looking at is the financial gaps that are developing in terms of, when you talk about capacity, of course you have to talk about capital in terms of money. And I think one of the things that they are trying to develop for all of these programs in terms of trying to convince the world that, first of all, have a moratorium on debt payments. Because that alone would release a lot of funding for other things. But there are many other issues, I think.
Any comments from the panel? I mean, you might have comments on that question, the ADB, what it's doing. I see a hand, yes, Vusi, Professor Gumede.
VUSI GUMEDE: Yeah, Franklin is raising an important issue. I mean, our countries and the AU, you know, it's going to the World Bank, and IMF. And somebody had been raising an issue about whether shouldn't we have explored first, internally, the resources that we could raise internally within Africa. So for instance, the African Development Bank could be playing a better role. And we talking about agriculture right now. How do we finance, for instance, development in the continent?
So I think it's an important point. I mean, the big question really whether are we preparing properly? Are we well prepared, as Franklin asks? I do think that we've seen some very encouraging steps, very promising initiatives from our leaders, from the AU, trying to coordinate the Africa response. So it is the task force, the strategy, a whole range of things that the AU is trying to do. So I do think that we are doing relatively-- I mean, if you think about how we've coordinated relative to other regions, I do think it's encouraging how Africa has approached this issue. But of course the ADB should be doing better, should be doing more, yes.
MUNA NDULO: OK, what's the next question?
JACKIE SAYEGH: And this is from Dr. [INAUDIBLE] from Accra, Ghana. What next after this important webinar can we mobilize financial and material resources to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 for rural communities who most of the speakers have alluded are left uncared for?
MUNA NDULO: So there we are. How can we mobilize financial and material resources to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on rural areas?
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Mr. Moderator, since I spoke on this area-- I don't have what it takes to mobilize, but it's the fight that-- this is where resources mobilized need to be focused so that the appropriate rejuvenation of economies, of social life, of security can be enhanced if we do it at a community level.
I want you to get that point. I am very pleased with Dr. Jarra's intervention about agriculture and the passion she stress it. If agriculture is strengthened, that's where the majority of our people have their livelihoods. So if we can strengthen that area, we create more employment. Because naturally that's where people are. So if we support them, we are naturally helping them to employ themselves. And when one African is employed, we all know the ripple effects. So I would say that's an area where a lot of intervention need to be focused. And [INAUDIBLE] that are being mobilized, yeah, we can talk about getting more loans to Africa. But what about giving just support to strengthening those areas that are well-suited and support our lives.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. We go to our next question.
JACKIE SAYEGH: The next question is for Professor Gumede. And this is from Gaurav Toor from Cornell University. The stimulus means future inflation with the de facto devaluing of currencies. Do you think it is time to embrace protectionism outside of region economic treaties? We are hearing a lot of countries embracing self-sufficiency around the world. Is this something African countries can and should do?
VUSI GUMEDE: It's a catch-22, isn't it? I mean, so we cannot not have economic stimulus packages. So countries are forced. And every country is doing this globally, to try and stimulate economic development. I suppose a big question is how this is done so that it doesn't have major consequences, negative consequences, for future generations. But it's something that needs to be done.
And then of course I think-- I mean, other panelists have spoken to this, that there is indeed some self-sufficiency that is taking place. I think we can see many Africans trying to do things for themselves. I mean, Madagascar is an interesting case. But another debate about that. But you can see what's happening around indigenous medicines, indigenous systems, that there are a lot of efforts. But even in the testing, different mechanisms to test for COVID-19, we've seen Senegal, for instance, attempting a particular approach, Rwanda, countries trying to do.
So I do think that it's a way to go. I mean, we needed to be self-sufficient long ago. And it took [INAUDIBLE] other cultures. So this is an opportunity for us to go that way. Like many countries are anyway exploiting that. Of course, it seems that it's declining much [INAUDIBLE] in many ways.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, the next question is from-- OK, we already did-- Professor [? Okanyo ?] from Rochester Institute of Technology wants, can somebody comment on the claims of a cure from Madagascar, but I think we already did that.
