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The Forum was formally opened by the French Minister of Higher Education and Research, Sylvie Retailleau. In her welcoming remarks, the Minister noted that France has been a committed member of EDCTP since its founding and one of its main contributors, and she welcomed the new Global Health EDCTP3 programme, launched in Paris in 2022. She also stressed that the Forum was one of the priorities of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, as a sign of the commitment to strengthening of partnerships between Europe and Africa around health and pandemic preparedness. In addition, she highlighted the recent publication of the French national strategy for global health, launched in October 2023.

Dr Maria da Graça Carvalho, Member of the European Parliament, who was instrumental in setting up EDCTP 20 years ago, described the programme as a “flagship initiative for global health.” She highlighted some of its key achievements, but suggested there was still much to be done: “We have reasons to be proud of what we have achieved. But we need to be ambitious for the future.” 

Dr Henning Gädeke, Chair of the EDCTP Association Board and Chair of the Governing Board of the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking, Germany, lauded the power of partnerships. Through EDCTP, he suggested, “the brightest minds had been brought together, with results no one could have achieved alone.” Partnerships were also mentioned in a video presentation from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, who congratulated EDCTP on its 20th anniversary.

Speaking on behalf of WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Dr Lindiwe Makubalo, WHO Assistant Regional Director for Africa, welcomed the close links established between the WHO Regional Office for Africa and EDCTP.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr Shingai Machingaidze, Ag Chief Science Officer expressed her positive experiences of the close partnership between EDCTP and Africa CDC.

The hosts for the opening ceremony, Professor Yazdan Yazdanpanah, ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases (ANRS | MIE) and Chair of the Forum Host Country Committee, France, and Dr Irene Norstedt, Director of the People Directorate, DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, began by welcoming all attendees to the Forum – the first mainly in-person Forum since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a video presentation, Dr Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, reiterated the European Union’s continuing commitment to partnerships with Africa: “Cooperation between European and African countries in research is crucial for global health and sustainable development,” she said. “The European Union is committed to fostering our scientific collaboration.”

As noted by Dr Laurent Muschel, Acting Director General of the Health Emergency and Response Authority (HERA), part of the European Commission, this joined-up approach will extend to HERA and strengthening of pandemic preparedness and ensuring equitable access to medical countermeasures.

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The opening ceremony of the Eleventh EDCTP Forum heard a range of distinguished guests – from Africa and Europe praise EDCTP for its achievements to date and express their hopes for even greater impact in the future.

Opening ceremony