UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, in collaboration with Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA), hosted the first TIBA Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Durban.

Launched early this year, TIBA is an Africa-led multi-disciplinary research programme which explores and draws lessons from ways different African health systems tackle infectious diseases.

‘It is important for research in Africa to be done by Africans for Africans,’ said South Africa’s first Health Ombudsman and former UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who officially opened the meeting. Makgoba highlighted the importance of research for Africa by Africans and encouraged TIBA Principal Investigators to own their work. He also endorsed TIBA as a project that deals with real issues for Africans, done by Africans.

TIBA Director, Professor Mark Woolhouse, highlighted the programme’s approach. ‘TIBA aims to study the different parts of the African Health Ecosystem with the view to informing health policies,’ he said.

Co-Deputy, Director Professor Francisca Mutapi, discussed the programme’s progressive partnership: ‘We have a long-term commitment to the communities affected by the diseases we research as well as equitable partnership and inclusive engagement.’

TIBA SA Project leader, Professor Moses Chimbari, highlighted the objectives of the meeting as: ‘Feedback on the Rapid Impact Project by Principal Investigators, progress of TIBA by the External Advisory Group, approval of Making a Difference Project (MDP) projects, significant pledges by funding agencies and philanthropists and renewed endorsement of TIBA activities by international organisations who are the custodians of health and human wellbeing.’

CAPRISA Director, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, delivered his keynote address titled A Research Journey to Unravel Why Young Women Have the Highest HIV Rates in South Africa; highlighting the fact that South Africa bears the greatest burden of HIV in Africa. His presentation demonstrated how good research should impact on policy and society, thus setting the tone for the meeting’s deliberations.

TIBA postgraduate students presented their work through the medium of posters. The overall winner, Mr Kennedy Mwai Wambui, received a voucher to attend a scientific conference of his choice anywhere in the world. Other winners were Ms Hlengiwe Sacolo and Mr Felix Ansah, who won vouchers to attend a conference of their choice anywhere in Africa.

An external advisory group reviewed TIBA progress from its inception and gave positive feedback. The group urged TIBA to be more inclusive by bringing on board African French-speaking countries.

TIBA’s genuine stakeholder engagement was endorsed by Inkosi Ndumo Mathenjwa of the Mathenjwa Tribal Authority through Induna December Khumalo.

The meeting was attended by the TIBA Directorate, Principal Investigators and postgraduate and postdoctoral fellows from all partner countries: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Also present were representatives from TIBA stakeholders from the WHO-AFRO region, WHO South Africa, NEPAD and the Africa Academy of Sciences.

The next TIBA annual general meeting will be held in Ghana in September next year.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photographs: Nombuso Dlamini and Albert Hirasen