Our Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Equipping Leaders to Confront the Crisis

Covid-19 Covid-19

Our Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Equipping Leaders to Confront the Crisis

Posted on: 15th December 2020

    A Message From Our Chief Executive

    A Message From Our Chief Executive

    At the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, our mission is to support leaders with the challenges they face. We believe that politics done well has the power to transform lives and that what political leaders need are practical solutions. When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill earlier this year, it presented the biggest challenge leaders have faced in a generation and it was unique in that it affected every country in the world. Practically overnight we took the decision to dedicate all our staff to help fight the pandemic and refocused our efforts on responding to this unprecedented global crisis. With teams working in more than 20 countries and providing advice and resources to a greater number, our focus since March has been to support leaders to help them make the right decisions and take the right actions in this challenging context.

    With a particular focus on Africa, the expert team in our Government Advisory division has applied its experience of working closely with leaders and governments on the continent to help them respond quickly to the health and economic issues. We have highlighted the particular needs and challenges of these societies and have been a strong advocate for international efforts to support them.

    Our Policy Futures division has delivered analysis and practical policy solutions to help countries limit the loss of life, mitigate economic impact, harness the power of technology and position themselves for recovery. We have led debates on issues such as mass testing and the use of masks, and we have advocated for strategies to exit lockdowns and for the use of technologies to help manage the disease. Since March we have produced more than 80 reports and briefings, supported by numerous print and broadcast media interventions, social media engagement and online events as we seek to influence the debate and inform public policy. At the heart of our work is a belief in the benefit of clear political leadership and practical, innovative and workable solutions. Our teams have engaged with a huge range of experts from the corporate, medical, scientific, industrial and academic sectors as well as political leaders and policymakers to catalyse effective responses to the pandemic. Our Executive Chairman, Tony Blair, has been at the forefront of this engagement as he has sought to support leaders in their response, while engaging with key international figures and institutions to promote effective and collaborative international initiatives to confront the pandemic. 

    We have worked with governments in 20 countries

    We have published 54 reports on Covid-19

    We have published 35 toolkits for African governments

    Our most popular report on Covid-19 has had 15,135 unique users

    A snapshot of outputs of our Covid-19 response from mid-March until mid-June

    Like so many organisations, our internal response to address the pandemic has been considerable.  The safety and well-being of our people across multiple geographies was, and still is, our primary concern. We have had to adapt to new ways of remote working and have had to make special efforts to stay engaged and connected with each other. Everyone has embraced new technologies and ways of working; people have taken on different roles and as an organisation we have pulled together to support the leaders we work with as best we can. The response from every person in our organisation to ensure that we can deliver on our mission has been extraordinary.

    In this report, we reflect on our response to Covid-19 by providing in-depth analysis of our efforts from mid-March until mid-June, with an emphasis on how the Institute has influenced the debate, offered practical policy solutions and supported governments in deploying effective crisis management, rapid problem-solving and innovation.

    The challenge of this pandemic is by no means over, and the Institute will continue to support leaders as they address the health challenges and deal with its long-term economic implications. We will also continue to advocate for effective international cooperation to address this and future global challenges.

    Chief Executive, London, December 2020

    Policy Futures in the Context of Covid-19

    Policy Futures in the Context of Covid-19

    Our Policy Futures teams – made up of experts and analysts from our UK Policy, Technology and Public Policy, and Covid-19 response teams – have released a series of reports offering expert analysis to inform policymakers’ thinking and to influence the debate in three key areas relating to the pandemic: public health, exit strategies and the use of technology. This thematic focus is based on the challenges emerging from the crisis and the difficult decisions faced by government. In addition to these focus areas, TBI’s Extremism Policy Unit published timely, evidence-based products to help policymakers make sense of Covid-19-related developments across the extremism landscape and respond effectively.

    Public Health:
    A Summary of Our Reports

    Covid-19 has created the most severe global public-health emergency in modern memory. As governments around the world have scrambled to impose measures to mitigate the health impacts of the virus, TBI has sought to influence these discussions by offering expert analysis and insights moulded into practical recommendations for containing its spread and reducing risk of infection.

    It is all about getting to mass testing as fast as possible because we have to know who has the disease and has had the disease in order to get the lockdown eased.

    TBI published a total of nine papers on public health between mid-March and mid-June, including a five-part series highlighting the importance of mass testing in the UK. The overarching argument made in these reports is that mass testing at scale, supported by the rollout of an effective track-and-trace system, is vital to ending and avoiding economically damaging lockdowns and to living alongside Covid-19. The reports recommended testing targets to the UK government and also proposed that a crisis-management centre should be established and overseen by a senior “Minister for Testing” whose primary responsibility should be ensuring these targets are hit. Our recommended approach was later reflected in the governments’ decision to create five new ministerial taskforces, which were launched mid-May. The series also noted that antibody tests – while not sufficient on their own to respond to Covid-19 – can be a valuable tool when combined with antigen tests.  

    In addition to mass testing, we have also published public-health reports on mask-wearing, therapeutics and vaccines. We published our report on face masks on 3 May, before the debate over mask-wearing by the general public had fully ignited and well in advance of the UK government’s 4 June announcement that face coverings would be mandatory on public transport from 15 June. Meanwhile, our reports on therapeutics and vaccines argued that greater global coordination is needed between big pharma and governments to improve the speed and efficiency of developing treatments and an effective vaccine for Covid-19, as well as making them available on the mass market. 

    Our public-health reports have been shared among our networks and read by MPs involved in developing the UK government health strategy, and they have also seen uptake in the pharmaceuticals industry. More recently our work in this area has focused on effective strategies for crucial sectors such as education and international travel.


    Timeliness and reaching your target audience are essential when influencing policy, especially in moments when action is required.1 ODI, 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HOW TO INFLUENCE POLICY WITH RESEARCH, 2017, link Having worked closely with and provided advice to members of parliament for years, TBI has a strong network and relationships with decision-makers in the UK government as well as influencers outside of government that are crucial in shaping the debate. With our reports we have offered political leaders in the UK government practical solutions to topical and pressing challenges. For example, when the government committed to reaching 100,000 tests a day before 1 May, we proposed a new structure around decision-making in order to achieve testing at scale with speed. Although outside of the timeline of this report, we have seen the efforts of our work being recognised, particularly in the announcement by health secretary Matt Hancock on 19 August that the UK government was working to implement mass testing. Mass testing, as a thread running through all our health papers, has always been one of our key points. In our sixth paper on testing, published on 17 August, we advocated for the government to make establishing a mass-testing regime its core objective.

    Click to view our interactive timeline of TBI interventions on Covid-19 in the UK

    Uptake and Reach:

    Our public-health reports have been aimed at supporting and influencing government decision-making, which we pursue by directly reaching out to MPs through our networks and mailings. Our reports have also reached a wider audience via media outlets.

    The Independent, for example, with 24.5 million unique website visitors per month,2 Link accessed on 05.08.2020 covered our work on testing in an article on 5 June, stating that: “A report by [Tony Blair’s] think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said the UK’s approach to testing is chiefly concentrated on lab-based tests for those with symptoms and critical workers. But it instead urges the Government to ‘shift at speed’ to building a mass testing regime, rather than continuing with targeted and controlled testing.”

    Our work has also been included and referenced in Politico’s daily newsletter, as part of the Playbook interview with Jeremy Hunt, as well as in their daily newsfeed on 7 May. The Telegraph (with a monthly reach of 29 million  unique views3 Link accessed on 05.08.2020) reported on our paper on face shields on 12 June.

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    Public Health Report

    Covid-19 Testing in the UK: Unpicking the Lockdown

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    In particular, ministers should listen carefully to Tony Blair. That is not an easy sentence for me to write, given that I spent four years of my life as his official arch-enemy. But the report published earlier this month by his Institute for Global Change argues persuasively for the Government to prepare now for testing on a truly massive scale – involving millions of tests every week as people enter the country, arrive at work, attend conferences or just decide to go out.

