COVID-19: Data for a resilient Africa

Addis Ababa, 18 April 2020 (Joint press release) - The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) have unveiled an initiative to strengthen Africa’s data ecosystems in the face of COVID-19.

“Tackling the pandemic requires data and information to ensure that policies, resources and technology are deployed in the right place and time to make the biggest possible impact,” said Vera Songwe, ECA Executive Secretary. Ms. Songwe noted, however, that data systems for health and other areas of policy in Africa are often fragile and frequently inadequate. 

“Critical gaps in coverage and timeliness can leave governments uncertain of where the risks of infection are highest and how to deploy resources in the most effective way, as well as where food aid is needed the most in particular for women and children” she added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold suffering, disrupted billions of lives, and endangered the global economy.Wealthy countries have been worst affected thus far, but as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data’s CEO, Claire Melamed, explains, the vulnerability of low-income countries is more alarming.

“The lack of adequate shelter, sanitation, and health systems in low and lower-middle-income countries puts us at the precipice of the worst humanitarian crisis in 100 years. Getting timely, accurate data to get the pandemic under control in Africa is critical for the success of global efforts, and will help build strong data systems for the long term,” said Ms. Melamed. 

Over the past few years, development partners have helped to build the foundations of robust data ecosystems that can respond to crises like this. As a result, there are multitudes of tested, scalable solutions that can be deployed, and a range of institutions contributing to data-driven decision-making that can expedite the fight against COVID-19.  

Areas, where better data can save lives during COVID-19, include: population - understanding who is most at risk, to allocate resources effectively; health infrastructure and staffing; virus monitoring; and tracking the economic impacts, including business closures, the impact on agricultural production, and on trade and public spending, to put in place the right support and avoid long-term devastation. 

The ECA-GPSDD partnership will receive capacity support from Data, for Now, a coalition of partners that includes the United Nations Statistics Division, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the World Bank along with GPSDD. 

The group will work in a coordinated and coherent manner with partners from the private sector, civil society, academia, donors, governments, the UN, and multilateral agencies, to:

  • Put tested solutions to work, bringing together the right partners to understand what data and solutions are needed, make them available, and ensure they are used to save lives. 
  • Strengthen systems by ensuring new solutions are sustainable and can be maintained for the long-term by increasing interoperability between data sets and developing capacity among users to understand and work with data for policymaking. 
  • Increase the effective use of resources by targeting areas where data gaps are most acute and minimize duplication
  • Share learning and information among partners and countries for quick adoption and replication of effective solutions.

The initiative, which was officially announced in a virtual press briefing on 20 April 2020, is seeking more collaboration in the areas of access to relevant data, analytics and visualization, training and capacity development, technology and connectivity, and financial resources.  



For more information, visit: The Africa UN Knowledge Hub for COVID-19:  

Emerging partnerships include the following – more details available on Monday 20 April:

ESRI is supporting its users and the community at large with location intelligence, geographic information system (GIS) and mapping software, services, and materials that people are using to help monitor, manage, and communicate the impact of the outbreak. Technology donations are available to all organizations to support the rapid deployment of COVID-19 solution platforms. Multiple data sources can be integrated into a single platform to give governments the information they need. Esri is already working in over 15 countries in Africa such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Kenya, with plans to expand across the region according to need.” More info:

FLOWMINDER is providing telecommunications companies and other holders of mobile operator data with instructions, code, and support via, enabling them to produce analyses of population mobility in close to real time. Flowminder can offer support in up to 20 countries in the region, to ensure that governments can make data-informed decisions by monitoring mobility and effects of the crisis on population dynamics. 

FRAYM is using advanced machine learning models to combine satellite imagery with geo-tagged household survey data, producing local (down to 1km^2) population data for developing countries, even in remote areas. They have COVID-19 risk-factor data available, including health, behavior, and livelihood indicators, in seven African countries, with three more in the pipeline, and will consider other requests. More info:

UK Office of National Statistics and DFID data science hub will provide pro-bono COVID-19-specific technical support from a team of data scientists and software developers, with a blend of skills across epidemiology, NLP, GIS, Earth observation, mobile phone data, data engineering, and software development, with a strong focus on methods to track economic indicators in real time. They can conduct analysis, mentor staff, and provide advice on data sources and tools for automating routine manual data processing, and also provide training to ensure skills transfer. The focus will be on 17 countries where DFID support is concentrated. More info:   

GRID3 provides technical expertise in producing spatial data on population, settlements, boundaries, and health infrastructures, working with governments to create a comprehensive and up to date picture to inform decision-making.  They are already working in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, South Sudan, Zambia, and Burkina Faso, and plan to expand to 10 more countries in Africa to support COVID-19 response. More info:

Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School Of Global Management, The College Of Health Solutions And The Edson College Of Nursing And Health Innovation are working with the Ministry of Health in Kenya and other partners to curate content for training health professionals in Kenya/Africa for frontline personnel in the health facilities as well as those in leadership positions during this crisis. The team is able to create content for use across multiple platforms including mobile phones as needed. 

Dalberg will support the Covid-19 response with advice, co-ordination, networks, data, and geo-spatial analysis. Ongoing efforts range from developing strategies to mitigate the economic and social side-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to hands-on support for cash-transfer programmes and the development of vulnerability maps.

Digital Impact Alliance (Dial) will provide openly-licensed, editable resources to help governments and intermediary organizations use mobile data for pandemic response, with initial information coming next week that will be available on our website (  DIAL and its technical partners will also provide technical expertise to over 10 African countries on the use of open source tools to analyze mobile data to support decision-making for combating Covid19.  DIAL has released a resource document that outlines messaging platforms and an online catalog that provides more information on mobile aggregators in Sub-Saharan Africa to help governments get public health messages out to citizens in a quick and streamlined way.


The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data is a global network including governments, businesses, and civil society organizations working around the world to harness the data revolution for sustainable development. Since it was created in 2015, the Global Partnership has elevated data issues at a political level, launched a multi-million-dollar Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development funding initiative, and supported the advancement of country-led Data Roadmaps for Sustainable Development. Learn more at 


Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 1958 as one of the UN’s five regional commissions, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA’s) mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member states, foster intraregional integration and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development. ECA is made up of 54 member states and plays a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape. For more information, visit  


 Jointly Issued by:

The Economic Commission for Africa  and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data


 COVID-19 Partners