Afrique One
Building Pan African Research Capacity in One Health

Afrique One
Building Pan African Research Capacity in One Health

Building African capacities in Modelling to prevent diseases

African scientists trained in modeling

One of pressing challenges confronting African countries is controlling epidemics and diseases. Indeed, there has been a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks in the region in the decade from 2012-2022 compared to 2001-2011 (WHO, 2022). Developing surveillance, preventive strategies and early response to threats posed by emerging and endemic diseases to human and animal populations in Africa is crucial. Among the array of solutions, mathematical and statistical modelling have emerged as powerful toolsto better understand the disease dynamics and develop preventive and control strategies. However, African countries lack capacity and expertise in mathematical modelling. This article presents the point of view of some Afrique One researchers regarding the importance of mathematical modelling for disease control in Africa.

According to Dr Bruno Lokonon, Postdoc at Afrique One, “data science and modelling are booming, especially with the development of computer science and artificial intelligence. We saw the importance of these sciences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection of health data related to the pandemic at different scales and structures, through methods of harmonisation and standardisation, have made it possible to develop models for understanding and predicting the evolution of the disease and assessing the effectiveness of vaccination strategies.”

However, the situation looks different in Africa due to the lack of capacity in modelling and the use of models developed outside the continent. Another challenge is the absence of a data sharing culture between African institutions. 

“Faced with the emerging and endemic zoonoses (eg: Ebola, Covid 19, etc) and the disease burden in Africa, African authorities need to consider more modelling. At Afrique One, modelling is a key component of our research agenda. We have a research group focused on Data science, statistics and modelling (DSSM). We will use existing animal, human and environmental data for modelling and informing public health and Afrique One will draw on its decade-old scientific outputs and network of research institutions across Africa.” said Professor Bassirou Bonfoh, Director of Afrique One. 

From 25 to 29 March of 2024, Afrique One organised a one-week training session on data science and modelling for 20 early-career scientists at Centre de Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS). These participants, hailing from diverse disciplines such as sociology, public health, biology, and more learnt the basics of data science and modelling during the session.  This initiative is the start of Afrique One’s commitment to extending similar training programme across Africa, aiming to build local expertise in data science and modelling. Through the DSSM initiative, Afrique One endeavours to offer perspectives on the dynamics of human and animal diseases and forecast of interventions. These will serve to communities and guide policymakers in making informed decision.

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