MUNA NDULO: [INAUDIBLE]
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, and then the next one is professor John Weiss from Cornell University. He says, what legislative measures are being formulated in countries typically designed to counter the loss of human rights threatened by the increased concentration of power resulting from the crisis conditions? For example, sources in Kenya report extensive police human rights abuses resulting from the ways the lockdown was enforced.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, I maybe can comment a little bit on that. That is a major problem that we are seeing. I mean, I work very closely with Human Rights Watch. I'm a member of their advisory committee. And we're seeing this as a major program in a lot of countries, that governments are beginning to use the COVID situation to diminish human rights, especially in countries that are facing elections.
So for example, the opposition is no longer able to organize, and the government can now just come up and say, oh, you know, you can't have meetings because there is COVID. So it has very serious implications.
But I think the only solution to this, to me, is continuous monitoring. And also holding governments accountable. I mean, we have to do that. And here, of course, the NGO community I think is also vitally important. I think one of the countries that has been cited a lot over this issue is Zimbabwe, for example, where a number of journalists have been detained on regulations relating to COVID. And oh, you went to the meeting, therefore--
So I think that we have to watch that. And we can't afford the space of human rights to be reduced. Because that's actually important for, also, communication, for information, crucial information to be spreading.
So sorry, I had something to add on not. Yes, please.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Thank you. My message has been that we are in a health crisis. And so if you are declaring a state of emergency or whatsoever controversial human rights violation of issues that come around and violate people's rights. Those emergencies should not be as if to say there is an armed conflicts, or civil war on the continent, and all of that. It's a health crisis.
And so the laws, our statutes, gave rise to declaring a health emergency by the health system of the countries. It's on the books. You can declare health emergency based on the disease, and how to deal with it, and rally the population around you. And so it's really unacceptable for governments to use this COVID-19 crisis as if there is civil war and unrest on our continent, and violating the rights of their citizens, postponing elections because of politics and all of that.
So for me, there are already laws on the books. There is no reason to give or put in place new laws or pass new laws. The best thing to do is to go back to our public health laws. Every country on the continent have a public health law. And look at the measures in our public health laws, and implement sound public health policies geared toward stopping COVID-19, and not putting curfews, armed forces, in the streets, curbing the rights of people. I think that's strong violation.
As a lawyer, I believe in the law and governments to follow the rule of law to deal with the crisis and work with the population. Community engagement is key in an outbreak response instead of being draconian.
MUNA NDULO: No, that's a good point, there. I mean, the law is very clear. I mean, emergencies don't exempt you from following our human rights. And I think clearly what we need to do is continuous monitoring and making these governments accountable.
Any other comments, questions? Next question, Jackie.
JACKIE SAYEGH: The next question is from Dr. Samuel Johnson of George Mason. He said, I share the call for a rethink of the continent's approach to development. But I wonder how can this be done in a post-COVID period, especially in war-affected countries, where the approaches to post-war developments have focused less on the views of the population about wealth distribution, but on the inputs of international partners or powerful donor countries and by stimulating market economy and the political fortunes of politicians.
MUNA NDULO: There's any comments?
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Yes. I'd like to take a shot at it. Oh, Prof-- Prof, go ahead.
VUSI GUMEDE: I just wanted to say one thing about this, and then I can fellow panelists to say something, that without peace, really, with all the conflicts that we have, it's different way of development. But it's only not just the issue of peace, but also the issue of justice. Just-- [INAUDIBLE] just society, just communities.
And the AU has been trying to do work around this that is currently focused on the [INAUDIBLE] of the guns. And it seems that we're losing ground. I mean, some inputs have been made. There were human rights violations. You know, some ground maybe losing around democratization.
So I think it's an important issue in a sense that maybe we need a different intervention that focuses on these, like around peace-building. With or without COVID-19, in a sense, this has always been a very critical issue that we've not been able to address in our continent.
