Things are shifting.
Over the past few months, COVID-19 has re-introduced us to the importance of essential workers, those who do the hard-grueling work every day at, sometimes, unattractive wages to keep the wheel of civilization moving. As the world re-opens, there is a realization that economies that do not invest in essential workers are highly vulnerable in the face of pandemics. Medical professionals and health workers have been the shields, literally, on the frontlines.
For scientists, battling a disease that has killed nearly 1 million in less than a year has not been easy. Still, healthcare interventions have been developed and tested, diagnostic equipment has been developed and installed in hospitals, countless medicinal agents have been subjected to thorough tests to establish efficacy… there has been a dint on the false sense of comfort of the yesteryears, the belief that medical advancements had reached a point where humanity could no longer be threatened by the extremes of viral pandemics.
Governance is increasingly being challenged. COVID-19 has exposed bureaucratic inefficiencies, government corruption, and general non-responsiveness of governments and the political class to the needs of the citizens. There could have been a huge debate on the pitfalls of representative democracies in the face of a pandemic that required significant sacrifices and a devaluation of some of the values citizens hold dear. Citizens have scarcely influenced policy through their representatives. The nature of social safety nets has determined how good one country has protected its citizens, in a world where a majority have been abandoned by their governments.
Social workers and community organizers have, for the most part, come to the rescue, mobilizing resources and increasing access to livelihood needs, whether it is food or shelter, and strengthening social relationships. Many have developed proposals and sought funds. Millions across the world have survived the effects of job losses and falling back to abject poverty on the backs of charitable workers.
The digital workplace is on fire and entrepreneurs and tech organizations are gobbling all the research available to develop solutions for the virtual workplace, teleworking, while management scholars are injecting more knowledge on strategies for enhancing effective communication, collaboration and engagement to maintain and improve employee performance. There will probably be no return to the normal on this front. COVID-19 hastened a process that began in the early 1990s.
There are those involved in redesigning transport and mobility systems, especially the need for efficient air circulation and physical distancing, to reduce the spread respiratory infections of today and the future. There are those who are redesigning airport screening and upgrading disease monitoring systems across borders. Manufacturers are developing more efficient thermal cameras for screening and control. There is going to be a new network of labs you’ll go to for tests and certification before you cross some borders.
The medical equipment and supplies market is now battling ground for pharmaceutical companies. Countries that have consistently invested in scientific research and development and supported manufacturing industries are reaping from the massive inflow of dollars for ventilators to masks to PPE to drugs … Billions are being minted from industrial production of diagnostic equipment and medical supplies.
On the economic front, how best your country will emerge from the economic devastation, particularly with regard to tackling the twin problems of a supply and demand shock, will determine the trajectory of economic growth over the next decade. COVID-19 struck global supply chains. The cumulative effect of supply bottlenecks and falling consumer demand, in the face of massive job and income losses, will persist for more months.
Policymakers across the world are literally gambling with education. The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries. The disruptions will exacerbate educational disparities with learning losses expected to extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress. On the other hand, are innovative approaches to support education and training continuity. The learning environment is going to be enriched with experimentation over the next decade.
There’s so much happening.
We (Africans) must invest in the healthcare interventions, business strategies, and digital technologies for a post-COVID world.
There is much more to do, especially for Africans, beyond celebrating that COVID-19 has spared us, because of our relatively young population. Let us keep our eyes open and exploit the opportunities in a post COVID-19 world.