ACCRA, Aug. 18, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man sits outside the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat office in Accra, capital of Ghana.

Africa has long come to terms with the exigencies of Covid-19. Many countries now understand the virus’ activities and ways to deal with its spread including that of associated variants.

That is why when the US and some European countries placed a ban on South African travels and other countries on the continent in the face of the new Omicron variant, something had to give.

In an article published on, two very influential people on the continent have added their voices to the expression of disgust by the latest move and suggest ways to mitigate the situation.

Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and Former Ugandan Vice President, Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe believe the issue forms part of old multilateralism which “has frozen attempts to reform global trade to serve the people rather than corporations.”

The duo questioned the nature of the message being sent through that measure.

“That each country by unilaterally bolting its gates will be able to hold back the tide of a pandemic, alone? That contributing to our global understanding of the evolution of a world plague, by sharing the fruits of years of genomic capabilities development, should lead to a country being ostracised?”

They insist that Africa has come too far in terms of technological know-how and protocols to combat the canker, and I absolutely agree.

Many of the solutions proposed by experts are already being implemented by regional bodies such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) under the African Union.

“When COVID-19 threatened to disrupt Africa’s biggest multilateral endeavour in half a century – the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – “radical agility” became our only path forward,” portions of the article read.

“Through a combination of skillful compromises and modern technologies, we pressed on and ensured that the timeline for start of trading would be maintained. It was as clear as noonday to those of us championing African multilateralism that retreating behind the walls of nationalist survival would be continental suicide.”

This is also felt in being the first continent to agree on a common digital platform for biosurveillance and biosecurity.

The African Union also embarked on initiatives such as PanaBIOS, PanaCode, Trusted Travel, Trusted Vaccines, AMSP  “allowing the continent to pool resources to procure medical essentials; and for test results and vaccine records across the continent to be shared so that travellers can be securely screened for COVID-19 at borders across the continent,” according to the article.

Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Wamkele Mene is also part of global leaders who deem this as disgraceful modern-day neo-colonialism.

Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Wamkele Mene [Source: AfCFTA Secretariat Official on Twitter]

"It is an absolute disgrace that in Holland, two or three weeks before the detection by South Africa and Botswana that evidence suggests that Dutch scientists were aware that there is a variant and yet did not disclose this information to the international community,” he insisted at Kusi Ideas Festival in Accra on December 11.

In the face of the new Omicron treat, it will not be out of place to resituate all these defense mechanisms and accelerate their deployment.

“Take omicron, for instance, it is still detected in PCR tests. Its effects are likely to be attenuable by vaccines. We can sequence it in hours in many labs across Africa. There is no reason why a traveller from Togo to Namibia should automatically carry omicron along when their test and vaccine records can be digitally shared ahead of time with the destination country authorities and gene sequencing procedures activated based on AI algorithms for risk monitoring.”

The authors of the article agree that there is adequate infrastructure to make the fight a reality.

“In fact, with the infrastructure African technologists have built under the auspices of the Africa CDC during this pandemic with the support of organisations like the UNDP, AfroChampions, African Society of Laboratory Medicine, Afenet, Econet, Koldchain, PanaBIOS and the African Organisation of Standardisation, this will become a walk in the park.”

The free-trade area recently launched a Caravan platform that provides an “AfCFTA number” to the continent’s small business and offers regional digital trading rails to both government and industry.

“Working together with Afreximbank, the Secretariat is unifying regional payments infrastructure and creating linkages between gender and youth empowerment and industrialization.

The authors describe these interventions as smart multilateralism at work.

“It is the only way forward for a continent like ours that has long been marginalised in the global scheme of things. But the more we look at the state of globalisation in the world today, the more convinced we are that it is the whole world that needs smart multilateralism and not just Africa.”

Though many foresee negative consequences following this directive with some already insinuating marginalization, there is still time to rectify the anomaly and ensure that other alternatives are adopted aside from the hard-hitting border closures and archaic travel restrictions.

African structures such as the AfCFTA Secretariat should be allowed the free hands to fully allow for the kicking-in of its modalities as part of the holistic advancement of its own people.

Hopefully, when the Omicron wave is over, Africa can add it to the list of battles won without global pressure and encourage a home-grown approach towards problem-solving.

The AU cannot do this alone. All countries on the continent must rally behind the cause to prevent what looks like another trend of discrimination through shutting out African countries from the global scheme of things.


Follow the author, Kenneth Awotwe Darko on Twitter via @TheKennethDarko on Facebook, Kenneth Awotwe Darko and @TheKenDarko on Instagram.


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