Living in the unknown: Top key lessons of the year 2020

Wednesday January 13 2021
By Adipala Ekwamu


Global inter-connectedness: The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that we need each other. 

What happens in one part of the world has repercussions beyond the immediate borders. It also showed vividly the need for good governance and preparedness.

 Countries with sound systems and capacity quickly re-engineered themselves and put in place containment measures even though not 100 per cent effective. Wageningen University and Research in Netherlands and University of Free State in South Africa, for example, quickly put in responsive measures to reposition their universities to respond to education challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Others were not in position to do so or only responded slowly. 

Environment health is key. It appeared to me as God must be crazy. We witnessed several catastrophes - wild fires in Australia and USA, floods and waves across the world, widespread pandemics of desert locusts that devastated the Middle East, Horn of Africa and the Sahel, increased levels of green gases, amongst others. Again, we need each other, we need to develop collective responses to address these challenges 

Some of the challenges highlighted above brought to the fore the limited response capacity in the continent. We just need to be reminded that no country in the world has developed without the requisite STI capacity- Africa must put its mouth where the food is - in its people build and strengthen the innovation capacity and skills development in the continent. 
Racial inequality coupled with human brutality is dangerous. 


What we witnessed in the US, but also common in our ethnic tendencies, including wars in Africa, calls for greater attention to address this inhuman practice. It is so sad we as humans are so brutal and self-conceited. We do not care about others.

In regard to education divide, here again Covid-19 exposed more vividly the education divide for those with resources and the disadvantaged communities even in advanced economies such as the US. 

In Africa, it worsened the divide between urban and rural schools - schools in urban areas quickly embraced online teaching and learning while those in rural areas have been basically ‘locked out’ of education. 

Yet education is the foundation of development. This, to me, is one of the biggest challenges Africa faces today. Governments need to act now. 
Embracing digital technology. 

The digital era is here, and it is those countries and individuals who embrace it, who will be fit for purpose. It is needed in all sectors, and for young and old. 

At least Covid-19 has helped push us towards digital technologies. Africa must hasten efforts to integrate digital practices. Fortunately, the young generation in Africa are coping up very well. 

Your neighbour will not fill your granary. In 2014, Graça Machel reminded us that Mozambique saying that “Your neighbour will not fill your granary”. Little did I know I would live to see it! It is great to hear/know that there are vaccines against Covid-19 and countries are vaccinating their people.

 We are still waiting for our turn in Africa! Severally, Africa has waited for others to come and solve its problems even for those we can and should handle! No, No! We have to struggle and help ourselves just as we struggle to feed our families. We must build capacity in the continent for today and for tomorrow. 

We are stronger together although some inefficiencies occur. The UK Government was able to quickly approve the Covid-19 vaccine, and EU only two weeks later. But even then, we are stronger together.

 We need each other to travel far or achieve economies of scale. Many issues cut across boundaries, requiring that we collaborate. We can now harness digital technology to work across the globe, and hopefully we help create better global understanding. 

For higher education in Africa, we need to strengthen collaboration and partnership to build response capacity for the continent. 
Above all, who should be telling who about democracy, given the fiasco US elections?

Prof Ekwamu is the executive secretary for the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).