Coronavirus: African leaders stuck with neglected, outdated healthcare systems


For decades, African leaders have remained detached from the realities of life for the majority leading to neglect of key and essential infrastructure like healthcare.

With the covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, the systems that have been neglected for as long are starting to show signs of breaking even with the enormity of the virus still way below what some individual countries have suffered.

Most of these leaders have always sought treatment abroad, even for basic illnesses and conditions that can be taken care of at home. But with the distrust in the local systems, they have chosen to always fly out and then come back once they have stabilised to continue with the same cycle of plunder and ignorance of what needs to be done.

See: Coronavirus shakes economies, world forced to change perspective on Africa

The latest cases have been those of Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria who spent the better part of 2019 in London seeking treatment.

Speaking from Abuja after returning from seven weeks of medical leave in the UK, the Nigerian President said he had never been “so sick” as he was during those weeks spent in the European country.

The long absence led to Nigerians speculating about Buhari’s health.

Long-time president Robert Mugabe spent his last days in a country far away from the continent and was returned home in a casket. He could have afforded the best medical care in the world having looted Zimbabwe to its knees.

With these two classic cases of leadership neglect, it is a tragedy that most Africans continue being impoverished while those they have put in high places continue belligerently getting rich at the expense of their electorates.

Most of these African leaders never invest in healthcare at home and covid-19 coronavirus has become the underbelly for the countries whose leadership is the talk of the global elite community. Having amassed so much wealth in dubious ways, none has cared for the health status of their countries until now.

The countries are putting up ramshackle structures in a race to contain the spread of the virus which could have been contained from the points of entry if the governments had acted in the best interest of their people.

By keeping borders open far too long after the cases started escalating in China has proven to be a case of lack of foresight and intelligence in handling such an outbreak.

Read: COVID-19’s effect on the construction market in East Africa

Many Africans have said that if the covid-19 coronavirus had broken out in a country on the continent, all Africans would have been blanket-condemned and denied access to any of the countries referred to as the developed nations. While Africa has remained open and cordial to many of these nations, the gesture ould have been different.

The best case scenario is when travel advisories are issued without too much thought when countries like Kenya are referred to as the hotbed of terrorism. Terrorism, unlike the covid-19 scenario is one that needs a multipronged approach and nations supporting each other to bring to an end such. However, when the so called developed nations want to flex their muscle and show who is boss, they do not hesitate in taking actions that could be detrimental to the African economies.

And despite all this, African leaders are always kowtowing to please the nations that would not mind slamming their doors when the continent is in dire need.

While all these things happen to people who are educated and exposed to what makes the developed nations what they are, they are unable to transfer the knowledge and implement it for the good of their people.

With the onset of covid-19, the chickens have come home to roost.

As it is, however sick these politicians may get, they cannot fly out to other countries for treatment. They are, just like the common poor man, stuck with the infrastructure they cannot trust. This is on the positive side where the coronavirus is equalizing everyone and creating a new normal.

While it is not lost on us that these politicians cold still afford the best healthcare in their own countries, this is a wakeup call to those who feel like they do not belong in Africa to make things rights before they go awry for everyone.

While it is not an easy thing to do, African leaders can finally bite the bullet and invest where it matters.

In Kenya, for instance, there is a multi-billion railway project which is now lying idle as people suspend travel while millions stare death in the face in case the coronavirus evolves and goes beyond those who can frequently travel outside the country.

Read: Kenya: 250,000 refugees to be treated over the internet

I have 10 years of experience in multimedia journalism and I use the skills I have gained over this time to meet and ensure goal-surpassing editorial performance. Africa is my business and development on the continent is my heartbeat. Do you have a development story that has to be told? Reach me at and we can showcase Africa together.

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