    Story of Change: TBI and Curative4 TBI had no prior relationship with and does not receiving funding from Curative

    Many of our public-health policy interventions have led to newly established connections and collaborations, resulting in concrete outcomes. As part of our work on advocating for a mass-testing strategy in the UK, TBI has been working with a network of innovative testing providers. We have sought to highlight innovation and opportunities in responding effectively to the crisis. An example of this is our collaboration with Curative in relation to their saliva-based Covid-19 Rt-PCR test. When TBI and Curative first established contact, Curative was struggling to get its test validated by the UK government, and since that time it has become the biggest testing provider in the USA. Given our objective of building an ecosystem of testing providers, we have used the insight from Curative's interactions with government to inform our recommendations on how government can build this ecosystem.

    Exit Strategies:
    A Summary of Our Reports

    TBI published a total of seven papers intended to inform the UK government’s strategy for exiting the strict period of lockdown implemented in the spring to stop the spread of Covid-19. Our Renewing the Centre (RtC) team – which focuses on UK policy – tapped into the key topics of debate surrounding exit strategies at local, national and international levels, and developed practical policy recommendations aimed at the UK government to help it limit the risk of loss of life and reduce the economic impact of strict containment measures. The resulting publications examined the trade-offs between economic and public-health interests that come into play as part of any discussion on the potential easing or tightening of restrictions, and also provided economic reflections on the response.

    The important thing now is to make sure you build … the infrastructure of containment, so that you’ve all the different measures in place – testing, tracking, tracing, mask, making sure protective equipment is in place – so that you can start to open back up your economy and society because otherwise the damage that the measures will do will be so immense that you’re going to spend years recovering from it.

    The first paper explored six potential exit scenarios and assessed the economic and health implications of each. This report was followed by a second that reflected on lessons learned from the lockdown, examined options for better containing the spread of the virus and shielding vulnerable individuals, and began to provide an outline of an exit plan. A third paper drew on an analysis of exit strategies developed overseas and considered what the key components of an effective roadmap to reopening are, as well as how the government could support people and businesses to better manage the uncertainty by providing an indication of what a new normal could look like. In line with the government’s challenges at the time and the development of the knowledge about the spread of the virus, the next paper proposed an early-warning system based on an econometric model to assess relationships between physical mobility and the rate of infection. The final two papers analysed how the government could regain public confidence following a decline in trust.   


    After the UK government introduced a test with five conditions for easing the lockdown in mid-April (and a roadmap in mid-May), resulting in a complex array of three “phases”, three “steps”, “five tests” and five “alert levels”, we responded by developing a single integrated plan which, due to its simplicity, would contribute to restoring the confidence of the public.

    Click to view our interactive timeline of TBI interventions on Covid-19 in the UK

    Uptake and Reach:

    Our exit strategy papers were targeted at policymakers and shared with experts as well as media and the private sector. The first three reports in particular garnered broad interest and uptake in the media, resulting in wide reach across the general public. TBI Executive Director and Chief Economist Ian Mulheirn appeared on BBC Newsnight on 7 April to discuss our position on exit strategy, following which, on 21 April, he gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee with his comments being covered by the Times. Radio appearances included 5 Live (reach: 5.41 million listeners a month5 Source: BBC Media centre 30.06.2020) on 20 April, the Iain Dale show on LBC on 6 May and 3 June, and additional local broadcasts such as BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Radio Yorkshire on 21 May. Our exit strategies work was also covered in newspapers including the Evening Standard on 6 May (readership: more than 1.1 million) and the Guardian on 18 May. A more targeted audience of political leaders was reached via podcasts and through interviews with outlets such as PoliticsHome on 24 April (2,449 listeners), The Bunker on 5 May, and Politico on 6 May and 5 July. Our innovative econometric model linking Google mobility data to the rate of spread of the virus, offering the possibility of a tool to forecast the spread of the virus, was tabled at a meeting of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). In the international sphere, we have also seen uptake of our reports resulting in an invitation to speak at an online event on 29 April hosted by Canada 2020, a leading independent, progressive think-tank, as well as conversations with Staatslabor, a Swiss not-for-profit that works closely with different bodies across the Swiss government.

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    Exit Strategies Report

    A Sustainable Exit Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Minimising Harm

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    Paper by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change on a proposed Covid-19 early warning model. It should be viewed in context: the paper was the best assessment of the evidence at the time of writing.

    Story of Change: TBI and Staatslabor

    Staatslabor, a Swiss not-for-profit supporting public sector development, contacted TBI following the publication of “A Sustainable Exit Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Minimising Harm” to further understand TBI’s views of and recommendations for exit strategies. Staatslabor works closely with different bodies across the Swiss government, supporting Swiss public administrations on the municipal, regional and federal levels. It fosters cooperation with public and semi-public institutions, associations and foundations, and it helps the public sector in Switzerland to build up its innovation capacity by providing a platform, resources and experts. 6 Staatslabor Link accessed on 15.07.2020 In collaboration with the Swiss government, Staatslabor is introducing a Covid-19 Civil Society Point of Contact,7 COVID-19 Civil Society Point of Contact Link accessed on 16.07.2020 a liaison office between the federal administration and civil society in order to better harness the efforts within civil society to address the coronavirus crisis. Staatslabor has used TBI content on exit strategies to present to and inform conversations with the Swiss Coronavirus Crisis Unit.

    Use of Technology:
    A Summary of Our Reports

    TBI’s Technology and Public Policy (TPP) team has focused on supporting policymakers in better understanding how the power of technology can be harnessed to help fight the virus and cushion its impact. The team has published more than 13 reports and analysis pieces, including a four-part series exploring options for establishing a reliable contact-tracing system. The team hosted two online events on the role of technology in stopping the spread of the virus and how it is helping us to adapt to a radically altered world, convening relevant industry and policy experts (guests included Darren Jones MP and Catherine Miller, interim CEO of Doteveryone). TPP also created an interactive infographic offering a snapshot of the technology-related measures available to policymakers in the fight against Covid-19. 

    All of the things that were there before Covid are there during and after Covid, but accelerated and more vivid. One of those is the use of technology. That was already important obviously before the Covid crisis but now it’s even more important as to how we [get] through it and what we do afterwards.

    The first report encouraged governments to lean in to innovation, use the networked public to its advantage to find online alternatives to public services and business, and to use digital communication channels to be transparent with the public about its crisis response. This was followed by reports that proposed key steps to be taken by policymakers on testing, such as redirecting spare technology capacity to fighting Covid-19, and outlined options for establishing a contact-tracing system to ensure the reproduction rate of the virus remains below 1. These reports were supplemented by a further two companion pieces that offered practical solutions to overcoming challenges to testing and contact tracing at scale and suggested how governments could embrace technology to make new ways of working more efficient while restrictions were in place.

    Further reports by TPP have: 

    • Called for the government to work with social media companies and their influencer/brand tools to ensure the public are regularly updated with accurate information and advice.  
    • Made the case for moving towards a digital democracy model in the longer-term, citing examples of how governments globally have drawn on technology to help adapt their political systems to the Covid-19 crisis.  
    • Argued that wearable technology offers an opportunity to monitor public health and should be explored alongside other ideas as part of a longer-term shift in health care.  
    • Examined the difference between user- and system-centric contact-tracing apps, concluding that because the UK government rejected help from Apple and Google, it must create a reliable app that works and garners public trust. 
    • Considered the potential use of location data to tackle the spread of Covid-19.  
    • Argued for a shift away from “health care” to “health” that would require deep changes to the current system.  
    • Explored the creation of digital ID as a way to tackle Covid-19 as countries start to exit lockdown, arguing that building the technical infrastructure is only half the challenge and that the digital infrastructure also needs to be trusted by the public for it to become a success.  

