By Ousmane Sambou, Afrobarometer communications coordinator for Francophone West Africa.
For its first Round 8 dissemination, Côte d’Ivoire national partner CREFDI decided to focus on democracy and the rule of law – highly relevant topics during this election year. They prepared the presentation and press releases. They sent out more than 200 invitations. Then COVID-19 struck.
Time to shift gears. Instead of bringing everyone together in person, CREFDI invited them to join an online presentation on YouTube and Zoom. Using graphics, they promoted the release via Twitter, Facebook, and the CREFDI website, and shared all of the documents widely via email. Two Zoom sessions allowed participants to ask questions and provide comments.
They also conducted a targeted release for FOSCAO (the West Africa Civil Society Forum), limiting the number of participants and respecting social distance measures.
Michel Kaphalo Ségorbah Silwé, executive director of CREFDI, says the online presentation worked well, drawing an audience of 100 on release day and additional views since then and producing at least 10 media articles.
One challenge was limited time for making the transition from in-person to online presentation. Ideally, such an online session should be preceded by a lengthy series of periodic reminders and engagement with more regional media, such as RFI, BBC, Panapress, etc.
With public interest focused on the pandemic, it would probably also be easier to get public and media attention with topics related to COVID-19, such as citizens’ access to water and sanitation, their views of the health system, their trust in officials, etc. In fact, CREFDI has revised its dissemination plan accordingly.
But even in a time of COVID-19, Silwé says, democracy and the rule of law are important topics to discuss – especially in an election year.