There is a pressing need for reliable information about COVID-19 in Africa. To meet this challenge Africa CDC has partnered with CcHub to coordinate continent-wide development and dissemination of vetted and culturally sensitive information materials.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) has been at the forefront of coordinating Africa’s response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. To combat the pandemic in Africa, on 22 February 2020, the African Union through the Africa CDC convened an emergency meeting of African Ministers of Health on the Coronavirus Disease Outbreak.
The meeting underlined, among other things, the urgent need to put in place an effective communication strategy with a view to ensuring the real-time transmission of information relating to COVID-19 to African citizens, as well as to fight misinformation, which was exacerbating misconceptions, generating panic, and likely to hinder response and management efforts of the pandemic on the continent.
In order to combat this challenge, the Africa CDC partnered with Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), a pan-African Innovation Centre and Design Lab, in a Public-Private Partnership, through the support of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Data-Cipation and AGA Programmes.
The objective of this partnership is to coordinate an Africa-wide development and dissemination of vetted and culturally sensitive information materials. Various platforms and mediums such as comics, videos, animations, gifs, interactive SMS, mobile apps, illustrations etc. were developed to facilitate innovative communications based on local African languages in semi-urban and rural communities across Africa.
From the over 2,800 applications from 43 countries in Africa, eight communication and creative startups were identified and funded to participate in the project. Over 5,000,000 people were directly reached through this initiative in more than 20 African languages.
Some of the works of the selected startups include:
Zikoko: Zikoko created a microsite that provides an update to the number of cases recorded across Africa. They also produced instructional videos in three African languages that provide verified information about Coronavirus. Zikoko has been able to reach over 500,000 people across Africa directly via the website and social media.
Flare: Flare operates the largest network of ambulances throughout Kenya, and through the aggregation of hundreds of ambulances on their platform, they were able to train 400 ambulance members on the protocols around managing COVID-19 patients. They also created digital content for the same purpose on their website and Android app.
Guereza Animation: Guereza Animation tells African stories and folklore using cartoons. The team created comic book series and animations that communicate the key information about COVID-19 in three African languages, including French and Portugese and how everyone including children can play a role in flattening the curve. The comic series has reached over 100,000 people.
Brck: Brck, through their free public WiFi provider (Moja), received support to provide relevant coronavirus information to users through a gamified system. The COVID-19 project ran on the Moja platform on both fixed and mobile locations. The information created got over 30,000 total interactions with 960 users completing the surveys.
Capital Power: Capital Power Multimedia created 15 animated videos localizing COVID-19 related information in 6 local African languages. They secured partnerships to reach over 5,000,000 people and also secured a partnership with Kanuri TV for the distribution among rural communities including IDP camps in Yobe, Borno & Lake Chad.
Creative Nestlings: Creative Nestlings worked on a series of mini-comics sharing critical information about coronavirus in 15 local Southern African languages.
Chekkit: Chekkit created a platform that engages directly with the public using SMS and USSD to share information, administer surveys, quizzes and report suspected cases. They were able to reach over 12,000 people with over 50,000 USSD dials and over 40,000 surveys taken (including the airtime reward survey).
Nifty Works: NiftyWorks received support to produce short animated series in English and Kiswahili communicated key information on the pandemic. The videos were shared via social media and reached over 20,000 people.
As the continent continues to grapple with efforts at containing the crisis, this model of partnership leveraging Africa’s innovation ecosystem is indeed one of the promising and effective ways to build back better. The partnership between the Africa CDC and Co-Creation Hub demonstrates the new vista of opportunities available to continental, regional and national institutions through the introduction of innovative approaches that are agile, responsive and transformative for policy implementation.
Dr. John N. Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC acknowledged “the support from GIZ which has made it possible to reach over 5 million people directly and over 20 million indirectly as we face the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting infodemic”.