Typical of the Ghanaian social and political systems, the whole country is looking at the role of the government in the outbreak of the coronavirus in Ghana. However, very little thought, attention or consideration has been given to the contributions from individual and corporate entities.
In other countries outside Ghana, the private sector has made significant contributions in support of the interventions of governments. A case in point is the United States, where Google has created a map system that shows people where special COVID-19 hospitals can be found. Additionally, Whatsapp has partnered with WHO to provide a quick response and information spreading systems to help curb the pandemic.
Furthermore, in UK Fiat UK has turned its manufacturing centers into production centers for respirators. In addition, in France LVMH, which is the company behind Louis Vuitton, intends to produce 12 tonnes of hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. These are a few instances and situations that are worth mentioning to serve as examples and instances for purposes of this write-up.
In Ghana, however, corporations that have operated within the private sector space for years and enjoyed the loyalty of countless Ghanaian, have been woefully quiet in the wake of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
Sufficient to note that the Triple Bottom Line theory postulates that businesses do not operate in a vacuum and are affected by the occurrences within the environment that they operate.
Thus, every business should operate having the people existing within the environment that they operate, in mind. Businesses are advised not to only think about the economic benefits of their actions, but emphasis should be placed on the social and environmental impact.
As the president said, these are not normal times and we need corporations operating within the private sector to come up with strategies and measures to help the government achieve its objective of curbing the spread.
At this juncture, I will also advise the government to come up with strategies outlining the role that those within the private sector can play to ensure it meets its set goals and objective. This is in line with the adage that “unity is strength”. Let us all come together in our individual and corporate ways to help fight the problem of the spread of coronavirus.
According to a joint statement by the WHO and the ICC, the coronavirus pandemic, its outbreak or containment, should be based on a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach rather than a government-only approach. This is to ensure that there is a holistic approach to the challenge rather than a sided approach that cannot help curb the problem. As such, there is the recommendation that political action should be coordinated with actors in the private and civil sectors to ensure a wider and maximum reach of effectiveness and messages. Additionally, this is to ensure that there are no gaps in the response rate. The main areas of consideration should be supply chain continuity, innovation in medical countermeasures and protection of health care employees.
How to involve the private sector in the fight against COVID-19
1. Target business that engage in unique activities and have capabilities that can be redeployed to meet the immediate needs of society in the fight against the pandemic. A case in point, Fiat UK has redesigned and repurposed its manufacturing units into a respirator production unit to support the production. LVMH which is the mother company of Loius Vuitton has started the production of hand sanitizers- there was a similar step taken by Kasapreko to produce sanitizers, which is a step in the right direction. So government and the private sector companies can coordinate to ensure such strategies are taken by the private sector.
2. Additionally, there is the need for government to work directly with certain associations in Ghana like the Ghana Psychology Association, Ghana Medical Association, Ghana Pharmacy Association etc to assess the tangible contributions they can provide in terms of supplies and services.
3. In order to reduce the burden on worker and the average Ghanaian the private sector institution can be asked to provide severance packages for their workers ahead of time so it eases the burden- if only they are in the capacity to do so.
4. Furthermore, the private sector can make several contributions to government that target three broad areas:
Funds can be used in equipping the health sectors in dealing with a possible outbreak
1. Concentrate on the provision of hospital supplies- hand sanitizers, beds, respirators, gloves, nose masks, drug supplies
2. Looking at supplies for setting up makeshift hospitals or health centers using tent-like structures when there is a total outbreak and the existing structures are overwhelmed.
3. Increasing the number of healthcare professionals equipped with strategies on curbing and handling the coronavirus- there are about four batches of nurses that are home and waiting to be posted, these healthcare personnel can be the last resort in the situation of an outbreak.
Funds can be used in equipping the society for a possible lockdown through effective strategies and planning. Furthermore, social support in the form of provision of basic amenities and necessities can be made available.
1. Defining a lockdown- if it is a shutdown or a total lockdown. The government should engage in a gradual lockdown of the state. This should start with the locking down of the big markets. But in ensuring supply continuity there may be the need for small selling points to still operate to prevent hunger and total breakdown of community.
2. Additionally, in communities where they use public facilities like boreholes, public toilets and bathing facilities amongst others. This is to make certain basic necessities available to the members of the community going.
3. Furthermore, there is the need for government to consider how to ensure that the poor and needy (Kayaye etc), as well as the disabled people on the street, are catered for. This can come in the form if getting accommodation for them using the classrooms and other government facilities that are available. Otherwise stated there can be makeshift structures provided at strategic locations to cater to them.
Funds can be made available in the area of shifting focus from reaction to prevention. Community sensitization and awareness is critical because without information and awareness creation there will be social anarchy and disorder. The private sector can work with government institutions such as the NCCE, District Assembly and Assemblies. Funds should target areas such as:
1. Awareness creation and education on measures on how to boost the immune system has not been so far given.
2. Awareness on the measures to take in order to prevent nationwide spread in terms of steps outlined by the UN and WHO.
3. Awareness creation and education on where what or whom to contact if infected or you know an infected person
4. Awareness creation and sensitization on the need for protocols to be observed in terms of where to get supplies, where to go to if one does not have accommodation and how food provision is going to be done.
Core Areas the joint efforts should look at
a. Making Provision for respirators (collaborating with local manufacturers) and drugs.
b. Making provision for hospital bed, supplies/equipment and facilities.
c. Increasing provision for healthcare personnel