Africa Day: Why now is the time for African ownership of public health

Blog • 25 May 2021

Today is an important day for Africa, as we come together to celebrate our freedom and independence. As a continent, we have so much to be proud of. Despite some prevailing public health challenges, we have used our collective wisdom, talent and leadership across areas from immunization to sanitation to further the sustainable development agenda and improve the lives of millions.  

However, despite these achievements, we still have so much to work towards and overcome. Our public health systems need further investment, we need greater funding for research and development to find new ways to treat diseases like trachoma and malaria, and we must scale up lifesaving public health interventions that protect communities across the continent. It was for this very reason that I decided to start Speak Up Africa almost ten years ago. As a specialised advocacy action tank, through our platforms and relationships, and with the help of our dedicated partners, we ensure that policy makers meet implementers; that both issues and solutions are showcased; and that everyone – from communities and civil society organizations to business leaders – play their part in contributing towards a healthier and more prosperous Africa. 

And the past year has shown us just how essential it is that all levels of society play their part in protecting health. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, everyone – from public health leaders to community health workers – showed incredible commitment and made sure that communities were protected and treated for COVID-19. At Speak Up Africa, we launched our Stay Safe Africa campaign, to empower communities and individuals to take simple and proven prevention measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in Africa. As part of the campaign, we’ve also drawn attention to the importance of vaccine equity and advocated for greater African manufacturing capabilities to meet demand. 

Championing African solutions for African challenges is something that we have continued to dedicate our time and resource to, firstly through the launch of our African Voices of Science initiative, which aims to provide a platform for trusted African science leaders and health experts to share reliable information with African populations. The COVID-19 crisis laid bare the importance for local experts to be providing sound information to help people interpret data and guidance, understand risks, and appropriately respond to their local content, and so we are delighted to work with a range of fantastic experts to amplify their credible voices, perspectives and potential solutions to our health concerns. 

Secondly the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award, in partnership with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Companies, IFPMA), which seeks to highlight and support the work of pioneering young African entrepreneurs developing health innovations that can make a real difference to healthcare workers. The award is an important investment in the human capital of Africa’s promising young entrepreneurs, and we look forward to awarding these fantastic innovators later this year. 

Ahead of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) day this Friday, we are also proud to continue our important work on MHM through our “Menstrual Hygiene Management: from taboo to economic power” campaign with our partner KITAMBAA. This project seeks to break the silence around menstruation and empower women and girls to urge leaders to implement public policies that account for women’s needs. This is another important initiative that engages African citizens in the decision-making process, ensuring that these solutions work for those they are intended for. Our continent and its people have so much to offer, which is why it is essential to have continued African ownership, leadership and partnership. I am proud that Speak Up Africa plays its role in amplifying African voices across the continent, and I truly believe that by embracing our power, utilising our best and brightest, and shouting loud and clear, we will be able to strengthen our continent and transform the public health agenda.

Yacine Djibo, Founder and Executive Director, Speak Up Africa

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