ETHIOPIA – The leadership of Africa’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and China’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) have agreed to strengthen their collaboration in advancing public health in Africa.

During a visit, Dr. Shen Hongbing, Director General of the China CDC, and H.E. Ambassador Hu Changchun, Head of China Mission to the African Union, made the commitment; also present was H.E. Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa CDC.

Both parties pledged to improve disease diagnosis, infectious disease management, workforce development, outbreak response, surveillance, and early warning in Africa.

The visit provided an excellent opportunity to unveil the cutting-edge Reference Laboratory at the Africa CDC Office buildings built with the People’s Republic of China’s assistance.

The unveiling ceremony provided an opportunity to highlight the laboratory’s capabilities as well as its anticipated contributions to African healthcare advancement. Dr. Kaseya thanked the Peoples Republic of China for its generous support in advancing public health in Africa.

He went on to say that the reference laboratory is in line with Africa CDC’s strategic priorities, enhancing the organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to various public health threats, and that it is a critical step toward transforming Africa CDC into a world-class, agile, and self-sustaining organization.

The inauguration of the Africa CDC’s new headquarters and the unveiling of Dr. Wu Lien-teh Laboratory, according to Ambassador Changchun, will undoubtedly open a new chapter in African public health and inject new momentum into the deepening of China-Africa health cooperation.

He went on to say that this is one of “President Xi Jinping’s three major initiatives, which also include supporting Africa’s industrialization, agricultural modernization, and China-Africa talent development cooperation.”

According to Dr. Hongbing, the Africa CDC Reference Laboratory is named after Chinese Scientist Dr. Wu Lien-teh, a pioneer of modern medicine in China.

It is fully equipped and will encourage Member States to work together to build strong laboratory systems and networks to improve clinical care, support surveillance and outbreak response, and facilitate technology transfer to African institutions.

The laboratory facility, which includes two biosafety level (BSL)-I, four BSL-II, two specialized BSL-II (BSL-II plus), and two high containment laboratories (BSL-III), aims to fill significant gaps in African laboratory systems.

Less than 5% of African laboratories currently have a fully developed and sustainable capacity for diagnosing priority diseases within their countries, transporting specimens properly, and adhering to international standards and regulatory requirements.

Against this backdrop, one of Africa’s top priorities for the period 2023-2027 is to expand clinical and public health laboratory systems and networks.

This laboratory will help to achieve this goal by expanding laboratory services and conducting pathogen research and epidemiology in Africa.

The facility will be used for training and quality assurance, as well as to support the evaluation and validation of diagnostic technologies and tools, facilitate research and development, and play an important role in outbreak confirmation.

As part of the continent laboratory network, the facility will work closely with member countries’ National Public Health Institutes/National Reference Laboratories.

The laboratory, as a Centre of Excellence, will house antimicrobial susceptibility testing for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance across the continent, biochemical analysis, multiplex molecular diagnosis capacity, bio-banking, advanced pathogen genomic sequencing, including metagenomic sequencing capacity for identification of unknown pathogens.

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