Stakeholder Engagement to Break Ground for Implementation of Health Tech Platform’s Interventions
30 September 2021
Author: Venancious Tuor and Rose Oronje Ph.D.
L - R: Dr. John Mushomi (AFIDEP); Dr. Pius Akankwasa (Expert, Uganda Prime Minister's Delivery Unit - PMDU); Dr. Rose Oronje (AFIDEP); Dr John Agaba Mary (Deputy Director, PMDU); and Ms Carol Mukiira (AFIDEP). Kampala, Uganda.

As part of partnership building and breaking ground for the implementation of the Platform for Dialogue and Action on Health Technologies in Africa (Health Tech Platform), we conducted consultations with various stakeholders at the regional level as well as in Burkina Faso and Uganda.

Engaging regional stakeholders

We conducted a series of meetings with various key stakeholders at regional level to define specific ways of collaboration and the specific areas/activities around which we would collaborate.

On July 9, 2021, we met with the WHO Regional Office for Africa to introduce the Health Tech Platform as well as explore opportunities for collaboration. The agency welcomed the idea of partnership, noting that emerging health technologies are among its priority areas. The meeting agreed that the Platform would share with the WHO a concept note outlining the potential for collaboration around a specific emerging health technology ready for scale-up in a specific country. This, it was agreed, would provide an immediate opportunity for the WHO to work with the Platform in supporting a WHO member country to develop policy guidelines or framework needed to guide the scale-up of the technology.

On July 21, 2021, we met with the AUDA-NEPAD and discussed ways in which the Platform could collaborate with the Agency, including collaborating on activities such as dialogues, and providing evidence syntheses that the Agency may need for its activities around gene drives for Malaria control and other technologies. The AUDA-NEPAD welcomed the opportunity to collaborate, and advised the Platform to share an outline of potential activities for collaboration in order to move the process forward.

On July 30, 2021, we met with SpeakUp Africa, a leading CSO in West Africa on advocacy on various development issues (including health), to discuss potential ways of collaboration. The meeting agreed that capacity development for CSOs on emerging health technologies was a common area of interest, and that the Platform would share a concept note with SpeakUp Africa on ways of collaboration on this area.

On August 10, 2021, we met with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) to introduce the Platform and discuss how the Association could play a role in the Platform’s efforts to stimulate discussions with private sector actors on their role in the development, testing and deployment of emerging health technologies in Africa. The Association noted that health is an important priority for its members, and that it would be interested in convening its members for discussions around emerging health technologies. It noted that it convenes manufacturers in the East Africa region, and is also involved in continental-level forums for manufacturers. The meeting agreed that the Platform would share a concept note with specific topics/emerging health technologies that the Association would consider convening dialogues on for its members.

Engaging stakeholders in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a priority country for the Health Tech Platform because of the planned research to test gene drives for Malaria control and elimination in the country. Malaria is endemic in the whole of Burkina Faso, and it accounts for 43% of all health provider consultations and 22% of deaths in the country.

We held meetings with the AUDA-NEPAD representative in the country, the Target Malaria Consortium based at the Research Institute of Health Sciences (IRSS), the Ouagadougou Partnership, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), and the Nouna Health Research Centre (CRSN). Discussions centred around ongoing efforts on gene drives and other emerging technologies in the country, the need for an enabling environment (regulatory framework) for biotechnology, and the need for collective efforts in the development and use of emerging technologies to address health challenges in the country and in Africa at large.

Welcoming a collaboration with the Health Tech Platform, Dr. Moussa Savadogo, Principal Programme Officer and Coordinator, who represented the Burkina Faso Country Director of AUDA-NEPAD, indicated that what had been set out in the Platform’s activities were in line with the aspirations of the African people, whose efforts to achieve them constitute the very raison d’être of the programmes of the AUDA-NEPAD. Dr. Savadogo appealed for the mobilisation of all stakeholders to make the vision, objectives and strategies of the Platform a reality. “The relevance of the vision, objectives and strategies set out in the Health Tech project calls for an active mobilisation of all stakeholders on the ground to make it a living and lasting reality,” said he.

Dr. Diabaté Abdoulaye, Director of IRSS and Principal Investigator of Target Malaria in Burkina Faso, in a separate meeting, also called for proper co-ordination of efforts from all stakeholders on the work on gene drives for Malaria control. “Work on gene drives began in 2012 and there have since been a number of actors involved, and so it is important to move all along the same direction. This then calls for effective and proper coordination among all the actors,” he said.

Dr. Abdoulaye noted the gap in regulatory framework to guide the work on gene drive and other health technologies as a critical factor for consideration by the Platform. He also noted the need for political will from African leaders, without which, he said, all efforts would amount to nothing.

Among others, the consultations with CRSN in Burkina Faso enabled us to concretise institutional partnership discussions initiated earlier, paving the way for contracting CRSN as the institutional partner for the Platform’s work in Burkina Faso.

Engaging stakeholders in Uganda

Like Burkina Faso, Uganda is a priority country for the Platform because of the planned research to test gene drives for Malaria control in the country. The country has the highest global burden of Malaria case (5%) and the 8th highest level of deaths at 3%. It also has the highest proportion of Malaria cases in East and Southern Africa at 23.7%.

We held consultations with various organisations including: the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST); the Target Malaria Consortium based at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), PATH Uganda, individual researchers from Makerere University, Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU).

Consultations highlighted, among others, the need for the Platform to prioritise efforts that will stimulate reforms for a more enabling legal framework for biotechnology, as well as efforts to form an advocacy coalition to raise the profile of, and investments in, research and innovation for improved health of citizens.

The consultations in Uganda enabled the identification of potential institutional partners to steer the Platform’s work in the country. Conversations with these partners are underway to define the Platform’s programme of work for the country.

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