Dakar hosts DELTAS Africa scientific conference

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It’s the second day of the DELTAS Africa scientific conference in Dakar, Senegal.

On Wednesday, young African scientists and researchers spent the day presenting results of some of their work. The conference is showcasing Africa’s bid to train its health research experts.

While working as a nurse in a local hospital in Malawi, Kwanjo Banda noticed that patients with diabetes did not adhere to advice on healthy diets – key in controlling complications associated with the disease. She decided to conduct research on just the trend.

Researcher Kwanjo Banda says, “It’s because of the Westernisation, and coming from a background of food insecurity, where people find that fast foods or unhealthy foods as a sign of achievement in life. So, they want to eat all the unhealthy foods they have been admiring previously.”

Her research work was made possible by a grant provided by Carta Africa, a research consortium based in Kenya and South Africa, which is partly funded through Deltas Africa – a $100 million programme supporting Africa-led development of researchers from the continent.

“It’s not only the money, but the skills and expertise and research that has been impacted in me,” Banda added.

In Nigeria, Dr Adesola Olumide wanted to know if indeed the mobile phone was the best way of communicating health messages to adolescents. It turned out that unlike popular belief many did not have mobile phones.

“It shows that for very young adolescents you need of other methods of reaching them.”

While in Kenya, Dr. Sophie Uyoga, chose to look at the quality of blood that is used for transfusion in Sub Saharan Africa. Her work focused on Malawi, Kenya and Uganda.

“My interest in this is because there is no evidence from a local setting on who needs blood and what type of products we use and what is good for us. And also, there is very little research on the quality of blood. So, we hope that we will be able to generate evidence for transfusion services.”

Previous research on the same has been conducted in developed countries. There is no data on the situation in Africa, according to Dr Uyoga.

“We need our own local governments to invest more in transfusion services and the only way we can convince local governments is by generating data that is relevant to us and we have to be the ones that generate that data because policymakers cannot make those decisions if they do not have evidence.”

In Dakar, the young researchers have a chance to share their research findings with their peers. For many, however, the Deltas Africa program is more than just a chance to conduct research. It is a chance to interact and learn from some of the best brains the continent has.

University of Wits PhD Candidate Somefun Oluwaseyi says, “The mentoring we have right now. We still have people from the north mentoring people here. Mentoring within Africa is not that big, which is why this research is important to draw the attention of young scholars, like me, that it is possible for us to mentor other people.”