The year 2020 is out of the way and 2021 is upon us. As the past year faded into the sunset, for many, it was tempting to simply say it was a bad one. For all who lost loved ones to Covid-19 or other causes, the sense of personal loss is deep.
The feeling of hopelessness has been universal because even those that were spared the grief, could not completely escape the indirect impacts of the pandemic as economies slowed or went into reverse mode.
Yet, if we were to believe the adage which says that “it which does not kill you makes you stronger,” then for all the horrors of the year, we should actually be celebrating our resilience. We also need to appreciate that it could have been worse.
The only group that might miss the year are the political class who got licence to do what they had always wanted to do anyway, without attracting much scrutiny. In many authoritarian states, personal freedoms were a target by regimes that sought to control dissent under the cover of containing the pandemic.
Barring a few exceptions, Covid-19 exposed our soft under bellies but it also brought the best in us.
As it laid bare the critical gaps in our social fabric, the response to plug the gaps was swift. In some countries around East Africa, healthcare facilities are better equipped thanks to the Covid-19 response. ICUs, previously the preserve of national referral hospitals, have been decentralized down to district hospitals.
In what could be called a good problem, more ICU equipment was procured than there was the physical space to accommodate it. If the human resources and operational funds follow the equipment, then the pandemic would have yielded a huge dividend for healthcare.
The dangers of unbridled spending became apparent as overleveraged treasuries needed to borrow more but were too close to the edge of the cliff. Hopefully this forces some financial discipline.
On the East African Community front, Covid-19, temporarily slowed the runaway train of discord but did not completely stop it. With trade blockades, tariff walls and growing unilateralism, the year was a sad commentary on the regional integration project.
In the new year, the region will need to summon the courage to face up to and resolve the issues that threaten to reverse the gains of regional integration.
On the bright side, we enter 2021 looking at the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
The scientific community is rushing to produce enough vaccines, the global economy is slowly reopening and business confidence is looking up.
The political transition in the United States raises the prospect of a more united world in confronting the common challenges facing humanity. It also demonstrated the inbuilt resilience of a free democracy.
The consequences of Covid-19 will linger around for a long time to come. But it is our duty as leaders and citizens to make the world a better place.
Ultimately, humans are creatures of hope. It is only the conviction that tomorrow represents a better day that keeps the human spirit alive.
Let’s embrace the new year and all it has to offer.