Collaboration between EDCTP and Africa CDC: history and future
African Union and EDCTP sign Memorandum of Understanding to promote new paradigm in health
In 2021, the AU through the Africa CDC and EDCTP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at establishing a framework to serve as a firm basis for cooperation in their shared goals to promote a new paradigm in health.
Through the MoU, the Africa CDC and EDCTP express their commitment towards joining efforts and maintaining a close and continuous relationship for the achievement of their common objectives. The scope of the MoU is defined through the following themes: Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, epidemic intelligence and capacity building for preparedness and outbreak response. The MoU also covers implementation and public health research, the one health approach, and data management. AU and EDCTP will cooperate to implement a programme of work for the execution of activities within these themes.
For decades, Africa has faced challenges in responding to public health emergencies. Epidemiological data is often unavailable or severely limited and there is a shortage of skilled personnel and systems to collect and analyse available data and efficiently translate them into policy and practice. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the severe shortages of public health workforce and infrastructure and the inadequate capacity for public health research and emergency response across Africa.
In response to this capacity need, EDCTP and Africa CDC partnered in a €7.5 million initiative to support institutions in Africa and Europe to train a cohort of 150 epidemiologists and biostatisticians. A call for proposals published in April 2020 resulted in selection of 10 projects from 45 proposals submitted. This network of ten consortia will implement their training programmes across the continent over a period of three years.
In February 2020, EDCTP participated in the Emergency Meeting of the African Ministers of Health on COVID-19 convened by Africa CDC, and in September 2020 EDCTP was invited to join the Steering Committee of the Africa CDC Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials (CONCVACT), established to accelerate progress on COVID-19 vaccine trials in Africa. The consortium was the outcome of a virtual conference on Africa’s Leadership Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access held on 24-25 June 2020. The conference was hosted by Africa CDC and presided over by the Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat. Dr Simão presented in the same conference.
EDCTP is also represented on Africa CDC’s Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus (AFCOR), which was set up to oversee preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been preparing various guidelines for African countries.
Disparities in research funding
In collaboration with Africa CDC, EDCTP hosted a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in November 2019, to discuss disparities in research funding in Africa. As part of the EDCTP Participating States activities that prospectively aimed to address the recommendations from this workshop, the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) financed the training of up to 32 female PhD candidates. These cover key areas such as epidemic preparedness, health economics (e.g. on the impact of infectious diseases and epidemics like COVID-19), related non-communicable diseases and improvement of the investments of African countries in research and development.
EDCTP's High Representative for Africa Dr Leonardo Simão has initiated and maintained engagement with the AU and Africa CDC leadership on areas of common interest between EDCTP and Africa CDC. These included in 2017 a meeting with the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Amira El Fadil, on public health and research for future collaboration; discussions at the EDCTP Forum in Lisbon 2018 where the Director of Africa-CDC was a plenary speaker, and a jointly organised workshop on improving gender balance and geographical coverage in science in Addis that took place at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Since it was established in 2017, Africa CDC has become pivotal to infectious disease control and prevention on the African continent. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this body showed its leadership by monitoring infection and vaccination rates across the continent, providing advice to prevent infections and by ramping up the continent’s response to the pandemic. Its activities have become key to African countries’ capacities to detect and respond quickly and effectively to infectious disease threats and outbreaks.
EDCTP operates as a partnership of equals between African and European partners. It makes extensive efforts to ensure that its work is closely aligned with Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), which outlines seven African aspirations and advocates strongly for African ownership of health research in the region. In support of these principles, EDCTP has established strong working relationships with many of the key bodies in Africa with an interest in health, development and health research. A notable example is the collaboration with the Africa Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).