Håvar Bauck – Interview

Håvar Bauck – Interview

Alex: How did Kenya perceive the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Most African countries have been less affected than their counterparts in Europe and the US. In the beginning, some people were noticeably scared of foreigners, as Covid-19 was perceived as a pandemic mainly hitting China, Europe and the US.  That changed after some weeks.

People obviously fear the disease, so businesses and the general activity level is low.  In the early days of the pandemic, Nairobi almost was like a ghost city.  While people are increasingly going back to the normal lives, or to the new normal, Nairobi is still visibly less busy than before.


Alex: How has life changed in your country? What effect does Cavid-19 have on life in Kenya?.

When considering the measures, the Government of Kenya had to take the socio-economic situation into account.  A full lockdown would have put vast parts of the population at risk of starvation, so that was never an option. Instead, Kenya chose an adapted approach, with strict social distancing measures, and an evening curfew to reduce unnecessary interaction between people. All bars, and most restaurants were closed, but are now reopening. Movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa has also been restricted, but is expected to reopen in early July.


Nairobi has been infamous for its traffic jams, but with schools closed, and home offices the new normal for those who can, driving in this city has become a breeze. I guess home offices are likely to be a permanent new trend.  Most Kenyan employers have previously been reluctant to allow this, but seeing that it works, I think the shift has already happened.  Going forward, This will almost certainly become part of the social divide in Kenya, where the liberty to work from home will be one of the hallmarks of attractive jobs.

For me as a parent, well, I always had a profound respect for the teaching profession, and after these months of homeschooling, I admire teachers even more. They are a cornerstone of our society!


Alex: Have you noticed elements of panic among people? Fear of illness? Before losing loved ones?

At the beginning of the crisis, there was some hoarding.  People were scrambling for food in the supermarkets, and cooking gas became hard to find for a few days.  With the rather soft approach here in Kenya, the situation however calmed down quickly.  Most people are cautious without panicking. Life goes on despite some extraordinary measures, and I think people generally realize that this is just temporary



Alex: Has anyone of your closest friends been touched by the crown with a virus? How did his surroundings survive?

A close friend of mine lost his father in law.  It was obviously a great shock for everybody.  While it was a tragic loss, nobody else around him got infected, though.



Alex: Is the main wave already gone? How are you prepared for the announced second pandemic wave?

Too soon to tell, really.  Every time the curve seems to flatten in Kenya, there is a new peak, slightly above the previous one. The highest daily number of new cases was on June 21st, with 260 new infections.  Only time will tell if that was the peak. Fortunately, the rise has remained linear, and has never gone exponential. The number of deaths is also very low, with a total of 137 casualties from a total of 5533 confirmed cases.  With a population of 51 million people, that is 0.01%, and keep in mind that Kenya is testing quite aggressively compared to other African countries.  Kenya has so far carried out 160,000 tests. More, for instance than Nigeria, which has 4 times Kenya’s population.     All in all, I believe there is good cause for some cautious optimism


There have been fears that Africa will be the next disaster zone, and the worst-case speculations have been amplified by certain global media outlets. So far, there are no signs of that happening.

I believe it is safe to say that many African countries have fared quite well through the pandemic.    There could be many reasons why. Some public health experts argue that the young populations of African countries are part of the reason, with median ages of 16-20 years.  I have also seen theories about a correlation between BCG vaccine coverage, and the virulence of Covid-19.  I am not a medic, though, and unlike certain world leaders, I will not pretend to know it all, or to have the solution. The WHO, national health authorities and the global pharmaceutical industry are investing vast resources towards finding a solution, and eventually, they will find one.


Alex: Do you have any advice / message for people from other parts of the world?

I think the best advice for anyone anywhere right now, is to think ahead. The world is going through an unprecedented crisis, unlike anything we have seen since the 1919 Spanish Flu. But it is only for a couple of months. We don’t know what the end of the crisis will look like. It could be a vaccine or a medicine, it could be herd immunity, or the virus could end up weakening like the OC43 coronavirus strain, and become another common cold. It could also end in a totally different way.   What we know for a fact, is that pandemics eventually come to an end. When they do, the world moves on quickly.  In 10 years’ time, Covid-19 and the lockdowns will be a brief and boring mention in the history books.


Alex: What is your personal life motto?

The best way to predict your future is to create it. (Abraham Lincoln)


Alex: What else would you like to tell E-spotkania.pl readers here

If there is one thing this crisis shows us, it is the importance of international cooperation. National borders are useless against diseases, and no country will solve this, or future pandemics on its own. To prepare the world for future pandemics, which will certainly come, we need a stronger World Health Organization, not a weaker one. We also need stronger regional institutions like the Africa CDC, and the ECDC of Europe. This is important both for business and for public health.  The next public health crisis should be met with a coordinated international response both at the global and regional levels. That way, we can mitigate both the spread, and the economic impact much more effectively than what we have seen with Covid-19


While we are all going through a tough time right now, the only sensible thing to do is to stay safe, stay optimistic, and stay focused. In the near future, Covid-19 will be just another memory. A brief mention in the history books.  There will be a new normal, with new opportunities. While we wait for the situation to pass, most people have more time than before on their hands. The winners of the crisis will be those who use that time constructively, to prepare for the opportunities of the post-Covid-19 world!



Håvar Bauck


Expert: e-commerce,

online payments and digital marketing


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