The African Union (AU) has launched an initiative to honour the leadership role and contributions of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for the establishment of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Known as the Kofi Annan Global Health Leadership Programme (PHLP), it is under the auspices of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and seeks to enhance the capacity of Africa public health institutions for effective management.
It has three components - Public Health Leadership Programme (PHLP), Public Health Scholar Programme (PHSP), and a Virtual Leadership Academy (VLA).
It aims to build the capacity of seasoned public health professionals from the civil service, civil society, academia and other private and public sector organisations.
Also, emerging leaders within the public health sector, as well as persons willing to be mentored would be supported to develop core competencies in negotiation skills, health diplomacy and the ability to influence and empower others to achieve multidimensional health goals, among others.
Mr Kwesi Quartey (right) and Ms Amira El Fadil at the launch of the programmes.
The Deputy Chairperson of the AU, Mr Kwesi Quartey, launched the programme at a virtual press conference from the offices of the Africa CDC in Ethiopia last Monday. Journalists and public health experts across the continent participated in the conference.
He said the late Mr Annan considered health as a human rights issue, adding “Kofi Annan always emphasised good governance as the heart of meaningful global public health delivery and the truth of this assertion has been demonstrated by the reaction of the world to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The truth of this assertion has been demonstrated by the reaction of the world to this pandemic which also demonstrated that the best response to the global pandemic in reality lies in the strength of our public health systems.”
The Director of Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengasong, said Mr Annan who served as the UN Secretary-General from January 1996, to December 2006, saw the need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to solving complex problems of health.
“Public health challenges in the 21st century require that we bring leaders and emerging leaders from across the continent, mentor them by offering them a unique platform that will enable them to analyse and solve complex health issues,” he stated.
Dr Nkengasong said while COVID-19 might delay the take-off of the programmes, the Africa CDC would commence the virtual leadership component in August 2020, while it takes time to constitute a faculty for the public health leadership and public health scholar components.
“Because of the challenges with the movement of people in line with the COVID-19 restrictions, we may have to delay the other two programmes to the end of the year or early next year,” he said.
According to him, although the programmes would be embedded in the standard budget of the Africa CDC, it would also benefit from partnerships with private institutions and donors.
“As we speak, the Director of London Tropical School of Medicine and Hygiene, Prof. Peter Piot, who served as Kofi Annan’s Lieutenant-in-Chief in fighting HIV/AIDS at the UNAIDs, has committed the school into supporting the programme,” Dr Nkengasong said.
He added that the late Annan, although a Ghanaian, was an African and a world citizen, which explains the excitement among many partners who are said to be queuing to support the programme and turn it into a prestigious world-class programme.
The Chairman of Kofi Annan Foundation, Elhaji As Sy, said the foundation and the family of Mr Annan were moved by the gesture of the AU to honour him for his visionary leadership in promoting public health.
The Commissioner for Social Affairs at the AU, Ms Amira El Fadil, said Mr Annan was a 21st Century man who led a concerted effort against poverty and disease not only in Africa but the world over.