Will 2021 be a better year in Africa?

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The thought of 2020 brought a lot of energy: many movies were anticipated to be released in 2020; people spent time debating on whether the New Year was the beginning or end of a new decade and some others were just excited over the name “twenty-twenty”. It’s not too early, however, to conclude that “twenty-twenty” was anything but exciting.

No single word can sum up or describe the year 2020. Many platforms including Twitter asked their audience and readers to describe the year. Some answers from big companies were ‘404’, ‘unsubscribe’ and ‘delete’. In the Washington Post, the top three answers were ‘exhausting’, ‘lost’ and ‘chaotic’.

Indeed, these answers combined describe the heartaches from back to back experiences such as the devastating wildfires in Australia and California, invasion of locusts in East Africa, persistent Lassa fever in Nigeria, the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus around the globe, incessant police brutality leading to Black Lives Matter and EndSARS protests globally, massive explosion in Beirut, 9-month long academic strike in Nigeria, violence and massacres in Congo and the demise of prominent figures like Chadwick Boseman, Diego Maradona and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

These events have been followed by millions of people getting ill, over a million dying, a crashing stock market and a receding global economy. While billionaires may have gotten richer over the year, low and middle-income earners with no savings, investments and health insurance have suffered more this year. Perhaps, fragile countries are most vulnerable to experiencing a decreased quality of livelihood.

Black lives matter protests
Black Lives Matter protests

Beyond COVID-19 vaccines for fragile countries

A major hope for a better 2021 is the development of more COVID-19 vaccines and the circulation of approved ones. Following the urgency of curtailing this deadly disease, two vaccines have been developed – one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and BioNTech. One of these vaccines has been approved in the U.K. while the two have been authorized in the U.S.

Much progress has been made as pharmaceutical companies and researchers toil in the risky and sensitive process of developing vaccines for coronavirus. Truly, with coronavirus presently ranked as the leading cause of death in the U.S., the success of vaccines in 2021 will be a major relief. But what happens to regions where this deadly disease is not ranked the first or even the tenth cause of death? Will the world still pay attention to their problems in 2021?

In some fragile countries, coronavirus is surprisingly not the leading cause of death. In sub-Sahara Africa for instance, the spread and death rate of coronavirus has been below projections. Many, including Melinda Gates, feared that the death rates from the pandemic would be beyond control for fragile regions like Africa. While some researchers have come up with theories to explain this curiosity, low spread and death rates in Africa remain a misery.

EndSARS protests

Specifically, the coronavirus is estimated as number 31 cause of death in Africa. The dangerous virus may not be prevalent in Africa as projected, but recurring diseases, vices and setbacks alongside the coronavirus were invading Africa in 2020. Sadly, many of these equally life-threatening events barely made the headlines.

In January 2020 when the deadly Lassa fever spurred in Nigeria, only a few were aware. By February, the disease had left 70 dead with 472 infected. Lassa fever has been in West Africa since the 1960s but had rapidly increased in 2020 killing over 200 Nigerians by December. This ‘local’ issue and many others like southern-Kaduna killings, East Africa’s locust invasion and the killings in Congo were happening alongside the pandemic and causing severe unrest for Africans.

happy new year - 2021

Perhaps 2022 may be a better year

For fragile countries with deplorable education systems, pathetic health care services and high hunger rates, developing and circulating vaccines alone in 2021 may not make the year better. Sub-Sahara Africa needs more than a COVID-19 vaccine to have a better year. Sub-Sahara Africa needs advanced technology, improved health care system, more jobs, reliable schools, transparent leaders and of course, COVID-19 vaccine.

If other equally life-threatening issues in African countries are left unattended to, then 2021 would be a year to struggle with more and worse ‘local’ unrest and to bear the brunt of all that’s lost and damaged from 2020. Perhaps, 2022 may be a better year if these ‘local’ issues make headlines in 2021.

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