Jovial Rantau, deputy editor of the Star. 131106.
Picture: Chris Collingridge
Jovial Rantau, deputy editor of the Star. 131106. Picture: Chris Collingridge

As Africans died, our continent and world slept

By Jovial Rantao Time of article published Oct 12, 2014

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It has taken the Ebola virus to brutally remind us of our place as Africans in the world, writes Jovial Rantao.


It has taken the Ebola virus to brutally remind us of our place as Africans in the world. It has taken this dreadful disease, potentially far worse than the HIV pandemic, to remind us how the over-reliance of Africans on the West is its downfall. It has taken the world six months to recognise the outbreak as a crisis.

Ebola broke out in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone more than six months ago. It has killed more than 2 700 people, decimating families, communities and has left, in its trail, a catalogue of misery, tragedy and helplessness. Ebola has been killing Africans at an alarming rate, but no one cared. The outbreak of the disease fitted into the stereotype that the world had created about the profile of Africa as a dark continent, riven with disease and afflicted by poverty.

Africans leaders did not help either. As their fellow Africans perished in the most painful of deaths as a result of this foreign enemy that was decimating them, they did nothing. Individual countries, particularly in West Africa, instituted some measures. South Africa, led by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, deserves a praise for our efforts.

The AU, the Southern African Development Community and many other organisations have met in the past three months.

To them, it was as if Ebola did not exist. It was as if the people who were being buried were not African.

The leadership of the region and the continent addressed other important items on their agenda but have never emerged out of these many meetings with a comprehensive plan to fight Ebola.

To date there is no consolidated “African Plan” to fight Ebola.

The UN, which is seriously battling for legitimacy, in my view, as a leading world body – the government of governments – did a tad better. So did the World Health Organisation.

Both of these leading international bodies have issued statements to underline the seriousness of the Ebola epidemic.

These statements are usually issued to urge governments around the world of the seriousness of the situation.

But our African leadership did not care. If they did, they did not show it. If they did, they have done nothing to show it.

And we are not surprised at the inertia.

Over 200 African schoolgirls were abducted from a school in Nigeria and the continent’s leadership have done nothing. Zilch.

The lack of action of our African leadership reflects how badly the continent has regressed as a powerful economic and political power bloc.

Remember those days when then African presidents, led Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, led a programme to get Africa to claim its rightful place in the world, as leaders, and to pursue Africans solutions for African problems?

Where is the African solution to the Ebola crisis, the biggest war this continent must fight since the outbreak of HIV/Aids?

Why hasn’t the AU called an emergency session to not only hammer a plan but to send a very important message to the citizens of the continent that the leadership cares?

The US and Europe have suddenly woken up to the danger that Ebola poses to them and to the rest of the world.

It took the deaths in their country, in the case of the US, and the demise of a national, in the case of Spain and Britain, for them to decide that they had to do something about this disease.

Up until then Ebola was in their dining rooms – these countries were okay to let it kill the Africans.

The US has devised and announced a plan. And I am sure it won’t be long before the Europeans follow suit.

But where is a plan from a continent that has the most porous of borders as well as inadequate facilities to deal with the outbreak of this greatest health threat since World War II?

But there is hope.

As political leaders quaffed the most expensive whiskies and puffed expensive cigars, the continent’s business leaders met in Sandton, Johannesburg to chat about how they could take advantage of this continent’s amazing potential.

At the EY Strategic Growth Forum, talk was about growth, opportunities and what Africa offers to the world. Perhaps we should let these business leaders run the continent.

* Jovial Rantao is the Editor of The Sunday Independent

Sunday Independent

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