The 2nd Symposium of “Exploration of Practical Wisdom and Resilience Overcoming Downside Risk”

  • Date:
  • Time:
    18:30-20:30 (JST)
  • Location:
    Online Seminar (Zoom Webinar)
    The Zoom Webinar URL will be delivered by email on the day before this event.
  • Language:

    English (Japanese interpretation available)

  • Host:

    SDGs Collaborative Research Unit, Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI), the University of Tokyo

  • Co-host:

    Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS)

    *The Institute for Future Initiatives and Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS) collect personal information in order to provide you with the event URL and information about our current and future activities. Your personal information will not be disclosed to any third party.


Registration is now closed for this event.

SDGs Collaborative Research Unit at the Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI) of the University of Tokyo and Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS) have conducted an international collaborative research project on “Exploration of Practical Wisdom and Resilience Overcoming Downside Risk – Collecting grassroots voices in Africa under COVID-19” supported by the Hitachi Fund Support for Research Related to Infectious Diseases.

This research project aims to classify and assess the real and perceived risks associated with both Covid-19 and government responses to the pandemic in seven African countries. It also aims to elucidate the people’s resilience in overcoming the risks. We have collected daily grassroots voices in African seven countries, DR Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. We shall also collaborate with research institutions in the countries. Through that, this research will contribute to improving aid policy and business strategies.

At this symposium, which marks two years since the start of the research project, we will report on the progress of the research, in addition to the survey outcome in two years, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda teams will present their survey results. The Ethiopian team investigated the impact of religion, faith, or the misinformation being disseminated on COVID-19 Vaccination. The Uganda team has conducted field interviews in four urban districts and six rural districts to find out the grassroots views and perceptions regarding government interventions and the politicization of COVID-19 in Uganda. The South African team has conducted large-scale questionnaire survey and interviews on the experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the presentations, we would be grateful to discuss with participants towards improving our research.

  • Overview

    Kazuyo HANAI, Project Assistant Professor, the University of Tokyo

  • Presentation 1:

    “Beliefs and Shots: Understanding the Dynamics of Faith, Religion, and Misinformation in COVID-19 Vaccination Uptake in Ethiopia.”

    Christian S. OTCHIA, Associate Professor, Nagoya University

  • Presentation 2:

    “Examining Grassroots Perceptions of Government Interventions during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Uganda”

    Wakiko OHIRA, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harvard University

  • Presentation 3:

    “Middle-Class Experience of COVID-19 in South Africa”

    Tomohiro HOSOI, PhD Student, the University of Tokyo

  • Comments

    Masaki INABA, Program Director for Global Health, Africa Japan Forum

  • Questions and Answers

*This symposium is sponsored by the Hitachi Fund Support for Research Related to Infectious Diseases.

On February 9, 2024, the SDGs Collaborative Research Unit at the Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI) of the University of Tokyo and the Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS) co-organized the second symposium entitled “Exploration of Practical Wisdom and Resilience Overcoming Downside Risk: Collecting grassroots voices in Africa under COVID-19.”  The first symposium’s report is here.

To start, Kazuyo Hanai (Project Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo) gave an overview of the symposium. This symposium aims to further illuminate the situation in Africa, where various risks are being faced due to COVID-19, and the practical knowledge of the people based on research results from the previous year and further on-site investigations. The symposium featured presentations from members of the collaborative research project: Christian S. Otchia (Associate Professor at Nagoya University), Wakiko Ohira (Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University), and Tomohiro Hosoi (Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tokyo). The commentator was Masaki Inaba (the Program Director of Global Health at Africa Japan Forum).

In his presentation, Associate Professor Otchia listed measures taken by individuals and communities on social media and on the ground in Africa, illustrating the reality of diverse risk perceptions. The presentation focused on the disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates across countries in Africa and analyzed the impact of three factors—1) general misinformation beliefs, 2) conspiracy beliefs, and 3) religious misinformation beliefs—on vaccination behavior in Ethiopia based on quantitative surveys. While factors 1) and 2) had a negative impact, it was found that factor 3) did not influence behavior. Despite the high demand for vaccines, the low COVID-19 vaccination uptake tends to be attributed to the widespread dissemination of misinformation, even when vaccine availability is taken into account. Effectively addressing local risks requires precise communication strategies that leverage trusted institutions and “social media influencers”.

Doctor Ohira’s presentation focused on government intervention in Uganda, described as a semi-authoritarian state. The specific analysis centered on how the ruling party utilized the pandemic and how citizens perceived government intervention. Local investigations and interviews with 172 individuals revealed that the ruling party, among other actions, restricted public gatherings and prevented opposition candidates from conducting election campaigns. Citizens, while recognizing the unfair election practices by the central government, still appreciated the central government’s policies as important for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting lives. However, policies of recentralization that have constrained the governing capacity of local governments, a longstanding practice of the ruling party, have created a situation where local governments are unable to respond to COVID-19. Citizens’ mistrust of local governments could potentially impact future elections in Uganda.

The final presentation by Doctor Hosoi introduced a case study from South Africa. In contrast to previous studies focusing on the low-income or fragile population, this presentation focused on the middle-class in South Africa. Through online surveys and qualitative interviews, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and prevention policies, as well as people’s policy evaluations and practical knowledge to mitigate risks, were revealed. As a result, it was found that the middle-class, which has been affected by the multifaceted impact of COVID-19, attempted to alleviate stress through various means such as dialogue, entertainment, and consumption. Although they did not trust the government in general, they highly evaluated the government’s initial response and lockdown policies. However, they were also critical of policies such as inadequate support for the impoverished and the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

In response to the three presentations, Program Director Inaba provided comments from an international perspective. He noted that in the era of compound crises, the pandemic has highlighted not only severe domestic social inequalities but also the gap between the Global South and the Global North. Regarding responses to the pandemic, he pointed out that there is a lack of mention and proposals for legal and political approaches based on local conditions, with medical, financial and geopolitical perspectives being predominant. All three presentations highlighted important findings regarding the increase and decrease in risks due to government intervention and the evaluation of such policies by the public. Amidst discussions on responses to misinformation and the decolonization in developing countries, the African cases provide a focused view on further discussion.

During the Q&A session, multidimensional questions were raised regarding local mechanisms surrounding COVID-19, such as differences in religion/faith and the effectiveness of response measures. Strategies to address risks may not only involve existing power structures in Africa but also have the potential to change people’s political, cultural, and social engagement. In the face of multiple crises in the current situation, our ability to discern the location and interconnectedness of risks is crucial.

*This symposium is sponsored by the Hitachi Fund Support for Research Related to Infectious Diseases.