Africa’s Largest Open Data & Civic Technology Network Partners with Continental Digital Archive for Scientific Research to Mitigate COVID-19

Published by Code for Africa & AfricArXiv on

UPDATE as of May 11, 2020: Amicable ending of the collaboration between CfA and AfricArXiv

After careful consideration and discussion with the board, we as AfricArXiv have opted to amicably end our collaboration with Code for Africa. We opt to focus on other activities and hopefully look at new initiatives in the future that may be of interest for possible collaboration.
AfricArxiv is a community-led digital archive for African research communication. We provide a non-profit platform to upload working papers, preprints, accepted manuscripts (post-prints), presentations, and data sets via our partner platforms. AfricArxiv is dedicated to foster research and collaboration among African scientists, enhance the visibility of African research output and to increase collaboration globally.
We thank Code for Africa very much for the time provided to work with us.

(Originally shared at Medium / Code For Africa · 5 min read)

Does one size fit all? How should Africa, with its fragile healthcare systems, crowded settlements and large informal economies tailor global strategies for fighting COVID-19 to ensure they are feasible or effective locally? African policymakers and health agencies need evidence-based insights with strong local context to make informed decisions. They are, however, struggling to find detailed local data or analysis.

The continent’s largest network of open data analysts and civic technologists, Code For Africa (CfA), and the open source digital archive for African scientific research, AfricArXiv, have therefore partnered to support African efforts to get ahead of the curve, by helping surface actionable local data and credible local scientific research.

The partnership will include expert analysis by the CfA-supported Takwimu, on the political economy and development policy impacts, and will also leverage AfricArXiv’s partnerships with the world’s leading preprint repositories for scientific research, namely the Open Science Framework (OSF), ScienceOpen and Zenodo. Together, the partners will:

  1. Digitise and publish local Africa-specific data and scientific research to help planners better understand which specific communities, infrastructure and/or services are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and what countermeasures might be most effective;
  2. Debunk the most harmful misinformation and quackery, that has become a tsunami or ‘infodemic’ on social media and that is blunting public efforts to tackle COVID-19. The partners will do this by fact-checking misleading memes and claims, as part of a wider CfA partnership with Facebook and WhatsApp, while simultaneously amplifying the voices of credible African scientific researchers, and empowering African newsrooms and social media influencers to fight misinformation with facts and compelling storytelling;
  3. Connect African researchers and experts to changemakers in government, the media and at development, to help improve the appropriateness and relevance of plans or interventions, as well as to bolster evidence-based public discourse.

The partners will kickstart the collaboration by combining their resources to establish a central portal for scholarly resources such as research articles, datasets and explanatory infographics, that draws on COVID-19 relevant meta-tagging across multiple institutional repositories and archives. CfA’s data teams will help compile, standardise and harmonise the data resources, and AfricArXiv will coordinate expert teams to screen the literature for accuracy, relevance and usefulness, so as to help reduce the “firehose” of often irrelevant, outdated or misleading information available to planners.

AfricArXiv will coordinate with international organizations, such as the Research Data Alliance, to promote disciplinary-appropriate data standards that will ensure that African data collected on COVID-19 aligns to F.A.I.R. (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and C.A.R.E (collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility, ethics) principles. It will also develop guidelines on Research Data Management for African researchers and coordinate training resources in this area. Finally, AfricArXiv will develop guidelines on inclusion criteria for non-standard datasets/data formats to be included in open access repositories.

The partnership will tap into CfA’s network of over 50 mainstream partner newsrooms, and wider African media industry associations, to encourage evidence-driven public discourse, while simultaneously boosting similar science communication initiatives at organisations such as the Kenya-based Training Centre in Science Communication (TCC Africa), the African Science Initiative (Ghana), the Nigeria-based African Science Literacy Network and Vilsquare Research and Development Centre, as well as the African chapter of the globally operating Open Science Hardware (AfricaOSH) community.

“Planners are working in the dark, with no real actionable data on which communities are most vulnerable, or where to bolster infrastructure and support services. Where there is data, it is often fragmented or offline. We’re aiming to help pull it together, as a freely available public resource,” says CfA chief executive, Justin Arenstein.

“Data alone is often meaningless without local context and influencing factors from cultural biases. We are therefore working with CfA on surfacing Africa-specific scientific research and local experts to help local planners, independent researchers and the media rapidly understand the underlying dynamics contributing to the spread of the virus, plus insights into what has and has not worked before in other similar health emergencies across Africa,” says Obasegun Ayodele, AfricArXiv advisor and Vilsquare CTO.

African scientists, as well as non-African scientists, working on topics directly related to the African regional context, from any discipline, who want to contribute to the initiative can submit COVID-19 relevant research and information, including peer-reviewed work on previous epidemics like Ebola, Zika, and other viral epidemics, as a text document (preprint, postprint), data set, presentation (PDF, PPT), poster or infographic (PNG, PDF) at

About Code for Africa

Code for Africa (CfA) is the continent’s largest network of civic technology and data journalism labs, with teams in teams countries. CfA builds digital democracy solutions that give citizens unfettered access to actionable information that empowers them to make informed decisions, and that strengthens civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability. This includes building infrastructure like the continent’s largest open data portals at openAFRICA and sourceAFRICA, as well as incubating initiatives as diverse as the africanDRONE network, the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative and the sensors.AFRICA air quality sensor network. CfA also manages that African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), which gives the continent’s best muckraking newsrooms the best possible forensic forensic data tools, digital security and whistleblower encryption to help improve their ability to tackle crooked politicians, organised crime and predatory big business. CfA also runs one of Africa’s largest skills development initiatives for digital journalists, and seed funds cross-border collaboration.

CfA Contact: (Justin Arenstein, Chris Roper, Amanda Strydom)

About AfricArXiv

AfricArxiv is a free, open source and community-led digital archive for African research. We provide a non-profit platform for African scientists to upload their working papers, preprints, accepted manuscripts (post-prints), and published papers. We also provide options to link data and code, and for article versioning. AfricArxiv is dedicated to speeding and opening up research and collaboration among African scientists and helping to build the future of scholarly communication.

AfricArXiv Contact: (Jo Havemann, Louise Bezuidenhout, Obasegun Ayodele)


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