One of the collateral benefits of COVID-19 is that to tackle it, many groups have come together to contribute their skills for free. These groups must know where to plug in to support government or civil society efforts, to avoid efforts becoming redundant and resources being mismanaged as a result.
In the words of Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru, at the European University Institute, “the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will not succeed unless the virus is fought tooth and nail by society in its entirety. Africa lacks the testing kits, technology, drones and Artificial Intelligence to trace effectively, but it has pervasive community social networks that could be easily mobilized and repurposed for tracing COVID-19 infections even in remote areas and difficult geography’’. Many other leaders, from all sectors, have echoed this sentiment. Hence, the importance of community cooperation, civil society mobilization and infrastructure repurposing and now African leaders need to speak with one voice and commit beyond words. They must walk the talk.
This is happening both from the top and at the grassroots. The leaders agreed to establish continental ministerial coordination committees on health, finance and transport to support a comprehensive continental strategy to tackle and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. An exceptional situation calls for exceptional measures and only creative and entrepreneurial leadership will beat the pandemic and ensure collaboration and transparency between sectors of civil society and communities.
At the grassroots level, youth are demonstrating their value as critical untapped resources to enhance sustainable efforts to build the infrastructure that many African countries and communities need. One example is the Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team (ECRT), a volunteer team with 1,400 people around the world, myself included, working together to support the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and partners’ efforts to fight against COVID-19. Our work includes seven workstreams including surveillance, awareness, food delivery, DIY gear, and volunteer training. Similar efforts are taking place in other African countries. ECRT is committed to share best practice through a blog. Leaders and grassroot movements must be aligned against COVID-19 and beyond the pandemic. The public expect that we continue to innovate together and be entrepreneurs from our corners in everything that we do. And we must.
This perspective was originally published in Collateral Benefits, and is republished here with permission.