Past Event

Meeting the Challenge of COVID-19 in Africa: A Virtual Symposium

September 1, 2020 - September 4, 2020
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Online Event

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.

*See below daily session descriptions and speakers information. 

This event will be capped at 200 participants to ensure robust interaction between panelists and attendees.


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

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

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

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: Glenda Gray (SA Medical Research Council); Meredith McMorrow (US CDC); and Jennifer Dohrn (Columbia University)


September 4: Public Trust and the Delivery of COVID19 Vaccines

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)