Sociospatial Networks and Transborder Epidemic Surveillance in West Africa: A Review of the Ebola Outbreak, 2014-2015

Olukayode A. Faleye


Background: While the study of social networks in the context of epidemiology is not new in the literature, most of these studies are based on official trade and migration statistics. Otherwise, they focus on a sample population within a national territory. Hence, there is the dearth of scholarly writings on the place of sociospatial networks in epidemic surveillance across state boundaries with remarkable informal transnational flows. This is particularly the case in West Africa, where transborder interactions are predominantly unofficial. It is against this backdrop that this paper examines this phenomenon using the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-15 as a case study.

Methodology: The approach is qualitative based on the synthetic review of reports of international organizations and Health Ministries in the affected countries as well as geographical data and ethnographic survey of cross-border social spaces in West Africa.

Results: The study opens up a new dialogue on the need for a contextual approach to epidemic control in West Africa. It reveals that the preoccupation of the existing transborder surveillance system with the official ports of entry is ineffective in the face of the progressive densification of transnational social networks in the region.

Conclusion: This work shows that tackling epidemics such as Ebola at geostrategic locations of sociospatial networks is a sine-qua-non for effective transborder disease surveillance in West Africa.  


Ebola, Epidemic Surveillance, Public Health, Sociospatial Networks, State Boundary, Transnational Flows, West Africa


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