But we also need to understand why we have these conflicts. I think that's a key issue really that we need to better understand why we have the conflicts that we have in many parts of our continent. Thanks, Moderator.
MUNA NDULO: So just quickly, we are now only with 15 minutes left for our session. Yes, please.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: No, I think I agree perfectly, where-- I think the issue of conflicts, the way we handle them needs to be revisited. We have to find really why a lot of times, when big interventions are done into conflicts, the focus appear to be more on settling political issues rather than the needs of the people.
There are people in Africa are not interested in who become presidents, senators, or parliamentarians. Many people figure I trust that in livelihood issues. So when we have these conflicts and we want to do interventions, let's focus on how to ensure just and equitable distribution, livelihood issues. And the conflicts will be relatively taking care of by itself. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah. I would just like to add that. I mean, I think that when you talk about change in Africa, one has to remember that we need structural change. No change really is meaningful unless it's structural. Because what we get now is produced by a structure that exists.
And most of it is really kind of like a pre-independence kind of economic structure. And it's really designed to produce what we see. So unless you change the structure-- that means our economies, our thinkers, must think through these things in terms of transformation.
So that even when you talk about a conflict, a conflict ends when you get rid of the causes of that conflict. So the root causes, if you return to where you were before, there's always the potential that there will be conflicts again.
So next question.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, so there are two questions I'm going to join. One is from Professor Chatterjee of [INAUDIBLE] University. And he wants any of the panelists to speak on the relationship between ethnic conflict and COVID. And then we have Professor Ben Wodi from SUNY Courtland who wants the panelists to comment on the role of cultural beliefs and practices in the etiology of COVID-19 in Africa.
MUNA NDULO: What I'd like you to do, given the very limited time we have now, is maybe read out all the questions, and the panelists can pick out which ones they would like to answer. Because I see from our time that we have only like 10, 12 minutes left.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, I think the panelists-- can you all see the questions? Yes, they can see the questions.
MUNA NDULO: You can see the questions. OK.
JARRA JAGNE: Yeah, I can see them.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK, so anybody wants to--
JARRA JAGNE: I've actually been answering some by text.
JACKIE SAYEGH: Oh, good. OK. And then once you answer them, you can dismiss them so we don't have them up here.
MUNA NDULO: OK, so then--
JACKIE SAYEGH: So anybody wants to take the first question, take ethnic conflict and COVID. Or has that been answered?
MUNA NDULO: What relationship does he see, himself, in terms of ethnic conflict and COVID? I mean, COVID affects everybody.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: I would only say, on ethnic and conflict-- I'm trying to make sense of where this pricing is coming from, and I hope I'm right here. But like I said, when they are existing [INAUDIBLE], COVID is only going to sit on those undercurrents. And it's the same with ethnic issues. In societies where ethnic issues have become very prevalent, in societies where merit system have become absent, in societies where preferences have been given to particularly selected class of people, COVID is only going to exacerbate that.
But really COVID is really just exposing further what exists in those communities. And it's important to really deal with those issues for what they are, and not blame them on COVID. COVID is not going to ask anybody to abuse the right of other people. COVID is not going to tell anybody to muzzle the rights and privileges that are belonging to other people.
What COVID does is really just expose some of the hidden trends that we bring to our social life, our political life, our economic life, and indeed these relationships. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: OK, thank you. So maybe we can take two or three more questions. Jackie, can you read out--
JACKIE SAYEGH: Sorry.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: There was a question of the etiology of COVID, and [INAUDIBLE] on Africa. I would like to put that one in the context of what Dr. Jarra spoke of earlier, about the One Health approach. That is the interaction between animal, human and environment, what we-- if you follow the panel discussion from the beginning, she spoke about how they won't have an approach and etiology of a lot of the diseases coming from the animal origin. This is something we have to face, is a global trend right now, where a lot of the diseases that are affecting humans are of animal origin. If we talk about the Ebola crisis with bat relationship, if we talk about COVID-19 with the Wuhan China problem with animal markets, we talk about a lot of the diseases that are affecting-- Lassa fever from rodents, rats, talk about mosquitoes giving malaria, dengue fever, we talk about rabies from dogs, and all of that.
