Coronavirus: African Governments and Rich Should Show Up

Published on 17th March 2020

Kenya’s health secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, has assured the Kenyan public that the national government is prepared to tackle the coronavirus scourge. The nation  constructed its first 120-bed coronavirus treatment facility at Nairobi’s Mbagathi Hospital, facilitated  500 million Kenyan shillings ($5 million) for a post-coronavirus public relations campaign, ordered various county government  hospitals to set aside isolation wards and published a raft of measures to be used by the public to keep the virus at bay.

While the government should be lauded for the effort, more can be done. It should consider setting up prefabricated buildings to be used as temporary wards. This will cater for people who live in congested houses and can’t quarantine themselves. The wards can be set up on school playgrounds, stadia and other open public grounds. The cost of sanitizers is prohibitive for ordinary citizens. In addition, they are out of stock. During national census, polio campaigns and election periods, respective people move from door to door to either enumerate, vaccinate or seek votes. The same vigour should be used to supply sanitizers, running water, protective gear and first-line treatment drugs to the populace. The claim by a section of nurses that they have no protective equipment and other tools to handle the virus victims is worrying.

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of, has announced his Alibaba Foundation will donate 20,000 testing kits,100,000 masks and1,000 protective suits to each of the continent's 54 countries. Where are Kenya’s millionaires? What are they doing? Where are Africa’s millionaires? Where are African landlords? Can they make life bearable for their tenants for some time by suspending rental rates? Can they stand up and be counted at this moment when African countries are faced with lockdown? 

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