It is quite sad that years after colonialism, slavery and other deplorable human rights violations committed on racial lines and equality still exist. In the face of one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen the west still comes out to suggest Africa is inhabited by lab rats. It is hard to note the racial slurs that laced the suggestion by two French doctors namely Jean – Paul Mira who is the head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin hospital in Paris and Camille Locht a research director at France’s national health institute to test possible covid19 vaccines on the African continent.
The suggestion in itself is extremely racist as it suggests Europeans can come as they please to “use” Africans as their “guinea pigs” for vaccines that they do not trust its subsequent consequences. The use of Africans for scientific reasons dates back to colonial times including the time of Sarah Baartman. Cuvier’s dissection of Baartman was labeled to have “shaped Europe’s science. In the 1800s in London people could pay two shillings to gaze at her body and an additional cost if they wanted to poke Baartman who they labeled “savage women”.
The justification of conducting medical trials in Africa is second only to the suggestion itself in being ludicrous. The Frenchman was quoted to have stated that, “It may be provocative. Should we not do this study (of the vaccine trials) in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like its been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?”. These assertions are false because African governments across the continent have made efforts to procure masks, gloves, and other protective gear. The Jack Ma Foundation also made significant donations of masks and other equipment to all African countries along with other countries in the west.
The total deaths on the whole continent of Africa is less than the total death in China, Italy, and Spain. The African governments have been firm and decisive in their actions to try and curb the spread of the virus. Total shutdowns have been implemented across the continent and these lockdowns have proved pivotal in slowing the spread and hopefully will assist in the long-term flattening of the curve.
It is prudent to research and try to find a cure for the coronavirus which has brought the world to a standstill. Such research should be carried out across the world and when the time for human trials the researchers and relevant institutions should look for volunteers from their own countries because the virus has hit the whole world. In assessing which country to approach for human trials, it is clear that certain countries have been hit harder than others. As such it would only make logical sense to approach those countries. There is no need to run to Africa to implement human trials on vaccines. It is very much applicable to western countries to make their plates and eat them too before extending the vaccines to other states specifically Africa. The suggestion by the French doctors along with their justification makes it seem that Africa is a laboratory where tests can be conducted with no consequence on possible fatal results on the African subjects.
There is also a need for astute leadership across the continent. The President of the DRC is on record welcoming said vaccine trials from countries like America, China, and Canada. This has come with major backlash from the people in the DRC and the continent at large. African leaders should consult their people before pledging them as subjects to trials on drugs that are in their testing stages. Africans should also conduct their research in which people can willingly ascribe to as subjects.
Despite the disaster that has overtaken the world the racial lines and perceptions of the west towards Africa still come out to be as if Africans are subjects and not equal beings.
Africans should not suck up or agree to such nonsensical labels and views. Leadership should be reflective of a proud Africa, an Africa that is also a global player and an Africa that is above all Equal.