So that interaction, the etiology of these diseases, is something we humans have to deal with and be prepared, our surveillance system, our health care system, for the next pandemics or epidemics that we face in the not-too-distant future. It's a matter of when and not if, because we will have the diseases because of globalization, deforestation, convergence of diseases, animals, and the human population. And we are not destroying the animal habitats and all of that. So we have those to deal with. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Let's go to-- sorry. Any more questions? We need to go to the last session-- section, sorry. So how many more?
JACKIE SAYEGH: We have maybe three or four more through email, and then other ones here that can be answered. Professor Weiss removed his questions. He said he will write the individual panelists.
MUNA NDULO: OK.
JACKIE SAYEGH: The other question is from Professor [? Betty ?] from the University of Johannesburg. The response at a global level ranges from good to appalling. My question is, how can we ensure that [INAUDIBLE] elected political leaders are held accountable for their acts or opinions in dealing with the pandemic?
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: I think it is appalling, actually, for political leaders not to follow the science. Being a political leader, being elected by your people, you are not a scientist. You have to follow the science, follow the data. That's very, very much important.
And so political leaders that have made derogatory statements that are not guided by science, it's highly unfortunate for that to happen. There is no substitute for political leadership in crisis management. So politicians play a crucial role to rally the population and support the scientists and technical people that have the technical know-how to deal with outbreaks.
I had an experience with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of the Republic of Liberia, leading the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, in Liberia, supporting us as scientists and public health leaders that were leading the process in West Africa. And whatsoever she told the population was based on science. Ebola must go is everybody's business.
My call here is, on the continent and elsewhere in the world, globally, is for political leadership to go by the science. This is some of the criticisms that President Trump and other leaders in the world have faced right now when they are not dealing with the signs, promoting drug that is not efficacious, that have no basis in science for people to take, political leaders on the African continent are receiving the Malagasy traditional therapies, and give it to their population without it being guided by science. And please, deal with the science. We have very credible institutions on the continent right now-- the Africa Center for Disease Control, the Nigeria CDC, my own Liberia Public Health Institute, and other institutions on the continent that can give us the scientific basis of dealing with crisis. Thank you.
JACKIE SAYEGH: The next question is from Professor Assié-Lumumba from Cornell University. And she says, can the panelists address immediate and long-term impact, readiness for future pandemic in relation to the quality of education and [INAUDIBLE] of research capacity.
MUNA NDULO: Is that the last question? Or you have another one? Can you read all of the, because we only have five minutes.
JACKIE SAYEGH: OK. And then there's another one by email that just came, but that one goes specifically to Professor Gumede. From Locksley Edmondson of Cornell University said, in a recent newspaper, it was stated that the US has [INAUDIBLE] up to 1,000 ventilators to help South Africa fight the virus. The US embassy has said that South Africa is the first country in the world to receive this state-of-art equipment. What has made South Africa so special in the eyes of the US administration?
MUNA NDULO: OK, very, very, very quickly, because we really have only five minutes, and I wanted to go back through the program in terms of each one of you making one last statement. So briefly, one minute, Professor Gumede.
VUSI GUMEDE: [CHUCKLES] It's a difficult question to [INAUDIBLE] president. I get [INAUDIBLE] with the president. I saw this announcement when the president made it. It's difficult for me to say anything about the [INAUDIBLE].
MUNA NDULO: You need to ask the president.
VUSI GUMEDE: [INAUDIBLE] I don't have an answer for it.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah. And i think the point that was brought out about political leadership is very, very important, that our leaders must accept that science should lead the way they look at the problem. You don't have expertise as a non-scientist. And it's really, I think, very, very unfortunate that we have leaders that are trying to speak as if they are scientists, and thereby causing even more problems for their own people.
