Kenya: the Quiz Show Combatting Covid-19

Innovative TV format helps dispel fake news and fear-mongering around the virus.

Kenya: the Quiz Show Combatting Covid-19

Innovative TV format helps dispel fake news and fear-mongering around the virus.

Setting up the studio for For Facts Sake quiz show.
Setting up the studio for For Facts Sake quiz show. © Africa Uncensored
Friday, 1 October, 2021

Nearly two years into the pandemic, with Covid-19 fatigue high, IWPR partners Africa Uncensored have come up with a fresh way to combat disinformation: a quiz, with proper prize money and a presenter.

Currently broadcast online, For Fact’s Sake tests the audience on their level of Covid-19 awareness and whether they can identify misinformation, as a way of connecting with younger audiences who are amongst the hardest to reach for public health education.

“We've packaged it in a nice, fun way,” explained Africa Uncensored reporter and ARN project manager Emmanuel Chenze. “The goal here is to keep the audience interested and to keep them informed. Audiences here have Covid fatigue, people have consumed so much content around the virus.

“There’s prize money, of course, to incentivise people to participate and learn. If you win the very first episode, you can choose to take your money, and not participate in the second round. Or you can take the risk and go against people in the next round.”

Africa Uncensored is the Kenyan partner for the Africa Resilience Network (ARN), an IWPR programme building a network of journalists, activists and analysts to identify and expose Covid-19 related disinformation.

Fake news around the virus is rife in Kenya, as elsewhere around the world. Disinformation varies from wild theories that the virus is a plot to kill Africans to a proliferation of folk cures claiming to cure or prevent the illness. Public figures, politicians and religious leaders alike have all added to the rumour mill, with social media the perfect means for such stories to spread.

Africa Uncensored has prioritised identifying Covid-19 disinformation since the start of the pandemic.

“We developed a system that allows us to poll audiences directly, called Piga Firimbi, which is Swahili for ‘blow the whistle,’” Chenze continued. “We also have a data fact-checking desk, and on a day-to-day basis, we identify misinformation, fact-check it and publish the results. In the two years since we started the initiative we've gathered a lot of data from audiences which usually informs our long-term projects.”

The team used this audience research to devise a quiz programme, trialling it in April this year and launching it online in May. There are plans for the initial ten-episode show to be broadcast on Kenyan TV, but the hope is for it to be viewed across Africa and beyond.

“We hope to put this show on as many platforms as possible, in the future, also expanded scope to cover the rest of the East African region, the rest of the continent, and hopefully the world,” Chenze said.

“Misinformation campaigns being run online are not limited to any one geographical space: we have misinformation campaigns in Kenya that originate from India, Russia and Eastern Europe.”

Chenze explained that the official approach to Covid-19 education was very dry and unengaging, adding, “We need to use creativity to combat disinformation. I'm not a psychologist, but I think it has a lot to do with how we take in information.

“Right now there are government vaccination campaigns all over the place. and they're mostly in government rhetoric, very boring language,” he continued. “When you're looking at a country where around 60 per cent of the population is very young, you have to figure out very innovative ways of getting attention.”

The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that it tends to be an older, more respected generation who were the leading proponents of fake news.

Kenya plans to vaccinate ten million adults against the virus by December 2021, prioritising health workers, teachers and those over 50. Kenya has authorised the use of the AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccines, but roll-out has been slow and many older people who have received their first dose are failing to turn up for their second.  

“Right now the older generation are often the first line to spread the misinformation, especially about vaccines. You can't count on them to recruit the young ones, for instance, to go get vaccinated, or to mask up or take all these COVID-19 precautions. So you have to find a very creative way of bringing the pandemic to life.”

Chenze gave the analogy of airline safety procedure.

“Some airlines give very boring, generic information, and no one is following it, people are on their phones or the inflight [entertainment]. But it's very important information: where your life jacket and oxygen mask is.

“Some airlines have found very creative ways for that two minute window where the safety measures are being demonstrated. You have everyone's attention, and everyone is glued to their screen watching. This is one of those kinds of scenarios. We really want everyone to hear the safety information.”

This publication was produced as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Africa Uncensored.

Support our journalists