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Amujae Leader Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr shares why locally-led solutions and community engagement are critical in the fight against COVID-19

Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE recently appeared on a podcast hosted by The Tällberg Foundation’s chair, Alan Stoga, to discuss African countries’ approaches to tackling COVID-19. She was joined by Carole Wainaina, Chief Operating Officer of Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform founded by the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr shared how the pandemic is accelerating an economic slowdown in many African countries, impacting trade while exacerbating pre-existing challenges such as informal settlements in cities like Freetown:

“We’re dealing with a pandemic where your first protective measure is physical distance and handwashing – two things, which in a setting where informality is the key feature are very difficult to achieve. So the pandemic has had a significant impact economically but it has also really put a spotlight on our vulnerability to pandemics and our inability or the challenges with responding to something as simple as establishing physical distance, handwashing, and any sort of concept of a lockdown where living day-to-day is a feature of life for most people.”

She also emphasized the importance of exploring solutions to challenges from a “local level”, supporting social infrastructure and enabling entrepreneurship. She cited an initiative established in Freetown to harvest rainwater in order to enable handwashing as an example of a context-appropriate solution developed in collaboration with local communities:

“We have moved forward with providing rainwater harvesting systems within these communities. These rainwater harvesting systems need to be managed. That creates an opportunity for some level of community dynamic and engagement, which can be maintained beyond the pandemic.”

You can listen to the full podcast here.

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