African billionaires, Mo Ibrahim and Aliko Dangote during the 2019 Ibrahim Forum held in Abidjan.

Kingsley Okeke

With over 715,660 cases and 33,579 deaths globally, as at 30th March 2020, according to World Health Organization, WHO, COVID-19, the deadly new disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, caught the world napping. From Asia to Europe, Africa to the middle-east, none was prepared for the scale of disruption that has now occurred.   

In Africa, the ravenous pangs of the Pandemic have been felt across about 50 countries – with over 5000 confirmed cases and 134 deaths, according to WHO. While the reports coming from the continent presents a lucid picture, it is not yet Uhuru. Experts are predicting a dramatic increase in reported cases in the coming weeks, owing mainly to other obvious gaps, including inadequate health facilities, malnutrition and other diseases. On the flip side, the continent still has a chance to beat back the Pandemic and reduce the scale of disruption, by drawing copiously from the experiences of other countries, as some leaders are already doing.  

More importantly, the continent will do well to heed the call of the outgoing Director of Communication and External relation of the African Development Bank, Dr Victor Oladokun. In his article titled, COVID-19: Why Africa urgently needs an Ubuntu Plan, Dr Oladokun, maintained that “Africa urgently needs a globally coordinated Ubuntu Plan in response to COVID-19, a fiscal stimulus that recognizes our shared and connected humanity, as we find ourselves amid an unprecedented crisis.” Nothing can be more accurate.     

Governments responses to the COVID-19 outbreak across the continent has varied from swift to sluggish. Still, all have been quick to promote a lockdown in compliance with WHO’s directive on social distancing. While lockdown is inevitable, the consequences are far-reaching, especially for over 60% of the population whose livelihood depends on daily toil. Business leaders must, therefore, step in to help governments meet the challenges of these peculiar times. Still, wondering how you can help beat back COVID-19? Here are seven ways to help flatten the curve: 

  1. Donate towards the purchase of medical supplies: 

Health officials across the continent have lamented the shortage of COVID-19 test kits, among other items, limiting their ability to report the number of confirmed cases timely. Isolation centres, ventilators, and modern health facilities are equally important at this time. Business people in Nigeria are already donating towards ramping up the country’s ability to beat this Pandemic. Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emiefele recently launched the Private sector coalition to mobilize support against the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria. The Coalition which consists of the country’s leading billionaires will mobilize about N120bn towards battling the Pandemic. Earlier this week South African Billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer pledged R1bn to support small businesses through these times while calling on other billionaires in the country to join the fight against COVID-19. Now maybe a good time to join other business leaders through your giving, if you haven’t started already. Investment in the provision of Test Kits; Ventilators; Protective Kits for Health Workers; Hand Sanitizers; water supply for remote communities, among others.      

  1. Promote WHO Guidelines 

Beyond cash donations, business leaders can also join the fight by using their platforms to promote the World Health Organization’s guidelines. Maintain Social Distancing, Wash Your Hand regularly, Use Sanitizers; Stay home; Self isolate If unwell and get in touch with health practitioners, amongst others. Business leaders have a massive following across several platforms. These platforms can serve as a veritable platform for promoting compliance. 

  1. Support Africa-Focused Media Organizations to promote information sharing and Fight Fake news 

In the times of crisis, misinformation abounds much more. The raging question has been, why does misinformation flourish? Does this mean that people are hopelessly gullible, their anxiety making them receptive to the most blatant false report? 

Hardly. In many cases, people share fake news for the fun of it. It, therefore, the responsibility of all well-meaning African to help in pushing back false reports that can spread fear, panic and death eventually. How? By using your social media platforms to present an accurate report to your followers. One can also invest in fact-checking tools that can help in picking holes in false reports.  

Investing in reputable media outlets at this time to continue to bring accurate and undiluted report is also a step in the right direction. 

  1. Yield your tangible Assets to the fight  

 In the past couple of weeks, we have seen how private businesses are utilizing their assets for social good amid a devastating outbreak that has shut down the world. In France, luxury group LVMH is making hand sanitizers, in Lagos, Nigeria, Lifebank, a health startup that finds and delivers blood to patients, has turned its attention to seeking critical assets for COVID-19 treatment and created a national register. Hotels.ng, the hotel booking platform, has partnered with hotels to develop isolation centres across the country and added buffers for the country’s limited quarantine facilities. Jumai, the Pan-African e-commerce giant has offered its logistics network to distribute health products for local authorities. While some companies are offering targeted funding, others are offering their assets for the fight against COVID-19.      

  1. Show a little more kindness

Currently, major capitals across the continent have been put on total lockdown, disrupting the livelihood of over 70% of the continent’s population. Indeed, this comes with a lot of shocks that can only be absorbed when there are palliative measures. Governments across the continent are currently battling with critical funding to fight the Pandemic, with very little to offer those whose survival also depends on palliatives. We can certainly help those around us, who may be unable to survive through this period without support. A little here and a little, there may make all the difference. 

Equally urgent at this point is the need to support SMEs actively. Small and Medium-scale businesses in the continent already face an uphill task surviving beyond the first five years, owing to identifiable challenges in the continent. Available statistics from reserchgate.net, SMEs failure rate in South Africa stands at 70% to 80%. Add the economic shutdown to the mix, and what you have is fatal. To reduce the number of SMEs that will be closing shop after this Pandemic, business leaders must consider offering support to selected SMEs with visible potentials.        

  1. Invest in Post COVID-19 bounce back plan for your business 

While the world may be experiencing one of the deadliest pandemics, after the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, companies owe it to society to continue to persevere despite these challenges. To sustain the survival of the human race, business leaders must adopt out-of-the-box thinking in times like this. The world depends on businesses and its leaders for sustenance, jobs protection and an assured future. Business leaders must engage in strategic thinking at this time, so as not to go extinct, post-COVID-19. 

  1. Stay home and stay safe  

World Health Organization has said that staying home can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and eventually break the circle. Much more than all that has been said; personal responsibility is key to beating the Pandemic. It is not enough to preach to others; we must also adhere strictly to WHO’s guidelines and that of the local authorities in our various countries. 

COVID-19 is beatable, and I am confident that Africa will. We do have an opportunity to make that happen. It requires the concerted effort of both government and the private sector. Together, we shall see the back of this Pandemic, just like we collectively did with Ebola six years ago.