Africa’s rich have failed the Covid-19 pandemic acid test

Thursday, April 9th, 2020 00:00 |
South Sudanese medical workers demonstrate preventive measures against Coronavirus (Covid-19), at the National Public Health Center in Juba, capital of South Sudan. (Xinhua/Denis Elamu)

As we hole up in our houses for the fourth week, questions are being raised on the role of Africa’s rich club in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is particularly pertinent in Kenya where the rich regularly vomit on the feet of the poor! 

Elsewhere, the private and public sectors are closing ranks, with each supporting the other for the common good.

Governments are pledging billions of dollars in economic stimulus packages, while billionaires are putting money where their mouths are. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has donated USD 100 million (Sh10.5 billion) to food banks, to help them feed an increasing number of jobless Americans amid the growing economic crisis.

Jack Ma, co-founder of China’s Alibaba Group, has donated millions of face masks, test kits, sets of protective clothing, and sets of face shields twice to African countries, including some developed countries. 

Through his Jack Ma Foundation, he also pledged USD 14 million (Sh1.5 billion) towards developing a coronavirus vaccine. 

Popular Western music artist, 74-year-old Dolly Parton, has donated USD 1 million (Sh105 million) towards ongoing research for a vaccine.

Indeed, the list of celebrities is growing, as people who have benefited the greatest from the ‘system’ give back. 

In Kenya, those who donate the smallest of things are all over social media, bragging about their philanthropic hearts.

They are following in the footsteps of our political class, who use public funds to construct shoddy projects, and then give us sleepless nights publicising their mean feats. 

Add to this the PR gimmick of taking pay cuts for some who have thrived on hefty kickbacks from public procurement. 

In one of the most insensitive PR moves, a top entrepreneur was quoted buying extra shares worth a couple of billion shillings for his already bloated empire. Did I mention vomiting on our feet? 

And then, pray, where are all our preachers, who don’t tire to warn us of eternal damnation as they enrich themselves with our earthly riches?

Why are they not giving back by opening up their institutions, built with funds from their congregants’ tithes and offerings, to serve as quarantine venues?

Ironically, it is the ones we deride for their ungodliness that are rising up to the occasion, as we wait for miracles! 

In the words of the late Gamaliel Bailey, America’s abolitionist journalist, editor, and publisher: “Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” 


Ever since the advent of quarantining, men have become the laughing stock for their clowning and domestic goofs. 

In Kenya, however, men’s bragging online about their stay-at-home exploits with spouses and children has become too comical, and exasperating.  

Moreover, some of our politicians and celebrities have taken the opportunity to seek cheap publicity from mundane things any loving family man takes for granted.

We have seen men making a big deal of doing what they should have done throughout their parenting lives, while celebrities have been trying to make showbiz out of preventive measures against the virus.

What is so special, or strange, for a man to play games like hide-and-seek, marbles and hop, skip, and jump with his children at home?

May be I am overreacting because circumstances have made me do a lot of “non-masculine” things for my autistic son for many years.  

Having said that, however, spouses should make their homes habitable for their partners. 

Many men avoid the toxic environment in many homes, as their spouses drive them up the wall with excessive nagging. Let us hope and pray that we will not witness a high divorce rate after this crisis is over.

— The writer is a communication expert and public policy analyst—[email protected]

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