Believe it or not, the Covid-19 pandemic (as a dangerous disease) is possibly drawing to its end. That is because the world has found a vaccine for the virus and on Tuesday this week, 90 year old Margaret Keenan, became the first person (outside the trials) to be immunized against Covid-19 in the UK. As you read this more than 800,000 people in the UK will have received the first of two jabs. All over the first world, as we call it, the vaccine is being rolled out and the most vulnerable are being protected. Thank you to science and the power of computing.
Unfortunately for so many of us, especially in the third world, the last twelve months will come to define our lives, fortunes and futures more than we could have ever known. Family, relatives and close friends have succumbed to the illness. It is a trying time as we fight to stay safe and avoid the most tragic of possible outcomes. But even as we battle to survive, it is difficult not to observe human nature at work. Just as with all calamities, the losers and winners.
As a society, the biggest loss for us will of course be the deaths of our people. While the pandemic is coming to an end in the first world, it is just beginning to affect us. Anecdotal evidence shows that older people, especially with underlying conditions are most vulnerable. Given our proclivity to socialize and ignore conventional wisdom, it is certain that we will lose many more elders. We have been acculturated to living communally and the continued attendance at these social events, can only lead to more infections and deaths consequently.
Our second problem is going to be economic and social poverty. As we begin to feel the impact of Covid-19, many of our businesses and social relationships are going to be disrupted. Before this pandemic struck, most economic surveys had shown that the biggest constraint to business growth was access to finance. As we become less credit worthy on account of the reduced economic activity and default on existing obligations, it is going to be harder to prevent families and whole communities sliding back into poverty. A lot of the economic and social gains of the last decade are going to be lost. These tectonic shifts will also disrupt stable social relationships and create enhance d hardship especially for the less fortunate in society.
The third problem that is has been developing and should concern us is reduced political freedoms. The Covid-19 pandemic is providing increased justification for the curtailing of political freedoms, in the name of controlling the pandemic, our governments will impose more draconian measures to keep any form of dissent under control. Reduced political freedoms eventually lead to dictatorship and a slowdown in economic growth. That is a double whammy! Less freedom and economic choice.
On the opposite end of the scale, as happens with all situations, there will be a few winners. As the restrictions bite, Africa’s dictators will be rejoicing at the opportunity provided by the pandemic to impose martial law and manipulate elections. Under the pretext of saving lives, Africa’s strong men will ensure their will is enforced.
Next in line to benefit will be the tenderpreneurs and their foreign accomplices. A lot of resources have been raised to help stem the epidemic. However, as in most situations where you have large bureaucratic setups, it is difficult to efficiently deliver optimal solutions, be they rehydration kits, masks or even something as mundane as sanitizers. In the corridors of power, deals are being struck to share the bounty occasioned by the pandemic.
In this hustle and bustle, the idea of protecting the poor and most vulnerable will remain a lofty idea. Vaccines will eventually be imported yes, but the probability of you and I getting a jab, will depend on where we sit in the food chain. Wear your mask and observe all precaution. You are not about to be set free.
Samuel Sejjaaka is Team Leader at MAT Abacus Business School. Twitter: @samuelsejjaaka