Attempted prophecies: W-Who are you calling poor?

Photo: Kumasi Central Market

(Obviously, you have to read this title with a stammer)

The insults we take from the poachers

I recently watched a video clip on YouTube. It was one of those American late-night shows. A talented lady was on—a good comedic writer. She was there to promote her sitcom. So naturally, she performed a skit—a lame skit, in front of the audience. An audience knowing full well they have been brought in specifically to laugh. So laugh they did, gingerly, at her insufferable skit. I was going to watch to the end anyway, unfunny as it was, because as I said, I felt she was a talented writer, plus she formed part of USA’s minority—so she needed all the help she could get.

To be frank, I wasn’t really listening, until a word struck me, “Ghana!”

Wait, did somebody just say ‘Ghana?’ I had to rewind. “…poor ass country!” Ghana? Oh no, he didn’t just say that! Yes, he did. This White guy this lady was doing this lame skit with just said, “…I didn’t move to a poor ass country…” by that he meant Ghana. Herh!

Forgive the language, but that’s exactly what he said.

Here I was, fellow Ghanaians, about to disagree with those mean YouTube commenters calling this talented lady ugly, by saying something supportive like “aww”. My mouth ‘didn’t even arrive mpo’, fellow Ghanaians, and this pale guy, reading a skit written by this lady, opened his mouth and called Ghana “a poor ass country”.

Oh yes, yes, she is very, very ugly! She and the transparent guy she was doing the skit with, and the interviewer who sat there laughing sheepishly, and the puppet audience—I didn’t have to see their faces—but each and every one of them, ugly, ugly, ugly!

Wait, what at all is ‘poor’?

See, I didn’t take a break from this series started—if you hadn’t figured it out yet; one meant to usher us into the topic of AfCFTA—only to address this recurring insult. Look, everyone can say what they like in the confines of their own homes. Here I am calling a certain White guy pale, ugly, and transparent. What is he going to do?

But after we have finished running our mouths with insults, sometimes certain facts really do remain… Africa is poor.

Look at me, I am always the first to throw stones at any foreigner caught stupidly uttering that statement. Especially those from countries built off our backs—I am always the first to throw an arm and leg at those degenerate descendants of poachers. But that’s a topic for another day—or if we be frank, that’s a topic for every day, with me.

But here I am uttering the abominable. How did I get here?

What at all is ‘poor’? Wasn’t it Jesus, who on numerous occasions, switched up the meaning of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, and in so doing revealed the complexities behind these words—that a person may be rich in the mundane, but poor in the spirit. And even those who proclaim themselves atheists—even they, may easily agree with this: a person may be the richest materially, yet be so poor in spirit, find no happiness in this world. Pardon me to wax philosophic, because it helps numb the pain I’m feeling with this fact: Africa is poor. This is—in this context, at least—true; in this context where the word ‘poor’ is filled with so much complexities.

You know what, I have ready, two follow-up articles—one titled ‘After AfCFTA’ (pun intended)—both pointing to Africa’s enormous untapped richness; each ignoring its glaring poverty. But there is an issue at hand: Covid-19 has lured us all into a false sense of safety, yet continues to claim lives through the back door. It is so stealthy in its pace, that if it does not hit so close to home, claim a life so close to one, like it has done me, one is likely to dismiss this virus as a threat, and walk about mask-less, talking, coughing, and singing it into the air. So pause I will, on ‘After AfCFTA’. After all, if the continent be left empty by the pandemic, there won’t be much trading left to do. So then ‘Before AfCFTA’ it is! And this is the issue at hand…

[…Covid-19 vaccines are generating a lot of buzz, but—literally translated—its air hasn’t even passed by Africa small mpo. So I guess one can argue that that qualifies as ‘poor’.]

3y3 as3m ooo

In what can be informally dubbed, ‘the vaccine race’, the race towards deriving a vaccine for Covid-19 has been brewing for a time now. All over the world, over 70 vaccines are in the works, 6 so far have popped up, deeming ready for public use. Some countries have come out victorious in this ‘race’. You are not particularly shocked by these names: Russia, China, India, USA, Britain, Germany.

