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Structure fundraisers for fighting Covid-19

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EDITORIAL

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Since President Uhuru Kenyatta announced voluntary pay cuts for top government officials, debate shifts to the mode of collection, use and accountability for the cash.

President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have agreed to an 80 per cent pay reduction.

Cabinet secretaries, chief administrative secretaries and principal secretaries will part with 20 per cent and 30 per cent of their earnings, respectively.

Parliament Speakers Justin Muturi and Ken Lusaka have joined the ranks and announced that they will surrender 30 per cent of their salary for the next three months to support the President’s initiative.

Arguably, this is a good and practical gesture towards supporting efforts to combat coronavirus infections.

The challenge ahead is heavy. Experiences from China and now Europe — Italy, Spain and France — as well as the United States, are scary.

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As of Thursday, Kenya had recorded 31 cases of infection and dozens of other people were under investigation to establish their status. The numbers are increasing fast towards crisis levels.

President Kenyatta’s plan of voluntary pay cuts is meant to raise additional funds to plug into the Health ministry budget for fighting the virus.

Already, the health sector is overburdened and the coronavirus is testing it to the limit. Testing kits, case management and isolation of those infected are a costly affair.

If there was any moment the health system required support, it is now.

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Ordinarily, the sector requires huge financial injections to function properly but lacks equipment, other resources and personnel. This is why the voluntary pay cutbacks are timely.

However, this is not the first time President Kenyatta is talking of voluntary salary reductions.

Earlier in his administration, the President announced a 20 per cent pay reduction for himself and Dr Ruto and 10 per cent for ministers and PSs.

Years later, nobody talks about that. How much was raised and how it was used is anybody’s guess.

Not that there is doubt about such gestures. But questions have to be asked about their viability and practicality.

There is a likelihood of various groups similarly agreeing to reductions to raise funds. The citizens need assurance of the safety of such cash.

Tackling a pandemic such as the coronavirus requires strategic and well-thought-out strategies. Realistic budgets have to be done and sources of funding identified.

Ad hoc and hasty decisions are not helpful. If the government wants to raise cash from the public or corporate bodies, it should create a structure through which such funds can be obtained and, importantly, how they are used and accounted for.

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This virus should leave us a better country

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By ABIGAIL ARUNGA
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Here’s what I want to see after Corona is out, and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke.

I want everyone who was working, and working overtime, at their essential jobs to be given a raise. All of them. And staggered holidays. Because they deserve it and even now, there is no way we are going to get through this without them.

These include but are not limited to: bankers, doctors, nurses, supermarket cashiers, stockers, food delivery drivers, chemical engineers, manufacturing employees, and pharmacists.

The list goes on – mostly because as a typical Kenyan, I don’t even know the whole host of people who it takes to keep Kenyans fed, and keep other Kenyans fighting this thing.

I hope when medics are going on strike, we remember that they already asked for all the resources that they are lacking now. I hope we begin to understand that every day, for them, is a brush with something that may or may not kill them, and they’ve been the soldiers in this battle for years already.

In the same vein, I never again want to see anyone telling me, a freelance writer, that all I am doing is worth peanuts.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but now everyone seems to be getting through whiling away the days (if indeed they are whiling away the days) largely through social media, and/or the products of creatives all over the world.

Creatives are the ones making videos for education, giving out free concerts, doing live free DJ sets, telling people how to make basic masks and then adding an Ankara touch to it if only to make sure you don’t touch your face, thinking of a hundred different quizzes for people to do on WhatsApp concerning fruits and grammar and who knows what else.

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Entertainment is not just entertainment. It is an industry that deserves respect, and has done so for a long time. It is not just ‘writing something small’ or ‘just drawing a ka-picture.’ It is fundamental to the human race.

Finally, I am ready for a capitalist and socialist revolution.

Capitalist in that we finally realise that money is not the be all and end all of everything, and that preserving human life surely has to be more important than employers in non-essential work forcing their employees to continue going to work, scared and unable to fight the man – and that there are bigger and more important things than how much money you can make in a month, when the ability to make money is taken away.

Socialist in that we finally realise that community should be valued above all, because when everything leaves, that is all that is left; socialist in that we look to our fellow humans and realise that not everyone has water to wash their hands 12 times a day, and that is not right and will never be; socialist in that we actually have motivation to fix our crumbling systems before they ruin us altogether; and socialist enough for when the time comes to go to a ballot, we choose based on a hunger we remember from now, when leaders could not buy masks but could buy campaign shirts, in the absence of welfare systems or a system that cares about us.

I hope we remember to choose us after coronavirus.

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Crises like Covid-19 separate real leaders from mere office holders

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WALE AKINYEMI

By WALE AKINYEMI
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In a few short years, the Muhammadu Buhari administration in Nigeria budgeted about $14 million for the presidential villa clinic, $100 million to renovate the national assembly, $400 million on national assembly members and $500 million to revive the ancient Nigerian Television Authority.

One could ask: How many hospitals could this money have built across the country. Hospitals? Why should they think that far? At the slightest irritation they would get on their private jets and travel abroad.

Then, coronavirus disease showed up and the world became a totally different place.

Children of the powerful were as lawless as their parents. When returning to the country from their schools abroad, instead of submitting themselves to being tested, they would bribe airport health officials and would be allowed in with no testing done!

