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AFREhealth Governing Council Meeting 18-19 February 2019 - Gaborone, Botswana

President’s Interim Report

Dear Vice-Rector, Deans of University of Botswana, distinguished members of the AFREhealth Governing Council, and guests at this meeting from IDI and HW21. It is indeed a great privilege for me to deliver my Interim President’s Report at this Governing Council Meeting in Gaborone today. Let me take a moment to thank our host, Prof Oathokwa Nkomazana, and the University of Botswana, for such warm hospitality and wonderful facilities that you are providing free of charge to us today and tomorrow. To the funders of this meeting namely HW21, IDI, and some of you that funded your own travel, I would like to express AFREhealth’s sincerest gratitude, as without your support this meeting could not happen.  To the ladies behind the scenes that put in all the hard work to do the bookings and logistics for the meeting especially Clara Sam-Woode, Harmony Chai, Tracey Shissler, Harriet Nambooze, and the staff in the Botswana Jhpiego office and Prof Nkomazana’s office, we owe you a very big thank you. To all the Governing Council members, who came from over the continent to attend this meeting, thank you for your dedication and investing your time and energies into AFREhealth.

The new AFREhealth Executive Committee that was elected in Durban, South Africa, in August last year has been working hard to push forward the development of our growing organization, through monthly meetings and countless email correspondence. To Vice-President Prof Abigail Kazembe, Secretary Dr Elsie Kiguli-Malwadde, Treasurer Prof Kanda Golakai, Additional Members Prof Nelson Sewankambo and Prof Abdon Mukalay, and Past-President Peter Donkor, thank you for your diligent and generous work for AFREhealth.

A 3-day leadership transitional meeting was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, from 31 October to 2 November 2018. This meeting was attended by the members of the previous and new Exco, the NIH grant’s Principal Investigators, HW21 and HRSA. At this meeting we made significant progress over various fronts, which will be reported on during this Council meeting. A full day was devoted to the presentation and discussion of the activities of the NIH grant. Good time was used to further develop our Strategic Business Plan. This plan helps us to document and orient action towards our most immediate organizational priorities. The team focused on how to best align our organizational development priorities with current realities and needs, both internal

and external, during this critical period in AFREhealth’s evolution. Thank you to Tracey Shissler and Edgar Necochea from HW21 for their assistance with the Business Plan as well as various other activities during the past months.
The AFREhealth Regulations have finally been finalized, a copy of which you received with your meeting documents. A big thank you to Prof Kanda Golakai for taking the lion’s share of this work.
Our immediate focus over the past few months was to prepare the groundwork for establishing a permanent Secretariat. This entails developing staff structures, job descriptions, costing of the office, standard operating procedures etc. We are working in partnership with IDI and the NIH-grant PIs to fast track the setting up of the Secretariat. Progress will be reported at this meeting.

Among our highest priorities is developing strong marketing and strategic communications systems and strategies to generate and maintain vibrant AFREhealth brand identity and recognition among key target audiences. Intensive work has gone into planning a more vibrant and functional website in the short term, and a completely upgraded website in the long term. The website is crucial to AFREhealth’s profile to members, partners, and funders. We also updated the brochure, which you all received, with our latest information. We need to boost our membership and show benefits and value of AFREhealth to current and potential members.

The best news we had towards the end of last year was the awarding of the NIH grant to AFREhealth. Congratulation again to PI Prof Nelson Sewankambo and his co-PIs. We are very excited about the opportunities that the NIH-grant is affording us to take AFREhealth forward and we intend to spend good time during this meeting to unpack more of that.

The AFREhealth partnership with CUGH is consolidating. AFREhealth will have a strong presence at the CUGH conference in Chicago in March with more than 12 Governing Council members who aim to attend the meeting. The AFREhealth-CUGH (ACWG) working group will be presenting a Satellite session at the conference where we aim to generate actionable projects for the sub-groups. One of these is the student exchanges partnership we have with GEMx, which is growing from strength to strength. AFREhealth will also host a dedicated networking session at the CUGH conference, participate in a session on diversity in the programme, and attend various meetings and social gatherings.

There is a strong possibility of new HRSA funding for a focused project through Drs Eric Goosby and Mike Reid at University College San Francisco. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also contacted us to have discussions on priorities in pre-service health professions education in Africa, which is one of their areas of interest. 

AFREhealth’s Annual Symposium, which is our flagship activity, will be held this year in Lagos from 5-8 August. We are looking forward to visit Nigeria, where we have been promised large attendance by most of Nigeria’s universities. More about that later from the Convenor Prof David Olaleye.

I have been very impressed with the interest shown by African and International organizations and individuals in AFREhealth. We have immense potential to achieve a significant impact across Africa. We are constantly approached by organizations who are interested in collaborating with us. This brings home the importance of this Governing Council meeting in taking AFREhealth forward in terms of governance and organizational growth, but also in rolling-out the content work, namely the standing committees and technical working groups. To this end, we will establish Standing Committees at this meeting, and I trust that you will come forward to serve on these. Potential funders are particularly interested in the work of the Technical Working Groups, and I hope that this meeting will give us a big push to re-establish the TWGs. The time for action is now, so that we can show all that we can do what it takes. Yes, there is still a lot of talking that needs to be done, but this meeting needs to help us to take action going forward.

Prof Marietjie de Villiers
18 February 2019




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The African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth) is an interprofessional health grouping that seeks to work all stakeholders interested in health profession education , research and service delivery to improve the quality of health care in Africa through research, education and capacity building. It is a conglomerate of individuals, institutions, associations and networks from all the geographic and linguistic regions of Africa namely Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone and Arabophone. Read More...

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