    When the government announced the piloting of a contact-tracing app, we explored the various available apps, and offered a reflection on what the UK government should do next to be successful with its NHS app.

    Click to view our interactive timeline of TBI interventions on Covid-19 in the UK

    Uptake and Reach:

    Our reports on technology’s role in responding to Covid-19 have attracted significant coverage, enabling our recommendations to reach a wide audience. In terms of media uptake, “A Price Worth Paying: Privacy, Tech and the Fight Against Covid-19” has seen the strongest response. On the back of this report, the Telegraph (with a monthly reach of 29 million unique users, for example, published an article authored by TBI Executive Director Chris Yiu on privacy on 24 April. The report was also referenced in the Financial Times (which has a monthly web audience of more than 3.5 million8link accessed 07.12.20), the BBC Tech section and the Guardian on 24 April. The Economist included an interview with Yiu on 30 April. Our report on digital identity, in combination with Tony Blair’s appearance at the CogX technology conference, has also seen an uptake in the media, including articles in the Telegraph on 8 June, and the Guardian and the Daily Mail on 9 June. Besides national and international media, we have reached a more targeted audience through other outlets and events, for example through our two “TBI Talks” live webinar events. The first TBI Talks focused on the role of technology in stopping the spread of Covid-19 (29 April) and the second (6 May) focused on the role of technology in helping us adapt to a radically altered world, which reached more than 200 participants. Our TBI “Innovator Series” – a collection of short online videos showcasing innovations in the Covid-19 space – accumulated more than 85,000 views across all platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube). A targeted audience was reached in an interview with TBI Head of Science & Innovation Unit Benedict Macon-Cooney on 28 April on DebatedPodcast, a British politics podcast, where the hosts Will Barber Taylor and Conrad Lewandowski speak to guests from across the political spectrum on the issues of the day.

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    Really thorough work, which I enjoyed reading. In the Digital Policy piece, I echo the list of Gold Standards and recommendations. In the Privacy paper, especially the deep dive section on tracing people has been particularly interesting as a current hot topic.

    Agnieszka Moldach, Competition and Public Policy at Google

    Story of Change: TBI and Stanford University

    In the context of the debate on the use of wearable technology, our team worked with Professor Michael Snyder, Director of Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, to explore the role of wearables and personalised medicine. Stanford’s School of Medicine has been doing innovative work that complemented our vision for the future of health, using technology to move forward from reactive to preventive care. We joined efforts in speaking about the benefits of personalised health, and the use of wearables specifically, to tackle Covid-19 effectively. Together with Professor Snyder’s lab, we co-authored a briefing on wearables: “Wearables, Covid-19 and the Health Tech Revolution”. The piece explores the role that wearable technology could play in improving early-warning systems for detecting Covid-19 infection and looks ahead to applications for these devices in a wider health-tech revolution. Professor Snyder has also been interviewed as part of our TBI Innovator Series, and his episode saw 40,000 views across all platforms. (Though outside the time period covered in this report, Professor Snyder also joined Benedict Macon-Cooney and Jennifer Radin from Scripps for a CogX we hosted which has been viewed more than 17,000 times on YouTube.) This collaboration is an example of the value of building and maintaining relationships with industry experts and academics as part of our policy development process, enriching our actionable recommendations for policymakers.

    Extremism and Covid-19:
    A Summary of Our Reports

    Extremist groups were quick to find opportunities to exploit the pandemic to support their narratives and undermine government responses. TBI’s Extremism Policy Unit (EPU) – which works to equip political leaders and governments to understand and respond to the ideologies underpinning extremist violence and terrorism – published timely, evidence-based products to help policymakers make sense of developments across the extremism landscape and respond effectively.

    As new extreme movements gain momentum, political leaders must be equipped to tackle this threat effectively. Even during the spread of Covid-19, extremist groups have found a reason to mobilise and promote their hateful rhetoric.

    In April, EPU launched its “Snapshot” series of four reports (published between 9 April and 11 June), which provided comprehensive insight into how extremist groups from across the ideological and geographical spectrum were adapting and consolidating their narratives on Covid-19, seeking to provide a holistic view on how the extremism landscape was shifting in response to the pandemic. Drawing on TBI’s established areas of research expertise and underpinned by evidence emerging from the collation and dissemination of the Snapshot series, the team also produced detailed analyses and commentary pieces on trends, ideological movements and incidents. These have included Iran’s approach to Covid-19 and conspiracy theories emanating from its response; global far-right responses to Covid-19; and Boko Haram’s exploitation of the crisis and escalation of violence in the Lake Chad Basin. Additionally, EPU produced a toolkit guide for governments on working with religious leaders to support public-health measures – drawing on TBI’s experience of working with community leaders in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Kenya. It highlighted the opportunity to engage religious leaders as a positive force both in disseminating public-health messaging and countering some of the false narratives and negative exploitation of the pandemic in communities. 

    Feedback Highlight:

    I want to thank you and your team for meeting with me recently, and for your invaluable briefing. The challenges outlined in the presentations are some of the most critical facing our globe today, and I am looking forward to working closely together with your researchers to address and respond to these effectively.

    Conor McGinn MP

    Uptake and Reach:

    Our rapid analysis resulted in significant engagement, including numerous briefings and requests for further analysis from parliamentarians and policy advisors globally. Notably, Kenya’s strategic shift to directly challenging Jihadist extremist ideologies in its Countering Violent Extremism agenda made use of TBI expertise and materials. In addition, our Snapshots have made observable impact with senior Kenyan officials adopting them in their analysis and public communications. The briefing series has also further grown our strategic engagement with UK parliamentarians, resulting in direct requests for further support.

    Our guide for governments on working with religious leaders to help navigate the Covid-19 crisis had a global reach, including being circulated in the US by the Aspen Institute and the Alliance for Peacebuilding. The report led to an invitation to write for Anthrologica, a leading research-based specialist in applied anthropology in global health.9 Link accessed on 06.08.2020

    Story of Change: Lake Chad Basin

    Early in the pandemic, TBI received an invitation from the Counter-Terrorism team of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States to brief them on insecurity in Nigeria in the context of Covid-19.

    From their feedback, we saw that other stakeholders in the region would benefit from the briefing. The briefing "Lake Chad Conflict Escalation in the Context of Covid-19" was important because focus on the coronavirus had diverted attention from Boko Haram’s continued and increasing violence. We sought to direct the attention of policymakers to how Boko Haram was silently killing civilians and advocate for the need to balance battling the virus with fighting extremism. The briefing was distributed to our key stakeholders and adapted for publication in the Independent and the Telegraph; an interview with BBC Hausa aired as its lead story, along with the Hausa text of the key findings and recommendations on its website.

    We received further invitations for briefings including from the EU. As a result, on 22 July our analyst briefed 18 embassies in Nigeria on the violence in the northwest and northeastern parts of the country and made recommendations for the EU’s consideration.

    Following our second briefing to them, the EU Delegation sent a memo to the Nigerian government raising alarm over the escalation of violence and calling on the government to take further action. We also noted that, after the BBC Hausa coverage, Nigeria’s chief of army staff personally moved to the northeast on the instruction of the president to fight Boko Haram.

    Education in the Context of Covid-19

    Education in the Context of Covid-19

    The pandemic’s impact on education has been significant, with school closures affecting more than 1.5 billion young people globally.

    TBI was invited to join UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition, together with more than 70 other organisations. The coalition seeks to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities for children and youth during this period of sudden and unprecedented educational disruption and aims to support countries to mitigate the impact of school closures. This is done by stimulating inclusive distance learning, which allows for the continuation of education for all, as well as introducing effective measures to reopen schools safely. TBI has launched several initiatives in order to mitigate, where possible, the negative effects of the crisis on education and to support the UNESCO coalition.

