Closing ceremony – maintaining the momentum

A distinguished panel of speakers from Africa and Europe applauded EDCTP2’s work to date and looked forward to even greater successes through the Global Health EDCTP3 programme.

Introducing the concluding remarks from the distinguished panellists, Dr Michael Makanga, Executive Director of EDCTP2, suggested that the Forum “has been a long number of days, but time very well spent”.

He highlighted the fact that this has been a record-breaking event for EDCTP2, with 1118 registrations and 960 in-person delegates from 64 countries. The six plenary sessions featured 35 speakers, 20 female and 15 male. The Forum had included 247 physical posters and 70 e-posters, as well as scientific symposia, sponsored satellite meetings, and highly popular ‘meet the experts’ sessions.

Other notable aspects of the Forum included an opening ceremony featuring the Minister for Higher Education and Research, outstanding keynote addresses, and presentations of the 2023 EDCTP Prizes.

Dr Makanga concluded by thanking the Forum’s sponsors, the host committee, the scientific committee that put the programme together, the organising committee and the events committee.

His thanks were echoed by Professor Harleen Grewal, Forum Scientific Programme Committee Chair and EDCTP Scientific Advisory Committee Chair, who also expressed her deepest gratitude to Dr Makanga, to colleagues on the EDCTP2 Scientific Advisory Committee, the previous Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee Professor Catherine Hankins, and the other members of the Organising Committee.

Prof. Grewal also noted how the Forum had reflected the key aspects of EDCTP: “These past two days have been a testament to the power of collaboration, to innovation and to the shared pursuit of knowledge. It’s really heartening to witness what can be created from strategic investments, combined with a committed leadership.”

She admitted to a certain sadness at the end of such an energising meeting but suggested its legacy would live on: “As we bring the Forum meeting to a close, we carry with us the memories we’ve created and the connections we formed.”

The view from Africa

The Honourable Minister Dr Tunji Alausa, Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Nigeria, opened his presentation by noting the positive view of EDCTP in Nigeria: “Nigeria’s participation in the EDCTP in the last decade has been of tremendous impact,” he suggested. He also urged others in Africa to join EDCTP: “I will encourage our fellow African countries that are not yet part of EDCTP to take advantage of the unique opportunities that this partnership offers and come on board.”

The Honourable Minister suggested that the events of the week had demonstrated a spirit of togetherness, determination and commitment not only to address infectious disease in sub-Saharan Africa but also to collaborate with European counterparts.

He also noted that he had recently commissioned a review of Nigerian research and health data ecosystems, and was taking steps to improving the quality of data in Nigeria’s National Health Information System, constituting a new National Health Research Committee and the National Health Research Ethics Committee, and leveraging the country’s research strengths and large and diverse population to make Nigeria a destination of choice for clinical trials. “We shall need your support and collaboration for this ambitious goal we have set for ourselves,” he suggested.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director, was keen to acknowledge the active participation of younger delegates:I’d like to make a special shout out to the many young scientists so full of energy that characterise this EDCTP forum,” she said.

She noted how WHO had entered into collaborations soon after the launch of EDCTP2. She acknowledged the importance of focusing on both emerging pathogens and the existing infectious disease challenges in the region. Stronger national health research systems are vital in this regard and can be powered by both North–South partnerships such as EDCTP and increasingly influential South–South partnerships.

Emerging opportunities include the growing increase in local manufacturing and the potentially transformative effect of digital technologies and AI.

In conclusion, she suggested that WHO would be an enthusiastic partner to Global Health EDCTP3: “The main takeaway message this afternoon is that we should build on the remarkable successes and lessons learned from EDCTP2, and in EDCTP3 be even more ambitious, more innovative, and solve some of the world’s most elusive scientific questions, but also directly address inequalities. I’d like to assure you that WHO in the African region will be even more engaged in EDCTP3 and will continue to play a facilitator role so that together we improve the health of people on the continent and build health security.”

Final words

In the final presentation to the Forum, the French Ambassador for Global Health, Anne-Claire Amprou, noted that France had been a founding EDCTP partner and strongly committed to EDCTP ever since.

She said that France was delighted to have hosted the Forum for the first time in Paris, under the patronage of President Emmanuel Macron. She also praised the diversity of the topics covered and speakers, and commended EDCTP on its gender representation in presenters.

The Ambassador emphasised that global health was a priority for France, highlighting in particular two sets of French networks with a strong presence in sub-Saharan Africa – those run by ANRS and l’Institut Pasteur. As well as EDCTP, France was also a major donor to other global development organisations, including the Global Fund, UNITAID and Gavi.

In October 2023, France launched its new global health strategy, at an event also attended by Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Sylvie Retailleau, Minister of Higher Education and Research, Aurelien Rousseau, Minister of Health and Prevention, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. The Ambassador pointed out four areas where this new strategy aligned with Global Health EDCTP3:

  • A commitment to the development of new interventions in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 3.
  • A strong focus on pandemic preparedness in EDCTP3, consistent with the One Health focus of France’s global health strategy.
  • Supporting partnerships to build research infrastructure and promote development of human capital.
  • A shared belief in equitable partnerships and principles of co-ownership.

The Ambassador concluded by noting the current global focus on pandemic preparedness and the World Health Assembly’s call for strengthening of clinical trial capacity globally. This, she suggested, was an area where the Global Health EDCTP3 could have particular impact.

The last word went to Dr Michael Makanga, shortly to take up the position of Executive Director of Global Health EDCTP3 following his highly successful tenure at EDCTP2. He thanked the presenters for the remarks and expressed gratitude for France’s outstanding commitments to EDCTP. He thanked his co-chair, Professor Harleen Grewal, acknowledged the tireless efforts of ANRS’s Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah in ensuring the meeting was a success, and urged delegates to go home and build on the Forum’s energy: “I want us to leave really living the spirit of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of EDCTP and carry forward that energy as we go into the next 10 years of implementation of the EDCTP3 programme.”  

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