When responding to a global crisis, good leaders and leadership is essential. Pandemics and health crises know no borders and can affect entire populations. However, having strong leaders can significantly impact how and how well a country responds.
To tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we need strong leaders, globally and locally. One quality that leaders must possess in order to effectively respond to the crisis is being able to take decisive, urgent action. Urgent decision-making is a fundamental part of being a leader, and unfortunately at the start of COVID-19, too many countries dragged their feet when it came to doing so.
But a few countries stand out for their quick and effective responses to the global crisis. While no nation’s response has been perfect, here’s a look at what some countries have done right.
The leadership in Rwanda has gone above and beyond to successfully respond to COVID-19. Those in leadership roles have launched an effective contact tracing program and have implemented Smart Anti-Epidemic Robots to check the body temperature of travelers to and from the nation.
These quick, strong responses to the onset of COVID-19 have enabled Rwanda to show other countries what a smart crisis response looks like and serve as a role model for strong leadership.
Leadership in Senegal has stepped up to the plate in its response to the global pandemic. The country has emerged as a world leader in the fight against COVID-19, thanks to the implementation of key innovations, right at the onset of the crisis.
Some of these forward-thinking and fast-acting innovations include trials for at-home COVID-19 diagnostic kits and the use of multifunctional robots that has allowed caregivers to treat patients without running the risk of contracting the virus themselves. Digital innovations have always kept the public well-informed. An app called Alerte Santé Sénégal provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 in the country, and a new digital platform allows local authorities and citizens to communicate quickly and effectively.
These key innovations and quick action by Senegal’s leaders have paid off: Senegal’s confirmed deaths currently stand at 272.
South Africa’s leadership has made bold, quick — and controversial — moves to respond to COVID-19. President Cyril Ramaphosa quickly responded to the crisis by imposing contentious yet important restrictions to combat the rapid spread of the virus throughout the country (which has seen over 600,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 13,000 deaths, making South Africa the epicenter on the continent).
Ramaphosa required that masks be worn while outdoors, imposed an evening curfew, and most recently, a ban on alcohol sales and tobacco products to slow the spread of the virus, according to the government. Though controversial, President Ramaphosa took the decisive, urgent action necessary in his role as a leader to help the country respond to the pandemic.
If there’s one thing that is certain about COVID-19, it’s that testing is one of the keys to better understanding and slowing the spread of the virus. Ghana’s leaders took charge in their response to the pandemic, swiftly creating a rapid antibody test kit for COVID-19. Though it is still in the validation process, this quick creation of the test alone demonstrates Ghana’s understanding of the sense of urgency needed to respond to a global health crisis.
Another key to slowing the spread of the virus are masks. Leaders in Kenya took quick action to convert factories into mask producing ones. In doing so, the country urgently transformed resources it had to quickly respond to the virus.
Kenya’s government also stepped up to address both the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. The country has revealed an economic stimulus plan that includes one key factor — a focus on youth. In Kenya, a large portion of the informal sector (which accounts for 35% of its GDP) is made up of the youth population. Launching a stimulus package into the economy that focuses on youth ultimately creates opportunities for the future post-pandemic and enables youth to engage productively and positively with the economy during and after this crisis. This decision to invest in the future while also responding to the issues at hand is what makes Kenya an effective and forward-thinking leader in the fight against COVID-19.
The time for leaders to act is now, and these five countries have demonstrated how fellow leaders must step up to tackle COVID-19. Pandemics and health crises don’t wait for anyone. Leaders must act with urgency, like those above, to make strong decisions to successfully and effectively respond to COVID-19.