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Keeping the nation in data darkness as a deliberate strategy


2006 Tutu Fellow Aidan Eyakuze has published a LinkedIn article about serious concerns around Tanzania’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aidan writes that Tanzanians have been allowed to continue moving around and trading freely, with only minimal requirements being observed like being required to wear a mask in public. Thus while it appears the country has adopted the controversial 'herd immunity' approach to the pandemic, it is doing so in data darkness.

Aidan is an economist, scenario practitioner and is a board member on the Global Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership.

He writes that no data has been released on the numbers of Covid-19 cases or deaths since late April 2020. At the time of his writing the piece in early June, only 652 tests had been reported. By the same date, more than 100,000 had been done in neighbouring Uganda; 95,000 in Kenya; and 75,000 in Rwanda.

As a strategy to limit the scope of the conclusions that can be drawn from data,Tanzania’s President Magufuli has discredited the reliability of testing done at the national laboratory and has spoken of the “fear-inducing effects of data”. Aidan warns that suppressing data distorts citizens’ understanding of the virus and hence their expectations and actions. This can then result in an aggravation of the situation.

Worse than this, is the possible erosion of trust, "especially for a government looking for re-election in October, as is the case for president Magufuli’s administration.” Moreover, data from neighbouring countries and scientific modelling done by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London suggests that the situation may indeed be dire for countries pursuing this data-dark minimally-restricted route.

Aidan say that based on the modelling and estimates done outside of the country, Tanzania was likely to have replaced South Africa with 23,615 cases as Africa’s coronavirus epicentre.  Of course, nobody knows.

Read the full article on LinkedIn. The image for this post is from his article.



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Thursday, 26 January 2023

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