Acha Leke, Edwin Cameron, Others Ignite Conversations through the Executive Seminar Series

The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected all spheres of society in unprecedented ways. We believe it is imperative to understand the far-reaching effects of the virus on the African continent. Enter the ALA Executive Seminar Series, a weekly digital engagement that connects distinguished professionals from the African continent to the broader ALA community in the form of insightful talks that help participants ponder on pertinent issues facing Africa.

In April, the community heard from ALA co-founder and Senior Partner a McKinsey & Company, Dr Acha Leke; Regional Representative for Epicenter Africa, the research arm of Doctors Without Borders, Professor Yap Boum ll; CEO of Decolonial Mental Health, Zolani Metu, and former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Justice Edwin Cameron.

Each speaker shared insightful learnings specific to their fields. Dr Leke, who kicked off this special series, spoke on information shared on McKinsey’s latest report, ‘Tackling COVID-19 in Africa’. “It is pretty clear that Africa will go into a recession. Some countries have enforced total lockdowns to flatten the curve and save lives, but at what cost?” he asked.

Dr Leke’s question put a spotlight on the dilemma faced by many African countries today: how to tackle the pandemic while balancing the health factors versus the economic factors. This complex point saw many questions flooding in from participants, many who asked what ways young entrepreneurs and citizens in low income areas can survive during this time.

“Crises provide opportunities too. Make the most of all the relief funds that your governments are offering.” Leke also pointed out that this time provides a unique opportunity for African governments to boost local manufacturing efforts and, more importantly, foster essential collaborations. “What chains can be strengthened to serve the rest of the continent? What ways can we increase the localization of pan-African collaboration?” Click here to listen to the webinar.

Professor Yap Boum II of Doctors Without Borders echoed similar sentiments the following week during his talk titled, COVID-19 and Beyond: Lessons from the Front Lines of African Epidemiology. “Everyone needs to be a stakeholder in this better future for Africans. Quality of care for all of us should be our just cause, even beyond the pandemic. The only way to do this is to fight this fight together. We all need to devote our blood, sweat, and tears to this just cause to ensure that no one is left behind.” Prof Boum highlighted Africa’s unique position of preparedness to fight COVID-19, building on our experience with the Ebola Virus and Lassa Fever. Click here for more on the webinar with Professor Yap Boum ll.

Giving even more context to South Africa’s COVID-19 reality through a human rights lens, former Constitutional Court judge and HIV activist, Justice Edwin Cameron shared his insights in a talk titled: Coronavirus and Human Rights. Cameron spoke on the reports of heavy-handedness displayed by the South African Army and police force. “Even if there is a State of Disaster, rights such as the right to human dignity still apply so you cannot be mishandled in any way.” 

The various factors involved in the temporary suspension of some rights across the world for the greater good was another discussion point. While Cameron commended governments’ efforts on fighting the pandemic, he emphasised the importance of remembering our rights after the pandemic. “We’ve got to be very careful when this pandemic is over to take all our rights back. We can’t let strong  men use the opportunity of the justified incursions of our rights to keep them afterwards. We’ve got to remain vigilant.”

Cameron concluded by highlighting the importance of community-focused collaboration and solution building – a notion echoed by previous speakers. “I’m taking us back to the power of community and human solidarity. We are living in a time of terrible uncertainty and fear. So we need to dig deep into our commitment to each other as people who care so that we can find ways to deal with this pandemic and not allow exploiters to take away our human dignity.” Click here for more on Justice Edwin Cameron’s webinar.

The entire webinar series can be accessed here.

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