    Policy Briefings:

    As part of a package of resources to help leaders respond effectively to the crisis, we have produced an education policy briefing for African countries. Our “Covid-19: Educational Response Guide for Sub-Saharan African Countries” curates best practices internationally to help lower-income governments in sub-Saharan Africa to make timely decisions and implement innovative solutions to protect young peoples’ education. We have shared this resource with counterparts in Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ghana, The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea, Togo, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. In Kenya, for example, the briefing was presented to the National Covid-19 Education Response Committee, and in Liberia it was shared with a committee led by the Ministry of Education and all partners working with the MoE. Due to Liberia’s prior educational crisis during the Ebola pandemic, the country responded swiftly to implement the essential structures, including for the education sector.

    Generation Global:

    TBI’s education programme, Generation Global, has worked for more than ten years in over 30 countries to equip young people with global citizenship education and dialogue skills. During lockdown and school closures, we responded quickly to the needs of students and teachers by designing a new student-centred pathway, the Ultimate Dialogue Adventure, a free online learning version of the programme. Launched on 1 July, the Adventure supports young people, aged 13 to 17, with a safe space to develop global citizenship skills that foster positive and inclusive attitudes through intercultural dialogue, with cognitive, behavioural and social learning outcomes aligned to SDG 4.7. Already, students from 14 countries are using the site. In addition, we have redesigned our videoconferences so that students can connect and engage in dialogue with global peers while at home and in the classroom, as schools begin to reopen around the world.

    Case Study: Hearing From Teachers – the Teacher Dialogue Circles

    As 90 per cent of learners worldwide saw their schools close as a result of the pandemic, teachers from within the programme shared their fears and concerns. As Medha, a teacher in India, told us: “Because the lockdown was sudden, many students don’t have stationery and no books. They are panicking. I feel the school buildings are closed but the staff is working more than ever to continue the teaching-learning process. After the shutdown, we were not equipped.”

    This echoes the sentiments and challenges that confronted thousands of teachers around the world, as the pandemic spread faster than it was possible to form plans to address it. Many governments called for education to continue as far as possible, but the speed and uncertainty of the crisis made it extremely challenging for teachers to know exactly what they should do, with many facing remote teaching for the first time.

    In response to the pandemic, our US team introduced the concept of “Dialogue Circles” as a way of building trust, and bringing teachers together to reflect, share experiences and learn from each other. It also was a means for TBI to better understand their challenges and provided an opportunity to make their voices heard. Since our first Dialogue Circle on 23 March, we have held 18 of these events, featuring 372 teachers from 19 countries.

    There have been some consistent themes in the feedback we have received from teachers, mostly concerning the incredible cost of Covid-19 on education, but also the innovation by dedicated teachers who are working hard to prevent this generation of youth from being left behind. On a global scale and mainly in developing countries, many teachers lack the basic infrastructure to make remote learning a success: a reliable internet connection, internet devices for all students, and a safe and calm home-working environment.

    Despite the challenges, there was a strong sense of positivity among teachers. Notwithstanding the internet access challenges, teachers were finding ways to cope. They were keen to share creative solutions and free resources they had discovered and wanted to learn from their colleagues across the globe. Some had seen positive developments, in particular the embracing of technology where previously there was scepticism, with some students adapting incredibly well to the online world. Many said that students and parents have a newfound appreciation for learning, education and teachers.

    Generation Global believes the voices of teachers and students will be essential for any educational response to be effective. During the Dialogue Circles, teachers provided a clear set of recommendations for governments:

    • Efforts must be made to ensure that every young person in school has reliable access to a device with an internet connection, and that teachers are given training to use digital tools effectively. Where an internet connection is not possible, hard-copy and offline materials must be made available instead and can be blended with other media accessible to populations such as TV and radio.
    • Governments should have a succinct national plan for continuing education during a crisis.
    • Government should provide guidance on best practice and use of remote-learning platforms and resources for different contexts, to help avoid teachers becoming overwhelmed or out of sync with other schools or classes.

    Government Advisory in the Context of Covid-19

    Government Advisory in the Context of Covid-19

    In March 2020, TBI’s Government Advisory practice repositioned its work to support governments in sub-Saharan Africa to respond to the pandemic. We have provided both policy and strategic advice alongside embedded delivery support, helping with crisis management at the centre of government and informing health and economic strategies.

    Our approach to supporting government leaders is rooted in the belief that central delivery and coordination structures play a vital role in delivering a successful whole-of-government response. We currently have teams advising prime ministers, presidents and presidential taskforces in countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

    In responding to Covid-19, we have drawn on more than 12 years of experience working in Africa, including during the Ebola crisis between 2014 and 2016. At the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak, we moved swiftly to support key elements of effective crisis management. Our first note to leaders arrived before Africa had confirmed its first case and contributed to at least five leaders taking rapid action to set up crisis management structures (including in The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Togo and Sierra Leone).

    Our work with governments in-country is supported at a global level by a team focused on aspects of the response that require global action. These include making the case for improved coordination via international bodies such as WHO, and working to ensure governments have access to medical and testing equipment, as well as financing for their responses and economic stimulus packages. We have also sought to connect private- and public-sector partners to explore options to scale local production of PPE and medical equipment, and to highlight issues such as rising food insecurity, with the aim of ensuring that supply chain bottlenecks are addressed and agriculture investment grows.

    Where We Work and What We Do

    This map illustrates the types of support provided by TBI country teams on the Covid-19 crisis since the beginning of March 2020. Data and information included covers the time period of the report, mid-March through mid-June 2020.

    Click on a country to see how we support our partners
    TBI Activities:
    Central Management
    Public Health
    Supply Chain
    Economic Response
    Food Security

    Advisory Focus

    Effective crisis management requires empowered leaders and experts to rapidly operationalise policy, responsive structures that react to both health and economic risks, and strong systems for monitoring, decision-making and communication. These success factors have been central to TBI’s advisory support throughout the pandemic.

    Our work at the centre of government has focused primarily on improving cross-institutional coordination and developing a whole-of-government response strategy. We have helped governments to define coherent national strategies and communication campaigns, to set up crisis management units, and to develop partnerships (including with donors). We have also supported some governments to slowly ease lockdown measures and effectively reopen their countries.

    For example, in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Togo and The Gambia, heads of state requested TBI’s embedded support in central response units and taskforces. This support has included devising strategies to streamline and operationalise leadership and management structures, as well as improving presidential briefings to enable better, evidence-based decision-making. In Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Rwanda, TBI has also provided policy guidance at the centre of government on overall Covid-19 strategy, economic and social distancing measures, as well as best practice in setting up effective monitoring and performance-management systems to increase the speed and quality of decision-making.

    Story of Change: TBI in Ghana
    Supporting Ghana’s Strategic Decision-Making for the Covid-19 Response

    TBI’s work at the centre of government in Ghana has included helping to operationalise the country’s national response strategy and assisting with public messaging on the response effort. We have supported presidential advisors to produce daily executive briefings for the president and other senior decision-makers as well as recommendations on outstanding issues, risks, actions and strategic considerations. We have also helped synthesise evidence on best practices from other countries’ pandemic responses – including on sourcing PPE and other health equipment and social distancing and lockdown restrictions. TBI also supported the development of a needs assessment to inform strategies for repurposing manufacturing for domestic PPE production. TBI’s support has sought to strengthen the effectiveness of the president’s decision-making and to help leaders develop strategies to navigate the crisis.

    Story of Change: TBI in The Gambia
    Supporting Improved Policy Responses and Delivery Structures at the Centre of Government

    In The Gambia, TBI has supported the centre of government with operationalising the country’s crisis management structures. In April, President Barrow called for improved coordination among decision-makers at the highest levels of government – between strategy and delivery departments at the presidency, which TBI has supported over a number of years, and the office of the vice president, who has been leading the Covid-19 Ministerial Committee. Following this announcement, TBI provided briefings on how to most effectively structure the government’s crisis response, based on learnings from other countries and from TBI’s experience supporting the Ebola response in 2015. TBI’s recommendations helped inform the decision to appoint a National Coordinator to streamline and lead the government’s efforts and establish appropriate structures. Since March, TBI has been embedded within the Ministerial Committee that is leading the Covid-19 response, providing strategic advice on how to structure the response, coordinate actors and mobilise resources. TBI has provided regular briefings analysing the outbreak in The Gambia and in other countries, strategies for containment, and public messaging and communications. TBI has also supported the Ministry of Health with data collection and analysis and has developed an interactive dashboard showing status updates on Covid-19 cases and testing levels.

