Billions of dollars and torturous amounts of time have so far yielded underwhelming results from trials aimed at finding an antidote to COVID-19. But the island of Madagascar says its coronavirus-curing herbal tea “gives results in seven days”.
Since the tea, COVID-Organics, was launched towards the end of last month by President Andry Rajoelina, there has been understandable confusion across the continent on what to make of the concoction. It is true as many as six African countries have ordered some of what Madagascar is selling but six countries do not constitute a resounding yes.
So, why the hesitation? Why are most African countries staying away from COVID-Organics in allusively the same way as Madagascar itself is apart from the continent on your atlas?
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The fact of being a continental African, and maybe even in the diaspora too, comes with a psychological conflict. We have known that a bitter aftertaste from the highly-rewarding dehumanization of African peoples is the tendency for African peoples to underestimate their capacity.
Bodies were stolen and lands were grabbed but the European invasion of Africa was also a mind-snatching affair. All you have to do is to browse through social media commentary to know how many Africans find it highly unlikely that the coronavirus pandemic will be ended by Africans.
But maybe, our use of the theory of the psychopathology of slavery and colonization seems like needless, far-fetched nonsense.
The simplest and also the most generous theory is that the men and women with the technical know-how running coronavirus task forces in African countries are justly skeptical of something whose science they do not know.
“How does it work?” That is the most fundamental of scientific questions and frankly, so far, Africa’s youngest national leader has only sought to ask his colleagues to take his word for it and look at the 65% Madagascan rate with no deaths.
“Look at our recovery rate,” Rajoelina seems to be saying. “Recovery here, recovery there. Recovery everywhere, my friends.”
Rajoelina, 34, is a former DJ.
COVID-Organics is made from Artemisia, a plant imported into Madagascar in the 1970s from China to treat malaria. Artemisia has had proven success against malaria but the novel coronavirus, scientists have warned, is called novel for a reason.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against blind faith in medications that have not been held to “the same standards [for] people in the rest of the world.” The WHO continued that natural therapeutic measures against the coronavirus should also be critically interrogated “through rigorous clinical trials”.
On Tuesday, however, the African Union said it had begun discussion with Madagascar on the advertised potentials of COVID-Organics.
The AU statement said that it intends to employ the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), to “review the scientific data gathered so far on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 Organics”.
“This review will be based on global technical and ethical norms to garner the necessary scientific evidence regarding the performance of the tonic,” it added.
We do not know how things will pan out for COVID-Organics as it undergoes proper scientific scrutiny. But we do know one thing even if we are not openly going to admit it – if things go well, there would be questions as to how it was Africans who kicked the coronavirus away.
And sadly, there would be many Africans among the interrogators.