One issue that arises today is that fewer people are seeking healthcare for fear of contracting the virus. This will have long term effects on people’s lives, as seeking medical care later could mean that the conditions they may be suffering from will be much worse and therefore more expensive to treat.
What role can new technologies play in the healthcare sector to cope more efficiently with the pandemic in Rwanda?
Rwanda, already known as a technology-savvy country, has leveraged technology in a number of ways.
- First, authorities are sending continuous SMS about WHO guidelines to prevent Covid-19 and its symptoms. It has been a very effective way of communication as about 81% of Rwandans have a mobile phone.
- Then, the government has put a national helpline for anyone concerned they may have contracted the virus, and a USSD platform that allows people to self-triage and seek the right medical care.
- The government is also using drones to blast information about Covid-19 and to remind people to socially distance and stay at home where necessary. Rwandans are now required to apply through a USSD platform for permission to leave their homes should it be necessary to attain essential services.
- Data analytics are also used to be able to forecast properly.
- Given that the virus can be transmitted through the use of paper money and coins, all transaction fees to mobile money have been waived in this period to encourage people to use these contactless means of payment.
- Lastly, the government is looking to partner with economic actors (such as my company Babyl-Rwanda), for a digital first solution to encourage patients to seek care from home, in order to avoid overcrowding the health system so that the government health system can focus on the critically ill patients, should the need arise.
What will be the economic impact of the coronavirus in Rwanda?
Tourism and travel, which is by far the worst hit sector by the pandemic, contributes about 15% of Rwanda’s GDP. The lockdown means that almost everything is at a standstill. The growth forecast reduced as a result from +8% to +5.1%, and may go down to +3%, if not lower. The economy will be hit hard and the consequences will be felt for a very long time.
In addition, like many developing countries, a large number of the population, in Rwanda’s case about 64%, is in the informal sector. The government is now burdened with feeding the millions of people that are at risk of starvation given that they only eat when they work. Thanks to the already existing decentralised infrastructure, it is however very easy to identify those most in need. Indeed, Rwanda has a very well structured decentralised system from village leaders, to cell-sector-district-provisional level. This has made distribution of food and basic supplies to those that need it the most really fast.
What are your recommendations to the decision-making bodies?
Looking at the global trends, it seems this pandemic will not end soon despite anybody’s best efforts. The government should be thinking about how it will slowly but carefully open up the economy. It is indeed a very difficult balance, especially for the developing countries. They unfortunately have to consider the risk of opening the economy, which may lead to more cases and potential death of 1% of the people that catch the virus, versus the risk of death from hunger.
Rwanda, already known for its great leadership, will have to work closely with the entire continent to fight this pandemic as a block. Winning this war requires collaboration at a continental and global level. Africa needs to be united if we are to successfully fight the pandemic, as we are as strong as our weakest link.
Copyright : Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP