Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, Africa turns to e-learning

20.04.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The fundamental protective measures to prevent the spread of the new Coronavirus and the restriction of movement during periods of containment have forced many African countries to turn to greater use of new technologies. Digital technology, which presents itself as a solution to limit contact between individuals as much as possible, is becoming a commonplace in Africa. Never before has teleworking, videoconferencing, online courses, electronic mobile payments and e-purse been so much a part of the daily lives of Africans.

Councils of Ministers through video-conferences 

While the administration in Africa is often criticized for its cumbersome, slow services and its attachment to old working methods; in order to set a good example by showing respect for the barrier measures recommended to the general public, governments have opted for the use of videoconferencing for their meetings and communications.  Frequently used in the West, videoconferencing enables the remote organization of training, meetings, and conferences. The participants who are thus in different places, have the impression to be all present in the same room. This working tool obviously has several advantages. Unlike traditional meetings, videoconferencing saves travel time, facilitates the sharing of documents, the monitoring of tasks, and brings participants closer together while giving them the opportunity to connect wherever they are. In Senegal, President Macky Sall presided over the first Council of Ministers on 1 April 2020 to address the crisis related to the new coronavirus by videoconference. The Senegalese Head of State, who appreciated the experience, expressed the wish that the exercise be repeated until the end of the pandemic, while stressing that innovation is a source of progress.

President Macky Sall and his ministers are not the only ones to have opted for the use of this digital tool. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara convened only 20 ministers for the Council of Ministers of April 8, 2020, the others being called upon to participate by video conference. He also stated that he had a working session the day before with Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly through the same channel due to his confinement.   In Cameroon, it was also by video conference that Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute chaired an inter-ministerial meeting on April 3, 2020 in compliance with government measures put in place in the fight against Covid-19. The initiative is also being followed in Benin where the government committee for monitoring the coronavirus pandemic under the chairmanship of President Patrice Talon met on April 6 by video conference.  It is also through this format that the Heads of State and Government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) took part at the initiative of the Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, who chairs this institution, in an extraordinary summit dedicated to the coronavirus and the solidarity and cooperation protocols that the region must necessarily adopt.

Although fast and innovative, the danger of this system of working by our governments lies in the poor mastery of the computer tool by some and the need to protect the confidentiality of documents and administrative information relayed during exchanges via the internet.

Telework in companies 

Teleworking, which consists of working away from the employers’ premises with the help of information and communication technologies such as computers, mobile phones, tablets, fax and internet, has also become a new way of working in many African companies. Concerned about the danger posed by the coronavirus, the president of CAF Ahmad Ahmad has urged all his employees who work at the organization’s headquarters in Egypt to start teleworking.

“It is a pity for sport and for all African football fans. But we are forced to make choices. Ours is clearly that of the physical integrity of everyone: players, managers and fans. For our part, we have allowed all CAF employees to work remotely. I hope that Africa and the whole world can overcome this difficult ordeal as quickly as possible. It is a historic struggle,” he said, announcing in the wake of the postponement of the 42nd Ordinary General Assembly of CAF scheduled for 24 April 2020 in Yaounde. 

This method which allows employees of a company to avoid being contaminated by performing tasks that they could have done in the company at home is increasingly popular in the informal sector. It is also being used by civil servants in State administrations. In Burkina Faso, in addition to the principle of rotation, the presidency introduced teleworking in order to avoid meetings for supervisory purposes and thus limit the spread of the virus. The International Labour Organization (ILO), to encourage the use of telework during this period of confinement, has published a video in which it details five essential principles to master for quality telework. She also advises those who have opted for this mode of working to work on separating work and family life. 

Although advisable during this period of global crisis due to Covid-19, telework can be difficult with kids around who need to be supervised and whose concentration on work can be disturbed by the noise. In Africa, poor Internet connectivity can also impinge on telework performance.

Mobile payments

Payments made during purchases in live markets, stores or supermarkets, multiply the risks of contamination, which is why electronic purses and digital payments are proving to be the bargain to limit the risks of spreading Covid-19.  To encourage the use of electronic money that limits contacts between individuals and support the work of the governments of member states of the body in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, the Central Bank of West African States and its partners have adopted a set of measures including free international electronic money transfers for amounts less than or equal to 5,000 Francs CFA and transfers from bank accounts to electronic purses. Payments of electricity and water bills through mobile phones for amounts less than or equal to 50,000 CFA francs also benefit from this free transfers. In addition, issuers of electronic money have abolished the commissions paid by merchants on merchant payments backed by electronic money and have relaxed the conditions for opening electronic money accounts, among other things.

In Cameroon, tontines (microcredit), which meet weekly or monthly in neighborhoods or small communities to save money in a common fund, have also adopted mobile transfers as a contribution method. Through this channel, members claim to comply with the containment measures required by the government while maintaining their savings activity. 

Emergence of distance learning and online courses 

Education is not left out in this change of habits caused by Covid-19 in Africa. Among the governmental measures taken by African countries is the closure of both private and public schools, from kindergarten to higher education. A situation that forces students to stay at home when the school year is not yet over. And because a blank year remains to be proscribed in most countries of the continent that have ordered the closure of schools, universities and colleges, opportunities are offered to students in confinement especially those in examination classes. 

In Morocco, to avoid the negative impact of the interruption of courses on academic results and ensure pedagogical continuity during confinement, the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research has recommended the continuation of distance learning through filmed courses conveyed on various electronic platforms and television channels.

Senegal, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire have introduced television programs airing remedial courses for pupils in examination classes. In Cameroon the initiative, which started on 6 March 2020, is the work of the national television, CRTV, which works in collaboration with the Ministry of Secondary Education. Courses are given by teachers and professors chosen for the occasion. The courses are interactive. Parents and students via a telephone are allowed to ask questions to the teacher by SMS. Apart from TV programs, students can also access online courses available on the website of the Ministry of Secondary Education (MINESEC). 

 

The return to normal life after the Covid-19 pandemic will bring a lot of change in the habits of Africans. The virus, which has wreaked havoc in the world, has forced Africa to take the lead over modernity by turning to the multiple benefits offered by new information and communication technologies for the survival of its populations. As a result, Covid-19 crisis has not only had negative consequences.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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