It is no longer news that the on-going Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) ravaging the earth has not only disrupted the personal plans of many, but also the global economy.
The cases keep rising day by day from country to country all across the globe. Recently, I talked about the implications the virus would have on the tourism sector in Africa, with specific reference to Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Apart from tourism, other sectors are in turn experiencing traumatic setbacks.
Yesterday, it was reported that Nigeria had announced its 30th case of the virus on its soil. In addition to the outbreak, oil prices in the country have also taken a huge blow. According to the report, Brent crude oil prices fell below $30 per barrel last week. This fall was the lowest of its kind since the year of 2003.
The drop-in oil prices has forced the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut its projection for Nigeria’s economic growth in 2020 to 2% from 2.5% some weeks ago.
My goal is not to scare you with fear-mongering and depressing news, but to provide ways Africa and the world can contain the virus without the further spread of the disease.
In order to combat the COVID-19, countries around the globe must close all borders to foreign nationals to prevent the spread of the disease from an outside source. It is without a doubt that most of the cases of COVID-19 in Africa have been linked to the arrivals of foreign nationals from Europe and other continents.
The most logical thing for a country to do is to shut all borders for a 30-day period and allow the governments to implement the necessary quarantine requirements for people in order to eradicate the deadly virus.
Already on the African continent, countries like Kenya, Ghana and South Africa have gone ahead with a full border closure. The same has been done for a few countries in Europe as well. According to Al Jazeera, Kenya and Ghana have temporarily banned all foreign nationals from entering the country, except those who possess citizenship in these countries or permanent residency status.
It is true that border closure would severely hamper African countries that are dependent on imports from Europe, Asia and the Americas; however, it gives countries a chance to reevaluate and figure out new ways to fill the void for an absent product.
This was the case for Nigeria back in 2019 when the country partially shut its land borders in order to restrict the smuggling of illegal items into the country. The partial border closure has been seen in some quarters as a blessing and relative independence for the country’s agricultural sector especially.
Report also has it that stakeholders in the food and agriculture industry claimed that businesses grew following the border closure. Indeed, their assertions were proven to be correct. There was a spike in locally produced rice, which caught the attention of the locals.
A 50kg of local rice was sold for N20,500, while the foreign rice that was available in the country prior to the border shut was priced between N23,000 – N25,000. In this case, border closure helped Nigeria to focus its attention on growing a commodity within the country, instead of relying on imports. As always, there are two sides to a coin.
The Nigerian employers may have to adopt a style of working from home for their employees especially within the thirty days to reduce possible local transmission.
Private Sector should also do the necessary to support government to shore up makeshift health facilities to the existing inadequate facilities currently available.
The issue of the coronavirus is a very shocking and life-changing moment for all of us across the globe, but we do our best to make sure everyone is safe. The government needs to take the necessary precautions and if that means complete border closure, then let it be done. A wise man once said, “Prevention is better than cure.”
For those in quarantine or self – isolation, my message is for you to make most of the time for what you never had time to do and remain optimistic.
Let us keep our spirits up and hope for the best in our world.
Paul Olele Jnr writes from Washington DC. He is a 2019 graduate of George Washington University and currently works as social media and research intern at the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington, D.C.