These six vaccines, resulting from state-run, or state-backed researches, public/private partnerships, university/industry collaborations, inter-state researches, have provided a light at the end of these tumultuous Covid years. Moderna (USA), Oxford-AstraZeneca (as the name suggests, a partnership between AstraZeneca a Swedish/British pharmaceutical company, and the University of Oxford); BioNTech-Pfizer (a partnership between a German biotech firm and a US pharmaceutical company); Sputnik V (you, by the name ‘sputnik’, know this to be Russian); Sinopharm, and Sinovac (by ‘Sino’ you know this to be China, and by ‘China’ you know this to be heavily state-backed); Covaxin (by an Indian biotech firm)—these, ladies and gentlemen, are the lights at the end of the Covid tunnel.

All over the world, what is ensuing is a viral gold rush—countries with the means are purchasing, reserving for their populaces these vaccines; some have kickstarted vaccination campaigns—vaccinating their citizens here and there. Of course, you are expecting these names once again: Russia, China, India, USA, Britain, Germany; but also there are organisations like the EU, more countries like Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Argentina, etc. Countries like Canada have overachieved—purchasing three times the vaccines it will need for its populace.

Countries like UK, USA, India, etc. have made purchases from more than one supplier. The EU, for instance, has secured vaccinations from all six suppliers.

About 5 million Chinese have been vaccinated—the country is giving thousands of vaccines to its citizens per day. Over twenty million Americans have been vaccinated—one million vaccinations are carried out each day in USA. Millions of Russians have been and are still being vaccinated against the disease.

It is safe to say that the West and co. have bought, for themselves, security, it’s left with the rest—above all, it’s left with Africa.

‘So what about Africa?’, you ask. Oh! we are signing agreements here and there. We are receiving promises here and there. The COVAX aid programme, for instance, has promised the continent vaccines. Ours, it seems, is not to be a ‘purchase’ per se, but ‘aid’. Free is good, is it not? Well, I have never met a parent who, upon receiving his/her salary, ventures first into the streets to find a begging-child whose school fees to pay for, before paying his/her own children’s. Of course, this promise is taking forever to materialise—of course, we are not being given top-priority treatment! Africa is now putting funds together—by that I mean, we are waiting on funds/aids from here and there.

Somewhere mid-2020, China’s President Xi Jinping promised the continent kind treatment in the vaccine delivery. I repeat, as it stands, over 20 million Americans have been vaccinated, no African country has (save Seychelles, and a microscopic number in Guinea).

And the second wave of a much more virulent pandemic where is it residing as we speak? Oh, by the by, it’s South Africa—sure they don’t need vaccination. Except they do—in dire need, actually.

Oh! But Covid is old news. Really?

When the disease hits so close to home, and in this instance when it does not hit the expected—the old folks, ‘those closer to the grave anyway’, but a youth—it, I must say, hits different. You begin to see the virus, and your protective measures as not being “so that I do not get it” but rather “so that I do not die”. In this viral throes of war we have been thrown into, death is all of a sudden imminent. Immediately these morbid numbers you have heard of—numbers of death—begin to lose their shroud; they begin to seem real, as real as they actually are; you begin to see them for the lives that they actually are—the lives lost.

When we put together our life’s work to purchase their Bugattis, Louboutins, Lamborghinis, latest iPhones (released today, we have them tomorrow), their luxury brands in all things: clothes, wines, jewelleries, make-ups; when we place our individual values, self-worth on these luxuries, hoping that in so doing, we share a part of their world, this illusion is, I must say, quickly lifted when in time of true need—needs not of luxury but necessity, needs as crucial as life, we find our continent’s poverty ringing so close and true. You are not above the needs your continent is plagued with. You are rich, but rich in a poor country and continent. In this particular case, this sentence is not an insult, but true; a crude description of our reality: you and I don’t have access to the vaccines just yet. The rich countries do. You and I will get it when we get it.

