Latest reports indicate that Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant, has been identified in 10 European countries, Japan, China, Canada and the United States. Believed to be more infectious than previous variants by virtue of its higher number of mutations, Omicron has compelled countries to introduce measures to prevent a potential crisis.
However, it’s the imposition of a travel ban on African countries that has caused much criticism. By the time Canada, for example, was issuing travel restrictions on some 10 African states, only Botswana and South Africa had reported the new variant. This otherwise impetuous decision by the Global North has brought to light, once again, the injustices of the White hegemony.
While we might not know where exactly Sars-cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, originated from, nothing as yet has indicated that it could have come from Africa. That the Global North is determined to put the continent at the centre of this pandemic, to “Africanise” this virus, is a powerful reminder of the legacy of colonialism and its terror.
In April last year, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) released a report in which it indicated that between 300,000 and 3.3 million Africans would die of Covid-19.
Earlier that month, American philanthropist Melinda Gates had predicted that the pandemic would overwhelm African countries so much that dead bodies would be lying on the streets. Western media perpetrated Gates’s wild prophecy without interrogating the science behind it. Of course Africans haven’t died of Covid-19 on that scale.
Moreover, Western media gave space to White experts who invested a lot of time trying to explain why few Africans were dying from Covid-19. A majority cited the traditional racist narrative that Africans were resistant to diseases and that Africa has a youthful population that worked to its advantage.
Almost none of the stories carried by Western media mentioned that Africans were actually disciplined enough to observe World Health Organisation guidelines on containment of the virus.
It’s understandable that the emergence of Omicron is the consequence of vaccine inequality, which has been perpetuated by vaccine nationalism. Rich and greedy, the West ordered more vaccines than they needed. In March this year, the UK announced that it had ordered 100 million doses of AstraZeneca from India for its 70 million citizens.
When the World Trade Organisation made a proposal to the European Union last year to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics so that Africans could produce them, the latter declined.
The successful development of Covid-19 vaccine was supposed to be a sigh of relief to be shared globally. But, thanks to greed, inequality and superiority complex, rich countries have conspired to deny poor countries their rightful share of the relief.
With less than seven per cent of its population fully vaccinated, Africa is braving the pandemic at the unpredictable benevolence of the west, more than one year since the first Covid-19 jab was administered.
John Ouma, Multimedia University