In December, a number of the IHR Strengthening Project team attended the 2nd International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in Kigali, hosted by the African Union and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.

The IHR Strengthening project, in collaboration with Africa CDC, was privileged to organise an official side event at the conference, on “Strengthening and Developing Mentorship for Public Health Workforce in Africa”. The event explored what good mentorship looks like, how to grow from mentee to mentor, and other pertinent issues to help develop and expand public health mentoring in Africa. The sessions aimed to initiate, establish and encourage dialogue on mentoring for the public health workforce in Africa, and create a database and a functional network of public health mentors for Africa.

The proceedings were opened by Faith Nafii from Africa CDC, Dr Ebere Okereke from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and Dr Ahmed Ogwell, Acting Director of Africa CDC.

The first of the key speakers, Dr Alex Coutinho, Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation Global Public Health Leadership Programme (GPHLP), then spoke on the mentoring journey.

“Sometimes we are mentored without knowing we are mentored, and we are mentoring without knowing we are mentoring”

-        Dr Alex Coutinho

Dr Victor Joseph and Dr Fatumo Abdi Abdillahi from the UK Faculty of Public Health presented on their work in framing and institutionalising public health mentoring across Africa and exemplifying what good mentoring can look like.

Dr Ebere Okereke then spoke again on her experience of being a mentee and a mentor, and the importance of mentoring, especially for empowering minority groups.

“The sponsor opens the door to the room, the mentor keeps you in there”

-        Dr Ebere Okereke

In the second half of the session, Dr Tiruneh Baye from the UKHSA IHR Strengthening project, chaired a panel with a number of Kofi Annan Foundation GPHLP fellows, past and present - Dr Inas Abdelwahed, Dr Christie Tiwoda, Dr Izukanji Sikazwe and Dr Issaka Sonde - on their mentoring experiences.

Closing remarks were delivered by Faith Nafii and Dr Ade Adeyemi, who thanked the speakers, organisers and attendees for their commitment to mentoring in Africa. 

The event report will inform the development and expansion of a network of potential public health workforce mentors in Africa. Martin Muita, Senior Public Health Advisor, UKHSA IHR Strengthening Project Lead for Africa CDC, spoke on the importance and impact of the event.

“The creation of a mentoring network for Africa will enable linking mentor-mentee to scale and at a high quality to transform the public health workforce practice on the continent.”

-        Dr Martin Muita

The conference was an excellent opportunity for the IHR Strengthening Project team to network with public health colleagues and learn more about the great work being taken forward in Global Health across the continent. Going forward the learning and sharing from this event will be fed back into the IHR Strengthening Project and the wider organisation to shape our thinking as we embark on the detailed planning for our activity across the project in 2023/2024. 

By Ellie Fairfoot