Covid-19 – C’est quoi même ? The programme combating COVID-19 in the Sahel region

September 18, 2020

While the virus remains a threat on the African continent, the weekly social affairs magazine programme produced by RAES* and CFI is continuing with its information and awareness-raising activities across a number of platforms.

Covid-19, c'est quoi même ? [COVID-19, what is it?] was broadcast across the Sahel region in French and 15 local languages between June and August 2020.

A broadcast to support populations in the Sahel region

The French version of the show, which was hosted with a great deal of warmth and generosity by Soro Solo, took an offbeat look at the COVID-19 pandemic. A new topic was addressed each week: “COVID-19 and geopolitics", “COVID-19 and parenthood", “Culture impacted by COVID-19", etc. The show was broken down into different sections that shed light on the challenges posed by COVID-19 through discussions and by looking at citizens' initiatives.

The clear objective is to share all that is being said about the pandemic in Africa and around the world with you explained Soro Solo, the host of Covid-19, c'est quoi même ?. All the content you hear during our half-hour sessions comes from all over Africa... Columnists, storytellers and comedians. Internet hackers and digital gold miners. Local stakeholders, community initiative champions. Doctors, researchers and care workers. And of course artists who are using their music to combat COVID-19 and to entertain us...

These 30-minute magazine programmes are shared with partner radio stations in six countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal and Mauritania) which adapt them to the local context of COVID-19 and translate them into the most widely spoken local languages to better reach the populations. This adaptation work is facilitated by the production guides, which are also provided to the partner stations, and include programme mock-ups, working tips and technical training modules such as “How to record a remote column" or “How to properly record and edit telephone voices in a report or interview".

Léa Balima, trainer for Burkina Faso and technician at Radio Municipale de Dori


Trainers are also involved with a view to boosting the editorial skills of the partners through coaching and production support sessions. They were able to overcome the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic by successfully conducting their activities remotely.
The feedback received from the radio stations benefiting from this innovative scheme has been very positive:
We received a note (the guide) that was very well explained, said Birama Konaré, who hosts the programme on Joliba FM (Mali). “It went extremely well."We were a little apprehensive to begin with, but the use of the guide went extremely well, including for the teams who were able to compare the way in which they do things with the guide and who were able to take on board additional expertise. We can see that there is always a silver lining.

The next step for the partner radio stations is to produce programmes that allow sensitive topics, such as “COVID-19 and the financial crisis" and “COVID-19 and religion" to be addressed with the same playful and humorous tone.

For me, the most interesting topic, asserted Birama Konaré, who hosts the programme on Joliba FM (Mali), was “COVID-19 and religion", which saw the involvement of religious leaders, because they speak to a very wide audience. We were met with some resistance to begin with, but it was important to give them a platform to speak and to explain that COVID is real, and to request that people comply with the barrier measures, particularly in the national languages. They recognised that this was being done for benevolent reasons and they agreed to make recommendations.

A total of 27 radio stations participated in the project “It was imperative that the show be anchored in the Sahel region."Covid-19 – C'est quoi même ? The programmes were broadcast in French and 15 local languages: Dyula, Fula and Mossi in Burkina Faso; Bambara, Soninke and Songhai in Mali; Pulaar and Hassaniya in Mauritania; Hausa, Tamasheq and Zarma in Niger; Wolof and Serer in Senegal; and Chadian Arabic and Ngambay in Chad. This coverage allowed all of the territories to be reached, including the most remote areas.

Listeners are thirsty for appropriate information,, explained Soro Solo, and they need to be able to recognise themselves in the people who are speaking to them. It was therefore appropriate to translate the information into a range of languages widely spoken in the Sahel region, the preferred geographical area for the project.

Wide dissemination on social networks

As soon as Covid-19, c'est quoi même ?, was launched, the decision was made to run a parallel campaign on the internet and social networks. The aim was to reach the populations most active in the digital world, young people in particular.

Each programme was accompanied by digital content created on the basis of the various sections of the show: “citizens' initiatives", “tales of corona" and “comedy shorts". These sound bites were also disseminated on RAES' Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts, as well as on web media in the Sahelian countries. Influencers such as Halima Guadji, Fatou Jupiter Touré and Alphizi in Senegal; Général Tchoutchoubatchou in Burkina Faso; and Fibaara in Mali also lent their support to this digital campaign by organising live broadcasts on social media.

A technician in action at Radio Municipale de Dori

It is important that young people have the correct information, , explained Birama Konaré, who hosts the show on Joliba FM (Mali), since there are many who do not believe in the pandemic. It is important that they understand the issues, protect themselves and act as spokespeople in their communities and ambassadors to their families.

Citizen video reports have also been produced in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. This content allows citizens to talk about subjects related to their daily lives. “Raising awareness in markets", “Complying with social distancing in mosques" and “Self-medication, the other evil of the pandemic" were all topics covered by the reports, which listeners can find online on social media and on the RAES Facebook page.

The offshoots from the programme appearing on social media have allowed a very large audience of young people to be reached, particularly by giving a voice to those who are committed to fighting the pandemic.

“...young people are the future!!!", a slogan that we hear time and again from all of the world's politicians. Rather than repeating an electoral slogan, “Covid-19 c'est quoi même" has given the floor to young people, among others, allowing them to tell their stories and to talk about the actions they are taking to combat the catastrophe",, explained Soro Solo.
I am thinking of all the young artists from all four corners of the continent who have played music to inform and raise awareness of coronavirus. I am thinking of the young computer hackers from “Wakatlab" who made protective masks and artificial respirators and provided them to hospitals in Ouagadougou free of charge. I am thinking of the WenakLabs collective in Chad, which is disseminating a full arsenal of information on the web in order to protect young people against misinformation. The list goes on.

The French version of the show can be found on the Facebook page of RAES, an NGO:

* RAES is a Senegalese NGO that has 15 years of experience in education through entertainment and carries out media production and social mobilisation activities.

Covid-19 c'est quoi même ? is part of the CFI MédiaSahel project, supported by the French Development Agency (AFD) as part of the French COVID-19 – Health in Common, initiative.