By Dr Eddy C. Agbo & Gaèlle A. Mbalula *
The COVID-19 pandemic brought compelling impact on employers and employees. Several companies are forced to rethink their operations in ways unimagined before the pandemic. In the US, for example, no one thought that toll collection companies could move toll collection to full automated at toll gates, that schools could discard their office printers, and that so many companies would cancel office leases and operate entirely remotely, with clawback effects on job losses and insecurities among employees and ancillary industries. The reality is: we’re seeing a shift in work as we know it, so we must look differently at work.
Transformation of work is usually driven by technology (as we saw with the industrial revolution), or monumentous acts of nature as was wrought by COVID-19 pandemic.
There is another side to this. Though the health toll of COVID-19 on the African continent was much less severe than other regions, the economic impact is more dire than any region. Essentially, Africa dodged the heavy health toll of COVID-19 seen in other regions, and this frightens the hell out of us because of the “what if” question: what if Africa was not spared and experienced similar heavy death toll visited on other regions? What if Africa is not this lucky the next time?
There’s probably no one cap fits all for all regions, or even for countries within a region; interventions must be customized. Therefore, Africa, for example, needs to develop its bio-economy through a dedicated effort to harness her highly skilled workers toward appropriate biotechnology solutions. Africa’s dependence on donated COVID-19 vaccine must enable a deeper reflection about the need to develop appropriate capacities, particularly through investments in developing its bio-economy. African governments, entrepreneurs and friends of Africa can no longer wait ‘for the environment to be right; we must now make the investments in translational biomedical research to aid future response to healthcare emergencies. Bio-economy is robust, resilient and, as COVID-19 has shown, always the “super hero” in moments of emergencies. It is expedient for Africa to harness highly trained biomedical scientists and bio-entrepreneurs to anchor its bio-econony as a home-driven fulcrum for it sustainable development efforts.