Strong leadership fought COVID-19 in Africa: the next step is to harness research

African countries are still reeling from the effect of measures, such as lockdowns, taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. Though painful, they were a vital part of the successful public health response mounted by many African leaders.

The quick responses by most African countries meant that they were able to avoid the large-scale loss of life seen elsewhere. The 1.8 million infections and 44,000 deaths recorded on the continent by mid-November are a great loss. They are, nevertheless, far from the catastrophic predictions made back in March and April.

…The strong leadership displayed by many African countries during the pandemic is certainly a lesson for others. But strong leadership needs good science. For Africa, this means that research for treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 must take place here, led by African scientists and tailored to this specific context.

Global solidarity might be lacking in the fight against COVID-19 but regional cooperation is not, especially in Africa. As the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control, John Nkengasong, pointed out, “the continent came together very quickly”.

Under his leadership, 55 health ministers gathered in Addis Ababa in February to develop a joint African strategy for the COVID-19 outbreak.

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