Africa: African Leaders Gather to Break Barriers, Reposition Continent in Global Health

Lusaka, Zambia — Africa is on a mission to strengthen its healthcare systems and become more self-reliant in public health.

The Third International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) has opened with a commitment to increased collaboration and investment in healthcare.

The conference theme of this year, “Breaking Barriers: Repositioning Africa in the Global Health Architecture,” underscores a fundamental truth: health is not only a matter of medical science, but also of policy, equity, and global cooperation, remarked Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director-General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

Kaseya said this at the opening ceremony in Lusaka, Zambia, where over 5,000 delegates gathered to delve into critical issues shaping Africa’s public health landscape. Gracing this momentous occasion will be Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, a champion of transformative change, Namibia’s Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, a beacon of resilience, Zambia’s Minister of Health, Sylvia T. Masebo, a staunch advocate for well-being, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the world’s foremost guardian of global health.

“Breaking barriers in public health requires us to think beyond traditional models, and embrace technology, equity, and collaboration,” Kaseya asserted. “We must amplify the voices of the vulnerable and redefine our position in global health. Together, we can forge a new, resilient, equitable, and future-ready public health order for Africa. This conference marks Africa CDC’s one-year anniversary as an autonomous institution, established under the visionary leadership of African leaders. Africa CDC has emerged as a beacon of hope and progress, working tirelessly to enhance the health and well-being of the African people.”

Kaseya added that Africa CDC is dedicated to realising a New Public Health Order for Africa, which aims to redefine the healthcare landscape of the continent through a focus on the 5Cs: Community, Connectivity, Capacity, Collaboration, and Climate.

Echoing Kaseya’s call for unity and collaboration, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema issued a clarion call for African nations to strengthen their healthcare systems through collective action, transcending geographical boundaries.

“There is no ‘my area’ in healthcare,” he declared. “We must work together to optimize resource utilization, even amidst scarcity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, according to Hichilema, served as a stark reminder of Africa’s interdependence in combating health crises. He affirmed the commitment of African leaders to secure equitable access to vaccines and medical supplies, preventing a recurrence of the inequities experienced during the pandemic. Hichilema underscored the importance of robust investments in healthcare systems, citing Zambia’s own budgetary increase from 7% to 12% over the past two years. He stressed the importance of prudent resource allocation, prioritizing areas that maximize healthcare effectiveness.

Namibia’s Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila championed the establishment of robust, resilient, and sustainable healthcare systems across Africa, anchored in the bedrock of primary healthcare. She underscored the inextricable link between good health and national prosperity, saying that no nation can flourish without ensuring quality healthcare for its citizens.

The conference which will be held from November 27-30, serves as a beacon of African innovation, showcasing the continent’s groundbreaking scientific advancements and unwavering commitment to health equity. This high-level event will bring together African leaders, researchers, and scientists will converge to tackle the continent’s most pressing health challenges.

Africa Leaps Forward in Health Technology Innovations, Public Health

Africa is experiencing a surge in health technology advancements, driven by mobile health apps, telemedicine platforms, and digital disease surveillance systems, said Professor Margaret Gyapong, CPHIA 2023 Co-Chair, Director of the Institute of Health Research, University of Health and Allied Sciences at the media press briefing.

“These innovations are the result of collaborations between governments, private sector entities, and civil society organizations, and they are being led by African scientists and researchers,” she said.

Gyapong added that African scientists and researchers are leading the charge in developing groundbreaking vaccines tailored to address regional disease burdens, including malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. One example is the development of the RTS, S malaria vaccine, which is being used to protect communities from vaccine-preventable diseases. Another example is the Afrigen Lab in South Africa, which is building the first African-owned mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. In Kenya, a digital community surveillance platform has been developed to assist community health workers and disease surveillance officers to detect and report unusual health risks and diseases at the grassroots level.”