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Bingwa Initiative to boost Covid-19 vaccination rate through youth engagement

Through youth engagement, the Bingwa Initiative, an initiative that seeks to establish a network of COVID-19 vaccination youth champions across the continent aims to increase the rate of covid-19 vaccination across Africa by 70 percent before 2023.

The strategy is also to get Africa’s young population to mobilise their peers, families, and communities to get vaccinated against the pandemic.

Speaking at the weekend during the covid-19 vaccination scalable models workshop in Lagos, Ngwenya Prudence Nonkululeko, the acting director of the African Union (AU) Commission’s Women, Gender and Youth Directorate said the AU Covid-19 Vaccination Bingwa Initiative is a response to the innovative ways requested by Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President during the African Union Heads of State Summit in January 2022.

“President Ramaphosa called for innovative ways to increase covid-19 vaccination rates to 70 percent by 2023,” she said. “This sparked the idea for the AU COVID-19 Vaccination Bingwa Initiative, co-led by the Women, Gender, and Youth Directorate and the Africa CDC.

“Bingwa is a Kiswahili word that means ‘Champion’, and we want to build a network of health champions throughout Africa,” she added.

Nonkululeko said a Bingwa activator is a vaccinated young person who commits to mobilising at least 10 people to get vaccinated and to using their resources to achieve the Bingwa initiative results, including reaching the 70 percent target.

“The initiative is a public-private-youth initiative driven by our partnerships, which include UNICEF, Mastercard Foundation, GIZ, Trace TV, Meta, TikTok, One Campaign, and many others,” she added.

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Also speaking at the event, Chrys Promesse Kaniki, senior technical officer for Strategic Programmes, Africa CDC executive office, said Africa’s vaccination rate as of yesterday was 20.2 percent, the lowest in the world.

Kaniki added that young people are the gateway to the larger community and have an abundance of innovation and creativity, ensuring that the 70 percent target is met.

“The Binigwa Initiative should be owned by local communities,” he said, adding that “a coalition of youths, media influencers, and religious leaders must be mobilised to promote the initiative.”

The AU COVID-19 Vaccination Bingwa Initiative collaborated with Trace TV, a youth-focused television network, to engage the creative community in creating more awareness content to promote Covid vaccination across the continent.

“A lot of people have died as a result of Covid.” It began as a joke, but it has since become serious. Misinformation about Covid’s side effects keeps people from getting vaccinated. “Having the right information and easy access to vaccines will increase the rate of vaccination,” Lanre Masha, Trace Anglophone West Africa’s head of Music and Broadcast, said.

Similarly, Nigerian music artist Chike Ezekpeazu Osebuka stated that using familiar faces to get the information passed access leads to more trust in the vaccination process and gives more credibility to the essence of getting vaccinated.” It is always better to be safe than sorry. It is less expensive to get the vaccine, which is free, than to seek treatment, which will be costly.”

“As global COVID restrictions loosen, we see a greater need for innovation in order to keep COVID-19 vaccinations on the agenda,” Osebuka added

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