On March 6th, I had the pleasure of attending the St. Andrews Africa Summit’s annual conference. Like most events of the past year, it was moved to an online, which actually suited the topic of discussion quite nicely. The theme for the 2021 summit was entitled “Global Problems, Local Solutions: Navigating Through the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which according to the event description, “aims to explore the impact of the pandemic on African industries, cultures, and influence now and going forward.” The event featured three dynamic panelists, each from various standpoints ranging from economy to ecology. The conference facilitated discussions surrounding the impact of the pandemic and addressed assumptions concerning the future of African politics and well-being.
The distinguished speakers were Dr. Ngoy Nsenga, Mr. Isaac Awuondo, and Dr. David Obura. Dr. Nsenga is a public health emergency expert from Congo with over 25 years of experience managing outbreaks across the African continent. He has worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) for the last 15 years and played a key role in the management of outbreaks such as the Ebola crisis. He is now the team leader of emergency response in the WHO regional office for Africa and has spent the last year managing the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus across the continent. Dr. David Obura is a Kenyan marine-biologist with 30 years of experience in conservation and sustainability around East Africa. He is also the founder of CODIO, an organization that supports marine systems in the Western Indian Ocean. Finally, Mr. Isaac Awuondo is the Chairman of the NCBA Bank in Kenya, with over 20 years of experience in the economic field. He has a regional focus in various other African countries and has worked tirelessly to assist with the transition to online banking that Africans have had to take due to the pandemic.
With such an experienced and diverse set of speakers, the discussion was nothing less than utterly thought-provoking. Through the Q+A feature on Microsoft Teams the audience had the opportunity to ask questions to the three panelists during the final half hour of the conference. Each panelist touched on the implications of the pandemic to their specialty. For example, Dr. Nsenga stressed the importance of community involvement in maintaining and eventually stopping the outbreak. By monitoring the daily activities of the communities, health organizations can work to design specific health interventions to benefit each community. He says that with more than 150 public health emergencies in Africa every year, it is vital that we understand the way the community works to fight against these diseases in order to provide the help they need. Mr. Awuondo touched on the various economic factors that have changed due to the pandemic, such as the dramatic decrease in the tourism economy and the necessity of investing in technology that would allow students and workers to work from home. With most Africans working on a day-to-day basis, it is up to the economy experts to find a compromise to maintain safety while also helping people’s livelihoods that are suffering economically. Dr. Obura discussed the value of integrating nature into people’s lives in order to learn survival techniques if the economy is forced to shut down. By appreciating the Nature capital, or the assets nature supplies us with, we can work on incorporating these assets into our daily lives to prepare against any emergency in the future.
To conclude, I believe this conference was extraordinarily successful and I’d like to thank the St. Andrews Africa Summit for putting it together. It was a pleasure to hear such diverse points of view from each speaker and led me to consider the implications of health emergencies outside Western countries.