    Advisory Focus
    Public Health

    TBI has supported government leaders to deliver a robust public-health response to the pandemic through policy advice, help with strengthening the institutional capacity of health agencies, and assistance with coordination across government, the private sector and donors on securing access to essential PPE and medical equipment.

    In Nigeria, TBI’s partnership with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) since 2017 has enabled us to provide rapid and robust support. In Sierra Leone TBI has worked across the various pillars of the country’s health response at the centre of government, in a selection of ministries and at the municipal level to deliver a robust whole-of-government response. Teams in Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger and Mozambique have provided support on a variety of areas such as communications technology and data, public mobility, contact-tracing strategies and testing measures as well as policies to protect vulnerable groups.

    TBI has also worked with governments to secure essential medical equipment and supplies by providing supply chain analysis, resource mobilisation and coordination support, through both international suppliers and local production, in six countries (Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger and Rwanda).  In Burkina Faso, for example, the team has helped to secure essential IT equipment for the Emergency Operations Centre and Emergency Call Centre (CORUS). In countries such as Senegal, The Gambia, Mozambique and Niger, where TBI has not historically had an embedded presence in health institutions, teams were able to proactively engage various health ministries and agencies on their health responses and equipment supply chains.

    Story of Change: TBI in Nigeria
    Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Restructures Its Emergency Operations Centre

    Since the first index case in February 2020, the NCDC activated a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) that has led the national health response to Covid-19. In March 2020, TBI implemented a restructuring of the EOC to facilitate more effective response coordination, with a clear focus on daily EOC meetings and progress towards the response strategy. TBI has been working with the NCDC for more than three years and, since the start of the outbreak, TBI has increased its support by providing additional human resources. To further support the EOC, TBI identified key performance indicators (KPIs) for each pillar and developed a dashboard to help track performance of the outbreak response in line with the NCDC Incidence Action Plan (IAP). To ensure continued effectiveness of NCDC’s response, TBI has also supported the EOC to organise a Mid Action Review. The review was conducted in line with WHO recommendations and international best practices to identify milestones, key gaps and lessons. This review led to newly defined strategic directions, at which point TBI supported the pillars to identify new KPIs and developed reporting templates for the new strategic directions.

    Story of Change: TBI in Niger
    The Ministry of Health Improves Allocation of Funds for Covid-19 Response

    The Ministry of Health (MoH), with agreement from the Council of Ministers, shifted its procurement strategy for equipment and materials to respond to a potential Covid-19 outbreak, in line with TBI advice. The MoH initially dedicated all of its funds for expensive ventilator equipment, but the lack of respiratory specialists and practitioners with the expertise needed to operate ventilators in the country meant that ventilator equipment would likely go unused. TBI advised the MoH that by reallocating the budget, more money could go towards securing essential PPE for medical workers and the government could also avoid spending money on equipment it did not have the capacity to operate. The MoH presented TBI's recommendations to the Council of Ministers and received approval to adjust their procurement plans in accordance with TBI advice.

    Advisory Focus
    Economic Response

    TBI provided timely and actionable policy advice and direct support to governments on economic mitigation, preservation and recovery measures to help halt the immediate risk of economic collapse, develop and implement initiatives to support people living in lockdown, ensure that the economy was preserved to allow for quick recovery, and provide support and stimulus in that eventual recovery. This included support on preventing food insecurity and maintaining agricultural supply chains.

    Most of TBI’s support to governments on the economic and fiscal response has related to protecting people’s livelihoods and keeping key industries afloat during the crisis. This support has ranged from preparing guidelines for key industries to continue operations during lockdown and detailing economic stimulus measures to sustain small businesses, to advising on social protection measures and proposing strategies for resolving legal and contractual issues (in Mozambique, Kenya, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Niger, Rwanda, and Burkina Faso). This work has been particularly focused in East Africa, where teams in Rwanda and Ethiopia built on experience from years of embedded support in economic ministries to support the government with medium- and long-term planning. Examples demonstrate how teams have leveraged pre-existing relationships with government counterparts to develop significant measures to support small businesses and sustain industry operations, with the goal of contributing to reducing economic losses and preserving the economy.

    TBI also actively supported governments with preventing food insecurity through national-level response preparedness in Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, and work at the municipal level in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Kanifing, The Gambia. This support included ensuring access to food and markets for both producers and consumers and ensuring that relief reaches local farmers and vulnerable populations. Furthermore, TBI's support has involved helping governments develop innovative solutions, such as a new, publicly accessible online information portal on food stocks in Kenya.

    Story of Change: TBI in Nigeria
    More Than 2 Million Farmers Across Nigeria Were Remunerated to Ensure Food Security and Maintain Livelihoods

    TBI worked with the Office of the Vice President and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to deliver the Agriculture and Food for Jobs Plan (AFJP), an initiative aimed at counteracting the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity. TBI, through the Project for Agriculture Coordination and Execution (PACE), supported the development and implementation of a nationwide survey on the needs of more than 2 million smallholder crop and livestock farmers for the 2020 wet and dry farming season. In collaboration with government counterparts, other federal agencies and private-sector partners, the TBI team provided support to develop the survey questions, create a mobile-data-collection application, map out the logistics structure for the data-collection process, and monitor the online registration of enumerators (Nigeria’s Npower Youth). Using the data collected from this exercise, TBI has supported the selected agro-service partners to access required funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and deliver agrochemicals, fertiliser, extension services and post-harvest support to enumerated smallholder farmers. The PACE secretariat has also worked with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to fast-track the delivery of fertiliser to farmers through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI).

    Story of Change: TBI in Kenya
    Nyeri County Develops its First Economic Recovery Plan to Combat Covid-19

    The County Government of Nyeri has developed its first Economic Recovery Plan to mitigate against the short-, mid- and long-term economic impacts of Covid-19 for its residents. National measures taken to contain the spread of Covid-19 have resulted in significant disruptions to supply chains and revenues for key sectors in the country, including tourism, trade and agriculture, which have resulted in the loss of more than 5,000 jobs in the tourism sector in Nyeri alone. County governments in Kenya must play an important role in mitigating the impacts of Covid-19, as the system of government devolves service provision in key sectors (such as health and agriculture) to the county level. 

    TBI Kenya has worked with the County Government of Nyeri to strengthen the capacity of the government to lead and coordinate its response to Covid-19 in line with national-level efforts and international best practices. TBI supported Nyeri County officials to develop the Economic Recovery Plan in coordination with focal points from key sectors, including tourism, trade, and agriculture. TBI developed an initial assessment of the impact of Covid-19 across these sectors and an approach for developing the plan. The plan was designed to ensure that existing jobs and incomes in priority sectors are maintained, and that new jobs and opportunities for income generation are created with the support of the public sector and private investment. The Nyeri County Economic Recovery Plan was also planned to serve as a blueprint for the development and implementation of Economic Recovery Plans by other counties in Kenya.

    Our Work in Africa
    Ethiopia: The Context


    In Ethiopia, the ratio of tests issued relative to the country's population from mid-March to mid-June was considered low in comparison to other countries in Africa, suggesting that Covid-19 infection rates could have been much higher than officially documented.

    Government Measures Taken

    Health: The government focused on preventative measures. It became mandatory to wear face masks in public, while handshaking has been banned and there was a large communication campaign encouraging handwashing. Authorities reportedly readied beds for 15,000 in isolation centres, including a makeshift 1,000-bed health facility in the biggest exhibition centre in Addis Ababa. Fortunately, most of these beds have not yet been needed.

