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With the onset of the global Covid pandemic, scientists and researchers set out to find solutions to the health crisis not only in the West, but across Africa as well. Experts examined human behavior in reaction to the rapidly spreading pandemic, and to mark the WHO’s two-year long fight against the pandemic, we examine the innovative projects developed by the winners of the Data4Covid19 challenge. The aim: to combat Covid-19 in Africa by facilitating the production of information using open data.

It’s an initiative that highlights innovative thinking across the African continent in response to the Covid pandemic. From 15 December 2020 to 5 February 2021, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), in partnership with Expertise France and The GovLab, called for proposals to design innovative projects to facilitate the production of information that can be used in response to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa. 

Researchers monitored human behavior and people’s reaction to the evolving crisis, in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. The objective: guide public decision-making using tools to monitor and understand the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences.

The two videos below presenting the winners show the diversity of the profiles selected, including data scientists, health researchers, university professors and directors of institutions. They talk about the work they do, and the obstacles standing in the way of better data, such as the reliance on social media platforms, which are widely used among wealthy populations, while poorer people lack access to the internet. 

The Challenge – as well as the winners themselves and the nature of their work – shows the sheer wealth of expertise and talent available in Africa, which is using artificial intelligence to address common health challenges. 

The interviews highlight above all the problem of access to recent, high-quality data in Africa. As all the teams make clear, data will be essential in helping decision-makers come up with robust responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the first video: an interview with Tricia Govindasamy from Code For Africa, Luis Sagaon Teyssier from IRD and Arcad Santé Plus in Mali, as well as Daouda Coulibaly from the National Institute of Public Hygiene in Côte d’Ivoire

Second video: interviews with Fabrice Zapfack from data354 and the Félix Houphouët-Boigny National Polytechnic InstituteJonathan Karl from the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, and Mouhamadou Lamine Ba from the Alioune Diop University of Bambey.

Further reading: the projects in detail

The Data4Covid19 challenge was launched by AFD with its subsidiary Expertise France and The GovLab, as part of the “Covid-19 – Health in Common” initiative.

Find out more: For more information about the challenge and the work of the winners, please contact Peter Addo or Lola Blanc