By Ayo Akinfe
(1) Today’s update on Covid-19 is that 2.92m people have been affected worldwide and there have been 203,299 unfortunate deaths. Although the figures are not coming down, at least the spread rate is slowing significantly. I actually believe we are seeing a ray of light at the end of the tunnel
(2) We are no longer seeing those horrific images we were getting in Spain and Italy about a month ago when hospital corridors were packed with unattended patients who were just left to die or the gory pictures from Ecuador where corpses were left for days unburied. I think the World Health Organisation has done well to contain the spread of this pandemic
(3) When you compare Covid-19 with previous pandemics, the casualty rate is not as horrific as has been the case in the past. Bear in mind that there are almost 8bn people on planet earth so the death rate of 203,299 is less than 0.1%.
(4) This image I have posted is how a victim of the Bubonic Plague would have looked. Also known as the Black Death, the bubonic plague, struck in 1347, killing about a third of Europe’s population. Arab historians Ibn Al-Wardni and Almaqrizi believed the Black Death originated in Mongolia and from there spread to Europe
(5) As has been the case with Covid-19, the Bubonic Plague was spread through trade. That epidemic spread with an attack the Mongols launched on the Italian merchants’ last trading station in the region, Caffa in the Crimea. In late 1346, the plague broke out in the Crimea in modern day Russia/Ukraine and from there spread. When spring arrived, the Italian merchants fled on their ships back to Italy, unknowingly carrying the Black Death with them. Carried by the fleas on rats, the plague initially spread to humans near the Black Sea and then outwards to the rest of Europe as a result of people moving from one area to another
(6) However, back in the 14th century, places like sub-Saharan Africa, North America, Australasia, South America, the Caribbean, etc were not integrated into the world economy, so were spared the plague. Europe was most affected because it was the epicentre of global trade
(7) Maybe we cannot envisage the scenario humanity faced in the 14th century today but can you imagine a continent losing a third of its population? Well, after the plague, Europe enjoyed unprecedented economic growth because feudalism was desperately weakened. Land became more widely available, serfs could own their own farms instead of working for a land owner and as such, their diets improved, as they began rearing animals and eating meat. They also started to grow fruit and vegetables
(8) Superstition and mysticism were also dealt a serious blow across Europe following the Bubonic Plague as all of a sudden, physicians had a greater status then abbots and bishops. People suddenly began to believe in the powers of science and medicine, jettisoning their previous belief in miracle cures and divine healing as the way to end ailments
(9) It is no surprise that the Bubonic Plague spurred The Renaissance and what is known as the Period of Enlightenment across Europe. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, we saw how a new thinking became manifest in art, architecture, politics, science and literature. Some of the ideas from the era include the development of perspective in oil paintings, the recycled knowledge of how to make concrete and the invention of metal movable type like iron wheels. Most of the European castles we see today were built during this period
(10) History has a way of recycling itself as every 100 years or so, we have an epidemic that kind of resets humanity. Superstition dies, new ideas flourish and new civilisations rise from the ashes of these pandemics. This time around has got to be Africa’s moment. We are the last bastion of under-development on earth, so this is our moment with history. It is time for industrialisation take the place of superstition, fear, avarice, loath and bigotry on our continent. Over to you my people to seize the moment!