By Prince Kurupati*
The year 2020 is fast coming to an end. For most people, the year 2020 is one to be forgotten as the world had to fight (and is still) a deadly pandemic known as COVID-19. However, despite the challenges that 2020 brought about, there are some individuals who managed to achieve some incredible feats. Some of the feats relate to humanitarian matters, politics, economics, and science while others made significant strides in finding long lasting cures and vaccines for COVID-19. In this article, we are going to take time in sharing with all readers Africans who made global headlines in 2020.
Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Doula (Cameroon)
As the world is currently battling the corona virus pandemic, we saw it befitting to start off with one man who announced that he has found a cure for COVID-19. Early on in May when the corona virus was just starting to show off its devastating side, one cleric in Cameroon by the name Archbishop Samuel Kleda made some bold remarks stating that he had found a cure for COVID-19. Archbishop Kleda’s cure is a herbal remedy which he concocted himself. In an interview with state media CRTV, Archbishop Kleda said that he had over 30 years of medicinal plant research experience and it is this experience which helped him to come up with the COVID-19 cure which he calls Essential Oils.
Soon after his remarks, many people in Cameroon flocked to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Doua
la in search of the precious COVID-19 herbal cure. Amongst those who received the herbal cure, many of them who were interviewed by different media houses testified that the cure was of great help as it managed to heal them.
Realizing the popularity of Archbishop Kleda’s herbal cure, the Cameroonian government had to intervene sending a team of researchers and doctors to determine the validity of Kleda’s claimed cure. Once the outcome of the investigation is proved to be true, the government has promised to make the herbal cure more widely available.
In the meantime as the government researchers and scientists continue doing their work, Archbishop Kleda said he would continue administering the treatment to patients who sought help from him. He said his goal as a servant of God was to help poor and suffering people hence the reason he will continue administering the treatment free of charge to all people.
Andry Rajoelina (Madagascar)
Earlier in the year when COVID-19 was starting to show its ugly face, the President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina made some bold remarks stating that his country had found a cure for COVID-19. The said cure is a herbal concoction made from locally available plants in Madagascar. When the Madagascar president made the remarks, he stated that his government had already done some tests (albeit with a rather small population) and had proven that the herbal cure known as Covid-Organics was safe and effective.
As soon as Covid-Organics was released, Madagascar began to witness a reduction in the number of infected cases. At one point, the country had to go for several weeks without recording any new cases. For many, including the skeptical, they started to view this as testament that Covid-Organics was indeed a safe and effective cure and thus they started to embrace it. Many African countries approached the Madagascar government looking to get their own share of the miracle cure and found the Madagascar government readily willing to help its African sisters. Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, DRC and Tanzania are some of the countries that received their own batches of Covid-Organics.
In as much as the Madagascar people and other African countries embraced Covid-Organics, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Union including other scientific bodies remained skeptical saying they would only approve of Covid-Organics’ safety and efficacy if clinical trials are done first.
Despite the skepticism shown by scientific bodies, the AU and WHO, President Rajoelina remained defiant stating that Covid-Organics is safe and effective for use as a COVID-19 cure. At one point, he stated that the skepticism shown by some emanates from the fact that Covid-Organics was found by an African country, if it had been any other American or European country, the reception would be different.
“What is the problem with Covid-Organics, really? Could it be that this product comes from Africa? Could it be that it’s not OK for a country like Madagascar, which is the 63rd poorest country in the world… to have come up with (this concoction) that can help save the world?” Rajoelina asked.
Dr John Nkengasong (Cameroon)
Dr John Nkengasong is a virologist who is the director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Africa CDC was established by the African Union to support member states’ public health initiatives and strengthen public health institutions’ capacity to detect, prevent, control and respond to disease threats and outbreaks quickly and effectively. When the COVID-19 pandemic started to take its toll, Dr John Nkengasong was appointed as the WHO Special Envoy for Africa. In this role, Dr John Nkengasong has worked tirelessly in coordinating the African response to COVID-19.
In an interview of ReliefWeb, Dr John Nkengasong said his work was made easier by the fact that COVID-19 didn’t start in Africa. This gave him time to quickly strategize on how Africa could best prepare for the pandemic. As the pandemic was starting to cause havoc in other continents, Dr John Nkengasong realized that Africa by the second week of February only had two countries (Senegal and South Africa) that could diagnose COVID-19. To address this challenge, Dr John Nkengasong together with his team quickly brought together representatives of laboratories from 16 African countries, trained them and gave them diagnostic equipment. They repeated the exercise in cohorts with representatives from other African countries to ensure that every country on the continent could diagnose COVID-19 on its own.
After this, Dr John Nkengasong’s focus turned towards infection prevention and control. Recognizing that it would be devastating if health personnel in African countries would be infected in large numbers (as this would derail the fight against COVID-19), Dr John Nkengasong together with his team brought representatives of 35 countries in Nigeria and trained them on infection prevention and control. Another training was done in Kenya which brought about representatives of more than 30 countries for training in enhanced airport, airline and port-of-entry screening. The next task was to train health personnel on communicating risk to the general public and this was done in Tunisia.
As a last step in coordinating an African response to COVID-19, Dr John Nkengasong working with the African Union convened a meeting of all health ministers where it was agreed that there need to be a coordinated continental strategy that hinges on cooperation, collaboration, coordination and communication. This led to the establishment of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus Preparedness and Response.
Jack Ma (China) *Not African but included owing to his generosity in helping in Africa’s fight against COVID-19
This article seeks to expose Africans who made global headlines in 2020. The first part of the article focused on Africans who have achieved great feats when it comes to fighting COVID-19. When it comes to Africa’s response to fighting COVID-19, it would be a miscarriage of justice to exclude one man (albeit non-African) that is, Jack Ma whose generosity with COVID-19 donations greatly helped many African countries to better fight the novel corona virus pandemic.
When most African countries were struggling to raise adequate funds to purchase personal protective equipment and other necessary tools required in the fight against COVID-19, Chinese business magnate Jack Ma announced that he through his Jack Ma Foundation would be helping the African continent to better fight the pandemic by availing COVID-19 donations. The donations came in three rounds with all African countries benefitting.
On each round, Africa received masks, swabs and test kits, ventilators, sets of protective clothing, face shields, temperature guns, body temperature scanners and pairs of gloves.
Speaking after receiving donations for the third round, the director of Africa CDC Dr John Nkengasong said, “Getting diagnostics and medical equipment for COVID-19 response is a global challenge. Africa is in a fierce competition with the developed world with respect to the availability of commodities. These donations from the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have been an incredible initiative helping to feed the need for medical supplies by African countries.”
Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi)
In a historic development certainly on the African continent, a constitutional court managed to annul the results of a presidential election and ordered fresh polls! Africa for so long has been marred by allegations of electoral fraud and violence. However, despite the numerous reports of electoral fraud and violence, only once (Kenya in 2017) had an election been annulled based on the reports. That changed in 2020 as Malawi’s Constitutional Court annulled the country’s 2019 presidential results ordering fresh polls.
Reading his ruling earlier on this year, Malawi’s Constitutional Court judge Healey Potani said, “In every election there are irregularities. However, in the present case, the irregularities were widespread and systematic and affected the result… We order the nullification of the election… We further order that a fresh election be held in accordance with the law and pursuant to directions we will make soon. We also order that elections should be held within 150 days.”
The landmark ruling was warmly greeted by many both within the borders of Malawi and beyond as it demonstrated the independent nature of Malawi’s Judiciary. The plaintiffs were then losing opposition candidates Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima. The two challenged the result, alleging that the tally sheets were tampered with and that some polling stations used correction fluid to alter the results.
Soon after the Constitutional Court ordered fresh polls, Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima joined forces as they entered into an alliance. The objective – to force then incumbent Peter Mutharika out of office. 6.8 million Voters cast their votes and Lazarus Chakwera was duly declared the winner of the fresh polls with 58.57 per cent of the vote. An elated Chakwera speaking after the election re-run said, “This is a win for Malawians, it is a win for democracy, a win for justice… It is a win that will enable this nation to really reset and begin to build a new kind of Malawi in which all of us together will be involved.”
Akinwumi Adesina (Nigeria)
2020 saw Akinwumi Adesina being reelected to run for a second term as the president of the African Development Bank (AFDB). However, Adesina’s path to his second term in office was by no means smooth sailing as he faced numerous challenges that threatened to derail not only his reelection but also taint his career.