    Economic: The economic response sought to address the risks to livelihoods and businesses through the period of restricted movement and social distancing, alongside working with banks to help finance their expected liquidity shortages, enabling them to support the industries most affected. While a Covid-19 Multi-Sectoral Preparedness and Response Plan was announced which requires $1.64 billion in funding (about 1.6 per cent of GDP), only around $150 million of emergency expenditure and around $630 million to support banks was allocated during the period covered in this report.

    TBI’s Work in Ethiopia

    TBI has supported the government of Ethiopia with institutional strengthening and policy development for more than six years across diverse sectors, ranging from economic and investment policy to state-owned enterprise reform and digital transformation. TBI advisors have supported the centre of government in the prime minister’s office and in key commissions across the government. In response to Covid-19, TBI advisors have provided support with economic mitigation and recovery policy development, and repurposing local manufacturing. TBI also extended support to the Emergency Preparedness and Outbreak Response unit of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), headquartered in the country’s capital.

    TBI Projects:

    Supply Chains and Equipment Procurement

    • Providing support to the Ethiopian Investment Commission with the repurposing of local manufacturing to produce essential medical supplies and export them to other countries.
    • Supporting the Africa CDC with supply chain management.


    • Supporting the prime minister’s office on macro-economic policy and problem-solving for the country’s economic response.
    • Supporting the Jobs Creation Commission to analyse and provide recommendations on policies to mitigate job losses for individuals and businesses.
    Case Studies: TBI in Ethiopia
    Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Adopts New Policies to Support Individuals and Businesses During Covid-19:

    As part of its embedded advisory support at the Jobs Creation Commission (JCC), TBI directly contributed to the Ethiopian government’s approval of policy responses to provide support to vulnerable individuals.

    The JCC was the first organisation to produce an analysis of the potential impact of Covid-19 on Ethiopia’s economy and jobs in March. While some government stakeholders were initially sceptical of the scale of the impact Covid-19 was projected to have on jobs and incomes in the country, attitudes began shifting to align with JCC and TBI’s assessment a few weeks after the publication of the analysis and additional research. Alongside TBI, advisors and economists from the World Bank also played an important role in supporting the government to take a more proactive economic response.

    The study provided high-level recommendations on how the government should respond with monetary and fiscal measures. Following the study, the National Covid Ministerial Committee and the prime minister adopted the JCC’s recommendations to use the existing social safety net programme to provide a temporary cash transfer to recently impoverished and vulnerable individuals. TBI’s advisors were then asked to make further recommendations outlining how the government should provide direct support to businesses (another of the study’s recommendations).

    The recommendations from the concept note have been integrated into the government’s Economic Response Plan.

    TBI continued to support the JCC with lobbying government stakeholders and external donors to provide support to businesses and mitigate the impacts of the virus on people’s livelihoods and well-being in the short- and long-term.

    Ethiopia’s Investment Commission Supports Local Manufacturers to Scale Up Production of Essential PPE:

    In March, the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) called for local manufacturers to repurpose their production lines and help scale up manufacture of PPE, including face masks, surgical gowns and gloves. After receiving few responses, TBI proactively offered to provide support in assessing local production capacity for critical PPE and identifying the challenges faced by manufacturers.

    In April, TBI submitted a document identifying requirements for PPE production and the domestic manufacturers with current capabilities in this area. We also helped identify potential manufacturing challenges and the action needed to address them. This document was later revised to include expressions of interest from additional manufacturers and helped persuade other government stakeholders to expedite interventions that would help companies repurpose their production lines, such as accelerated regulatory certification processes, improved access to credit, and tax and customs exemptions for essential PPE manufacturers.  

    TBI, which has been supporting the EIC for more than three years in attracting investment in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, helped to increase the pool of companies repurposing production capabilities from less than five to 41. The equipment they make will be used to support Ethiopian health-care workers in their response to the pandemic and safeguard the public, as well as generate income from exports of PPE to other countries.

    As the pool continued to rapidly expand, the Institute supported the EIC to assign key account managers (KAMs) to follow up with manufacturers and provide tailored interventions. TBI has supported the EIC to provide ongoing project management support in coordination with Ethiopia’s Industrial Park Development Corporation (IPDC).

    Our Work in Africa
    Burkina Faso: The Context


    A number of specific challenges exacerbated the risk of the virus spreading in Burkina Faso, such as its porous borders and internal displacement caused by terrorism (more than 1 million people in the country are currently internally displaced). The country’s health infrastructure also faced issues stemming from recent violence in the country, such as the closures of health centres which left more than 1.6 million people in conflict-affected areas with little to no access to medical care.

    Government Measures Taken

    Health: As in other African nations, the president instituted a curfew on 20 March, closed schools, airports and land borders, and prohibited large events. The government’s emergency response plan focused on strengthening the human and technical capacities of public hospitals.

    Economic: The government took several measures to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the economy and livelihoods. These included the payment of water and electricity bills of vulnerable households for a period of three months and the distribution of food and cash transfers to the most vulnerable.

    TBI’s Work in Burkina Faso

    TBI has provided advisory support to the government of Burkina Faso since November 2019. TBI’s work aims to strengthen capacity at the centre of government in key areas such as prioritisation, sectoral analysis, monitoring and evaluation, and problem-solving, as well as improving inter-ministerial coordination, accountability and oversight.

    TBI Projects:


    • Supporting the Presidential Covid-19 Taskforce with its crisis response mechanisms and securing funding.

    Supply Chains and Equipment Procurement

    • Supporting the CORUS emergency call centre with equipment procurement.

    Food Security

    • Supporting the Presidential Delivery Unit to implement its Food Security and Nutrition Initiative.

    Economic Response

    • Supporting presidential advisors with economic recovery planning.
    Case Studies: TBI in Burkina Faso
    Presidential Initiative on Food Security and Nutrition Pilot Phase Approved by Head of State:

    The president of Burkina Faso approved the pilot phase for the Presidential Initiative on Food Security and Nutrition, which aims to provide one nutritional meal per day to 5 million school-aged children per year over the course of five years. The initiative has the potential to significantly improve nutritional outcomes for children, support their education, assist poor households and stimulate the farming industry.

    This initiative was originally developed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and introduced to the president of Burkina Faso in February 2019, but its approval and implementation has been delayed by more than a year. Following Covid-19’s impact on the country’s economy and food security, the Presidential Delivery Unit, supported by TBI, identified an opportunity  to move the initiative forward in March.

    Within just four months, a concept note and operationalisation strategy developed by TBI were integrated into the Economic Recovery and Revitalisation Plan.

    TBI has worked with technicians in the Ministry of Agriculture to kick-start implementation, address any bottlenecks and mobilise funding from international partners and donors. TBI advisors and government counterparts have liaised with multiple departments of the UN, the World Food Programme, World Bank, African Development Bank and The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to fund both short-term aspects of the initiative related to Covid-19 response, as well as longer-term projects. Some have already agreed to provide funding.

    TBI has provided embedded support within the President’s Program Monitoring Office (BS-PP) since November 2019. This unique positioning, along with TBI’s wider network within the government of Burkina Faso and with international donors has been vital to our success in accelerating the approval of this initiative, which had been delayed.

    Presidency Approves Economic Recovery Measures to Mitigate Impacts of Covid-19:

    Burkina Faso’s government approved an extensive set of economic recovery measures designed to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 and support jobs and livelihoods across the country.

    In March a number of chief presidential advisors formed the Covid-19 Presidential Taskforce (PTF) to work with the Ministries of Health, Finance, and Commerce and Industry to develop plans for supporting health care and the economy throughout the crisis. Given our expertise and positioning within the president’s Program Monitoring Office (BS-PP), TBI was well placed to provide support and was asked to assist the newly formed Covid-19 PTF in its economic planning.