I think leadership is-- and you can see in the world, I mean, if you compare the countries that have done very well, it's been pointed out that the leadership-- I mean, Germany is pointed as a country that has done wonderful work, New Zealand, and all that. And everything points to leadership.
And here I might add that also it points to gender balance. Women clearly have led this trouble better. And I think, unfortunately, women have been-- no one has asked about the question of increased gender violence. And I think this, of course, reflects the tensions that are brought about when people are in close environments. And I think we have to come out with a solution in terms of how do we save those communities and deal with the issues like that, which includes hotlines, I think, for people who are being subjected to violence, and response teams, and also counseling in terms of trying to deal with these issues.
So any last-- I think what we have now is very very few minutes. So I'd like each panelist to say their last word, but really very, very briefly, because we're five minutes and they'll switch us off. So please be very, very brief, one minute each. We'll start with Dr. Jagne, Jarra.
JARRA JAGNE: Well, it has been three months since the first case of COVID-19 in Africa. And it has really shown us many of our weaknesses. And I think one of our weaknesses is really in medical research, medical training, and in innovation. And I was glad to see the WHO organized a hackathon. And then, again, a group of African innovators were invited to present their innovations. And for WHO Afro, which is the African regional office in Brazzaville.
Africa has potential. We have a wealth of innovators. And we need to bring that out. These people have been coming out with all kinds of new methods to help with the COVID pandemic control. I don't have time to list all the new things they come up with, but I will advise you to check on the WHO Afro website. They have a whole article about these innovations.
So this is what we need to focus on, I think.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. Professor Sydnee-- Sandee-- Sydnee, sorry. Sayndee.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Sayndee, yes. Basically I have made a point that COVID interventions need to be situated at a community level where the [INAUDIBLE] is going to be greatest and severest. And the interventions need to look into food security, health security, and of course human rights and basically human security issues. If that is not done, the impact already at those levels is going to be exacerbated. And it is-- there will even be more that COVID could bring to us.
MUNA NDULO: Yes, thank you very much. And Dr. Nyenswah.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: So thank you. The number-one take-home message here is that we are dealing with an off process. Let's look at the after-action review after COVID-19. And I hope countries now start planning they're after-action review, and examining, and critically look at what has happened, and what got us to where we are, that the entire world has been locked down, the economy affected, it has socio-economic impact on the population.
Let's look at our health systems very critically. When finance ministers on the African continent are planning, sometimes the last thing they think about is of our health systems. But health systems are critical. As we speak, kids are without vaccination. Let us be prepared for measles outbreaks, pertussis/whooping cough outbreaks, yellow fever outbreaks, after COVID-19. Think of our health systems.
MUNA NDULO: Thank you very much. Professor Gumede.
VUSI GUMEDE: Thanks, sir. Well, I suppose-- I mean, we see this as an opportunity, as many people have been saying. I mean, this health crisis is essentially an economic crisis. Or you could put it differently that it has plunged the global economy, now, economies, into a big, big problem. And therefore it's an opportunity for our countries to get their houses in order, at least for the continent of Africa to get its house in order.
I mean, many issues that have been raised for many years around the structure of our economies, the characters of our economies. And that even those economies that are doing well in Africa are not benefiting many people. And all of that's an opportunity for us to work around IC, actually, how it's been-- it raised some of these issues.
So it's about time, perhaps, to focus on this, and also the transformation of global affairs. Thanks.
MUNA NDULO: Yeah, thank you very much. Yeah, I think that we have had an excellent debate on these issues. And I think it seems to me that we have to emphasize the fact that this is, of course, a health crisis. But it's also an economic crisis, I think, as many of you have pointed out. Because it does translate into an economic crisis in the sense that only healthy people can actually enjoy an economy. And when people are not working, it means, in fact, the economy will contract.
