Past Event

Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19 in Africa

November 1, 2020 - November 4, 2020
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
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New: Session recordings and articles featuring symposium content and Op-Eds written by speakers are now linked with each session discription below.

A Virtual Symposium

9-11AM EST     |      3-5PM CAT

Center for Pandemic Research, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University, New York City, and the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Co-sponsored by the Programs in Global Health, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, the Stanley and Marion Bergman Family Charitable Fund and the Sanlam Foundation.

The purpose of the symposium is to focus on the key challenges of dealing with a delayed but explosive unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic in parts of Africa and to identify best practice solutions in respect of (1) gaining of public trust in adhering to the health imperatives of social distancing and the use of approved therapies and vaccines to manage and contain outbreaks; (2) the dynamic and most-effective use of testing, tracing and isolation as public health tools during a pandemic; and (3) the scaling up of SARS_COV2 vaccine acquisition and distribution platforms that will serve all African countries for mass immunization. A pre-meeting on the biosafety and biosecurity aspects of the SARS_COV2 pathogen will be held on 1 September.

Pre-Symposium Op-Ed by Drs. Lawrence Stanberry and Wilmot James: Africa needs to do more to position itself to benefit from future Covid-19 vaccines

Post-Symposoim Op-ed by Drs. Martin Veller and Ames Dhai: Solid, altruistic global leadership is the only way to face future crises and win

*See below daily session descriptions and speakers information. 

Symposium Program    |      Questions?  Contact [email protected]

Daily Topics and Featured Speakers

September 1: Pre-meeting on the Biosafety and Biosecurity Aspects of SARS-COV2

Op-Ed by Talkmore Maruta: Covid-19: Guarding against the misuse of highly pathogenic agents

Article by Sandisiwe Shoba: Gaps in biosafety and biosecurity could lead to the next global pandemic, scientist warns

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, laboratory (research and diagnostic) capacity has increased globally, as have the risks related to biosafety and biosecurity, those especially related to what is known as dual-use research and development. That dual use research may result in misuse is a long-standing science concern. Issues include not only research and public health, but also security, scientific publishing, public communications, biotechnology, ethics and wider societal issues. In this session, we will discuss some of the dual-use concerns as related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Special MessageDr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organization

Moderator: Wilmot James, Columbia University

Keynote: Talkmore Maruta, (Africa CDC)

Panelists: Iqbal Parker (University of Cape Town); Isabella Ayagah (Ministry of Health, Kenya); Andrew Hebbeler (Nuclear Threat Initiative); and Natasha Griffith (Georgia State University)

September 2: The Challenge of Social Distancing in Africa and the Developing World

Op-Ed by Amanda McClelland: Striking a balance: Public health and social measures in Africa

Article by Sandisiwe Shoba: 'Copy-paste’ physical distancing measures have had ‘dire effects on developing countries’

Recording coming soon.

Reducing the rate of infection (R0) in a population is central to health systems coping with surges in patients requiring care in infectious pandemics. The most tried and tested method of doing this is to secure adherence to social distancing. Achieving effective social distancing however requires that communities have the resources that make this possible. 

Special Message: Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi

Moderator: Ames Dhai (WITS University)

Keynote: John Nkengasong (Africa CDC)

Panelists: Amanda McClelland (Resolve to Save Lives); Chikwe Ihekweazu (Nigeria CDC); Greg Mills (Brenthurst Foundation); and Yanis Ben Amor (Columbia University)

September 3: The Limits of Testing, Tracing and Treatment

Op-Ed by Wafaa El-Sadr: A global investment in public health is vital for the survival of future generations

Article by Sandisiwe Shoba: Beyond lockdown: Africa needs to ramp up its testing, tracing and treatment efforts

Recording coming soon.

The use of frequent testing, followed by active contact tracing and early treatment of infected patients is an effective form of limiting the spread of an infectious agent. Making this strategy work requires that all aspects of this strategy function effectively. The current experience in the SARS-COV-2 pandemic suggests that achieving this can be very difficult.

Moderator: Martin Veller (WITS University)

Keynote: Wafaa El-Sadr (Columbia University)

Panelists: Victor Mukonka (Zambian Public Health Institute & Africa CDC), Glenda Gray (SA Medical Research Council); Meredith McMorrow (US CDC); and Jennifer Dohrn (Columbia University)

The value in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic is not only dependent on the efficacy of a vaccine. It also requires that the majority of people are prepared to be vaccinated. Achieving this means that communities trust this intervention.

Special WelcomeMurugi Ndirangu (Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi)

Moderator: Lawrence R. Stanberry (Columbia University)

Keynote: Shabir Madhi (WITS)

Panelists: Helen Rees (WITS); Stavros Nicolaou (Aspen Pharmacare); Scott Dowell (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Arnaud Bernaert (World Economic Forum)

Symposium Program  

Course Staff

Dr. Wimot G. James, Senior Research Scholar, ISERP

Harlowe Wang, Program Coordinator, ISERP

Lewis Thompson, Student, School of General Studies​