As part of measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, the United States has further imposed social distancing measures to be in place until 30th April 2020, according to the Washington post. In the United Kingdom, it is being reported that lock down could be in place until June 2020. Currently, three cities in Nigeria (Lagos, Ogun and Abuja) are in lock down. South Africa is currently on lock down for 21 days.
The world owes a huge gratitude to health care workers, at the front line of this pandemic. From New York, Milan, London, to Madrid, health care workers have constantly complained about the lack of preparedness and shortage of health care equipment e.g. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves, ventilators for patients etc. In fact, CNN reported that health care workers account for 50% of confirmed cases in Spain.
There is clearly a shortage of PPEs and ventilators world-wide. This has triggered various responses from various Governments worldwide. In the UK, the British Government has asked Dyson, a British firm, to reverse engineer and produce ventilators for use within the UK and hopefully Europe. In the United States, General Electric (GE) has been called upon to manufacture ventilators and other health care equipment needed to save lives and reduce the spread of the virus. President Trump has further invoked federal laws to compel automakers to manufacture some of the highly demanded equipment. Now, Ford, 3M, GE etc. are racing to build respirators, ventilators, face shields etc. to help health care workers fight the pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases in Africa is steadily increasing. The number of confirmed cases in Nigeria has risen to 111, as of 30th March 2020. In response to the pandemic in Nigeria, donations and donations are being pledged and being mobilised to help curtail the spread. We must highly commend the efforts of the private sector to rally around and come up with the financial resources which will prove very beneficial in these distressing times. These efforts are being led by none other than the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote, in close partnership with Access Bank and other well-meaning private sector companies in a coalition dubbed the ‘Nigeria Private Sector Coalition against COVID -19’.
However, will the financial resource suffice? I am of the opinion that we may need more than financial resources but the financial resources will no doubt help curtail the spread. As the number of cases increases, the need for PPEs and other medical equipment will increase. And as you probably figured out, dyson will probably not sell ventilators to Nigeria/ Africa now, when there is a great need for such in its home country? Neither will GE? Who then will manufacture PPE & Ventilators for use in Nigeria/Africa?
Would it be possible for local engineering companies like Innoson Motors to partner with Dangote or General Electric (GE) Nigeria to look into reverse engineering of some of these products for use in Nigeria/Africa? Are there indigenous engineering South African companies who could help in the production of some of these products? Can we get engineers from Aba etc. to reverse engineer some of these products for use? Of course, these products should be tested to ensure they are safe before use.
The Government could equally make a call for innovation, calling all innovators or engineers who could locally produce face masks, alcohol sanitizers, PPEs, ventilators etc. to send in submissions of such ideas. Pictures and videos of such products could be sent for submission, now that we are all online.
Nigeria/Africa, now is the time to look for solutions to our problems. No one will come to our rescue soon, as most countries are battling to contain the spread within their shores. It is not the time to panic but to apply ourselves creatively and innovatively. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
Intellectuals in Nigeria/Africa, now is the time to get creative and innovative. Even though schools are shut, let’s think of innovative and creative ways to help curtail the spread of the virus.
Let’s equally share stories and news of those who may be able to assist with their creativity rather than sharing depressing news.
Let’s stay safe.
When this is all over, we must learn important lessons and look at ways of developing indigenous technical and engineering capabilities.