The co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network, Kizito Okechukwu.   Supplied
The co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network, Kizito Okechukwu. Supplied

The invisible enemy that is changing our lives

By Kizito Okechukwu Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - In my early school years, I studied Latin and I bagged a credit on my last diploma exam.

In Latin, the word “crown” is derived from the word “coronam”, which simply means a traditional symbolic form of head adornment worn by a monarch or a deity.

A crown represents power, victory, glory, immortality, righteousness and even resurrection. In the human body, a crown is an anatomical area of the tooth covered by the enamel and represents a part of a tooth visible in the mouth above the gum, which helps restore its shape, size and strength and improves its appearance.

In short, a crown, whether in the kingship world or human biology, is something that helps bring back our dignity and helps us to think how to restore our universe back to order.

Three weeks ago, I wrote a piece on how the coronavirus was impacting many start-ups and start-up events globally. In the closing of my piece, I noted that this virus could possibly be sending us warning signals to better treat our environment and protect our universe.

Covid-19 has exposed our weaknesses and inequalities. It has also exposed how we have neglected what matters most, which is loving people close to us, protecting our environment and working honestly for the good of others, which in Latin is termed “pro bono publico”.

We’re all well aware of the crushing and disturbing Covid-19 facts and stats. I will use this piece to highlight a few urgent interventions to limit the damage to our economy, our health, our continent and our planet.

Support for small businesses: One must applaud the government, especially the Minister of Small Business Development, for announcing new stimulus measures.

But criteria must be made crystal clear and actions must be super swift - as many small businesses have little hope and are already shutting down because trying to stay afloat simply eats up their sparse profit margins, which they need to survive, pay staff and feed their families.

If the intervention comes too late when their doors are already shut, the stimulus packages will be spent on other frivolous items, as many of their businesses cannot be resuscitated.

* Support for all Businesses: I read somewhere that government packages and support are only for South African citizens. I’m confused as to what informs this anomaly, because as far as I know, all businesses registered in South Africa pay taxes to the revenue service. During this time of crisis, the objective must be to protect and save as many local jobs as possible - regardless of nationality.

* Health System: This has proven just how divided we are as a society. Here, the weaknesses of our municipalities and local governments have been fully exposed. Last week, a TV insert revealed just how many African townships and villages across the continent do not have the basic amenities and the impact this virus will have when it finally rears its head in these communities. Today, millions of Africans still live in abject poverty, yet precious resources devoted to building infrastructure seem to be diverted to issues far less urgent. Governments across the continent must prioritise restoring dignity to our people and ensure we have proper public health systems in place.

* Nationalise the Health System: Recently, when Julius Malema spoke next to President Cyril Ramaphosa, he mentioned that the hospitals must support the people during this period and they must not be greedy. He even threatened to nationalise the hospitals. But come to think of it, Malema is right. The government must take over the entire health responsibility, which includes testing and diagnostic kits, equipment, ventilators, sanitisers, masks, potential vaccines if available and any other medications needed during this period. The military should be deployed to assist with distribution that is fair, transparent and totally unbiased.

This is a time for serious solidarity unlike any other. National government must collaborate with provincial and local ones. Banks must collaborate with fellow banks. Businesses must collaborate with competitors. Even us as hubs must collaborate with each other. This is a time to put heads together and understand that someone's problem is my problem too. And no one's immune.

In closing, I will join other stakeholders in commending the South African President, the National Health Department, the Health professionals and many other stakeholders that have worked tirelessly over the past week.

The Covid-19 period has shown us that our crown is not perfect. Just as our tooth is restored by a crown, we have to restore the appearance, shape and alignment of our damaged communities, cities, countries, continents and universe.

This is a war we all have to fight together to ensure equality and dignity for our people, while ensuring resources and wealth are distributed fairly.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.


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