All these extents a person goes to, purchases a person makes, luxuries one works tirelessly to come by, so as to be considered separated from the rest, only to find, at the point of life and death, that one really is just like the rest—poor. Oh that’s an ugly, ugly truth.

Your wealth and power could make you first to receive the vaccine in Ghana, or even on the continent, but that would still make you part of the last bunch to receive it in the world; a secondary matter, I dare say, an afterthought—part of those who had to scrape the bare bottom of the barrel. And what do you expect? Did you develop the vaccine? Were you even a tiny bit close in contention to developing one? What contribution did you really make to the stock of global knowledge towards attaining a cure? What traction do you pull on the global plane? What does the name Ghana, Cote D-Ivoire, Zambia, Nigeria, etc. mean in this highly globalised world?

You be Leo

Sometimes a bleak picture is necessary. It helps us see the stark reality. And it is only then that we are capable of rising to conscientised efforts, to do something about our reality—to change it for the better. It is important that we rise from this matrix we have put ourselves in—to see reality as it is. You, yourself be Leo. But that can only be if our African governments are themselves Leos first.

That Glimmer of Hope…

No one is expecting African countries, quite infants in their nationhood years to skyrocket to the same positions as countries who have been at this nationhood journeys for centuries upon centuries now. But a culture of innovation and inventiveness ought to be deeply ingrained in the Ghanaian and African by now. This culture of inventiveness ought to have, by now, been strategically inculcated in the populace—from kindergarten to our university years. Our educational system ought to have been, by now, built on the structure of innovation—befitting of the highly Industrialised, Information Technological Age. Our socio-political, our socio-economic structure ought to be structured in a way that even the illiterate populace (the remnants of illiteracy and semi-literacy we have left in our respective African countries) get their part of this culture of innovation. In a Wakanda kinda world—one we all should be craving—Africa ought to be very consequential globally.

And it is in this sense that some of us are really excited about the AfCFTA, and very hopeful of it.

But then again, the art of developing, this is what it looks like. Developed countries, every time they say something as stupid as “there are starving children in Africa…” as a retort, or disciplinary measure against their bratty children, or something else like “Africa’s endemic poverty” in their silly news voices, they do so, forgetting their past. Even they, countries who kicked off their individual development journeys with help—free labour, forced labour in the most inhuman and monstrous of trades—have a past as chequered as our present. God knows developed countries have had their own share of endemic poverty, civil wars, corruption (and still do actually). Heaven knows that this is how the science of developing looks like.

But it is instances like these, as we have with these vaccines, that remind Africa of her stark reality: we have to hurry up with this whole ‘development’ thing. In all aspects of our lives, we must see conscious and speedy improvements, if we are going to catch up with the rest of the world. In a perfect world, the case of Africa in this pandemic should have been either:

  1. We developed, or helped develop a vaccine;
  2. Although we were very capable thereof, we, by some sheer misluck could not arrive at a vaccine, yet we are possessed of the purchasing power, and the power on the global plane to immediately summon vaccines for our populace. And perhaps like Canada, or even more than Canada, we have made provisions for triple, quadruple our respective national populations.

Afterall, China and India didn’t have to nab the tag of ‘developed countries’ to make their contributions to this global Covid research, and vaccination attainment.

Last days are dangerous

But, oh, countries like China and Russia have promised they will give us some of their vaccines. So let’s wait, eh. While at it, wear your masks—by heavens, wear two at a time if you can; pour that sanitiser all over you; not less than six feet, keep that distance; wives, husbands leave your marital homes, self-isolate if you can (I said self-isolate, not find another partner. What were you thinking?!)—last days are dangerous, and you know it. And don’t ask me ‘what about our children?’—I don’t know what you should do with those.

Now, what at all is ‘Ugly’

And now that I have said the abominable “Africa is poor” and written a whole article, suggesting so, am I too an ugly lowlife? Err…wait. Let’s hold our horses on that. Give me a minute to think this through…

Brothers and sisters, what at all is ‘ugly’, herh?

>>>the writer is a writer. And this sentence is circular

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