OSHAfrica 2019 inaugural Conference and General Assembly

REPORT


Welcome Ceremony (L-R) – Mrs Namakau Kaingu, Mr Peter-John ‘Jakes’ Jacobs, Mr Sanjay Gandhi, 
Dr Thuthula Balfour, The Hon Mr. Richard Musukwa, Ms Chimwemwe Chamdimba, Mr Ehi Iden, Dr Ivan Ivanov, Dr Claire Deacon, and Mr Franklin Muchiri Photograph: Ehi Iden



Kenya will host the 2022 OSHAfrica Conference Photograph: Dr Thuthula Balfour

The OSHAfrica 2019 Conferenced and General Assembly, held at Emperors Palace Conference Centre, Gauteng South Africa, from 18-20 September 2019, has come and gone, leaving everyone with pleasant memories.
    The choice of South Africa as the host country began with a quiet nomination by Debbie Myer when we requested nomination submissions; other nominated countries were Sudan, Zimbabwe and Tunisia. South Africa emerging as the selected host was a blessing to OSHAfrica because most of the speakers and delegates were interested in coming to South Africa. Conference planning began immediately, with Dr Thuthula Balfour showing positive leadership in assembling and chairing the Conference Planning Committee, which she co-chaired with Dr Claire Deacon.

Day One of the Conference was amazing. I walked into a hall packed with people who came with so many expectations. The proceedings opened with an energising performance by a talented dance troupe, who provided a clear message on workplace health and safety.

There were sound keynote addresses from several stakeholder groups, followed by interesting and stimulating plenary and technical papers presented in parallel sessions. We were all amazed at the depth of knowledge that the Zambian Minister for Mines, the Honorable Mr Richard Musukwa, presented in his keynote paper. The presentation was rich in thoughts and a true representation of the current health and safety situation, not only in mining, but across all workplaces in Africa. 

One of the key highlights of the Conference was the turnout – the number of speakers and non-speakers who flew into South Africa to be a part of this Conference. One young woman flew all the way from Canada; other delegates came from Thailand, the USA, Russia, the UK, Turkey, Ukraine, and Australia. A community of German OH professionals came to Africa for their first ever visit. Africans also represented their countries across the subregion. 

It was indeed a very successful Conference, with more than 1 200 delegates from 31 countries, 54 international speakers and 40 South African speakers. There were two serving government ministers, and the presence of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the African Union (AU). Everything was on point, from planning to implementation.


Ms Chimwemwe Chamdimba from the African Union Development Agency Photograph: Dr Thuthula Balfour


The Hon. Mr Richard Masukwa, Minister of Mines and Minerals, Zambia Photograph: Dr Thuthula Balfour


Dr Ivan Ivanov from the World Health Organization (WHO) Photograph: Dr Thuthula Balfour

 

One of the primary aims of OSHAfrica is to bring African occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals together for collaborative work and sharing of data. This was further strengthened during the course of the Conference, as most of the delegates from across Africa were meeting each other for the first time and sharing networking and bonding opportunities. We also saw professionals from Africa and beyond the continent sharing the stage and co-chairing, further strengthening the OSHAfrica dream. A workshop that focused on teaching delegates how to write abstracts and research papers reinforced another overarching aim of OSHAfrica, namely to address the lack of OSH data in Africa.

Because this was our maiden Conference, we envisaged  problems in getting professionals from across the continent, and the world, to gather in South Africa. We needed to demonstrate the right attitude, and show that we could be trusted. Therefore, we started our engagement along these lines, and many of our members who had contacts with renowned occupational safety and health professionals volunteered their time and resources to bring these individuals to Africa. The African Union Development Agency contributed immensely by funding some of the speakers from the continent.

We call on OSH professionals across Africa and the rest of the world (we also have non-African members) to align with the OSHAfrica plan for the next three years. A report on the Conference was presented by the Hon. Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa, and the recommendations in the report will be implemented. We have a number of projects that have been developed by the three scientific committees; these are geared towards improving the capacity and capabilities of African OSH practitioners, and translating these gains into occupational safety and health improvements in workplaces across Africa.

The OSHAfrica 2019 Conference set a high standard that I hope will continue in future Conferences. A successful pitch was made by our colleagues from Kenya to host the OSHAfrica 2022 Conference. The OSHAfrica Committee is full of ideas and we anticipate that every Conference in the future will be better and more innovative than those in the preceding years.

Within the Conference, we also held a very successful General Assembly, which will be held at every future Conference. At the General Assembly, the existing interim Board was dissolved to make room for a democratically elected Board of Trustees, supported by members to lead OSHAfrica for the next three years.

We currently have more than 500 members from more than 37 African countries, and we have new members joining daily. Please join OSHAfrica if you are not already a member, and help us to make workplaces safer and healthier across Africa. Visit our website www.oshafrica.africa for more information.

 

Report by:
Ehi Iden
 OSHAfrica President
e-mail: ehi@ohsm.com.ng

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