Using behavioural economics to change behaviour in Nigeria, Kenya

Genesis is working with the National Orientation Agency in Nigeria and the Ministry of Health in Kenya to provide daily nudges on how, through social media, to avoid COVID-19.

In Nigeria the nudges are shared with the National Orientation Agency every morning and the agency posts it across its social media pages and to other healthcare stakeholders, who repost across their networks.

Why nudges? We know from behavioural economics that people are irrational, but we expect them to act rationally in the face of the virus. We fear the unknown and, unfortunately, fear spreads easily, triggering a range of behaviours that needs to be managed if we are to reduce the spread of the virus.

People tend to underreact before the outbreak of a new infectious disease and overreact when the outbreak occurs: they are complacent before an outbreak and overly fearful during one. We view the risks of the pandemic in the same way we view the risks of climate change or obesity. These risks are systematically underestimated because their impacts are distant and aren’t immediately felt.

We also don’t think that these risks will directly affect us. This is optimism bias. Before the first case in each country, the risks were underestimated because they were distant in our minds.

What we need are behaviours that block routes into the body for an infectious agent. With a very large proportion of the population consistently implementing behaviours that reduce transmissibility, pandemics can be prevented, or vastly limited. It is important that a very high proportion of the population consistently apply precautionary behaviours to limit infection. It is our hope that our daily “nudges” can help achieve this outcome.