The second Africa CDC Youth Pre-Conference kicked off on 25 November 2023 ahead of Africa’s largest public health conference, CPHIA 2023, in Lusaka, Zambia. Convened by Africa CDC, in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, GIZ and Unicef, the conference witnessed participation of over 250 African youth from 51 African countries and diaspora.
The Director General of Africa CDC, His Excellency Dr Jean Kaseya, opened the conference by calling on young people to take an architectural position in providing guidance towards a safer and healthier Africa and to play a pivotal role in this task.
The First Lady of the Republic of Namibia, Her Excellency Monica Geingos set the participants alight with words of inspiration, emphasizing on the significance of Public Health to African youth as it extends beyond individual well-being; it is integral to the broader development and prosperity of the continent. “When public health gets it wrong, people die. When public health gets it right, people live. Being effective at what you do is a matter of life and death.” she said.
The role of Youth Leadership in Africa was highlighted by Dr Chrys Promesse Kaniki, a Senior Technical Officer Strategy & Policy at Africa CDC who also leads the YPC Conveners saying, “Young people are instrumental in bringing fresh and innovative ideas that will benefit citizens of the continent. The Youth Pre-Conference serves as one of the platforms we are using to engage, share information and empower young people to make even bigger contributions in various places.’’ he said.
The two-day conference was a combination of panel discussions, breakout sessions and small working group discussions. The discussion on Reproductive Health & Rights of Adolescents highlighted the need for access to accurate information, so women and girls can better advocate for their rights.
The young participants also deliberated on Local Medical Manufacturing in Africa highlighting success factors which include the need to start engaging consumers to prepare them for what is to come, to ensure acceptance of domestically produced medical products.
The engagement on Youth in Digital Health emphasised the role of technology and innovation to the future of health and the need for support through funding and adoption of modern technologies.
On the final day of the conference, the Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC co-created a panel discussion with the theme “Youth Workforce Development for a Resilient Ecosystem.” The aim of this session was to unpack, understand and find solutions for the increasing loss of skilled health workforce in the continent, due to migration to other countries or leaving the health sector due to challenging working conditions.
“Young people hold transformative power and can shift outdated systems which no longer serve the continent. With youth making up 60-65% of the African population, we must involve them in key conversations and decision-making”. Affirmed Dr. Shakira Choonara, World Health Organisation specialist and AMREF Board Member.
Technology and innovation were identified as key enablers in health, and investing into these areas present an opportunity for young people to contribute immensely in a way that would benefit the future of health in Africa.
The issue of brain drain was addressed by Barbara Ngouyombo, Associate Director Partnerships, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, as she emphasised the need for progressive policies that will make working in Africa attractive for the health workforce, which will contribute to attracting new talent and retain existing ones that we have across the continent.
In closing the conference, Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the Deputy Director-General at Africa CDC reminded the participants that they are central to finding innovative solutions to Africa’s health challenges and that they are not an afterthought to the development of long-lasting solutions to Africa’s health challenges.