The year 2020 will be memorable for the world and especially for the current 8th AFRIKA KOMMT! Fellowship (AK 8) intake due to the unique set of challenges and opportunities that have resulted. At the beginning of the year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced countries close their borders and issue travel restrictions to minimize the transmission of a disease that had infected millions of people and resulted in the death of thousands across the globe.
The AK 8 fellows found themselves many miles away from home, in Germany, unable to travel back to their families or friends. Whilst they were safe and adjusting to the new way of life, they were concerned about how the crisis would affect their families, friends and communities in their home countries, having witnessed the impact COVID-19 was having in Germany and Europe as a whole. The fellows were resolute to support the pandemic response efforts in Africa, albeit from a distance.
For this reason, and based on their local country knowledge, the fellows swiftly wrote concept notes proposing projects that would contribute to the efforts mounted by governments and international organizations in fighting the pandemic. These projects addressed various issues around the crisis and ranged from training and capacity building, enhancing COVID-19 testing capacity, improving access to water and sanitation to a campaign against the stigmatization of people who had tested positive and recovered from the virus. Several of AK partner companies, namely B. Braun Melsungen AG, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Merck KGaA, Robert Bosch GmbH and WILO SE, supported the fellows’ projects by providing expertise, advise, financial assistance and donations.
The first of these projects ‘An anti-stigma campaign to address COVID-19 myths’ was launched in July with the first of a series of animated videos that will provide education on various topics around COVID-19 in Africa. In this animation, two characters Nia and Mami, have a conversation about ending stigma against those who have been diagnoses and recovered from coronavirus. The animation is available in English, French, Swahili, Nigeria Pidgin and Yoruba, making it accessible to at least 900million African people.
Another of the projects ‘Public health education on COVID-19 transmission, prevention, screening and referral protocols’ is also currently being implemented in Kenya in cooperation with Merck Family Foundation (MFF). The project has trained and equipped 60 community health volunteers (CHV) in mitigating the pandemic at a local level. The 60 volunteers will then in turn conduct sensitization campaigns on COVID-19 prevention measures targeting 10,000 households across five sub-counties in Kenya. The CHV will also provide reusable facemasks, hand sanitizers, soaps and vouchers to the most vulnerable within the community.
Further to these, several other projects proposals have received funding and moved to the implementation phase. These are being executed in Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia among other countries.
Besides supporting the COVID-19 response efforts within and beyond their home countries, and the associated fulfilment, the fellows got the opportunity to network, collaborate and work with teams from different partner companies other than the one they had their Fellowship in. They were also got more experience working with cross functional and intercultural teams.
AFRIKA KOMMT! strives to building bridges between Germany and African countries and these AK fellow-led projects, are a demonstration of how critical these partnerships can be, particularly in a time of crisis.