    Following this request, TBI produced a proposal for facilitating the development of the plan that would engage ministries across government. In late April, technical resources were mobilised, and a series of workshops were held with key stakeholders across government with the goal of conducting an economic diagnostic and benchmarking assessment, before designing a strategic framework for recovery. Key donors including the UN were also included in this consultation process to ensure they were aligned with the proposals.

    The Economic Recovery and Revitalisation Plan was submitted in June 2020 and approved by the presidential advisors, the president and the prime minister soon after. TBI’s support on the Presidential Initiative on Food Security and Nutrition was also included in this plan. Presidential advisors instructed the BS-PP to start working on seven high impact initiatives across four key areas of the economy: textile manufacturing, agriculture and nutrition, industrialisation and slaughterhouses, and exports.

    Burkina Faso’s Covid-19 Emergency Call Centre Expands its Operational Capacity:

    TBI and the government of Burkina Faso worked together to secure funds to support the setup of a Covid-19 call centre in Ouagadougou, as well as a second call centre in Bobo Dioulasso.

    At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CORUS call centre (part of Burkina Faso’s Covid-19 Emergency Operations Centre) was receiving over 15,000 calls per day, with capacity to answer only 30 per cent of calls received. Eighty per cent of those related to general information requests regarding the pandemic, limiting the centre’s ability to field urgent calls from symptomatic citizens in need of emergency testing and the pandemic response teams’ efforts to provide treatment.

    To address this issue, the director of the BS-PP, together with TBI advisors, the Presidential Taskforce, the CORUS technical team and other key stakeholders, identified the call centre’s needs and came up with strategies to strengthen its operational capacity. These were summarised in a technical and financial proposal, presented to one of our development donors.

    Due to TBI’s strong relationships with all parties involved, we were well-positioned to provide a rapid and effective response to the government’s needs and act as an interlocutor between the key parties. The initial tranche of funding has been disbursed, enabling the acquisition of IT and hardware equipment and resulting in better handling of the pandemic in terms of tracking and management of cases, but additional resources are still awaiting final approval. In the meantime, to improve its call-handling capacity the CORUS team obtained training for its operators from technical and financial partners.

    Our Work in Africa
    Sierra Leone: The Context


    Sierra Leone’s testing capacity was significantly lower than that of many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa during the time period covered in this report, mid-March to mid-June. Therefore, reported case and death figures may have under-represented the extent of Covid-19 community transmission and prevalence in the country.

    Government Measures Taken

    Health: President Bio declared a 12-month national state of emergency about a week before the country’s first reported case on 31 March. This was followed by a full three-day lockdown before a more permanent partial lockdown was imposed in early April. A second three-day lockdown was imposed in early May. In addition to restrictions on movement, retail trade was limited to essential items and the use of face masks was strongly encouraged. On 10 July, the president announced the lifting of a series of measures in order to gradually reopen the country. In many respects, Sierra Leone’s health-care response was aided by the country’s experience with the Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016, which enabled the government to rapidly develop a Covid-19 preparedness plan three weeks before its first case. This allowed the Ministry of Health time to prepare and act quickly when the virus arrived. The Ebola experience also led to a revitalisation of the country’s disease surveillance systems, which were re-engaged to stem the spread of Covid-19 early on. On 2 April, the World Bank issued Sierra Leone a $7.5 million grant to assist efforts to strengthen the country’s national health infrastructure.

    Economic: Lessons from the Ebola outbreak meant there was also a prompt economic response to the Covid-19 crisis. The government set up a Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP) to mitigate the wider socioeconomic costs. The plan prioritised food security and keeping small businesses afloat. However, the mobilisation of finances proved difficult, with large projected financing gaps and an overall fiscal response estimated at only 0.18 per cent of GDP, significantly lower than that of other countries in the region. On 17 June, the World Bank approved an additional $100 million grant as part of the Development Policy Financing programme.

    TBI’s Work in Sierra Leone

    TBI advisors have been embedded in the government of Sierra Leone since 2008. The TBI team has provided advisory support across multiple levels of the national administration, at the centre of government and across various government departments, as well as at the provincial level, where we have directly advised the mayor of Freetown and supported the Freetown City Council.

    TBI's work has focused on supporting numerous government programmes such as the president’s Human Capital Development flagship, the Transform Freetown agenda, and across agriculture, education, technology and innovation. At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, TBI’s work in Sierra Leone pivoted towards supporting counterparts in their emergency response. TBI advisors were directly involved in crisis management at the centre of government, aiding with strategic direction, performance management and coordination and played a key role in operationalising the capital’s city-wide response and resilience plan.

    TBI Projects:


    • Providing advisory support to the president and Covid-19 national coordinator.
    • Supporting the National Covid-19 Response Centre with strategic planning, performance management and quality assurance.
    • Supporting the Freetown mayor and Freetown City Council to design and implement a Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan.

    Public Health

    • Supporting the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation and Emergency Response ICT Pillar to develop innovative tools for crisis management and response.
    • Supporting the Freetown City Council to improve sanitation infrastructure and behavioural messaging (eg, around face masks and social distancing).


    • Supporting the Ministry of Finance to plan, implement and monitor the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP).

    Food security

    • Supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Local Food Production pillar of the QAERP.
    Case Studies: TBI in Sierra Leone
    The Government of Sierra Leone Develops a New National Covid-19 Response Strategic Plan

    In June, the government of Sierra Leone approved a new National Covid-19 Response Strategic Plan, establishing priorities for the current phase of the crisis and providing a comprehensive indicator framework for monitoring the response.

    Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the crisis, by mid-April there was recognition of the need to update the government’s crisis-management strategy. The previous focus on tracing and preventing imported cases quickly shifted to managing cluster outbreaks and preventing community transmission, as the second case in the country was identified without a known transmission source. There was also a need for a coherent strategy between the key pillars of the response, such as surveillance, laboratory and case management, to ensure testing and tracing systems were operating effectively.

    TBI played a key role, supporting the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC) to coordinate the revision of the government’s Covid-19 emergency health plan, and ensuring inputs from partners like the CDC and WHO to facilitate technical endorsement and align funding. By supporting a process to bring together the key interests of stakeholders across government, TBI was able to facilitate consensus-building around the strategic plan throughout the drafting process. TBI also provided technical support to set KPIs that will track the effectiveness of the response.

    In late June, the plan was presented to the Covid-19 Presidential Taskforce and Cabinet for approval. Implementation began in early July and will continue through December 2020, with periodic reviews to ensure it remains relevant.

    Lungi International Airport Reopens With Adapted Health Protocols for All Travellers

    Sierra Leone’s Lungi International Airport reopened on 22 July, four months after it closed to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The government adopted a double PCR testing mechanism, which required passengers to test negative for the virus prior to departure, before testing again on arrival for a second negative result. 

    Interest in reopening the airport started mounting in June, as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) progressed discussions on reopening borders and airlines began to tentatively schedule flights for July. TBI’s country head has held a position as an advisor to the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC) and we assisted in formulating a policy for safe reopening. By meeting with different stakeholders and collating viewpoints on how best to restart air travel, we developed a decision-making framework that brought these opinions together and noted key areas of agreement and disagreement. This framework helped facilitate continued consultations and was refined before being presented to the Presidential Taskforce to help them determine the best course of action. TBI also provided resources on best practices for airport reopening that had been compiled from different countries globally in order to help inform decision-making. The Presidential Taskforce decided to adopt a policy of double PCR testing, which has allowed international air travel to function in a safe manner since 22 July.

    TBI was able to support the government in this decision-making process due to our embedded position in the NaCOVERC and the provision of evidence-based advice with policy comparisons from across the globe.

    Feedback Highlights:

    As a trusted partner, TBI has been a critical support to the NaCOVERC leadership in adding an important neutral voice at the highest levels of government to encourage the right decisions to be made consistently when local dynamics threaten misdirection.

