Covid-19 and Facebook; why Africans need soul searching

Tuesday September 14 2021

Author, Nicholas Sengoba. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

By Nicholas Sengoba

Countries like Uganda will never overcome their predicament if they don’t first solve the problem of leadership.

Seriously, it took me quite a while to know that the Uganda government had blocked Facebook indefinitely. In fact I got to know about the ban on Facebook itself.

Thanks to the availability of VPN many, including individuals within government circles and departments, have bypassed the ban and are actively using the social media platform.

What this tells us is that with the developments in the field of the internet and communications technology, governments are slowly but steadily being put in their place as far as being that all powerful behemoth that they are perceived to be.

Some may say that we are still not yet out of the woods. During the January 2021 elections the government just shut down the whole internet and very few worked themselves around that. For instance, I was hosted by an international network which used a very expensive satellite phone link to do the trick.

This means still that the heavy handedness of the government can be circumvented, leaving it vulnerable both at the local and the international level.


The vulnerability of a government and the state itself is very dangerous especially if the former has no fallback position or outright solution in times of crises.

Contingent plans and all manner of preparedness against unforeseen circumstances and events are some of the hallmarks of societies and civilizations that will endure.

Today we have the challenge of the Covid-19 global pandemic that has devastated and disrupted the world for now coming to two years.

The solution being touted as the magic bullet is vaccination against the killer lung debilitating virus.

Africa now finds itself as totally lost as Uganda is with the so-called ban on Facebook. We are all looking to the countries that we vilify as having brought us to the defenseless positon in which we find ourselves, for the solution.

The West (and Arabia) took away most of our productive manpower about 12 million people between the 16th and 19th century whom they enslaved and built up their economies.

They came back and colonized us designing exploitative international traded policies and practices. These left our countries perpetually underdeveloped. Now we are producers of cheap primary commodities and raw materials many of which the West buys for a song and returns to sell to us as expensive finished manufactured products.

They then granted us independence and fomented trouble with the cold war that manifested itself on the continent in wars, coups, doom, death and destruction. They supported murderous and corrupt dictators. Now we have been left with no option but to join a vicious cycle of indebtedness and poverty. We borrow expensively to fight poverty and sink further into it with the payment of high interest and repayment of the loans.

Now it is the same people we are crying out to come to our defense in the face of the pandemic. They produce the vaccines we don’t.

We have to ask ourselves if we are really working towards being viable societies. We know very well, at least from practice, that our association with the West and now China plus all the so-called world powers has been one of malicious exploitation and association.

What have we done all along to save ourselves? We have all the knowledge on our hands. Our universities teach the same theory of relativity, the Pythagoras theorem and you name it.  Every year we churn out graduates in all fields of study just like it happens in the countries that fund us for almost everything, big and small.

What is it that we ate that stops us from translating theories into practical solutions to save ourselves in times of crisis like the one we are in? How come we have failed to turn the many mineral resources on which our countries sit into wealth to lift our standards of living? 

How sure are we that in the case of Covid-19 the very people we have castigated for all our woes in the past, will not use this to destroy us totally? We have to ask ourselves why even when we have paid for vaccines, the West is hoarding them?

Why are they instead opting to buy what countries like South Africa are producing to give to their fully vaccinated citizens as booster doses yet most in Africa have not yet even got the first dose? I am sure some are already picking on the racial card. Black people are just like that they will say.

I highly doubt. It is simply a problem of focused leadership. When those in charge are simply about perpetuating themselves in power like the corrupt and inept NRM government they will never motivate their people to reach their productive most.

They will simply create medicore societies that have simple goals that don’t go beyond accumulating wealth, living in a good house, driving a good car etc.

Productive people who have a higher purpose as their goal are a threat to dictators and poor leaders for they soon get to levels of independence that are beyond the reach of the patronizing of the government.

Facebook which the Uganda government has purportedly banned is richer than Uganda and has a greater brand recognition than Uganda. But it is not owned by the government.  The companies that are producing vaccines in the West have been boosted by their governments. We fear to do that for it will make individuals rich and in the end ungovernable so we sit and beg the exploiters.

Countries like Uganda will never overcome their predicament if they don’t first solve the problem of leadership.  A leadership that does not fight to bring the best out of people can only sink a society. That is why we can’t have our own Facebook or Covid-19 vaccines.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues

Twitter: @nsengoba