Feature story

The challenges of pandemics for Africa’s development

27 May 2009

UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé
UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé participated in the Forum on African Dialogue where he delivered a presentation on the challenges of pandemics for Africa’s development. Credit: UNAIDS

Africa Day, the official day of the African Union, is observed every 25 May. It is an opportunity to celebrate African diversity and success, but also a time to reflect on the challenges remaining in Africa’s road to development.

To mark the 46th anniversary of Africa Day, the African Union Permanent Representation in Geneva organized the First Forum on African Dialogue which took place on the 27 May 2009, under the theme “Africa’s Development: Whose Responsibility?”

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Mr Jean Ping, officially launched the dialogue forum. The Dialogue brought together representatives of the Swiss government, Ambassadors of permanent missions in Geneva, United Nation Organizations, private sector and other development organizations including the African Development Bank.

UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé also participated in the forum where he delivered a presentation on the challenges of pandemics for Africa’s development. Mr Sidibé highlighted the role that infectious diseases play in Africa’s underdevelopment. Africa is the region where 11% of the world population live, and is home to 60% of people living with HIV. More than 300,000 children are born every year with HIV when vertical transmission (transfer of HIV from mother to child) has virtually disappeared from most European countries.

“If Africa is to progress with its development, we need to transform health from being Africa’s greatest challenge into being its greatest resource,” said Mr Sidibé. “But we desperately need a pan-African vision on how to get there. We need to engage all partners, from governments to civil society, and development partners, to make a decisive contribution to the health of current and future generations” he added.

Mr Sidibe pointed out that AIDS has shown the need for an institutionalized response in Africa, that is owned and lead by national partners from government and civil society.

During his intervention, Mr Sidibé emphasized the need for a continental vision on how Africa will lead in the response to its epidemics. According to Mr Sidibe, the actions required to transform approaches to health and development are to improve systems for resource management; use human resources effectively; redefine and reorient programmes for research and development to make sure they address Africa’s health priorities; and address trade issues, between Africa and the rest of the world, and within Africa so access to commodities is permanent and sustainable. He called for a greater leadership and mutual accountability to expand universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support to all in Africa.