Recent news from Nigeria has it that Abba Kyari—chief of staff to President Buhari and one of the most powerful people in Nigeria, a number of senators, house members and even one governor have tested positive for the coronavirus disease. 

Were this any other time, they would be on jets out of the country. Well, these are not normal times. First, there is nowhere to go as everyone is trying to contain the virus in their different countries. Wealth and power cannot protect them against the virus.

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One of the side effects of Covid-19 is that it has exposed the defects in nations. It has also revealed and separated the leaders from the office holders. In the post-Covid-19 era leaders will be judged by their performance during this period. 

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They are going to be defined by how they responded to the virus and handled the myriad of complexities that came with it.

Everything is going to be evaluated—their composure under fire, their thinking, their ability to communicate, their ability to build the right partnerships, their ability to negotiate and much more. These are the same skills that many leaders shun when invited for training.

Besides the medics and scientists, it is people with the ability to effectively reach out to people and inspire hope in hopeless times, alleviate fear in the most fearful of times, show confidence even in their understanding and grasping of the real issues who will be considered as leaders when this is over.

In essence, what we are going through around the world right now, is a global reset. A new world order will emerge after this and people who were considered leaders in the pre-corona world will be dismissed in the minds of many and become irrelevant (even if they still hold offices). Similarly, this is the season when new leaders will emerge.

History is full of people whose leadership qualities were revealed during in crises. Remember, however, for something to be revealed it must already be there, only waiting for the right environment to emerge.

Everyone prepares for war in times of peace. If you wait for the war to begin to learn how to fight, it will be too late. Similarly, countries that waited for crises before learning how to deal with them (like maybe the case with coronavirus disease), will suffer the consequences.

Are you a leader or an office holder? Coronavirus disease will reveal your true self. 

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks

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Africa is lucky with Corona; Can it hold out a viral digital attack?

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JOACHIM BUWEMBO

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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There isn’t yet any universally accepted explanation why the coronavirus hit Africa last and least.

The continent’s interaction with China has been intensive and extensive as with other countries and regions, so the explanation for Africans’ holding out longer could be more scientific than social.

After all, there are other diseases which black Africans are more predisposed than other races, for example maternal pre-eclampsia.

So Africa cannot claim credit for having remained corona-free longer than more developed regions of the world. It certainly had little to do with robustness of our health facilities or systems.

Scientists and leaders should find the reason for the initial luck. And it is strategically important that we do not listen only to the superior expertise from outside; we know our societies better than the outsiders and we are, therefore, best-placed to protect them.
Two examples suffice here.

First is the HIV/Aids outbreak in the early 1980s. Uganda was initially one of the worst hit countries globally at the time. This was largely because the disease came when a civil war was raging—for five years—and fighting Aids was not a priority as everybody was busy dodging bullets.

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When the war ended in 1986, the population and the leaders accepted that there was no cure for the disease and what they had to do was prevent new infections while treating opportunistic infections of the affected persons with Septrin until they died.

If that trend had continued, there would have been no more HIV in Uganda from around the year 2000, as all the unlucky people who had it would have died and no new infections would occur.

But now we have one and half million people with HIV out of 42 million. That is thanks to the kind intervention of the donors who turned the Aids epidemic into a big money affair.

If a miraculous/accidental end to HIV happened, there would be a crisis in the global multibillion-dollar Aids sector. Now HIV will most likely never go away, youth don’t fear it and it employs many people.

Second, the Ebola crisis in DR Congo has virtually ended. Its end had a lot to do with the resilience of the Congolese themselves. With Ebola came the gains of vigilant sanitation. 

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The multibillion-dollar interventions from outside helped, but local behavioral measures played a bigger part, as almost happened to HIV in Uganda before the big monies came in.

But if we have been initially lucky with coronavirus, we may not be so lucky if the next virus is not biological, but digital.

Think of the price war raging between Russia and Saudi Arabia that has wrecked the world oil industry and in one week managed to render the powerful Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel irrelevant.

If a foreign force launched a digital war on Africa’s communication and financial systems, would we hold out the way Russia has withstood the Saudi price attack and likely to even emerge the winner as the Saudis lick their wounds?

Is a cyber-attack on Africa a far-fetched wild imagination? Did you detect some (obviously involuntary) glee in the voices of non-African journalists talking about the first, second and subsequent cases of coronavirus in Africa?

If a developed superpower can be suspected of rigging the presidential election of another superpower thereby imposing a leadership on it against the wish of the people, why would inflicting a lesser sin (economic rather than state capture) on a continent whose ‘role’ for centuries has been to be exploited, be far-fetched?

Africans should stop basking in the luck of not being early coronavirus targets. We may not be so lucky if the next viral attack is digital, like allegedly happened to a much more advanced country’s electoral system.

Our leaders need to know that the Internet is not like oxygen, it is based on some infrastructure and can be infected in ways unfathomable that could render even offshore backups for banks useless.

If Africa woke up one day with all its communication and financial systems disabled, even the paper currency found in cash would be useless. It is time Africa’s feared leaders started thinking of such possibilities.

Only last month, the Opec officials didn’t imagine that today, their organisation would not even be worth discussing in a world that is pre-occupied with Corona and cancellation of football matches, including the Olympics.

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