Socio-economy & New Tech

    Financial & Social Inclusion

AXA Awards


Adapting Pandemic Management to Vulnerable Populations

While all populations are affected by pandemics, not all are affected equally. A severe pandemic can have a disproportionate impact on people in developing countries, since most live in informal settlements and are typically active in the informal economy. Because their capacity to implement preparedness strategies or tolerate impacts is generally diminished, due to economic disparities and other social factors – such as settlement, cultural, educational and linguistic barriers, and lack of access to and use of healthcare facilities – these vulnerable populations are particularly exposed to the adverse economic, social, and health effects of pandemics.
In this AXA research project, Dr. Mohammed Amidu explores the consequences of pandemics on vulnerable groups in Ghana and elsewhere and identify the most effective and innovative strategies for improving their social and economic wellbeing during and after pandemics. Using both qualitative and quantitative analyses of primary and secondary resources, Dr. Amidu and his team are pursuing three distinct research streams.

The first employs a cross-country survey approach to answer the following questions:  what are the impacts of pandemics on informal settlement dwellers and how can various governments across the globe address pandemics in informal settlements? This study employs the actor network theory (ANT*) economic contagion and the political ecology theory[i] to examine the complex relationship between informal settlements, vulnerability to pandemics, and formal institutions in urban areas, advancing the argument that pandemics could be exacerbated if governments across the globe do not address the inequalities between formal and informal settlements.

The second research stream will build upon the initial findings of the first and, through a focus on Ghana, extend the analysis to include migrants, workers in the informal economy, isolated people, people with disabilities, and the elderly. The study will employ the theories of economic contagion** and information asymmetry** to develop a policy-related model to insulate highly vulnerable populations from global pandemics including Covid-19. The thrust of this research stream is to examine the implications of pandemics on the informal economy and innovative strategies for protecting the informal economy amid pandemics. It will also analyze how and to what extent mobile telephony and technology can be used to promote financial inclusion, support the informal economy, and reduce poverty and inequality.

 Arguing that the impact of pandemics can be reduced by proper collaboration and coordination mechanisms among various responsible agencies, the third line of research will examine the collaborative mechanisms that can be deployed to effectively manage pandemic response. This research will use political ecology theory and ANT (see endnotes) to situate the management of pandemics within a complex network of place-specific interactions among people, physical environments, and social institutions. The findings will be used to help devise a range of strategies that could be employed to minimize the impact of pandemics on society through the identification of effective collaboration and coordination mechanisms among the various responsible agencies.

With this research project, Dr. Amidu and team aim to contribute significantly to the growing body of literature on the impacts of pandemics on vulnerable populations in developing countries. His findings will help to fill certain critical gaps in the theoretical and empirical framework, as well as in policies and practices surrounding the preparedness and mitigation strategies designed to protect highly vulnerable populations from the effects of global pandemics, such as COVID-19.

*Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is a theoretical and methodological approach to social theory where everything in the social and natural worlds exists in constantly shifting networks of relationships. It posits that nothing exists outside those relationships and that strictly empirical analysis should be undertaken to "describe" rather than "explain" social activity.

**Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes



University of Ghana Busniess School





ORCID Open Researcher and Contributor ID, a unique and persistent identifier to researchers