Africa-Press – Mauritius. John Nkengasong, who has gained global plaudits for his leadership in the fight against Covid-19, is leaving Africa CDC. In an exclusive interview he looks back on his time there.
If the Covid-19 pandemic had struck five years earlier, Africa would have been in an even more precarious situation than it is today. The continent of almost 1.4bn people would have been without a public health agency to coordinate a multilateral response to the most serious health crisis in decades.
Fortunately, in 2016, the African Union (AU) established the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), which aimed to emulate the Atlanta-based US equivalent as a coordinating body for public health.
However, it would take a lot of work to transform Africa CDC into an organisation that could meaningfully tackle Africa’s long list of public health concerns.
“I came here [Addis Ababa] five years ago and I didn’t have an office for almost a year,” says John Nkengasong, the outgoing director who oversaw the establishment of the specialised agency and has been lauded worldwide for his leadership role during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had to create job descriptions, we had to write 300 individual applications. Therefore, in the first 18 months we were just doing