IFA AND SALT INSTITUTE HOLD PUBLIC LECTURE ON IMPACT OF COVID – 19
In its quarterly public lecture held on Saturday, November 20, 2021, the SALT Institute gave courtesy calls to Professor John Owusu Gyapong (Vice-Chancellor, of the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana) and Dr. Musa Dube (A community developer and businesswoman based in South Africa.) to serve as Keynote Speaker and Discussant respectively on the theme, “The Socio-economic and Cultural impact of COVID-19 in Africa: The Leadership Response.”
Professor Gyapong noted that initial pessimistic assessments about the virus’ deadly human toll on Africa because of poor health infrastructure and inadequate human capacity have been quickly demystified. While factors such as air temperature, demographic profile, and low levels of urbanization have influenced the low rates of Covid 19’s impact in Africa, Prof. Gyapong asserted that swift adoption of policy responses and effective leadership has contributed significantly to the unexpected results from Africa.
Professor Gyapong outlined various policy responses adopted by governments, with key measures focused on containing or mitigating the spread of the virus. In Ghana, the government established a Covid – 19 National Emergency Response Project. A key strategy of the response was to mobilize resources internally to improve the healthcare system and ease economic impacts. Specific measures included air, sea, and land border closures to limit the importation of the virus; full and partial lockdowns, contact tracing, increased testing, and the designation of Covid -19 isolation centres.
Other measures adopted included non-medical and pharmaceutical interventions such as face-covering mandates, hand-washing facilities, local manufacturing of PPEs and limits on social gatherings. The President of Ghana led the national response and the communication strategy, with regular briefings to keep citizens informed and educated, as well as the roll-out of short-term fiscal and monetary measures through a dedicated Covid – 19 Fund to channel resources to small and medium scale businesses as well as vulnerable households. These policy measures contributed significantly to the low infection and mortality rates as well as averting the total collapse of the economy.
Prof. Gyapong further highlighted some positive impacts of COVID-19; such as the adoption of online/virtual meetings, increased digital education, heightened levels of hygiene, increased levels of communication and innovation, among others. Professor Gyapong further lauded the initiative of the private sector civil society groups in mobilizing resources to construct and donate to the Infectious Disease Center to support the government’s efforts and called for unity at all levels of society in such extraordinary situations for the greater good. Prof. Gyapong was quick to point out that Ghana, likewise other African Countries, had survived the pandemic as a result of good leadership and swift policy decisions.
He noted, however, that in spite of the positive preventive and management measures resulting in mortality rates lower than other regions of the world, data from the UNDP suggests that the pandemic has had disastrous impacts on the economy and health care systems of several African countries. African economies have particularly suffered from lower trading and investment inflows from traditional partners resulting in low business and economic growth and significant job losses. The effects of the pandemic have also impacted education, agriculture, food security, and family cohesion as well as general livelihoods.
Summing up, Prof. Gyapong urged African leaders and scientists to unite to develop the capacity for the local manufacturing of vaccines. He further charged the youth to be goodwill ambassadors to develop innovative ideas to help fight the pandemic.
On her part, Dr. Dube highlighted some cultural impacts of the pandemic noting that the imposition of strict measures posed a threat to the very fabric of African societies, reflected in shifting family relationships, including women as caregivers and providers for the family and the adjustments that families have to make to survive. She also urged African leaders to look for African solutions to crises rather than leaning on foreign aid from the West.
The Public Lecture, which was held virtually, is a flagship program of the Intercessors for Africa (IFA) and the SALT Institute, Ghana. They are organized quarterly each year. The IFA/SALT Institute Public Lectures are aimed at redeeming Africa through transformational leadership.