Covid-19 is the leadership challenge of the century and is an exceptional opportunity for Africa to reset many aspects of its health, economic management and public sector priorities and decision-making systems. It presents a unique opportunity to redefine the leadership Values and Ethics at play, particularly in the public sector. It is an opportunity to shape Leadership while defending the humanity of all people and taking responsibility for current challenges and future destinies.
The Covid-19 experience to date has exposed the gaps that have remained with decision and policy makers for decades, and for which countries are now likely to pay an economic and existential price. But the pandemic provides an opportunity to fix these gaps; specifically in relation to public goods-such as access to health, water and livelihoods-as rights for citizens, and to redefine services like access to water supply and sanitation, to be common goods rather than marketable commodities.
The need for focus and action on Leadership and Values, while it predates the COVID-19 crisis, has never been more relevant and urgent. Values such as respecting the humanity of all; being accountable for delivering access and services to all segments of society and especially vulnerable groups, as solving the problem for one group does not solve it for others; or the difficult and intricate balance between preserving lives and supporting livelihoods which tests the best of existing ethical decision processes.
A number of aspects are critical for Africa to navigate the current crisis, reset its economy for the medium term, and build a resilient future. These include:
- Taking charge of response strategies at the country and regional levels, shaping the narrative about the crisis and response, leading through science and scientific research, while building collaboration across countries and sectors and generating new connections
- Refocusing existing production processes and value cabins for both the Covid-19 Response, to manufacture Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs), ventilators, pharmaceutical products and hospital equipment
- Developing unique response mechanisms to address the sensitivities and uniqueness of Africa’s largely informal economies and SMEs
- Deploying technology solutions across the continent, including data collection and analytics, while taking charge of security and privacy concerns, as innovation in the 4IR space is focused on tapping into the vast opportunities for tracing and tracking and analysis
- Building a leadrship founded on values and ethics and shaping the narrative about the continent amidst the crisis, through the very important role of media and communications in shaping this narrative
- Harnessing the vast natural resources (land, agricultural commodities like cotton and rubber), and adding value through leveraging and retooling existing manufacturing processes to speed up industrialization programs
- Defending and countering threats to African Humanity, within Africa, with respect to the world, and in countries where Africans are a minority and are suffering the brunt of discrimination amidst loss of life and infections from the COVID-19 pandemic
- Establishing and refocusing the centre of gravity on to the citizenry and ensuring engaged citizens to enhance accountability and values.
- Establishing own and leveraging existing knowledge and Advocacy Tools, including External Assessments of actors impacting the continent (such as in testing of vaccines)
- Developing alternative sources of finance including crowd funding and citizen funded initiatives like the $150 billi9n Africa Covid-19 Response Fund
- Establishing Pop-up infrastructure to serve during and beyond Covid-19 such as mobile water and sanitation solutions
- Undertaking urgent and targeted analysis about Africa’s unique context and situation and adjusting the response mechanisms
- Rebuilding the Software of Africa’s Development