    Brigadier General (RTD) Kellie Hassan Conteh Minister of Defence and Interim Coordinator of the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC)

    The TBI Representative at NaCOVERC is very committed and honest in ensuring that Covid-19 is defeated. She is strategic, always troubleshooting and providing novelty in the Response. The National Situation Room has benefited a lot from her direct intervention; suggesting better ways of presenting SitReps and data analyses.

    Colonel Saidu Mohamed Conteh Director of the National Situation Room in Sierra Leone

    Collaborating Across Borders During Covid-19

    Collaborating Across Borders During Covid-19

    The belief that good governance can transform lives is reflected in our work in the UK as well as in the countries in Africa where TBI has operated. In some cases, this is reflected even more strongly in multi-country collaborations. The approach includes providing the right knowledge and information to key stakeholders and decision-makers to help them navigate the political structures and systems to achieve change. This story of change highlights where we have successfully provided in-depth and timely analysis, supporting the decision-making process in the context of the pandemic. By working directly alongside governments and by convening and engaging our networks, we helped to coordinate and channel resources to catalyse effective responses in the UK as well as in Africa.

    Case Study: TBI and Medicom10 TBI had no prior relationship with and does not receiving funding from Medicom

    As early as March 2020, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) were reported by hospitals and other medical-care facilities in the UK and around the world. With China dominating the global supply of face masks, most European and African countries found themselves over-exposed to global supply-chain disruptions at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic

    The UK government was urgently searching for solutions to this problem, including the re-use of PPE. In early April, in alignment with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 11 Link accessed on 10.07 and World Health Organisation (WHO)12 Link accessed on 10.07 guidance on optimising the supply of PPE, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concluded that, where there were acute shortages of PPE and where safe to do so, it would approve the sessional and re-use of PPE.13 Link accessed on 10.07 This also included the re-use of N-95 face masks. The shortage and re-use of life-saving PPE such as the N-95 respiratory masks for medical staff was considered unacceptable by TBI.

    Searching for companies that could produce medical-quality PPE, TBI reached out to pharmaceutical companies via its extensive global networks. Shortly thereafter Medicom – a tier-1 French-Canadian private company manufacturing more 1.5 billion masks annually, with production sites in France, China, Taiwan and the US – got in touch to discuss a potential collaboration. After a few exploratory calls between TBI and Medicom, TBI was able to support on two fronts. The first consisted of providing light-touch support to Medicom regarding supplying masks to the UK and setting up a high-grade production facility in the UK to make certified medical and respiratory masks. The second involved supporting Medicom to scope the African market in a rigorous and objective way with a view to establishing a similar manufacturing plant in sub-Saharan Africa over a six- to 18-month period.

    In the UK:

    Interaction consisted of calls between TBI and Medicom, providing Medicom with some support in exploring the best route of access to bring its masks to market in the UK. Combining TBI’s insights with support from a variety of other organisations and companies, Medicom successfully submitted a proposal to Public Health England (PHE) – independent of TBI – resulting in a contract with the UK government. The new UK-based factory, which aims to be up and running in the next couple of months, will include dozens of production lines that will produce more than 100 million respiratory FFP3 masks and more than 500 million medical-type IIR masks to meet local needs in the UK and create more than 100 new full-time, skilled jobs. The British government has enabled the investment through a long-term contractual commitment with Medicom.

    In Africa:

    New to the African market but with an entrepreneurial mindset, and working closely with TBI’s Africa Advisory team, Medicom’s value proposition to governments was articulated towards helping countries gain greater control of their medical supply chain and facilitating skills and technology transfer to the continent, which TBI supported in several ways. As a first step, TBI provided in-depth economic and political analysis across the region, helping Medicom narrow down its focus to four countries with strong potential: Ethiopia, Senegal, Togo and Rwanda. The team then prepared and facilitated informed discussions between Medicom and key decision-makers in the respective government ministries and agencies. TBI facilitated several virtual presentations and provided supporting analysis in key areas such as market demand and procurement opportunities, government strategy and policy measures, leadership buy-in and execution capacity. TBI also introduced Medicom to PVH – a leading global garment manufacturer that TBI has been working with closely and which has been a pioneering brand in the development of Ethiopia’s Hawassa Industrial Park – with the objective of exploring a joint venture to produce disposable medical gowns and hospital kits for the global market. Unfortunately, the impact of Covid-19 on pricing and differences in business models proved a major roadblock in the realisation of this promising collaboration. Nevertheless, with support from TBI and within a very short timeframe, Medicom has been able to take substantial steps towards scoping the African market, and there remain good prospects for the company to set up a mask facility on the continent in the future. TBI will continue to support Medicom on its journey.

    Feedback Highlight:

    I am very pleased with the journey we have been on and are still on with TBI. I am impressed with the speed at which TBI was able to analyse and understand our company and our needs and provide us with the right analysis of the region and to match us with potential partners. The support from TBI has been immensely valuable, from the regional and local knowledge they have provided, to the analysis they have done, to the networks and connections they bring. The team has been able to put us in touch with the right decision makers in governments in several African countries (Ethiopia, Senegal, Togo and Rwanda). For an SME (small medium enterprise) this is a unique opportunity.

    A Final Word

    A Final Word

    This report has reflected on the first three months of TBI’s response to Covid-19 and has looked closely at the areas where we have seen change as a result of our work. We have been equipping political leaders with strategic advice and policy support on public health to strengthen their response to Covid-19. In the UK we have produced policy reports on key topics including mass-testing strategies and mask-wearing with the aim of influencing the debate and decision-making, through our presence and uptake in the media as well as working closely with members of parliament and other decision-makers. In Africa we have worked at the centre of government with our partner countries to inform their responses. Through our networks we have also been able to link the private sector with government to find practical solutions to challenging problems such as the shortage of PPE, as evidenced by our work with Medicom in the UK and in Africa.

    TBI has provided political leaders with guidance on how to best respond to economic challenges created by Covid-19. Wide engagement in the media as well as with key decision-makers in government has informed the debate in the UK. In African countries, where we work closely with governments, most of TBI’s support on the economic and fiscal response has focused on protecting people’s livelihoods and keeping key industries afloat during the crisis.

    Throughout our work we have advocated for the importance of political leadership in the context of the pandemic. In the UK, this has involved proposing the right governmental structures needed to deal with the extraordinary challenges posed by Covid-19, as well as the tools and models for improved decision-making on easing the lockdown and responding to the pandemic’s economic impact. In countries like Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Togo and The Gambia, heads of state requested TBI’s embedded support in central response units and taskforces. This support has included devising strategies to streamline and operationalise leadership and management structures and strengthening evidence-based decision-making.    

    As the pandemic continues to have a profound impact on communities globally, we will continue our work. We will channel our resources to catalyse effective responses to the pandemic, we will support governments in developing timely, workable and effective solutions, and we will advocate for international cooperation to address this unprecedented challenge and help prevent such a catastrophe from occurring again in the future. We will also continue our wider work of equipping governments and leaders to tackle the challenges and opportunities they face through policy advice, technical support and practical solutions.  


    Editor's note: Our Executive Chairman, Tony Blair, has been at the forefront of our engagement as we have sought to support leaders in their response, while engaging with key international figures and institutions to understand the nature of Covid-19 and the search for vaccines and therapeutics. This enabled us to support effective, collaborative national and international initiatives to confront the pandemic. Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, analysts and advisors across the Institute have engaged with experts across sectors – including multilateral organisations, academic institutions and corporates; we are indebted to a number of organisations, including Gavi, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, BioIndustry Association, Imperial College London, King’s College London, the Francis Crick Institute, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the many innovators in diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

    This report was written by Simone van Dijk, Maria Chiara Roselli and Nadia Badaoui. We would like to thank all the people involved in producing this report for their tremendous efforts.

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