And I think it has also brought out/exposed the inequality that we need to deal with within the context of Africa, that inequality has grown. And I think that, all our plans in terms of responses-- economic responses, health responses-- we have to address this question of inequality. And the inequality of course affects our access to education, that affects access to health. And I'm glad Professor Lumumba put out this question of education, but also has brought out the ugly aspect of gender violence.
And I think it's also important that all of you emphasized the context, that anything you do in terms of your responses has to be context-driven. Because otherwise it doesn't make sense to the people that you are dealing with. I think the context-- we have to look at what are the conditions in Africa, and the conditions as they are. And our responses must reflect an understanding of the context.
I think that also exposed the problems with our health care system, that very, very little investment has been made in terms of our health care system. I think this is a point that many of you-- Dr. Jagne emphasized lack of investment in research. The health care system is in crisis, is recoverable, or actually responding, to such a crisis.
And I think we also brought out a very, very important factor, that whatever we do in Africa must be science-based. I mean, these conspiracy theories have not taken Africa anywhere. And I think that we actually saved people very, very badly. But it's also, of course, I think as Richard pointed out, it's sometimes also a product of lack of trust in governance. That means that our governance systems must be more transparent so that people can trust what they're doing. Because what you read in Africa today is of course people being very suspicious of whatever government says. And that's because of their experience. So we need transparency to really be promoted.
And I think the last point that we also emphasize was that emergencies don't mean that you disregard human rights. So it's not an excuse for not following human rights. Human rights in every country are guaranteed by the constitution and the rule change. And the emergencies are legislated within the context of the constitution. So there's no excuse for using this situation to violate human rights.
As we conclude, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank each one of the participants, the panelists. I know you're very, very busy people. So we are really grateful that you were able to give us some of your time to appear on this program, which I believe has been very useful, and as you can see has actually attracted participation from all over the world. And especially pleasing is that we've had African participants. So thank you very, very much to each one of you for your contributions, and also for your time and expertise.
And I would be remiss if I don't thank the people who are really the brains behind organizing this whole thing, being our technical people. But also Jackie Sayegh, the program manager, she has managed this enterprise with Bill Phelan, who is also a program manager for Latin America but teamed up with us to work on this project. So to all of you I say thank you very much for your wonderful work. And we appreciate what you've done to make this a reality.
And last but not least, our audience. Thank you very much for taking time to participate in this program. For many of you, it's been at tremendous cost, especially if you're in developing countries where time costs a lot in terms of the internet. We really appreciate your participation, and we hope that you have taken something from this discussion, as we all are from this end. I think we are really delighted that you are able to participate. And thank you very much for being part of the program.
So with those remarks, I think I would conclude by saying that we are now closing the webinar. And thank you once again to the panelists for this really wonderful participation and for giving us your most precious time to come and be with us. Thank you.
TOLBERT NYENSWAH: Thank you, Dr. Muna. Thank you, Professor. Thanks to the Cornell family. Bye bye.
JARRA JAGNE: Thank you.
T. DEBEY SAYNDEE: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Bye.
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COVID-19 has brought untold havoc to every continent. Bread-basket regions are under quarantine, supply chains have slowed or vanished altogether, and the health infrastructures in many countries have buckled under the strain. This webinar focuses on the pandemic’s impact on the African continent. Given relative strengths and weaknesses, African countries have responded in myriad ways.
Panelists are experts actively engaged in working on the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa or on zoonotic avian influenza (bird flu H5N1) epidemics in Africa and Asia:
Vusi Gumede, PhD, Professor, University of South Africa, Member, Presidential Economic Advisory Council, South Africa; Tolbert Nyenswah, MPH, Senior Research Associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, former Deputy Minister of Health for Disease Surveillance and Epidemic Control, Liberia; Jarra Jagne, DVM, Senior Extension Associate, Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Cornell; and T. Debey Sayndee, PhD, Professor and Director, Peace & Conflict Studies - Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation, University of Liberia.
Muna Ndulo, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of International & Comparative Law, Cornell Law School, and Director, Institute for African Development.