Corona-free? How disinformation could be clouding the true pandemic picture in Africa

Publication Year
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Of the roughly 28.6 million cases of COVID-19 logged by the World Health Organization, only 1.1 million are in Africa, 4 percent of the global total. The relatively low number of cases, along with a similarly low figure for coronavirus deaths, has researchers stumped. But despite the coronavirus’s relatively light touch so far, the continent faces a problem familiar throughout the world: pandemic misinformation.

In a database that we maintain as part of a Princeton University project on COVID-19 misinformation narratives, a record of the false pandemic storylines that are repeated in social media posts, news stories, and political rhetoric, the number of false narratives circulating in Africa peaked in April before declining in subsequent months. This has happened even as the number of infections on the continent has increased. The lies include that a “Bill Gates” coronavirus vaccine is laced with poison, that the 2021 Kenyan presidential election could be delayed for two years, and that prayer can cure COVID-19.

Publication Topic
Politics and Public Opinion
Publication Type
Policy Article