Risk perception of COVID-19 among sub-Sahara Africans: a web-based comparative survey of local and diaspora residents

Emmanuel Kwasi Abu, Richard Oloruntoba, Uchechukwu Levi Osuagwu, Dipesh Bhattarai, Chundung Asabe Miner, Piwuna Christopher Goson, Raymond Langsi, Obinna Nwaeze, Timothy G. Chikasirimobi, Godwin O. Ovenseri-Ogbomo, Bernadine N. Ekpenyong, Deborah Donald Charwe, Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, Tanko Ishaya, Kingsley Emwinyore Agho

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Perceived risk towards the coronavirus pandemic is key to improved compliance with public health measures to reduce the infection rates. This study investigated how Sub-Saharan Africans (SSA) living in their respective countries and those in the diaspora perceive their risk of getting infected by the COVID-19 virus as well as the associated factors. Methods: A web-based cross-sectional survey on 1969 participants aged 18 years and above (55.1% male) was conducted between April 27th and May 17th 2020, corresponding to the mandatory lockdown in most SSA countries. The dependent variable was the perception of risk for contracting COVID-19 scores. Independent variables included demographic characteristics, and COVID-19 related knowledge and attitude scores. Univariate and multiple linear regression analyses identified the factors associated with risk perception towards COVID-19. Results: Among the respondents, majority were living in SSA (n = 1855, 92.8%) and 143 (7.2%) in the diaspora. There was no significant difference in the mean risk perception scores between the two groups (p = 0.117), however, those aged 18–28 years had lower risk perception scores (p = 0.003) than the older respondents, while those who were employed (p = 0.040) and had higher levels of education (p < 0.001) had significantly higher risk perception scores than other respondents. After adjusting for covariates, multivariable analyses revealed that SSA residents aged 39–48 years (adjusted coefficient, β = 0.06, 95% CI [0.01, 1.19]) and health care sector workers (β = 0.61, 95% CI [0.09, 1.14]) reported a higher perceived risk of COVID-19. Knowledge and attitude scores increased as perceived risk for COVID-19 increased for both SSAs in Africa (β = 1.19, 95% CI [1.05, 1.34] for knowledge; β = 0.63, 95% CI [0.58, 0.69] for attitude) and in Diaspora (β = 1.97, 95% CI [1.16, 2.41] for knowledge; β = 0.30, 95% CI [0.02, 0.58] for attitude). Conclusions: There is a need to promote preventive measures focusing on increasing people’s knowledge about COVID-19 and encouraging positive attitudes towards the mitigation measures such as vaccines and education. Such interventions should target the younger population, less educated and non-healthcare workers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1562
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Africa
  • COVID-19
  • Diaspora
  • Knowledge
  • Lockdown
  • Pandemic
  • Risk perception
  • Sub-Sahara Africa


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