African leaders have taken swift and forceful steps to contain the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, the African Centers for Disease Control (ACDC) created its own task force for COVID-19 on February 5, before the continent had a single case.
Africa is currently the least affected continent in the world, with 1,293,048 confirmed cases to date and a staggering 1,031,905 recoveries, according to the Africa CDCP. Furthermore, the continent has less than 5% of reported cases and less than 1% of all deaths.
Now that African countries, led by the African Union, relax COVID-19 restrictions and prepare to open their economies and borders, many governments are using innovative technologies.
The need for a unique pro-African technology that can track the spread of the virus and connect COVID-19 testing centers across the continent has led to the use of PanaBIOS, the African Union-backed bio-surveillance technology.
PanaBIOS offers an online mobile web application that uses algorithms to track and locate people facing potential health threats. It also tracks and maintains records of test samples from their origin to the country's laboratories.
This technology was developed by Koldchain, a Kenyan startup, funded by AfroChampions, a public-private partnership designed to stimulate African resources and institutions to support the development and success of the African private sector.
Currently, Ghana is the only African nation to use PanaBIOS in reopening its borders. This technology ensures that travelers can use the test results from one country to satisfy the requirements to enter another country through their personal PanaBios application or with a system-generated SMS / USSD access key to another travel document.
Customs health authorities use the business version of the application to validate health declarations in a uniform way in all countries.
General data protection and privacy laws
The African Union and the African CDCP are encouraging member states to integrate the PanaBIOS platform that would allow centralizing the results of all the country's infrastructures. However, digital health interventions have raised many questions regarding data access and privacy.
Government surveillance and control can instill fear and threaten civil liberties, especially in a continent where only 27 nations out of 54 have fully operational privacy and data protection laws.
Some African nations, such as Ghana, have enacted new laws granting the president emergency powers to fight the pandemic. For example, they can instruct telephone companies to provide personal customer data such as subscriber database, subscriber cell reference data, subscriber mobile money transfer data that have not been charged, mobile money business codes and addresses.
To ensure data protection and privacy, all machine learning techniques used by PanaBIOS are in aggregate data. That is, the data collected is summarized for statistical analysis, not the personal data used to identify individuals, unless it is for contact tracing purposes, where it would be necessary to reach suspected or infected individuals.
In addition to prevent privacy violations, the African Union, PanaBIOS and their partners should propose how they will comply with various countries' data protection laws to protect privacy, ensure data consent, and prevent data from being released for Commercial use.
Technology-based solutions contribute to Africa's success against COVID-19
In addition to PanaBIOS, several African nations have activated technology-based responses to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
For example, scientists in Senegal built a $ 1 COVID-19 test kit and 3D respirators for patients. Wellvis, a Nigerian startup, created a COVID-19 Triage Tool, a free online tool to help users self-assess their coronavirus risk category based on their symptoms and exposure history.
The South African government used WhatsApp to provide an interactive chatbot that can answer the most common questions about COVID-19 myths, symptoms and treatments. In Uganda, market vendors used the Market Garden app to sell their products from home through the app and then motorcycle taxis delivered them to customers.
The successful control and management of the spread of COVID-19 by Africa has been attributed to its younger population, its limited capacity to assess and monitor mortality and the possible presence of SARS-CoV antibodies. 2 found in some Africans.
However, it is clear that Africa's technological innovations are an important factor contributing to its success in controlling COVID-19, as well as decisive leadership in the early phases of the pandemic.
Solomon Zewdu, an associate doctor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, summarized that in January, although many Western nations were hesitant, Ethiopia began conducting intensive examinations at the Addis Ababa airport. Rwanda became the first African nation to declare lockdown on March 21, and many other nations quickly followed suit: South Africa applied a total lockdown with just 400 cases and two deaths. (Italy, with a similar population, already had more than 9,000 cases and 400 deaths when it opted for confinement.)
On the contrary, the number of infected cases and deaths in the United States is six times higher than in Africa. Public health experts predicted that the pandemic would horribly affect the continent with bodies dumped in the streets.
There is no doubt that Africa has shown exactly the opposite.