In Africa, we enjoy being the last people to adapt to positive trends in the world. I am committing an error of generalization but please permit it to suffice in this case.
The COVID-19 has become a worldwide problem with worldwide implications. From economies crashing to the Wall Street feeling the brunt and the nose-diving price of oil, the effect of the novel virus stares you in the face everywhere you turn.
Owing to this, governments around the world have taken extreme steps to make sure that lives are protected at all costs.
Public gatherings have been banned, sporting events canceled, travel bans placed on high-risk nations and in many cases, work moved to homes as in the case of Twitter and a host of other companies.
But, Africa- one of the last continents to feel the full brunt of the coronavirus has not taken huge steps to safeguard a continent that already has a relatively weak public health system.
Nigeria; Africa’s most populous nation and home to the continent’s biggest economy has taken somewhat lazy steps.
On the 18th of March, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed 5 new cases bringing the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to 8. All 5 new cases in the country all have a history of traveling to high-risk countries all pointing to the fact that the travel ban announced by the government just a day prior might have come too late for some people.
Lagos, arguably the West African nation’s most populated state and definitely Nigeria’s biggest and by far her most productive economy has accounted for all the confirmed cases in Nigeria and the State Government has not taken many steps in the right direction except for claims of sensitization exercises that I consider a little bit muted.
The fact that Lagos’ population of about 25 million people still wake up every day to negotiate very crowded areas to get to work shows to a large extent that the government’s health advisors either do not know what they are doing or the government is not taking advice.
Some African countries like Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Chad, and Nigeria are some of the African nations that have closed their borders but a lot still needs to be done.
Banning of public gatherings like clubbing, church and mosque services, and some stringent transportation rules are a few of the things that can help stop the spread of the deadly virus. But even more important is the need for Nigerian and indeed African employers to transfer processes online and take advantage of remote work or else we are doomed.
South Africa, for example is a nation that shows us what remote work and a ban on public gatherings could have done in helping avoid the spread of COVID-19. Almost all the first cases there were imported; and then after a while, the country started seeing index cases and I strongly believe that those could have been prevented.
Lagos, Nigeria is a disaster when it comes to diseases that are airborne like the COVID-19. The smallest state in Nigeria is one of the most populated states in the country and this makes sure that people are packed together unwillingly everywhere you go.
The transportation industry in Lagos leaves a lot to be desired. People move around in off-road materials known as danfo and if you are lucky, you will be squeezed into a BRT with about 100 other people!
Truth be told; Lagos buses are practically breeding grounds for viruses and bacterias and if the transportation mould is not transformed imminently, thousands and thousands of people in the city will get infected by COVID-19.
Working remotely is something that we need to adopt in Lagos and other volatile cities across to avoid the coronavirus grinding Africa to a halt.
What is remote work?
According to remoteyear.com A remote employee is someone who is employed by a company, but works outside of a traditional office environment. This could mean working from a local coworking space, from home, at a coffee shop, or in a city across the world.
This definition simply tells you that work can be done outside of traditional environments and should be done outside of traditional environments in times like this.
And though I know that some employers might be very opposed to the idea of their employees working remotely, I want to advise that the government puts in stringent policies that forces the hands of the employers. For it should be total compliance or risk your company been shut down.
I want to personally appeal to the conscience of employers also; will you prefer that your employees get infected and you stand the chance of getting infected, or will you rather everybody take some weeks off, stay safe and come back more committed to the company who helped keep them safe during a pandemic? The choice is yours.
As far as Africa goes right now, closing our borders feels like a logical solution, but taking our work home will be an even better solution. For then, the risk of infections will be truly low.