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Africa health agenda international conference 2023 welcoming remarks by Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director, Africa CDC 6th March 2023

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Your Excellency, Minister Sabin Nsanzimana,

Honourable Ministers present,

Group CEO of AMREF Africa – Dr Githinji Gitahi

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heads of agencies and institutions, leaders of delegations, participants and delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and welcome to the 5th edition of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC2023).

My heartfelt thanks to my brother Dr Githinji Gitahi and all of you who have immensely contributed to this unique, yet timely discussion captured under the theme “Resilient Health Systems for Africa: Re-envisioning the Future Now”. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Rwanda for hosting us once again and Minister Sabin please take our greetings and gratitude to His Excellency the President. In the next 3 days, we will

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cover many aspects of the numerous health challenges faced by the continent including one of the biggest global health threats of the 21st century – climate change.

Africa CDC is therefore honoured to co-host this important conference with AMREF and the Government of Rwanda.

Africa CDC’s core mandate is disease prevention and control in Africa.

Strengthening health systems and the broader health eco-system for the prevention, preparedness and rapid response to disease threats is our core strategy. The ultimate goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of the African people as envisaged in Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want.

Your excellencies

ladies and gentlemen:

As Africa CDC we are clear that the current dispensation in delivering health to

the continent is not sustainable – Africa’s health priorities are not where external investments in health are going. As we work together with all our 55 member states in the Africa Union, as well as our regional and global partners, we find it is necessary

to address the shared health threats, we face in Africa and beyond more holistically.

We must incorporate a one health approach in how we strategize for and manage our disease prevention and control efforts. Africa CDC is therefore supporting ministries of health and national public health institutes (NPHIs) to build this capacity, while

simultaneously improving coordination for the prevention and control of priority zoonotic diseases across other integral parts of the health sector. We are also supporting our countries to establish and operationalise public health emergency operations centres (PHEOCs), as championed by his Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia – PHEOCs should be the central coordinating hubs for disease

surveillance and response coordination across Africa.

The effects of global warming and climate change are critical contributing factors to many of the health emergencies and diseases that we face on the African

continent. Not only can disasters such as flooding, drought or other extreme weather patterns have devastating effects on our socio-economic fabric, but these disasters also result in infrastructure damage, economic losses due to business disruption, malnutrition, interruption of education for children, and even poorer health outcomes due to disruptions in health services.

Every sector that fails, it becomes a health problem. Any interruption in a supply chain for both health and non-health products results in negative health

consequences. Our health systems cannot be effective if we do not acknowledge and prepare for risks and pressures outside the health system itself. That is why we are currently responding to the growing cholera outbreak in multiple countries because

other sectors are facing challenges that are now translating into health problems. We must work across sectors to reduce such hits on the health system.

The experience we have had through the COVID-19 pandemic and recent outbreaks such as mpox, ebola, cholera etc, is a direct consequence of inadequate

investment in public health – in the health workforce, in pandemic preparedness and

response machinery, and in the actual health system itself. We are living through the consequences of a failure to adequately invest and prioritize public health needs in Africa – this is the very impetus for Africa CDC’s New Public Health Order guided by

principles of local ownership, leadership, equity, innovation, and self-reliance.

Excellencies, fellow delegates

As I conclude, I must say that despite our many challenges, I’m a proud African today. We were gathered here for the 2nd edition of the CPHIA in December 2022 and it was a great success – we showcased that Africa is indeed able to create and

excellently run a platform that brings all spheres of public health on the continent together.

Today we are at AHAIC 2023, and it gives us yet another opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a continent to set our own health agenda, bring our experts together with our many partners, and find innovative solutions to the problems we face. Truly, Africa has come of age. I am even more proud that Africa CDC is part of these 2 crucial African platforms.

Let this conference be yet another opportunity for us to plant the tree of African excellence; an opportunity for the African Health Agenda to be discussed on the African continent; an opportunity for innovative ideas to be launched here in Africa

for Africa. We have that obligation to plant that tree of African excellence.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

It is the African icon and environmentalist, one of the leading women leaders of our time, Wangari Maathai who said “Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done anything. You are just talking.” Let us

dig that hole and plant that tree for Africa to own its health agenda.

Thank you




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