AI against COVID-19 in Senegal and Mali


  • Professor Sylvain Faye, Université Cheik Anta Diop (UCAD), Dakar, Senegal
  • Doctor Lalla Mariam Haidara, Centre d’Études, de Recherche, de Communication et d’Animation pour le développement (CERCAD), Bamako, Mali

The models predicting the evolution of the pandemic as well as the measures to control it were first determined by international organizations and by the governments of the first countries affected by Covid-19 in the North, i.e. China, Singapore, Europe and North America. The South then followed suit, often building upon what had been done in the North. As a result, scientific predictions and public policies were mostly imported from the North to the South, without always accounting for the local context. In particular, the consequences of the public health crisis on the populations of Senegal and Mali were not considered beforehand. The social, economic, anthropological and ethical impacts of the measures adopted to combat the spread of the virus in the local context were especially overlooked.

At the same time, technologies based on AI and/or data science, such as contact tracing or patient triage applications in hospitals, have emerged in the North and have been used by some countries without any hindsight on the effectiveness and timeliness of these tools. They have also not been adapted to different social and cultural contexts. Senegal and Mali also use these technologies, which raises ethical and legal issues that need to be considered in the light of the countries' socio-political, economic and cultural contexts.

Our study draws from fields as varied as data science, epidemiology, socio-anthropology, ethics and the law. It is conducted by a multidisciplinary team working closely with local governments and communities.

The general goal of this research is:

To help the governments of Senegal and Mali be more effective in their fight against COVID-19 and future pandemics through mobilizing data science and ethical, responsible and suitable AI in Africa, inclusive of gender and vulnerable groups.

More specifically, this project aims to :

  • Inform public health policies, practices and interventions implemented in Mali and Senegal to fight against COVID-19 (and future pandemics), through context-specific transmission and disease spread modeling;
  • Have a better understanding of the socio-anthropological, ethical and legal dimensions of AI and data science-based technologies and techniques deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mali and Senegal;
  • Analyze the terms and conditions of a transparent and responsible governance of AI, data and digital rights around COVID-19, by supporting the governments in implementing specific legislation on AI ethics;
  • Strengthen capacity building in Senegal and Mali by sharing knowledge and skills on the legal and ethical aspects of AI, through a multidisciplinary lens.

This research project has two axes:

  1. Epidemiological modeling and socio-anthropological contextualization in Senegal and Mali;
  2. Adaptability of public health policies and social acceptability of AI technologies within ethical and human rights norms


This content has been updated on 1 March 2023 at 13 h 11 min.