According to the Business Day Nigeria, Adesina’s re-election can be likened ‘to a warrior who won an almost impossible battle as he was faced with a lot of issues which would have posed as threats for a second tenure’. Three months before he was expected to be re-elected, the former Nigerian minister of Agriculture was questioned after a string of corruption and abuse of office allegations from his own staff.
The staff calling themselves ‘Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AFDB’ claimed that Adesina was using the bank’s resources for self-promotion and personal gain while also paying out huge but underserved severance packages to staff who resigned mysteriously, and favouring his fellow Nigerians. AFDB using its own internal investigation unit opened an investigation to look into the allegations but found no evidence to prove any wrongdoing on the part of Adesina. The outcome however wasn’t accepted by the US Treasury Department which immediately called for an ‘independent’ investigation.
US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process. Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.” Soon after, a tribunal was set up chaired by former Irish President, Mary Robinson. The tribunal just like the ethics committee before it exonerated Adesina.
The tribunal’s findings paved the way for Adesina to compete for a second term and he was unanimously reelected by the Board of Governors with a 100 per cent vote at the end of the Bank’s 2020 Annual Meeting on 27 August. After his win, President Adesina had this to say, “I am deeply grateful for the collective trust, strong confidence and support of our shareholders for electing me for a second term as President. It is yet another call for selfless service to Africa and the African Development Bank, to which I will passionately devote myself… The future beckons us for a more developed Africa and a much stronger and resilient African Development Bank Group. We will build on the strong foundations of success in the past five years, while further strengthening the institution, for greater effectiveness and impacts.”
Paul Kagame (Rwanda)
Rwanda has become an emblem of economic development on the African continent and beyond. This has largely been necessitated by the country’s president, Paul Kagame who has been at the forefront in pushing a development oriented agenda. The year 2020 was no different with other recent years as Rwanda continued its developmental trajectory. However, what makes 2020 particularly special to Rwanda is the fact that 2020 is the year that Rwanda set as the year it would achieve its economic deliverables as outlined in Vision 2020. Suffice to say, there is much to celebrate as the country managed to achieve a lot of its economic deliverables.
Rwanda’s accomplishment of the objectives laid out in Vision 2020 is part of the reason for its high growth. The country’s government created Vision 2020 intending to become a middle-income country by 2020 – this was later on postponed to 2035 but there is sufficient evidence on the ground that the country is on the right path to achieving the goal way before the targeted year that is, 2035. This largely necessitated by widespread development from infrastructure to service sector investments.
Samantha Muzoroki (Zimbabwe)
They say heroes and heroines emerge during troubling times. During the troubling COVID-19 pandemic, one heroine has emerged in Zimbabwe by the name Samantha Muzoroki. Samantha Muzoroki is an immigration lawyer by profession but she found a new ‘profession’ during the national lockdown in Zimbabwe that of, feeding children, the poor and vulnerable in society.
Samantha Muzoroki runs a relief kitchen in Chitungwiza, one of the most populated towns in Zimbabwe which is a few kilometers away from the capital Harare. Her relief kitchen offers free food to children, the poor and the vulnerable. Samantha says she realized that many children were going the whole day without anything to eat as the national lockdown implemented by the government to combat the spread of the novel corona virus pandemic was having an economic toll on families that survived on doing menial jobs in and around the town – restrictions of movement which is part of the lockdown meant the shrinking of incomes for many families hence hunger. With the little she had, she decided to offer children something to eat every morning.
Unbeknown to her however, her work inspired many and soon, individuals and corporates began to donate food and money to help her continue her excellent humanitarian work. Nowadays thanks to the donations she receives from various individuals and corporates, Samantha is able to provide two meals per day (breakfast and supper) to children, the poor and the vulnerable. Her work has also inspired other individuals in different parts of the country to establish their own relief kitchen initiatives with the intention of helping the less fortunate in society during these troubling times. In the tourist town of Zimbabwe, officers from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in partnership with local municipality officers and members from the business community joined hands to launch the Victoria Falls Children’s Feeding Scheme. The Scheme has one aim which is to provide every child with a hot nutritious meal 5 days a week.