Do our leaders draw lessons from global emergencies?

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People line up to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus outside a hospital in Beijing, China

By Tapiwa Gomo

WE are living in confusing and ambivalent times. It is a season which compels us to do something to change our situation, but it is also a season where several factors around us are rapidly changing that one is tempted to wait before mapping a way forward until the situation settles down. Those that are proactive advise that it is wiser to make hay while the sun shines by taking advantage of emerging opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down though it remains a threat. At the height of the pandemic there were a lot of changes and lessons that took place. One of the major ones is that we do not always need to leave our homes to go to work or to trade. We can do business from our homes and that reduces several costs such as transport and rentals, while creating more family time. Let’s make our homes comfortable.

We also learned the importance of self-sufficiency as a country, including producing our own food, having a good public health care system and a reliable supply chain of essential commodities. We also learned that when global emergencies strike, wealthy countries prioritise themselves before others. While this can be seen as morally wrong, they often say your safety first before helping others. We saw this unfold with the manufacturing and procurement of COVID-19 response medical equipment and vaccines. We too, can love ourselves.

And again, the lesson learnt here is that politicians in those wealthy countries know where their bread is buttered and there is no harm in that. The fact that African countries were at the bottom of the priority list in terms of accessing COVID-19 response medical equipment and vaccines speaks volumes of their leadership. It is easy to blame wealthy countries for doing all they could for their people. They know who voted for them.

Today, the main question is whether the same African leadership has learned from these harsh experiences. It is one thing to learn for awareness and it is another to use the lessons to chart a way forward. Did they learn that looting your own resources and keeping them outside your country short-changes the nation, themselves and their families? Did they learn that it also boosts the economies and essential services of those countries where they keep their loot? The COVID-19 pandemic was a stuck reminder that we can all be grounded in our places with limited or no access to life-saving services. They spend two years of the pandemic folding their hands, blaming wealthy countries for hoarding COVID-19 response resources, waiting for donations and for the situation to thaw — naturally.

As if that is not enough, the war in Ukraine came just before some countries could count the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The war has put the world at unexpected crossroads. Economies were beginning their rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic whose global response cost trillions of dollars. Poor countries were the worst affected economically. And when countries had just started their economic recovery, the war in Ukraine dented those efforts. Global prices of oil and essential commodities spiked which means countries and their citizens now have to spend more from reduced incomes.

And again, with the war we witnessed how the world remains unfair to other races with more global attention given to Ukraine than other crisis-affected countries. We also saw how other races were treated in Ukraine and how some of the European leadership evaded to acknowledge the racism that was unfolding in Ukraine. The lesson here is very clear and simple. Europeans are not stupid. Just like other rational races, they prioritise themselves, their people and their race before anyone. It is easy to see something wrong with that but again it is a basic principle of life that you ensure your safety first, then your “family” before helping others.

Why is this important to an African leader? Simple. They carry deep-seated self-hate and lack that sense of patriotism. An African leader’s first enemy is their people which is why they oppress, abuse, steal from and kill them. This is why they get their medical treatment, send their children for study and keep their wealth outside their own countries where these become inaccessible in the event of a global emergency. In the event of an emergency, most African leaders are prepared to throw their own race under the bus while saving another race. Check Operation Dudula in South Africa for a glaring example.

In addition, while Asian countries are preoccupied with striking new economic deals with Russia; taking advantage of the new opportunities arising from the global economic crisis caused by war, most African countries were being made to participate in voting Russia out of global organisations. Stigmatising Russia which is on sanctions is a Western priority with limited ramification for Africa. Identifying economic opportunities to cushion poor families from the effects of the war, should be the priority for Africa. But no. They love voting.

It is even more confusing for Zimbabwe. A leadership that is under Western sanctions and reluctant to leave power even when it has demonstrated high levels of cluelessness to govern does not inspire hope. Instead of taking advantage of Russia’s desperate need for trading partners, the leadership chose the political route of abstaining from voting or standing by Russia. With the old guard not changing its leadership colours and character, one can only turn to the chameleon-like opposition. It has changed names and colours, many a time but its policy positions have remained as empty as the reasons for the  chameleon character.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.