Taking place just before the Forum itself, the high-level meeting with its two-panel discussions was an intense experience for all its participants. So many ideas shared in the space of just five hours!
Michael Makanga’s summary of what EDCTP1 and EDCTP2 have achieved in 15 years (the anniversary date was last Saturday) was well received. Indeed one delegate described the level of what has been achieved as ‘eye watering’!
But no organisation can rest on its laurels at such a time. EDCTP wants to move on to a third programme, which would begin in 2024, and so it is time to think about what such a programme would look like. EDCTP3 would be part of the EU Horizon Europe funding programme and must fit in with its objectives, especially regarding sustainable development and climate change. Hence the observations and opinions of the delegates were being sought. Here are just a few highlights from the issues raised.
Priority groups have been identified, including children and adolescents, but people in Africa are living longer so the elderly must not be left behind and also need to be recognised as a vulnerable group.
The most frequently made comments from panelists in the discussion concerned congratulations to EDCTP on the progress achieved, particularly with reference to capacity building and the creation of partnerships. But almost as many commented that there was a need to expand the list of diseases on EDCTP´s remit, beyond infectious conditions, to include non-communicable diseases (and maybe cancer and injury). These comments contrasted with the frequently made remark that infectious diseases are ´unfinished business´. There is a view that EDCTP cannot do everything; with so much still on the infectious disease agenda, perhaps NCDs should be handled by other organisations?
Also frequently alluded to was the need for African countries themselves to invest more (in cash or in kind) in health research.
The need to develop ´new forms of partnership´ was mentioned by many, though concrete suggestions seemed to be lacking! There was, however, general agreement on the need for more private sector involvement.
Novel suggestions included several mentions of the role of space research. Migration can be viewed from space (as can the effects of climate change) and this can be helpful in disease control programmes.
The meeting also included presentations on behalf of several organisations also involved with health and sustainable development in Africa. In every case, they stated a willingness to cooperate and collaborate with EDCTP – either to begin to do so or to expand what they are already doing. Hearing about their work (and the opportunity to compare notes informally afterward) is, of course, one of the advantages of meetings of this kind.