Repositioning Africa in global health


TOMORROW Zambia will be playing host to one of the most important conferences, the 2023 International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA). This year’s conference will be held under the theme: “Breaking barriers: Repositioning Africa in the Global Health Architecture.” CPHIA international conference is hosted by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the African Union (AU) with support from organising committee of public health experts from Africa and around the world. The Ministry of Health and Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) are the major stakeholders in organising this year’s conference which will attract experts in the medical and public health sectors from Africa and across the world. Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo also confirmed during a press briefing on Thursday that President Hakainde Hichilena is on November 27, 2023 expected to officially open the conference, to be held at Mulungushi International Conference Centre. The CPHIA international conference, which has attracted over 3,000 delegates from Africa and across the world, will share scientific findings and public health perspectives and collaborate on research, innovation and public health on the continent. Today the delegates are expected to walk a stretch of five kilometres. The walk is aimed at promoting health awareness through physical exercise as an important aspect for disease prevention. ZNPHI director general Roma Chilengi says the preparations have reached an advanced stage and that he is optimistic things will turn out as projected. Executive chairman for Africa Health Business Amit Thakker, who has over 30 years of working experience in health care ,has his own expectations of the conference. Dr Thakker describes this year’s CPHIA theme as appropriate because the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world that there is need to be firmly embedded in the journey of self-reliance. He says the goal for a self-reliant Africa is to provide good health for people using the continent’s own goods and services. “The journey to self-reliance and repositioning Africa to be the continent that is able to manufacture products, provide health services, carry out diagnosis and have effective therapeutics are all aligned in this year’s theme,” Dr Thakker said. He says public health is not only a concern for Government, the donor, development partners, civil society or private sector. “The only recipe for Africa to be strong in health is the recipe called the whole of society, as the concept is about engaging all stakeholders and actors to produce better health care,’’ Dr Thakker said. CPHIA is being held for the third time in Africa after the first one held virtually in 2021, the second and physical CPHIA international was held in Kigali Rwanda last year and this year’s is being held by Rwanda. The inaugural CPHIA international conference in 2021 was held under the theme: “Help accelerate progress in the fight against COVID-19”. Last year’s theme was: “Preparedness for future pandemics and post pandemic recovery: Africa at Crossroads.”
Asked on the achievements recorded since the first CPHIA international conference in 2021, Dr Thakker said he has witnessed a number of achievements since 2021. He said his first observation is that the inclusion of youths in the CPHIA activities has grown phenomenally. “I have seen a lot more abstracts and a lot more participation including the demonstration of innovations. The display of innovative health solutions by the young scientists is much higher and much higher since 2021,” he said. Dr Thakker also feels the recognition of well-deserving scientists through the introduction of the prestigious Africa CDC Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh (DRASA) award given to frontline workers in the health sector is meant to enhance public health efforts on the continent. The award is aimed at motivating others to pursue careers in healthcare while also emphasising the importance of investing in and supporting those in the forefront of public health efforts on the continent. Dr Thakker said over the years he has seen strong partnerships in terms of Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Government relations. “I would say this relationship is the first phase in investment and domestic financing. In the next few years, we should measure how much finance has been brought on the continent,” he said. Asked on whether Africa is ready to tackle future public health pandemics, Dr Thakker says he is very hopeful after the recently held Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit in South Africa, where they proposed to design Pandemics Preparedness and Recovery and Resilience (PPRR). This is meant to prepare Africa against future pandemics and health security threats.
He said the expectations of this year’s CPHIA conference is not to look at it as an event but to make it a movement that is unstoppable towards attaining excellent public health on the continent. “I believe champions, policy-makers, ministries and the private sector are all converging to a unified movement towards the process of improving health,” he said. He said the key priority for Africa is to align all the countries to work together by having continental agencies like African Medicines Agency (AMA) fully operationalised, Africa Free Trade Agreement to ensure free movement of medical goods and services across Africa. Another expectation is institutional strengthening, collaboration between stakeholders and a movement.
Dr Thakker says the Zambian health system has transformed after embracing health financing by passing a bill on National Health Insurance. “This is a brilliant and noble idea to create a strong national health system both in the public and private health sector,” he said.