Speech by Guest of Honour at TWENDE Launch Conference

 

By Prof. Gibson Sammy Kibiki, the Executive Secretary of the East Africa Health Research Commission (EAHRC) of the East African Community (EAC)

Dear Vice Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST), Arusha, Tanzania, Professor Burton Mwamila, it is impressive to see what you have done – three graduations and already 32 Doctors of Philosophy (PhD students) have graduated. 

I can assure you that there are universities that have been there for several decades and they have not graduated 32 PhD students. So much as NM-AIST is a young university, trust me, you are doing a very good job. We are impressed to be here.

Dear Dr. Neema, representing the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC), it is my pleasure to see that you are here.

Dear Dr. Wilber Sabiiti, the lead coordinator of the Tuberculosis: Working to Empower Nations’ Diagnostic Efforts (TWENDE) Programme.

Dear representatives of ministries of health of the East African partner states. 

Dear heads of academic and research institutions from our region. 

Dear stakeholders, invited guests, researchers, students, senior staff members of the NM-AIST and others, please note that all protocol has been observed.

Good afternoon.

I am representing the Secretary General of the EAC, Hon. Ambassador Dr. Liberat Mfumukeko. He was aware of the TWENDE Launch Conference - he got the invitation long ago, but he is also new in the office and therefore he has so many other responsibilities. And this is the end of the financial year. 

He wanted very much to be here but he couldn’t make it. He greets all of you that he wishes he would be here. He is a human being; he cannot be in two places at the same time. But he will hear what happened here today and he is already so impressed with the initiative.

The EAC with the spirit of “one people one destiny” is continuing to grow – both in terms of geography and partnership. Recently the EAC welcomed another partner, the Republic of Southern Sudan, which makes now the total number of six countries which are heading towards a full political federation of these countries with a population of over 160 million. 

This will allow free movement of people, free movement of goods and free movement of services. That tells a lot. It tells a lot in all aspects, including research and academia. 

The EAC institutions are continuing to foster partnerships in governance, education, research, standards, quality assurance of service delivery. As an institution of the EAC, the EAHRC is mandated to coordinate and promote health research in the region.

Among other things – develop and implement strategies for developing health research capacity, provide standard guidelines for health research and education among the EAC partner states and institutions. Therefore, you can see clearly that within EAC TWENDE is in the right place and it will make impact on the EAC. 

TWENDE has started with tuberculosis as a platform to widen the scope of translating research into policy. That is again the right footing – there is no better disease that can help us to learn how to do things right in health than tuberculosis. 

Tuberculosis has been there since mankind and most of us here, trust me, will leave it still being there. This is because history is telling us that there are so many factors, but that does not mean that we should stop fighting it.

With a prevalence of over 150 thousand cases within the TWENDE research countries – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, you see clearly that tuberculosis is an important disease. Any effort to fight it is crucial for the health of the region. 

We know today that health is wealth. Should we want to fight poverty in the real sense, we have to start fighting diseases.

TWENDE’s vision to bring together researchers and policy makers and implementers to accelerate implementation and to increase accessibility of tuberculosis diagnostics for patients in the region is a highly welcome initiative to the EAC. TWENDE will receive the support to achieve the objectives that TWENDE has set.

I am told TWENDE is not stopping at tuberculosis diagnostics but aims at embracing all aspects of health research and their translation into policy and practice. EAC supports efforts such as TWENDE including developing clinical trial capacity, biomedical research capacity, and empowering research ethics boards in health research institutions across the region.

The EAC Secretariat is determined to ensure accelerated translation of health research and innovation into policy and practice by working closely with relevant institutions in the member states. The EAC understands the need to support knowledge translation into policy in our research, education and academic institutions. 

Through the EAHRC structures have been put in place for widening knowledge management platforms. The EAC strongly believes that research will be more meaningful if it is translated and eventually used by the end user, which is the community. 

The EAC agenda is to make sure that efforts by different players, like TWENDE, within the health research capacity development are coordinated in order to achieve a maximum and meaningful impact. 

As TWENDE itself stands in our lingua franca – Swahili – which asks all of us to go together. So, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends, let us go together. Let us move forward and make East Africa a model for evidence informed policy and practice. 

On this note, I am so glad to say that I officially launch the TWENDE project. Thank you very much.