Kenyan politician and African Union envoy for Infrastructure Development Raila Odinga has likened the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to world war three but without sophisticated artillery.
In an interview with SABC News’ Sarah kimani on Wednesday, the ODM leader said Africa couldn’t be better prepared for the virus that has swept the world resulting in a global health crisis.
“Even during the Second World War we did not have this extent of causalities that we are witnessing within a short period of time,” Raila said.
“How would we have prepared when we didn’t know the magnitude of the pandemic?” he posed adding that he doesn’t think the information on Covid-19 was shared very well internationally since the first case was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Raila said the containment measures put in place by governments across the continent including lockdowns and partial lockdowns helped in preventing the virus from spread fast in the continent.
“Most Africans have been very proactive for example South Africa, the first one to go on total lockdown, followed by Rwanda and Uganda,” he said.
Raila, however, pointed out that the African Union should have been more proactive on relaying information to its members just like the European Union where the information on the virus was shared much faster.
So far, the Coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 259,000 people globally.
Out of the over 9.7 million cases reported across the world, Africa has confirmed at least 49,970 cases and 1,962 fatalities.
Raila, however, urged governments in the African continent to be cautious as the low numbers could also be attributed to the low number of tests being carried out in most countries in a day.
Raila said the Covid-19 crisis has offered the African countries an opportunity to develop itself as it can no longer rely on Western countries facing similar challenges.
“We need to look internally, intra-African trade which came into effect last year. This pandemic gives us opportunities to realize the African free trade agreement that now needs to open the continent. The opportunity now exists to do connectivity in terms of infrastructure development we need to think about how we can connect so that goods can flow freely from one African country to another, ” he said.
“More importantly, we need to do value addition. Whereas in the past we were exporting raw materials we now need to manufacture products. Instead of us exporting iron we should be able to manufacture steel products. Instead of exporting copper, we should export copper cables. Instead of exporting bauxite, we should export aluminium finished products and processing gold in the continent.”
On the impact of the virus on the economy, Raila said the continent should be prepared for far-reaching effects of the virus as nearly everything has come to a standstill. The continent should focus on ways of reviving the economy after the pandemic.
With the high number of job losses being witnessed as industries shut down, slow tourism growth and productivity at zero, the AU Head of Infrastructure Development boss said the economy could revive after the pandemic if the countries worked on a close working relationship.
Raila said some of the opportunities presented in the health care system in the continent include innovation of equipment such as ventilators.
A medical ventilator is an automatic machine that moves breathable air mechanically into and out of the lungs. The machine helps provide the mechanism of breathing for a patient, who is physically unable to breathe, or effectively breathe on their own.
Covid-19 being a respiratory illness, most patients rely on a ventilator to breathe. There are only a few in Kenya raising fears over the country’s preparedness to fight the virus.
He lauded Kenyatta university students who recently developed ventilators to help in the fight against Covid-19.
The seasoned politician called for the formation of Africa’s ministers for Health, Agriculture, so that decisions taken at AU summits don’t have to wait till the next Summit.
According to him, Africa should emulate the move by Korea and China to unite and deal with issues facing its citizens together.
Here is the full interview: