- In Africa, only 6% of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- This compares to more than 70% of high-income countries where 40% of the population has been vaccinated.
- High infection rates are setting Africa back, but young innovators across the continent are deploying social entrepreneurship skills to fight the pandemic from the get-go.
The statistics are bleak: only 77 million people have been fully vaccinated against the new coronavirus in Africa – this is only 6% of the population. By comparison, more than 70% of high-income countries have already vaccinated more than 40% of their population.
Stubbornly high infection rates, with recurrent spikes every few months, are leading to catastrophic loss of livelihood, disruptions in education and fraying social safety nets. African governments and international organizations struggle to provide access to care and keep local people safe.
Amid this struggle, there is a force that has the power to change the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic: young innovators across the continent deploying a range of social entrepreneurship skills to improve things from the ground up .
Across Africa, there are thousands of social entrepreneurs leading organizations that serve the most vulnerable and marginalized in society. During the pandemic, they have played a vital role in responding to the immediate health and livelihood needs of those at risk of being left behind. Often they have done this using business principles and the best private sector techniques.
The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs
We would argue that there has been no other challenge for which their approach is more suited, which is why the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship lends its support through the COVID response alliance for social entrepreneurs. The Alliance brings together 86 member organizations that recognize the crucial role social entrepreneurs play in supporting the most vulnerable during and after the pandemic.
Together, these organizations support an estimated 100,000 entrepreneurs who together influence nearly two billion people. For example, when the Delta variant boomed in India, Alliance members published a list of the top 50 last-mile responders in India, each bringing vital resources, information and networks to the fight against COVID-19.
The situation in Africa is similar: At a time when mainstream support systems have been overwhelmed, these social entrepreneurs have consistently stepped up to fill the gaps, especially in hard-to-reach poor or rural communities.
The innovation, action and energy of Africa’s youth – totaling more than 200 million people across the continent – is incredibly important to get to the other side of the pandemic.
In recognition of Africa’s vibrant youth demographic, and in an effort to shift the vaccine status quo, the World Economic Forum launched a campaign that brought together 108 Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers from six continents. Launched on International Youth Day 2021, the campaign has representatives from 33 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
These communities of Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers—next-generation leaders chosen by the World Economic Forum for their extraordinary potential—are the enabling force needed to accelerate equitable vaccine deployment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. . They have started collecting basic data regarding access to vaccines; heightened demand challenges by debunking myths and misconceptions that fueled vaccine hesitancy, and influenced decision-makers to support equitable allocation frameworks.
Together, the Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers are amplifying their message on social media platforms, advocating for global vaccine solidarity and calling for vaccines for all. In addition, the communities are working with a larger group of young people to develop people-oriented prioritization plans to promote vaccine availability for all citizens, including hard-to-reach populations.
The COVID crisis is far from over. Several key areas still need to be addressed, including prevention and protection, treatment and emergency response, inclusive access to vaccines and securing livelihoods. The 1.2 billion people in Africa cannot be left behind in the effort to put the pandemic behind us.
We owe it to future generations and to ourselves to support local entrepreneurs and activists. They have the power to change the trajectory of COVID-19 in Africa and beyond. Together they bring the energy, ideas, creativity and hope that are missing in these dark days of COVID-19.
We at the World Economic Forum’s Health Platform, along with our Global Shaper and Leader communities, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, and members of the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, are committed to doing what we can to help them help lead. We invite others to participate.