Several countries in Africa have either deployed or considering using digital contact-tracing (DCT) as part of their Covid-19 containment strategy, amidst calls for the use of technology to improve the efficiency of traditional contact-tracing. We discuss some of the complexities entailed in using DCT in Africa. Adopting a socio-technical perspective, we argue that if DCT design and deployment are not well thought out, it can lead to unintended consequences, particularly in a continent like Africa with disproportionate levels of digital divides and other structural inequalities. We suggest that any adoption of DCT by African countries must take account of their compatibility with local resources, values, social structure, and domestic political factors. Accordingly, we propose a process of translation whereby DCT adaptation is made to accommodate the unique institutional and technological characteristics of African countries by leveraging local practices learned from previous pandemics like Ebola to develop a blended epidemiological approach to (digital) contact-tracing.


Crown Copyright 2020 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

Cite as

Arakpogun, E., Elsahn, Z., Prime, K., Gerli, P. & Olan, F. 2020, 'Digital contact-tracing and pandemics: Institutional and technological preparedness in Africa', World Development, 136, article no: 105105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105105

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 22 May 2023
Was this page helpful?