Saturday, April 4, 2020

Coronavirus: “Africa cannot afford to respond,” says ex-footballer Adjovi-Boco

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For the time being, Africa has only a dozen deaths due to the Covid-19 epidemic, but it is developing dangerously across the continent. Jimmy Adjovi-Boco, 56, the Beninese defender who spent in particular through Lens, is currently confined near Beauvais (Oise), where he lives part of the year. He created the Diambars Academy in Senegal, a training institute for young footballers. He details his fears about the progress of the disease.

What is the situation in Africa?

JIMMY ADJOVI-BOCO. To my knowledge, the leaders are currently making the right decisions. I had to go to Benin last Friday and the Minister of Sports with whom I work asked me not to fly. The heads of state are realizing the magnitude of the problem by preventing people from outside countries, where the coronavirus is present, from entering Africa. Or stay in the fortnight. There aren’t too many cases yet. But if the pandemic arrives in Africa, it will be much more complicated than in France.

What is the state of the health system in Africa?

There are good hospitals but there is a lack of resources. As for resuscitation, there are very few places available. If the virus develops on the continent, it will have a devastating effect, much stronger than in Europe. Everything must be done to stem the spread of Covid-19 because Africa cannot afford to respond to it.

The African way of life is to live with the family, all together. Is this an additional risk?

Yes. But the states are beginning to close the borders, asking the population to keep their distance from each other. These are instructions that pass. We are not at the containment stage and I hope that will not be the case. Because confinement means that the pandemic is here.

Can we fear a heavier toll than with the Ebola virus (December 2013 – March 2016) which has caused between 10,000 and 20,000 deaths in Africa?

We managed to overcome it, to contain it after an enormous number of deaths. The coronavirus could lead to a worse balance sheet. Higher mortality than in Europe is to be feared in the event of a pandemic on African soil. It would probably be unmanageable.

Given the deaths in Europe, where the emergency is everywhere, do you fear a lack of solidarity with Africa?

Solidarity will come, but it is first of all for our leaders to realize that Africa must solve its own problems. Before thinking of external aid, our managers must make the right decisions and have them applied. In France, some do not respect confinement and endanger the rest of the population.

Some African states are not lacking in wealth, and yet people suffer and are poor in terms of health. Is this not the absolute drama of this continent?

It is unbearable but it goes beyond the health problem. The socio-economic development of certain countries is not up to the real financial capacities of certain States. The money is not redistributed. There are also some countries that are totally politically unstable with a fringe that is used to the detriment of the rest of the population. The responsibility lies with our leaders. But there is hope. In 25 years, Rwanda has gone from genocide to an exceptional economy, a parliament with the highest rate of elected women in the world. There are 64% women. All Rwandans benefit from social security coverage. So we can do it. 25 years ago, the country was in agony. It has changed thanks to political will. Rwanda is today one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. This is proof that with quality managers, socio-economic change is possible.

What have you decided for Diambars, the football academy that you created in Dakar?

We closed the institute to outside people who came to train on the facilities. Young people are currently confined inside. We will apply other measures if all of Senegal were to come to containment.

How do you live yours in France?

I continue to work. Since the beginning of the year, I have been working with the Beninese government on the development of sport to serve the country. Just before confinement, I was at the UN to launch a campaign against violence against women worldwide, putting Benin first because Patrice Talon, the President of the Republic with the first lady, decided to to take up the subject of the place of women in our societies.

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