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Facebook broadens info centres in Sub-Saharan Africa

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 14 Apr 2020

Social media giant Facebook has expanded its efforts to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by scaling up its coronavirus information centres to cater for 17 more countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The information centres form part of Facebook’s effort to help the global fight against COVID-19 by providing people with the latest news and information from trusted health authorities, as well as resources and tips to stay healthy and support their family and community.

Facebook’s head of public policy for Africa, Kojo Boakye, explains the importance of the latest move: “We’ve built the information centres, in collaboration with national health partners, to ensure people can get access to information from trusted health sources.

“The launch of the COVID-19 information centre on Facebook in more than 17 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa aligns with our commitment to making accurate, timely information about the pandemic accessible to all communities.”

The social media company’s coronavirus information centre is featured at the top of News Feed, which provides a central place for people to keep informed about the coronavirus.

“It includes real-time updates from national health authorities and global organisations such as the World Health Organisation, as well as helpful articles, videos and posts about social distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Facebook users can opt in to follow the centre to get notifications and see updates in their News Feed from official government health authorities,” says the company.

The centre has already launched in SA, and will be expanded to the following Sub-Saharan African markets: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo.

Facebook has been at the forefront of helping to fight the global pandemic despite the company’s business being adversely affected.

Writing on a recent Facebook blog, Alex Schultz, VP of analytics, and Jay Parikh, VP of engineering, said COVID-19 has upended the lives of billions of people around the world and in response to this emergency, Facebook has been supporting the global public health community and working to provide people with information to help them stay safe.

“As the pandemic expands and more people practise physically distancing themselves from one another, this has also meant many more people are using our apps.”

At the beginning of March, Facebook announced it will run free adverts for the World Health Organisation, which share credible and accurate information on COVID-19.

Facebook has also launched key resources to help faith groups stay connected and engaged during the outbreak.

It says the resources include the “Faith on Facebook Resource Hub” and the Faith on Facebook toolkit, both providing guidance and step-by-step tips that faith-based groups can use to keep their communities engaged while observing social distancing.

Facebook Africa regional director Nunu Ntshingila says: “At a time like this, our mission has never been more relevant: to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

“We know that faith leaders across Africa are grappling with the unexpected challenges in serving their members digitally, and we’re committed to providing them with the resources and tools to support them as much as possible.

“Our ultimate goal is to equip faith-based communities with the tools to help them continue faith conversations throughout the pandemic.”