Foreign countries may not be moved into urgently producing cures and vaccines, writes Adekoya Boladale.
Johannesburg - Today I write in fear, like every other residents of the only black continent in the world.
Ebola, a dread disease, is in our realm and, if it is not contained, it is only a matter of time before we become a threat to world peace.
Throughout the world there are growing demands to alienate countries where there has been an outbreak of the virus. Borders are being closed, airport placed under immense scrutiny, visa-application procedures are under review and in some cases, there has been outright rejection.
By trying to keep our countries safe, we are gradually heading towards prejudice.
The outbreak and spread of Ebola is a result of the nonchalant, selfish and aloof behaviour of African countries towards one another. Late last year when reports of the disease surfaced in Guinea and Sierra Leone, what measures or steps did fellow African countries like Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Mali, Cote d’ivoire or Cameroon take to assist?
As usual, we didn’t give a damn; our brothers and sisters may as well suffer and die – if we are unhurt, it’s not our business.
It would have made more sense if we engaged in massive civil education about the disease and created contingency plans to safeguard our territories.
But as African as we are, we went to bed with the noise of our neighbours’ house on fire, hoping that the wind of the inferno didn’t locate ours.
The case of the outbreak in Nigeria is more pathetic than unfortunate.
First, a man with nearly 14 days of active symptoms from an Ebola-prone country successfully boarded a flight en route to Lagos, Nigeria unchecked. The airport staff and medical team rushed unprotected to give him a helping hand when he collapsed at the airport. The rest is history.
Africa has come a long way. Amid the thorns of scramble and partition, slavery, neo-colonialism and apartheid, we rose to become a continent of choice. Our continent has a place on the UN Security Council, with Nigeria the presumed capital of the continent having made the MINT (the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey)classification. South Africa is a member of the G20 group.
But beyond the tales of success, our continent continues to wallow in extreme poverty and dearth orchestrated by corrupt public office holders who would rather take possession of the latest private jet than invest in the health sector. These are leaders who do not see the need for Africa to grow in terms of our own research and technology, believing that the dependence on foreign countries and their conditional aid is enough.
Alas, Ebola is an African disease which means foreign countries may not be so moved into urgently producing cures and vaccines. Africa must realise we are alone in this war against Ebola. Our greedy leaders must come to terms with the fact that their lives are also under threat.
Massive education programmes should be embarked upon with jingles on radio and television. Rural communities, most of whom are oblivious to the disease, must be reached. Primary and secondary schools should also be visited, also with a strategy around discrimination.
The outright closure of borders and airspace against fellow African countries, as Ghana did, should instead be replaced by the thorough screening of individuals.
All African countries, affected or not, must unite to fight this plague.
It is high time Africa solved its own problem. It goes beyond setting up a committee of friends and associates to further siphon public funds.
African countries must declare an immediate emergency in the research sector. Brothers and sisters in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East, with their vast experience in medical and scientific research, must come home. The humble abode of the black race is under attack and together we must stand and fight.
* Adekoya Boladale is a business analyst and the convener of Advocacy for Better Leadership in Nigeria.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.